Innovative thinking & the world of Private Equity

In James Bannerman’s recent talk on ‘Innovative Thinking (within the world of Private Equity)’ – at the Ivy in Covent Garden – he opened diners’ minds to the far-reaching impact of business creativity, and how it can be used to inspire improvements in a firm’s profitability, productivity and performance.

In the process, James referred to insights from his best-selling books Genius! and Business Genius! to demonstrate how innovative thinking is built upon pattern-switching and approaching problems from alternative perspectives (rather like the Trojan Horse).

More specifically, James explained how one of the best ways to spark new ideas is to deliberately ‘connect’ previously disconnected elements together. This is why we have the Swiss Army pen-knife, the Wil Group, and ‘BIMBOS’ (i.e. Management Buy-in + Management Buyout). Another effective strategy is to deliberately ‘oppose’ what has traditionally gone before. This created everything from ‘The Pink Panther’ to Toblerone’s triangular chocolate bars, and the launch of Goldman Sachs’ radically different investment offering last year: Marcus.

Another key dimension of James’s talk was how virtually all of us – including  Private Equity professionals – were once highly creative as young children, yet our creativity dwindles as we get older because we learn to fear criticism and feel pressure to conform. The good news, however, is that this natural innovation has never really left us – it has simply become submerged. So, we can regain our creativity whenever we choose to do so, especially with the help of provocative ‘lateral thinking’ tools and techniques.

On the face of it, for example, Private Equity professionals might consider it strange to venture off to the world of Ancient Greece for new ideas and solutions. Apollo Capital, however, gets its name from Apollo, the Ancient Greek God for healing medicine, music and poetry. This is what Edward de Bono refers to as ‘hindsight logic’, where we do not always see the logic of a creative thought until later in the process.

Similarly, most financiers in the world of insurance would consider it strange to venture off to the world of ‘Furry animals in the Kalahari desert’ for new ideas and solutions. Yet this is precisely what the insurance comparison site ‘’ did, when they used a meerkat as a marketing device. Its sales increased by 40% in one year.

Above all else, however, what this Innovative Thinking talk set out to emphasise was how the same innovative thinking principles – which have inspired everything from the Apple iPhone to Tesla cars – can also be applied to more humdrum activities, too, such as improving P.E. systems, services, processes and procedures.

To succeed in this endeavour, however, organisations need a corporate culture and climate that inspires innovative thinking, rather than stifles it. This is why a large part of James Bannerman’s business involves working closely with corporate leaders to foster the nourishing conditions in which both ‘do better’ and ‘do different’ innovations can thrive.

About James Bannerman

James Bannerman is a Creative Change Agent who combines creativity with psychology to help businesses innovate. In this capacity, he has worked with multiple companies around the world – from Aston Martin to British Airways, Disney to SingTel – inspiring leaders, managers and teams to think differently in order to perform more effectively in a rapidly changing world.

Added to this, he has worked with in-house lawyers on a variety of occasions, from delivering people skills training for Wilmington to delivering ‘lateral thinking’ training as part of the Eversheds Sutherland Academy programme. James also lectures on the MBA programmes at several leading business schools and is the author of 2 best-selling books: Genius! and Business Genius!

For additional information please contact James Bannerman at:

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