The deviant croissant that broke the rules

For the last 5 years Roger Shadbolt has been food product development manager for a food company that supplies to major UK retailers.

The food sector requires constant innovation, it’s fast moving and demanding; yet despite this, innovation can sometimes be too formulaic.

The ‘normal’ process is that the retailer provides a brief based on food trends, customer insight and some indication on what they expect on their shelves. The supplier responds to the brief with a number of written ideas on which they receive feedback. Based on feedback the supplier provides 3 or 4 concepts in the next round complete with full factory costing, and from that final products are chosen and put into production. The process of brief to shelf can take anything from 6 months to a year.

When it comes to innovation, Roger was telling me how he was lucky because “I essentially had a great boss that gave me time and space to create”

“I was given time, a clear desk and clear headspace and I was allowed to time just for me. I put Radio 6 music on and started to create.”

As Roger was creating that morning he pondered over his own breakfast needs.

“I love croissants but I don’t have time on a work day to wait 15 minutes for the oven to heat up before I can reheat a store-bought product to eat for breakfast.”

“I made a whole load of interesting shaped products in various loaf tins that would suit slicing for quick heating in the toaster like you would a normal slice of toast for breakfast”

Roger gave his boss a toasted piece of the sliced croissant loaf. He was thrilled. Roger shared his insights about wanting croissants for breakfast but not having time in the week to heat them up in the oven. He asked the question; “If this is the case for me, perhaps it’s also true for other people – for other customers?” Roger realised the potential of this product as midweek and a weekend breakfast product.

They wondered if retail clients would be as thrilled as they were with the insight and the idea so they bypassed the normal processes and took their croissant loaf concept straight to their UK food retailer clients, They explained how a toasted croissant could be enjoyed mid-week before work without use of an oven to enjoy the product toasted and at its best. Their clients loved it and wanted to know when they could launch it!

Within weeks the croissant loaf was flying off the shelves. People loved it.

Croissant loaf rode on a food trend at the time of hybrid products inspired by Dominique Ansels’ invention of the cronut (croissant/donut) followed by townies (tarts/brownies) and duffins (donut/muffins). Croissant loaf went on to win the Quality Food awards in the bakery morning goods category 2016. And all from Roger having the time and space to create a product that he wanted to create.

Deviate from ‘normal’

The croissant loaf wasn’t conceived in the conventional way. Roger wonders if they had presented their clients with a written concept version of the ‘Croissant loaf suitable to toasting’ if they might not have felt the thrill that they did by holding a warm toasted croissant dripping with butter and jam in their hand. Skipping some parts of the standard launch process bought the product to life and made it exciting. The client teams saw the potential straight away and were excited from the start. Plus on a practical note it keeps longer and has fewer calories per slice than a ‘normal’ croissant.

“Innovation breeds innovation”

The good sales figures off the back of media attention encouraged Roger and his team to innovate more. There was real excitement, which drove aspiration and momentum for innovation. People were more open to thinking differently, deviating from the norm and bending the rules.

“Breaking the process rules once which resulted in successful sales and media attention gave us ambition and confidence to look for other new innovation.”

Challenges

The development of the croissant loaf was not all plain sailing. The team at the factory that had made traditional croissants for 20 years weren’t keen at first. They didn’t want to use the machinery differently. Roger had to get the factory managers and their teams to buy into the idea.

He had to put his excitement about his idea to one side and help them to get as excited as him. He let them take ownership, work out how to best produce croissant loaf and he gave them ownership of developing the packaging. He was careful not to micromanage or be too prescriptive. He let them develop the best solution. Eventually the whole site was on his side working to get croissant loaves on the shelves.

Rogers’s 7 innovation tips 

  • Work on what interests you right now and make that happen. It’s really important to do something that interests you.
  • Don’t think too much. Don’t wait to start. Start right away.
  • Don’t get muddled in number crunching – get the first version down.
  • Version 1 is never the final version. You might end up with something totally different along the line.
  • Get everyone excited.
  • There are many barriers and there is never a right time.
  • Rogers advice to managers is to give someone a task and let them get on with it. Deliberately factor in time for them with nothing to do. Book ‘off timetable’ time in. It’s the only way to really get creative.
  • Take the pressure off and play – if Rogers first iteration of croissant loaf had needed to be customer ready it would have looked different and probably wouldn’t have happened.
  • When people experience an idea they ‘get it’ much easier than a boring process and paper drawings – do what you can to bring your idea to life.

