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Neil Soni is the author of The Startup Gold Mine: How to Tap the Hidden Innovation Agendas of Large Companies to Fund and Grow Your Business. Neil spent years with startups, focusing on the sales and marketing side, trying to sell into large organizations. He then moved to Estee Lauder, where he specialized in external innovation. After seeing both sides, Neil wanted to create a resource to help startups understand the corporate side and corporations to understand the startup side. - - Neil Soni will be at the IO2022 Innovation Accelerated, Lincoln, NE - Sept 19-20. - -Brian Ardinger, Inside Outside Innovation Cofounder, spoke with Neil about how to succeed through corporate/startup collaboration.Pitfalls of Corporate and Startup collaboration - Different timeframes - Size of deals  Incentive structures for partnerships - How comfortable is the corporate team in innovating? If comfortable, they’ll have a higher tolerance for misses. Look at the entire portfolio. - Companies that allow intrapreneurship, give employees new outlets to thrive. Should you expose corporates to startups? - Inside large companies (10,000+) it’s an echo chamber. They only see direct competitors. - Need someone looking outside at competition. Expose the corporate team to new ways of startup thinking.  - Startups also get exposure to see how their tech can apply to different domains.In The Startup Gold Mine Book - Understand what is going on behind the scenes. What is your corporate counterpart doing?  - How is your colleague rewarded or punished? Are they paid for the home run? Are they new to the company?  - Corporations have been very interested in the book to shed light on the startup side.  - Reduce the language barrier between corporates and startups. To connect with Neil go to or on Twitter at @therealneils. You can also get his book, The Startup Gold Mine on Amazon. FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  Also don't miss IO2022 - Innovation Accelerated in Sept, 2022.Originally released April 2019
On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Hussain Almossawi, author of the Innovator's Handbook. Hussain and I talk about the common misconceptions about innovation and how some of the best brands in the world approach design and the creative process let's get started. Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast to help new innovators navigate what's next each week. We'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript with Hussain Almossawi, Author of the Innovator's HandbookBrian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today, we have Hussain Almossawi. He is the author of a new book called The Innovator's Handbook: A Short Guide to Unleashing your Creative mindset. Welcome Hussain. Hussain Almossawi: Thank you. Pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me. Brian Ardinger: You are an award-winning designer, creative director, consultant. You work with companies like Nike and Apple and Google and, and many other well-known brands. I think I'd love to start the conversation with are these companies that you've worked with, that we know as creative and innovative as we think they are. Or do they struggle with innovation, like the rest of us? Hussain Almossawi: Innovation is a process. And it's all about the mindset. What I really saw in these companies was we do see this big and huge brands with maybe like thousands of employees that work for them. The reality is that it's all made up of small teams. And these small teams are made up of five or six people.And that's where like innovation happens at the core of those companies. What I really saw in these companies was failure after failure, after failure. Trying to reach to a vision that was set. And then throughout that process and throughout that journey being flexible and going from point A to B to C. And having that flexibility to move forward and push things forward. And that's really where innovation happens. Brian Ardinger: It's pretty interesting. And we'll maybe dig into some of the examples and that, from what you've seen, that works and that. But you've got a new book out. Same time as my book, it's called the Innovator's Handbook. I love the design of it. It's a square book. Which is kind of unique to the marketplace and that. So, you spent a lot of time and care in the design and creativity of the book. So, I really appreciate that. But I wanted to dig into the content. Talk us through why somebody should pick up a book on innovation when there's so many out there. What makes this one different? Hussain Almossawi: Sure. So, so for me as a designer and like growing up as an aspiring designer, I always looked at innovation as just like everybody else as something that really wows you. And is something that's amazing.And you want to take parts in it and you want to innovate and become an innovator. But at the same time, you kind of feel lost and don't know how to do it. So, it just feels very overwhelming, especially when you're first starting out. Throughout my career, working with these different companies, working with amazing teams and brilliant minds.What I wanted to do was to kind of break it down into simple insights that help shift your mindset when you're innovating. And innovation isn't supposed to be complex or difficult or hard. There are small things that you can do or understand that will allow you to, to think outside the box. For example, I'm speaking about myself, from my perspective. When I was designing and trying to innovate growing up, I always wanted to reinvent the wheel.I always wanted to do things very different, but that's not the case with innovation. With innovation, you can take things that already exist, see how you can evolve them. Take two different products that exist in the market. See how you can bring them together. There's always room for improvement. So this idea and concept of doing something that is groundbreaking and never done before, that's not really true with innovation. But it seems that way, especially for young designers.I mean, my book is geared towards young designers and aspiring designers, fresh out of college. And I want to share those perspectives and things that I saw that I wish I knew like 15 years ago. So that's like one thing. Do you evolve a product? Do you act or do you react. Do I come up with a groundbreaking product or do I create something that I'm building on something that's out there? That's like one point. Brian Ardinger: I think that's one of the, the most important points that when I talk to folks, when it comes to innovation is getting a clear definition of what innovation means. I think a lot of us immediately jump to, I've got to come up with the, the new flying car kind of concept. When you're saying that innovation starts a lot of times at just incremental improvements and optimizing and looking at things slightly differently.And I, I think that's such a great way to approach innovation because it does open it up to anybody who has opportunity to make those types of changes. You don't have to be, you know, the Steve Jobs or the Elon Musk of the world to actually innovate. Hussain Almossawi: Absolutely. I mean, even like with successful brands, like Apple and automotive companies and all those, if you look at the products that they've done the past 10, 20 years, it's always incremental changes and it's always improving one thing after the other.And I saw that a lot, like being in the footwear industry, with the different brands. It was year after year, we had the same story. Like for example, it was a shoe about lightweight. In 2020, what does lightweight look like? 2021, it looks a bit different because the technology is different. We failed a bit. We've learned a bit from the past, from the things we did in 2020So now 2021, we have a better shoe. 2022 is a better shoe and so on. So, there's always room for improvement and technology's always growing. There are new materials. There's new process. Collaboration. The idea of collaboration is huge in innovation. You meet new people, you get different perspectives, you learn new stuff. And you bring all those back into the process and into the design of the product.One interesting thing that we did like in the footwear industry, and it's done in different industries. For example, in footwear, let's say we were talking about a good shoe. What we would do is like, look at the, how are seat belts made? Look at the automotive industry. Look at the aerospace industry. Then look at things that really have nothing to do with footwear, but bring those ideas back into footwear and build something out of it. And that really leads to us asking better questions, understanding the process better, and coming up with innovative and groundbreaking ideas. Brian Ardinger: That's an interesting topic because I think a lot of times, we do get stuck in our own bubble, whether it's our own industry or own competitors. And we're constantly looking at those folks to find inspiration when you're saying a lot of times that core inspiration can come from outside. From different places that you wouldn't necessarily put two and two together. Can you talk a little bit about the biggest misconceptions that you've seen when it comes to innovation? What are some of the mistakes or barriers that hold people back from innovating? Hussain Almossawi: I think the first one that we already discussed that feels overwhelming. The thing is that we see the end result. We don't really see the process of what happens behind closed doors and companies. And we're all wowed by the amazing final product. But in reality, it really started with a small idea and many times, if not all the times there is an idea, but like you want to get from point A to B. But you really land on point C and that's where innovation happens.Right? So that flexibility it's huge. And that flexibility also has to do with learning to fail. And being open to failing. And the idea of failing actually is a really good idea because actually now, you know what not to do versus like getting stuck into the same trap again. And again. And it's just lessons like one after the other, where you can grow and improve and improve. So that idea, I think, of, of being overwhelmed and thinking that you can't innovate. I don't think it's really true. Brian Ardinger: Let's talk a little bit about, you mentioned failure. And I think that's where a lot of people get hung up when it comes to innovating. They don't want to fail. But yet failure's an inherent process or part of the process of innovating. You know, are there things that you've seen in your work that can help people mitigate that self-talk of failures bad and be able to make mistakes. You know, positive mistakes to move forward?Hussain Almossawi: Well, we see it all around us, not just in innovation. I mean, if you look at Thomas Edison's story, if you look at Einstein, if you look at all the great innovators. They failed hundreds and thousands of times, and it was always the willingness to try and get back up that allowed them to reach the end goal.And we see that in sports as well. Like I'm really into sports and I work with different sports companies. If you look at Michael Jordan, if you look at LeBron James, you look at all these superstars, they failed over and over and over. They missed shot after shot, after shot. And that's really what built these superstars and these names that we know today.I mean, it's all about understanding that failure. It's just bringing you one step closer to the end result and having that mindset. At least what I saw from the inside and also working with different students. That's really what always pushes to bring you closer to success. Let's say. Brian Ardinger: Absolutely. So, you've been successful and had a lot of work working with creative teams and that. I'd love your insight and your perspective on how do you go about finding and hiring innovative talent.Hussain Almossawi: So, talent is one thing. Like as a designer, how good of a designer are they? What are their skills like? What's their craft? Like what programs do they use? So that's, I mean, that's one part of it. The second part of it is really how diverse of a team I can build and put together. The more different mine is, the more diverse my team is. The more I have different perspectives that surround me. That really leads and pushes to, to a stronger team that outputs innovative ideas. So, and when I'm talking about diversity, I'm talking about culture. I'm talking about religion. I'm talking about language. I'm talking about geographical location and there's lots of different things. And the bigger, my combination can be, the more interesting my results could be because they push me and allow me to think in a different way that I would never have thought by myself. So, so that's one, that's a second part of it. And then positivity would definitely be a third one. One thing that I saw, I mean, especially when I started out interning at Nike, it was just this positive energy.Again, it goes back to the team that you work with. But if I'm working with someone, collaborating with someone that shoots down every idea in a negative way, I don't think you're going to see success at the end of the tunnel. But having a positive vibe, even if somebody shoots down an idea, I mean, there's something called the power of and. I could hate your idea, but I could build your idea.Yeah, and we could do this, and we could do that. Rather than let's not do this. Let's do that. So, I actually, I've seen both. I've seen the negative side of things in the industry and the positive sides and definitely the teams that were positive. That's where I saw the most innovation happen. Brian Ardinger: Having the ability to ask the what if questions rather than, you know, the negative side of, well, that's never going to work or, or whatever, being able to at least push through that seems to be one of the traits that I've seen as well.I guess the last kind of core topic I want to talk about is this idea of how do you rep a team that maybe wants to have a more of a creative spark and that? Are there particular things that you can do to get folks more engaged in innovation. Start thinking about it and spark their creative juices.Hussain Almossawi: There were cool workshops that we did. And I also give, like, when I give talks and different creativity conferences, I do also like different kind of workshops for people in different industries. One really cool thing that we do is let's say we're designing a footwear. So, I'd go to Home Depot. Any DIY store. I'd buy random stuff, stuff that has nothing to do with footwear.I'd go to the dollar store, buy random stuff and put them all on the table. And then I'd give the team a brief, a task. All right let's do a shoe that is super comfortable. Let's do a shoe that flies. Let's do a shoe that is this or that. And that really pushes your imagination to take these things that have nothing to do with a shoe or with each other, and then start to think outside the box.Okay. What if, if I use these ping pong balls and use them as the cushion of the shoe because of the shape, because of the lightweight. It could do this or that. So, first of all, opening room for imagination. And then second of all there's no right or wrong. I think that's really important in innovation. At least in the process, there's no right or wrong. There are no stupid questions. Everything is possible. And then as we like an idea, as we get excited about an idea, we can start to look at reality how things can be done. How things can be manufactured processed. And then bring it closer to reality and start to tweak it and adjust it and refine it. So, so that's definitely I'd say the best exercise I've seen working with different people and teams. Brian Ardinger: That's a great little exercise. I'll put in my bag of tools as well. So, appreciate that. Last question I have is where do you go for inspiration? What are the, the resources or the things that you look at that keep you on top of this game?Hussain Almossawi: One of the things that's actually mentioned in the book, it's being a curious sponge. So just being open to everything and accepting everything. And you know, when you see things around, you look at the colors, look at the texture. When you hear conversations, get interested in things that don't really interest you.So just being a sponge and that's something that Tinker Hatfield at Nike told me. Just be a curious sponge. And that really allows you to soak things in. Then another thing is just being inspired by greatness. You know, by excellent around you. Whether it's through other artists, whether it's through sports, through books.I love reading. And reading is the number one source of being inspired. You know, it’s just different kinds of information from different kinds of people. So that's another thing. And it all gets back to being a curious sponge. Whether I'm reading. Whether I'm looking at art. Whether I'm talking to people. Just being curious and interested at all times.And as kids, we were always curious, asking questions. Asking lots of amazing questions. And we saw that with Leonard de DaVinci. He always asked lots of questions in his notebooks. Why is the sky blue? What does a Woodpecker’s tongue look like? But as we grow up, we kind of are taught to not ask any stupid questions and to just play it safe. And that really leads to, I'd say, taking a step back from innovation, which is unfortunate. For More InformationBrian Ardinger: It's an amazing topic. I appreciate you coming on Inside Outside Innovation to share your insights and that. And if people are curious about where to find out more about your book and more about yourself, what's the best way to do that.Hussain Almossawi: So, the Innovator's Handbook comes out September 6th. The best way is through Instagram, through my website, LinkedIn. Yeah. Just type my name in you'll find me. Brian Ardinger: Excellent. Well, Husain, thanks again for coming on Inside Outside Innovation. Look forward to continuing the conversation and appreciate your time.Hussain Almossawi: Thank you so much. Appreciate it. Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  Also don't miss IO2022 - Innovation Accelerated in Sept, 2022.
On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Alla Weinberg, Author of the new book, A Culture of Safety: Building a Work Environment Where People Can Think Collaborate and Innovate. Alla and I talk about how companies can increase their efficiencies, their collaboration, and their velocity of output, simply by focusing on developing physical, emotional, and psychological safety in the workplace. - Alla Weinberg will be speaking at IO2022 - Innovation Accelerated - Lincoln, NE - Sept 19-20Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast to help new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript of Alla Weinberg, Author of A Culture of SafetyBrian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host, Brian Ardinger, and as always, we have another amazing guest. Today we have Alla Weinberg. She is Author of A Culture of Safety: Building a Work Environment Where People Can Think, Collaborate, and Innovate. Welcome to the show. Alla Weinberg: Thanks, Brian. So happy to be here. Brian Ardinger: I am excited to have you here. One of the things I was doing in preparation for this particular call, was I was looking at your website. You're a founder of a company called Spoke and Wheel where you help companies build cultures, where people feel safe and respected and able to do their best work. And you have a quote on your website that 82% of employees don't trust their boss to tell the truth. Clearly that's a problem. Alla Weinberg: So that's the problem Brian Ardinger: I wanted to start there. What's the state of today's workplace? Alla Weinberg: I think especially with COVID and, the very sudden move to remote work, it's even harder to build trust with coworkers, with employees, because we don't even see each other in person anymore.And if you want to have those social interactions, that has to be very intentional. So, you have to create a meeting and set that on the calendar. And a lot of times trust is built over time in those very small moments. That I remembered, you know, that you had an anniversary and I wished you a happy anniversary because we had a conversation about that, where I asked about how, you know, the health of your dog is doing. Small life things that just get built up in the very small moments, that get built up over time. And we're definitely missing that right now in our work environments, especially virtually. Brian Ardinger: It has definitely changed the workspace, but that this was affecting before COVID. There was a lot of issues around trust and safety and things like, let's go back a little bit in time and tell us how you got involved in writing and focused on this particular subject.Alla Weinberg: So, I got inspired to write this book based on my own experience. I spent two years working in a global multinational enterprise level company, where I felt unsafe for two years. And it started to really affect my health, my mental health, my physical health, my emotional health. And it got to the point where I didn't want to physically, when we still are doing that, go to the office, go to work anymore.And I eventually ended up leaving that experience. And from that, I've really decided, Hey, you know, the way that we're working together now isn't working.  I want to help people like myself create work environments where they feel safe, where you want to go to work, where you can do your best work. And you're really excited to do the work together. And the other thing is that I realized is especially in a corporate world, it's very, still very much focused on the individual. You know, we have individual performance reviews. We have individual bonuses as bonus structures, promotions, et cetera. But very little of the work that we do is really at the individual level. We have to do work in teams together with other people. And that's where things tend to fall apart. That's where there's a lot of room for improvement, I think. Brian Ardinger: So, what does a culture of safety look like? You mentioned a couple different things in your experience where not only psychological safety, emotional safety, physical safety, what does a culture of safety look like?Alla Weinberg: Culture of safety and as you mentioned, looks like three different and three different levels. So physical safety, meaning I feel safe in my body. Like it feels like I fit in. It feels that I belong regardless of size, of color, of gender, of age, of the number of art that I have on my body. You know, my body can fit in and I feel safe in my body.And this is biologically how we're wired. Because, you know, tens of thousands of years ago, we used to live in tribes, and we relied on that group to survive. So, people in the tribe looked out for us, literally for our physical safety. So, if a lion was coming or a different member from a different tribe was coming to attack us, we would be protected by other people.And so, it's still to this day, how our brain is wired. So, when we're at work, we want to still feel that other people will value our physical bodies and that we're safe with them. And safety in itself just means I'm internally relaxed. My nervous system is relaxed. I'm not anxious, worried on alert, ready to fight or flight.I feel open. I feel open to connection. I feel open to new ideas. This is where innovation comes in. There's a sense of relaxation around that. And I'm not worried about, Hey, how do I say something to this person? Should I say anything? What do I say? If I say anything at all. There's no like strategizing or calculating that's happening in the background.And part of that is being able to share your feelings with someone and that's a very vulnerable thing to do, but it's very much missing from the workplace. Trust comes from sharing vulnerably. So, if I say to you, Hey, you know, it really hurts my feelings when you don't reply to my Slack messages, I'm being vulnerable and I'm sharing my feelings.But I'm also saying to you in a lot of ways, I want to connect with you. I want to have a good working relationship with you. This is what's going on. And if I can say that and feel like you can receive it, you know, well, and you're like, Oh wow. You know, I really didn't know that you were feeling that way. We can have a conversation about it. Then next time, when I have an idea, I'll feel much safer to say too. It's like, Oh, I have this idea about this direction we should go in. What do you think? I won't think twice. I won't hesitate. I won't to calculate when sharing that idea. Brian Ardinger: Can you give me some examples of where these particular types of safety come into play. Where can companies actually start redefining or looking, or even evaluating where they stand when it comes to these types of safety?Alla Weinberg: Yeah. I've actually been thinking a lot about that this morning. Funnily enough, I wanted to write a series of posts about where do you begin. Where does a company start to evaluate this. You have to start at physical safety. You have to have physical safety first before you can have emotional safety. And before you can have psychological safety. I know a lot of folks have heard about psychological safety from Google's work. Google Aristotle project from Amy Edmondson's work, Fearless Organization. And a lot of companies are like, Oh, we want psychological safety, but you can't have that without physical safety first. And that's just the way our brain is wired. That's just kind of human in that respect. And so, the place to start is, a lot of it is having to do in the diversity equity, inclusion, and belonging space.So really thinking about how are we making it safe for different people's bodies. So, if your body is a different color than the majority of the executive team or the management team, how are we actually creating safety for people that look different than leadership? Do we have spaces? What I recommend is looking at do we have spaces such as meetings, specific meetings set up where people of color can come and talk to each other and support each other.And this is not an ERG group. This is specifically a group where people that are alike each other can come together and support each other. But also look at your promotion practices or how was that working? Why are there not people of color in your executive team, in your leadership, amongst your leadership levels?A lot of times what companies do is they'll promote people based on experience in a similar role. But if you can't get that experience because of the way your body looks, then you're never going to be promoted today. Are we taking any chances on people, even though they don't have example X number of years of experience on it, because we believe in these people because they're capable and not just because they were at a disadvantage? Brian Ardinger: It almost requires you taking a different set of filters to look at how you apply towards what you're trying to accomplish.Alla Weinberg: Yeah, and I think that's right. Like, I think it's actually questioning the filters that you have built in, in the first place. What are those filters in the first place? Let's question them. But even at a more fundamental level, the conversation that no company is currently having that I'm aware of, unless I'm facilitating that conversation, is around physical boundaries that people have and about their bodies.Do people need to be on camera all the time? What kind of choices do people have around that? What kind of choices do people have around when they work, the time that they work? Does it matter that they're working nine to five on a specific time zone, or does it just matter that the output, like that they're giving you the work that you're wanting?All of that has to do with being able to have time and space, to really take care of our bodies as human beings. But we need to have those conversations because for every team that's different, that kind of rhythm is different. And so even just having the conversation, like, what do I need to take care of my body? What does this team need or want agree to so that we can still work together? And yet honor everybody's bodily needs. Those are not conversations that are being had, but definitely need to be. Brian Ardinger: And that's a great point. It seems like a lot of this conversation around cultural safety and that it starts, or is being driven by HR, or that's where it kind of resides. But it seems to me that, from what you're saying, and the experience that you've had, is it's got to be driven beyond an HR type of initiative. So, what are some things that the teams can do or an individual within a company that may not necessarily have the power to make these kinds of changes? What can they do to move the needle in the right direction?Alla Weinberg: Well, my recommendation is always if you're in an individual, for example, to just start closing. So, start with your team. Start with the smallest area that you can affect and start to create safety there. So, I would recommend having these types of conversations. You can schedule them as an individual person, having these conversations with your team.Let's talk about our boundaries. Let's talk about how we're feeling, especially about, you know, the latest current event that might be happening and how that's affecting you. Let's have a brainstorm ideation session. You know, people can still start to create spaces for safety to get built. It's not like safety is something you can say, Oh, check, we have that.Or you should just feel safe. It's safe here. Nobody's going to feel that anyway. It's something that emerges over time. It builds over time, that when people can say, Hey, we can have these conversations and there was no retaliation, and I didn't get fired and I didn't lose a promotion. Right. Like I was able to have this kind of conversation and be honest and open with my teammates.And I was able to share an idea and we debated it and it was great. And some part of it made it through to the next round. Or I was able to really tell my team, I was struggling with my health. And they let me know that I can take some time off and they would pick up some of the slack. Right. Just being able to have some of these conversations with your team, just start with your team is enough, is enough to start to create that bubble of safety for everyone.And then the next question that most people ask is, well, I feel safe with my team, but I don't with my manager. Right. Kind of go into the statistics that you mentioned, that's on my website. What do I do? So, if you do feel safe with your team, then you, as a team can come together and talk about what's the conversation to have with your leader.This isn't about blaming your leader or like this is all the leader’s fault, but actually coming up with what do we as a team need from our leader that we're not getting. What do we need to ask for from our leader? And then having that conversation with the leader as a team. Like in a very kind way. I would say in a very caring way to say, hey, you know, we're really struggling here.This is what we need. Let's work together to figure out how to meet your needs as a leader, because I'm sure the leader has their own pressures. And as a team. What doesn't work is if one individual from the team goes to the leader and tries to affect change, because it's just one person, then the leader is just going to try to work with that one individual.But if it's really a team issue, then it can be a team conversation. And again, it's much safer to have this conversation as a group, as a team, that supports each other that has each other's back than just one person having this conversation. Brian Ardinger: So, let's dig into the book a little bit more. A culture of safety is, is the name of the book. Can you talk a little bit about some of the things that people can expect to get out of it from a tactical perspective? Alla Weinberg: What I offer in the book are very practical exercises and meeting practices that can help team leaders mostly like this is who I wrote it for because it's really for a team leader to bring to their team. And then when I say at a team leader, I mean, it can be a team leader of individual contributors, manager of managers, or even at the C level suite, a leadership team. To bring to their team to create safety within their team. Kind of the first set of practices in the book is just for the leader individually, to be able to regulate your own nervous system. So that, you can create that environment, that space for people to come together and talk honestly, and candidly and vulnerably with each other. But if you're coming to the conversation as a leader with a lot of fear, because the opposite of safety isn't danger, it's fear. That's what I propose in my book.If you're coming to these conversations with a lot of fear, it’s not gonna, you're not going to create an environment where it's safe. And so, the first job of a leader is to be able to regulate your own nervous system so that you feel calm. You feel centered. I almost think of it as like a pillar, like a column, you know, a Greek column that holds up a building where you're solid, strong and steady, regardless of the hurricane that may be going on around you.Right. And the way our human bodies work, when someone feels solid. Someone feels safe. Someone feels calm in their body. Our bodies, our nervous systems will regulate to that. And so, the team will then feel more relaxed, more solid, and be able to have some of the conversations then that need to be had. So, conversations around our boundaries, conversations around our emotions, conversations around our ideas.Brian Ardinger: Is there a timing issue with these types of conversations? Is it better to bring it up in relation to current events and things like that? Where there's something that's tangible and, and there's a specific reason driving that conversation. Or is it better to integrate it into everyday conversations and things along those lines?Alla Weinberg: My thought is that it's better to integrate it into the day-to-day because this would be an unfamiliar conversation to have for many people in the workplace. In a lot of respects, our nervous systems need to get used to that it's safe to have these conversations and over time it will like the first conversation is going to feel awkward and uncomfortable and unfamiliar.But over time, if you continue regularly having these types of conversations, then the, you know, everybody's nervous system will be like, yeah, this is normal. This is how we talk to each other. This is part of our culture. And then when events happen, like recent events with the shootings of Asian-American women, then there's already a space to discuss that.People will already feel safe to talk about that. And so, then people can share their experience, their feelings around these kinds of events, because that's part of the everyday culture of what we talk about as a team. Brian Ardinger: Do you have any examples of companies where you can see the results of this? Like what can people expect to have as an outcome of creating a culture of safety within their organization?Alla Weinberg: I mean, the biggest outcome I think is definitely a lot more of a collaborative culture. I know a lot of organizations want and say that collaboration is of value for them. But it doesn't really happen in practice. When their safety, when I can collaborate with someone naturally, what comes out of collaboration is conflict.It's kind of the conflict rides shotgun next to collaboration. Right? Always right. Because you have a different idea and I have a different idea and that's a great, because from conflict comes Innovation. That's where innovation really happens. So, what you'll see is actually cross functional, cross departmental collaboration.And then, I mean, true collaboration where people get in a meeting and they have productive conflict with each other and say, and they really wrestle with concepts together and it's not like, Oh, I'm going to follow my process. Let's say that the design process. And then I'm going to hand it over to development and they'll follow the Agile process to develop it. That's not collaboration. That's just waterfall. Right? But when I see stakeholders from lots of different departments coming together, thinking through things together, having productive conflict, having that collaboration of truly working together. And again, it's more than just a shared doc, you know, then I know that people are feeling safe to do that, but I also will, you know, also I would see again, conversations within the company about how are people feeling again about recent events? Like you actually have those conversations, not an announcement that's made by the CEO or the HR department, but it's a space. There's a space for people to talk about that and how that impacts them and what that means for them. So, we're having those types of like, there's very different types of the conversations that are being had.And I'm going to say something edgy, something else that I would see in an organization, is I would see leadership within that organization. And I've seen that with some startups, where leadership in the organization says, hey, because of recent events and because of everything that's happening in the world, we took a really hard look at our practices and our processes and how we're running our organization. And here's where we're failing. Where leadership says, this is where things are going wrong and this is where we're not, you know, living up to what we want or the kind of company you want to be. And that we admit that. And we're going to work towards fixing that. Rather than just, I guess, aspirational statements, right. Or that don't actually bear out. Brian Ardinger: That, I think that's a very important point that the whole idea of conflict, is okay. And that's not something that if you have conflict, you don't have a safe environment. It's, it's more from the standpoint of you have conflict and you have a safe place to experience that conflict and resolve that conflict without fear of repercussion of that.Alla Weinberg: Yes. I actually would say, if you don't have conflict, then you don't have a safe environment because you don't feel safe enough to disagree, to, to get into it with someone to have that conflict. Right. In essence, conflict to me shows that there is safety in the environment. Brian Ardinger: And then obviously you have all sorts of other benefits that come from that as far as increasing morale and efficiency and that. What other things are you seeing from the companies that you work with? Where have they moved from and where are they going now? And what benefits are they really having? Alla Weinberg: Like the biggest thing that I'm seeing is actually increase in velocity of how fast people can work. That's almost unintended, but a really wonderful benefit. I think a lot of companies certainly want that. They want faster better work. Right. But a lot of times what gets in the way of that is people not feeling safe enough to express how they're feeling their emotions. And they kind of just hold onto it and develop grudges. And now politics starts to get in the game, and everything slows down. The work actually slows down because people are avoiding having those conversations about feelings.And so, when they're finally able to be and I just finished working with a team where they're finally able, and we're able to say, you know, this is what I've been upset about for a year, an entire year. Suddenly a lot of intractable problems that the team was facing are no longer such a problem anymore.They were able to come together as a team and come up with solutions and actually start to move. Actually, starts to take action. And that's the biggest benefit that I see. And Berne Brown has this quote. She says, you can spend a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or an unreasonable amount of time attending to unproductive behavior. And so, when we've been able to create safety in these teams, we've been able to increase velocity a heck of a lot more well. For More InformationBrian Ardinger: And I think that fits very well within the whole Innovation space. You know, you mentioned velocity and then the ability to actually collaborate and think through new ideas. I think it's so important to a culture of innovation as well. So I very much appreciate you coming on Inside Outside Innovation to talk about these particular subjects and why it's important in this particular space. If people want to find out more about yourself or the book, what's the best way to do that? Alla Weinberg: Ah the best way to do that is just to go to my website, which is not com.Brian Ardinger: Well Alla thank you very much for being on Inside Outside Innovation. Looking forward to continuing the conversation in the years to come and appreciate your time. Alla Weinberg: Thank you so much, Brian. Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREFor more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.First published in May, 2021
