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Skin In The Game

Who's helping you help your organisation through its transformation?

Anyone who has kids will know that, especially in those early days when you’re a new parent, there is huge comfort and support in having a friend whose baby is just a few months or even a few weeks older than yours. They give you a glimpse into what is to come next and their child’s stage of development is sufficiently similar and relatable to that of your own child. When you ask the parents: “My baby is doing xyz, is that normal?”, their experience is recent enough to recall and give you helpful advice.

As a leader of innovation in government for several years, I was looking for something similar. Someone who truly understood my challenges and could support and help guide me.

But initially, all I found were consultants who had read all the same books I had. Academics who were great on the theory. Or startup people - I wanted to adopt components of startup culture for sure, but corporate innovation is a different game and I needed someone who understood that nuance.

This isn’t to knock consultants, academics or entrepreneurs. Over the years, I’ve drawn a lot from all of them. Consultants have given me insight into how innovation is being applied in different industries. Academics have provided thought leadership, which has inspired and encouraged me to think more deeply about the challenges I’ve faced. Startups have taught me about rapid testing, customer centricity and the importance of early traction. It’s not that consultants, academics and seasoned entrepreneurs couldn’t help me, it’s just they could never truly relate. And I needed someone by my side who could.

Leading innovation, transformation and change inside an organisation, especially one as hierarchical, bureaucratic and intransigent as government, is a seriously lonely and difficult job. The theory is all great, the application is really difficult. The internal politics and the never-ending blockers are exhausting. The old ways are not better, they are just familiar. It took me an inordinate amount of personal resilience and emotional energy to shift others in the organisation just one inch.

What I wanted was someone who had experienced what this felt like first hand. Someone who had felt and understood the pain and difficulties I was facing. Someone who had themselves tried to transform an organisation where they had worked for a number of years and whose future they cared about. Someone who had themselves been fully invested and simultaneously frustrated. I wanted to find someone who knew what it was like to have skin in the game.

There are not many of these people. I was fortunate to eventually find someone. Someone who had experienced what I was experiencing. Someone who was prepared to be honest and vulnerable about how they had felt and what they wished they’d done differently with the benefit of hindsight. When there was no one else I could turn to for support or when I thought I was going crazy, she coached me through each challenge.

This experience is the main reason Katie and I set up Yellow Cat. We know what it’s like to have skin in the game. We know how difficult and lonely it can be leading change, transformation and innovation inside an established organisation. If you’re doing that, let me tell you that you are different to most. Most people don’t try to change stuff - they keep their heads down, play the system and get on.

If you’re taking the status quo on, you’re already pretty awesome. It is our mission to help you however we can and we have the experience and battle scars to do so. Learn more about what we do and please get in touch for an exploratory conversation - we can and want to help you.

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