When it comes to innovation, try thinking small

When it comes to innovation, try thinking small

When talking about innovation, the conversation can get incredibly, well, big.

Of course, if the book trade is to flourish for years to come, we must squint out towards far-off horizons and try to pre-empt the big disruptions that are inevitably on their way. It is definitely important to encourage big ideas, gather big data and experiment with big tech - from VR to AI to blockchain.

The danger, however, is that while we make grandiose keynotes about change, nothing really changes. Because it's very easy to talk about 'the next gen workplace' or the 'impact of robotics on bookselling', but very hard to feel empowered to do anything about it.

And that's where the small stuff comes in.

Introducing a 6pm email curfew into your publishing company could have a far greater impact on your future than a multi-thousand-pound AR project. Insisting that all meetings last for no longer than 15 minutes could boost your bottom line more than machine learning ever will. Examining the language you use when recruiting could ensure a level of diversity in your candidates that no fancy Twitter campaign could achieve.

Forget tech for a moment - when it comes to changing the way we act, and not just the tools we use, behavioural economics is where it's at. To innovate, create meaningful work, and remain sane and empathetic in the process, we don't just need to understand the tsunami of new digital platforms. We need to be able to manage the overload of demands those platforms have brought us, and reclaim some creative headspace.

Too many of us (and I include myself in this, of course)fall back on copycat work, knee-jerk strategies and sexy but ultimately meaningless R&D because we're so busy reading email newsletters about innovation that we have no real time to think. The solution? Fancy productivity software may be tempting, but it's much more effective (and cheaper) to hack our wetware.

Helping both your employees and your organisation transform unhelpful mindsets, clear out biases, and shift working habits could make an epic difference to both your present and your future (Caroline Webb's How To Have A Good Day is a great place to start). And it doesn't have to involve huge consultancy costs. It could be as simple as banning phones from the boardroom, or running a lunchtime course on email hygiene.

If the stats are right, we are - as individuals - consuming work-related self-help books at an insatiable rate. But how many publishing leaders are trying to apply this on an organisational scale? How many are finding inexpensive ways to help their employees have a more balanced relationship with technology, or pop their own filter bubble, or just insist that they down tools on time so they spend more time living (which will bring them more monetisable insights than a billion trend reports)?

This is about discipline as much as innovation. We need more tiny, low-tech, everyday interventions that cultivate the sort of mindsets and work environments that will free us all up to genuinely innovate.

Or, indeed, just do good work in the present without going nuts.

Let us know what small stuff works for your organisation (or self) at @FutureBook.