On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Doug Shapiro, VP of Research and Insights at OFS. Doug and I talk about some of the trends in office design, the importance of developing workspaces that foster creativity, and some resources that you can use to plan both your work and your home environment. Let's get started. Inside Outside Innovation is a podcast to help new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript with Doug Shapiro, VP of Research and Insights at OFSBrian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. And I'm your host, Brian Ardinger. We have another amazing guest was always. Today we have Doug Shapiro. He is the VP of Research and Insights at OFS, which is a sustainable office furniture manufacturer. And also, the host of a podcast called Imagine a Place. So welcome to the show, Doug. Doug Shapiro: Hey, thanks. Super excited to be here. Brian Ardinger: I'm excited to have you, because you know oftentimes on our show, we talk a lot about innovation and talk about product design. And I'm fascinated by your background in this idea of place design. And designing environments that can be innovative or creative and spur that. So, I wanted to have you on the show on that. I think I wanted to start with the first question, how has the idea of place and especially the workplace changed over the years that you've worked in this space? Doug Shapiro: Well, the idea of place has evolved as we've kind of taken in also new data around not just an understanding of what place does first. But even new data around how place affects us from a health standpoint. From a mental standpoint, we understand the impact of biophilia on our brains and things like that, that we really haven't understood as deeply in the past. So, there's some scientific evolution and then there's also cultural evolution of really understanding the purpose of place and what it means for our workforce. I mean, we've all kind of gone through that here recently, where it just used to be this thing you had to go to every day to get your work done.And of course, that's evolved into being much more of a, of a center for collaboration and creativity. That's the part that I'm super passionate about is how does place support creativity. So, I'd love to get into that today with you. Brian Ardinger: Yeah. Let's talk a little bit about that. So, you know, in the past, you hear a lot about open office complex and, and this idea of collaboration and that. And you seem to have folks that really enjoy that particular way of working. And now you are seeing people, you know, working at their homes and that. What are some of the things that really make a place work for somebody? Doug Shapiro: The most important word I would say is choice. Because, you know, if you track your activities throughout a day, it's rare that you're gonna spend an entire day engaged in one part of your brain doing that same activity over and over again, right.If that's the case, you don't really need a lot of choices, but the reality is there's moments where you need peace and quiet. There are moments where you need energy. There are moments where you need to be with others. And then we also have our own neurodiversity about us. I mean, some people are very hyposensitive. And they need high energy environments. And other people are hypersensitive, and they need to be in places that are more relaxed to do their best work.So, the key is choice. I think that's the way you make environments work for people today. I'm really drawn to this evolution away from knowledge work into creative work. And I think that's a major change we're seeing in workplace today. I think it's really heavily driven by AI and the impact of AI on our jobs. So that's something I'd love to kind of get in with you and explore and see how we're moving from knowledge work to creative work. Brian Ardinger: So, tell me a little bit about what you're seeing with the clients that you're working with. And the things that you design to make it effective in that particular environment.Doug Shapiro: I think it's really, almost like a, a major cultural change to embrace maybe how far we have to go to be great at creative work. I actually, I've thought about this. Knowledge work. That phrase has been around since the fifties. Peter Drucker coined it. And what we're going through today, in fact, I heard this really cool statistic from Workplace Economic Forum, that 40% of people, office workers, feel that their jobs will become irrelevant in the next five years.That's a huge number. And so, the way I thought about looking at it is it's really not that 40% of jobs will be irrelevant, but 40% of the way you do your job right now will become irrelevant in five years. Meaning, so in, in 10 years, we're probably not going to do the jobs that we do now, the same way we do them. Right. It'll evolve. And I think AI is at the, is the undercurrent kind of shifting that. Brian Ardinger: Obviously the pandemic and, and COVID and the move to work at home has currently changed that. And I think if you would've had that question posed, you know, three years ago, how much your work would've changed. You know, most people are now very comfortable on zoom and, and all this kind of stuff. And all of that is accelerated and changed the way we work. I hear what you're saying when it comes to that, and I can see it even evolving faster over the years to come.Doug Shapiro: I agree. I think the pace will increase. So, you know, how does an environment respond to that sort of pace? Agility is, is that the key of that, you know. Investing less in physical structures that are anchored and permanent. But more in tools and structures that have the ability to keep pace with change. So, we're seeing that. We're seeing this sort of phrase soft architecture kind of emerge where people are investing in forms of separation and space creation that are more mobile and easier to manipulate. Really even from a day-to-day standpoint. So that's one way space is, is evolving. I feel like our biggest challenge is how do we get as good at creative work as we've become at knowledge work? That's the big, big shift I'm thinking about. Because I feel like our whole office system, our culture, it was based on efficiency, recording, passing, storing information. Using logic to make decisions like that was what the office culture was built on. And that is key to being great at knowledge work being great at creative work is a whole different animal and requires, I mean, it's really a sea change we're looking at. Brian Ardinger: It's interesting you phrase it that way because it very much maps to why corporates are typically not very good at innovation. You know, they've developed systems and that in place for exploitation. You know, they figured out a business model that works. They optimize for it. They hire for it. They do all that. And innovation is very much the opposite.Very much like you said, the creative side of things where you're in this exploration mode. Where you don't all have all the answers and you have to try things and experiment and fail and do things differently than you have done in the past. Are you seeing particular industries or clients or, or folks that you work with that are approaching this way and see the sea change, or what are you seeing from the, the marketplace?Doug Shapiro: What I've seen generally is an understanding that we have to be more casual in our interactions. And that's showing up in the way we're designing place too. We're bringing more humor even into the way we physically represent our company in an office. Right. And I think that casualization, that humor, has been a key evolution I've seen in, in, in some of my clients. Even the formalities of choosing workplace and the process we go through for that I think has involved HR. Where in the past HR was, you know, it was maybe more of a function of the CFO and, and the real estate. And those two parts of a company. But now they're bringing in HR. Right. And I think I've seen that evolution in clients. And I think that's really encouraging because they are understanding that this is really for people.So that's a great first step. I do think that this idea, just, we'll latch onto humor just for a second here. Yeah. I think humor is one of those elements of creativity. I mean, humor surprises and delights. Right. You know, when you laugh, it's a show of vulnerability. So, it's encouraging those around you to share ideas and open up. And I'm thinking, okay, you know, my apple watch tracks my steps. I really wish it would track laughter. Because I actually think laughter I mean, what a key indicator that would be in the workplace. If you could say how often your employees are laughing. Right. And that's a good show of health. It's a good show of culture. And I think it's a good show of a creative climate.I'm kind of looking like, all right, well, if you're tracking laughter as a key metric. Which I think is, is not just for fun sake, like that's a, I think a key indicator. How would that change the decision-making process around the office? How would it change the environment, the physical environment you. If laughter was an important metric, which I believe it is.I think it also indicates employee retention. I mean, you're 10 times more likely to stay in a job if you have friends. You're 10 times more likely to have friends if you're laughing together. I mean, it's, it's a totally different thing. I'm interested in that just as one little idea of how we have to revolutionize our thinking of what work is. And how do we make it more human.Brian Ardinger: Are you seeing examples in what you're developing or what you've seen out there in the marketplace for how to either track that, or encourage that, or infuse that level of play or creativity into a workspace.Doug Shapiro: I will say that the idea of a formal boardroom. You know, of some of the more formal spaces, even a formal reception area, right. Those are changing. In fact, you know, an idea of how we. Humanize work and workplace interactions. One representation of it is even the Green Wall. You know that the entry lobby was to create a big, open, beautiful space for people to walk in. And there was always that big green wall right behind the reception desk, and then all the work was happening behind it.And none, none of that good stuff was there. And so now, I mean, we've moved the green wall into how do we bring green into just the everyday interactions of people in the office so that's just one example of, I think how we've created more casual nature inspired environments. Which should there in turn support more creative energy and human interaction.Brian Ardinger: So, let's dig into the fact, obviously corporations are now reevaluating a lot of this. How much office space they should have. This flow between work at office work at home. What are you seeing when it comes to that trend? And you know, people going back to the office what's changed. What's not going to change. And what do you see the, the future from that perspective? Doug Shapiro: Well, I think it's very personalized and nuanced based on each company. The nature of their work. You know, a lot of people were already working hybrid. It's hard to draw a conclusion that's general, right. And I think most people are feeling that right now. There was a great quote I heard on a recent workplace round table where a company was describing their policy. Which was we care, you decide. You're empowered as an employee to make the decision to do the best work. You know, to be in the place that you need to do to do the best work. But we care that that place is supporting your physical health, your mental health, and helping you be the most productive. You know, and I think that's the key is there's a lot of boxes to check, right? And to think that one place all the time is going to check all those boxes is probably unrealistic. You know, if you think you're super productive in your basement every day, you know, with no windows, you know, maybe you're going to get some work done, but eventually that's going to be draining. Right. I mean, you're going to have to go somewhere else and get some sunlight and some human interaction to be healthy. You know, just for your own sustainability as a person.So, I do think that there's a lot of variety and it's incredibly nuanced per person. I do think the culture around change is increasing dramatically though. I think companies are positioning themselves to adapt. So, we're seeing investments in technologies that allow that to happen. Investments in furniture and space that allow that to happen. Shorter leases. Things like that. Brian Ardinger: Are you seeing that, that carry over to helping employees develop and design their at home workspaces as well? Doug Shapiro: Yeah. There's been a variety of ideas around that too. You know, allowances, things like that. Again, we haven't really seen a, a whole one thing repeat itself over and over again there. The key is if you are working from home, you have to, it's not selfish of you to take ample time. And create a place that's great for you. You need to have a plant, you know, even if it's a little plant, you need to have something green in your homework space. You need to have some sunlight. If you don't have it, you got to find ways to create it. Pay attention to your lighting. You know, I think that's really key. And you got to have ergonomically correct workplaces.These aren't things that are just like, oh, well, I'll get around to it. Take an entire day, if you have to and do it. Your investment in yourself will pay it forward to your work. Brian Ardinger: So, you host a podcast called Imagine A Place where you talk to designers and developers and, and all sorts of folks in that space. What are you talking to them about? What are some of the cool trends or topics that are popping up in the podcast that you'd like to share with us? Doug Shapiro: Sure. Well, I have a personal interest around creativity. And so, I always ask for creative advice. I ask about being creative. And so, I've collected little tidbits of insights from my guests around that because they are in the design field. And creativity is a huge part of their work.And so, it's been kind of fun. And I think one of the things that consistently comes up is judgment. And how judgment is the ultimate killer of creativity. And so even when we design spaces. Is this a space that will create a sense of judgment? You know, if you, if you picture your old boardroom, it's just dripping with judgment.I was most creative when I would tell stories to my kids at night. I'd sit at the end of their bed and there was no, there was no advantage to playing it safe. You know, you were supposed to be outlandish, right? With the stories you would tell. Well, it's hard to have that same attitude in a workplace, but how do we, how do we do that?How do we get there? And so that's been a fun conversation to explore with guests. And then even like this idea of steppingstones has been a good one where I had a guest share with me that some of the, the best ideas happen when people share their bad ideas. Because it's a steppingstone to the next good idea.And so, the workplace culture that I think we try to create in the design field is one where people are psychologically safe. Where they really feel like they can share anything. And it'll maybe lead to the next big idea. Brian Ardinger: You mentioned your kids. And I was going to ask a question about how do you stay creative? I understand you wrote a children's book called The Frocks. Yes. Can you talk a little bit about that and how, how that played out in your own development of your own creativity? Doug Shapiro: Yeah, sure. I would tell these stories to my kids at night, and it was almost like a practice for me. Because you go through the day as an adult and you have so many decisions to make. You're almost forced to stay kind of left-brained through most of that day. Right. Right. And then at the end of the day, you get to sit down, and you're exhausted, and the kids ask for a story and it's like, oh gosh, you know, you're too tired. But I started to embrace it like, oh, this is like doing pushups.You know, like I'm going to do this to, to work on my creativity. And so, I would find something in the room that would inspire an idea, but then I started preparing myself. I knew I was going to have to tell this story at night. So, I would look for things during the day and thought, you know, like, well, what if that was a little more interesting or a little more magical?You know, like if I found a Firefly, how could I tell a story about a Firefly, right. And that would lead to something crazy. So that's just one example which eventually led to this book that I wrote about a kid who has got a hole in a sock, end up that there's a little animal in his sock drawer that's been eating holes in his socks, right.Right. It's cute and fun. I think one of the big things I took away as I started to understand why was I more creative at night? It wasn't just the setting. The setting was important. This idea that there's no judgment there, right? So, you can be yourself and you can say silly things, but also the time of day.So, this leads to something. If you think about like, there's that matrix of urgency and importance. And so often we're always in the urgent and important space. And then after the urgent and important space, we usually go down to things that are urgent and not important. And we don't spend enough time in the important non-urgent world.And at the end of the day, I was kind of done with my emails. You know, I kind of checked all the urgent boxes and it allowed me to be more creative. And I was thinking, you know, we don't have to wait till the end of the day when our work is done to think creatively. We just need to figure out how to shift into that non-urgent important world, on demand. And so that's what I'm trying to train my brain to do differently now is how do I get to that mindset, but do it during the day? Brian Ardinger: Yeah. Hopefully we can all find those little moments in time, whether it's running or in the shower or whatever, to prime or help us stay creative and that when it's such a changing, accelerating world that we're living in. Doug Shapiro: What is it for you? Where's your place? Brian Ardinger: I go for a walk every day with my wife, and before that was running. You know, I find different moments. It's changed over the years, obviously with COVID and that when we were kind of locked in the house that was different than, you know, the, the commute to work, where I listen to podcasts.But like you said, it's almost like you have to schedule some time to let the, the imagination go or be open to that creativity. So literally scheduling your senses. Saying, okay, this week I'm going to be focused on this. And want to, you know, explore creativity around that. Those are some things that I do. Doug Shapiro: I heard this funny quote speaking of like scheduling time, which is design and innovation is easy. You just stare at a computer screen until little drops of blood form on your forehead. Right? Exactly. And so, it is one of those things where it's like, it can't be forced. It's like a, I related it to a Chinese finger trap. You know, if you try to pull creativity out of you, right. You're just going to be stuck.So, you kind of have to find those moments where you can relax yourself into it. If you're good enough to schedule time to do it. And you're disciplined enough to say, you know, I'm going to get into that head space. I think it's very doable. Brian Ardinger: So, the last question I want to ask is for all the audience out there that maybe wants to dig into this topic a little bit more, learn a bit more about how they can develop their own office space or their home space and that. What resources, should they be following or, or places where they can go to find out more? Doug Shapiro: Well, it depends on the scale that you're looking for. You know, if you're really looking to reinvent your office, the interior design community at large is deep into this space. They're following, you know, not only the things that you might kind of classically relate to interior design, but they're also understanding the psychology of the workforce today. Some of the greatest challenges ahead, they're understanding the importance of creating agile environments and meeting business objectives. And so, I would say starting with the interior design community as, as kind of a general consultant through that process of reinventing your office is a great place to start. When it comes to the home office what I would say is that you want to build in some mobility, whether you like to stand or not having a height adjustable desk, right, is important because not all desks are the right height for you either. So it's not always just about sitting and standing. It's about finding the perfect level for you. So I would say, you know, you want to build in mobility, you want to bring in plant life, you want to bring in sunlight.And in terms of resources for you, you know, I would encourage you to stay away from the cheap stuff on Amazon or whatever it might be. Because also you want to make a decision where it's not doing harm to the environment. I think that's what's key too. This stuff will eventually, if you buy junk, it's going to end up in the landfill in five years. And it's the incredible how much furniture ends up in the landfill. And that's a big area of work for our industry is to say, how do we create things that are meaningful for decades and don't end up in the landfill. For More InformationBrian Ardinger: That's great stuff. And Doug, I want to thank you for coming on Inside Outside Innovation to kind of share your thoughts on this particular topic. It's fascinating and, and I think so important for folks to have in their back pocket, some of these core concepts and that. So, thank you for coming on and sharing. If people want to find out more about yourself or about OFS, what are some ways to do that? Doug Shapiro: Well, you can check out our podcast, Imagine A Place. It's on anywhere you'd find a podcast. And then we're on, is where you can see and understand furniture. And we have a great new platform called U plus on there. So, if you look up OFS U plus, you'll find great resources on how you might think about your workplace differently. Brian Ardinger: Excellent. I'll check that out. Thanks, Doug, for coming on the show. And look forward to a continuing the conversation in the years to come. Doug Shapiro: Real honor, Brian. Thank you so much.Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  Also don't miss IO2022 - Innovation Accelerated in Sept, 2022.
In this episode, Brian Ardinger talks with Douglas Ferguson, founder of Voltage Control, a company focused on design sprints and getting new products to market. Douglas tries to look at the product as a whole unit and is convinced that ideas are worthless. It’s more about focused execution. Douglas brings an operators viewpoint, as he moves into consulting and thinking about Innovation from a broader perspective.  Brian and Douglas discuss some of the problems companies face, when building from within, including the desire to standardize. Companies try to jam everything together and avoid focusing on customers’ needs. For example, AT&T buys other company's services and then takes them to market. With this strategy, AT&T will never be able to provide a superb service, because they are so far from the consumer.  When companies try to innovate, often the problem is putting a lot of resource constraints on projects. Douglas uses a framework called Eco Cycles to view the innovation processes. Projects move from birth to maturity to creative destruction to rebirth. In between, there is a rigidity trap and poverty trap. Many big company projects get stuck in that poverty trap. Douglas also highlights an interesting article from Josh Baer @CapitalFactory called the Texas manifesto. In the article, it explains that Austin will never be a Silicon Valley, but that to succeed Texas needs to connect their four major cities. With that aim, Josh and others load up a bus with VCs, startups, and mentors and travel to a Texas city each month. Check it out.Austin is starting to see organizations mature and more second and third-time entrepreneurs taking more swings at bat. However, startups doing big bold things and raising large amounts of capital are still getting sucked out to Silicon Valley. To contact Douglas and read about Voltage Control check out  For more content like this, check out Brian's interview with Teresa Torres at Product Talk (REPLAY OF INTERVIEW - Oct, 2018)FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  Also don't miss IO2022 - Innovation Accelerated in Sept, 2022.
On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Maddie Grant, Cofounder of Propel. Maddie and I talk about the changing dynamics of workplace culture and what companies need to be doing to navigate the new future of work. Let's get started. Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast to help new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage, and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript with Maddy Grant. Co-founder of PropelBrian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today, we have Maddie Grant. She is the Co-founder of Propel, which focuses on helping organizations prosper through cultural change. Welcome to the show Maddie. Maddie Grant: Thank you so much for having me.Brian Ardinger: I'm excited to have you on the show. There's a lot going on when it comes to workplace culture and the future of work. For those in our audience who may not have run into your work yet, you're also in addition to working at Propel, you're an author of several books, including Humanize, When Millennials Take Over, and I think your most recent book is The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement. You know, this whole concept of work culture, work culture is being disrupted. You know, we hear about the great resignation or the great reassessment or the great return to work. Whatever the next great thing seems to be out there. You know, what are the biggest challenges and changes that you're seeing when it comes to the world of work? Maddie Grant: What's interesting is I've been kind of researching culture change in the workplace for quite a long time. For a couple of decades. So long before the pandemic, the workplace was changing in terms of needing to be more digital. You know, advent of social media changed a lot of stuff about managing and leading in the workplace, not just, you know, marketing and communicating with your customers.So, it all started with basically the digital age. And my particular interest is actually on organizations that need to transition from the old way to the new way. Right. So, I'm not so much about startups who could basically create their own culture from the get-go. What I'm interested in is how do you take like a hundred-year-old museum and change, you know, and get them like up to the digital age. And then the pandemic happened. Right? So, a lot of the things that I was exploring in my books and my research basically happened really quickly overnight. And the big disruptor beyond of course the pandemic itself was to me, the idea that all of a sudden there was a really good reason to change how we work. Right. Right. Because if you didn't, people might lose their lives, literally. So in that respect, you're going to go remote. Like, even if you said that you couldn't or only, you know, very special VIP people could take like one half afternoon off of work on a Friday. Well, all of a sudden everybody's working from home and oh, guess what? It's actually working pretty well. It's actually, you know, people are doing their jobs and they're, they're managing, you know, what they need to manage. And they've got kids, dogs, all the rest of it at home. So, there's all these new external factors coming into it. But the work is still getting done.Brian Ardinger: So, talk a little bit about we're in a weird space now, because for lack of a better term, a lot of the pandemic's talk has, has gone by the wayside and people are returning to work. And you're seeing this push again to trying to go back to the old normal. What are you seeing when it comes to that push and pull and, and that desire to go back to the way things were and what's working, or what's not working when it comes to that?Maddie Grant: What we're seeing is that the people who want things to go back to the way they were, are almost always senior level people. So those are the people who got to where they are in the old system. And those are the ones who are very, very keen to go back to how it was. But like my partner Jamie Nadder likes to say the toothpaste is out of the tube now. So, there's some things that just cannot go back.So for example, saying that people can't do their work, can't achieve their goals or their project targets or whatever from home, you can't say that anymore because there's so much data that people were completely able to do that, you know, for the past two years. However, what I think is really interesting is there is actually value to coming back to the workplace. But that value, you know, everybody talks about, you know, the water cooler conversations and, and building relationships.And, you know, seeing people in person is better than online. You know, all of these kinds of things. But they're not defining why those things are important. Like why do we care about water cooler conversations? And in fact, water cooler conversations are actually not an equitable way of building relationships or coming up with random ideas that turn into that next multimillion dollar revenue source, because not everybody has access to the water cooler, right? Some people are not supposed to get up out of their desks for X number of hours. So that's just one example, but I think some of the most interesting work that we're doing right now is actually around the hybrid workplace. And so we wrote this eBook that was basically the four culture decisions that you need to consider when returning to the workplace.And the four are Customizing the Employee Experience. Like how much are you willing to customize? Second one is What is the Value of the Workplace, the physical workplace. Third one is Defining Collaboration and the fourth one is Supervision and Accountability. Like, so you know, that people have been able to achieve their work from home. So how does that change, how you supervise and hold them accountable in the future? And these four things are all very interrelated. But the idea is that really smart organizations will take this opportunity to rethink actually what's important about bringing people together. And they will redesign their workplace, for that purpose. And it could be multiple purposes. But you might have a group of people inside your organization who really need the workplace for quiet time. So, it's actually not about collaborating. It's about having time away from the dog and the three-year-old. For other people, it's about collaborating, but in larger brainstorming teams. So, you know, collaborating with people outside of your department. So not your regular work with your team but getting together with others that you don't normally get together with. Sometimes it might be actually very social. Like what if the workplace was now like the big cafeteria where people came in literally to eat and have coffee, and that's where you start to, you know, run into people randomly, that kind of thing.For all of those things, the reason it works or doesn't work is that you've defined that that is the reason you want people to be interacting in person. You know, so just having that thoughtfulness about why you care about getting people back to the workplace. It's not just to sit in a cubicle and be on your laptop on Zoom. Right. But now possibly with a mask on depending where you live. That doesn't make sense to anybody. And it doesn't make sense, and a lot of C-suite people will see this very quickly if they don't already, to drive like an hour into town for your meeting and then lose another hour, getting back home to get back on Zoom for your other meetings. It's so inefficient compared to what it used to be. Brian Ardinger: Let's talk a little bit about, I've had a conversation with a lot of companies and some of the challenges revolve around existing managers, not having the tools, resources, or training to really know how to interact or deal with remote employees. Again, a lot of people were just dumped into this and were never given an opportunity to learn new ways of connecting and communicating and collaborating in a remote kind of environment. Do you have any tips or tricks or things that you've seen that can help manage that transition better? Maddie Grant: There's technologies available for all of the above. Two minutes on Google and you can find tools and platforms for online meetings and for all kinds of different whiteboards and you know, whatever your needs might be. So it's not the technology, that's the issue. I think it literally just goes back to really defining why are you meeting. For what purpose is each meeting. And what are the different formats that they need to be. And how do you build relationships throughout the year through these different kind of connection points. And when is it better for it to be a one-on-one meeting versus a group? And when do you have your camera on or your camera off? Right? These are all very nuanced things and they're all culture things. But once you sit down to really just audit all of the meetings that you do and really define which kinds of meetings are for what purpose that enables all kinds of people, both on the management side and, you know, the individual practitioner side, contributor side, to really, you know, be on the same page about what these meetings are for.Brian Ardinger: Have you seen any examples of companies doing this well and, or different ways that if I'm thinking about this, should this be top ground driven, thinking about like how do we actually calculate the meetings and figure this out. Should be done from the bottom-up team by team? What are some of the best practices you've seen out there?Maddie Grant: I don't believe in best practices. I am a culture person who believes that every organization has the right culture for them. And that may be very different than for your competitor who does exactly the same work in the same market. But it's just a different company. So, for me, it's about that blueprint that works for you as an organization. The ability to define what the guidelines are for you.And this is going back to what I was saying about defining collaboration, for example. You know, if you really understand as a company, why you want people to get together and have kind of a guiding principle that literally writes out, you know, we value collaboration because X, Y, Z, then those kinds of statements, which is similar to core values, right, but they're just a bit more granular. But the point of them is that anybody in the company should be able to get behind that and to understand it, no matter where sit. So, yes, it's top down. And yes, it's bottom up. Like it's got to go both ways. I will say it will not work if it's only bottom up. Like the power of the CEO, you know, no matter what the CEO might say, the core values are, or the culture is if their actions don't match with other words, they can destroy a culture really easily. But they can also really set the tone. And they have a lot of power to model the behavior that they're looking for. And I think the really fascinating thing about this whole great reshuffling is that there are people out there who fit every kind of culture. So, for example, we were talking to a lobbying firm. They need people, their lobbyists to be in person, because they go and meet with politicians. And if there's three people on zoom and three people in the room with the politician, you know, guess who's going to get the most attention. They just cannot do their jobs equally well on Zoom versus not.So, for a company like that, then yes, they have a really good reason for wanting everybody to be in the office. I don't at all believe that everybody should be remote or anything like that. But the idea is just to really kind of understand and specifically define what those guiding principles are. You know, we do our work better because X. Brian Ardinger: Tactically, how do you start breaking that apart? Is this something that the C-suite should sit down and think through this. Should every team be thinking through and mapping this out on a board saying here's how we work best together. And here are the rules of engagement. And talk to me, tactically, how that can be done. Maddie Grant: The simplest way to start is with a culture assessment. It'll just help you break down into categories the, the different topics for discussion. And any culture assessment will do. Obviously, we created one that I like the best, but whatever. The point is just starting the conversation. But just as an example, our assessment measures things like agility and innovation and inclusion, transparency, collaboration, solutions which is like employee focus versus customer focus. And a couple more. So, there's eight markers and they're pretty legit from the standpoint of eight big topic areas that you can talk about. And when you start having those conversations and it is literally what you just said, like, how do we do innovation here, for example. What we've seen in our data is some really, really fascinating results. So, for innovation, I have to tell you this one, because of this podcast topic. For innovation, there's what we call a culture pattern, which appears across many, many different companies. It is where the scores for the concepts of innovation, so things like creativity, passion, and purpose, like learning, you know, ability to bring in resources for learning.All these kinds of things tend to score high. But the structural pieces of innovation tend to score low. So, these are things like risk taking, experimentation, right? So, it's like, we like to talk about innovation, right. But we don't necessarily have the structures in place in our company where it's okay to innovate. And to take risks. And to measure.We're not measuring the experiments that we're trying. So that's a pattern that comes out in this kind of data that you can immediately start to fix. If your goal is to be much more innovative as an organization, literally the data tells you every single department needs to have a way to measure how many experiments per month you're doing. And not just the results, but how many you tried. Like the failures are as important as the ones that worked, because if you're not failing enough, with trying things then you're not trying enough things. Brian Ardinger: Yes. Great insight there. And I think that's very true. I think a lot of companies have a lot of innovation theater where they like to think they're innovative, but when it comes down to like you said, the actions don't necessarily match up with the reality of that.All these changes are obviously affecting every company out there. And this war for talent is becoming now global. Used to be where you could find your talent in your backyard. And now everybody's competing for every job around the world. What can companies do to better position themselves for attracting and finding the best talent today?Maddie Grant: Yeah. So, I think that your differentiator is your culture. And of course, I'm a culture consultant. So, culture hammer, everything is a culture nail, right. But I do think there's a great lack of good description of what your culture is. Like good authentic description. And for every company that is losing people because of whatever their culture is, there are other people leaving cultures that are the opposite because there's so many different companies with different cultures. Being able to really accurately describe what it is, what it feels like to work there. You know, how people collaborate there. How much people are expected to integrate their external life into the workplace. You're a startup and you want people to live and breathe the startup life. Cool. If, if I'm, you know, 25 and my parents pay my rent. Like, yay, I'll go do that. But I'm 50. Can't do that anymore. But the point is there are people out there that will actually gravitate to your culture no matter what it is. So being able to really understand it and describe it to me is the key. Absolute key. And all the rest of it falls to the wayside. The salaries, benefits, all that stuff is almost irrelevant to me. Brian Ardinger: You talk a lot about how you customize the employee experience for employees to do their best work. Can you talk a little bit more about how do you customize an employee experience? Maddie Grant: Yeah. So just an example, based on what we've been talking about, the whole, you know, remote working. So, we worked with a group that owns their own building, a beautiful building. So of course, they were very insistent on trying to get everybody back in. And what they did was they said, okay, everybody needs to come in twice a week. And then each department gets to pick which two days. Like that sounds fabulous.Okay, cool. But in actual fact, within every department, there are people who want to come in five days to get the quiet or to, you know, because they miss everybody. There are people who want to come in, never like you couldn't pay me enough to come back in because I do my work really well from home.And then there's a lot of people somewhere in the middle, like, I'll come in two days, if you want, but I really don't want to come in Mondays or Fridays. Right. But now everybody comes in Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays. So the traffic is absolutely horrible. So, you know what, actually I'd rather work from home.So, you know, if you get down to like the people's real lives, it's about the ability to really kind of gather everybody together. And balance a collective need or an organizational need for, in person collaboration with individual needs. People who want to be in all the time are out all the time or somewhere in the middle. You know, some people moved away and so they can't actually come in. Right. That's definitely happened a lot. The idea of customizing, it's all about the best way to do your best work. And so literally just asking the question of everybody, of how they best prefer to work. But it's also not just, we're trying to appeal to everybody's individual needs. There's also an organizational piece to it.And if we've defined, you know, that collaboration is important to this organization because it helps us build relationships long term, which helps us do better work you know, in these other ways, you have to get all those inputs and then design the experience of your employees in a way that balances both. Like you'll never please, everybody. That's not what you're trying to do.Brian Ardinger: Yeah. It's very much mosaic that you have to put together to make it look good on all fronts. Both for the employee and for the company itself. Maddie Grant: It might also really change your ultimate plan. So, this organization we worked with, they wanted everybody in two days a week, but it turns out that what they really, really wanted was those opportunities to build relationships and to run into people. Brian Ardinger: Right. So, can you do that in other ways? Maddie Grant: Right. Having random people in two days a week was actually not the way to do it. Instead, it was having everybody in for like a social day. Yeah. Like twice a month. And that they would bring in food trucks and they would bring in maybe a speaker or two and have some activities. But also just have some open time where people could just hang out.For More InformationBrian Ardinger: It's definitely a fascinating topic. If people want to find out more about yourself or the books or the company, what's the best way to do that?Maddie Grant: Yeah. So, my company's called Propel. The URL is And all my books are on Amazon. So, When Millennials Take Over is probably the easiest one to Google for.Brian Ardinger: Well, Maddie, I really do appreciate your time coming on Inside Outside Innovation and sharing your insights on the world of work. I'm sure we'll have you back on because the world is changing quite fast. Maddie Grant: Thank you so much for having me. Brian Ardinger: Thank you very much.That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  Also don't miss IO2022 - Innovation Accelerated in Sept, 2022.
