Innovation Conversations #4 – Mark Shayler, Innovation and Environmental Consultant

A bathing ape - Innovation Conversation with Mark Shayler of Ape StudiosMark is an innovation consultant, founder of Ape Studios and the Do Lectures, a visiting fellow in sustainable design at University of Loughborough and visiting lecturer at the Royal College of Art, and the list goes on.

I met Mark when he ran a Do session in Bristol during Social Media Week, and for this conversation interviewed him accidentally in the very chilly chapel of the House of St Barnabas, by far the grooviest members’ club in Soho. You couldn’t make it up.

I love Mark’s take on sustainable innovation, his no-nonsense down-to-earth attitude, and yes, his sweariness.

So, Mark, the big question to start off with: how do you actually define innovation, and its naughty cousin — disruption?

That’s a great question, and really topical, given the government’s injection of cash into business innovation. I’ve seen government initiatives on innovation before and I think the people least able to innovate are governments — with the exception of the Government Digital Service, which was done brilliantly.

So, innovation can mean doing bad things a bit better, which I’m frustrated with, and it can mean doing amazing things.

I used to be Head of Sustainability at ASDA nearly 20 years ago, and back then, innovation was a new flavour of ice-cream, which quite clearly isn’t innovation at all — it’s just a point of difference. But I think we’ve moved on: I think innovation is a change in pace or direction of what you do, and it doesn’t necessarily mean an accelerating pace.

We often think of innovation as getting whizzy, a bit more IT, the Internet of Things, digitising. That isn’t actually always innovation either. In fact innovation these days may be about slowing down. Sainsbury’s has recently made a big investment in vinyl; I think the fact that you can buy a record in Sainsbury’s is innovative….

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