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Embrace the absurd when innovating

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Companies should also learn from failures and adapt to change to innovate most effectively

Employees should be encouraged to embrace the "absurd" in their quests to innovate, according to Nick Lansley, former head of open innovation at Tesco.

Speaking at the Richmond Human Resources Forum, Lansley said one of his favourite quotes was Einstein's 'if at first an idea is not absurd then there will be no hope for it'. "The key word is 'absurd'," explained Lansley. "When coming up with new ideas encourage your employees to go on a journey to what the utopia of your company would look like."

Businesses should also create cultures that embrace failure, he said. "Failure is of its own value. Grace Hopper once said that it is better to ask for forgiveness than for permission, and it's how you get things done.

"If you are passionate about your idea and you get in trouble you should not even have to ask for forgiveness," Lansley added. "You might even wonder if this is the right business for you to work in [if you do have to]."

Jeffrey Hayzlett, former chief marketing officer of the Eastman Kodak Company, described Kodak's failure to adapt to change.

"Wherever I go people ask me 'why did Kodak go bankrupt last year?'" he said during his keynote speech 'Think big, act bigger'. "I tell them Kodak didn't go bankrupt last year. It went bankrupt in 1975 when the first digital photo was taken.

"The inventor brought it to Kodak but they told him they were in the film business, and not to mess with film. They didn't realise they were never in the film business, they were in the emotional technology business. People would run into a burning building to save their [mementos].

"You have to adapt, change, or die. It isn't the lucky who win; it is the relentless."