On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Clive Chang, Chief Advancement and Innovation Officer at Lincoln Center. Clive and I talk about the intersection of arts and innovation and how people in organizations can embrace new ideas, experiments, and new audiences to create new opportunities and experiences. Let's get started. Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast to help new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage, and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript with Clive Chang, Chief Advancement and Innovation Officer at Lincoln CenterBrian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today we have Clive Chang. Clive is the Chief Advancement and Innovation Officer at Lincoln Center, which is the world's largest and best-known cultural venue in the world. Housing things like the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, New York City Ballet, American ballet Theater, and the list goes on and on and on. So, Clive thank you for coming on the show. Clive Chang: Thanks so much for having me great to be here. Brian Ardinger: Well, I'm so excited to have you on this show because the arts and innovation are not a topic that's often covered. And you've got such an interesting background and, and role when it comes to this space. From my understanding your background, you're a musician, you're a composer, you're a businessperson. You used to work at Disney, and now you lead Lincoln Center's innovation efforts. How did you get interested in this innovation space and helping companies and organizations innovate better? Clive Chang: Thanks for asking. You know, I am a classically trained musician. I come from a long history of being an artist. And I also come from sort of a multitude of different forces and influences in my life. One of them being strict Asian parents, who forbade me from studying music in college for fear that it would never lead me to a fruitful career. And so, I was also rooted in very practical sort of traditions growing up.And really serendipitously found this intersection of business and art through pursuing studies in both fields. I will say also that as I was in my formative years and college and shortly thereafter, I was also seeing a lot of arts institutions financially flailing, right? Orchestras going bankrupt, et cetera. So that really piqued my interest. And I saw this opportunity that somebody who was trained from the ground up both on the creative side and on the business side could really fill for the world. And that was really helping creative and artistic organizations thrive. And I sort of found that niche quite early on and fueled my further training onward to really pursue that.And innovation, I think really is something opportunistic that I ran into. Right. And you don't get very many nonprofit art CEOs that say outwardly that innovation is their top priority. Right. And so, coming across Henry Timms, his appointment and his not only external commitment to innovation, but also his track record of having done it in the sector prior to coming to Lincoln Center was just too good to be true. And so, I very happily came on and have been really enjoying working with him to really reimagine some things in the sector. Brian Ardinger: It is pretty interesting when you think about artists and creatives, you automatically think of them as innovative type of spirits. Where, you know, they're constantly doing new and interesting kind of things, but oftentimes that doesn't seem to apply to the organizations themselves.Most arts organizations have been around for, you know, years or even centuries with similar business models and similar ways of displaying the arts and that. Why is it so important for institutions to level up today and think more about innovation as a core competency? Clive Chang: Yeah, you are so right. It's almost astounding that organizations that house so many brilliant creative outside of the box talents fail to really make full use of them in an institutional and organizational context.I would consider organizations like Lincoln Center legacy institutions. And while Lincoln Center is only about 60 years old, a lot of the art that's presented on this campus is centuries old, right? Very much rooted in tradition. And I think that's probably one keyword that ends up being a bit of a fallback or a crutch, that many arts organizations use, especially ones that present classical art.I always joke that the performing arts are one of the very, very few things in the world that we still as humans experience in the exact same way as we did like 200 years ago. Right. How many things in the world, can you say that about? When you think about it, we still file into a specific venue on a specific date. At a specific time. We sit for two hours, three hours, four hours. I mean, in the case of opera, it could be, you know, eight, 8 million hours. We passively watch other humans perform. We clap. We exit. The only difference today is we turn off our cell phones. Right? Because we have cell phones. So, another force I think that makes it important for us to really lean into the idea of innovating is that we're cyclical.The typical performing arts company operates in this sort of annual seasonal cycle, right? So, you have a typical fall season. You have a spring season. In our case at Lincoln Center, we have a robust summer season, where we take advantage of warm weather and we take advantage of one of our greatest assets, which is outdoor space. Which not everyone in Manhattan has obviously.So, being able to really take advantage of that, but the problem with the tradition and the annual cycles put together is that if we don't execute with the intention of breaking out of the tradition in the cycles, it just leads to same old, same old, same old, right. And that's the kind of, I think unintended inertia that really takes hold in legacy organizations, especially in the performing arts field like ours, if we don't actively push back against it and continuously challenge it. Right.Brian Ardinger: One of the interesting things that may have happened, obviously over the last couple years with the pandemic, it's forced a lot of these organizations to rethink not only in the arts, but everywhere. But so, talk a little bit about how the pandemic and made Lincoln Center adapt or think differently about what they do.Clive Chang: Right. Sometimes it does take an inciting incident, right? Or like this moment of crisis, like COVID 19 to rattle us and create that urgency to really approach things differently. In our case, I would actually frame it as to encourage us to accelerate the change. And I say that because Henry Timms, who took the reins in 2019, the year before the pandemic, you know, was very clear about innovation and institutional change as key priorities when he set his vision coming in. But you're right. What drew me back to Lincoln Center, I rejoined. I was here a decade ago and came back a month into the lockdown. And like, it's kind of an odd time to jump right back into an institution where theoretically all the venues and the stages have just shuttered. Right. But it was really, to have that opportunity to capitalize on this moment, where we essentially were freed from all the shackles of tradition or the annual cycle you couldn't perform anyway. Nobody knew how things would play out. There were no rules anymore. You could sort of wipe it clean. And so, the opportunity to jump back in to help reimagine is really, really powerful. And when I say reimagine, I think about things like reimagine whose voices we present on our stages. Whether they're physical stages of digital stages, right? What audiences we'd like to reach and on through what channels and what platforms. I do think I would dare say if our sector had to been more innovative and imaginative in the years leading up, we might have found ourselves in a better fortified state for the moment when COVID 19 hit. Right. But for the most part, performing arts organizations kind of shut down, hunkered down and waited out the storm. And one of the things we did was really take advantage of that time and try to build some new things and invest in some experimentation. And I fear that not enough organizations in our sector actually took advantage of that time and space to reflect and reset and reimagine.Brian Ardinger: So, let's talk about some of those initiatives that were reimagined coming out of the pandemic. I know you have some interesting things around The Green, and can you talk about that? And some of the other initiatives that came place. Clive Chang: I might even start with one that's sort of less obvious and less sort of visible on our campus. One real marquee initiative that we're very proud of in the pandemic era, is one that you might not immediately think about when you think about arts and innovation, right. I think a lot of people's minds go to technology and how technology helps fuel the arts. But one shared challenge that we all have in the nonprofit arts industry, and maybe not just arts industry, just nonprofits in general is that we are all looking for younger, more diverse board members. And we spend a lot of time bemoaning the fact that very few such people actually ever come our way. And you know, our boards will never be diverse. We'll never get young people.And for us, we just sort of flipped it around and said, okay. So, if they're not coming to us, how do we go out and look for these young diverse people? Right. And that's what led to this wonderful program called Lincoln Center Leadership Fellows. And in that program, we just go out and actively seek out the next generation of civic leaders and philanthropists.Our internal frame for this is they are stars today and they're superstars tomorrow. These are the folks that in three to five years, every board in town will be knocking on their doors. Right? Right. But we went out. We found them first. We brought them in. We created a supercharged two-year program that gives them an accelerated bootcamp of what it means to serve as an active and engaged and contributing board member of a major cultural institution.And at the end of these two years, they quote unquote, graduate onto one of the boards on the Lincoln Center Campus or better yet they go off and they join another cultural and nonprofit board in New York City or beyond. And create impact there. It's so funny because the innovation here, I don't think of as so much of as the program itself or even of the execution of the program, but it's actually the longstanding impact that we hope this program creates right. Over time, if you imagine multiple cycles of this program going on, we're talking about radically changing the critical mass of who serves on the governing bodies. The most significant mission driven organizations of our country. And ultimately hoping that that governing body also trickles down into a way, into how executive leadership manifests and how then staff level will manifest. And then ultimately how everyone who's working on the programs and the delivery of those programs will change over time. And it becomes this wonderful cycle. Brian Ardinger: So as a person in the midst, trying to make these changes within an organization, what are some of the, either roadblocks or challenges that you hit and then what are some of the things that you did to kind of overcome the traditional things that you were talking about?Clive Chang: I've been reflecting on like how we actually do this and how you create the conditions to actually help it thrive. You know, at the risk of overly simplifying it. I actually don't think it's that complicated. I think that in general, most organizations, and leaders I think, would like to think of themselves as very open to the possibility of re-imagination.And that's about where it ends. And the difference I think here is we are actively searching for opportunities and we're actively trying to connect to those opportunities to our existing work. And potentially also newfound work, instead of just passively sitting back and waiting for it to happen.Another challenge I think is really making space and resource and safety for experimentation. Which I do think potentially nonprofit organizations have a bit of an aversion to, because of the way our operating model works. Right. Your in a nonprofit. You work very hard every year to just balance your budget, which means you have to raise enough revenue to cover all of your operating expenses.It's just so much harder to prove out the impact metrics of experiments with unknown outcomes, right than pure program deployment, where you can say, and this will lead to X many more diverse young students being able to learn math or whatever. It's for both organizations and for funders who fund nonprofits. I think it's also about making room for such experiments and embracing the spirit of experimentation. In a smart way. Right? As long as it, these don't have catastrophic implications to the organization, if they require 2, 3 versions of, of iteration. Brian Ardinger: Do you have any experience with having these conversations on the donor side and getting donors more open to this concept of experimentation and not knowing exactly the outcomes of the work that the foundation or the organization is doing? Do you have any examples or ways to bring a donor class, I guess, along this journey? Clive Chang: Absolutely. I have been so pleasantly surprised at how receptive and inspired donors are to the idea of creating R and D capacity in a field like the performing arts. You know, I think you do have to approach it with a level of rigor and research.We scan to the field when the pandemic took hold and really got a lot of data points of validation, right. That one thing that consistently is lacking in the performing arts field is any space for R and D. Like, it just doesn't exist. We're all busy planning the next season. And nobody has time or energy or money to think about creating space for experiments.And so, I think carefully crafting, you know, the case for, for what, what wide ranging and long term impact, not only for the organization, but for the field at large. And that is a role we take very seriously at Lincoln Center, as sort of the self-professed leader in this field, right. It's on us to help create some new models that ultimately can be scaled and can sort of help the sector at large to grow.And so, especially the big foundations out there right now, the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation are really, really supportive and enthusiastic about this kind of work in particular. Especially against the backdrop of the pandemic and what the havoc that it reeked on the performing arts sector. And so, thinking about it as investments in fortifying for the future, you know, funders have more imagination than you would think.Brian Ardinger: And that's great to hear because, you know, again, oftentimes you think about the creative class and, and what's going on from that perspective. And you like to think that the organizations around that could keep up as well. You mentioned technology as one of the things that people think of when they think about innovation. What are some of maybe the resources or tools or technologies that you've seen or used that have changed the game in this space? Clive Chang: Yeah, surprisingly, it's actually not as much technology. I think technology will always be a part of the conversation in some ways I think of it as maybe even less of a tool and more of a lubricant, right.The innovation comes in the conceptual ideas. And then, you know, much like celery is the delivery mechanism for peanut butter, like technology, you know, is that sort of the instrument of delivery. It's always at play, but I think too often we think about arts and innovation and technology always being the answer. Well, that's just the delivery mechanism, right. Like, well, what's the idea. One tool that has proven surprisingly helpful is really convening. And we did a lot of that in, in the couple of years of the pandemic. Not that the pandemic is over or anything, but we invested quite a bit in bringing together creators and perspectives and that otherwise may not have the opportunity to intersect, right.So, this is actually a perfect moment to sort of go to how The Green actually came to be. Right. So, if we rewind to the beginning of 2021. So, this is pre-vaccine. It's like cold and dark out. Everyone's like, oh my god, give us the warm weather again. We took a hard look and said, what does the world really need right now?And then of course you map that against one of our greatest assets, which is 16 acres of space. A lot of which is usable outdoor space. That was the moment where we really doubled down on our role as a civic pillar of New York City and opened up that space to the city and to the community. And that's what gave birth to Restart Stages, which was our huge outdoor performing arts center that we built 10 different venues, performance spaces, rehearsal spaces, studio spaces.We had this wonderful outdoor reading room. We cast a call out across the five boroughs of New York city, asking all community partners who didn't have space to come and perform. Curate a night, present a night, just come use this infrastructure. And one of the key things to solve in that equation was if you know Lincoln Center, you probably know the iconic center piece that is the main plaza. It's called Josie Robertson Plaza with a gorgeous fountain at the center. It is absolutely beautiful, but it's also generally a pretty transient space. You know, you come, you take a selfie with the fountain, then you go off inside to your performance, wherever you're going. So, the exercise here was how do we find a way to create a whole radical welcome, right?Something that's very different. Some mechanism to welcome people to this campus in any way. And that's when we convened and we thought, you know what, let's not try to solve this ourselves. So, we brought together a group of just thinkers, right? Urban planners, architects, community, activists, designers, et cetera, to help us reimagine what the space would be.And one really simple idea that a set designer came up with, ended up being the game changer, right? She literally, she just said, what if we laid grass out. We just laid grass out on Plaza. And from there, this beautiful artistic installation called The Green was born. And of course, this just not just any old designer. This is the genius that is Mimi Lien. She is a MacArthur Genius. She's a Tony award-winning set designer. Right? So, you know, no schmuck, right. So of course, she ended up creating the most beautiful and also sustainable artistic installation that became the centerpiece of our Plaza. It was biodegradable, soy based artificial turf. And she created this just beautiful grassy oasis. And over the summer, a quarter million people came, with their dogs. With their kids. And they experienced Lincoln Center in a brand-new way. Talk about impact metrics. We did exit polling on The Green. Nearly a quarter of the people who visited The Green were first time visitors at the Lincoln Center.And there's the proof is in the pudding, right? Like you talk about attracting new audiences. You create a radically new context for them to do it. And here you go, through that serendipity, you end up getting a beautiful idea, like The Green, that really changed the game. And so that's just one example of how we've used convening, across a variety of context, to help stoke new energy and ideas.If you sort of lift out from that a little bit. Mimi Lien is actually part of a collective. So, talk about R and D. One of the things that we stealth mode did during the pandemic was launch the pilot of a lab, an R and D lab. So, it was premised on this concept of bringing together interdisciplinary minds without real definition of what they were meant to create.It was come and collide with each other. And that's this lab is actually called the Collider. Collide and make some beautiful magic happen. And so, you have in this pilot program, you have a Mimi Lien the set designer colliding with an opera singer, with a science educator, with a disabilities advocate. And the list kind of goes on. And this is a program that we're continuing to refine, but we really actually believe in the power of that R and D infrastructure to ultimately help answer some of the trickiest questions that we're asking ourselves now. Brian Ardinger: Well, I love that concept because it allows for the ability to create these steppingstones to whatever that next thing is. And you don't know exactly. You can't say it, we want to go to this spot out there in the future. We generally want to go in that direction, but we don't know how to get there. So, putting the, like you said, the smart artists, people things to have those conversations and create new stepping stones that could be built off of and, and move forward. Quite interesting and quite fascinating. So, I'm excited to see where it goes. The last question I want to ask you is where do you go for new ideas and inspiration? Clive Chang: Oh, what a great question. I turn to others really. Right. I do think it's one of those misconception that innovation and new ideas sort of come from a little corner of an organization where the people who are supposed to be doing it, come up with brilliant new ideas.The magic actually lies in casting a wide enough radar, right. To be able to have a multiplicity of perspectives and ideas come in. I do think having a little bit of a sorting mechanism and a prioritization mechanism probably is important, especially in organizational context, like this one. But look, many of my greatest inspirations sort of come in the middle of doing something completely unrelated.Right. It's, you know, I'm a composer and pianist. So, I spend a lot of time sitting at my piano and sometimes it's deep in concentration reading a score for a first time. But it's sort of in the periphery that something will strike. Right. A lot of people say they find their best ideas when they run. Right. When they're out for a job, right. You know, I spend a lot of time active and so, having sort of a decompressing time to really not be in full on thinking mode and relaxing oneself of that pressure is often when those greatest inspirations come. For More InformationBrian Ardinger: That's quite helpful. I think a lot of people think that they can manifest innovation or manifest the next thing by thinking harder. And that's not always the. I really want to thank you for coming on the show. It's been fantastic and a fascinating discussion about some of the new things that you're seeing and that. If people want to find out more about yourself or about Lincoln Center, what's the best way to do that? Clive Chang: Yes, please go on Please follow us on all the socials. And of course, if you have the chance to be in New York City, please come visit us on campus. Especially during the summer. This summer we have over 300 performances events all happening as part of our Summer for the City Initiative. There is a giant 1300-pound disco ball currently suspended above the fountain. It's on a dance floor that we're calling The Oasis. So please, if you are within proximity, we would love to have you dancing and celebrating with us. Brian Ardinger: That's awesome. Well, Clive thank you again for being on Inside Outside Innovation. Look forward to continuing the conversation in the years to come.Clive Chang: Thank you so much, Brian.Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  Also don't miss IO2022 - Innovation Accelerated in Sept, 2022.
In honor of our upcoming IO2022 Innovation Accelerated Summit, which is happening September 19th and 20th in Lincoln Nebraska, thought it'd be nice to pull some of the best interviews and sessions from our IO2020 Virtual Event. So, over the next few weeks, check out some of our amazing speakers and grab a ticket for the upcoming event. We'd love to see you there. Tickets and more information can be found And now back to the show. Inside Outside Innovation is a podcast to help new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript with Karen Holst, Author of Start WithinBrian Ardinger: Karen Holst is the Author of Start Within. Karen and I met a couple months ago. Probably in mid pandemic. She had me on her show. She has a LinkedIn show that she hosts and you're always bringing on some amazing guests. I had a great opportunity to talk to her and talk about what's going on in innovation and entrepreneurship, and this intersection between corporate and startups and such. I'll turn it over to Karen to talk a little bit more. Karen Holst: Great. Thank you. I am coming in from New Zealand. I originally was in San Francisco and then moved to Montreal for a couple years and still had San Francisco based work. So, I never really changed my profile in LinkedIn. It was very confusing. I had these, this double life going on, where I was spending half my year in California and half in Montreal. And then had the opportunity to come to Auckland and, and it’s been an adventure, especially given the, the time that we're in right now.So, thank you for joining and I appreciate everyone sharing why they're joining here today. And I, I will tell you what I get excited about when it comes to innovation. It is unlocking people and doing this work and oftentimes that can be myself when I feel blocked up or maybe a little over my head in what I'm trying to do. Or it might be the team members and the people I'm consulting and bringing along and doing this work. So that's what I'm here to talk about today. Quick introduction on myself. My background, I had started a company after acquisition. I joined the California Department of Education and had this moment of what does it mean to innovate in a large organization, a state agency, no matter. And that being very different and that leading to writing the book. I joined IDEO and I also teach through LinkedIn learning. So that's the quick and dirty on me. I want to share a quick story on the importance of being bold and what it means to innovate and be the person that's igniting that in others. And this goes back to my ed tech startup. I was a co-founder in my early twenties and definitely feeling a little over my head.We were going after another round of funding. And I really needed to catalyze teams to think differently and start solving new challenges. And I had reached out to a woman that I, I didn't know, but she was someone I really respected in the corporate world and had grown businesses. She was gracious enough to give me 15 minutes of her time.And I sat down with her in a video call and said, explain where I was coming from and wanting to, you know, ignite passion and innovation in others. And what advice did she have for me in leading those teams? And she shared out of the gate, she said, don't bake goods and bring them into the office. You'll be seen as the mother caretaker, you know, the baker instead of the leader. And I was floored by that response. One, I'm not a baker. I would not put anyone into the, the task of trying to eat something that I make. I, I can do maybe a simple cake with a mix and cookies. But that is not something I would pride and force on my colleagues.But what I took out of that comment was, you know, assimilate. Fit in. And I looked around and I had, you know, an all-male board from our investment. And we were still looking to diversify our team and hadn't quite landed on how to do that. And so, I did slip a bit in my, what I think was my superpowers and being myself.And that is one of the takeaways is, you know, being yourself and acknowledging your strengths is a big part of this work and innovating. And also doing that with others when you're leading others. So, to be yourself with the caveat of, but better. And I think what all of this leads to is whether you're the optimistic yaysayer and that's me, or the kind of cross your arm, realistic, you know, pointing and poking holes at problems. All of those are great perspectives to have. It's trying to find that balance. And it's in yourself, it's in the teams that you lead. It's how your organization culture is built. All very important. And what it boils down to is being hard on the ideas and soft on people. So not focusing in on, you know, the person that's sharing the idea or talking about it, but really about the, the thing that's being said.And I really want to go deeper in that today. We have such a short amount of time. I'm going to go quickly. Please feel free to ask questions throughout. I can't see them. So, Brian, if you can let me know of any come in, I can slow down. I'll just kick off with, Start Within framework. And that's the book that I co-authored.And then we'll talk about the assumptions and mindsets about, around this work and go into two exercises that come from the book that you can use in your own work. Or you can take the teams. And then finish up with questions, of course. Where the book came from was again, when I had gone from my startup, I was hired within the California Department of Education to be entrepreneurial, but what that means within a larger state agency is very different. We obviously had lots of government funds and policies to work through and to be responsible around. But also needed to move quickly. It was all about bringing technology into the classroom. So that has to move quickly, but also responsibly.And it's also bringing in different ways of thinking. I was looking around for tools to do that. And there's so much amazing work out there on the culture of innovation and what leaders can do. But when you're a doer and you're tactically doing this work, I felt that there was an opportunity for Start Within in writing something about how to launch ideas within a big organization.So that's where it was born. It was focusing in on these doers. And I, I think so much about innovation is around this word that can feel very exclusive. But the people that are doing this work they're innovators. They're close to the problems that are plaguing the company, the customers, the employees. They see the problems and want to fix them.So, they're not just sitting back and saying, that's a problem for someone else. They're ready to take, you know, action. And they want to make things happen. In addition to that, the challenges, the tension is between getting them from that idea to actually seeing it through. That the organization that they work within there's often bias towards doing things the same. Even when we say we want to do, you know, innovate and do things differently, we just have this inclination to go back to, you know, status quo.There's also this amount of work outside of, you know, this idea. It's our day job, but we are hired to do our real responsibilities. And so that can feel overwhelming to try to juggle all of that. And then finally the tools and resources, the tactical support in making this happen. So again, this is where the framework for Start With and kind of was born from. The book is written around having models to identify the viable opportunities, the exercises to unlock creative problem solving. So, each chapter has an exercise that you can do solo, or you can take back to a team and do together. Thinking about the process and, you know, launching an idea with an organization and what that means. And then the strategies to come, overcome the, the obstacles and the roadblocks that come along the way.So, the three phases of Start Within starts with getting ready, then goes into getting set, and go. Briefly covering that, getting ready is all about identifying if your idea is ready to pursue. The assumptions and mindsets and the biases that we have around our idea that might get in the way. And then getting yourself and your idea organized so that when you're moving forward, you have the right things in place.The second section has the chapters around evaluating your organizational's readiness. Building your idea around the processes in place and finding opportunities for, for new ways of thinking. And then aligning to the organizational strategies and finding the people, you know, the stakeholder buy-in along the way.Finally, we finish up with go, and that is building your prototypes. Experimenting your way forward. How to turn a no into a yes, which we're going to cover one exercise today. And then forming and supporting, support as you go and launching your idea. Today, we're going to cover something from Chapter Two, Section One, Assumptions and Mindsets. And then something from Section Three, Turning a No into a Yes.I quickly want to talk about an example of the importance of getting past assumptions and biases. So, in 1997, crash test dummy was kind of the official way that in the United States, we were testing the airbags and effectiveness of, you know, safety belts. And these dummies were built in the seventies by an all-male engineering team.And what we are finding today is that crashes are, are more likely to impact women, children, people of different sizes than these dummies that were built. And they were really reflective of the all-male American engineering team that built them. You know, they didn't take into account all the different sizes and body parts that we have as humans.The data today from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, females wearing a seatbelt are 17% more likely to be killed when in a frontal car crash than a male. And then there's also a 2019 study from the University of Virginia that the odds of a female occupant being injured in a frontal car crash is 73% greater than the odds of a male occupant.So, all of this was, you know, the crash test dummies were really built to prevent injuries and make the safest cars on the market. But there were assumptions and biases built in them as, you know, humans and making them reflect what they look like versus what, you know, the variety we have in riding and driving cars.In the book, we talk about the layers of assumptions. I'm not going to go deep in them here, but it does start with ourselves, our background, and then goes out into the world that we are surrounded by. And all of this is part of when you recognize these layers and start to peel them back, you get closer to understanding what's blocking great ideas from becoming truly innovative and just being more of the same and incremental changes.The first exercise we're going to go through is debunk the truth. And again, this is something you can do yourself. So, if you have an idea, a, you know, problem you want to solve, you can do this solo. But I think it's far better when you can find a partner and think about it out loud or better when you're leading teams through this work as well.So, the Debunk the Truth exercise is really about you have an idea you're ready to go forward, or you have a problem that you think you've landed on, and before you move on, just pause and say, is what my assumptions and biases that are built into this idea this problem that I'm trying to solve. Actually, taking an account everything. The steps that you go through, there's five steps and it's deceptively simple. You start by listing out the self-evidence statements. Then you're taking out anything that is irrefutable fact. By the way, we're going to go through an example of this. Next to that you're putting the opposition statements. So, this must be true. Then you're giving the statement an opposition. From that point, you reflect on what activities you can do to test and then you're prioritizing them. So, this will all make sense as we walk through it. To think about this, I just challenge you to think about what problems, what ideas are you trying to solve for right now. And that can be in building your business. That can be in specific to a product or service. But if you think about a specific idea or problem, it could be across the spectrum in this phase that you're trying to solve for. Then as I go through these steps, you can think about the steps and how it relates to your work. Now we're going to go through the Debunk the Truth. So, the first step is listing out self-evidence statements about your idea. And this is really easy to do as a consultant or someone outside of the problem, because you can really poke holes. When you're in it, and you're stuck and saying it the same way over and over. But, you know, on a post-it note, you would capture self-evidence statements. About your idea. And each post-it note would be its own statement. For the purpose of this exercise. The idea that I'm going to focus in on was one that I had done with a, a large software company and it was around automation. You know that they're going to move forward on some innovation that would help automate and change their way of thinking. And way of working within the, the company. That would be the idea. The problem that they're trying to solve for. And thinking about the self-evidence statements, some of the ones that we captured were automation will save time. You know, that's an obvious one. Automation will save money. In other words, automation will improve employee morale. You know, there was a lot of work that was being redundant, and these employees could be better using their time elsewhere. And that cost reduction is a business priority.So, we captured lots and lots and lots. I mean, these are just for examples. We didn't just spend a couple minutes thinking about it. We really started to go deeper. And when people would talk generically, you know, trying to get more specific or if they got very specific, trying to get more generic, we're just pulling at this in different directions so we can get as much self-evident statements about that idea of improving automation.This step that is Remove Irrefutable Facts. Most of what you say will not be removed. I mean, we're trying to debunk the truth. So, if you believe everything to be true, it'd be, it's an urge to say, well, these are all irrefutable. But one that we did, you know, cross off in this example was cost reduction is a business priority.The CEO had clearly articulated that it was within all the KPIs and OKRs, and that is not something that we needed to debunk. It is a business priority. So, cost reduction is a business priority, we can take that off. And the rest of these, we kept up there as things to, you know, statements of opposition. That's the second step. The third step is for each of these truths, creating a statement and opposition. So, the thing that makes the opposite, the self-evidence statement here on the left automation will save time. The opposition statement is automation requires time. Self-evidence statement automation will save money. Opposition statement, it will cost money again. To create is one and to maintain is another. Or automation will improve employee morale. Automation may create fear for employees, job loss. So, we went through each one of these statements in opposition and created truth. And created the opposition statement. And when you present this with the team and explain that we're going to do the Statements of Opposition, as humans we immediately want to jump to this step. So we'll say, well, automation saves time, and then we'll immediately want to say, well, that could be, you know, actually the hope is that you could stay in the positive moment and capture as many of those, and then go to the statements of opposition. Rather than doing them concurrently.There's something about the brain that when you focus on the positive truths and then flip it, you get more creative and more insights. The next step is taking these statements of opposition and saying, okay, this is a new insight. Maybe there's more to learn here. And once you're identifying them, putting the activities that you could do to go after.So again, on the left, you have the opposition statements and on the right, you're seeing what were some of the activities that came from that, that we can find more learning to either prove the truth or disprove it. So, on the left automation requires time to create and maintain. Well, maybe we need to investigate frameworks that make automation more simple. Or automation will cost money to create and maintain. What's the breakeven analysis that we need to do? You know, one of the things that came out of that and the opportunities for learning was the team stepping back and saying, actually, you know, we know we want to save money, but we also know that it's going to be a big overhaul if we want to do it right. How much are we allowed to move forward in automation? And how much is this going to have to be over a period of time? It started to ask other questions. And some of the opportunities for learning was going back to leadership and saying, you know, here are the different scenarios. How do we want to break this down? And then the final one was automation may create fear for employees. The activity was, can we interview employees about how they view the future? About how automation might affect their day to day? And they actually had some, HR had done some surveys already. So, in talking about this out loud, HR was like, oh yeah, we have some of this data. I can share that with you. And so, they were able to then go fine tune and go deeper in doing these interviews.But again, you're going to potentially have multiple activities to one opposition statement. You're going to have a whole board of all of this. And you have to step back and say, all right, if we're going to debunk the truth and start uncovering assumptions and biases, we can't do all of these things. So, the final step is actually identifying what has priority. What has the highest risk if it's not disproven or proven. And the highest impact to the efforts that we're taking on.So, in this example, as we rated it with this company, three of them that came up the, you know, higher impact was conducting the break-even analysis and interviewing employees, and then lower impact, lower risk was investigating frameworks that make automation more simple. They had spent a few years doing some of that research.And so, they had some strong findings that they could rely on for that. But again, it was, this is how they would value, rank the activities. If you're in a different company, doing the exact same exercise on the exact same idea, how you prioritize it might look very different. So that is a very, very quick version of this.If you're using this, I say you could do this in 15 minutes and get some people thinking differently. Spending more time going deeper is where you have the aha moments. The having 15 to 30 minutes per step, at the very least you could extend this over days and have it up there and kind of, you have the opportunity for it to ruminate and think about, but really the big opportunity in an exercise like this is also assigning someone to be the yaysayer and someone to be the naysayer.And you might find people that are typically the optimistic person to say, hey, I want you to poke holes in this idea. Or the person that simply got has their arms crossed and can point out all the problems, asking them to be embracing the yaysayer and being the yes, and. And by putting that on people and the team you're making them use their brain differently. And that is all what, you know, innovation is about, is unlocking people and being bolder and expanding their spectrum of how they think about problems and how they identify ideas. So, the second exercise won't take as long to go through. It's also deceptively simple. I love this one for myself when I do it. I try not to do it by myself. I love to do it over wine with my husband, or I'll find a colleague and do it over coffee. Or when I'm doing it, mentoring companies or executives and people within teams, this is a great tool to use. So, it's called the One Maybe at a Time. And then we'll go into the steps, which is the next slide.Three very simple steps. You're finding out why there's a, about, you know, a barrier to the problem. You're exploring the opportunities and then you're finding the tactical solutions for how to move forward. So again, pausing here. What challenge are you currently, or might you be facing soon? An example that I hear often is cut back in resources. Whether that's funding, the number of people that can work toward a project, these are all great barriers to consider.But what challenge are you seeing right now? Or are you predicting and building for, into the future? If you think about that as we go through these steps, I'll give you an example again, but you can use your challenge, your idea, as you know, we go through the steps as well. When I do this in Mural, you have the three sections, you can do it on a whiteboard. You can do it on a wall. Each thing that you're capturing is going to be on its own post-it note. But the first, very first part of the, the problem that you're thinking about is the, the why behind there's a barrier, the roadblock. The, the no, because, and I'm going to give an example from a different software company. So, I was hired to think about, you know, creating the, the 10 vision and working with the leadership to make their innovation roadmap happen. As I was there and looking around recognized that they had a very big problem in diversity. Something that they recognize as well. There were no women in leadership. The diversity of the people that worked there, they had a lot of work to do.And so, towards the end of my project, raising that to the executive that had brought me on as an issue that I'd like to try to address. I got a big fact, no. Because we just hired someone to lead D and I efforts and they're, they're getting onboarded. They're going to take this on. Other, no, because that I would, you know, captured in doing this exercise was, well, no, you weren't hired to do this at all. This is completely out of the scope. No, we don't have the money to, to help, you know, pay for you to do this work. No, you're not an expert in this besides, you know, just being an experienced human in, in the corporate world. So, there were lots of No Becauses and some of them, I heard. Some of them, I believed to be there. Some of them, I predicted if I tried to take this work on. Capturing each of them on a post-it note, and then I paused and said, where's their room for me to do something like what's the, maybe if what's the reframed approach. And again, when you're thinking about innovation, people can get blocked up and wanting to go towards the big prize.But if you can find these incremental tears and thinking differently. And exercising the muscle of finding new ways forward, this will only lead later on down the line to the radical, big thinking. So, I, I love this example for very tactical specific needs. But it is a sprint towards the innovation marathon.It's just one of the things that's going to continue to tweak you and make you better at doing this work and leading this work. So, the maybe if in this example, recapturing the, you know, reframing the opportunities. Maybe if I talked to hiring managers, actively recruiting, we could evaluate effectiveness of currently posted job openings.This was something I could do without big lift. This is something that could make an immediate impact. And teaching and learning from it. Wasn't going to step on any toes. There were some other ideas that we came up with too. I, I sat down with a team of women that were very passionate about this. And thinking about what we could do that was not going to go against what we're there hired to be doing.Final step is the Then What. Like, what is the action plan? What are you going to actually do to move forward and start testing how to move beyond this moment. And that was creating the volunteer led task force that would review the current job postings. And when we did that, there were ideas of putting the job postings in front of women groups, programmers, engineers, product leaders, and getting their feedback.And the feedback immediately was so helpful. It. It allowed us to rethink how we wrote those job descriptions and what requirements we had. In all of this, again, doesn't necessarily feel like a truly innovative new approach. But just the exercise of doing something where you don't accept, no. You find a new way forward. That kind of re pulled back some of the scar tissue of like, oh, you know how things are around here?No, you know, can't make change without it being slow. People started to see that if they move forward, even if it's slowly, incrementally. That they can make a big impact. So, I really love this exercise for that reason because it's super simple. It's easy to do and can make an impact in the long run. Again, this is a, an overview of how you might want to use this either with yourself or by leading teams, but you can do it in very quickly. Spending more time and reflecting, I think, to get true new, you know, ways of approaching it's coming back to it and continuing to say, where are their new opportunities to experiment our way forward?So that is the very, very fast version. If you want to reach out. Just to highlight what we covered, two exercises, this is a way to reach me. I teach an innovation product innovation course on LinkedIn. That's the Bitly. You can find the book on the Link, or you can email me directly. And of course, I'm on LinkedIn. So, you can find me there as well.Brian Ardinger: I love that very much, Karen. You know, the book is great because it's, it's so tactical. You know, it forces you to, you know, here's the questions I need to ask myself or my team. And it gives you that kind of playbook in a variety of different circumstances. So, I encourage people to check that out for sure.Thank you for coming out and being part of this. I know you've got a whole day ahead of you. It's early morning there in, in New Zealand. So, I appreciate you coming out for IO2020 and being a part of it. I want to thank all the attendees for jumping in here. Thanks again.That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  Also don't miss IO2022 - Innovation Accelerated in Sept, 2022.
