This time 14 years ago, I never thought that I would ever write a blog sharing my experiences around innovation.

My journey was not conventional – but it was never going to be. All I knew growing up was that I cared about people. I wanted to help people and make a difference.

Like everyone else, we have life experiences that define us and sometimes, unfortunately, leave us disadvantaged. This is what drives me every day to make a difference in people’s lives.

At 18, I became a young parent. I left education to get a job to support my family. This was the biggest challenge I’d ever faced – I was full of optimistic energy and slightly disillusioned about how things really were in the real world.

It was a challenge to get doors to open, for people to consider you for employment, to take you seriously. You wouldn’t hear back on most job applications, and others would be expecting years of experience or a degree. The odds really did feel like they were stacked up, and I was not getting anywhere fast.

I learned my first real-life lesson here; never give up! Keep knocking on doors; eventually, someone will answer.

There are several lessons I want to share with you today that I learned on my journey that many people won’t openly discuss.

 

Failure is the path to success - fail, fail, fail, succeed

I failed so many times getting to where I am today – so don’t underestimate or set yourself with the expectations of quick success. Many people won’t disclose the challenges they faced or how often their ideas failed (it will always be more than you ever expected).

 

The truth is it hurts bad. You go through the motions. But you will have a pivotal turning point realising that only you can set your own limits to success.

 

Back to the job search! Good news! I finally got that break in 2009 – when a charity took a real chance on me. I was their youngest Support Worker at the time. This is where it really all started. Being part of an incredible charity called Innovate Trust supporting adults with disabilities. It was an enriching role and gave me many life skills that I use today.

You're probably wondering, what has this got to do with innovation?

I started learning  PHP, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) & JavaScript in my spare time – all through free resources online. I built a portfolio, which eventually led to me starting my own company, ‘Ashley Bale IT services’. This also helped develop my skills & career later on.

 

In 2015 I moved to a new role at Innovate Trust.

 

I met many fantastic people on my journey who helped me develop professionally. In my spare time, I built the Learning Management System (LMS) for the charity, training the workforce of 900+. I then got offered a job operating the organisation’s IT & as a Communications officer. 

 

I had the opportunity to share my ideas, develop with others, make great connections and start to really make a difference. In 2017 I got a role leading on digital. Things really started to take off from here.

I’ll pause my story here to go back to talking about what I have learnt about innovation; a lesson which has got to me to where I am now.

So what is innovation?

Innovation to me is stepping back, taking a look at a model, process or idea, and developing a solution that creates a better outcome for the end-user. It does not have to be technology-related.

It’s important to remember that it does not have to be revolutionary. It can be those simple ideas that seem so apparent that no one’s acted on them – that can and will be the most impactful.

Everyone has their own interpretations of Innovation – but most people understand the concepts of making things better.

Many people fear innovation, and in my experience, this boils down to the fear of change. Fear of being left behind, the unknown and the associated risks of failure and pressures of society.

We are all innovating every day. We are all searching for ways to make things easier, streamlined and efficient. It could be a simple process of making a cup of coffee to building AI software – innovating is making things better, inclusive and that works for everyone.

I’ve been fortunate to be involved in several projects such as:

  • Developing the first supported living SMART house in the UK for adults with disabilities
  • Supporting IoT/ Robotics research
  • SMART sensory environments
  • Zero Carbon SMART housing
  • Developing SMART homes for adults with disabilities
  • Digital Inclusion initiatives for citizens across South Wales
  • Digital Skills building and development
  • Web/App Development projects (such as GetFit Wales & Insight)

 

My latest project is an award-winning social app called Insight.

The app was developed during the pandemic and has provided adults with disabilities access to over 4,000+ free online events. Over 100 organisations have joined the app to share their news and resources with the 1,400 members from across the UK.

The platform has supported opportunites for people to build friendships and relationships, digitally upskill and provided a place for people to access resources and activities.

The platform continues to grow with new features and membership increasing daily. It is one of the most unique innovation projects I’ve developed. It truly has positively impacted many peoples lives during some of the most challenging times, particularly during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Seeing the impact and the difference it makes is what makes every moment of failure worth it.

If you have an innovative idea that will positively impact society; be bold, be brave and don’t give up on it. Continue doing what you can to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

One of the critical paths to succeeding is if you don’t have the answer or skill. Don’t give up; find someone like-minded who shares your ethos and values and make your idea happen.

Follow Ashley Bale on Twitter.