BfG News Issue 5 - Expert View: Ten top tips for sustainable innovation

05 Oct 2007|Added Value

Each month News invites an expert to give us their view on a topical issue. This month, we asked Lynne Elvins, Senior Adviser – Sustainable Innovation at Forums for the Future, the sustainable development charity, to share her views on sustainable development, business and innovation.

Whether you’re a start-up, an established small business or a corporate giant, there are skills involved in successful innovation. And smart ways to get the juices flowing are just the start of it. Eureka moments are a vital part of creating sustainable products and services, but – as any successful entrepreneur will tell you – they’re the catalyst for the journey, rather than the destination itself.


1. Access all areas: Organisations that encourage and implement ideas from everyone (not just senior levels) are the ones that come up with the most successful strategies.

2. Seek strangers: The best way to bring fresh eyes to any problem is to bring in new kinds of people. Invite ‘unusual suspects’.

3. Prepare to fail: To find ideas that work, be ready to try a lot that don’t. Then make them sink or swim fast, and move on to the next.

4. Change perspective: Getting out of office routines and away from familiar settings releases potential.

5. Explore the ridiculous: When you know where you want to go, but not how to get there, try random and outrageous thought. The most impractical things can give off powerful sparks.

6. Don’t just stand there: An average idea powered by well-targeted action is better than a great one that never gets out there.

7. See sustainability as opportunity: Problems can be a source of ideas, not constraints.

8. Start with best: What would your product or service look like if it were 100% sustainable? This may not be possible today, but scope it out and work backwards to something that is.

9. Look up, look down: There’s more to it than producing and selling. Look at where materials come from, and up the line to the end-of-life.

10. Think big: Go beyond a new product or service to whole new systems. Not a new car, but a new transport system. Not a new piece of packaging, but a new delivery system. Consider the possibilities of radical change.

Download here the Forum for the Future’s inspirational guide to sustainable innovation or contact Lynne direct

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