In honor of our upcoming IO2022 Innovation Accelerated Summit, which is happening September 19th and 20th in Lincoln Nebraska. Thought it'd be nice to pull some of the best interviews and sessions from our IO2020 virtual event. So, over the next few weeks, check out some of our amazing speakers and grab a ticket for the upcoming event. We'd love to see you there. Tickets and more information can be found at And now back to the show. Inside Outside Innovation is podcast to help new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript with Vaughn Tan, Author of The Uncertainty MindsetSusan Stibal: Today Vaughn Tan will share learnings from internationally renowned cutting-edge restaurant, R and D teams on how to prepare for uncertainty and respond to it with grace and innovation. Vaughn is a London based strategy consultant, author, and professor. Vaughn's book, The Uncertainty Mindset, is about how uncertainty can be used to drive innovation and adaptability. Vaughn is also an Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at University College London, School of Management. So Vaughn, I'll turn it over to you. Vaughn Tan: Thanks very much for having me and thanks also for everyone who's here. Thanks for joining me today. I just want to say a few things about myself, just as context.I was born and raised in Singapore, but these days, as Susan said, I'm a strategy professor at UCL school of management. I teach courses in how design thinking can update and. Conventional approaches to strategy and management. So I used to live in London, but at this very moment in Corona time, I'm physically located in a very rural part of France in a mountainous and volcanic region called the of van.And this is basically my apology in advance. If there are any internet connectivity problems that develop along the way. So, in any case, my focus as a consultant or researcher, and as an author is I try and understand how to design organizations that are more innovative. And more resilient to uncertainty.And these organizations include businesses, nonprofits, teams, communities. I'm particularly interested as I think the book's title and what I've just said may suggest in the role that uncertainty plays in making businesses better at doing innovation work. And I think that's maybe a little bit counterintuitive. And I'm going to unpack that a little bit more in the rest of this talk.I got here by quite a circuitous path. Quite literally a decade ago, late in 2010, I found myself in a basement kitchen of a restaurant in Washington, DC. And I was just dodging kitchen porters while watching a team of R and D chefs come up with a menu of new dishes for a restaurant. And the owner and the head chef of that restaurant group is the Spanish chef Jose Andres, who you may know because of his philanthropic disaster relief activities.There's an arrow pointing at Jose, right there. This is Jose's philanthropic side project, you know, which eventually turned into a huge one. If you're in the US, I think he's quite famous there. People know about him. It's called World Central Kitchen. And what they do is they create field kitchens for emergency food relief during natural and, and other disasters.The thing that many people don't know is that World Central Kitchen is able to spin up these field kitchens to produce hundreds of thousands of meals a day very quickly because, it's how they organized. Right. So they use a very unusual way of thinking about how to design their teams, to be able to go from a very small, permanent team, to a large operation in any particular disaster setting that they choose to go into because of how they're organized. And how they're organized is actually about what I call The Uncertainty Mindset. Because Jose's way of thinking about how his teams get organized for his for-profit organization. Think food group is actually the same way that he infused into what World Central Kitchen does, So, I'm going to come back to this in a little bit. I wanted to say also a little bit about how I came to study culinary innovation. It was all by accident. I did my PhD at Harvard Business School. And when I went in, I was interested in understanding how to organize innovation teams. And this focus for me was because of my experiences before starting the PhD. I'd just come from working at Google in California. And while I was there, I worked on some really unusual teams doing quite interesting innovation work.We were basically trying to develop parameters for new problems to solve. So, the first team I was on at Google back in 2005 at the very dawn of ad tech, as we know it today was trying to create an automated ad unit targeting engine. It didn't work then, although some of the machine learning foundations have been baked into the rest of Google AdWords and Ad Sense. But I was also on the launch team for street view, which is one of the rare hardware business units at Google while working at earth and maps. And I also worked on Google's Space flight program, which was actually in partnership with the XPRISE foundation, where we tried to put a Lunar Lander on the moon, an unmanned Lander. And I also worked on structured data. I worked with the Pure Research Group on a new structured data storage and management product, which while it was still externally available was called Fusion Tables. And it's now used exclusively internally to run the data layers for earth and map. I sort of burned out a little bit at Google and I left just before the 2008 global financial crisis to make furniture. I went to work at a wood studio in an art foundation in Colorado. And the strange thing is when I got there, I found again, something that felt a lot, like all the really interesting teams I worked with at Google.It was an interesting network of people who came together to try and develop new techniques for working with materials. I guess the thread that connected all those bits of my former life before academia was that I was exposed to this wide range of teams and businesses that were all pretty good at coming up with new problems to solve and solving them well.And so, when I decided to do a PhD about organization, my main question was something I think you all are interested in too, right? How do you organize companies and teams, so that they're good at coming up with new ideas so that they're innovative companies. So, it was pretty early in my doctoral research and I was casting around for a research project to like really work on, to write a dissertation about.And if you know anything about Singaporeans, you know, that we're really interested in food. So, this is one of my favorite dishes from Singapore. It's called Bak Chor Mee which basically means pork mince noodle. And it is a kind of innovation in itself. Like every stall that makes this, usually the people who make this dish only make one thing. And everyone develops their own kind of interesting take on what this dish should be.And the ones who are really good have made it very distinctive. But anyway, we're very interested in food. And so, Jose who I didn't know at the time was giving a lecture at Harvard during which he mentioned, how his innovation team, the Think Food Tank was not only how he made his restaurants innovative, but also how he made them really effective.And so, I went to his office hours and more or less as a joke, I asked him if he would let me come observe the Think Food Tank for my PhD research. And he said, yes. So. I'm just saying, be careful what you wish for. This is how I fell into studying this really strange world of high-end cutting edge culinary innovation teams.I eventually spent a lot of time at some of the best known of them. And what I realized along the way after having come away from tech was that innovation work is more or less the same work across industries. Even if the output and the input look very different. So having worked in both hardware and software tech and with startups after Google, I knew from the inside how tech innovation feels.And I quickly saw that while the type of new product may be different. The process of coming up with good new ideas and executing them well is really similar even in food. So, innovation work, I think has enough similarities across industries that we can learn from looking at how innovation work is done at the frontiers of food.And then apply those learnings more generally to other businesses in other kinds of industries. So, while I was at these R and D teams in high end cuisine, what I was doing was I was watching really good innovation organizations doing high level innovation work. Whether the innovation was creating a new experience of dining by adding cross modal sensory stimuli.So, what you see on the screen now is a dish at the Fat Duck called the Sound of the Sea. Where the seafood that you eat is made more intensely marine by hearing the sound of waves lapping at the shore that come out of the iPod that you're plugged into at the same time. Another kind of innovation that people work on is Material Innovation. In this case, they're discovering how to cook a new type of material, incredibly old clams, 200 years old at a restaurant that I will call Amaya. And these require developing a new cooking protocol that are unlike the cooking protocols used for other types of shellfish. Other kinds of innovation are developing new media products. And this is Nathan Myhrvold's most expensive cookbook in the world. He was only able to do this by developing a novel vertically integrated business model for content creation and publication. And he has then used that same business model to produce series of books after that, that would not be publishable, and they are very successful. But they wouldn't be publishable under conventional business models in publishing.Other innovations that I see in there that have analogies to other industries are new approaches to narrative storytelling. Instead of telling it in the form of a movie or play. Restaurants like the Fat Duck, when it reopened in 2016, use individual dishes in a meal, as the elements of story, they have to figure out how to do that.And some of them are like IO2020 right. Developing an influential conference and a global multidisciplinary network, like a restaurant called Noma in Copenhagen did with a Mad Symposium, at this point almost 10 years ago. Or as we began creating a novel operational model for field kitchens that are meant to serve disaster relief situations like Jose did at World Central Kitchen.Anyway, I ended up spending almost a decade and embedded in these world-renowned R and D teams, in an industry where basically the state of the art is changing frequently and unpredictably. It sounds a lot like high tech. It sounds a lot like media today as well. And these are the connections that I'm hoping that you all will see that I try and draw from outside of this domain of high cuisine into other industries that I also feel like I know and have worked in before. So, some of the places that I was at the Fat Duck in the UK, one of the first pioneering culinary innovation restaurants in the world. A restaurant that I call Amaya that I claim is in South America. I'm under NDA, so I can't say where they are. A restaurant that at this point is quite famous called Noma, which is in Copenhagen and Denmark, and the mad organization, which is the conference and thought leadership organization that they set up in Copenhagen. The Cooking Lab, which is Nathan Myhrvold, he's the ex-CTO of Microsoft. His organization, which is in Bellevue, Washington, which produce really interesting media around food and cooking and technology.And of course, Jose Andres's Think Food Group of restaurants. Ultimately, I just want to leave you with a few key takeaways from the research that I did. And the first and most foundational piece of insight is that all of these teams were innovative and resilient and adaptable. Not because they managed away the uncertainty that they faced or pretended that the uncertainty didn't exist, but because they had a different way of thinking about uncertainty. What I call the uncertainty mindset is simply explicitly treating the future as something unknown and unknowable, not as something risky.I know this sounds like a trivial distinction, but I think it really isn't. Risk is not the same as uncertainty, even though most people confuse the two. Risk is when you don't know exactly what will happen, but you know, all the possible outcomes and how likely each possible outcome is. So if that's the case, you can do risk management through cost benefit analysis.Real uncertainty on the other hand is when you don't know what exactly will happen and you don't know all the possible outcomes. Or you don't know how likely these known or unknown outcomes are. So just to illustrate the difference, flipping a fair coin, is truly a situation of risk. There's a 50 50 chance that you get heads or tails. And you can bet on that outcome. Real businesses like the ones that we all are in, rarely face this kind of risk in the real world. What they face instead is true uncertainty. And now it's actually really undeniable. The current business environment is filled with true uncertainty where we have no idea what many of the possible outcomes in the next 6 months might be, or even 12 months. And we don't know how likely each one of those outcomes are. So, the problem that I also, this was another insight from looking at these R and D teams, is that even though risk is not the same as true uncertainty, we've all been trained to think of not knowing only in terms of risk. And so, because of that, we think of every unknown situation as being risky.And this is in its own way, it's kind of comforting, right? Because risk can be managed away. We can do cost benefit analysis. We can risk manage the situation. This kind of thinking is an unmistakable hallmark of the risk mindset. And it can be fatal, right? So just look for instance, at the UK and the US government responses to coronavirus this year, or thinking back to 2008 and before the Fed's reaction to complex derivatives in 2008, just to see what happens when we use risk management and a risk mindset to think about and react to situations that are truly uncertain.The problem for businesses is that the risk mindset all starts with an organization's ability to innovate. Because innovation is by definition about not knowing exactly where you end up. When businesses over invest in managing the risk of known outcomes, they under invest in building flexible, adaptable organizations that let them change to be whatever they need. As the situation changes. The risk mindset also leads businesses to over optimize and try and be too efficient and profitable. And it leaves insufficient slack in the system to permit real innovative thinking. And maybe the biggest problem is that they create organizations in which all the incentives are to do what's well understood. And not to learn by failing, which is inevitable, if you're trying to do something, which is really, really innovative. I think the uncertainty mindset, as I said before, is simply acknowledging that you don't know enough about the future to optimize for it. And simply making this acknowledgement explicitly as a leader and as an organization changes how a business acts and how people and teams in those businesses act.The nice thing is that it makes these people and these teams inside businesses, more flexible and more able to learn and change when they need to. I'll talk about three things after this, just to finish off, but injecting uncertainty into organizations I've found is the best way to make them resilient to uncertainty and innovative at the same time.So, this is really the biggest, most counterintuitive thing. When I talk about this book to other people. They don't just try and say that, yes, we see that the world is uncertain. The organizations that I looked at that have been most successful, and this is not only in food, but outside of it, the ones that are most successful at dealing with uncertainty and being innovative. They actively create uncertainty inside of themselves. And it's this intentional creation of uncertainty inside the organization that makes them continually able to come up with new ideas that are good ideas. So how do they do it? They do it in three ways. They do it by making the roles that their employees have open ended. They do it by having open ended goals. And then they also do it by stimulating a sense of really carefully designed and calibrated desperation among their teams. And I'll say more about each one of these things in turn very quickly. So open ended roles are simply roles where your definition of what you do as an employee is not fully defined at the beginning. What this means is a large part of your role is quite clear and it's quite stable, but a part of your role is not. So, if you think about Google's 20% time or 3Ms 15% time, this is something like an open-ended role. It makes the role malleable and it also encourages people to, in a sense, negotiate what role they're going to play by testing things out with their colleagues.Right? So, to try something that they think is worth doing that they're good at doing to show the results of that test to their colleagues, and if that test is shown to be useful, then that becomes part of role. The result of this is more innovative, higher performing teams where all that testing also helps team members learn what other team members are good at doing and what they like to do.And what this leads to in the end, not only are the roles adaptable because they're constantly changing along the way, this also creates teams that are incredibly high functioning, where everyone knows what everyone else is good at doing. And also, is interested in doing. These teams, barely need management of the conventional sort.So open-ended goals, I think are very similar to open-ended roles except in the context of goals. So we often think about goals as being very concrete. Want to achieve this micro growth in profits. By the end of next year. Open-ended goals for innovation are about saying how you think about abstractly, what success looks like.So that there's lots of possible things inside success that could be successful. So open endedness just means defining goals, more abstractly and less concretely. But being very clear about what tradeoffs you are willing to make to achieve those goals so that you give the people in your organization, more freedom to come up with unanticipated, but valuable problem definitions.And finally, uncertainty can also be injected into how you motivate teams and individuals in your organization. The conventional approach to motivation is to give people something that they want, like more money or promotion to encourage them to work better. This only really works when the things that they need to do to be successful are very clearly defined and very stable, but this doesn't work for innovation, right?Because these incentives are usually not enough to overcome the inherent fear of failure that everyone has. And failure is necessary to do any kind of real innovation work. So, what these teams did was that they publicly and irrevocably committed to projects that were just beyond what they knew they could deliver.And what this does is it creates desperation, right. It creates the sense that we can't simply keep doing what we're doing, that we're good at doing, in order to be able to deliver on this product. And what that does in turn is it drives the teams to abandon these comfortable, old ways of doing things.And try new ways of doing things and generally learn new stuff. So, it creates a situation like in the gym with resistance training, where the teams and the people inside the organization gradually become better at taking on things that they don't already know to do very well. There's much more to be said about all of those things, but it's mostly in the book, which I encourage you to read. There wasn't space in the book for everything, so I'm continuing to think through some of the implications of not knowing every week in an email newsletter, which I also encourage you to sign up for. It is completely free. I want to open up now to a very casual conversation. So, Austin is curious about injecting uncertainty. Austin, do you want to say a little bit more about what you're curious about in terms of injecting uncertainty? Austin's question is structurally what programs might help inject uncertainty in a careful calibrated way into the organization? I, I think it's a really good question. So, I often make the distinction between having a program that is about injecting uncertainty and simply changing how people work. So that the way they work naturally encompasses more things that are not fully defined upfront. So, we can talk about injecting uncertainty into roles. For instance, by saying, let's say you're trying to hire someone new. At the moment, the default position for most hiring is to say, I'm going to define a, a job description. And then I'm going to put that out to a recruiter to find people who might be good fits.And one way that you can simply inject uncertainty into that is to say, here is the job description. That is 80% of the job that we're hiring for the other 20%, for instance, it can be any percentage, but I think 20% is a good starting point. The other 20%, we don't know. The 80% that we do know is clearly defined. You got to do these things and we're going to hire to make sure that you can do those things. The other 20%, on the other hand, we want you to come in, and spend one day a week or two days, every two weeks or whatever you choose to do telling us and showing us what that other 20% should be and why it's important to us. Simply that's one program that will inject uncertainty into who you hire and what they do for you.Right. And then along the way, if you make this explicit, it will force people to say, okay, what is this person doing in his or her 20% time, that is so valuable. Is it actually valuable? Can we help this person do something which is more valuable that we don't expect to need yet, but we actually realize that we do need now? I think programs like that inject uncertainty to how organizations work.So, Ron Thomson asks great insight on what's needed for organizations to innovate for impact. Over the years, what are the most valuable lessons you've learned? It's a great question again, Ron. I think the biggest thing is uncertainty in an organization has this effect on organizations of making them innovative and adaptable. All the way through the organization, but for it to actually begin the most senior leaders need to be able to show one thing and they need to be talking about it constantly. And that one thing is being able to constantly talk about how they have themselves failed in the past, not hypotheticals. They have to actually say how they did fail in the past and how that failure led to their success today.So, I want to reemphasize this point. It's that we talk a lot about success and why it's good. We don't need to talk more about that. We all know why success is a good thing. What we don't talk about is how, when you design failure correctly, you can learn from it. So not all failure is good. You can fail in ways that don't teach you anything, but you can also design work. You can design projects so that if you fail, you learn as much as if you succeed. The Uncertainty Mindset is partly about being comfortable with failure because you know that failure teaches you stuff. And this, I think almost has to come from the top down, right? So, the most senior people will mean if the most senior people say that failure is okay, they will make the people underneath them say that failure is okay, and that will percolate all the way down.And then at that point, it'll become possible for someone who is very junior to say, I can now take a risk at doing something, which I don't know how to do yet, because the failure might teach me something if I design it correctly. So I, I think the biggest lesson is if you're a leader, your most important job, other than setting the direction of, of the organization is to constantly not shut up about how you failed in the past and how it helped you to learn.Okay. So, Jason also asks having too much stock on hand can hide a lot of problems. Absolutely. So, I think one key thing to say about what I've been saying, in this presentation is that I don't think that uncertainty injection is good for all kinds of businesses. It's only good for businesses that really want to innovate.So, if you are in manufacturing and the manufacturing is well understood, you've got a proper well developed stable protocol for manufacturing a thing, you should be in a situation where you're trying to maximize efficiency and reduce waste. This is not the same thing as trying to be an innovation organization that is trying to find new ways of doing things.I absolutely agree that if you're trying to exploit, if you're trying to be efficient, having a lot of organizational slack is not necessarily a good thing, because as you point out having too much stock on hand, having too much slack can hide a lot of problems, especially problems associated with people who are simply coasting, instead of doing what they know they need to do. How they know they need to do it.But if you are trying to build an innovation organization that is trying to do new things that have never been done before, you must have slack. Because if you don't have slack, you cannot fail. And if you don't fail, you can't learn how to do something new. Yes. And Austin makes a great point, which is failure in certain environments, which are efficiency operation environments should be mitigated as quickly as possible with a known solution. A hundred percent agree. And failure in uncertain environments should be designed to encourage learning and should be encouraged as well. Right? So, it's two things you should encourage failure that is designed so that when you fail, you learn something interesting and useful.You should encourage that kind of failure, not the kind of stupid failure where you fail for no good reason. And you don't know why you failed. Let's see. So, Ron has another question, I guess, with the uncertainty mindset, like the fear of failure being foreign in most enterprises, any insight on the lessons learned from Trump maintaining the status quo?Well, so I think one thing that I, I want to say wrapping up, which is actually relevant to Ron's question. I'm not sure that especially now any business anywhere can think of itself as being in a certain business environment. So, I wouldn't say to embrace the uncertainty mindset 100%, but at least if you are a business that is exposed to any kind of external environment, like if you are operating any kind of business where you have customers or suppliers, you need to be thinking about how to build your employees up. Your team organization up so that they're able to adapt if things suddenly change.The organizations and the businesses that were able to pivot really fast, when the last wave of the pandemic hit us, were the ones who had people who were able to change what jobs they did at a moment's notice because they were used to developing new jobs.Right. So, if they had open ended roles along the way, they were used to changing what they. And I think what every business needs to do is to encourage people who are employed by them, their suppliers, everyone who they work with needs to expect that things are going to be changing unpredictably in the future and to be ready for that to happen.And a large part of that is simply not expecting that things will stay the same or that you can predict what they are and that at the very base level, Is the Uncertainty Mindset, in a nutshell. Just the moment you start to think and plan as if the future is not known and not knowable, you instantly have a leg up on everyone else who thinks, oh, I'm going to optimize. Because I can expect what the future will be. And I can predict it with some certainty, if you just don't even think that everything you do will be slightly different and then very different as a result. And you'll be much more adaptable. Back to you, Susan. Susan Stibal: Vaughn thank you very much. Those were great things to think about. Really, we appreciate you being here from France. And we want to thank our sponsors of the Inside Outside Innovation Summit. So Vaughn, hope to see you soon. Vaughn Tan: Thanks for having me. Hope to see you all sometime.Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  Also don't miss IO2022 - Innovation Accelerated in Sept, 2022.