For more on Roger Shadbolt go to www.rogershadbolt.co.uk.  

If you’d like to learn more insights from other successful innovators check out the new Innovation Leadership Launchpad – a mix of case stories and practical tips to help you innovate. Order your free copy straight into your inbox today. 

How to defeat corporate antibody syndrome

Launched in 2013 Hive enables you to control your heating and other useful devices from your phone. However, the UK’s most popular smart thermostat isn’t an innovation from a new tech start-up, it was developed from within British Gas.

Adrian Heesom was involved from the beginning of Hive. He shared some of his learning about innovating from within a big corporation.

“My experience is that most corporates have lots of ideas but executing them is the problem.”

British Gas had two failed attempts before Hive evolved to be the success it is today. Hive started out based within the main IT team. Whilst it stood alone as a separate project team, its proximity to the ‘mothership’ (as Adrian calls it) meant that it fell victim to what he calls, “Corporate Antibody Syndrome”. Managers from all over the organisation wanted to get involved, have their say and sign off on things. The innovation became stifled and the predecessor to Hive ground to a halt.

Adrian got involved in Hive because he ran the post investment review about why it failed. And when the second attempt failed after Corporate Antibodies infected the enthusiasm and stole time once more it became a catalyst to testing a different approach.

British Gas sought external advice, which was to separate Hive innovation from the mothership, in terms of location, governance and people, giving time and space to focus on innovation with no interruptions.

Kassir Hussain a project manager with a background in telecoms and innovation was bought in to lead the development of the third Hive attempt. He created an incubator and asked for some conditions.

  • Hive to be set up in central London, with access to the best developers, project managers and data scientists.
  • Two years of investment with no ties.
  • To own the HR process and have authority on who was hired and fired.
  • Hives’ own brand; Kassir knew that it was unlikely that anyone was going to buy a piece of the latest tech from the, albeit trusted, but traditional British Gas brand.
  • Two team members from the existing British Gas core team; a finance director, and a change manager were appointed to ‘fend off the wolves’

The Hive team structure emulated a start-up – the core team were entrepreneurs and their entrepreneurial spirit permeated through the rest of the team. They failed fast and learned. They focused on the unique customer insight that led to the initial Hive concept as well as the changing needs of their customer. They concentrated on the customer before the technology.

“Making the initial idea happen is really hard, but holding onto the idea and evolving it as customers’ need it to evolve is even harder”

Leadership is clearing the stage so the team can perform

The leadership and culture at Hive was a big departure from the structure of the mothership. At Hive leadership was no longer top-down and about telling people what to do, but to clear the path and let the experts do their job. It was also about keeping people aligned and focused on the core purpose. There was a shift from following a corporate five-year plan to focusing on a five-year vision and delivering a three-month plan that adapted to the changing customer needs and the learning along the way.

The benefit of the mothership was a ready-made route to market and in the case of Hive this was 10,000 trusted engineers who were good at fitting thermostats. Every engineer was given a Hive thermostat of their own to play with and try for themselves in their own homes. They were also involved in the design process. Because they liked the product and felt a sense of ownership they became an army of advocates and the best sales people Hive could have asked for.

Adrian has recently moved on from Hive to another corporate grown start-up – Now TV at Sky. For Hive to continue to succeed and grow he suggests it must stick to the three principles that made it successful in the first place: frictionless user experience, beautiful industrial design and constant customer feedback.

Adrian’s 7 innovation tips

  • Beware of Corporate Antibody Syndrome – make time and space.
  • Listen to your consumers and test and learn as fast as you can afford
  • Any innovation starts with failure – embrace failure.
  • Fail quickly, learn and crack on – the people who are good fail fastest.
  • Create an incubator – don’t establish something that is governed in the same way as the mothership.
  • Don’t forget your corporate strengths – for Hive it was the British Gas engineers on the ground.
  • As the business grows don’t lose sight of the entrepreneurial spirit that made it successful in the first place.

