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Inspiring Innovation

Cara Macklin is director of Macklin Care Homes and the newly launched Mileasian Manor in Magherafelt- a first-of-its-kind in Northern Ireland providing older people with a lifestyle-inspired care home in which to fully enjoy their formative years.

In this article, Cara talks about her views on innovation…

Be a black sheep not a purple cow

In his best seller, Seth Good urges people to put a Purple Cow into everything they build, to create something truly noticeable. A Purple Cow describes something phenomenal, counterintuitive and flat-out unbelievable. He says, you’re either a Purple Cow or not, which makes you remarkable or invisible. The author is right, but initially you need to dress the Purple Cow in black sheep’s clothing.

The hardest part about innovation, is convincing other people. People believe in a black sheep, but not a purple cow. Once you have people’s buy-in you can take off the black sheep coat and release the purple cow.

Don’t just think outside the box, think outside the team

We’ve all heard it many times, when you’re creating a strategy, or a new idea use ‘blue sky thinking’, and ‘think outside the box’. The best way to think outside the box is to think outside the team, bringing together diverse minds.

When working in teams, people can suffer from group-think mentality. Studies from MIT and Forbes have shown the most successful innovations come when managers involve everyone, even those outside the normal team. When creating our first Lifestyle Care Home we purposefully involved external experts from different industry’s such as luxury hotels and the car industry to give new perspective and change our thinking.

It challenged our minds, our creativity and allowed us to create something which has never been done before in Northern Ireland.

To-date the response has been absolutely phenomenal – we have exceeded all targets having reached an 100 per cent occupancy, created two new jobs and scooped two major industry awards, all within six months of opening.

Play football with Pele

Cara MacklinIf you wanted to play football and be the best you could be, wouldn’t you train with Pele? So, to create the best innovation, adopting the same principle is crucial. Benchmarking best practice and centres of excellence, not only in your own industry but other sectors as well as globally will improve the innovation tenfold.

When creating Milesian Manor, we consulted experts on a global scale and took on board international best-practice principles from Asia, Australia and the UK. Just being around the best in the world improves performance and opens your mind to things you might never have thought of.

Act like a child and start with why

Everyone understands the number of times children ask why. Best-selling author Simon Sinek, outlines why some organisations are more inventive, pioneering and successful than others. In his book Start with Why, he analyses leaders like Martin Luther King Jr and Steve Jobs and discovers they all think the same and started with the why. According to Sinek, it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters WHY you do it.

When creating a new innovation, ask five times why you are doing it. Not the answers in your head – we want to improve processs, we want to increase profit, but the true reason from your heart. Be really passionate about your why and you’ll inspire others to follow. When the going gets tough, as it will this WHY will become more important than ever.

Get everyone in the car before you take off

When leaders come up with a new idea, they are so passionate and can’t wait to get started. It’s like the feeling of going on a trip of a lifetime, with excitement, energy and can’t wait to get there. But pause for a second. As the leader is speeding ahead at 90 miles per hour, it’s crucial the whole team is on board before the car takes off.

According to Kotter “over 80% of all innovations fail, and one reason is companies under communicate by a factor of 10”. A really effective communication plan is crucial when implementing innovation. Not just a monthly update meeting, but regular meetings, informal conversations, workshops to get everyone’s ideas, opportunities to air concerns, training, one to one mentoring and targeting key influencers. Everyone needs to truly understand why, and the benefits of the innovation.

Research – To do or not to do?

There is always healthy debate about how much research to do when creating a new innovation or even whether to do any research at all. Steve Jobs has famously been quoted “customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them. So, there was no point in doing research or focus groups to ask.” But with over 80 per cent of innovation failures, and so much money and resources pumped into them, what is the right thing to do?

Do the research, to understand the market and be able to answer the question is there actually a need and desire for what you’re offering and enough people willing to pay for it. But definitely don’t overdo it. Research won’t be able to tell you the next big thing, it’s really up to you to be brave and take the jump.

Listen to your customers and the negative needs

I remember asking a very successful Director, what he did when he has a new idea and most people keep telling you it won’t work, but he didn’t want to be part of the 80 per cent failure? His response was, forget about what everyone else is saying, but really listen to what your customers tell you.

I totally agree, but also disagree a little. As well as your customers I believe you need to talk to the negative neds. I’m definitely not saying listen to what they have to say, but they will challenge you as to why your idea won’t work, and in turn this will challenge you to be confident to make it work.

Finally, you gotta have faith, faith, faith…

And finally, but most importantly as George Michael said “you gotta have faith, faith, faith.” In the song he writes, “it’s time to pick my heart up off the floor.” As an innovator leading the way, you will have many moments when your heart is on the floor, doubting voices in your head and even sleepless nights along the way.

But remember this is when the WHY will become the most important. When you have great people that you have inspired in the car with you on the journey, their energy and support along with your passion will make your dream a reality.


Milesian Manor is a the new-concept care home which boasts a bar, beauty and hair salon, spa bathroom, café and even a cinema, along with a wellness garden with the aim of giving people in their formative years and exceptional quality of life combined with first-class care.  

Contact Cara Macklin, [email protected] or for further information on Milesian Manor visit www.milesianmanor.com or call 028 7963 1842.