Brainfood: Speaking out

DR MICHAEL LYNCH

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

CHIEF EXECUTIVE, AUTONOMY

Michael Lynch's speech at a recent management awards ceremony showed that a bit of self-deprecation can get the audience on-side. After an unsteady start, he questioned the logic of being asked to speak on 'the capacity to innovate'. 'I'm the guy who sat next to Erik Schmit just after he'd become CEO at Google and told him he didn't have a chance. I thought Yahoo! had the search engine business tied up.' He moved up through the gears to deliver an accessible insight into innovation and how to harness it, leaving no doubt that his self-criticism had been mere play.

Lynch kept his light touch - 'Sometimes,' he said, 'innovation can have damaging effects. I have suffered airplane food and reality TV.' But he delivered substance when it mattered, breaking down his subject into its fundamentals. 'Innovation is all about finding out what people need, and what they want.' Once you have had your idea, it's essential to build the right environment to let it flourish. He cited his own experience in his birthplace, Chelmsford in Essex. He told how Marconi chose it as a base and how his first job was at GEC Marconi. 'What has happened to a once great company? You could see it then - a cost accounting-driven culture.' Lynch took a sideswipe at the late, lamented Lord Weinstock, claiming his stifling of innovation was part of the company's demise.

'The problem is, you can do all the right things and still not get innovation.

Cost accountants don't like that.'

Key moment: The disclosure that he gets all objections to new ideas out first and then forces critics to think about how those ideas might succeed.

Key lesson: Self-deprecating humour hooks an audience.

Silver tongue Khalid Aziz, a visiting professor of business communications at Southampton University, chairs the Aziz Corporation - khalid@azizcorp.com.

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