If you’d like to learn more insights from other successful innovators check out the new Innovation Leadership Launchpad – a mix of case stories and practical tips to help you innovate. Order your free copy straight into your inbox today. 

Don’t let not knowing how to do something stop you doing it

When I spoke to Nimisha Raja founder of Nim’s Fruit & Veg Crisps she’d been testing a new pineapple product. She told me “I’m constantly developing new products, improving existing ones and at the same time I have to make it all cost-effective”

Nimisha is what I’d describe as a true innovator. She spots an opportunity and she just goes for it. She used to own a coffee shop and she recalled how when parents and children came in it was always a battle. A battle between the children wanting crisps and the parents wanting their children to eat something healthy. It was exhausting for the parents, the children and the customers enjoying a quiet coffee!

One day she came across freeze-dried apple pieces and bingo! the idea for fruit & veg crisps; a healthy snack that children wanted to eat and parents wanted to buy was born. She bought some equipment, made a make-shift kitchen in her garage and got to work to develop the product. She worked evenings and weekends developing a healthy product, that tasted good, only used natural ingredients and was nutritious

‘Thankfully I was completely ignorant about what I was letting myself in for”

Nimisha called her product Nim’s and she experimented for nine months with painstaking attention to detail to get the product right. This also included the branding. “It’s so important that the packaging looks good. I’m used to running shops and buying goods so I’m very aware of how a product has to look to sell.

“I wanted people to see Nim’s on the front of a pack and not have to look at the back for the list of ingredients – they would know it would be 100% natural”

Test your product with your customers

Finally after endless sleepless nights Nimisha was happy. She tested whether the product would sell in her own coffee shop. It did. Next she tested selling her crisps at a stall at a local summer fair. She got good feedback. She then developed some trays with branded backing that she took to the local delis and independent shops that might sell them. She offered the tray of crisps on a sale or return basis to see if there was a market. 16 out of 20 shops she approached said ‘yes’. She also wanted to test for repeat business potential.

“People might try a one-off as a novelty, so if the shop could refill their tray x3 then that’s repeat business and then I knew the product has potential”

12 of the 16 shops sold more than 3 trays.

To be sustainable Nimisha needed volume

Nimisha knew from the beginning that being a niche supplier to small independent shops was not going to move her business forward. If her business was going to work then it had to be at volume. But it is hard to make the shift when customers like your products. It can be easy to lose your business mind when you are so close to and passionate about your product.

It took a friend to point out to Nimisha that selling a few hundred bags here and there wasn’t sustainable, financially or personally as she was working all hours of the day and night.

She shifted her focus from how to supply to small shops to how to scale. She started researching suitable factories that had equipment that could be adapted to make Nim’s fruit crisps. She looked at factories that already dried fruit in Bulgaria, Poland and Turkey. Finally she decided to test the approach with a factory in Hungary whose owner loved the product. He didn’t speak a word of English though so his daughter drove for half a day for the meeting to translate for him!

Nimisha spent a lot of time showing the factory how to make the crisps. The logistics of getting the product from Hungary to the UK were also far more complex and expensive than she imagined.

By this time Nim’s crisps were in Harrods, Selfridges, Planet Organic and 3 national distributors which might sound big but it was not the volume needed to make adequate margins. In addition to that Nimisha didn’t feel in control. There were problems with the quality. They were on the brink of signing up major supermarkets but they were also getting complaints. Scaling when manufacture wasn’t right was a recipe for disaster so Nimisha decided to open her own factory.

Nimisha secured an investor, sold her house and her coffee shop and set up a factory from scratch. Her investor said “I’m investing in you – I don’t know anything about the product but if anyone can make it work you can”

Before going big Nimisha had to get the product right 

With renewed massive pressure to succeed (as if there wasn’t enough already) and a 10,000 square foot factory in Kent, Nimisha spent 6 months making products and learning to use the machines. In this time not a single fruit crisp was sold. They couldn’t sell to supermarkets until they got the product right.

