Hunter innovation leader Christina Gerakiteys offers her business predictions for 2018

We put humans into outer space. We communicate via waves. We fly in giant birds. What’s not possible?

Christina Gerakiteys

 You live and breathe innovation. As a kid did you have that spirit?

Dream big: Creativity and innovation educator Christina Gerakiteys. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

Dream big: Creativity and innovation educator Christina Gerakiteys. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

Yes. I had an insatiable desire to learn. I took singing, piano and drama classes, played netball and did debating, went to Greek school (under sufferance), played and sang in choirs, rock and folk groups. My uncle was a serial inventor and my sister and I were the guinea pigs. My parents owned different businesses and were always learning and adapting.

 And after school?

I studied Law. I found it too constricting and left to study performance music at the Conservatorium and drama at University.

Where did you work before creating your company Ideation At Work?

From uni, I went into television, ran a production company, worked on the news, worked as a creative director in advertising, studied and practised herbal medicine and sang in a band. All these experiences contribute to what I do today. I ended up at TAFE with a strong commitment to experiential learning. My colleagues and I created Newcastle Music Week which ran for 10 years. I headed the Film and Television school and had students involved in Fat As Butter and formed an in-house production company. Neville Sawyer AM, a champion of innovation in our region, was the force behind Create and Innovate, an innovation program I created. The rest is history.

  You are a creativity and innovation educator. What does that entail?

Ideation is in the business of inspiring hearts and minds to possibility. I work with clients to identify passions and strengths. We work on creating and growing ventures. I work with organisations to identify purpose and intent, to identify the impact they want to have on the world. Then we work on how that shows itself day to day. Increased productivity and contribution increase the bottom line.

 What are your services?

We offer one-on-one sessions with entrepreneurs; education and consultation with small and medium companies; workplace culture facilitation; workshops in Design Thinking and Start With Why; keynote speaking; and innovation program creation and facilitation. It’s discovering what’s uniquely needed, what the particular end objectives are, and then digging into the tool box to create programs that deliver identified needs. Organising entrepreneurial events like Top Shots and creativity and innovation Retreats are specialist offerings. I also produce the Hunter Innovation Festival.

Hardest part of your job?

A lack of time. 

 And the best bit?

Client wins. I just had a client win a collaboration with a charity close to her heart; it was special. I believe personal growth is intrinsic to business success so when I am blessed to be a part a breakthrough, that is really special. 

 Innovation is a word overused by politicians. What does it mean to you?

Small incremental improvements or total disruption. I have been described as a unicorn. I have no problem asking people to create moonshots, to aim super high. We can create anything. I recently did an executive leadership program in Silicon Valley. We were based at NASA. We put humans into outer space. We communicate via waves. We fly in giant birds. What’s not possible?

 What is the key to successful innovation?

Passion and absolute belief. Grit, determination and the capacity to bounce back when knocked back. An optimistic attitude and a purpose greater than our own egos. Collaboration and sincere and authentic leadership. Innovation requires time and money and the opportunity to learn until we get it right.

 You run the Rippler Effect Innovation Program at the Business Centre. How does it help participants?

The cliché, “the smartest person in the room is the room” captures the essence of Rippler. It’s bringing a diverse group of people together who end up supporting and helping each other grow beyond the program. We have participants work on new and existing products or services, marketing, prototyping – it is design thinking on steroids. We bring guest speakers in who spark new ideas, challenge existing ones and push participants beyond comfort zones.

Trends in your work?

We know critical thinking and creativity are essential skills. Organisations will employ Chief Creativity Officers. Technology is crucial to business success. We need to embrace it not fear it. We also need to control it. We now understand the importance of ‘unlearning’ in order to learn.

  Predictions for 2018?

More discussions around ethics; companies in artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality and medicine will employ Chief Ethical Officers. There will be more entrepreneurs as big organisations shed staff. While I know that creates stress and fear, ultimately it breaks down bureaucracy and creates agility. Successful businesses will identify their purpose, contribute to the greater good of their communities and our planet, and utilise the best technologies to achieve their goals. Discussions around quantum computing will increase. The potential for growth in the clean energy and resource sectors is yet to be fully realised.