By, David J Roman
The TechConnectiON events this past Friday (November 7th) brought great insights into the reality of being an innovator in today’s global marketplace:
- Successful innovation depends on metrics of success and measure of will
- Entrepreneurship is not as glamorous as many believe and requires a rare personality
- Applied technology is the biggest factor of exponential growth in the near future.
The morning session on innovation consisted of a panel of entrepreneurial business leaders whose discussions were moderated by Dr. Mary Teagarden. Matt Frary from SmarterChaos.com, Jim McHugh from Cisco, David Talenfield from BioAccel, and C’pher Gresham from SeedSpot joined Dr. Mary Teagarden around the panelist tables and shared the realities of innovation and what’s needed to make it a reality in today’s marketplace.
When each panelist was asked what they viewed to be the most effective driver of Innovation, the replies were various:
Frary said his 4 startup companies are driven by solid business cases, so money was a driver for them. He explained that it is important to take incremental steps of innovation and value capture to remain solvent and successful. Solve a problem, make some profit. Solve another problem, make larger profit…essentially to ensure the money backs the effort. He gave the example of Amazon.com to illustrate that this applies to larger businesses as well. Amazon has profit centers and growth centers, the profit centers funding its big bets. Frary added, “Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep, especially before making important decisions.”
McHugh pointed to Cisco’s enormous size and commented that acquisition was by far the most direct way to innovation for them. He clarified that 2 types of innovation exist: solving existing problems and solving future needs. Gresham shared it’s scarcity at SeedSpot: just as necessity is the mother of invention, scarcity forces entrepreneurs to optimize their business and develop disruptive strategies.
Dr. Teagarden asked them, “How do you spot trends?”
C’pher Gresham pointed out that humans are bad at spotting trends. “Our frames deceive us”, he explained. The cognitive biases called herding often lead us astray toward weakly supported conclusions, which is why it’s important to keep pitching to the communities that matter. Frary agreed, saying, “It’s not the idea, it’s the execution.” David Talenfield added, “we need devils advocates as much as we need believers.” Without a dose of reality and consistent delivery, innovators run the risk of resource waste and complete failure.
Jim McHugh frankly replied that “biomedical advances are going to change the world, not these social apps for chatting, media sharing, etc. Access to data and connections presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the world. The CERN lab in Switzerland produces a petabyte of data per second. The key innovators will be data scientists. The question is: what exactly are we going to do to change the world?”
David Talenfield from BioAccel recommended Ray Kurzweil’s Exponential Medicine, highlighting the concept that innovations can unlock exponentially faster, smaller, cheaper, and better health and wellness promotion. “This new medical tech will disrupt the entire industry. Google launched its baseline health study to describe biometrically what makes a healthy human body. The new mindset is how to induce health not fix disease.” Talenfield described how a successful healthcare innovator is able to empathize with what patients are going to need as well as what healthcare providers are willing to provide.
Matt Frary paraphrased a quote, “Technology can amplify efficiency or magnify inefficiency”. He continued to explain that “innovation starts from how we’re able to ‘soak in’ human behavior.” Jim McHugh described how some gin companies are taking off because they’re listening to customers, not bound to tradition. He added that it’s important to see not just where things are going but also what will sell. He cited CloudFlare as a network security company that prospers because it delivers great results and doesn’t take sides. “The fact that both sides of a global conflict buy from the same security company shows they are doing really disruptive work”, laughed McHugh. “Innovate to what people actually do in the space you’re trying to change.”
Frary encouraged would-be innovators to foster a culture of immediate idea cultivation. As soon as ideas are raised, we should say, “Great! How can we do that? How can I support that? How will it make money for the organization?” Talenfield added, “Yes, we must keep building our skills or they’ll be irrelevant in several years.” Ultimately, the innovator’s role is to bridge the opportunity spotters with the solution doers. Execution is everything. Perseverance is paramount. “Fail, fail, fail again…but never stop listening and trying.”