Watch out world – Croydon’s innovating!


By - Friday 29th April, 2016

The word ‘innovation’ is overused, writes John Coupland. But in Croydon, it’s the perfect descriptor


Croydon rising.
Photo author’s own.

Croydon – the big town that has the innovation to challenge any major UK city… and, come to think of it, many others on our planet.

It has been said that if Croydon were to switch to city status overnight, it would be the UK’s seventh largest. Wow!

Croydon’s innovating. If you’re already reading in disbelief, keep this article, read it again in three years’ time and reconsider whether my claim is credible. If you’re simply curious, read on.

I work in marketing and, believe me, there are many big and questionable claims that I see every day – by organisations and by individuals in the private and public sectors. You of course don’t have to work in marketing to spot them. Marketers are just as guilty of adding to the hype, anyway.

‘For the first time since the Great Recession, half the countries we survey have fallen into the ‘distruster’ category’

These questionable claims feed into a current worldwide dilemma: that there is a crisis of trust.

This dilemma resonated with my thoughts just three years ago when I spoke at ‘The Good Day at Work’ conference at the Inmarsat Centre at London’s Silicon Roundabout.

It was fellow speaker Professor Cary Cooper, (Twitter: @ProfCaryCooper), Director and Founder of Robertson Cooper Ltd and Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School, who spoke about the crisis of trust. It was powerful.

Richard Edelman, (Twitter: @richardwedelman), President & CEO of Edelman, wrote ‘Crisis of Trust – A Warning to both business and government’. The article states: For the first time since the Great Recession, half the countries we survey have fallen into the ‘distruster’ category”. Google it. It’s interesting reading.

So, from a Croydon perspective, how is this relevant?

Arnhem, in the Netherlands, is Croydon’s twin town. Here’s a quote from one of Arnhem’s leading marketing websites:

‘…a joint vision was formulated which Arnhem as a source of leading innovation and creativity is central. The core values …1. source of creativity. 2. leading source of innovation.’

Ah, there’s that word again! Did you spot it too?

It’s innovation.

This I find interesting, and I’ll share with you why.

Innovation – the word – is everywhere

My view is that the word innovation is totally overused. To emphasise my point, I’m inviting you to play the ‘red car syndrome’ game. (In the context when you hear a certain word, you may well begin to notice it being used many times, almost as if it’s omnipresent.)

So if you haven’t noticed ‘innovation’ being used a lot yet, chances are you will after my having highlighted it to you here. If you do, why not share this article online to wake up the subconscious of others too? It’s actually quite ridiculous how much the word is used.

Some organisations include the word ‘innovation’ or ‘innovative’ as part of their slogan or marketing; others even within their name. As a consumer, you’ll notice that it is also used on many products and related marketing material. When I fire up my laptop, the manufacturer’s embedded splash screen pops up with “Leading in innovation”.

Innovation is everywhere, it seems.

So is Croydon really innovating or is the title of this article just hype?

Having lived and breathed innovation throughout my career, I say that it is. Bearing in mind what I shared about the current crisis of trust, my bold claim on behalf of Croydon comes with one big caveat:

In my view not everyone who claims that they are or even ‘do’ innovation actually is. Some may have been in the past, but are they still innovative today? Were they innovative enough to stay innovative? Are they even still top of their game?

Watch out for those jumping on the innovation bandwagon. Just because they may be using this buzzword does not mean that they are innovative; I have found that many who claim to be innovative don’t actually know the meaning of the term anyway.

Croydon doesn’t have to claim that it’s truly innovating in the 21st century. It has already begun

So if you’re going to choose a product or service from people who apparently revel in innovation, you’re going to have to do your research, particularly if it’s a large purchase. Researching will increase your chances of buying the right product or service, at the quality that you expected, and potentially saving you time and money. Of course I’m focusing on local business here, so the same will apply to businesses outside Croydon’s sphere.

Croydon doesn’t have to claim that it’s truly innovating in the 21st century. It has already begun. It will prove itself and many will advocate it by spreading the word, enhancing its reputation.

Look, touch and feel Croydon and judge for yourself. Remember the ‘red car syndrome’ game as you’re going to spot the word ‘innovation’, even ‘innovative’, a lot.

Here’s an example of why innovation is relevant to Croydon.

If you haven’t yet heard about Croydon’s growing tech scene, you will soon. Croydon Tech City told the world that the town is the ‘Silicon Valley of South London’. They made this bold statement whilst many were yet to make the coffee, let alone smell it. A thriving tech community consisting of hundreds of entrepreneurs now meets regularly. They learn from many big hitters in tech who visit Croydon to speak.

Silicon roundabout, London, is expensive – too expensive for most techpreneurs. A state-of-the-art tech hub is about to launch in Croydon on 25th May 2016. It will be Croydon’s first tech hub. There is already a variety of established business workspaces, so it’s likely that more tech hubs will open soon, seizing on the amazing growth that the sector has enjoyed over the last three years in particular.

This is relevant to you, even if you’re not in tech because it will positively impact on Croydon’s local economy.

Why would over £5 billion of investment in construction alone come to Croydon if it doesn’t have any hope of being a thriving and innovative town?

Additionally, here’s some food for thought, particularly for any sceptics out there: Why would over £5 billion of investment in construction alone come to Croydon if it doesn’t have any hope of being a thriving and innovative town? This investment is here, right now, when our government is still talking about austerity.

If you had any doubts that Croydon is truly innovating, I hope that you’ll join me in believing that it is. Today.

Watch the world watch Croydon.

Even better, please do so something to support Croydon’s local business. Croydon will be all the stronger for it and, guess what? It will help to convince the disbelievers who did in fact put this article away to read three years on.

John Coupland

John Coupland

John Coupland is an independent marketing consultant and is the bestselling author of ACCELerate™ Your Social Media. With extensive experience in e-business and ICT, he helps ambitious entrepreneurs, business owners and corporates with their business growth using his unique and proven ACCELerate™ methodology. John speaks at leading business events, has written a number of articles for major publications worldwide and is a member of The Brain Trust®, Small Business Advocate Show®, America. Amongst a number of awards, John played an instrumental role helping a major UK department store chain achieve the Queens Awards for Enterprise - Innovation.

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