Women Leading Innovation



FountainBlue’s October 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Women Leading Innovation. Below are notes from the conversation.

Our panelists this month were both brilliantly eloquently and provided practical, candid and stimulating advice for us around innovation. They shared these top ten truths about innovation.

  1. Innovation stimulates business change, offering new products, markets, processes, messages, energy and information that creates momentum and shifts the business in a good way.
  2. Innovation occurs across the organization, not relegated just to R&D teams, but also involving processes and operations, marketing and markets Innovation is a matter of timing – delivering a new product or service for an audience in need, with the ability to pay for it.
  3. It takes a village to innovate, so bring the right people in the right roles, and together focus on doing what’s best for the company in the short term and in the long term. For example, designers love being given constraints and parameters within which they can innovate, and researchers are great at identifying markets while data scientists could tell you what your innovation results are, what your aggregated and niche current and future customer base is looking for etc., Everybody has a piece of the puzzle.
  4. Successful innovation has a foundation of relationships across stakeholders, and executive buy-in, as well as engagement across the board. So develop partnerships with stakeholders across and within the organization – particularly at the executive level and facilitate collaboration and engagement across and between groups.
  5. Welcome people who think and act differently into the team and ecosystem. That uncomfortable feeling they bring to the table may be the nub of an idea which sparks innovation.
  6. Some people mistakenly think that innovation is about creating the new new. Creative and original thinking are great, but you must also have structure within which to innovate. Much has already been invented, but reusing the proven technologies in new ways for new markets provides opportunity for all.
  7. It is hard for some to embrace disruption. Some may have to stretch their thinking. Some may be uncomfortable about the impact on the brand. Some may question whether the new way of doing things can be done, or is worth being done. Sometimes the resistance is so overwhelming across the organization that innovation can’t take place.
  8. Policies and rules and protocol must be followed, particularly when you’re representing a big company, and negotiations and processes may take longer for approvals. Corporate Innovation must take place respecting these parameters. However, too much corporate processes and policies can stifle innovation, with Kodak being an unfortunate case in point. Specifically, Kodak, the company which invented digital photography got leapfrogged by other companies who could innovate in that area, and became bankrupt despite their promising early edge in a huge market.
  9. Be cognizant of the many stages of innovation, from the open plateau, sky’s the limit perspective of the start-up or early projects, to the socialization of projects through the management team, through the iteration of versions and strategic feedback of early adopters through the input of channels and alliances. Different leadership, management and technical skills are leveraged at different levels. The innovation leader must lead throughout the process, building relationships and credibility along the way.
  10. Innovation is never easy – it takes vision, perseverance, and pushing through failures in order to succeed. Succeeding in innovation process despite the obstacles is its own reward, particularly when the bottom line agrees.

Our panelists shared this practical advice for those who want to better embrace innovation across their organization.

  1. Adopt projects for which you feel passionate, for you will be working on it through thick and thin for many months and perhaps years to come. Plus the innovations you help to make happen will also certainly impact your company’s, your team’s and your personal brand.
  2. Focus on doing the right for the company in the short term and in the long term.
  3. Timing’s everything. The people and company may not be ready for an innovative idea or concept. Pick your battles. Perhaps you can pick up that same baton another day, when the market and customers and infrastructure are more receptive and ready for that new innovation.
  4. Be persistent.
  5. Be open.
  6. Lobby for support.
  7. Challenge the status quo, in a way that helps people become more open, without feeling threatened.
  8. Carry the project from beginning to end and always focus on creating measurable results
  9. Think forward about what your innovation successes will say about you, your team and your company.
  10. Have the network and resources to support you as it will never be easy, and may be a long road ahead.

In the end, our panelists concur that to be an innovative leader, you must have the vision to want to change the way something is done, the courage and persistence to lobby for it to happen, the proven results from current and past projects to show why something is a good idea, and the network and support to stand behind you, the corporate culture which would welcome this behavior, and, most importantly, the communication and leadership skills to bring it all together, with a focus on driving bottom-line business results, engaging all stakeholders, serving current and anticipated customers.


FountainBlue’s October 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Women Leading Innovation, featuring:

Facilitator Karen Catlin, Principal, Karen Catlin Consulting; Co-founder, Femgineer; Advisor, Athentica

Panelist Marlene J. Begay, Supply Chain Director, WW OPS Supply Management, Oracle

Panelist Daniela Busse, Ph.D., Director/Design Futurist, Samsung Research America – Silicon Valley

Panelist Athena Maikish, PhD, Global Director, Business Analytics, Reporting and Data Science at StubHub

Panelist Monique Morrow, Cisco Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Services Platform Group (SPG)

Panelist Amy Warner, Business Unit Manager, Precision Analog Group, Texas Instruments

Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts and to our gracious hosts at Texas Instruments.

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