In honor of our upcoming IO2022 Innovation Accelerated Summit, which is happening September 19th and 20th in Lincoln Nebraska. Thought it'd be nice to pull some of the best interviews and sessions from our IO2020 virtual event. So, over the next few weeks, check out some of our amazing speakers and grab a ticket for the upcoming event. We'd love to see you there. Tickets and more information can be found at And now back to the show. Brian Ardinger: Inside Outside Innovation is a podcast to help new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage in experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript with Doc Williams, Brand Developer, Founder of Brand Factory and Maker of Build With MeSusan Stibal: Doc Williams is here to show you how to best utilize this new field of building without code and what concepts, tools, and plans you need to begin creating. Doc Williams is a brand developer, founder of Brand Factory and maker of Build With Me. Doc is also an entrepreneur who has worked with everyone from ESPN to App Sumo. So, Doc, I will let you take it away. Thanks for coming. And I can't wait to hear your presentation. Doc Williams: Well, thank you so much for having me. I really do appreciate it. I'm so excited. Saw the other presenters earlier today. I'm just so excited to be here. So, I'm gonna get right into it because I'm excited about No Code. I'm gonna be talking about how I can help you. And I have a small presentation, but again, this is about how I can help you. And if you're new to No Code, if you do not know what it is or you've heard the term and you're not so familiar, we gotcha. Don't worry. We got you in this Presentation and we're going to go through this a little bit. We're going to go through this. Okay.This discussion today, we're going to be talking about an Introduction to No Code. Okay. And again, I don't want to talk about myself that much. So, I'm going to go through this very quickly. Just wanted to tell you a little bit about myself. So again, I run a six-figure consulting business and strategy. I also help startups integrate tech, so everything from telling their story to actually building that tech stack. So, I've worked from copywriter front end dev. I've been a CTO a few times. A CIO, blah, blah, blah, blah. All that kind of stuff. So more importantly, I just get to work with some great people. That's what I like doing. So, we're going to have to stop looking at my picture as I'm looking off into the sunset for a moment. We're going to be talking about the world is changing really quick. And Brian was talking about this in the intro to the Summit, and I cannot agree with that more. Right now, we see a huge shift of technology and what's going on in the world. 83.5% of small businesses experienced a negative effect with the COVID pandemic. 72% of the world startups saw that their revenue fell and 56% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible at least partially with remote work. So, there's a lot of things happening all at the same time. And people are scrambling to come up with new ideas or to test new ideas, lean out their business, and you can be doing all of that by using the power of No Code. And so, we're going to be talking about why you need to be ready for this new age and using No Code as an innovation. So, the first question is before we even get started and how you can be using no code, it's important to understand what No Code is. So, what is it? Let's go with a definition real quick. No Code is a development platform that allows programmers and non-programmers to create apps and programs, using visual tools instead of traditional computer programming languages.Oh, that was a lot. So, the TLDR, what is it? Building visually. So, a lot of times some people are already using no code tools and they did not know that but basically allows you to do things that usually took what programmers were doing, writing code. So here are a few no code services. Now there's a whole other discussion. If you want to know the difference between no code and low code. But here are a few no code services that I use almost daily. So, there's Bubble, Air Table, IFTTT, Elementor, Zapier, Hopin, Okay. Those are a lot of different tools. Now what we're going to be talking about, this is the Intro to No Code. So instead of delving into very specific platforms, we can talk about it in the Q and A, and that's not a problem, but instead of just talking about all of these different services, what's really important is looking at areas to disrupt the industry and how it can help you figure out what you want to get done in your business. So, in the chat, please let me know.Yep. Has anyone tried Amazon's HoneyCode? Yes. I did a whole breakdown video on that about three weeks ago as well. Yes. We're going to be talking about a lot of these things. If you're thinking about like seeing the handle, not the tool. Tons of times, if you only think about the tool you're going to see, like, only if it's a hammer, you're just going to see about how you can hit nails. Right? If you've got a Catana, it's the same thing. You're just going to be slicing things up. So, instead of thinking about just the platform, think about the handle. What are you trying to accomplish? And then we can go into the right kind of platform. Now also too, just to let you know, I have a YouTube show called Build With Me.And so, I build three different businesses with one No Code tool every single Wednesday night. And also, I do tech reviews for App Sumo. So right now, I'm up to 453 tech reviews for them. And then, for the show we've done like a hundred episodes. So, we just passed 300 businesses with No Code tools. So, let's get right into it.If you are trying to use no code and you're trying to speed up your design process, no code can be perfect for this. Designing complex websites and applications, it takes a lot of time, but with no code, you can do this really quickly. So again, if you are having a problem and I want it in the chat, if you're dealing with a design problem, you need to mockup things very quickly. We got you. What about another one. Automation. Perhaps you're doing a lot of manual tasks. For example, one of our, one of the clients that we were working with, they were working with a big manufacturer, and they were manually still filling in invoices and filling in all of these different things. Well, we had a No Code tool that automatically you set up the boundaries of reading different boxes. So, when people scan their order and instead of retyping it, taking all that manual work, it just looks at the numbers, looks at the letters, and then it just automatically does everything for you. So, and it already puts it into the system. So again, what tasks are you looking to solve as well?The other one too, is architecture. So, system frameworks. If you're thinking about email marketing, SOPs, lead generation, complex, the complex tasks, we can talk about architecting a way for you to be able to solve those problems as well. That is the three main ways. And really the reason we went through the three ways, and we looked at it this way is actually even older.We talk about, a lot on the program, Leonard DaVinci, and how he broke his style up was he was an artist. He was an engineer. An architect. And that actually forms a really clear line, especially with a lot of no code tools, which bucket you want to be into. We're going to talk about those three. And before we go into it and talk from the chat. Why start now? Because you need to be saving time. You need to make sure that you are getting to your goals. You're being able to adapt and pivot in this time. So, this is the time to start. Now, how can I help? I do courses, consulting, workshops, whatever. I work with all different types of companies. I'm going to be helping you today in answering your questions, but keep in mind if you need help from me later on, go see me on YouTube. Go email me. I'll bring this up. And all of that kind of stuff from building a marketplace in less than 60 minutes, was it two months ago, we built Netflix in an hour and a half. Creating Roku channels for your companies. We just do a lot of different random stuff. Oh, building SOPs for crime scene cleaners, you know, we go on and on.So, let's get right into it. What people are trying to build. Now, let's go through a question. How do I say that first name? Petro Petro. Maybe, maybe if I butchered it, I'm sorry. I want to build a product development and project management system, basically from cradle to grave life cycle management system and seeking a platform to get started.Okay. So that's a really good question. And what I would do with that one before even answering which one to go with, I would say, are you using it for your own team first or are you trying to build it as a Micro SAAS and get other people involved? So, if you're trying to build it internally, I would first talk about, okay, do you already have your SOPs broken out and how you want your workflow before deciding on a platform?And do you want to be building on top of a platform or actually just build it from the bottom up? So, I know that's a lot of different things, but I would go with that detailed first. But I can go through a couple different platforms, how to do that. Once I get the answer or more details, I will swing back around.Lindsay brings out, build a dashboard to show business metrics. So, I've got that one. All right. So let me break out of this. Actually, I was building a dashboard yesterday. So, if you're trying to build a dashboard, let's go through a couple different options. We were doing this with a client with the NBA about three weeks ago. And people were saying, well, where is this fancy system he's going through? It's just all my Twitter thread. So, we could use DataBox or we could use GeckoBoard. Okay. So, let's bring this up. I'm going to bring up Gecko Board. So, who asked this, Lindsay asked talking about, which one, if you're trying to display your data? Even if you're using like Google sheets or whatever, you can be using that. So, DataBox or Gecko. Yeah, depending on exactly the features that you want or how often you want it to be updated or what you want it to be integrated with. But I would go with yeah. Data Box. Gecko Board. Don, I think you're asking rapid prototyping. Own team then Microsoft. Okay. Petro again, let's see my own team and Micro SAAS. Okay. So, you're trying to build out your own team and Micro SAAS. Okay. So, if I was going to do that, it depends if you want to first white label or just pull the API or something like that. But Jumple would probably do that because they're already built to be similar to like Asana or, or a Slack. It's kind of like a mixture of the two it's really focused on agencies, but they do offer you to basically just white label it. And to do custom build outs too.So, they are a marketing team and they're developers. So, they're all in house and a couple months ago, they were talking about having solutions if certain companies want to have their own platform to build it out. That's another option and you can make a Micro SAAS platform pretty easy off them. Their team is in Australia. They're really cool. So, that might be something Jen's asking Twilio. Twilio integration with no code. Yeah. So, tell me more. Yeah, I definitely agree. We've had Twilio integrations. We've had someone build out their, it's for fancy football, but they're adding Twilio with it. So, they're adding actually another filter basically, so they can run their draft on Zoom and then they're using Twilio with it.And then they're transitioning from that to build their own platform for video conferencing. But they're modeling it using Zoom. They're using all the filters and then they're building it totally out with Trello and they're doing it with 70% no code. So let me know if you are what you're looking for with that one.Carlos is talking about what are the risks and downside of using No Code? It kind of depends Carlos of what you're trying to accomplish. A lot of people, sometimes there's a feeling like, oh no codes can do everything. Well, you know, it has limitations, but it depends on what you're trying to do, Carlos. If you're trying to validate, you're going to scale to a certain point, but as long as you know, your limits and where you're trying to go, it can go pretty far.If you're either bootstrapping or if you're VC funded, but you're making it really lean before you get to the next version. I can say that there are very successful apps and very successful businesses, all built on Bubble and No Code. Most people wouldn't know unless you asked them. So, it kind of depends on the capabilities of what you're trying to do.Now on the flip side, someone asked me the other day when we did this breakdown, they're like, well, you showed me how to create Netflix, but I can't add, like, I think they wanted to add like 3000 films. And they didn't want to pay for like a server. I mean we got to be reasonable here, guys. So it depends on what you're trying to create or what you're trying to do. And hopefully that answers. Rebecca says best one that includes document generation. Hmm. I would need to know a little bit more about document generation. What do you mean by that? Good question. Legal documents. Oh, okay. So you're saying creating templates for legal documents or you're doing oh, in Word. So let me ask you this, Rebecca. So, you are a business and you're trying to either sell legal documents, like templates or to interact. I need a little bit more details. I'll, I'll find it in a second. Jason, from Fire Spring is bringing up something. Let me know what's going on with the details. Streamlining the process of creating documents. There are a couple different ones, depending, again, there's a lot. I like Taskly. I see what the logo is, but I don't know how to spell it. There are a couple different ones. I mean, if I'm looking at that, I might even go with Nucey possibly. Streamlining the process of creating a document. That's tough for me because I would want to know, do you have to have input from other people on your team? Is it just for your own workflow? If I was doing something where I'm trying to create documents, I would probably Nucey and again, this is just if I'm trying to go with clients and everything like that, and I want everything where I can have a plug and play, I build out the templates and then everyone on my team can just access and build it out afterwards.Better proposals or Nucey. I would think. Oh, other teammates and or for clients. So, if I'm doing really advanced ones, I'd probably do Better Proposal. I use both. I have more contracts with Nucey. Because it's more based on a one pager. But every single time I use Better Proposal, I always get compliment. How well it looks. I mean, this Better Proposal probably is my bet. Not only that, because you can build your own branding kit too, so everything's on point. And your team can work with it. And then your clients go right with it. Good question. Three must have no code tools. Okay, Susan. I'm glad you asked that question. It really depends. Okay. So, so if I'm trying to build out automation. I'm probably going to go with Zapier. Yeah. We could go with Integromat. And all the other ones, but like, if I'm just going to go with like general automations to save you time, I'm probably going to build out Zapier, probably going to go with that one.And that's if I'm business related. If I'm trying to figure out, just automating my life. And just things that I have to do around the house. I probably go with IFTTT because then it's allowing you to basically create different automations, like a recipe. And it's all based, it's really just really easy stuff. But I feel that Zapier is more leaning towards business.If I'm doing something where I'm just trying to automate my life as much as possible. I'm going to go with IFTTT. If, so yeah, that's where I would start. If for me personally, for my business, the one thing that I use is probably They don't get talked about enough. Basically, this is when I was working with Vayner Media in the Sasha Group.So, this was broken down where we did a challenge where Gary has about 25 people working for him in building content. So, we built the Gary V Content Model 2.0 using Repurpose. So, with one person and using, we replace 25 people. And the way that you do this is you're plugging this in. You're live streaming. And then you're dropping timestamps and it does it automatically.Or you can set it up and you can distribute your content and it makes all of those pieces for you. So, say for instance, you make a 30-piece, 30-minute live stream. Well, I can make 37 pieces of content with automation right off the bat. So, this pretty much changed my entire workflow. And what used to take like four full-time VAs. Now it takes 20 minutes a week to do all this. And we have a podcast. We have a YouTube channel. We have all of these different outlets, and I don't think repurpose. And he's awesome. That's his company. And they just kill it. They just kill it. So again, I probably, I would spend tons of time if I did not have this.So, Repurpose is definitely up there on it. Let's see. What else do I use a lot? Again, it depends on what you're trying to do with your business, and if you're using it more for content creation or just saving time or money in your business. The other one that I really like, and although you could do it similar to like Typeform or anything like that, you can go with, my favorite is probably Paper Form.And that's because not only does Paper Form have tons of integrations, the automations are just like second to none. So, we actually built a marketplace using Paper Form and a Google Sheet and yeah. Oh it, now, if I was going to build a full, like a full marketplace, which we're getting contracted a lot to do now, I probably use ShareTribe though.I probably use ShareTribe. I pretty much use ShareTribe, maybe, seven times a week, at least. But we've spun up, built out niche marketplaces so quickly. We've built a Ikea marketplace. We've built a marketplace for App Sumo. So yeah, a lot of good stuff. That was a good question, Susan. So, I hate to be that vague, but it kind of depends on what your business strategy is or what you want.If you're trying to go for automation mockups. Oh, now if I'm trying to go up for mockups. And I'm trying to look at the most robust, No Code tool. If I'm using a mock-up, I'd probably use The reason behind it is it integrates with so many other systems. I can be mapping things out, giving it to my devs.It's not a big deal at all. If I don't have that kind of team and I need to do the animation. And I need it to code in the background, Supernova. People don't talk about enough Supernova. You can build out all your animations. It writes the code. You can send it out. You'll be good to go. Are large corporations using no code or just startups? No large corporations are using it. Depends on how they're using it. Again, I don't want to generalize. I'm sure some don't if you're using Windows, we're going to have to go a different way. Y'all if you use a Mac, keep on going. Yeah. So, Susan was talking about bigger companies. I've seen bigger companies use no code sometimes to use it with smaller teams to build out ideas or build out MVPs very quickly. And then again, bring it back in house and then they'll code. Either way, but I mean, if you look at some of the bigger companies. Again, it depends on what people call no code, because some people call Shopify no code. Some of the biggest e-commerce stores online are Shopify, which would be no code. So, yeah. Good question. Really good session. Again, no code this is really just the introduction to it. There's tons and tons and tons of apps and platforms being made with no code. What I would encourage you to do is write down the functionality in what you're trying to get out of no code, and then decide to use those platforms. Because there's just, it's endless. It really is endless. Susan Stibal: Do you have any final remarks? Doc Williams: Start and just begin and start experimenting and start working on it. And if you don't know how to do it, no code community on Twitter is so vast and there's so many people trying to help. So, reach out to me, reach out to anyone that's an expert in that type of no code platform. They'll be happy to help you. And yeah, just keep building. It will be good times. For More InformationSusan Stibal: Doc, that was terrific. And if you want to see more of Doc, check out his build with me on YouTube. It's very similar to this session. So powerful, so much information that can really change the course of a startup or even intrepreneurs. So, thanks so much, Doc. Doc Williams: Definitely. Thank you so much. Bye bye.Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. 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In honor of our upcoming IO2022 Innovation Accelerated Summit, which is happening September 19th and 20th in Lincoln Nebraska. Thought it'd be nice to pull some of the best interviews and sessions from our IO2020 virtual event. So, over the next few weeks, check out some of our amazing speakers and grab a ticket for the upcoming event. We'd love to see you there. Tickets and more information can be found at And now back to the show. Inside Outside Innovation is a podcast to help new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage, and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript with Steph Smith, / The Hustle / HubspotBrian Ardinger: We are excited to have Steph Smith here with the Hustle and Trends to talk about one of these amazing new trends that we're seeing. It's the whole move to remote work. Steph is the Head of Trends and Product Manager at the Hustle, which is a great newsletter, if you don't subscribe to that. Trends is their exclusive group. And I I've got to say it's, it's one of the best groups out there to talk about new things that are happening out there, new business leaders, things along those lines. She's got a new book out called Standing Out in 2020. Doing Content Right. And I know she's been doing a series of sessions on that. It's an eBook. You can check it out at She's been blogging for a ton of time. And she's also been in this world of remote work. Been a digital nomad for a while. So, with that, I'm going to just turn over to Steph. And we'll talk the trend of remote working. Steph Smith: Sweet. Thanks so much. That was a great intro, Brian. Today, I'm going to be talking about something that I care a lot about. I saw some other people in the chat mention that they've been working remotely for a long time. Two, I'm going to be talking about thinking past the office and designing what I call resilient, remote teams. And I do this in a little bit of a different way than I think most presentations on this topic are, which give you a lot of super, super concrete, like you must do this. I like to think of this more so as how do we think about what has changed? What does that mean? And what can we learn from this? So, I use three books and I'll get into that in a second to actually convey some of these points. But just quickly, I don't want to talk about myself very much. Brian gave me a great intro. All you need to know is that I have been working remotely for the last four or five years now. And I did that originally at a company called Top Tell, which was one of those kind of remote first companies built from the ground up to be remote. Now I work at a company called The Hustle and I've done some remote training for different companies. And in general, have been nomadding around for the last couple years as I work remotely. So that's enough about me. Let's talk about where we are in this world. As I mentioned before COVID there was a series of companies I'd say only a couple dozen of scale that were built up to be remote. From the ground up, they said, you know what, we're never going to have any offices. Or if we do, we're going to be remote first. Companies like Zapier Basecamp, Web Flow. All these companies were built from the ground up to facilitate positive remote working environment. Now, as we all know, you saw this kind of trend, the slow trickle of people that were searching for remote work overtime. This is Google trends from 2004 to present. Then as we all know, 2020. crazy year. We see this big spike and we're all remote, whether we want to be or not. And this includes huge companies like Google, Cora, Coinbase. Shopify that at least are either going to be remote for several, several years or in some cases like Shopify have just claimed that they are now remote first from here forward. The question then becomes with all of these companies with now millions, if not billions of people that are kind of thrown into this new environment, what happens. What happens to these organizations that weren't built from the ground up? Like Zapier, Base Camp, or Buffer. Some of the questions that I have here, allude to what I'll be talking about in this presentation. So how does remote work or the shift influence how people interact with one another? How does it influence the social fabric or culture of the company? How does this change how potentially leaders should or can operate at these organizations?And in general, this all brings me back to the title of this presentation. How do we build resilient teams? And resiliency in this case means teams that thrive in the environment that they're put in, right. It doesn't feel like they're kind of pushing against walls. It doesn't feel like there's friction to achieve certain things.It feels like they're put in an environment where they're put in a place to succeed by nature, by the nature of the environment that they're in. So, as I said, this presentation is really based on three books that I've read and, and I think are excellent. It's Give and Take, Algorithms to Live By and The Four Tendencies.And I like using books like this to really frame these conversations because these books are actually not based on remote work at all. They're based on human psychology. They're based on how people interact in given situations or environments. And then I just layer on a question. Is this still true with remote work or how does this change as people go from an in-person environment to remote. And so, we'll talk specifically about how giving and taking behavior may change with remote work. We'll talk about how we can design systems. So, using something From Algorithms to Live By, Game Theory. How do we incentivize people to actually act in their best interest? Because they don't always do that on their own. And how do we in general make remote work sustainable. And then I'll talk about the potential archetype of remote worker using this four tendencies framework. To preface the three books and the three things that we'll talk about, I want to jump back to summarize where we are.So, we as a society had a majority of people working in offices. And now we have a majority of people working remotely. And I like to kind of facetiously say that when you work in an office, you work in a box. And that box is predefined for you. And even though it's a little facetious in terms of the analogy, a lot of that is true in the sense that you have a lot of things, whether it's, you know, where you're physically working, how you're working exactly, when you're working. A lot of that is super predefined for you. And for some people that's actually better. Some people that's worse. I'm not trying to ascertain whether one is better or worse, but the idea is that before you had a lot of things mapped out for you, right? And now when you're working remotely, the way, the analogy that I like to give is that box is kind of like stripped clean.So, you get rid of the walls, you get rid of exactly when, how you work. And now a lot of people are left to figure out how to build their own box. And what I see a lot of people doing, whether it's individuals or companies is they basically do this Control C Control V where they basically say, you know, we had all these things, these processes, these systems, these frameworks that worked in our office. So, let's just take all those and let's paste them into our new environment. And that can work. But what I think we have a unique opportunity to do is in fact, rethink the box. So, build our new box from the ground up. So instead of just copying everything and saying, oh, this worked there. It should work here. Let's just rethink what are the things that we should operate by in this new environment? How do we rebuild our box? And something more important than that is instead of giving our employees a new box saying, hey, this is your box. Please take it. And again, abide by these rules or operations or logistics. Let's actually just give them the tools to build their own box. And this kind of summarizes part of what I'm, I'm getting to at least to preface three examples is, is a quote from Amir. Who's a CEO of Doist one of those kind of remote first and companies. And he says, basically, remote. Isn't just a different way to work. It's a different way to live. We have to acknowledge that we're kind of blurring these lines and people, you know, experience isolation, anxiety, depression. And in general, we need to figure out ways in systems to resolve this new, almost more complex issue where you have people, people's work and their lives just meshing into this continuous system.All right. So, what are the cornerstones of remote work? I mentioned this because this bleeds into some of the examples. So remote work overall, at least prior to COVID, when people weren't forced into it, really prioritized three things over three other things. Meaning output trumped input, which meant that didn't matter exactly how many hours you were working or exactly what you did to get to the impact that you're driving for a company.What mattered was the impact, the output. Similarly, remote work tended to favor autonomy over administration. Again, this idea that didn't matter exactly how you got from Point A to Point B. You had the autonomy to figure that out. And similarly, flexibility over rigidity. So, let's keep these cornerstones in mind throughout the presentation. And consider that even those cornerstones sound kind of resoundingly positive, all of us at face value are like, yes, I love being graded on my output. I love being graded or given the autonomy to figure out how I deliver that output. And I love being given flexibility. But let's just keep those in mind and consider that they're not always strictly positive. All right, so let's dive into the first example in the book, Give and Take. Obviously, these books are very in depth and I only covered one small sliver of them in this presentation. But the key takeaway from Give and Take is that Adam Grant, he's a professor at Wharton, amazing writer as well. He talks about three different types of individuals. So, Givers, Takers, and Matchers. All you need to know about them for the purpose of this presentation is that givers basically believe in this world as a positive sum game. Meaning they believe in mutually beneficial situations. They're willing to give without expecting anything in return. Takers are kind of the opposite of that. They think zero sum game. I'm sure you can imagine or conceptualize people in your life that you've encountered that really are trying to get ahead at the expense of other people.Now matchers fall somewhere in the middle. They basically believe, or kind of function off of this idea of reciprocity and fairness. All right. So with that in mind, the question or sorry, before I even get to the question, something I want to mention is that the whole premise of Adam Grant's book is a little surprising in that most people would expect that given Takers and Matchers and Takers in particular, their approach to life in terms of kind of utilizing other people to get ahead or prioritizing their own growth over other people, you would expect those people to be the most successful.Now, interestingly enough, he found that Givers were both at the very top of the spectrum of success, and the very bottom. You can notice two different types of Givers here. One is selfless. One is, is otherish. All you need to know here is that Otherish Givers are Givers but have found a way to prioritize their own needs.So really interesting that Givers not only elevate other people, but they are actually the most successful on their own. So, this is kind of a summary or a quote from Adams, which basically says they succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of others around them. You'll see that the difference lies in how Giver success creates value instead of just claiming it.So, in general, I think the obvious takeaway here is that we want more Givers at our organizations. Now the question becomes, and this will be a repetitive question throughout, is this the same with remote work. Or how does this change with remote work? Some of the sections here are based on actual data sources.This one, not so much. This is me more hypothesizing. And what I've come to in terms of my many years leading teams, interacting with teams, being individual contributors on teams is that because if we remember the cornerstones of remote work, we prioritize output. We prioritize impact. That which in remote, all that matters is that impact, right?Are you delivering value? Are you worth your salary? Are you hitting your KPIs. In person when you're in an office? All that stuff matters. But it's also weighed against certain unspoken things, unspoken rules, like the amount of time you're spending in the office. Whether you're on time for things, whether you stay late to help another employee in general, everyone knows who the team players are in an office.That's not always true when you work remotely. I think if you've worked remotely over the last couple months, especially if you were in an office before, you can probably resonate with this idea. In remote, there's a couple thing, other things that I want to know. This idea of staying on longer to, you know, as a Giver, let's say you're helping other people.That's super difficult to quantify because when you're working remotely again, our work life and our lifeline blend together. So, it's actually hard, if I were to ask anyone on this call, how many hours did you spend this week working remotely? I think a lot of people would struggle to actually quantify that.So then layering on, am I working extra? Am I not working enough? It's really hard to kind of parse that out. Additionally, if you support someone. Let's say I have a friend and her name is Sally at work. And she says, Hey Steph, can you help me with this project? And it actually takes like, you know, five hours out of my day.I end up helping her. All of that work for better or for worse is hidden online. Sally knows about it. But everyone else at work, didn't see me stay late to help Sally. They didn't see the output of that work. They didn't see the Giving behavior. And so, in addition to this, KPIs in general, when you work remotely by nature of trying to ascertain that output of people, tends to be more individual. You even hear people use terms like manager of one when they're working remotely.And in general, the idea that I'm trying to get across here is that by nature, when you're working remotely, because there are so much emphasis on output and impact, which has many positives, basically takes away the recognition that you typically get in an in-person environment of these Givers, and what happens is these Givers end up burning out, they become more of those selfless givers that you saw at the tail end. Instead of the Otherish givers that were the most successful individual. And something I want to call out here is that regardless of intentions, morals, or values, and what I'm saying here is it doesn't matter if someone's a good person or bad person. That's not what I'm trying to ascertain. Bad incentive structures result in bad behavior, no matter how good of a person you think you are. So, what's the takeaway here? Again, I'm trying to go through this quickly, so I won't go through everything. But the idea here is that you still won't have a water cooler. In the office, which almost acted like, you know, animals in the wild. There's like a certain hierarchy and there's a kingdom and, and it kind of regulates things, right. You just subtly, but it does. You don't have that anymore with remote, or at least it's not created without intentionality. And so, there are a couple quick things that you can do. The first thing is just ask your team very simply who helped you this week? Who did you work with? Where did you put in extra hours? Where did someone else put in extra hours for you? You must ask this because it will not be surfaced as naturally as in the office. The second thing is build KPIs to incentivize teamwork. This is a little harder to do because again, when you work remotely, you're trying to ascertain output. But think about how you can do this to incentivize teamwork. So, you're not kind of encouraging people to act more as Takers versus Givers. And then finally create an environment where you're not just recognizing good behavior or giving behavior, but you're actually rewarding it.So, some companies like GitLab have actually started things like micro bonuses, where in addition to the bonus structures or the compensation structures that you get from your boss, other people around you can actually reward you based on your giving behavior. Because that's really important. You're not just recognizing it in like kind of shout outs or things like that, but you're actually rewarding this behavior. So, you're incentivizing people to continue doing it. The final thing I want to call out is that you can do as much as you can once you have people at an organization to incentivize giving behavior. But you can also kind of integrate this into your hiring process. Which means bringing in people who are more naturally Givers.So, Adam Grant mentions in his book. This is directly from Give and Take where he, during the hiring process asks this question, can you give me the names of four people whose careers you have fundamentally improved? And the idea here is that people who are Givers tend to mention either people at the same level as them or below them in terms of the people that they've helped.And it's a natural response. Of course, this is again, not quite scientific versus Takers, tend to mention people that are above them. That they've helped, because again, there's this nature of people who are Takers, trying to get ahead and using things like status to get ahead. So, something to keep in mind as well as you're hiring.So, the second example that I want to go through is from Algorithms to Live By. Again, excellent book. This is a book where basically they take principles from software development or software engineering and use it to help us think through problems that are outside of that scope. So, things like Cashing Theory or Kneeling or making intractable problems tractable.The one that I want to talk about today is Game Theory. So, in Game Theory, I'm not going to go into depth, but it's this idea that within a game, there are certain rules. And within those rules, they incentivize people to act a certain way. And once a game is predefined, you tend to get to this equilibrium where all the players individually are acting their own best interest.But sometimes the kind of aggregate of those actions actually may result in outcomes that are worse for everyone. Again, depending on the rules that were set for that game. And this equilibrium that I'm specifically talking about is called the Nash Equilibrium. And it's this idea again, there's this kind of long definition and talks about a stable state.The idea here is the Nash Equilibrium is within an environment within a game. It's the outcome or the optimal state, where there's no incentive for any individual to deviate. Now, this may not sound super actionable. So let me give you a precise example of what I'm talking about. So, with remote work, a lot of remote first companies tend to go with unlimited vacation.And I think this is something that probably more companies will end up moving towards as well. But something you keep in mind here is the Nash Equilibrium of unlimited vacation approaches, zero days. And the reason for this it's a little counterintuitive because you think unlimited vacation sounds amazing. Sounds like a great perk. Well, what happens with unlimited vacation is that people look to be perceived as more loyal, more committed, more dedicated than their peers. And therefore, they look to take just slightly less vacation than their peers. And what happens is a cascading effect, which approaches zero.This is actual data from Buffer's Data Remote Report from 2019, where you can see in blue, the amount of vacation offered, and then in orange, the amount of vacation that was actually taken. So, you can see around 30, 35% of people had unlimited vacation. And if you look at how that's actually distributed, most of the people who had unlimited vacation took anywhere from no vacation to two weeks’ vacation. Versus the people who had, you know, six weeks, five weeks, four weeks were likely to actually take that amount of vacation.So, what is my point here? Well, in Game Theory is this idea where basically you have a game and then those rules are set for the game. And then you just see what behaviors actually emerge from those given set of rules. Well, I think with remote work, we have to be a lot more intentional about not just kind of throwing rules out there, again, kind of redefining our box and, and not just taking a box that already exists. And you can do that through Mechanism Design, which is kind of flipping that script and saying, what are the behaviors that we actually want and what rules do we need to establish to actually generate those behaviors? So kind of again, reversing the question and figuring out what behaviors you want to incentivize. And then figuring out what rules need to be in place to actually achieve that.As I mentioned, the box has changed, the game has changed. So, here's a couple examples of things that people struggle with from the same report, when they're working remotely. It's things like unplugging, loneliness, distractions, culture, and communication. If you were to ask the same question to people who are working in an, in an office, these would not be the case, which shows us the game has changed. The problems have changed. The things that we're solving for have changed and therefore you must come up with rules or incentives so that people act in their own best interest. So again, you're thinking backwards. You're asking the question, what are the KPIs that you need to actively design to encourage people to, for example, have a work life balance outside of just the freedom to define their own. And this is really important because it sounds counterintuitive to say a I'm actually going to define more rules. Because flexibility sounds like a great perk or sounds like a great thing to have. But actually, you can help your employees in certain situations to actually help them again, this idea of building their own box.Something I want to call out here is again, is Wall Street, which is again, the most like capitalist type environment there is, has mandatory off hours. So that brokers don't push themselves to their Nash Equilibrium, which would be the sleepless equilibrium, where they're constantly trading. So, you have to think backwards and figure out how to design an environment that people succeed in.Quick couple examples before we move on to the third example. The third book are things like a minimum vacation policy, mandatory days that they must take off, allowing people to take back their calendars and actually block off significant parts so that they're not encountering what people call Calendar Tetris. I like this example from Keith, I don't know Keith personally, and this was pre COVID.But basically, he decided to close his office on Friday. Simple things like this, where he basically said it's a mandatory weekend. You are not allowed to work, even though it seems strange in a digital environment. And I'm giving you 50 bucks to go eat at your favorite restaurant. So, think about how you are intentionally designing systems for your employees.Finally, third example that I'll breeze through is the Four Tendencies. And I'll caveat this example with this quote directly from Gretchen Rubin, the author that says the happiest, healthiest, most productive people aren't those from a particular tendency, but rather the people who have figured out how to harness the strengths of their tendency, counteract the weaknesses, and build lives that work for them.So, what is the Four Tendencies? It's this idea that there as it sounds like four tendencies. Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, and Rebel. Now these two highlighted in green are not highlighted, because they're the best. As Gretchen said in that quote, it's just that they're they are the most common. Now the Four Tendencies is basically a two-by-two framework, which identifies how people respond to expectations or accountability.So, do they readily meet outer expectations? Do they readily meet inner expectations? Do they resist both of them or do they kind of fluctuate towards or air towards one or the other? So, I personally am a Questioner. I resist outer expectations and I meet inner expectations. To give a quick example, if I wanted to get fit, having a gym buddy as an outer expectation expecting me to show up that actually wouldn't help me. And that actually is something that I've tried to do throughout my life. Hasn't worked. Meanwhile, something like actually understanding the science behind why I should be fit or kind of convincing myself that my identity, or I want to be the type of person who, you know, respects their health. That works for me. So as a Questioner, I meet inner expectations. I resist outer expectations.Now I did a poll on Twitter a while ago, got around 400 votes from people who had been working remotely again, pre COVID. And it was interesting to see that the most popular tendencies among this again, non-scientific poll were Questioners and Rebels, and I thought, huh, that's interesting.If you remember questioners and obligers for the most common in the overall population with remote workers, or at least those who sought out remote work. Where questioners and rebels with the, the familiarity or the common thread here is that they both resist outer expectations. I thought that was really interesting.And I think that relates to this idea that there's a level of self-selection or misalignment with outer expectations of society, of people trying to at least identify their own work norms, identify their own vision or how they can actually build something, build their own box. And this isn't again, mean that they're more successful or less successful.It's just perhaps that they actively sought out this type of environment. Now, what's the takeaway here. This is a brief section compared to the other two, but it's the idea that people actually respond differently to inner and outer accountability. We used to have everyone in an office and that didn't necessarily work with everyone.Now we have everyone remote that doesn't necessarily work for everyone. So, I think the idea here is that leaders need to actually learn past, just the high level this person is good at these skills. This person is good at these skills. This is my top player. This is my, you know, less valuable player. And more so think about how to tailor their leadership stylers to figure out how to motivate their employees. Whether they're in a remote environment or not. But especially if you're in a remote environment, how do you incentivize, if we just quickly go back, how do you incentivize Upholders and Obligers when Questioners and Rebels tend to naturally seek out this environment?And on the flip side, if you're in an office, how do you naturally incentivize Questioners and Rebels so that they're motivated when Upholders and Obligers may more naturally fit into those traditional environments. So just something to consider. Right. This is the final slide I have, and I know we're running out of times, but the idea here is just, again, there are certain things or certain ways that humans tend to interact in, in an person environment.And they don't necessarily act the same ways in a remote environment. And in particular, they may not even act in ways that benefit themselves all the time. So, we must as leaders, if you're leading a team, if you're leading a company, It's good to consider some of these things and figure out A: How do I encourage Giving through discovering, hiring, promoting, and acknowledging and rewarding as I said before Givers. How do I select incentives or develop the right systems so that we're using Mechanism Design and not just throwing people into a game and hoping that they choose the best outcomes that are best for them or best for everyone?And then finally, how do we actually learn about our people past the face value in terms of their skills and figure out how to harness their unique strengths, whether they're in an in-person environment or a remote environment. If you want to find me, or if you have questions, happy to answer them now, but you're also welcome to email me or DM me on Twitter and that is it.Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  Also don't miss IO2022 - Innovation Accelerated in Sept, 2022.
