Book review: Coaching for Innovation: Tools and Techniques for Encouraging New Ideas in the Workplace

Innovation at work
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Title: Coaching for Innovation: Tools and Techniques for Encouraging New Ideas in the Workplace
Authors: Cristina Bianchi and Maureen Steele
ISBN: 978-1-137-35325-2
Reviewer: Mark Gilroy, TMS Development International Ltd
Reviewer’s rating: 4 out of 5

Coaching for Innovation demonstrates the integral role that coaching can play in providing a competitive edge, by fostering the bigger thinking that leads to idea generation and innovation.

As I picked up this book, I found myself wondering whether there is a need to differentiate coaching focussed on innovation from any other kind of coaching. After all, isn’t any coaching initiative designed to foster new thinking, shift perspectives, and consider alternative approaches? Do coaches ever brand themselves as ‘creativity coaches’ in the same way some do as career or life coaches?

The authors begin, helpfully, by defining what they mean by coaching, innovation, creativity, bigger thinking, and coaching for innovation. The book is then divided into two parts - the first being to focus on your own coaching practice. Here Bianchi and Steele provide a selection of models to help with coaching during feedback, coaching for multiple options, building rapport, plus investigating ideas and options.

Part 2 expands on this by exploring how best to work with teams - building a culture of innovation, preparing the ground for a creative team session, handling conflict, and generating ideas (either in ‘quick fix’ mode or aspiration).

I especially enjoyed the chapter dedicated to the importance of mindful listening. Here the authors discuss the link between great quality listening and innovation, outlining a 7-day programme designed to develop the reader’s abilities in this area. There is a rich series of exercises, worksheets and scenarios to consider here.

In itself this chapter is an extremely valuable process for any coach to revisit multiple times - a neat way to refresh the reader’s knowledge of a set of fundamental coaching qualities.

To support their models, Bianchi and Steele make frequent reference to contemporary research examples, interviews, case studies, as well as additional resources that can be downloaded from their website. These are helpfully signposted throughout and the sheer amount of supplementary content beyond the book is very impressive.

I have a theory that the number one reason that any professional coach picks up a book about coaching is with a view to adding some new/better/different questions to their toolkit. Questions are the lifeblood of a coach and any opportunity to add more is a constant temptation. If this is all you came for in this read, you’ll be well-rewarded - the authors showcase a number of different frameworks and models, including a whole chapter dedicated to formulating powerful questions.

Additionally, collection of questions, organised according to intention (e.g. “Having conversations about the assumptions that form the basis of the innovation initiative means asking questions like...”), is presented in a helpful series of appendices.

The challenge with crafting a book about innovation is that what might have seemed like fantastic examples of innovation in 2014 have since become mainstream, or transitioned into the dustbin of history. References such as Google Glass or Fedex’s hybrid trucks seem neither revolutionary or evolutionary in the age of self-driving cars, drone delivery and sub-sonic public transport.

Still, it’s useful to have these as examples of innovation through the ages - with the authors citing Socrates as an example of one of the early proponents of questions designed to test-out beliefs and identity.

In conclusion, this is a recommended read for coaches new, old and aspirational. It becomes clear as the book progresses that 'innovation' is just the tip of the iceberg. This is as much a book about coaching to enhance a curious mindset, coaching teams to empower a culture of creativity, whilst coaching the self as a mindful listener.

A great book to enhance any coach’s toolkit.

About mgilroy

Mark Gilroy

Mark Gilroy is Managing Director of TMS Development International Ltd, a leading global provider of psychometric development tools, designed to create, nurture and sustain high performing teams. Mark has a background in psychology and has been working in the L&D arena as an executive coach and team development facilitator for over a decade.

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