Five Innovation Tips to Start Your September

By Kaitlin Milliken |  September 3, 2019

August presented a tough month for the stock market, as analysts buzz about a possible recession on the horizon. An 800-point drop in the Dow mid-way through the month, trade tensions, and slow economic growth in key markets have done little to increase confidence. Even the tech giants seem to have less wind in their sails. The Wall Street Journal reports that most of the FAANG stocks (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) saw their share prices peak in 2018.

During tough economic times, innovation budgets can constrict or be cut altogether. In order to survive, teams must demonstrate their importance to the company’s future growth. Staying aligned with both strategic goals and leadership become top priorities.

We gathered five pieces of advice from our August coverage to help you create continued impact — and communicate it.

1. Harvest Nervous Energy to Create Urgency

“Innovation is that mental change that comes with fear. Amazon’s thing is, ‘It’s always Day One. We can be out of business tomorrow.’ Jeff Bezos is on record saying that the minute we start thinking we’re invincible, we will die,” says Jerry Gupta.

Gupta is a Senior Vice President at Swiss Re’s innovation and venture arm. He formerly worked at Amazon as a Global Head of Program Management.

“That fear, that sense that we have to keep hustling — that is the most important thing an organization can inculcate in its people. … When you are always worried, always looking over your shoulder…you’re much more willing to experiment, because the fear of big failure overrides your little failures.”

Read the full article to find out more about life at Amazon.

2. Connect Your Work Back to the Business Units

“First, you have to build a relationship with the business units. I work with a number of business unit GMs who manage thousands of people. I have to earn their respect. They’re trying to make quarterly numbers. I have to get them to understand that I’m seeing interesting stuff; that I have an opinion on their business and what’s going on outside; that we’re peers; and that I want to help them find things that will help their business in the future. Nobody wants to listen to me talk about how I think something might be interesting if I don’t know your business,” explains Mark Rostick, a Senior Managing Director at Intel Capital.

Founded in 1991, Intel Capital is one of the Silicon Valley’s longest-running corporate venture capital funds. Last October, the company decided to reduce its investing group by 25 percent. Find out how the company adapted its strategy for a smaller team.

3. Effectively Communicate Your Story.

Storytelling can help innovation teams express their value, garner support from leadership, and drive adoption for new initiatives. In a recent webinar, bestselling author Dan Roam demonstrated how teams can use drawings to tell their innovation story.

“One third of all of the neurons you have in your brain are there to just help you process vision. More of your brain is dedicated to processing vision than any other thing that you do,” Roam explained. “The longer you give people something to look at…the longer people will give you more of their brain. You want to drive adoption? … Draw stuff. … Show people why your innovation matters to them.”

Draw along with the webcast and get simple storytelling exercises.

4. Build a Culture that Values Experiments

“[Corporations need a] culture built around an appetite to try new things and to innovate,” says David Krieger, Sr. Director of Strategy and Business Development for “One of the things that Expedia Group is very strong at is cultivating a learning mindset, which means it’s important to try things, and learning from that is more important than being right. … We have a very strong culture around test-and-learn where, for us, the worst thing possible when we do run a test is for the test to be inconclusive, because that means we didn’t learn anything. It’s so much better to have a test that fails and doesn’t work than it is to have something that is inconclusive.”

During a conversation with InnoLead, Krieger identified culture as one of three elements for successful innovation. Find out the other two keys for success.

5. Innovation Isn’t Inherent, so Teach It

“We celebrate the lives of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs, and read the glossy magazine articles…[about] their character traits,” says Luke Williams of NYU’s Stern School of Business. “If people believe that they have to have a certain personality type in order to…contribute to innovation, this holds a lot of people back…. [They think], ‘I’m not an innovator. … I don’t have the personality [for it].'”

Williams, a clinical associate professor of innovation and design at NYU Stern, argues that innovation can be taught to anyone — much like an instrument or a sport. In a recent conversation with InnoLead, he highlights the five steps of disruptive thinking.

The Five Steps of Disruptive Thinking

  1. Create a disruptive hypothesis.
  2. Find market opportunities.
  3. Develop disruptive ideas.
  4. Use those disruptive ideas to build one solution.
  5. Pitch your solution.

Read the full interview to learn how to spread disruptive thinking across your organization.