Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Leo Chan. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Leo, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. What’s the backstory behind how you came up with the idea for your business?
Innovation is a buzzword. It’s used often but few know how to actually innovate. 75% of companies say innovation is important, but only 20% are ready and equipped to actually innovate.
I worked in Corporate Innovation for two really large US companies prior to going out on my own. I started realizing how powerful innovation was in my last Corporate innovation role at Chick-fil-A HQ. I was responsible to create a culture of innovation and develop innovators in the organization. I transformed regular employees into confident innovators.
The most amazing thing to me about my job was seeing the transformation in people. I had the opportunity to show people what this fancy innovation word actually meant. I taught them how they too could become an innovator. I taught them everything I knew. I honestly felt honoured to be able to walk alongside people and coach them on how they could become an innovator. And I saw them grow and develop in incredible ways. It was such a rewarding thing for me to see them make impact on their teams and departments with the power of innovation.
I realized I had a special gift in this space – to know how to actually turn people into innovators – by teaching them innovation thinking (mindsets) and innovation doing (skillsets).
So when I opened my business, Abound Innovation, this was my same focus. I wanted to be able to bring this to more people, in more organizations, around the world. I fully believe that everyone can innovate. With the right training, anyone can be an innovator.
I don’t know of anyone elsedoing this out in the world. There’s a lot of people focused on the OUTPUT of innovation – the results, but not the INPUT of innovation (the people – the humans – the people in our organizations). We all want the results of innovation but we forget that it’s the people, your people, who create innovations. The human side is what I’m most passionate about because it unlocks people in new and exciting ways and it honestly transforms them. When you become an innovator, you see life in a completely new way.
Leo, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
Sure! My name is Leo and I’m the Founder and Chief Innovation & Creativity Officer of Abound Innovation Inc.
I’m based out of Toronto, Canada. I love all things innovation, creativity and LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®. I feel very fortunate to be in the industry I’m in and have the ability to empower people with innovation.
The name of my business was actually inspired by a pistachio bag in my kitchen. The word abound was on the package. I was searching for the right word and when I saw it, I knew it was it.
The word abound means to occur or exist in great quantities, to be rich and well supplied and to be filled.
I believe innovation should abound in organizations everywhere. Every person has the potential to be the next great innovator and with the right training, it can be an actual reality!
My business offers two services: LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshops and innovation training. Let’s dive into both.
LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Workshops:
Did the word LEGO® catch your attention? I hope so. But I want you to know LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is not a child’s toy, it’s a business tool. Yes, you heard me right. Business tool. It’s one of the most powerful methodologies on the planet for innovation and you probably have never heard of it.
LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is a facilitator led, outcome-based methodology. It’s used purposefully to move the needle for business applications and team development. It leverages the power of metaphor and storytelling.
The benefits are endless, as well as the use cases.
Here’s some benefits: engage more of your brain cells, gain deeper insights, increased productivity, more creativity, create diverse thinking and engage all learning styles.
Here’s some use cases: business strategy, creative problem solving, decision making, design thinking, individual development, innovation, team building and team development.
So how does it work? You’re posed a question from a facilitator and you build your response as a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® model. Then you share about it. The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® models become artifacts of knowledge.
If you’d like to learn more, visit: https://aboundinnovation.ca/
I offer innovation training workshops on innovation thinking (mindsets) and innovation doing (skillsets). Depending on the level of innovation in the organization, they may need innovation thinking, innovation doing or both.
Most organizations I encounter do not have a focus on innovation thinking. Innovation thinking consists of things like: curiousity, psychological safety, beginner’s mindset, associative thinking, collaboration, prototyping mindset, being bold and creative resilience. All of these are important for someone to become an innovator.
Innovation doing consists of things like: how to build a culture of innovation, problem framing and definition, research techniques, root cause analysis, brainstorming and ideation, prototyping and testing, rapid iteration and creativity.
All of these topics may seem like intangibles but I’ve developed a way to teach all of these concepts in a way that’s impactful and meaningful.
Most innovation companies DO innovation work for their clients. I’m different. I don’t do innovation work for you. I believe your people have the best solutions to the problems your organization faces. They’re the closest to it and they’re the closest to your customers. I unlock the innovative potential in your people so they can make the impact they want to make.
I believe there’s so many people in organizations waiting to have their innovative potential unlocked. If you need help with that, that’s why I’m here.
You can learn more about my business at http://aboundinnovation.ca.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
I’m pivoting all the time. It’s the best way to learn, grow and adapt. It’s an innovation mindset.
For my first years in business, I was focused only on talking about my innovation training to organizations and occasionally, I’d mention I did LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® too… It was more like “and oh by the way, I do this LEGO thing.” I really deemphasized that work and rarely brought it up.
The reason? I was afraid of being known only as Leo the LEGO guy.
But, a few months ago, I had an epiphany moment when I was talking to a friend of mine. She said, Leo, it’s actually a really great way to get your foot in the door to these larger organizations. And she was right. I decided to go all in with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® and really ramp up my efforts to talk about it. In fact, I started prioritizing my focus on it over my innovation training workshops when talking with people. And guess what happened? I was having more conversations with more people and when appropriate, I would also talk about my innovation training too.
Also, my name works so well with LEGO® too. Leo & LEGO. It’s literally one letter off and it’s memorable. So why not double down on that?
This recent pivot has helped me tremendously.
What’s been the most effective strategy for growing your clientele?
I’ve realized the most effective strategy is being myself and leveraging what I’m strong at!
As a business owner, there’s so much information out there on how to market yourself, how to get new clients, how to leverage social media, etc. It’s honestly overwhelming and you can feel stretched thin trying to do it all.
That’s how I started. I felt like I had to do “all the things” and it was so tiring. After being in business for a couple years now, I realized I have to do what’s works best for me.
What works best for me is being deeply curious and connecting 1×1 with people in the innovation world. I enjoy meeting new people. I enjoy hearing about their journeys and their stories. I like hearing their perspectives. I love learning from them. So that’s what I do. I reach out to people on LinkedIn, I connect with people during networking events and I connect with people at conferences.
This is genuinely me. I don’t meet them because I’m trying to get them as clients. I meet them because I genuinely want to learn and get to know them. And of course, if it so happens I can help them with their innovation needs and they end up being a client, great. But if not, that’s totally fine too!
Of course, it definitely helps that I speak at innovation conferences so networking happens more naturally, but honestly, I just talk about what I love – innovation!
Also, I think it’s important to take an innovation mindset with you when doing something new – especially as a business owner when there’s so much going on.
Look at what works and what doesn’t work. Try something out and see if it works or not. If it doesn’t, pivot and adapt the strategy. Be willing to let go. If it works, keep doing it.