Nim’s crisps stopped trading for a total of 18 months. When they closed no one else made fruit and veg crisps. When the factory opened in November 2015 the market had changed and there was competition.

However, despite another company now manufacturing fruit crisps albeit fried and made in China, once Nim’s was back in the market their biggest challenge wasn’t the competition, it was that people didn’t understand the concept of a fruit crisp. They thought they were some sort of fruity flavoured snack.

“There is a big challenge in getting people to understand what it is – it takes a long time for people to understand something new.”

In June 2016 Nim’s joined a programme with Produced in Kent – a trade organisation supporting food businesses in Kent. Just 3 months after opening the factory they hosted a stand at a food trade show in Belgium. The response was tremendous.  They are now selling to overseas markets as well as starting to gain traction with big UK supermarkets including Co-op and Ocado. Their challenge now is maintaining a high quality product while managing the increased demand.

“I want my crisps to be an everyday product. It’s 1 of our 5 a day. The cost has to be comparable to a packet of crisps – health shouldn’t be expensive and I can only achieve that price point with scale”

Nimisha’s advice for anyone wanting to innovate is 

  • Make sure there is a market for your product.
  • Don’t make something so innovative that it’s too hard for someone to understand.
  • There is lots of help and investment for funding for innovation if you seek it out.
  • Understand that it will take time and money to develop your idea and then more to make it commercial.
  • Anyone can copy you. Be prepared for this and protect yourself where possible.
  • You know more than you think you know.
  • Follow your instinct and have belief. “I wouldn’t have started if I didn’t think it had potential.”
  • Don’t dawdle and waste time – just get on with it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Just because you can’t do it now doesn’t mean that you can’t learn.

If you’d like to learn more insights from other successful innovators check out the new Innovation Leadership Launchpad – a mix of case stories and practical tips to help you innovate. Order your free copy straight into your inbox today. 

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Doing things differently at Bromford Lab. Because saying you’re different isn’t enough

We caught up with the team at Bromford Lab to understand the challenges to innovating in a large and traditional organisation. The Lab works across Bromford, a Housing Association of 30,000 homes, to reimagine services, inspire new thinking and design new ways of working.

It seems that all organisations these days are talking about innovation. It’s true of all sectors, but perhaps one of the fastest growing in it’s thirst for innovation is the public and social facing sector, which is seeing a huge rise in the number of teams being setup to ‘drive change’ and ‘promote new working cultures’. But, often the same organisations who are calling for such teams, are at the same time internally confused about why or how they will work; often overlooking the fact that meaningful innovation is disruptive by its nature and the impact that disruption will likely make on the fabric of the organisation.

We wanted to make sure that when we started upon our own journey of innovation we understood this impact, so we spent around a year scoping out what an Innovation Lab at Bromford might look like. We could see that there was a need to create a space for other colleagues to think differently about the problems they faced and come up with new types of solutions which could help drive the business forward, but the form that this took was set to evolve over time. Often, colleagues were having ideas, but increasingly found that they had no way of taking them forward, or even worse, took them forward without understanding how they fitted with the rest of organisational strategy.

“It’s fair to say that [as an organisation] our focus on doing the right things for our customers has sometimes meant we followed our hearts rather than our heads – designing services around gut feelings, instincts and myths, rather than data, analytics and research.” Philippa Jones, Chief Executive, Bromford

The problem the Lab was set up to fix was that innovation was random and unfocused at Bromford. It happened at will, and there wasn’t a resource to nurture and protect new ideas from colleagues. We describe it as ‘initiative-itis’- there was an initiative for lots of things – but they didn’t always solve the right problem and weren’t always effective. Bromford Lab was launched back in 2014 as a place to nurture innovation. The Lab was founded using Jeff Bezos’ principle of being a Two Pizza Team, that teams shouldn’t be larger than two pizzas can feed. Small teams make it easier to communicate more effectively and encourage high autonomy and innovation. Since then we have been working across the business to help colleagues capture, frame and realise their ideas, with no pressure to force bad ideas to work. In fact, failing and failing fast was one of our founding principles. Over the past few years the lab approach has evolved. These days our Insight team (data analysis and research) and Innovation work closely together, and that has been important learning for us. Working off instincts is an important part of the design process, they can often give us a position to start from, but when we make judgments based on instincts alone, without the evidence to back them up, all we are really doing is making judgments based on what we think we know.

