Nick Jankel is the founder of We Create Worldwide, which helps organizations innovate breakthroughs that can bring about a brilliant world.
“We design products, systems, service experiences, and business models that can deliver those breakthroughs,” says Jankel, whose goal is to stand at the intersection between creativity, compassion, and the collective good.
So we were thrilled to interview Jankel on the Inkandescent Radio Network.
Click here to listen to our podcast interview.
Scroll down for our Q&A with Jankel.
Be Inkandescent: Tell us, what is We Create Worldwide?
Nick Jankel: It’s partly a consultancy and partly an enterprise incubator. We work with governments, charities, and large companies to persuade them that they can create profit and do good work at the same time.
Our goal is to create disruptive innovation that incorporates CSR [corporate social responsibility], social programs, and internal organizational programs, rather than have it all separate.
Be Inkandescent: Is this a new trend?
Nick Jankel: It’s a trend that has been gathering steam in the last 10 years, as more people have wanted to be good corporate citizens. And to make money and do good, it takes a cultural and organizational shift.
Be Inkandescent: And that’s where your company steps in, right?
Nick Jankel: Exactly. In fact, one of my clients used to work for HBO and said that they would get the same pitches that other networks got for content, but what distinguished HBO was the fact that its staff could spot a gem, even if it seemed risky. A lot of other networks would pass and say, “That’s too crazy or weird for us.” So HBO became a leader in the industry.
That’s the same with all businesses. Take 10 companies with incredible breakthrough products or services, and only one of the 10 actually will be able to do something with it. The rest, well, their culture won’t allow them to even see it, or hear it, much less do anything with it.
Be Inkandescent: I also see that trend in my PR business. It sounds like you are futurists?
Nick Jankel: Yes, but not the kind that sits around in an office in New York going, “Hmm, it’s all going to be about purple next year.” We help organizations interrogate the future—their future, not the random future of the whole world, because that’s not relevant to anyone. We really help them flirt with chaos, to make chaos a friend rather than a foe.
Be Inkandescent: And most businesses try to manage away the chaos.
Nick Jankel: Right! The unfortunate truth is that innovation needs chaos. You can’t have innovation without it because that’s where the big ideas are waiting.
Be Inkandescent: Is that why most organizations shy away from innovation?
Nick Jankel: Absolutely. Most organizations think innovation is a new kind of bottle they make for our drink. When they develop a slightly nicer version of the last model, they call it innovation.
But that’s not innovation to me. That’s just making things slightly better, and that is what companies should be doing anyway. Breakthrough innovation is about bringing to life something that fundamentally transforms the market that you’re in, or the industry sector that you’re in. It challenges the way things have been done before. That is what innovation really is, and it’s very rare.
Be Inkandescent: You are talking about game-changing ideas, products, and services.
Nick Jankel: Yeah. For instance, my first business was helping others do innovation; it was a straight-up consultancy. I realized after about 10 years of being frustrated by actually how few organizations could run with ideas that unless you help do the culture change itself, there is no point in doing it.
A company has to get its team and leaders on board so that it becomes part of the corporate culture to harness the ideas and bring them to life. It’s also about not having all the answers—and being able to deal with not having all the answers.
Be Inkandescent: That’s tough for most leaders to do.
Nick Jankel: Indeed. There are very few leaders who can say, “Hey, I don’t know what’s going to happen about this,” because everyone wants to pretend they know everything. But that attitude is the enemy of innovation. You can’t go in wanting to be right, or be righteous, because that’s what kills creativity. It’s the little sniper that takes down creative thinking. That’s one of the main things I’ve learned on my journey in entrepreneurship myself, and I’m doing fairly brave things.
Be Inkandescent: Like what?
Nick Jankel: We’ve developed a coaching toolkit, which is peer-to-peer coaching, for people who can’t afford coaching. And that encompasses most people in the world because most people and organizations are not built to afford coaching.
I’m pleased to say that it has been used by social workers, prisoners, kids, and unemployed youth. And that’s very important to us to be able to take some of the stuff we use in the boardroom and move it into the parts of society where the sun doesn’t shine—at least not the sunshine of the kind of happy, positive, motivational, or psychologically empowered thinking. We’ve also worked with the BBC on an online kind of empowerment project for youth, and we’ve worked on a festival of happiness and creativity, which was great. It toured the UK.
We also do a training program for purpose-driven entrepreneurs to take some of the consulting tools that they can never afford and give it to them piece by piece. So we’re busy.
Be Inkandescent: We met at the Professional BusinessWomen of California Conference in May 2013 where you were heading up a breakout session for participants on the topic of innovation. Tell us about that talk.
