Lab Notes
GoKart Labs client summit

Innovation Through the Eyes of Leaders

We are well past the stage where innovation is a nice-to-have practice in your organization. We are in the ‘Age of the Customer.’ That’s why we’re hosting our first annual Client Summit, aimed at sharing real, actionable insights on how to thrive in this the current business climate with human-centered design methods and new thinking that drives tangible business results.

Two of our featured Client Summit speakers are Adetola Abiade, Executive Director, Organizational Effectiveness – Consumer and Commercial Banking at JPMorgan Chase and Brendan Farley, Vice President of Innovation for Walden University. Both are driving innovation within their organizations. Here is a sneak peek into their mindsets around innovation and what they’ll be talking about at the summit.

P.S. If you like what you read, ask your Client Lead for more information!

What do you believe is the biggest misconception about innovation?

Adetola Abiade – That it’s easy, and that building an innovative culture can be done without buy-in from the top. Often businesses view innovation as a “skunkworks” opportunity and use “hope” as a strategy, then mistakenly assume that successes from these efforts will catch on through osmosis. It can’t be an “either/or” approach it has to be a “both/and” approach to build and foster an ecosystem of dialogue, process, and experimentation.

Brendan Farley – There are several, but I’ll point out the most fundamental problem. No one knows what they mean when they use the word innovation. As consumers, we live in a world of rapid new products and services coming to the market that often leverages new technology to make our lives better. Unfortunately, we tend to think that for something to be innovative, it needs to be an app or leverage some new breakthrough technology such as AI or blockchain. That misses the point completely. Innovation is about solving problems in new ways that create value for our customers. You can solve your customers’ problems without using cutting-edge technology. Sometimes, just redefining a process or how your organization is structured to support your customers can be extremely innovative. We need to stop getting caught up in the hype of innovation and remember that it’s about solving real problems.

If an organization is having trouble driving more innovative solutions, what do you do?

Adetola Abiade – My best advice is to “stop talking and start doing!” Essentially, in my opinion, the greatest way to shape a mindset around innovation is by purposefully, thoughtfully exposing yourself to different ways of doing things in an “unbiased way.”

What needs to be true to drive more innovative solutions within an organization?

Brendan Farley – I hear a lot of talk about company culture and how CEOs are looking to create a culture of innovation. But culture is a lagging indicator. To create a culture, you first need to shape the behaviors of the organization to be more focused on solving your customers’ problems. So what most think is a culture problem is really a leadership problem. Leaders need to identify the factors that need to be in place to enable innovation. What are the environmental conditions that allow innovation to flourish? Do you have the right organization design to execute on new ideas? The right talent? The right incentives? How do you treat failure? If any of these inhibit innovation, then you’re unlikely to go far. At Walden, we set out to completely reinvent higher education. And while that was a big idea, the difference wasn’t the idea itself but how we created the right environment to execute on the idea. That is what enabled us to build a new model of higher education that is completely changing the market.

What does it take to get people in the right mindset for innovation?

Adetola Abiade – The most powerful influencer of mindset is education about the various use cases of innovation across industries. It’s educating yourself about what is happening in the world (across regions, segments) that helps create “aha” moments, helps people to start unpacking mental models about what they think will work and forms some new insights about new ways to work.

What’s an example of a Culture of Innovation that you love/admire?

Brendan Farley – I believe the king of innovation is Amazon. I don’t know any CEO who wouldn’t lose sleep if they found out that Amazon was entering their market. What makes Amazon’s culture so powerful isn’t that Jeff Bezos hires “innovative people” or focuses on building a culture of innovation. Instead, Jeff understands how to lead an innovative company. I would highly encourage everyone to read his shareholder letter he wrote back in April of this year. He clearly lays out several techniques and tactics that make Amazon so dominant. Also, note that he never once uses the word “innovation” in the entire letter.

More on Our Guest Speakers:

Adetola Abiade is an Executive Director, Organizational Effectiveness in Consumer and Commercial Banking at JPMorgan Chase & Co, with 20 years of experience driving global business transformation, organizational development, technology, innovation and intrapreneurship initiatives for startup, not-for-profit and Fortune 500 companies. She has a proven track record launching internal innovation programs and competitions, managing the implementation of global ideation technology platforms, managing entrepreneurship training programs and incubation initiatives.

Brendan Farley is the Vice President of Innovation for Walden University. After 15 years in product management at both technology and consumer goods companies, he joined Walden in 2011 to support their growth in online education.  He has since led multiple initiatives to improve and expand educational offerings aimed at providing adults with more accessible and affordable options to earn a degree.

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