Culture, Innovation and Katie Taylor

by John Turner

Posted on December 26, 2012

This morning, I filled the post Christmas day lull by popping out to a local coffee shop with Clare (the wife), Katie (the daughter) and Sarah (Katie’s new doll). I noticed that Peter Taylor was sitting beside us and he was soon joined by Zaur Antia. Most who followed women’s boxing at the 2012 Olympics will know that Peter and Zaur coach Katie Taylor, the gold medal winner in the women’s 60 kg category. It’s worth highlighting for those not familiar that Katie (Taylor) is one of the most successful amateur female boxers who to date has won:

  • 2005 European Amateur Championships
  • 2006 European Amateur Championships
  • 2006 World Amateur Championship
  • 2007 European Amateur Championships
  • 2008 European Union Amateur Championships
  • 2008 World Amateur Championship
  • 2009 European Union Amateur Championships
  • 2009 Russian Multi-Nations
  • 2009 European Amateur Championships
  • 2010 European Union Amateur Championships
  • 2010 World Amateur Championship
  • 2011 European Union Amateur Championships
  • 2011 European Amateur Championships
  • 2012 World Amateur Championship
  • 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist

So what has all this got to do with culture and innovation?

As I sat there drinking my coffee I could not help but notice Peter and Zaur discussing boxing. This was the day after Christmas and they were engaged in a passionate conversation about boxing style and technique. Their enthusiasm seemed to resonate, building as they become more and more engrossed. At one point Zaur jumped up and was swinging punches as he tried to get a point across to Peter. This is the type of passion and enthusiasm that infects those around them.

I’ve no real knowledge of the technical aspects of the pugilistic arts but given Katie’s success I must assume that Peter and Zaur are experts in their field. As they engaged in open and rich collaboration they exchanged ideas, adapting their views as they absorbed knowledge and opinion from one another.

I overheard comments about form being cyclical and this was clearly about communicating a vision about how to approach the build up to the next big tournament.

What I took away from this experience is that innovation is about culture not process. You can’t implement a process that results in innovation. I’ve seen companies try to do this by building centres of innovation but I’ve never seen this impact the culture of the organisation.

Innovation starts with agreeing and communicating a clear vision, then building a culture to deliver that vision. A culture created by having knowledgeable people who are passionate and able to engage in open and rich communication with one another.