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Robert Foster’s reflections on Estonia
“A few years back I spent some time lecturing on creative thinking and innovation in Estonia. I recently had an opportunity to return to this fascinating country and share some more learning on embedding innovation in organisations.
At the conference run by Vertex Consulting on growth strategies and with speakers such as the Chief Policy Adviser for Economics in Estonia and lectures from Henley Business School we ran the gamut of topics from cultural perspectives (David Rees) and customer insight (Jeff Callander), through to innovation and social innovation (me).
My take was innovation is a way to competitive advantage, and that people centric approach is key. Putting people, staff, customers and the wider community, at the heart of what you do is a key differentiator and helps you define and capture value, however you define value. I talked about a variety of non-technical approaches to innovation including tools, culture and social innovation models and even having the graveyard shift interaction was high.
A number of things struck me during my brief stay:
- The (apparent) over-representation of women as entrepreneurs, sales people and public faces of companies and organisations. This is a bit of a generalisation, and may well be a misconception on my part but did seem to borne out of by conversations and observations made by my fellow speakers.
- The presence of delegates from number of countries was high, but not as high as I would have expected. For instance there were a few delegates from Lithuania. Considering the geographical position of Estonia and it’s aspirations to be an export of country this seemed to be a bit of a missed opportunity.
- Surprisingly the Russian press in the Baltic picked up on the social enterprise aspects of my session, while the Estonia and Swedish press reported on my piece on innovation in my widest sense. I wonder whether there is a particular appeal of social enterprise for ex-soviet or communist states. Perhaps an “enterprise social” instead of the traditional “social enterprise” perspective?”