Harnessing Scotland-wide innovative thinking - Jim Duffy comment

One will often hear entrepreneur types announce that in times of crises and difficulty, there is great opportunity.
Let’s create Scotland’s new ideas and innovation protocol, says Duffy (file image). Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto.Let’s create Scotland’s new ideas and innovation protocol, says Duffy (file image). Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto.
Let’s create Scotland’s new ideas and innovation protocol, says Duffy (file image). Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto.

Ostensibly, new challenges present fresh thinking, which in turn can lead to new innovations and ways of doing things. And, to a great extent, they are right. Difficult times make us rethink how we do things. It’s that old adage that pops up on CVs on LinkedIn when folks state that they can “think outside the box”.

It’s a bit clichéd now, but the premise is still very relevant. So, how about we take this opportunity right now in difficult times to create new opportunities for Scotland. Perhaps now is a good time to capture people’s thoughts and ideas in a business plan competition.

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Not a business plan competition in the old sense, which does feel a little staid and boring. No, more an ideas register with some context that we can pick up on and even vote for. There is a wealth of talent in Scotland.

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We have seniors like me who have a wee bit of experience in this and that. Retired businesspeople with oodles of experience in running all sorts of ventures. We have teachers current and retired who will have a whole raft of ideas, but perhaps never had the time to jot down on paper.

We have universities rammed with professors and students who are up to date on fresh thinking in subjects like fashion and design, physics and art. And we have regular Joes and Janes who see things every day and have worked out “fixes” that could make life better.

But they just glide through life and never bring their ideas forward. In fact, strike the business plan strapline, and let’s create Scotland’s new “ideas and innovation” protocol. I love that!

How would it work? Well, firstly it has to come from the top. The First Minister has to be 100 per cent behind it. After all, what a legacy it could create for her. Once she is on board, that will give it the fuel it needs to take shape.

Now we have political weight behind it, we need a small team to run it. We need Scotland’s media to embrace it, it needs a budget, and Bob’s yer aunty – Scotland could create a fabulous idea bank that generates a multitude of fixes and new solutions that can get small amounts of money and support to get started.

All we need to do is create a simple online format and log in within our names, passwords and, for example, our national insurance numbers. Once on the system you can load your idea, and explain how it could improve something that already exists or create something new. A short piece of prose on how you think it could be carried out and approximate costs. Nothing too detailed and elaborate. Just fill in some boxes.


Then each month everyone on the system can vote for the best idea and it automatically refines and refines until a winner emerges. And this is the best part. Just because you submit an idea doesn’t mean you have to run the show.

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Others can then bid to execute on the idea and take it forward in more detail until it is finessed enough to be a solid proposition. Scotland gets 12 cracking self-generated ideas for making life better for Scots each year. That must be a positive thing, surely?

And the best bit is that no-one has the licence on new ideas. The realm of innovation doesn’t sit in universities or entrepreneur hubs. It sits in us all in differing degrees. But we do not all want to be visionaries, futurists, entrepreneurs or business-builders.

The pensioner on the bus will see something that can be improved. The teacher in the maths class will know a better way to do something. The police officer in the street can see fixes to create better communities. And so it goes on.

What a great opportunity to create hope and a vision for a better Scotland brought to life by ordinary folks. Folks who don’t want their name in lights, bragging rights or big pay days. Just the knowledge that they helped make something better in a time when we could all do with some fresh thinking and forward thinking to steer government.

Jim Duffy MBE, Create Special

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