Nick Jankel: I discussed disruptive and breakthrough innovation, and a little bit about the psychology of people who can do it. So it was a little bit about leadership, and a little bit about how to actually have groundbreaking ideas. A lot of my work is imbued with a deep study of what creativity is, and what leadership is, and what consciousness is, and how we can use science and neuroscience philosophy to help us in business open up big ideas and things.
Be Inkandescent: Do you think men and women approach creativity and innovation differently?
Nick Jankel: Rather than men and women, which is a very binary gender way of looking at people, I tend to distinguish between the masculine and the feminine. It’s more accurate, first of all, because we all have masculine and feminine in us; and women tend to have more feminine in them than men, but not all women.
The masculine is very good at building stuff. I have a 4-year-old son who can take a Lego kit and go, “Pfft,” and he’s done something. Early on, he was gendered toward building things.
Be Inkandescent: And business tends to be about building.
Nick Jankel: Right. Therefore, I think men have naturally connected with the sort of soul of what business creation is. But the thing about innovation is it has two polarities in it, two sorts of isotopes.
There’s the building bit, the getting stuff done bit, which is very important and very masculine. But there’s also the letting things fall apart bit, the entering into chaos, the connecting with people and making sure they’re okay when going through the unknown and ambiguity. These are uncomfortable moments where we don’t know what’s going to happen for three or four months. So when someone says, “Do you know what the answer is?” And you say, “No, we’re just in the middle of the process, we have no idea.” Well, that tends to be a feminine process, of being able to hold together a group whilse things fall apart.
I’m not saying that women are best at that part and men are best at the other part; it’s just that the feminine can embrace chaos more easily than the masculine. Look at the goddess Kali in Hindu literature. She is a scary goddess with skulls and stuff, and that’s the chaos—and you need that ability.
Be Inkandescent: So women have an amazing role to play in innovation. I agree wholeheartedly. Do you see a lot of women in this space?
Nick Jankel: Rarely. I encounter very few directors of innovation who are women, which is a great pity because as I said men are sort of great at getting the project plan signed off, that kind of stuff. But getting the boss to break through some doors, and allowing ideas to flourish, without jumping in or out too soon—men aren’t so great at that.
Often it’s the dull idea rather than the one we initially liked that ends up being the big thing. It takes patience and sitting with stuff. Women are expert at that, so it would be great to have more women in high posts in organizations to deal with innovation.
Be Inkandescent: How do you think women can make their way into those roles?
Nick Jankel: Obviously, a great start is just chucking yourself in and saying I want to be involved in this innovation project. I have always believed in doing the job above you, or doing the job you want to have before you actually get the role. I think understanding creativity and really showing an understanding of how it works is important.
On that point, on the homepage of our website there’s a free, 86-page e-book on breakthrough innovation, basically the best of everything we know. Download it at www.wecreateworldwide.com. You’ll see that it’s got a lot of stuff in it on science, it’s got psychology, it’s got business stuff—just about everything you need.
Be Inkandescent: As you said before, just because there is a new silicone chip doesn’t mean the company has come up with a new innovation.
Nick Jankel: It’s only innovative when the new silicone chip connects to someone’s life, to what they need and want. Another way into innovation, and the creative side of the business, is through market research. This provides a creative insight, which is again about people.
One thing I have to say, and this is very, very personal, is that I think the last thing the world needs is women pretending to be men to get ahead, and becoming compassionless and heartless and ignorant, or ignoring the needs of people.
What we actually need are women who are women who can bring a love of nature and a love of children and a love of future for their children into business so that business starts to care more about that stuff. Again, my hope is that they never pretend that sort of stuff doesn’t exist just to get to the boardroom table. So that is my personal plea. Comments are welcome.
Be Inkandescent: Amen to that plea! And you also have a new segment of your business starting up this year.
Nick Jankel: Yes, it is an online digital media business called “Ripe and Ready.” The idea is to take all of this creativity and self-help, happiness and well-being content that we’ve developed and take it to professionals under 40. They want to learn how to live, they want to be happy, they want to be socially conscious, they want to do good stuff, and they want to be wealthy to a certain degree. But all the gurus are from a different generation.
And this is my area. I love this stuff. I love philosophy, I love spiritual traditions, and I love wisdom, a psychology. Our plan is to repackage it into different books and on an online YouTube channel with TV shows for a younger audience. So that’s my new mission. It’s exciting, and I like the new start-up feeling.
Be Inkandescent: It has been a real pleasure to talk to you, Nick! For more information about Nick Jankel’s exciting work, visit wecreateworldwide.com.