Q: It seems that innovation as a whole is becoming more top-of-mind among businesses and business leaders, and it certainly seems to surface more in the media. Why do you think that’s so?
There has been downward pressure on margins for several years now. Businesses have two ways to increase margins—cut expenses or raise prices. Most of us will only pay higher prices for innovative products and solutions, so innovation could increase margins through higher prices. Business can only find so many ways to lower costs, especially labor costs and we have right-sized, off-shored, downsized, outsourced, laid off, and paid off about as much as possible. Innovation in manufacturing and labor productivity could lower costs. I can’t think of any other way to address both parts of the margin equation. Basically it all comes down to sound economics.
Q: What does it mean to let go of some control so that innovation can flourish? And why is that important?
Innovation is important according to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. About twenty articles appeared early this year addressing what kept them up at night and the only common factor in the top five of all lists was “innovation.” It was mentioned twice in one list—once as “my company won’t out-innovate the competition,” and once as “the competition will out-innovate us.” So getting innovation into companies is important. The complicated relationship between control and innovation will be discussed in my presentation.
Q: What is your favorite blog or resource for industry insights or just plain old inspiration?
In my job I work across many different industries—just this year GE, American Airlines, a large electric utility, an architecture firm and high-tech, and I always ask what lists they subscribe to or what information they find most valuable and then I subscribe—I wish I could say I stay on top of all of them but quick scans are the best I can promise. For my own personal inspiration, I love TED talks. I like watching someone talk and I like the 18-minute time maximum—it matches my attention span.
Q: As marketing professionals, how can we be more innovative?
As an executive coach my job is generally to ask great questions so that the person I’m coaching comes up with solutions that he/she owns and will make work. My approach to the talk I’ll be doing is to plant some seeds, to engage you in an innovative dialogue about control and innovation and leave you with some questions that only you can answer. If you find answers to your questions and are able to increase your level of innovation as marketing professionals, then everybody wins.
Q: You’ve got a free afternoon in Austin. Where do you go?
You know, we consultants are always accused of starting an answer to every question with, ‘It depends…” but living in Austin since 1983, I have to start with, it depends on the temperature that day. I am not a lover of extremely hot weather so if it’s hot I will want to do something inside and we love live theater so I would probably take in a play, if possible. If no plays were happening that afternoon (which would be unusual in Austin) I’d probably do a movie at Alamo Drafthouse. If the weather is nice, I love people watching locations like Lady Bird Lake Trail, or the Oasis, or walking our dogs (year-round but I only enjoy it when the weather is tolerable).