On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Courtney Powell, COO and Managing Partner at 500 Global. Courtney and I talk about investing in emerging markets, the differences between startup and corporate innovation, and the current market dynamics that startups and corporate should be paying attention to.Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast to help the new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage, and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started. Interview Transcript with Courtney Powell, COO and Managing Partner at 500 GlobalBrian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today we have Courtney Powell. She is COO and Managing Partner of 500 Global. Welcome to the show. Courtney Powell: Thank you so much for having me. Excited to be here Brian. Brian Ardinger: In a certain way, it's coming back to our original roots of the Inside Outside podcast. Where the original podcast episodes were an inside look at startups outside the valley. And we thought, hey, what better way to have a conversation around that then inviting you to talk about what's going on at 500 Global. Because for those who may not be familiar with 500 Global's $2.7 billion under assets and management. You've invested in probably 2,000 to 3,000 startups around the world. And 45 Unicorns have come out of that, in nine different countries. So, you've definitely been on the forefront of looking at what entrepreneurship is outside the valley. Can you talk about your journey into this innovation space from entrepreneur to corporate innovator to venture capital? Courtney Powell: You kind of mentioned a little bit about 500's history in terms of starting in the Valley, but then pretty quickly deciding to invest worldwide. So, I actually came to know 500 pretty early into my own entrepreneurial journey.So, in 2010, I was based in Austin, Texas. And I had already actually been a part of a really early startup that had done well. But I joined when I was 19. So, one of the first employees with the two other gentlemen who started it. I kind of watched firsthand as that company went from literally being, I remember it so clearly in my mind, it was like a yellow legal pad that they were describing the technology on that they wanted to do. The company was called Boundless Network and they were trying to create automated group buying software for corporations who wanted to buy pens and koozies. And drive down the cost by having this kind of group buy system. So I saw really up close what it was like to go from this legal pad to raise what I think amounted to, you know, more than $50 million ultimately.And the company then got acquired down the road by Zazzle's. I saw this journey and right away knew that this was my calling. I wanted to start companies. And so about five years after I started working at Boundless in 2010, I launched my own company, which at the time was really early in marketing automation consulting.So, I was doing Salesforce implementation, also marketing automation consulting. That taught me a lot about what it was like to run my own company and particular consulting firm, which you know, has a lot of challenges. A few years into that, I was struck with an idea for my first tech startup. And that was around helping consumers when they had problems with big companies like Time Warner Cable, or Airlines, or, you know, Telecoms or all these other companies.So long story short, I started the company in Austin. And in Austin, the venture network at that time was very small. It's still relatively small, but very, very small then. And I remember feeling like, okay, I don't really know how to get plugged in to the network here. I am a female, a young mother trying to raise capital. I'm the only woman in the room and, you know, in 99% of the cases. And somebody told me about 500. So, 500 had just started, you know, they were a year, I guess, into existence. And I made my way to the Valley. Applied to the accelerator. Got into one of their early accelerators. And that was really my first introduction to the world of Silicon Valley. And having received investment from 500. After that, I then ran that company for a few years before shutting it down. And then got into building consumer real estate tech.And I eventually became CEO of another company called Agent Pronto. Which is still up and running. Ultimately it got acquired by Fidelity. And then after my time at Agent Pronto, I joined Keller Williams. And I joined Keller Williams, not as a real estate agent or at the brokerage level, but at the parent company level. Where I focused not just on building out consumer tech initially, but eventually got into corporate dev.And began helping them to diligence companies, look at investment opportunities, and long story short decided that, you know, I wanted to move it to venture someday and see the other side of the table and eventually made my way to 500. Brian Ardinger: Excellent. I want to dive into 500 and what you're doing now. And can you talk a little bit about the strategy that 500 has employed to uncover high value opportunities in under-invested markets?Courtney Powell: Yeah. So, you know, as I mentioned, it was really two things that 500, I like to say, got right. One was this idea of diversification. You know, especially when 500 started in 2010, the idea of investing in a 100, 200, 300, 400 companies a year was very, very new and controversial. Diversification was really important.And then as I mentioned, also investing outside of the Valley. Even when 500 was looking for example, to move the office from Mountain View to San Francisco in 2013, that was still odd. Let alone the idea of, you know, investing today in over 80 countries. That really just came from the belief that we knew that there was talent everywhere. And really, it was just a matter of being able to pair that talent and those opportunities with capital. And I would also say the practices that maybe were commonplace in Silicon Valley, that in other countries and other regions, weren't yet as mature as what we were used to in the Valley. So that combination of both the investment practices. The friendliness toward founders. The standardized terms. You know, the combination of really wanting to not just provide capital, but also make sure that we were bringing founder friendliness, standardized terms, to these other regions and just trying to, you know, meet these founders who were creating incredible ideas and definitely had the skillset to be able to take things forward. That was really the spark and the ethos that has built 500 into what it is today. Brian Ardinger: It's interesting. You talked about some of the positive benefits that the Valley brings as far as when it comes to venture, and that. Can you talk to maybe some of the bad habits that venture capital in Silicon Valley, you try to avoid when going into different markets?I think about some of the things of over-indexing, for example, as you have to be a Stanford grad or things along those lines that you typically hear about. How do you avoid some of the habits or bad habits or traps that venture capital in the valley is known for? Courtney Powell: I mean, I think it's definitely well-known that venture capital as a whole has a diversity problem. I think of that problem, not just in terms of the demographic diversity, but also the geographic diversity as well. So, I think with 500, in particular from the beginning, there was a focus on a couple of different things. Number one, having been built by operators and people who didn't have the Stanford background necessarily. I think made the firm keenly aware that there were many other people out there who maybe had a non-traditional path who wasn't the 20-year-old Stanford male.And so right away was really actively looking to not only invest in founders who were diverse, but hire teams, investment decision makers who were diverse. So today, I mean, I know there are very few funds and firms led by females. I think we have been really open with our own diversity stats and our own commitment with regard to investing in underrepresented founders.And as I said, also, geographically. I think this is a huge opportunity, as well. So, I do think that you see today is still only just a few percentage points of VC actually being invested into women. I think that's such an interesting stat because around the world, even in the Middle East, for example, where people often think that, of course there couldn't be like a huge amount of deal flow of female founders, almost 30% of our portfolio is female founded. In the Middle East. 30%. So, this isn't a pipeline problem. It's not a pipeline problem in the U S. It's not a pipeline problem anywhere else in the world. It is really the intent, and I think the makeup of the teams who are making investment decisions. Brian Ardinger: So how do you go about identifying talent and how is it different across cultures, across languages and that? Are there things that specifically you look for? Courtney Powell: That's an interesting question. And I think it varies a lot. It has varied over time, as our firm has evolved from starting as an accelerator to today investing multiple stages. All the way from pre-seed to pre-IPO. You look for very different skillsets. But at the end of the day, what has been really critical for 500, is a commitment to, you know, the original ethos backing these founders all around the world. All around the various underrepresented communities. And I think also, you know, the belief that we have that's core, is we say that our mission statement is uplifting people and economies around the world through entrepreneurship. And what we mean by that is we want people who believe that investing is actually the best way to advance societies. To advance individuals as well. So, you know, we want to make sure that we're doing that in a way that is contributing to the development of these ecosystems. And it's done in a sustainable way. And I don't mean sustainable in this sense. You know, more of like the ESG mindset. But more like we want to be contributing to communities where we're hiring people who are going to be long-term in a community. Who are going to bring skillsets back to that community, that they are local to? We really try to avoid the fly in fly out model.And in these ecosystems, we say that we are both hyper-local and global. And that's really true. We're building, you know, long-term teams on the ground. And of course, keeping connected back to our kind of home base in Silicon Valley. But we really believe that we can contribute to an ecosystem in that way. Brian Ardinger: You talk a lot about the diversity in the companies and the people that you invest in. What are some of the opportunities that you're seeing in emerging markets, whether it's region specific or sector specific? What are you seeing out there?Courtney Powell: This year in particular, I've spent a lot of time in the, in the middle east and Africa and Pakistan, which has been really fascinating. And the key lesson that I've learned at my time at 500 is that founders are the same every where.Like the energy, the creativity, this need to kind of bring to life some value or some product, you know, that is inside of you. That energy is the same whether you're talking to somebody in Cairo or, you know, in Iowa, or in Silicon Valley, it doesn't matter. I think some of the trends that we're seeing definitely a huge boom in FinTech. But I'll qualify that and say that the types of FinTech plays that are exciting in emerging markets are very different in some sense than what you might see today coming from the Valley. So, a huge emphasis on financial inclusion. So, if we just take Pakistan for a moment. 230 million people in Pakistan. Less than 300,000 people have ever made an investment in the stock market. So that tells you, you know, the gap that exists. Or I was in Senegal recently. And Senegal, the population size is escaping me. I think it's about 30 million. But less than 30,000 people have salaried jobs. So, the ability to create really infrastructure level products for financial inclusion, to bring people out from the shadow banking world and into a more traditional and hopefully better system, I think is really incredible.Brian Ardinger: We talked earlier about you had a chance to spend some time in the corporate innovation space as well. I'd love to get your insights on how corporate innovation compares to some of the things that you're seeing in startup innovation. What's similar what's different? Courtney Powell: It's very interesting to me now to reflect back on my time in corporate development and corporate innovation, because today I'm often asked to do that at the government level. Where we'll come in and work, you know, with these governments around the world who are trying to take on actually a very similar mandate, right? How do we incorporate this innovation into our own workforce? But at the same time, you know, there's also some startups that we're looking to back. And, you know, I think what I took away from my time in corporate innovation, there's a lot of room to create misaligned incentives. What I hear and have seen is oftentimes we have corporations who are trying to either buy an innovation and become innovative by osmosis. Or by innovation and quell it immediately and create an exclusive product for themselves. Right. And both of those things I think are very, very difficult to do. But I've also seen it work well where both parties are very upfront about what they can bring to the table. And the guardrails are really set up front. In order to either A: Allow innovation to continue to flourish or B: Know exactly where in the value chain they're expected to build into. You know when they're acquiring these companies. We get asked a lot of time as 500 to help corporations create these programs for themselves, run accelerators, this type of thing. And I've seen some of that be successful as well. But again, it really has to be about understanding what those incentives need to be and, you know, making sure all parties are really aware of what the opportunities are. So, I think it's tricky and I see it now much differently, you know, as the other side of the table, I think. I still think, you know, you've got great examples of companies out there who get it right. And build teams and let them run. And give them the mandate and the support needed to really, you know, find some innovative ways to bring themselves into the digital world. Brian Ardinger: Absolutely. I don't know if it's similar type of dynamics in a startup realm around how difficult it is to create a billion-dollar company from scratch. I think it's probably similar odds for corporations oftentimes to think and become an innovative company. Courtney Powell: I think that's a great way to put it. And you know, I actually think one of the best examples of corporate innovation that we've ever seen is probably not one that we think of as corporate innovation, which is Amazon.Amazon building their core business of course their online retailers and platforms but having given teams within Amazon the freedom to experiment with something on like AWS who today is driving like the biggest profit center of the company. But again, that's less of an initiative and more, just a result of a culture that it's okay to fail. That's really, I think the innovative characteristic that a lot of the programs that, you know, I think have evolved maybe could use more of. Brian Ardinger: Absolutely. Obviously, we're living in very uncertain times. Current market dynamics are changing, especially in the United States where you're hearing a lot of venture capital firms saying, you know, buckle up for downturns and recessions and everything around that. What is your take on the current market dynamics? What are you seeing both inside or outside the Valley? Courtney Powell: You know, I've been asked this question a lot in emerging markets, because I think people are really looking to understand the U S position right now. I think generally speaking from my vantage point, it will be difficult to curb the volatility unless inflation is dealt with much more aggressively than what it has been in recent months and even years. Now, I think in terms of how it's affecting the startup ecosystems around the world I am definitely seeing a slowdown at the later stage and that's across markets. You know, whether it's the US or the Middle East, or I'm hearing less about East Asia, but certainly already in Europe as well. Those later stage rounds, I mean, you had the market, you had Tiger, SoftBank, people kind of flooding these big, late-stage rounds who now are suffering in the public markets. And therefore, they don't have as much cash to cross over with. I think that's a real consideration for later stage investors.We're seeing less of it in the seed stages. However, I think that people are pretty spooked. Founders are spooked. So, I think so many people are telling their own portfolios to really just kind of buckle down. And we're starting to see founders just try and close these rounds as quickly as possible.And you know, it's a great opportunity to focus on, you know, on one side of the table, on your unit economics. And if you have the war chest right now, then it's a great time to deploy it. So, I think there will be people who come out ahead of this downturn. Certainly, it's a great time to deploy capital. And I think we all hope that whatever this is over quickly. But in any case, the arc of history is still heading toward technology just leveling every single industry. So, I think there's still a lot of upside to be had. For More InformationBrian Ardinger: We are definitely living in interesting times, and I really do appreciate you coming on Inside Outside Innovation to tell us a little bit about what you're seeing out there. Courtney, if people want to find out more about yourself or about 500, what's the best way to do that? Courtney Powell: For myself, you can follow me on Twitter @CourtneyPowell and same on LinkedIn. And with 500, you can check us out at or follow us @500globalVC on Twitter. Brian Ardinger: Excellent. Well, Courtney, thanks again for being on the show. Really appreciate it. And looking forward to continuing the conversation. Courtney Powell: Thanks so much Brian. Take care.Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  Also don't miss IO2022 - Innovation Accelerated in Sept, 2022.
On this week's Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Susan Golden, Author of the new book Stage (Not Age). Susan and I talk about the $22 trillion market opportunity in the emerging longevity economy from education to workforce to healthcare and housing. Let's get started. Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast to help the new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage, and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Brian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today, we have Susan Golden, author of Stage (Not Age): How to Understand and Serve People Over 60, The Fastest Growing, Most Dynamic Market in the World. Welcome to the show, Susan. Susan Golden: Thank you so much for having me.Brian Ardinger: To give a little background. You've got a lot of experience in this particular space. You teach at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. You're a Mentor at Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator. And a thought partner with Pivotal Ventures on their Caregiving Innovation Initiatives. I think the first question I'd like to ask is what drew you to this topic and exploring this $22 trillion market opportunity called the longevity economy.Susan Golden: Great question. I have a background in public health and then went into venture capital in life sciences and health services. And I actually took a career break, which is part of what the book is about. That many people are going be taking career breaks if they're living 100 year lives. And went back to school. And Stanford had just started a new program called the Distinguished Careers Institute, for people anywhere from their fifties to their eighties, come back and rethink what they want to do with the next chapters of their life. Because they're living much longer. And nobody should be thinking about retirement in their sixties because they have another 30 or 40 years to go.And I learned about longevity at Stanford. There's a wonderful center on longevity that is thinking about how do you plan for the 100 year life. And it's very dynamic and it's not just about the typical impression that most people have, that all older adults are elderly, declining, frail need a whole variety of services.Some will, and most of us will need something at some point in the end of our lives. But most people are going to be living very vibrant lives well into their eighties. And this has created a whole new economy that most people just don't know about. And particularly investors and innovators don't know about it.Traditionally, if I asked my venture capital friends, why aren't you investing in this? They would say, oh, this is about senior housing and fall prevention and medication management. And that's a piece of it, but there is now, as you said, a $22 trillion worldwide market right here in the United States.Right now, it's estimated to be about $8.6 trillion. As over 10,000 people are turning 65 every day and they're going to be living long lives. And over a third to a half of children being born today can expect to live to their 100s. And this longevity economy now includes all their spending, the stimulating new jobs that are being created for their products and services.And companies are beginning to rethink their longevity strategy. Not just for products and services, and how could they have a multi-generational. But also, how to have a workforce that's multi-generational. And how to take advantage of that. And most people don't realize that people over 50 have most of the wealth. They're responsible for 56% of consumer spending and 83% of wealth in the United States. So this is a gigantic market opportunity, gigantic innovation opportunity, and a great need to support healthy aging as our population is going to grow in this category. Brian Ardinger: So, with the fact that it is growing and there's this massive opportunity, what are the biggest misconceptions out there? Why do you think more people aren't exploring this at this point?Susan Golden: I don't think they fully understand the vibrancy that most older adults are in. And that they're in multiple stages. And they tend to lump all older adults in one category. All people 65 and older, or whatever demarcation one takes 70, 75 when there's great diversity in aging. And I think we should be thinking about ageless people. But more and what I argue for in the book about stage, some companies have done this well. They recognize what stage of life somebody is in. So, they may be in a re-purposing stage or transitioning out of one career to another. They may want continuous learning and educational opportunities as I, and all my colleagues who've done the DCI program at Stanford were in. To refocus what we want to do next and what are our life priorities. But there's other traditional consumer facing industries that people haven't thought how to reinvent them for people with longer lives and how to support their health span. And this includes housing alternatives and home modifications, fashion and accessories, education as we mentioned, entertainment, travel, you can think of that just virtually every consumer opportunity that is going to have a burgeoning longevity customer that needs to be understood. And so, understanding what stage somebody is in, will give you a much broader perspective about their needs. There may be a caregiving stage even. Brian Ardinger: In the book you talk about, you have five kinds of key stages. Can you walk through what those stages are? And what's important about them. Susan Golden: So, I came up with the concept of 18 life stages that could be divided into five quarters of life. And I know that's funky math. But people traditionally think about life in three stages, which is your education, your working stage, and then your retirement stage. And now I think we have to think much more broadly.So, I think about the first stage of life as sort of your growth stage. And when you're launching and you're first and beginning to experiment. And in your second quarter, you have different stages where you're doing continuous learning. You're developing some financial security. You might be caregiving, parenting, optimizing health. And then the third and fourth stages I think are what might be considered new. Which is, I call them the Renaissance Stage where you're reinventing what you're doing. You're repurposing, you're relaunching. You may be transitioning, may have a portfolio of things that you're doing as I do. You might be an entrepreneur or an “olderpreneur” as people often say. And then the later stages are maybe where some people think about more about their legacy planning for end of life. But people are living to 100. So, I put in a fifth quarter because we just don't know what that whole new paradigm is going to look like. And how people are going to be using those extra years. Brian Ardinger: Well, a lot of it has been driven by other parts of the economy as well, whether it's technology or healthcare and that that's literally changing the way we live. What are some of the trends or things that you've seen that are allowing folks to be more productive as they age? Susan Golden: Well, technology is certainly making a great change in the way we age and for the better. Technology services, anywhere from being able to access transportation more easily. It may not be wanting to drive yourself, but there's lots of transportation services and easy ways to get access to it. Uber, Lyft even have special programs to help you get to medical appointments and interface with medical system. We have delivery of virtually everything you can possibly think of. You can do online banking, but interestingly, not all older adults are digitally literate and that's another innovation opportunity. Other countries have national programs to make sure all older adults have active digital literacy training every single year, not just one, but multiple times. That's where we're seeing it. Tech in the home. We're going to see a lot of healthcare, not just during the pandemic, but continue to be telehealth services. People are thinking about remote health in the home going forward. And then working from home is creating all sorts of opportunities for older adults. Giving them enormous flexibility. We see tech really supporting caregivers. This is a whole new need because there are 48 million unpaid caregivers in the United States. And that's some of the work I do as a thought partner to Pivotal Ventures. They're actually supporting an entire accelerator through Techstars, just devoted for innovations to support unpaid caregivers in the United States. So, we're seeing an uptick and definitely more interest in this area. But most people, I would say most innovators and investors have not fully appreciated the enormous opportunities.Brian Ardinger: Well, and that's what I like about this book. It not only lays out in granular details, some of the opportunities that you're talking about, but it really is for entrepreneurs. It outlines a number of different market opportunities. It gives the lay of the land and a call to action for entrepreneurs to start tackling some of these types of problems and that, that are out there. Having said that, what are some of the opportunities that you're seeing startups get into and maybe what opportunities are being missed. Susan Golden: When people are coming into this industry, it's so big and so many different verticals you can focus on. It's better to focus on one and then expand. So sometimes I feel like companies are trying to solve every problem. And that can happen over time if you create a fabulous platform. But definitely focusing on a particular need, don't create a product that you think somebody will want to find out what the needs are.And I really advocate for multi-generational teams. I think as companies have a multi-generation workforce which is going to be inevitable as people are going to have 60-year career spans with caregiving breaks, optimally at different times of their lives. But learning what somebody needs, the mantra and the industry is designed with not for. So don't guess what an older adult will want, bring them into the conversation early on. And then companies that are, and entrepreneurs that have designed a product that's just for older adults and it calls out it's for you older person. And we could say that the stereotype there is big beige and boring is not the way to go. Is to create a product that might have still features that support an older adult’s needs, but could potentially be a multi-generational product. And an example of that is OXO Kitchen Utensils. I don't know if you've ever purchased them, but they're very much designed to be easy on the hands. Great dexterity, compatibility. And they're good for young and old. And they're not sold at it's a multi-generational product. It's not sold just for older adults. It's not sold just for younger people. But too often marketers targeted the 18- to 34-year-old category. And if you broaden your perspective and think about older adults in a very vibrant, and different stages of their life, you will have a much larger market to address.Brian Ardinger: And I think you're seeing that in the marketing sense as well. Like you said, seems like most marketers always target that younger demographic. And some of the things that you're talking about, it's not even the age, it's a specific problem set. Which could, like you said, span different ages as the person grows and adapts. Talk a little bit about some of the products or services that you've seen or some of the trends that are most exciting to you. Susan Golden: The ones that are really catching my attention is new housing alternatives. Traditionally people thought everybody wanted to go to a senior retirement community, assisted living facility. And over 90% of adults want to age in what they call age in place. But their current home may not be ideal for them. It may have many steps. It may be too big. They may feel isolated. So, there are some new interesting housing companies, basically housing alternatives. And one is an example that came out of the Techstars Accelerator two years ago called Upside Home.And they rent apartments in buildings that are, multi-generational. Not just for old people. They fully furnish it so that it's compatible for an older adult. And this might be somebody who wants to spend three to six months in Florida or may want to get rid of their larger home. And it's no longer appropriate and have all the concierge type of products and services that come with apartment living, but they also have all the features that an older adult might need, including having access to caregiving as needed, transportation, food delivery. So, it's a really exciting new model that includes a variety of products. So, they started sort of like in one area and expanded to create a platform that provides now health services to those who live in their apartment complexes as well, which is really exciting. Home modification itself is a whole burgeoning industry. If people want to stay in their home. And so that it enables them to live longer and better and in a healthy way. That's one whole industry. And we're also seeing this in clothing and fashion. Whereas people let's say are active bike riders, but their current configuration of pockets and their clothing might not be ideal for their range of motion or if they have a rotator cuff issue. But you know, you could redesign it so that it meets the needs of an older adult. And that's just some of the things we're beginning to see as people look at a whole range of things. But education would be another whole burgeoning industry. I see a lot of great companies starting up as a way to help people find productive ways of staying engaged from a learning, but also contributing their talents.So older adults, teaching older adults. Older adults teaching younger. These are some really vibrant ways of creating community while somebody is aging in place to support them and make them feel very purposeful and connected. Which we know that social isolation, is one of the greatest risks of aging in your own home. And you have to stay connected in a purposeful way. And then helping older adults find work. Most older adults do want to work longer. They may not want to work in the same position for as many hours. They might want flexibility, but so to younger adults we're finding. And so, as a need very much so to help older adults get matched, where they can contribute and benefit society with all their talent and expertise and wisdom.Brian Ardinger: That's a great point. And we briefly talked about the fact that the workforce itself is changing, whether it's remote work or that. How do you see the corporate environment changing because of workforce and an age group that will be in the workforce for much longer? Susan Golden: I think companies that will do well, having a multi-generational workforce, will do so because they will have continuous learning opportunities for their entire workforce. Upskilling will be critical because things are changing so rapidly. There's a lot of companies right now that are offering wonderful “returnship” programs for people who do take care of giving breaks in particular, both men and women who may have been out anywhere from two years and more.And give them an opportunity to come back to the company they worked with. Retool, upskill, and then they're offered an opportunity to decide if they want to take a permanent position. And these are 16-week paid returnships. And this is happening in a lot of progressive forward-thinking companies.Companies are also providing upskilling just in terms of being financially literate. You cannot have successful aging if you've not planned for a longer life. And the financial services companies have done a particularly great job in this area. Not only for their clientele, Merrill Lynch is one company that I've written about that hired a financial gerontologists to help redesign their wealth management products. But also, to support their own employee. And have them planning for a much longer life.So, companies that do it, not just for the customer, but do it for their employees are the ones that are really going to distinguish themselves and utilize their multi-generational workforce to continue to modify products and services going forward that can benefit all sectors of the economy. Brian Ardinger: Absolutely. So, if I'm an entrepreneur out here listening to this broadcast, what are some of the resources or places to get more up to speed on this topic and others?Susan Golden: I would say, look at the book. And the book and in the appendix has a long list of accelerators, incubators, articles to read, and to familiarize yourself with all the design challenges, the industry newsletters, podcasts. It's a nascent industry, but it's still, most people don't know about it. So, I put in a long appendix with different resources. And check out the different accelerators like Tech Stars. ARP has an innovation lab, so you can see some of the companies that have been developed through these accelerators and launched. And get a flavor of where some of the needs are. But we don't know all the needs yet. This is new, old age is new. We don't know what everybody is going to need because there's going to be such diversity in aging. But we do know there's just a paucity of products and services to support healthy aging. And so that all people can live long lives with dignity and purpose. Brian Ardinger: We talked a little bit about the U S market and that. But are there other markets, obviously you hear about Japan and their aging population. Are there any insights that we can gain from looking at other countries and what they're doing when it comes to the population? Susan Golden: Yeah, I mean, some of the societies that have aged faster have a delayed retirement ages from mandatory retirement to much later. And I think that's a good practice. There's a lot of up-skilling that's going on in other countries. And the one that I mentioned earlier, digital literacy. Denmark does that. Israel does that. It's part of the fabric of respecting and integrating older adults into society. So, we can learn a lot from other countries. Singapore has a whole incubator around how to develop products and services to support longevity. And we have some very excellent programs happening on a state level. But we do not yet have national policies that fully support healthy aging, including paid family care leave acts because we need that people will need to take breaks for caregiving.There are 48 million unpaid caregivers in the United States. And many of them are women. And many of them have to take time off from their careers and then retool. Integrating that into a national strategy will be key to support healthy aging. Brian Ardinger: Well, Susan, I appreciate you coming on Inside Outside Innovation to share this new opportunity. It's going to be exciting times for sure. A lot of challenges, a lot of opportunities out there for folks to take a stab at. If people want to find out more about yourself or about the book Stage, Not Age, what's the best way to do that?Susan Golden: The website for the book is and I welcome speaking and learning about any new opportunities that people may have.Brian Ardinger: Well, Susan, thank you again for coming on the podcast here. Super excited to see where this goes and looking forward to continuing the conversation. Susan Golden: Yeah, my pleasure. Thank you for having me.Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  
