This article in Agile&Innovation inspirational series is featuring Akos Zala, one of my personal sources of inspiration related to innovation consulting and training. He is Master Facilitator FORTH Innovation method, experienced in designing & delivering several successful innovation tracks in Hungary.
Since we have our own local project under way (FORTH Innovation Academy for local companies, shhhh, coming next year), talking to Akos about his highly successful innovation projects, already implemented, has been a pleasure.
Who is Akos Zala? What would you like your audience know about you? What about your clients? Please describe yourself anyway you would like it, but try to add one thing or idea that is truly you or about you.
I am a senior organizational development consultant. I have entered the field as a young guy…30 years flew by…and now I am senior. It happens – so let’s put it this way: I am a senior with a young mindset. On a day-to-day basis I also serve as the Managing Director of Human Telex Consulting, a well-recognized organisational development consultancy in Hungary. My estimate is to have facilitated more than 1.500 days with various groups.
For my sins I have been elected to be the President of the European Training and Media Association and for my even bigger sins the members have kept me in that position for over a decade now. For my merits I have been the professional leader of the Flow Management Academy – a year long leadership development program in Hungary - for the last 13 years. In search of innovating myself I started working with innovation facilitation a few years ago - since 2018 I am a proud a master facilitator of the FORTH innovation method. Above all I am a global citizen, a lucky man of the earth who has been blessed with plenty of exposures, a profession of varied challenges, many friends, good health and a loving family of a committed wife, 4 children (each of them is worth my life) and a 17-year old dog (probably also a small miracle).
If you were to describe Innovation to a 3 year old or to your grandmother, how would you do it?
Probably, I would try to avoid both situations. My target groups are organisations who either are in a constant search for renewing themselves or are in a desperate situation realizing they need to change NOW. But if I was cornered by the situation, I would say to the 3-year-old: "innovation is trying out new things, so basically, that is what you do all the time, it is just adults have more problems with new things therefore they come up with difficult names like innovation for it".
To grandma: “Mami, you had absolutely no problem in using the old telephone, but now the new ones are causing you trouble and I am sorry about it.. Well, they are a result of innovation. But if you look at your grandchildren they love these new phones so much they hang onto them the whole day. So innovation is not so bad, after all".
Do you believe in frameworks as FORTH Innovation? How have they worked for you and your customers?
FORTH is a well-structured process and that is easily understandable after a 5-minute explanation. For that reason, it works well with customers: they know how much time and manpower they need to allocate, they clearly follow their progress along the innovation journey, the framework forces them to deliver upon their promises along the way!
Coming from Hungary, an Eastern European country as Romania, do you believe companies from our countries are ready for innovation? Is it practical to promote innovation when maybe are more important things to solve in the business environment besides being innovative?
Producing innovation whereby the result (service, or product, or process) is brand-new to the rest of the planet is a rare gift. However, there is innovation on a country level, company level etc. – whereby the new solution fundamentally transcends the old and in all our countries there is an ocean of opportunities in that sense. Perhaps our much liked FORTH methodology is not even focusing on the first category, the rare brand-new but more so on the second, the one that wants to become great in quality, even world-class perhaps, but necessarily aims to invent a new GPS system.
Was there a trigger to send you on this journey related to Innovation? How did you get to be here?
We as a company were looking for new areas in which we could provide consulting service. Supporting organisations in innovation was an easy choice. We have set ourselves out on this path 5 years ago already we found out about FORTH only 3 years later. Having been certified by its developer and master trainer, Gijs van Wulfen, certainly put our company on an accelerated track to be a recognized force in innovation facilitation.
On a more personal note by the time I got to his certification course in 2017 I had already 28 years of training, consulting and facilitation experience. I was very open about learning innovation but not expected too much about facilitation techniques.
God bless, I was wrong – I happily started calling Gijs van Wulfen the Master 3 days into the 6-day course. Depth of knowledge delivered with ease and wit! It caught me by storm.
Do you have a recent or important project that you want to showcase?
In 2019 we have already had three FORTH innovation projects. I must say that the success largely depends on the commitment of the Client. At Miskolc University it was our second project already. The faculty we have worked with came up with very solid concepts that otherwise they would not have been able to produce. They will be visible soon – some will be quite new to Hungary and the entire region, with not too much competition in the world. Plus, in all our projects participants agree that it is not only about reaching the innovation targets but the process itself is a culture-shaping element.
Why does innovation fails? Are there any caveats, advice, tips or tools you might want to share for people that are just starting this bumpy road?
Perhaps you know this quote from the Bible: “no one who puts a hand to the plow AND looks back is fit for the service in the kingdom of God”.
If you were to be a Lego character, how would you look like? Please describe us and let your imagination go free. Visualization is a powerful tool and we might all find new things about ourselves when trying to step out of the old shoes.
Surprising question. So instead of answering I just asked two colleagues of mine, and here are the answers. I’d like to hope it is a combination of the two.
Thank you, Akos, and I can say to you, as a fellow FORTher, that your experience is meaningful for Romanian innovation ecosystem.