Why Innovation Matters to Organizations

I often quip that back in 2006 the makers of flashlights were highly unlikely to be discussing their response to the competitive threat that the phone company was to their business. Who would have thought that in a few years just about everyone would have a flashlight with them almost every moment of every day?

Funny, but true. A quick scroll through your phone and the list of casualties wrought by smart phones is amazing. In a few short years, smart phones and apps have been a major disruption (if not a death knell) to photography (still and video), books, games, movies, big box stores, restaurants, newspapers, computers, and music. Smart phones have changed how we sell, how we buy, how we connect, how we collaborate and how we do business.

And the smart phone is only one of the disruptive forces businesses face today. Add to the list the increase in computing power, the dramatic drop on the cost of storage, the advent of big data, increasingly faster data transmission speeds, the internet of things and the connection of people across the globe via the World Wide Web.

Clearly it is not business as usual. Nor will things be more stable, more predictable or easier to anticipate, respond to, or manage any time soon.

Innovation in Organizations

In the not so distant past, organizations had the luxury of having most of their workforce focused on the core business and a few odd balls tinkering around in R&D. The CEO and perhaps a few in C suite would the external scanners, discerning both threats and opportunities.


I suspect that those of us who have worked in a large, stable, successful company have hit the wall when suggesting an innovation, for there are many internal processes designed to protect the status quo and to successfully fend off new ideas or ways of doing things.

Today’s environment requires more. More outside intelligence. More ideas. More innovation. More speed. More willingness to try new approaches.

A quick look at Fast Companies Most Innovative Companies of 2017 list tells the tale.  The most innovative companies are also disproportionately the most profitable, the fastest growing and the most likely to bump out a longstanding company from the Fortune 500 list. Only 12% of the companies that were in the top 500 in 1955 still remained on the list in 2016. And these were the behemoths – to “too big to fail” kind of companies.

Tech innovation and the power of networks has propelled Airbnb to surpass the valuation of Hilton and Hyatt COMBINED. That valuation in spite of the fact that Airbnb owns no property or real estate. What they do have is a network, technology and the ability to innovate in a space that has been dominated with a very different business model.

In an age where your longstanding business can be disrupted by a novel way to approach the market with a new business model and tech start up – innovation must be cultivated and embraced on the inside. Having more people who can rethink the business, the market, your produces and services, your delivery channels, and your internal processes is a competitive advantage. In fact, it may be a survival strategy.

As such, I’m going to do a series of posts on the creative process INSIDE organizations. Stay tuned!

I’m hoping you’ll share your thoughts and insights as I do. For one of the hallmarks of innovation is the importance of many voices and multiple viewpoints!

Congrats to the 2017 Evergreen Leadership Community Builders

Annually Evergreen Leadership seeks out 15 leaders across the state of Indiana who are taking active leadership roles in their community. In addition to formally recognizing them for their leadership, they are invited to attend an Evergreen Leadership Retreat at Wooded Glen. Here they connect and learn how to create as a leader. Each person leaves the retreat with affirmation, support and a vision of something they can create as a leader. Those creations vary by individual, with some being very personal, others work focused and others community focused.

Today I’d like to share with you our 2017 honorees.

Big News! Introducing LEAP: Leverage Your Experience. Achieve Prosperity.

I have something very exciting to share with you!  It’s based on this:

Without doubt, the best decision I’ve made in my professional career was to leave corporate to do independent consulting.

Recently, I realized this: I am uniquely positioned to help others launch their business. I’ve had very large clients and very small clients across industries. I’ve taught a consulting course at Purdue for 5 years. And, helping others make positive change is the hallmark of my work.  I can give others an experienced guide, process and tools to help move from working for someone else to working for yourself.

So I’ve partnered up with Katie Workman (social media expert / graphic artist), and I have created LEAP – a 3 step process that helps professionals with marketable skills make the leap from corporate to consulting.

Learn more about LEAP in this exciting announcement!>/p>

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Outsmarting Overwhelm

I fall prey to feeling overwhelmed more than I’d like. The “to do” list is long and grows like a teenager in a growth spurt. At times there are so many tugs on my time that I can find myself paralyzed, seemingly unable to tackle even one of the hundreds of tasks facing me.

As I consult and coach and teach, I know I am not alone. Many are overwhelmed by jobs that demand them to be available 24/7.

Thankfully I’ve grown wiser about overcoming overwhelm after a lifetime of practice. As such, here are the tactics that I’ve found work to outsmart overwhelm.

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Words Matter

Even 15 years later, I still recall my eye-rolling. My long sighs. My suggestion that we just move on and get some “real work” done. And the rebuke.

The setting was one of those way too long, want to pull your hair out sessions with way too many people crafting a mission statement for the team. We agreed on the big points and were divided on the finer ones – the exact choice of words, their phrasing, and even their punctuation.

Continue reading to find out what happened in this activity that helped me learn an important lesson about words.

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Positive Discontent

Positive and discontent. The words don’t seem to go together. For we know, all too well, those times of discontent. When we are out of sorts and at times grumpy. Where things are just not right. When our worlds are not awful but neither are they awesome.

So to describe those times of discontent with an adjective of “positive” jolts us. Far better pairings might use the words dark or disconcerting or uncomfortable. But positive? How can that be?

Learn more about how discontent can be positive and create innovation by reading the rest of this article.

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Pre-enactment: A Way to Create the Future You Want

I am a big advocate of working forward rather than backward. I’ve transformed my life into one of meaning, fulfillment, and joy by using several methods of envisioning what I wanted to create in my life.

As such, I’ve journaled, created vision boards, set HEART goals, and created accountability systems to ensure that I acted unfailingly on those dreams. And, it’s worked.

Yet, as powerful as those techniques are, none are nearly as amazing as a way of envisioning (and then creating) a better future than one I learned from Joanna Taft, director of the Harrison Center for the Arts and visionary community leader.

Her question is this. Rather than reenact, why not pre-enact?

Learn more about pre-enacting by reading the full post.

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Reframing – “Fix Your Face”

Two women leaders recently shared a wonderful story to me that struck at a basic truth. Here is how the story unfolded.

Michelle was commanded (not asked, but told) to participate in a developmental program that required her to be out of her regular work for a day and a half. Her coworker, Kenya, also was asked to participate in the same program; albeit in a more inviting way.

Michelle’s first response was negative. She was angry. She was frustrated. She vented to Kenya about how annoying, unjust and terrible this whole thing was. Kenya’s first response was different. She was curious. What was this program about? How might it help her?

So when Michelle’s email came to Kenya, with all the disbelief and complaining and frustration, Kenya presented Michelle with very sage advice in three short words: Fix Your Face.

Keep reading to learn more about the story of Michelle and Kenya, reframing a situation, and how to “fix your face”.

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Can Doing Nothing be an Act of Leadership?

Leading seems to us to be an action verb. Visionary. Problem solver. Manager. Fire fighter.

As leaders we can feel compelled to build, to fix, and to organize. Very seldom do we give ourselves the latitude to do nothing. We are busy. We are needed. Others rely on us.

Yet, I would propose there are times when, as leaders, we might do nothing.

Read more to learn a few examples.

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Have you ever felt stuck? Here’s my process for getting unstuck and moving forward.

There are times in life we get stuck. We dislike where we are. It might be in our career or in a relationship or in a specific geography. We might not like our current employer, boss or customers, yet we don’t see any other options.

I’ve been there – and I have had plenty of conversations with people who are stuck and want help getting unstuck. What I’ve noticed is that there is a consistent pattern that accompanies the “getting stuck” times both with me and with others.

The good news? You can learn how to break this pattern and move forward when you are feeling stuck.

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