Back in the early days we tried a lot of things that we would never have been able to do before we set up the lab. From Google Glass to Drones and Smart Homes to Loneliness, the spirit of the lab was to get on and try things out. These speculative tests provided a lot of learning about the future of our business and the future direction of work, and we were able to use that learning to help colleagues start to design better, more informed services. But a side effect of our different way of working was becoming known as the team who have the ‘wacky ideas’. This is both a blessing and a curse, because as anyone working in a social facing creative role knows, the lab is about more than ‘wacky ideas’, it’s about social impact. In early 2017, Bromford were about to embark on one of their biggest challenges to date, an organisation wide transformation programme called ‘Bromford 2point0’. The big question we were asking ourselves was how we could use this opportunity to embed the lab approach to innovation into the DNA of Bromford, whilst at the same time keeping true to the independent intent of the Lab?

Innovation & Organisational Change

The Lab has been asked to play a key role in Bromford 2point0, which is great because one of the things we have learned is that innovation cannot scale if it doesn’t have a place within organisational strategy. Alongside the organisational transformation programme, Bromford are also in the process of moving to a localities based approach to working. Our Housing Managers are taking on new roles as Neighbourhood Coaches – a £3.5 million approach developed in the Lab – and we’re reducing the size of their patches from around 500-750 homes to around 175 homes. We recognise the benefits that getting to know our customers better can bring. We also know that we can’t design services that our customers both need and

will engage with, without understanding more about their lives and without involving them in the design process. Making decisions based on what we think we know can be dangerous and costly. If we understand people’s needs and wants we can make decisions based on insight, both quantitative and qualitative. That’s important because if we just think we know, all we are doing is making stuff up. The Lab is actually, therefore, the antithesis of an ivory tower; what we are doing is moving Bromford to a position where everything we do is based on some form of evidence and customer insight. We have a great opportunity to pick up weak signals from our communities and act upon them in a way that will help us provide services which meet the needs of our communities.

What’s our advice to others who are developing innovation in a traditional/ large organisation?

Create design thinking organisations

  • Part of the role of an in-house designer has to be to help colleagues spot opportunities, but we also need to help them understand the best way to exploit them. Not every improvement needs to be run as a formal design project, but enabling colleagues to understand the key principles of design thinking will help ensure that any changes they make are customer focused and considered as part of a wider ecosystem; promoting the evolution of the organisation rather than its mutation.

Start with problems not solutions

  • Great performance at work is usually defined as creating and implementing solutions rather than finding the best problems to tackle. There’s a lack of penetration into the root causes of problems as most of our organisations have a cultural bias for execution over thorough problem definition. Innovation is all about getting better at being wrong. However it must be founded in a deep understanding of the problem we are seeking to solve.

Nurture creativity

  • Organisations that are serious about designing great services understand the need to provide creative spaces, inspirational spaces and different ways of working. Creativity isn’t like a tap that can be turned on and off. You can’t just be creative when someone asks you to be. Creative space isn’t a luxury (physical and mental), it’s a necessity. After all, how can people think outside of the box if they are locked up inside it?

Autonomy over projects

  • As in-house innovators we need to find the projects that can really benefit from design input and then do them well. But we have also learned not to expect to run every design project through each stage of the double diamond. Even if this should be the case, practically it just isn’t always possible within the bureaucratic project frameworks of large organisations. It is true that there is indeed a balance to be found between taking a pragmatic, flexible approach to design and watering down the impact design can have.

Link with policy

  • Solutions simply cannot scale if they don’t have a place within organisational strategy. As part of our organisational change work with Bromford 2point0 we have a growing pipeline of exploration areas, tests, and design challenges, but in order to be sure that we are working on the right things, we must have a clear idea of how the work we are doing feeds into the 2point0 programme strategy.