On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Monica Kang, Founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox and Author of Rethink Creativity. Monica and I talk about some of the obstacles and opportunities around creativity. And how individuals and companies can benefit from enhancing their curiosity, creativity, and courage. Let's get started.Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast to help the new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage, and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript with Monica Kang, Founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox and Author of Rethink CreativityBrian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today we have Monica Kang. She is Founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox and Author of Rethink Creativity. And also has a children's book called Have You Seen My Friends? So welcome to the show Monica.Monica Kang: Thank you for having me. Brian Ardinger: One of the things that we do in our Inside Outside community is ask our audience out there, who should we be talking to? And what are some of the interesting things that you're seeing out there? And somebody said, hey, you should talk to Monica. I think the first question I want to ask is probably a softball for you, but why does creativity matter. And why does it matter more today than ever before?Monica Kang: I'll start with maybe the notion of, I feel creativity is one of the words that we don't realize how much of a jargon it is. Because we use it so much. We say like, oh, you're creative. You're not creative. Or like, that was creative. That was innovative. We put in our marketing materials. We put in our campaigns. We put it in how we describe things.But if you really break it down, like, do people really understand or live the value that what it is. I think that was part of the reason why when you go back to why it's so important to talk about this is actually because of that. Because we use it all the time, but so many people don't realize the root and the nuances. And hence, don't realize this is jargon, that we're just keep throwing it around without the full intention. And so, I first fell into it because of that very situation. I was originally in nuclear weapons security. Government work. Wanted to be a diplomat all my life. That having grown up in DC and in the States, as well as in Korea and worked in Europe. And, you know, hey, I'm not comfortable with science and math. So, this sounds like the perfect path. And like, I love people and building relations. And so, I was good with a lot of things, but like creativity, wasn't really a thing that I would describe I was good at. Even though now looking back, I realize I had. And only until when I find myself really getting depressed and stuck in a dream job where I realized that I was finding myself literally crying to work, feeling upset, not knowing what to do in a job that I fell in love with. And I'm like, what is wrong with me? Like I'm solving a very important mission. Mission-driven. Preventing bad guys from having nuclear weapons. We're working in the government. It's really hard to get into this industry too. And yet feeling stuck. And what helped me gave the courage of, you know, walking to work instead of taking the bus to work. Getting curious about all these different surroundings. And realizing how one life decision can make a huge difference. Because now I felt so curious in the office got even more energetic. Even though the work description hasn't changed at all. It got me curious about understanding about, well, what happened. And people did ask me like Monica, whatever you're doing, you seem happier. And that's where I realized creativity was one of the key elements.I didn't know back then, but it was the mindset of simply doing something different. Finding the courage to take different things. Try different things. Ask different questions. Even organizing my process of the project differently because as I looked at the traffic in the fourth street every day, I'm like am I creating traffic in the way I do things unconsciously. Just like how there's always traffic here. Like at this time? What do I need to do differently? And getting curious about it. And that's where I learned that comment that I started the beginning. That question of creativity, innovation. There's so much history and research behind it. That I had no idea. And because we throw around the word and use it so much, that I misunderstood what it meant.And I didn't know that it was for everyone. I didn't know that something that we can all do more. And regardless of where we are, it expressed differently. And I think it's even more needed now because of the pandemic. Brian Ardinger: Oftentimes I think the perception of creativity is it's some kind of magic. Or it's something that other people do. Or, you know, some, other people can possess that, but I can't do that. So, this idea of creativity not being magic. That being every day and available to anybody to possess or use, talk about how you identified that little nugget and what are some of the tactical things that you do to bring out that magic. Monica Kang: So, I love that you said it. Because immediately one book that I'm remembering, it's about daily habits. And I was mindful because I'm like, wow. So, all these creative, innovative historical people around the world, like they had to work hard to be a better writer. What, like, they didn't just magically write that book. And like became a best seller. And like, no, they had to write every day. The musicians had to write music every day. And I'm like, wait, if that's how it is.Like I wonder in the traditional non art industry, how they do creative. Of course, same thing. I think of new ideas every day. They had to try new things every day. Get rejected every day. And I'm like, oh my gosh. I mean, even the story of how WD40 product came about. Are you familiar with the WD40 products? So, it's that spray, right. You know why that name is called WD40. Brian Ardinger: I do not. Monica Kang: The reason why they named WD40 for that product was not a coincidence. It means water displacement, right? 40. Which indicates that it took 40 times to perfect that formula. Brian Ardinger: Ah. I hadn't heard that story. Monica Kang: How often are we willing to try 40 times. Hear 40 nos. Before we get to that yes. Not a lot. And I think that brings a weight. Hence to that question of what can we do every day, is that it's building the routine. As I learned about these daily routines of all these famous people of what they've had to do every day. Learning about stories like WD40, that how many attempts that people had to try.And my day-to-day activity, that means that I need to just make it a routine of constant learning and trying new things. And so, one activity I always share as a recommendation is like, what's a five minute time that you can always block to do something different. Or to do something intentionally differently.So maybe it's that, okay, if you always commute somewhere, could you try a different commute, maybe at least two or three times when you're not in a rush hour. Maybe you take a different path. Maybe it's that you take the same commute, but you'll listen to different music. Or maybe you'll listen to different podcasts. Maybe you're going to listen to this one time and then another podcast. Maybe it's that you actually take a silent ride sometimes. Just like Pink. Even though that looks like a naive, like how is that going to make me more creative? By making that simple decision, you're letting your mind wander in different ways. And explore different things. Which gets into the practice of thinking differently. Which is the essence of creativity to get to innovation and all these new ideas.So, to get to that WD40 product, they probably had to do a lot of that, somewhat unorthodox, like somewhat unexpected things that led to that 40th idea and innovation. And so, the key of those different elements is that you have to make it a habit. And it has to also be celebrated and enjoyable, but that's why I shared the tip with like, find a routine in your day.That you can do easily. That it doesn't feel like I don't have time to do that. I don't have time. Think about your exercise. Think about your sleep hours. Hopefully everyone's sleeping well. Sleep routine, like things. When it's built-in routine, it's a little bit easier, but then you can commit and see the change over time.Brian Ardinger: I use a similar technique called Scheduling Your Senses. So, each week you think about what sense do I want to focus on? So, this week I'm going to focus on taste. And I'm going to really focus, you know, a particular time period on what I'm tasting. How does that make me feel? And so, each week you pick a different sense that you want to do, and, you know, it comes down to, like you said, changing your environment. And getting you out of the normal rut that you have. You mentioned one of the obstacles to creativity is this idea of fear. And you know, when you think about WD40, having to try 40 times. You know, I'm sure they didn't go into it saying, hey, we're going to fail 40 times. Or going in with the mindset of I'm scared that I'm going to have to try this 40 different times to get to a solution. Talk about fear and the role of creativity. And how we can overcome that fear. Because I think that's one of the major barriers to creativity. Monica Kang: I think fear is unavoidable. But I think some of the mis-notion we have is that everything always has to be fearful. And I think that's where we miss the chance to celebrate what that growth stage looks like.The act of doing something different, sometimes doesn't always have to be fearful. Me listening to a different podcast, not a fearful thing. But I'm learning new insights. Me focusing on different senses might not be fearful. As it gets to certain decision-making of like, oh, because now I focused on the taste, I realized the way we're cooking right now in this kitchen is actually not good.And I need to tell my boss about it. If the customers are unhappy. That's where the fear encourages decision is. And so, I think when we asked that question, I think we see innovation, creativity in this box of like, okay, we got to think of this new idea, and we have to present it. But actually, even before we get to that stage of fear, there's all these other elements that we built resilience and skills of thinking differently that got us there.And so, the tip that I often share is like first recognize that being creative is you got to pass the fear bridge. But when you're there, remember that, hey actually even the parts to get there, there was a lot of courage into that. And you might not have realized. It might just not have looked as scary as that bridge you're about to cross, that looks really scary. But it wasn't as easy as you thought. And actually, that street that you look back, if you turn around and literally look back at those moments, that became not as scary, because you actually built resilience. There's hemisphere of how much you can experiment has grown so much that it becomes less scary. And in fact, when you cross this bridge, now I'm going to have to tell my chef and my boss about this big, scary decision. Now, the next time you need to do that, it's no longer being as scary. So, our horizon of what we feel we can continue to do will change and evolve, which I think is the part that is so fun to realize that creativity innovation mindset, just like our physical health and muscle is not a static thing. It's going to continue to evolve. Right. Just because I exercise every day, doesn't mean that I'm healthy and I'm done. I can be even healthier. I can be more cautious and same thing with my creative thinking muscle. And think those are the nuances that we miss. Brian Ardinger: I like where you're going. You know, it's almost about how do you reframe the journey from if you think about a particular project and you think about this big project is going to make or break my career. Versus approaching it from the standpoint of like, hey, I'm going to try and experiment. Or I'm going to do this side project. And positioning it in such a way that it frames it differently so that the things that you do learn and that when you do fall down, which are inevitably going to happen. It changes the way you perceive that falling down as part of the journey rather than the journey and the outcome of the journey. Monica Kang: And one thing, Brian, if I can piggyback on that. I share this actually my book Rethink Creativity as well. That, you know, the thousand shades of fear, because one thing that I think is also key is just because I might not be scared of a certain decision, does that mean another person will feel the same way. And I think that's what's actually part of the fear. We need to talk more. And especially as leaders, many of those who's probably listening. You might actually already be here and listening to this episode because you're already pre actually pretty good with it. You're like, no, I've got a good handle of fear. What might be actually harder is actually encouraging your different people. Encouraging your different colleagues. Noticing that like wait, checking ourselves to let when that person says that that's a scary decision, am I actually empathizing and sitting with them. Or coming from the nose up and say, look, yeah, no, don't worry friend. You're going to be fine. That's not scary. And amplifying actually how we feel. And so, fear comes in different shapes, sizes, different times. Actually, the very thing that I might not be scared with one person could be the very thing I'm scared with another person or in another situation. And so it's ever changing.And so, by us having aware. Having fear simply means that we have the alertness. There's a reason why as human beings, we survive, right? We were fearful of the weather conditions. The animals attacking us. Got to protect ourselves. That's actually how we were able to thrive and still exist as an, you know, a being. So, fear isn't just always a bad thing. It's helping try to kick in to protect you. So, look out for these different cues. And I think especially as leaders, it's so key that we don't just simplify. Get rid of your fear. And like stop being fearful. Can we take the time to process it? We need to actually acknowledge all of that and actually ourselves too. Brian Ardinger: So, let's dig into that a little bit, you know. How do you design this creative workplace or workplace for all? You know, how does diversity affect creativity and how are you seeing some companies tackling that problem from an organizational perspective versus the individual perspective?Monica Kang: Well, let's first start with diversity. I think I'm really excited about going back to your very first question. Why so timely to be more creative. And I think the time is even better. We are now seeing more research. People are more aware. People want to learn. More honestly, as somebody who's specializing creative workplace building, it is an exciting time because more people are wanting to have those conversations and say help. I do want to do this. I don't know how. And so, I want to know that this is really timely because no matter what stage you are as a leader, wanting to do this. That you making a commitment and taking one step at a time is part of the thing that will help change the company. So even if that simple decision is that we're going to start doing some one-on-ones. Or we're going to start doing some team building activities at the very beginning and check-in. Actually, that might be the change in itself. That might actually be the kind of activity that your people are missing to feel the courage, to speak up. To feel psychological safety. Which is very key to ignite and creativity and opening up people's mind and feeling that what they can bring up. But if I come into the meeting room and I feel like, okay, Brian's going to be a little upset if I bring this up. Then it's one idea that I don't share. It's one problem. And Brian might be like, well, Monica might frown next time I share this, and he doesn't share one thing. Guess what? We're going to actually see, not only business consequences, but a lot of people, of course, who's going to be impacted because we stopped sharing.And so even that simple decision of like opening up could feel simple. Everyone is testing out right now. So, this good time, this is another example of the fear stopping you. Start with what you're comfortable with, which might be that simply, maybe let's read this article and talk about it. Or, hey, I learned this cool thing from this podcast that Brian and Monica were talking about. I'm inspired. Let's try this out. That could be the starting point. It doesn't always have to be like this big, humongous thing. That's going to lead to culture organization changing. So that's actually the very first tip I share with leaders to make it tangible relatable. And then two, as a result to know that this is a marathon. Yes, we want results as soon as possible for order something. I wanted to get the delivery, right. There was time and effort put in to make that process happen. And I love Simon Sinek's video, where he talks about the intensity versus consistency. He talks about the people development in the workplace. And the beautiful analogy he shares about is our brushing our tooth. If you asked me like, you know, what's the perfect formula to brush the tooth in life versus not to like prevent your mouth from having cavities. Like, I will not know the answer because, you know, maybe I skipped one day. Maybe I skipped three days. Like with that impact, is that the cause like, maybe, but we won't know. But it's the consistent that I brush my teeth every day that I keep my teeth healthy. Same thing on organizations. It's the simple moments of like, let's turn off their phones. Hey, Brian, how are you really doing. Like, oh, Monica actually, this is how I feel now that we've connected. We now open up. You know, Brian, I know we're done with the meeting, but I have this really question I want to ask you. Can I bring this up? I feel would really appreciate cause you just shared about, you know, how you feel. Now, okay. Brian, he's already right now, you're listening, but like he already stood up and like, oh, tell me more Monica. Right? The body language already brings up unconsciously. And I think he shares how it's the consistency that's key. And so again, the second tip I recommend for everyone is that no matter what, or the house solution you have for your culture and people development, the key is the consistency. Not just a one-time retreat of hurray and we're done. But what's the everyday routines that you want to embed.And so, when you even do a retreat or innovation workshop, or you invite a speaker, the question that I hope you always ask yourself, if this is what you're really committing to and what to do, because I know what you do, that's why you're listening to this episode. Think of something that you can do consistently.That is low hanging fruit. That is budget friendly, you know, got to be realistic, right? I'm not saying that you have to spend a lot of money, budget friendly. Implementable as well. And you might be surprised even in that five-minute activity in simply having rows of like no phones in the meeting. Log off. Something like that. So those are kind of tangible places I recommend.Brian Ardinger: That makes great sense. The last topic I want to talk about is the world of work is changing. Obviously. You've been in this space for pre pandemic and now through pandemic. What are some of the trends and things that you're seeing? What are some of the best practices, especially as we kind of move into this new hybrid environment that you're seeing when it comes to creativity.Monica Kang: So many, a particular point I want to highlight is actually generational. And I want to say this because when we see us wanting to express more creatively and we feel we can't. We like to figure out the cost. Right. And our consciousness is that, oh, it's because they're young. Oh, it's because they haven't worked in the company long enough.Oh, it's because they don't get my industry. There's always a, because of. I want to give the courage to recognize that instead of channeling that voice of why don't they get it the way I do. I wonder why they feel that way. I wonder why they say they don't want to get back to the office?I wonder why they say that? I feel fine. I can share all my ideas. I wonder why they say they don't feel comfortable sharing ideas? We got this fancy new office. We're doing all these breakout sessions. Instead of saying like, why are they not. Reframe that to I wonder why. And focus on the lens of listening and wanting to understand.Maybe they're going to share some stuff that you realize, whoa, like we were not ready for it. We don't know how to solve it. And that's okay too. It's not about always needed to have immediately all the answers, but let's problem solve this together. Thank you for sharing that. I had no idea that's how you feel.And part of this is them wanting to be acknowledged or appreciated and heard. And hey, ask them what they think is the best idea. They might actually have a really good idea that we completely missed out. And Brian to your question of what's changing is that more people are wanting to now finally try this. Which has always been important before. But not doing the consequence. Great resignation and even more has been greater. I think it's great that we're finally, hopefully seeing more workplaces where we make this the norm. That, of course we should understand what people want. And of course, this is hard because everyone wants something different. And sometimes we say what we want, but we don't really maybe need it.I might say I want ice cream, but maybe I shouldn't have ice cream today. Cause I already had my chocolate earlier. Right. Like we're people. It's going to be messy. But that's part of the beauty of it. Of feeling like we can bring out all our different insights. And sometimes the choice is that because we feel safe sometimes, I don't want to share out. And might just be like, okay, I just want to do work and that's it.And that's okay too. And I think part of it's like, what's the choice that you're going to make each day as a leader. As a creator. And as an innovator in your workplaces. Even if you're not in leadership for those who's listening like Monica, Brian, that's great, but what if I'm not a leader. You start with setting your boundaries. And where you want to start planting the seeds of where you can do this. So, I hope that gives an encouragement of a starting point. For More InformationBrian Ardinger: This has been fantastic. And I appreciate you giving these tactical tips that anybody within the organization can start making progress when it comes to creativity and innovation. So, I want to thank you for coming on Inside Outside Innovation. If people want to find out more about yourself or your books or your company, what's the best way to do that?Monica Kang: Find me in any of the platforms. I'm on most of the social media platforms, but you know, connect with me on LinkedIn at Monica H Kang. K A N G. And then also follow us at InnovatorsBox. I also recommend the book as well. I think you'll enjoy it. And if you go actually to my book's website, for both of them, we have a lot of free worksheets and tools. Also because of our mission to make creativity, culture, and leadership accessible, we have a lot of free resources and tools. Including some of these topics. So, if you can't find it just simply email me, let me know. And also in some tools in Korean and other languages as well, because we want to make this globally accessible. So, we also make music as well, because not everyone's a reader or workshop person. You can find us at InnovatorsBox studios, where we create music to inspire creativity. Brian Ardinger: Thanks, Monica. I really do appreciate you coming on the show and look forward to continuing the conversation in the years to come.Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  
On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Abhishek Nayak, Co-founder and CEO of Appsmith. Abhisek and I talk about the rise of no-code tools and some of the misconceptions and opportunities that no-code can bring to startups and enterprises alike. Let's get started. Inside Outside Innovation is a podcast to help the new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage, and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript with Abhishek Nayak, Co-founder and CEO of AppsmithBrian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today we have Abhishek Nayak. He is the CEO and Co-founder of a company called Appsmith. Welcome to the show. Abhishek Nayak: Thanks Brian. Really excited to be here. Brian Ardinger: I heard about Appsmith as we talk more and more about this no-code low-code space, that's developing in the startup and in the enterprise world. And Appsmith is an open-source framework that makes it easy to build and maintain internal custom business tools. No code for the enterprise if I'm correct. Abhishek Nayak: Yeah, exactly. Think of us like WordPress, but for building internal user facing applications. Brian Ardinger: I'd love to dig into how this got started, this rise of no-code technologies and that. Making it easier for the non-traditional technical person to build and create faster and that. So maybe let's take a step back and tell us a little bit of your journey of how you became a founder and specifically around, how did you decide to build a no-code app platform? Abhishek Nayak: Been an entrepreneur for a better part of the previous decade. Appsmith is actually my third startup. My first startup was in the space of offline logistics. We were doing cash and delivery. So, we had around 150 plus people. Lots of custom software built internally to manage them. And to run the business. My second startup was in the space of AI, where we were trying to automate customer support. And we used to have 10 plus customers and use to automate support requests for them. That again, we were building a lot of custom applications to train the data. Look at how a particular board or a particular model is performing. And just run all sorts of experiments and processes. That was my second startup. And all of these startups, I had the same co-founder and CTO Arpit Mohan.  And he actually got sick and tired of building all these tools. Our second startup didn't work that well. Our first one got acquired. Second one didn't work that well, and we had to shut it. But he actually started tinkering with the idea of building UI builder but for backend entrepreneurs. Because he was a backend engineer and he really disliked dealing with HTML/CSS. So, he started working on this side project. And this is why he was working at a different job.And during this period, when he was working on a different job, I was working as an EIR at Excel partners. So, I was an entrepreneur in residence where my job was to meet new startups, talk to them about how to run their business. And just understand if it makes sense for Excel to invest in it. While at the same time, I was also looking at other ideas that I could start out with.Now I couldn't find anything interesting. But I was helping my friend Arpit figure out if his idea for an open-source project had any legs. And during that process of helping him out, I started interviewing some of these startups that I was meeting on everyday basis. And I realized that almost every single startup had this problem. That they need to build a lot of custom business applications, maybe to run customer support or expose some data to the sales team. Have a way for the marketing team to maybe generate coupons. Or maybe look up some customer data.And they never had engineering bandwidth to build what they needed. And that was a problem, right? That's when I started telling Arpit, hey, maybe this can actually be a business. Maybe you just don't need to think of it as a side project. Maybe we should start a business together and do this like a startup.That's how it actually got started. It was my co-founder's idea because he hated HTML CSS. And then we started working together to build this out as a company. We also have a third co-founder Nikhil who heads product. And he again has been an engineer for a really long time. But he's a front-end engineer and he was just sick and tired of doing the same thing over and over again.So even though he has skills in HTML CSS, and he loves working on front end, he just disliked the repetitive nature that these internal apps generally have. And that's why he was excited about this idea. Brian Ardinger: I love the story. Because you often hear entrepreneurs’ stories start with a pain or an itch that they have to scratch. And it sounds like that's exactly where you guys started. And it seems like the timing was perfect for this type of new tool. Because it's getting easier and cheaper to use multiple different tools and open APIs, et cetera, to make it easier to build and scale and test and try things than ever before. Talk a little bit about the early traction you got when you started the company and some of the early things you learned.Abhishek Nayak: So, the first six months of app Smith was just building the product out. And we actually started pitching it to users and convincing them to use it. But nobody actually converted. Nobody wanted to use it. And that's when we began to question is the product quality low? Do we not have enough features or what's happening here?When we started digging in deeper, we just realized that the standard style developers have for a product like this is really high. And we just had to go back and improve the quality. And add a lot more features to the product. For it to be ready. So, after our first launch which failed, you know, we had this pivotal moment where we had to decide, should we start building this for a different audience. Because developers don't seem to like this. Or should we just continue to follow our vision and get this right?So, I'm glad that we actually decided to continue following a vision, but just improve the quality and add lot more features. Because when he lost a year later, you know, one and a half years have gone by, since we actually started, it instantly took off. Like within the first week, I remember we had about 30 plus teams using us.And the only thing that we had done was write a blog post announcing that this is live. We did not actually do any sort of sales or any sort of cold outreach to get the users. And we honestly weren't putting in that much effort because we launched, expecting completely failure. Because that's what we had experienced, you know, like a year ago when we had tried to launch. But this time we were pleasantly taken aback by the reaction the market had.And that's when we realized that a product like this just takes a lot longer to build versus a SaaS product. And the quality that developers expect is just a lot higher versus today, we have around 5,000 plus companies that use us every month. And tens of thousands of people who use us every day. That's a different story today.Brian Ardinger: When you were going through the process of determining which features to add, or which ones to improve, how did you work with customers or how did you determine what to build in that environment? Abhishek Nayak: So, most of the early features that was very much decided by my co-founders because they had been engineers for a really long time. And we really just relied on their intuition to decide what should be built. And this is where I think we broke a lot of start-up rules. When a customer asked us to build this feature, if my co-founders disagreed, we would not build it. And what that led to was the product ended up being simple enough for most users. And the base features that my co-founders were sure were important, actually turned out to be quite successful. And the product ended up not being so bloated. Today of course it's a different story because now we do listen to customers a lot more and we actually end up executing it. But in those early days, it was so important to just stay focused on what we were sure they would use. I think the most amount of waste occurs in a startup is when you build something that nobody uses, and nobody wants. So, by just being hyper focused on the vision that my co-founders had said, we actually ended up getting to a product, which a lot of people really like. And it was high quality. Brian Ardinger: Then of course, having co-founders that were in that customer segment and really understood because they were themselves customers. Or trying to scratch that itch. Probably helped immensely. So, let's talk about no code itself and sometimes it gets a bad rap. Especially in the enterprise. You see a lot of startups using it as they're testing or building out new things as a way to grow and scale and meet their own customer demand. What are some of the misconceptions about no-code that you've run in to?Abhishek Nayak: The first one is that no code is only for business users. In my experience, the fastest adopters of tools like Zapier, Bubble, Backflow, were actually developers. They love automating work that they do not like. So I don't think no code as we know, put developers out of jobs. Instead, developers love it. And they'll actually be able to focus on more custom and more complicated tasks. The second misconception about no code is the fact that you cannot build complicated things. I actually don't think that's true. What I believe is 80% of the software that the world needs is actually fairly straightforward. You need a simple, but something that works all the time. So no code is really good for that. But I also see the fact that no code products like Bubble, Zapier, or Indi Nomad. They actually have evolved so much that you can actually build really complicated things on those. It's still very early days for most no-code products. Therefore, when you look at them, you might think, okay, these can only be used for building simple tools.I cannot build something sophisticated on them. But the fact is all of these tools are going to evolve. And they're just going to get much better achieving complicated tasks. And at some point in time, you're not going to have full-time developers or professional developers working on these kind of applications, which can be completed by no code, because it's just going to be a waste of their time.Brian Ardinger: So, talk a little bit about some of the applications that you see are driving no-code today, and maybe some applications you see being on the forefront tomorrow. Abhishek Nayak: With Appsmith, we see that the most common applications are generally applications with dealing with customer date. So it could be, you're looking at customer data or you're trying to do a customer support workflow, or you're trying to do a sales and marketing workflow. Most no code and low code apps that are built today, generally tend to be very close to serving our customer. Because those are the highest priorities for any entrepreneurial, small to medium sized business. But those are the commonest use cases. In case of Appsmith, we see customer support as a huge use case for us. I am personally a big user of Zapier. And what I find is Zapier is great when you have to just do some of these quick and dirty sales and marketing workflows. Maybe I want every time there's a customer, who's signing up from a company with more than a thousand employees, I want to get personally notified on my slack. Or, you know, anytime there's a customer, who's at risk of churning out, I want to be notified on Slack. For some of those things I found it incredibly easy to use Zapier for. And it has an immediate revenue impact because if I go act on those deals or act on those customers that are about to churn out, I can either rescue that revenue or I can generate more revenue. I think those are probably the commonest use cases.Now over time, I do think there'll be more adjusted use cases, which are not linked with revenue to come about where you might be doing something let's say for HR or for internal financial processes. Some of those things. But as of today, I believe anything that's any process that's close to customer will probably be the first one that's used by users.Brian Ardinger: Do you see a big difference between developing no-code internal tools versus no-code consumer-based tools or front facing types of technologies? Abhishek Nayak: Yes, I do. There are quite a few differences when it comes to building customer facing tools, using no code. These generally tend to be less data heavy. And there are a lot more focused on visual design and look and feel and UI. Versus when it comes to internal facing applications, they tend to be more data heavy. And they tend to be more security oriented as well. So, you're going to have rule-based access control, SSO. Some of these features which are necessary when you're building like a internal tool. Versus when you're building something that's customer facing, you're not going to focus that much on security. Because it probably doesn't deal with that much sensitivity. Brian Ardinger: The last topic I want to talk about is this role of community. I know that Appsmith's done a really good job of building an active community. You've got a Discord page, and a number of folks that follow that on a regular basis. Can you talk about how you built community as part of your startup? And how important is that to continuing to build a business. Abhishek Nayak: Community has been very essential for the success of Appsmith. But the way the community grew was, they basically first needed support for using Appsmith. So, they started joining our Discord because they needed help using the product. And over time, the number of users and our Discord grew so much that even when we were sleeping and there was a question, another community member would go on and answer it. So, the shared love that people have in our Discord community is the love for the product. And that's what binds people together. And over time we've seen people create like different language communities. As well as there are freelancers and entrepreneurs who build apps for other companies using Appsmith. They've actually started talking to each other and helping each other out. So we are still in the very early days, but I believe like for you to start with the community, there needs to be a shared common interest or a shared love for a product. I think it's really difficult if there is no common interest and all you have a product, which is actually not love. If you focus on the product first, it's possible to get a community going. Brian Ardinger: If people want to get involved in the no-code movement and that, are there particular resources or things they should turn to, to learn a little bit more about what's going on in the space? Abhishek Nayak: The biggest set of resources are really available on YouTube. Because low-code, and no-code tend to be easier to understand and use when you watch a video. So, I would just highly recommend, you know, looking up YouTube tutorials instead of reading an article about it. Some of these tools just sound very complicated when you're reading an article about it. But when you actually see somebody build something using it, it just clicks a lot quicker. That's the way I learned how to use Zapier and Indi Nomad. And that was a lot easier, than this reading of blog posts. Third, just highly recommend just looking at these YouTube tutorials. Brian Ardinger: I highly agree with you on that. And quite frankly, just learning and playing with the tools themselves. A lot of them are not necessarily self-explanatory, but if you get in and you have a use case scenario, a lot of them, you can figure out yourself, even if you're not a developer. Abhishek Nayak: Exactly. And there's always some YouTuber who's addressed that particular use case before. I'm not really found it to be the case that you can't figure it out after seeing what YouTubers were doing.Brian Ardinger: So, Abhishek, if people want to find out more about yourself or more about Appsmith, what's the best way to do that?Abhishek Nayak: So, the best way to find out about Appsmith is go to And we also have a YouTube channel that gets a lot of hits. So, if you want to just see the product before signing up. You should just check out our YouTube channel. And I'm on Twitter. You can just find me by searching, for Abhishek Nayak. You should be able to find me there. Brian Ardinger: Well, thank you for coming on Inside Outside Innovation. Really do appreciate your time. And love hearing about all the new things that are going on in the world of innovation. And I'm looking forward to continuing the conversation.Abhishek Nayak: Thank you so much, Brian, for having me. I loved this conversation.Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  
