With an incredibly diverse history, Natalie Turner has taken the Asian innovation scene to new heights.
With a rich past filled with travel, serving and working with others, learning to understand the dynamics and politics of the world and more, Natalie has a wealth of experiences to draw from. But what she truly has, what we all desire, is grit.
Connected Women had the pleasure of interviewing Natalie, Founder of Women Who Lead and the 6 ‘I’s of Innovation®, for a second time and there is so much wisdom and exciting news to share!
As women continue to be a driving force for change around the world, this series aims to highlight those who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to creating an impact.
Tell us about you and your business, what were you doing before?
I had a rather extraordinary childhood, growing up in a religious community in the 1970s, which set the tone for the rollercoaster years of adventures that followed. At 19 years old, when I finished missionary training, I leapt at the chance of spreading the Gospel abroad – first with street children in Bogota, Colombia and then in the Philippines on the rubbish dumps of Smoky Mountain in Manila, where people would live, and scavenge for food.
Looking for answers to questions of justice, I shifted my focus to the message of Liberation Theology, and ultimately to the politics used to affect it.
I returned to the UK, at the age of 22, and explored how liberal economic policies could transform third world economies. Amidst this constant evolution of ideas and belief systems – I leapt into the world of business and innovation, and have stayed in that world ever since.
By 2006 after a number of corporate and start-up experiences, I crystallised my focus on business and organisational innovation, setting up an innovation consultancy and training practice – The Entheo Network.
In 2010, I received an invitation to be a speaker at the Singapore Management University’s Women’s Leadership Conference and it was there that I fell in love with the Little Red Dot at the bottom of the Malay Peninsula. To take advantage of increasing business opportunities, my husband and business partner, decided to move to Asia.
We now live in Johor Bahru, in Southern Malaysia, and work in Singapore, across South East Asia and beyond.
A Lifetime Of Questions
Having a curious and enquiring mind can be both a blessing and a curse – as it commits one to a lifetime of questioning and searching for personal and professional growth. The plus side of being like this, and maybe because I have had to do such deep soul searching throughout my life, is that our story – what we think defines us – is just that. It is a story.
It is a narrative.
It can be re-imagined, re-thought and re-interpreted.
This can help us to take a jump into something new, whether a new career, starting a business or doing something different. It is easy to get stuck in an idealised concept of oneself whether as an individual or as a culture. But that is what it is, an idealised concept. When we think differently about who we are, we change our lives.
What I have learnt, and am still learning, is that having a vision is one thing, it is just the beginning. It is the closing of the gap, between vision and reality – building skills, capabilities and partnerships – that help to get traction on an idea. This is of equal importance. Otherwise, a dream, a vision – no matter how compelling it is – will stay buried in the realm of desire, or left in the ashes of disappointment.
As you navigate your story, look for the reoccurring patterns, the pockets of inspiration, the things that you believe you are good at, and the times when you have felt most alive. These are clues to what your life is really about, your red thread if you like.
When I look at my life, despite it having so many different threads, I see that the pattern of written and verbal communication, of being evangelistic, of elevating people to live fuller, richer lives that will have a positive impact on the world around them as the reoccurring theme. This is my red thread, and whilst the content may have changed, the essence is the same – to inspire, to motivate and to elevate people to step into a bigger sense of who they are and why they have been born for such a time as this.
Be open to life.
What Dreams Are Really Made Of
Yet, at the same time, grit – the determination to stick at something despite setbacks – is what defines those who succeed, from those who don’t.
It is now being seen as one of the most important qualities for bringing something new into the world. More than talent, more than education, more than access to resources. But, at the same time, you also need to know when to call it quits, when to get out of the boat, so to speak, and to set a different course.
This is a curious combination of qualities. Stick at it, but learn to say no. Learn to say that is enough. A burnt-out entrepreneur or professional is no good to anyone, least oneself.
What we have to realise, whether we are sticking at something, or we decide to change direction, is that who we are in the face of disappointment is hugely defining. We stand up. We start again. We have another go. We realise that what we were attached to was the outcome, when instead, flowing in and with the process is how we achieve the outcome. This may, and will change.
Learning How To Innovate
Many talk about the need to innovate but don’t know how or where to start, or whether they even have the skills and capabilities to generate ideas and make them work.
The big challenge is how to foster innovation within organisational DNA. This requires the development of innovative mindset, behaviours and culture, as part of everyday working life, but, innovating is hard work and often left up to chance or a select few.
It is this challenge that led me to invent a simple innovation methodology – with supporting tools, approaches and a unique innovation-strengths finder called the 6 “I’s®. Helping people, whether individuals or teams, isolate their core skills, and strengths along the often messy and unpredictable journey that an idea takes from its inception through to its implementation and improvement, has and is a very rewarding endeavour.
Challenges Of Business
What I have realised, if you want to grow a business idea, is that you need to productise and have a means to scale which is not dependent on labour or just project-based income. This is a huge challenge for service-based entrepreneurs.
It is easy to get caught in the hamster wheel of only being as good as your last project. You have to learn to systematise, build partnerships and a strong brand that will help you radiate value into the world.
I have spent the last year crystallising and codifying my thinking into a book – “Yes, You Can Innovate. Discover Your Innovation Strengths And Unleash Your Creative Potential.’ Which will be published by Pearson in March 2018.
Now, we are extending the reach of the 6 ‘I’s®, innovation methodology and assessment tools, being used by a range of our clients, to a broader audience. And it is here, that I feel and see the tug of my red thread, that nine-year-old street preacher and evangelist that I was, start to call out my name.
The podiums of a Keynote speaker are different to the high streets of Manila or Bogota. The content is different too, but the essence; the rallying cry that we can innovate, we can do things differently, that we are so much more than we think we are, that we can do so much more than what our small-minded limitations that we consider to be normal tell us, are similar messages to share. Find your red thread.
Be Ready To Adapt
It is important to know where you want to go in life and in business but to hold that vision lightly, as things change. You need to be able to adapt.
One of the other initiatives that I have created, as I needed it as much as the professional women that I work with, is a Retreat experience called Women who Lead – it offers a unique space away from the busyness of life and work, to reflect on where you are going and how you are showing up in the world.
If we are driven to exhaustion in our work then we are not going to be able to lead from a position of grounded strength. Period. And, do we need people to be leading and managing their work from a place of calm, clear-minded thinking? Absolutely, now more than ever.
When no one is telling you what to do, or managing you, or encouraging you along, all you have is your internal motor. The internal motor needs self-care otherwise it will rust out. Find a great mentor or mentors to support you. Don’t try and do everything on your own.
Learn to play to your strengths and get support for the areas that are not your core. Understand where you deliver the most value. All of these points are hugely important lessons I have had to learn, and am still learning.
Most of all, take care of yourself, body, soul and mind, it is all you have got at the end of the day.
Natalie is a testament that you’ve got to be willing to step out and try something different. Be a self-disruptor! Don’t get lost in your own enthusiasm, and ensure you have the right partnerships to help you scale your business offering. Let go of good ideas and pursue the great ones. Systemize and become a multiplier.
We are the leaders, activists, innovators, and visionaries – whether in the public eye or behind the scenes
– who are revolutionising the way people think and live. We are #ConnectedWomen.
Ladies, if you are looking for fresh inspiration, direction and clarity on next steps in your personal and professional life, then join Natalie on a short Retreat – Friday, April 13th – 14th in Ipoh, Malaysia. Read more on the retreat here.
Discover your innovation strengths using Natalie’s assessment tool available online.
This interview first appeared in Connected Women Magazine.