Measure and Communicate success

  • In-house creative teams are a precious resource and we need to prove that we add value. Often when working on preventive services, it’s hard to prove that an intervention you designed will achieve a better outcome without access to a DeLorean fitted with a flux capacitor. We need to work with the people in the organisation that have the right skills to help us work through the data, but also challenge the organisation to look at different types of metrics, and work with them in order to design them, rather than against them.

Don’t keep talking about it – try it

  • Most of us can’t tell if we like something or not by reading about it in a report. We need to see it, feel it and experience it. That’s why the Lab focuses on what we call ‘tests’. Tests are typically time-limited, minimal resource and therefore low risk. The whole principle is to get things in front of people as soon as possible to reduce spending time and money on potential failures.

Fast failure is good risk management

  • The biggest barrier in most organisations is risk aversion – so anticipate this in advance. Show that you acknowledge risk and have put as much cotton wool around your idea as possible. Governance teams can be your greatest enemies or biggest friends

Be ruthless pulling the plug

  • Not every idea or project is destined for success. Stopping a project is a difficult decision but in certain cases, it’s inevitable. Making things work artificially is not always in the interests of the customer or the company. You need to know when to pull the plug early to avoid spending more money on well-intentioned vanity projects.

You cant save the world on your own

  • Labs should get better at sharing their knowledge and collaborating on projects. The problems we are seeking to address, certainly in the public and social sectors are wicked by nature, and because wicked problems transcend organisations and sectors, no single organisation can solve a given problem on their own. The solution lies in creating effective networks that work together to transcend silos. Labs should link up with each other in order to share, learn and exploit opportunities to improve social outcomes for all our populations.

If you’d like to learn more insights from other successful innovators check out the new Innovation Leadership Launchpad – a mix of case stories and practical tips to help you innovate. Order your free copy straight into your inbox today. 

Grandpa on a skateboard: innovation in a regulated world

We caught up with Tim Farmer last month to find out more about his business and ask his advice for anyone else trying to innovate or do something new in a marketplace steeped in tradition, rules and regulation.

Advancements in medical research and care mean that we are living longer – often with many different and complex conditions. This means that more people are also living with a reduced mental capacity to make decisions in their own best interests. If you are concerned about someone’s decision-making capacity, then you can request a mental capacity assessment. Currently, the average time for an assessment from a GP is four months and the standard of report is often poor.

Tim, a registered mental health nurse with over 20 year’s experience of working with individuals with reduced capacity was appalled by the length of time this sort of assessment can take. When someone requests a mental capacity assessment it is often when they are at crisis point and four months is just too long. Tim set up the, now multi-award winning, TSF Consultants to do something about it.

“The why is simple – I wanted to find a better way of doing it”

In 2011 Tim was working for the NHS and he was troubled by the four-month lead time for mental capacity assessments. He also felt that generally the quality of assessments was poor and did not always put the needs of the vulnerable individual at the centre of the process. He thought he could do better. He started to float his idea with friends and colleagues.

Tim was told it wouldn’t work. Mental Capacity Assessments are traditionally carried out by doctors – not nurses. “I was unconventional because I was “just a nurse” A friend told Tim “With all due respect, as a Consultant Psychiatrist I’m the gold standard. You’re just a nurse and will only ever be, at best, “bronze” Ouch.

“What do I need to do?”

Tim asked his friend Dave Nicholds, a solicitor, for advice on setting up a business to provide quicker and better mental capacity assessments. Dave knew the sector and was also not afraid to challenge Tim. His first question was “Can you do them?” (yes) followed by “Is there a reason why you can’t?” (no).

Tim drafted a letter to solicitors outlining the offer of a more compassionate, better quality and fast mental capacity assessment service. His aim was to reduce the lead time from four months to a week. Dave edited the copy to a more legal language that solicitors were familiar with. They posted the letters. Then they waited.

Three solicitors were interested. Tim met them and proved what he promised in his letter by completing a high-quality mental capacity assessment for them quickly. At the same time, he started to increase his profile by writing articles for leading journals. He used LinkedIn to connect with and meet key people in the field explaining what he could do to help them. Over time this approach gained momentum.

