6 Innovation Leaders Share What Inspired Them in 2020

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6 Innovation Leaders Share What Inspired Them in 2020

This year has been tough. We’ve experienced some highs and some profound lows. Some of us were able to find silver-linings throughout the last nine months as our commutes vanished, and we all got a lot more use of our homes. Maybe you realized you had more time to read. Maybe you started a new hobby, like baking. Or maybe you spent time working on new ways to connect with your team (as well as loved ones) virtually. And, you probably did those things in stretchier, much more comfortable clothes than before (if you are in the loungewear industry, this is your year).

Those silver-linings, along with many others, are getting a lot of us through these hard times. As we close out the year, we asked a few members of our client community/family to share what inspired them throughout the last 12 months.

Below are recommendations from six innovation leaders, from a book on burnout to a video series on baking. And we’re curious to know what you would add to the list. Please share your favorite inspirations in the comments below – and here’s to a happy and healthy New Year.

For working through the ‘stress tunnel’

Suzan Pickels
Director Employee Productivity, Innovation and Collaboration at ConocoPhillips
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle
by Emily and Amelia Nagoski

While everyone’s individual experience of the pandemic is different, we have a common foe that has added multi-layered levels of stress to our already stressful lives. That stress is eating away at our energy, creativity, and mindfulness required for us to be our best as innovation managers. Through storytelling and thoughtful remedies, the Nagoski sisters shine a light on how to work through the stress tunnel rather than getting stuck in it. It is an easy read with humor and emotion intertwined into science and facts. It has allowed me to beat stress, giving me the strength to excel at home and work. I have ordered a copy for all of my friends.

Podcast: Here is a Brené Brown interview with the sisters that is a great introduction to the topics in their book: Podcast on Spotify

For managing enterprise-wide change and uncertainty

Shawn Knowles
Innovation Director at Weyerhaeuser
Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change
by Beth Comstock

This book is beneficial to anyone having to manage through enterprise-wide change, uncertainty, or inject a new way of thinking. Much of Comstock’s wisdom stems from her experiences in Silicon Valley. According to Comstock, the imagination gap is where ideas go to die. She shares her vision on how to go forward into the complex environment of the 21st century and narrow the gap. She writes about how to become “change-ready,” how to liberate our ability to evolve, and to give ourselves “permission to imagine a new future and act on it.”

Comstock talks a lot about giving yourself permission to take ownership and make waves: “People who effect radical change have to exhibit an uncompromising faith in experimentation, a bias for novelty and action, and a sense that disruption is something you cause, not observe,” she writes. She uses the term “fog flyer” to describe navigating uncertainty, an increasingly important quality for all C-suite members.

For changing your perspective on Africa

Carina Lange
Project Lead Innovative Local Ecosystems in Togo at German Development Cooperation, GIZ
Afrotopia
by Felwine Sarr

As an innovative mind living in West Africa for +3 years, I see it as my daily task to challenge myself and reassess narratives about the continent, development, and desirable futures and innovations. Afrotopia introduces lucent thought models and motivating visions of the future. Many innovations have their origins on the African continent but are not seen, not theorized, and therefore, go unnoticed. Aftrotopia reminds me to keep a close eye on this issue. It opens new spaces of thoughts, dreams, and potentials. If you’re ready to escape lockdown and change your perspective on the African continent, read Afrotopia.

For using innovation to be a leader of change

Mark Famy
Innovation Development Lead at Saint-Gobain
The Hard Truth about Innovative Cultures
by Gary Pisano via Harvard Business Review

Contrary to surface appearances, working in Innovation ‘isn’t all fun and games.’ Unfortunately, we have all seen what can happen to innovation programs when the going gets tough. In this HBR article, Gary Pisano lays out ‘the hard truth about innovative cultures.’ My favourite headings include:

  • ‘Tolerance for Failure but No Tolerance for Incompetence’
  • ‘Psychologically Safe but Brutally Candid’
  • ‘Collaboration but with Individual Accountability’

These tenets are great conversation starters about what the culture is now, what we have tried in the past, and what needs to change in the future to make this ‘innovation thing’ work. We have made this article required reading for any manager who wants to be a leader for change using innovation. 

For boosting innovation while keeping people connected virtually

Isabelle Armand-Guérineau
Innovation Journey at Thales DIS GBU
Time to grab a virtual coffee!

Innovation Cafés have long been part of how Thales DIS people come together on their sites, with groups ranging from 30 to 60 participants. The aim has always been to break down silos and to create a convivial atmosphere while discussing a new innovation, a fresh challenge, or original concepts and methodologies, coffee in hand. With the pandemic, these gatherings have been transformed into digital networking events, which are enjoying similar, if not even greater success, than their in-person forerunners.

During the first lockdown in France, I was invited to give an online seminar with HYPE, and it was so successful that it inspired me to kickstart our Thales DIS Innovation Cafés and bring people back together virtually, despite the pandemic. We have hosted around a dozen since April, and they have been a great success, with Virtual Cafés in India, China, Singapore, France, and the USA so far. The sessions are registration-based, with numbers kept below 100 so as not to put a strain on networks, and we’re planning more all the time – we may even keep going post-Covid! It’s really key to keep boosting innovation while keeping people connected and encouraging social interactions!

For baking your way through the pandemic (or wanting to start)

Sarah Kelly
Senior Innovation Manager at Liberty Global
Preppy Kitchen
Virtual ‘baking classes’ with John Kanell

I struggled this year as I am not a personality who thrives in isolation. I’m a soul who feeds off of the energy of others. I was hungry for that energy, so I found my inspiration in baking. Just getting my hands deep into doughs, batters, and frosting brought some strange normalcy to my upturned life. I stumbled upon this guy’s YouTube channel, and his presence, energy, and positive attitude uplifted my spirits. I found myself trying out a recipe per week and loving the results. Baking relaxes me, and John Kanell helped me do exactly that through https://preppykitchen.com/.

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Don’t forget to share your inspirations with us in the comments below! 

Wishing you Happy Holidays from HYPE!

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