Sandy Manuel is the co-founder of baytree.co, whose mission is to help create a better model of impact and disrupt venture with real ROI. He’s taught and led teams within innovation over a 20 year period, creating new innovation frameworks based on the patterns of successful businesses from the last century.
What’s the story of your career so far?
Well I’m self-taught and it’s been quite a journey. I did pretty badly at school, and found myself at 22 working in a credit control department which wasn’t exactly inspiring or fulfilling, so I quit. I had always been fascinated by innovation from a young age and spent the next decade studying the patterns and lessons from those businesses that had succeeded over the last 100 years. This led to managing innovation and business design teams, where I advised the likes of adidas, Burberry, Barclays, Swiss Banks and more. If you look beyond the jargon in our industry, most innovation efforts are effectively just throwing darts at a board (“MVP” is a good example) so this work led me to create new types of innovation frameworks to better the current ROI on innovation. All this then culminated in me launching baytree.co, where our mission is to help create a better model of impact and disrupt venture with real ROI. We also advocate for half of all innovation funding to go to female-led businesses.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt over the course of your career?
When it comes to innovation, it’s all about probabilities and improving the odds in your favour. I learned that to discover new revenue streams, we needed an objective framework to make decisions that have the greatest probability of commercial success. This is why I created the “Confidence Model” based on the patterns of successful businesses from the last century. For too long we’ve been enamoured with the ‘innovator’, the strong personality in the boardroom banging the table declaring “this is the future”. We’re not Steve Jobs, so whilst you may get lucky once in your career, subjectivity is not a strategy. Any innovation framework you use should be based on real human needs which are timeless, not the latest tech fad of the week. It’s better to say no to ideas, and be more focussed on two or three concepts that have a greater probability of success since they’re based on real needs not technology, rather than spreading your finite resources on twenty different ideas. Crucially, this leads to greater transparency in decision-making, reduces bias and inspires your teams.
How can organisations ensure they thrive, rather than simply survive, as they attempt to return to a ‘new’ normal over the next few months?
Very simply, look after your staff. I don’t mean asking how everyone is, that’s a given, but actually looking at their welfare and wellbeing in this moment. Culture trumps process, and it’s this which helps organisations thrive, not a new process we now need to design for today’s ‘new normal’. It’s recognising that we do our best work when we feel happy, confident in ourselves and have a sense that what we do contributes to the wider goal. Today, that’s hard – we all know friends and colleagues working longer hours, trying to adapt, manage childcare, loneliness and more, so genuinely looking to see how we can support our team wellbeing will lead to an organisation that can grow rather than simply trying to survive.
You’ve talked previously about the need for companies to be ‘purpose driven’ – what do you mean by this, and why do you consider it so important?
We need to move from the current mode of survival to becoming a source of employment which means discovering new service models to enable growth. To quote Mike Kruzeniski, “you won’t discover the future on a spreadsheet”, or in other words, the future isn’t in ROI. For example, would ROI have led to the invention of electricity, creation of the car, determining the potential of the Web or ’the next big thing’? No. I’m pretty sure the iPhone and microwave weren’t validated through a PowerPoint presentation. There will also be a war for talent as more individuals become available, and put simply, companies need to ask themselves why these individuals would want to join their team above any other. Being purpose-driven is the answer. ROI isn’t a good sales pitch to prospective employees. To be driven by a “Return on Purpose” as opposed to ROI is what gives us the commercial and intellectual headspace to go from creating the car to creating that next big thing, because we want to have impact in this world. It ensures market relevance, staff retention and growth, and in a world where everything feels unstable, having purpose in what we do is a very welcome anchor.
What’s going to be the biggest challenge in your particular industry over the next 12 months?
Budget cut and growing job losses. We all agree we need mechanisms for job creation and that’s best achieved through creating new service models. Equally, we all know creating new types of service models is incredibly hard, even in a growing economy. Across the world, from Governments to the community outside our window, they are all looking to experts within innovation for new models of growth and impact. Those of us responsible for innovation, whether as a funder or executor, are needed by our industry to meet this call to action.
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