How I Learnt To Stay Innovative

The key to being innovative and creative is clearing your mind of your old ideas in order to let the new ones in.

Read Time: 5 Mins


I had a pretty intense  5 days of learning prior to Christmas, which has both challenged my own belief systems and inspired me.


Monday to Wednesday I attended the Enterprise Agility Masterclass with Simon Powers, founder of Adventures with Agile, to develop a rich understanding of the complexity and scope of enterprise agile. This was a great consolidation of a lot of different concepts and theories I already knew, bolstered with sprinkling of new ideas including neuroscience and executive coaching.


This left me feeling invigorated, as I had more knowledge and different tools and techniques to try in my workplace. It also reminded me how some of my own self-beliefs impacted the way I view the world and the cognitive bias that I unwittingly have. If I want to improve and grow personally, I will need to challenge myself to let go of what is already in my head!

This was good timing to have a self-reflection, as I was priming to be a mentor at Hatch London at the weekend. Having never attended a Hackathon before, I knew I had to remain open-minded to both support the team I was mentoring and learn something new myself.

Hatch is a 2-day event organised by SheCanCode and hosted by the Ministry of Justice in We got together over 100 people from 28 different universities, to solve real-world social impact problems.


The organisers made a special effort to ensure there was an even mix of male, female and non-binary attendees, with an even split of skills of technical and non-technical people. This created an amazingly diverse group!

Very quickly the teams formed and started working on their topics, refining the problem space, who were impacted by the problem and their proposed solutions. By the end of the day, they were already creating prototypes

As a mentor, my role was to ensure the team was supported and help guide them through the Product Development Lifecycle. However, I found everyone was highly motivated and well informed, so other than checking in with them every now and then, they didn't need much help. However, this gave me some time to meet and speak to other mentors, listen to Keynote talks and attend workshops,  discussing a range of topics from learning to code to Sex Tech to Crowdfunding for Social Enterprise.

One of the highlights for me was listening to Anne Boden CEO of Starling Bank. A software engineer by trade, Anne has worked in the Finance industry for over 30 years. In 2014 she had enough of all of the legacy problems and bureaucratic culture and decided to start her own Bank.

Putting technology and diversity at the heart of the company, Starling achieves with 120 people what their competitors need 10,000 to do. I had assumed that Starling was created by a young entrepreneur straight out of Uni. It was refreshing to see that a Women with a technical background was disrupting the Banking industry with a cool new FinTech startup. I am hoping to go visit her at Starling bank and see with my own eyes what Anne has created.


My weekend wrapped off brilliantly, listing to the pitches and watching the demonstrations. I was truly taken aback by just how far each team had come and what they had achieved in such a short space of time. My team had created ThinkThank, a website plug in to warn users of fake news - take a look at their prototype here >>

It was very difficult for the judges to pick a winner but there had to be one and it was FarmChain. A Blockchain based service to help farmers track and manage their livestock.


So, what I have learnt from those 5 days:

  1. It is important to assume people mean well and consider everyone in a positive high regard

  2. The technical talent being nurtured in our Universities is of such a high standard

  3. Creating diverse teams with a mix of gender, race and skillset can achieve amazing results in a short space of time

I am glad I opened my mind to new ideas and look forward to seeing what innovation and creativity this sparks going forwards!


Claire copy.jpg

Claire Donald is a Project & Program Manager with over 15 years’ experience delivering IT infrastructure and application projects using traditional, agile and continuous delivery methods. She has a high tolerance for ambiguity and has worked within fast paced and high pressure environments, taking an entrepreneurial approach. Claire is currently completing an Executive MBA with Surrey Business School.

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