“We set out to provide the assessment in a week. Due to our current workload, we currently average two weeks, it means we have had to revise our target, but it’s still a hell of a lot quicker than the GP’”

Tim and Dave still meet at least once a month to talk through challenges, new ideas and successes. Tim has also added a mentor, Jeremy Nottingham to his list of confidants and finds “both these sounding boards are essential. They constantly challenge me, help me focus on the immediate issues and plan for the longer term. They are also great support for when things go wrong or don’t quite turn out the way I planned!”.

My evidence is as good as theirs.

The Court of Protection is a specialist Court that deals solely with issues relating to mental capacity. Every application to the Court requires a mental capacity assessment.

Tim encountered many barriers to presenting assessments in court, primarily because he was ‘just a nurse’ and he was trying to change a traditional and ingrained belief system – that doctors were the only people who could do mental capacity assessments and be a representative in the Court of Protection.

Healthcare, like many professions, is victim to traditional stereotypes and egos, some jobs are revered more than others and the disparity between the status of nurses and doctors couldn’t be bigger.

Tim had to overcome prejudice and demonstrate that his evidence was as good as a doctor’s evidence. He started with small simple assessments to prove he could do it and then moved to more complex assessments. At the same time, he built networks of high-quality assessors across the UK. He purposefully recruited unconventional healthcare professionals, for example, nurses and speech and language therapists. He is now recognised as one of the leading experts in the field and works alongside government bodies and industry accreditation boards. He is also an award-winning author and expert witness.

“My evidence is good enough to get to court so why not good enough to be considered by the court?”

In October 2015, the guidelines for giving evidence in the Court of Protection were changed from ‘medical practitioner’ to someone with ‘suitable experience’

Now TSF Consultants have over 40 assessors across the UK. 99% of all assessments occur in the individual’s home at a time of their choosing, helping to ensure they feel safe and they can be at their optimum during the assessment.

TSF consultants are continuing to push boundaries. They are now developing a product to challenge the finance sector to make mental capacity assessments at the point of lending to help protect people from taking on unmanageable debt and an academy to teach healthcare professionals to conduct mental capacity assessments to a high standard that puts the person at the centre.

“There will always be naysayer’s whatever industry you are in – that’s why your own belief is important”

Tim has tackled a lot of challenges in setting up TSF Consultants. They constantly change their approach to get around obstacles. Tim’s feels his knowledge of Martial Arts has come in handy. “In martial arts, we often talk about water. I approach any challenge like water approaches an obstacle. When water comes up against something in its path it either seeks out an alternative route, a nook to pass through or a different way around or it simply waits until it’s build up enough momentum to go over the top.”

Everything TSF Consultants do is built from Tim’s original driver of providing a service that puts the needs of the person requiring the mental capacity assessment first and getting the right outcomes for vulnerable people.

Tim’s advice for anyone trying to innovate about anything is…

  • Understand why it’s important to you. Know your values and drivers and stay true to them. Make sure as you develop your products and services you always come back to why you are doing it.
  • Find allies – people who can be a sounding board, have insight into the topic and have also got your back.
  • It’s a roller coaster ride. It’s fantastic when you are up there and very isolating when you are not. You have to be resilient to get through the low times.
  • All good business books say “surround yourself with people who are better than you” but it’s hard when you don’t have money. Identify and prioritise the key areas that you need help with.
  • Ideas and products develop over time, understand what people want and evolve, develop and fine-tune.
  • Don’t be afraid to voice your own opinion.
  • Listen to the people who challenge you and overcome their objections. You can use this response to counter the next person with the same objection. If you can answer one objection you can answer them all.
  • Don’t give up – if the first incarnation doesn’t work then find a different way. There will be a different way and it’s up to you to find it.
  • Just do it – get out there and do it. Better to try and fail than not to give it a try. “Trying and failing results in learning. Failing to try results in a lifetime of regret”.
  • Expect it to go wrong at some point.
  • Don’t be scared. Have faith in yourself. Be brave.

Tim is the founder of TSF Consultants, a registered mental health nurse with 20 year’s experience and author of the bestselling book Grandpa on a skateboard.

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