Innovation is About Mindset

Don’t Limit Innovation to Be Just About Product or Tech

Several years ago at SXSW, I was at a dinner with business leaders and was pleasantly surprised to find myself in the company of Chick-fil-A CEO, Dan Cathy. Quite frankly, I did not expect a CEO of a company of the scale of Chick-fil-A at an event focused on creativity, design, and innovation. Yet, along with the thousands of other conference attendees, he was taking in the emerging trends that technologists, creators, and designers were shaping for the world.

How Do You Define Innovation?

I ask this question all the time to audiences and the answers vary tremendously. If I ask 20 people what comes to mind first, I will get 20 different responses — and many won’t be close to correct.

New Technology and Products

Think about how Mailchimp has empowered small businesses for connection and e-commerce through email. Or consider the ‘big name’ technology companies like Apple, Google, and Tesla that constantly introduce new “innovation” via their technology. You can even build an “innovation investment strategy” by investing in funds and ETF’s that are focused on innovation and filling a portfolio of an all-star list of rising star tech companies that are indeed very innovative.

A Broader Definition of Innovation

Our tendency to hinder innovation doesn’t stop at how we talk about it. We also tend to measure innovation too narrowly. While it’s true that (as the saying goes), “what gets measured gets done,” we sometimes get so narrow in how we’re measuring success that we limit our own innovation potential. When we do, innovation becomes limited to certain activities managed by a small group of people in a handful of functions. And the thing you know, innovation in a company ceases to be about customers, markets, people, and potential. Instead, it becomes about things and checklists that may or may not relate to inspiring new thinking and creating new value for customers and markets.

  1. Can you deliver that idea (make it a reality)

Personal Creativity and the Innovation Mindset

This connection between ideas and execution is why I love comparing the making of movies to innovating in business. A movie is a manifestation of a vision or dream that a writer, producer, and director had for an entertaining and inspiring deliverable. Their ‘product’ starts with an idea and emerges through a balance of art and science to become something that millions of people pay money to see. Success is fueled by the creative and innovative mindset brought forward by the producer, writer, or director. When it is done very well, with the right balance and inspiration, those dreams become a reality.

Innovation, brand, and corporate strategist with more than 25 years of experience in corporate, entrepreneurial, and civic roles. @disruptorstudio @atlchamber