On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Andrew Gazdecki, Founder of MicroAcquire and Author of the new book Getting Acquired: How I Built and Sold My SaaS Startup. Andrew, and I talk about his entrepreneurial journey building MicroAcquire, and some of the insights he's seeing when it comes to buying and selling startups.Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast to help the new innovators navigate what's next. Each week. We'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world. Accelerating change and its certainty. Join us as we explore, engage and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses.Interview Transcript with Andrew Gazdecki, Founder of MicroAcquire Brian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today, we have Andrew Gazdecki who is the founder of MicroAcquire. And Author of the new book Getting Acquired: How I Built and Sold My SaaS Startup. Welcome Andrew. Andrew Gazdecki: Thanks so much for having me, Brian. I'm excited. Brian Ardinger: I've got my MicroAcquire socks on. So, thank you for that. I'm super excited to have you on to talk about the craziness that is the startup world. And you've had a front row seat for a number of years as a multi-founder. And now with MicroAcquire, let's talk about what MicroAcquire is and how you got into the business of helping startups sell to other folks.Andrew Gazdecki: MicroAcquire, for those who aren't familiar with it, is the largest startup acquisition marketplace in the world today. We have about 150,000 buyers registered. We've helped over six hundred startups to get acquired that combined acquisition total is 400 million at this point. Almost half a billion. We don't charge any fees. So, you can sell your business on MicroAcquire completely free.So, I started that business, candidly, as a side project. I just felt that needed to exist. I'd previously gone through two acquisitions, and it was just a mess. Everything from finding the buyers to, there's so much education today on how to grow your business. How to learn sales. How to recruit. And how to fundraise. But then there's nothing on the exit. Which is arguably the most important part of the founder's journey.And when I sold my first business, which we can talk about, if you'd like, it was a business called Business Apps. Spelled BiznessApps, and kind of the light bulb moment went on when I sold it. I just got a ton of emails and texts from friends that we're also running startups and they were like, how'd you get acquired?Like, how did you find the buyer? What was the process like? It was like hieroglyphics everyone. Including myself when I went through the process. So, what we're really trying to do at MicroAcquire is democratize startup acquisitions and just make the process easier and more transparent for founders. And also, buyers.Brian Ardinger: So, talk a little bit about the types of startups that are being bought and sold on the platform. And how has that maybe changed since when you first launched? Andrew Gazdecki: Well, when we first launched, lots of small startups, you know ranging from, we would sell business, and we still do today, but 5k startups, mostly side projects. And since then, we've really expanded, I guess, up market. So, our largest acquisition is just under $10 million. We have buyers on the platform now that can facilitate acquisitions in the hundreds of millions if the value is there. Yeah, just started with humble beginnings just because I felt this was something that was so needed for the startup ecosystem. Because the other routes to sell your business, unless you're most founders think like Google shows up with a check and hey, you did it. Like you won the lottery. There's this saying most startups are bought, not sold and that's just not true. You know, you really need to sell your business. And so, the other routes were expensive, borderline highway robbery, and that's, that was really kind of like the main purpose of me launching MicroAcquire to really give another option for founders of this other business. And if you're curious about the other options, you can hire an investment banker. They're going to charge a big fee. If your startup is too small for an investment bank, because most investment banks will only work with you if your business is of a certain size. And you know, maybe you can get like eight, nine figure exit. And I had previously worked with an investment bank. And their minimum fee was $800,000 for a successful transaction. The short story there, we got a few offers, but the fee was just, I still had gas in the tank, so I kept going. But it showed me, and I remember telling the bankers, I was like, you guys have the coolest job in the world. I do all this work. And then at the end, you come in and get, you know, a nice payday. So that always kind of stuck with me. And then I stumbled on to business brokers. Business brokers, if your business is doing let's say less than you know 5 million in revenue. You can work with a business broker. They will typically charge 10 to 15% commission to sell your business. So, 10% to 15%. So that's like a small angel round. So, I just saw it. Okay. Business brokers don't do too much. You know, what would happen if we removed the middleman? And we let buyers and sellers connect directly. And we help businesses ranging from SaaS companies. That's kind of our sole focus. But we also sell a lot of e-commerce businesses. Communities. Some crypto companies. Direct to consumer. Newsletters. We like to say, we want to be the marketplace for profitable startups. So that's mainly our focus is startups that have traction. So, we don't list startups that are pre revenue. Content websites. Affiliate websites. Again, mostly focusing on businesses that have, you know, a lot of growth upside. Having a blast running it at the same time, too. Brian Ardinger: I'm hearing more and more about people using the platform, startup founders, maybe looking to buy a side project or a side hustle versus building something from scratch. Are you seeing that trend happening? Andrew Gazdecki: Yeah. Like one story that comes to mind is, there's builders and there's scalers. Where a lot of people love to build a business. They love to think of a new idea and bring something to life. And I think fallen, in both those buckets. Builders and scalers. And so people build these wonderful businesses, but they maybe build it to a certain point where they'd like to move on to something else.Maybe they built it to a few million in revenue and now they're, you know, mostly managing. When they'd really like to be building. And so MicroAcquire is a great outlet for them to meet buyers within like hours. Like the fastest acquisition on my group, where I was within, quite literally hours. Those are obviously outliers. Brian Ardinger: What are you seeing when it comes to valuation trends and things along those lines? How's the market changed or what shifts are you seeing? Andrew Gazdecki: Yeah, good question. It really depends on the business. So, a good business will always trade at really good multiples. SaaS trades at high multiples and e-commerce. Newsletters communities also trade lower than, you know, a typical SaaS business.So, there's so much variability. And when I get asked questions like I have a SaaS company, it's doing a million revenue. What's it worth. That's kind of akin to asking what a car is worth. You know, like, is there a 500,000 miles on it? Does it need a new transmission? Do you have a good team in place? What is your churn? What is the quality of your customers? And then other little things like when you go to sell your business, do you have an understanding of kind of what your business is worth? And on MicroAcquire, we have two different things that we do to help with valuations. One is we have a directory within MicroAcquire where you can hire someone to get a real valuation done.I highly recommend that. And then we also have a tool called MicroMRR. And you should go to and you connect your Stripe billing. And we'll actually give you a data-driven valuation based on what we're seeing from acquisitions happening in the market. So, acquisitions are a moving target. I'd say maybe there could be a slowdown coming.I know the public markets for trading believe like 22X, and then they dropped down to 12X and this is April. Those might climb back. But the last year was absolutely borderline bonkers in terms of. It was record numbers in terms of private equity activity. Just MNA activity in general. So, it's a good time to sell your business if you're looking to. Brian Ardinger: I'd love to hear a little bit more about how you came to create MicroAcquire. I mean, I know early on you even did some interesting marketing. Went viral. You had the Russ Hanneman character from Silicon Valley TV show, do a little viral stuff on Twitter. Talking about MicroAquire and that. Can you talk a little bit about your idea of how you got it started and the execution to get MicroAcquire off the ground?Andrew Gazdecki: Honest answer is, so I like to work within a frame. I'm not a big fan of like mental frameworks. That, you know, maybe other people put forth. But so, I'm always thinking of what worked five years ago or what worked 10 years ago does not work today. And so that's why you'll see, I'm always trying to market in a way that doesn't feel like marketing. But it also adds value and maybe even makes you laugh and stuff like that.A lot of startups today think that their main competitor is XYZ company. But it's really the 500,000 startups out there. So, you're competing for consumer attention. I'm a big believer in that. And so, we focus a lot on brand-building. Just sharing MicroAcquire story. Kind of everything. So, when I first launched it, I was working probably like 4:00 AM to like midnight. And the only way, so going back to kind of like how I think about and what I recommend founders think about when they first launch a startup is this won't come as a surprise. But find something you're passionate about. So, and then also find something that you have a unique insight into. So, I made a bet that entrepreneurship through acquisition was going to be a trend. And that was just through me going through two different acquisitions. And I was actually looking to buy a SaaS company. And I couldn't find anything that was specific to SaaS. I didn't like working with brokers. I wanted to speak directly to the founder because it's a very relationship type transaction. And it's not just here's the keys. You know, I want to know about the founder. I want to know why are they looking to sell? And so, I kind of just created what I feel acquisition should be. And I kind of built MicroAcquire in a way that thinking back on Bizness Apps is a 10 million a year revenue company. What would it take for me to list on a marketplace? So, we implemented things like privacy ability to connect. Financial metrics. You give buyer a good, healthy snapshot into the view of your business. To get it off the ground, I mean, a lot of podcasts. A lot of cold emails. Hanging out on live chat, 24 7. And I don't recommend this to founders, but again, going back to my previous point is before I launched MicroAcquire, I wrote down, what customer do I want to serve?And I've been an entrepreneur my whole life. I love startups. And kind of a startup nerd. I love looking at new businesses. And I built this company. And so when I work on it kind of feels like a video game. It's not work. And if you can put yourself in that situation with some unique insights into a market. It's a customer that you love. And then unique insights kind of fall in line with what I describe as founder market fit. So why you. So, I think of why now. Why you. As probably the two most important things. I had a deep conviction that acquisitions are going to be increasing. And that proved to be right. So that was a non-obvious bet to a lot of people, but obvious to me. That became obvious over time. But when you're able to build a startup in a way that you enjoy playing, running, whatever you want to describe it. More than your favorite video game. You kind of want, cause it's really hard to compete against a founder that where it feels like work.My best analogy there is if you, I see a lot of founders creating startups around what I'd call like opportunistic opportunities. Where, you know, it's a good idea, but maybe you build a CRM for dentists. But you hate dentists. And a big part of building a startup is talking to customers all the time. I'm a big believer that your customers have path to product market fit. They have a better roadmap than you do. And so, you need to be able to talk to these customers and enjoy these conversations and really listen to them. Otherwise, there's someone out there who's going to love those conversations and it's just going to be really hard to compete. But it all kind of revolves around happiness. Where the founders that I think go the distance really enjoy what they do day in day out.And that's not to say it's super easy. Like just cause it's fun, it's easy. Like a video game. Just because it's fun doesn't mean it's easy. I think that's kind of the key that a lot of the founders should be thinking about is, is this a business I could run for a decade? If so, why? And kind of dip your toes in the water.Like when I launched my group, I didn't have grandiose visions for it. I just wanted to help other founders get acquired without these huge commissions. And then as the business grew, it became pretty obvious that the market opportunity was fairly large. Yeah, basically kind of grew forth. I knew this was something that the startup community needed, and I just worked.I was doing customer support. Vetting the listings. Writing the newsletters. Managing the product. Going on podcasts like this. Social media content. In a weird way, and now I have a team that helps me with all that stuff, but in a weird way, I kind of look back and I miss those days. Brian Ardinger: Well, it's never really been a better time to be an entrepreneur because you have a lot of these new No-code tools. And ways to spin up experiments. And like you said, dip your toe in the water. And you have access to a lot more information. You know, I think 10 to 15 years ago, the whole VC world was not very transparent. But now, you know, you can read blogs and books and figure out that particular path if you're an entrepreneur. It sounds like you're trying to do the same thing for on the acquisition side. Breathe some life into what that path looks like and that. So, let's talk a little bit about the book you just wrote, Getting Acquired: How I Built and Sold my SaaS Startup. What can people expect to find in it? And why did you write the book? Andrew Gazdecki: I started BiznessApps again, spoke B I Z N E S S apps. My mom, this is kind of a funny footnote, but everyone called it BizApps. So, I ended up chasing down owner of the domain, BizApps. When your mom calls your business BizApp, and you don't have the domain, you got to go get it.But I started that business when I was 21 in college. And also going back to unique insights. I had a previous business that helped mobile developers connect to businesses. So, I saw businesses posting the same job requirement over and over and over. And I thought, whoa, they're paying like 50K to 100K for like a project like this?What if I just built a template and the functionality isn't really changed too much. But we just changed the content. Imagery. Which speeds up mobile app creation. Makes it more affordable. There's do yourself website builders at the time. And I thought, what about a do yourself mobile app builder for small businesses?So, the book is just kind of my story. I just journaled through the whole experience because it was very strange and surreal. I was 21 when I launched it. Just to give you kind of an idea of like the growth of it. And it was a right place, right time business. I got completely lucky. The iPhone had just come out. Android wasn't even there. Blackberry was still in the mix. We almost made a Blackberry app. I'm glad we didn't. But it's just my candid experience building that company, from idea all the way to the invested. So, it's not a book of here's how to build a startup. It's more of a book of here's how I built a startup with mistakes. Everything from when I thought of the idea to when I sold the business and everything in between. Brian Ardinger: Can you highlight some of the best or worst advice that you got on that journey.Andrew Gazdecki: I was so young. So, I was 23, 24, and I personally didn't grow up with too much means if you will. And so, I remember there's a specific situation. We needed a marketing hire. And I was handling most of the marketing. And the salary ranges, now I'm two years out of college and they were in like the 150K, 200K range.And I'm like, what am I going to pay someone that. Like you really need, one of my favorite quotes is, you know, talent wins games, but teamwork when championships. It's a Michael Jordan quote. So, I think, you know, hiring smarter people than me, was probably my biggest mistake. Also, a funny story. This is a true story. We had a period where we were again, because we didn't hire a really good marketer that could track in our paid ad spend and stuff like that. We were spending over a hundred thousand a month on Google ads. The business grew from zero to let's call it 7 million in the first five years. So it was just, everything was just kind of like, don't touch anything. We don't know what's working. But it's working. And it was so profitable. And our customer payback period was like 33 days. And for the first two years, our margins were about 90%. So, it was just extremely profitable. But when we finally hired someone to do analysis on how profitable is this pay-per-click ad campaign, we concluded basically we were burning about 90,000 out of that a hundred thousand. So, we call that era blowing up Ferrari's every month. So, every month we were blowing $90,000 because we weren't properly attributing our marketing spend to customer acquisition. And blowing up a Ferrari every month probably would have been cooler. Maybe not that would have hurt my heart because I'm a big car fan. But and I share all of that. I share the ups and the downs. And I think it's just a candid story of just what it's like to build a startup. Mistakes and wins included. Brian Ardinger: So, looking at the world today, what are some of the resources that you would recommend that startup founders be checking out or paying attention to?Andrew Gazdecki: I get a lot of really good insight just talking to other startup founders. I'm not a big podcast listener. I read a lot. Like this was kind of some books I'm reading and there's my book on top, like Play Bigger. It's a book about brand-building. From Impossible to Inevitable, that's a great book on how to build a SaaS company end to end. It goes over marketing, building a sales team, just written by Jason Lampkin and Aaron Ross from Predictable Revenue.And then a Tuned In, which is basically how to listen to customers. You know, you can talk to customers. But how do you really listen and get the insights you need? So, I always say that customers have a way better roadmap to product market fit than you. You just need to talk to them and listen. So, I could give you a number of different books, but I'm an avid reader. That's kind of where I get a lot, but I will say you definitely learn the most when you launch a startup. When you kind of just, you can read all the books in the world, but when you finally launch a startup, that's when the real learning begins.And also like you kind of get in a situation of, I launched a startup. Okay, now I really need to figure out marketing. And so now you're very motivated to figure out marketing and apply some of the concepts that's right, that you might read in some of these books. Brian Ardinger: That's great advice. And I encourage anybody who's even thinking about it. The tools and the resources are out there to try things nowadays that maybe you couldn't have tried in the past. Even if you fail, you've probably leveled up your skills and game considerably than if you just read about it. So, encourage is that as well. My last question is what are you most excited about working on the next three to six months? Andrew Gazdecki: I'd say just helping startups and founders get acquired. We have a goal to help a thousand startups, get acquired this year. So far, we're on track for that. We average about 100 a month. So, we'll probably beat that goal. And what's interesting about startups and you start something, and it goes really slow, but stick with it. And then kind of takes off because we've done more acquisitions this year alone than we did in the first two years of being in business.So, what gets me excited is just helping founders. And we're building tooling to help acquisitions. To really streamline them and really educate founders on what is due diligence. What are the legal steps? How do I transfer assets? How do I do technical due diligence on code if I'm looking to acquire a business? How does escrow work? What are common deal terms? So, if you go to MicroAcquire, click resources at the top. You can literally learn how to acquire a 100-million-dollar business. We have so much content. And that's just kind of like something I felt was so needed because it's such an opaque topic that not too many people write about. So, I definitely recommend checking that out. For More InformationBrian Ardinger: Andrew, I want to thank you for coming on Inside Outside Innovation. And sharing these stories and giving us some insights and access to some of these resources. I think it's very valuable. I really do appreciate your time. If people want to find out more about yourself or more about MicroAcquire or the book, what's the best way to do that?Andrew Gazdecki: Definitely check out It's free to sign up. You can browse the startups. And then as a seller if you're looking to sell your business also completely free. You can list your startup. And instantly meet buyers. Sometimes within hours of going live. We do vet all listings. So, we have a process where we work. And we make sure that you are prepared when you go live on MicroAcquire. But follow me on Twitter, @agazdecki if you can spell that. Or just add me on LinkedIn.Brian Ardinger: Excellent. Well, thank you again for being on the show. And looking forward to staying connected. Andrew Gazdecki: Yeah. Thanks for having me.Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. 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On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Rachel Kuhr Conn, Founder and CEO of Productable. Rachel and I talk about the pitfalls and challenges facing corporate innovation and some of the processes and practices that companies can use to level up their innovation efforts. Let's get started.Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast to help the new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript with Rachel Kuhr Conn, Founder and CEO of ProductableBrian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today, we have Rachel Kuhr Conn. She's the Founder and CEO of Productable, where she is turning the innovation process into software. Welcome to the show, Rachel. Rachel Kuhr Conn: Thanks so much Brian. It's a pleasure to be here. Brian Ardinger: I'm excited to have you on the show. I'm surprised we haven't had you on earlier. We have a number of mutual friends that have crossed paths. And we just only got introduced to recently. So, I'm glad to have you on the show. You've recently started a company called Productable, focused on the space of innovation and how do you create more repeatable processes and things along those lines. You've just landed a deal with the US Air Force to expediate the innovations process at the national defense area. How did you get involved in this innovation space to begin with? And then we'll talk about how did you develop Productable. Rachel Kuhr Conn: Really excited to finally connect after all of the different people we have in common. So, a little bit of my backstory is I was a bright eyed, bushy tailed engineer, thinking that I was going to change the world with amazing products. And dreaming of all the impact I was going to make. And my research area in school was actually around predictive analytics for innovation success. And so, there's actually a lot of data around personality type, team dynamics, methodologies that you can look at and actually predict what should be used and what the team dynamics should be to drive the best outcome.So, in school, I was like, oh my gosh, industry must be amazing at solving problems. Like I just can't wait. And instead, I went into large corporation after a large corporation and just couldn't believe how politics and silos and just corporate bull crap for lack of better term, ruined every single opportunity I thought I had to ever make something awesome.And so just personally, I got really, really tired of the amazing capacity that all these large organizations have. And I just could never quite create the thing that made it to the finish line. And so got involved in the venture capital world. Saw how things work differently. Got really inspired by it. And essentially started building our platform and what we call the Productable Way, which leverages VC mindset and built it more into a corporate friendly approach, if you will. Brian Ardinger: And you worked with Mark Cuban companies, and some other folks, to build out this philosophy or build out this methodology. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Rachel Kuhr Conn: So, I got so frustrated in the corporate world. I actually cold emailed Mark Cuban while watching a bunch of Shark Tank. Cause I was like, they say yes to a lot of things that I think my boss would have said no to. And so, I just had to figure out, figure out what the difference was. And in the venture world, it's okay to take a lot of bets. You're supposed to build a whole portfolio of bets. And you understand that the outcome of a few is going to be big enough to pay for the losses of the others, and then some. It creates this incredible culture of risk-taking and experimentation. And having the room to do that in corporates really is what's required to help large organizations overcome the disruption curves that are ahead. You know, you always have something that's eating these large organizations. And so, you really have to have a way of managing, how do you actually take a lot of bets on new ways of solving these problems and in overcoming these things to actually be able to succeed. Brian Ardinger: Well, I'm curious to talk a little bit more about how you came about creating Productable. So, you know, there are a lot of idea management, idea capture, innovation software platforms out there. So, a lot of people kind of taking a swing at this over the last 20 years. What made you want to try to tackle this marketplace? Rachel Kuhr Conn: For one, it was from the pain point. If one of those had solved the problem, I feel like I would've just run with it. I didn't really necessarily feel the need to be a founder. It was actually the pain that I couldn't go into corporate innovation yet again and face the same problems. And so, something about those tools just wasn't doing it for me. It wasn't solving that problem that you end up with ideas on a shelf.And so, there's a lot of great idea management platforms that start to build that early stage of top of the funnel kind of solutions. But how do you actually move solutions through mid-stage and late stage of the funnel? And that's really where Productable comes of help. Brian Ardinger: Well and that's one of the interesting insights is I think a lot of people think that a tool will solve the problem, but really a tool is just a tool. And what really makes this thing work as far as innovation within big companies, it's a culture of innovation. And its processes and that that are around the intake of an idea. So maybe talk about how does process play a role in the actual software itself? Rachel Kuhr Conn: Yeah, absolutely. And so, it's a hundred percent culture where just a means to help support all of those things. And one of the big things is the company has to be willing to really invest in innovation. And if you're not putting your money where your mouth is, you're not going to get the outcomes. And so Productable is really a three-pronged approach. It's portfolio, progress, and people. And so what those three elements are, Portfolio Management is really about establishing and evangelizing a solid strategy that people understand. Making it so that you invest wisely in innovation, so that you're not throwing good money after bad. And you're making it really easy to expedite decision-making across the whole process. Then I'm going to actually switch to People Management. So that's more of like the top-down strategy if you will. People Empowerment is about honing the innovator skill so that you can actually empower projects to go through the right methodologies and tools and ensure you're involving the right subject matter experts. So, it's a little more of the ideal, if I was building a product, and building a company, these are some of the tools and processes I might. And then you would have to actually sync those together and that's our Progress Management. So, progress management, is like the way that a venture capitalist might get an update from a startup. And actually, here's our barriers. Here's our wins. Here's our asks. Here's how everything's actually going. Rubber meets the road. It's that kind of reporting so that when you're dealing with all the corporate stuff, that's preventing you from doing anything. It's how you actually manage all of those barriers and work through those pieces. So essentially that top down, bottom up and that syncing are those three pieces that we use to leverage in our software to help people innovate. Brian Ardinger: Well, I think it's interesting. A lot of companies struggle first out of the gate, just defining what innovation is. And trying to come up with that innovation thesis. You know, do they focus on core optimization types of innovations. Or do they go for the transformational stuff? And what does that even look like? Some people only think of innovation as one side of that bucket. Which it's not. So, talk about like how your clients and that use Productable or the approaches that you use to understand how to create that innovation thesis. And how to place bets across the different horizons of innovation.Rachel Kuhr Conn: Well, that's a great question. And I would say we're very agnostic. So, we don't care if you're doing a core innovation or a disruptive innovation. But what we're going to do is be able to show you the math. So, if you're doing disruptive innovation and you're wanting to put all of your eggs in one basket or two and you're essentially say, yeah, we're going to do these two really disruptive ideas. You're going to see that whether you invest in two ideas or you decide to invest in 20, the math is still going to be true. That if you're going after a disrupting idea is probably like a 10% chance it's going to work out. And so, as long as you're okay with that, and you're doing two bets, great. That's your expectation. But maybe you should be going after 20 bets if you want disruptive. And in a core, it might be 90% success rate. And so, there's a lot of great data around success rates that corporates really miss. And so, it's being mindful of taking that risk tolerance at the leadership level and setting that standard of this is what a bet looks like. This is the check size. This is essentially what we expect our decision criteria to be. Our traction metrics. The same way a VC would. And then making it really visible essentially, so that when it's time to make a decision, they can decide if something fits in their portfolio or not. And then they can actually get the metrics to see how it's going. Brian Ardinger: So, let's talk about how people are using it now. So, give me some examples. Or some people or places that are taking advantage of your software. Rachel Kuhr Conn: Sure. So, we're working with the Air Force right now. We work with the Vice Chief's Office, the number two of the air force. And a lot of the DAF, Department of Air Force leadership. And the Air Force is a 700,000-person organization. There are, I mean, just hundreds of people involved in innovation. And it's really interesting at a large corporation, you tend to have a head of innovation and a group that works under them. And the Air Force is much, much more complex than that. I don't have a very straightforward answer of how it's all going. But the short answer is we're starting to look at how can we leverage portfolio management within the Air Force. And how can we build an ecosystem of portfolios to ensure that we actually have the right funds and system to ensure that ideas can go from idea to mid late stage and not fall into the valley of death along the way. Brian Ardinger: What kind of differences are you seeing between like maybe public facing companies or like private companies. Versus like the government sector. Do they treat innovation differently or what are you seeing from the differences? Rachel Kuhr Conn: I never thought corporate seems so simple. A 700,000-person organization turns out, I don't know if you've ever heard the rule of threes and tens. Things tend to get more complicated with three people, 10 people, 300 people, a thousand people, three, you know, so forth. And so, when you think about 700,000 people organizations, it's just what is a single approval at a large corporation is actually takes you to a different business unit that then manages the process that does that approval. That takes you to another business unit that manages. So actually, putting your arms around any sort of portfolio decision is so complicated. And it's so needed to be able to solve that in such a large organization compared to a small corporate, if you will.Brian Ardinger: And I imagine the stakes are different, depending on the specific ideas and that. Like, obviously if you're doing innovation in and around things that could kill people, or, have a significant different effect versus you know, the new color of a new product that you come out with. I'd imagine the stakes are slightly different as well. Rachel Kuhr Conn: Well, the interesting thing about the Air Force is that it's actually, I think it's 94 bases and every single base works like a city. And I didn't realize this until I worked with the Air Force either. So, the Air Force, like the pilots, if you will, are part of the scene, but to support those pilots, you have to have a base where there's hospitals, hotels, restaurants, education, gas, like literally gyms. Everything you can imagine has to be on base.And so, the Air Force is actually in charge of having every single one of those kinds of businesses within the Air Force organization. So actually, the kinds of things that we're helping are everything from childcare, gym apps. Yes, there are some more serious ones too. But I would say there's a surprising amount of comparables to industry of solving those kinds of problems.Brian Ardinger: That's quite interesting. So, talk a little bit about some of the trends that you're seeing in the space of innovation. Or what are you excited about? Rachel Kuhr Conn: I think that people are really starting to see the need for portfolio innovation. Pre COVID there was a lot of, I'm talking about the corporate space. It was a little more okay to spend a lot of money and just see what would happen with it.And so, I had a lot of connections that were in corporate innovation, they would get to try a lot of stuff. And then it was okay not to know what was going to happen next. Then all of a sudden COVID cut those budgets. And people got stuck. And they had to figure out what to do next. And I think we're, you know, everything was really held back.But now I think we're in a really interesting space where people really want to innovate. They want to do something different. And they're saying, how can we make sure that we're going to drive real outcomes? And so I'm actually really excited for this new market that we're in. That I feel like there's a little more responsible. And also, proactive and engaged and really curious to see what they can do.Brian Ardinger: Are you seeing the similar obstacles and problems being faced. Or is it different. Like has the mindset changed? Like when we talk about innovation, you know I think, and disruption specifically pre COVID, a lot of folks kind of understood it intellectually. But didn't really get it until everybody's lives had to change overnight. Are you seeing differences of how people approach innovation based on the world changes and that? Or what's different from that perspective?Rachel Kuhr Conn: I think it's COVID, but I also think it's maturity of innovation in general. We've seen a lot of large corporations that have invested in, ahead of innovation. Where then the outcomes didn't quite reach the executive leadership expectation. And it's funny, I don't know how much people talk about this stuff, but I hear about it all the time. People get the job of head of innovation and then they try to get a certain amount of money to move their idea forward. For a specific idea, let's say. And then leadership says, great show your progress, and then we'll give you more money. And it's a trap. Because you need a lot of bets to succeed at innovation. And so, then there's like this problem that innovation leaders are put in this place where they're getting asked to prove success on something that is really a bet. And it gets really confusing. And all of a sudden, their neck is on the line for success. It generally doesn't end well unless they got lucky. And so, there's been like this two to three year rotation that happens over and over again. People are getting tired of it. Having enough after working at a few large companies, seeing the same thing over and over. Company is seeing that same person go through and not getting what they need, that they know something has to be different.Brian Ardinger: Is there a way to prep management on that particular process from the standpoint, like you understand when you're betting from an LPs perspective, like in a venture fund, that you're not necessarily getting those returns, and you know, for 10 plus years. So that that's a much longer timeframe when you put that money in. Is there a way to prepare management for that more of a venture-based model? Rachel Kuhr Conn: We actually wrote an Ebook on that. So, I can share a link. I'm happy to share the Ebook on that, but yes. That's the biggest problem that we've actually seen. And we wrote all about it because yes, you need to get leadership in the mindset of they're really comfortable with index funds and mutual funds. Look at their retirement portfolios. They play this game all the time. They would never put all of their money in one stock. Why would they do that with their corporate money. So, it's really a mindset shift that we have to help drive. Brian Ardinger: Are you seeing companies get better? Or what are some of the things that seem to be working that people are adopting?Rachel Kuhr Conn: We're seeing companies get better at it. One we're seeing them care more. And being mindful of it. And starting to put all the pieces together. And having more fruitful conversations. What happens after the theater? What happens after the demo day? How do we actually make this into something? Why does it always fail? Because you can't really get away with that stuff much longer. And so, the conversations are getting more real. I don't think people see the solutions yet, but I'm excited to see how Productable can help and really shift the industry of making that much easier for everybody. Brian Ardinger: Curious to get your take on this concept of inside outside innovation. So, a lot of corporates are interested in trying to come up with innovations within their four walls and that. But there's another set of corporates that are looking outside to startups and investing in startups and things along those lines. What's your take when it comes to betting on innovation, either inside or outside of the walls.Rachel Kuhr Conn: Both are so important. You know, it's really interesting. I've worked in internal innovation and external innovation. The funny thing is they both kind of require each other and they don't really talk about it. And so, when you're doing external innovation, it's really easy to get excited about a startup and then go force it on a business unit and tell them that they should go pilot this product. And the business units kind of like, Hey, we didn't even need this. What's going on?And then it's really easy for somebody in a business unit to come up with a cool idea, but then they don't get any of the resources to do it. There's a little bit of this magic of empowering people within the company to act like intrepreneurs if you will. And allowing them to leverage external startups and external technology, and actually allow them to partner together to really be able to build something that's a little bit of a mix of internal and external. And depending on the solution, maybe it's a little more one or the other, but it's kind of a funny thing to me that they often get so separated. Brian Ardinger: One of the things that we've seen that's been helpful is to get our employees actually involved in the startup scene. Just from being part of it, you know, going to demo days, going and mentoring at accelerators and that. If nothing else, it provides them that access to see how other startup folks with brand new ideas with no business models, how they move and interact. Versus how they would do it if they were inside their own walls. And I think exposure to the startup ecosystem, so to speak, can do a lot, not just like in finding actual innovations and that, but in the tool sets, mindset, skillset arena. Rachel Kuhr Conn: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean getting from zero to one, if you will, is, is really important. How do we actually go from what we're used to as everyday business and actually start thinking of more exploratory ways? How do we start thinking about growth and getting that mindset in? And it's a really hard dance to figure out of how long do you let that soak in and then start to create some of those other methods and ways of actually turning that into deeper transactions. And your company has to be ready for those. And so, I feel like it's a little bit of learning to crawl and then walk and run, if you will. Brian Ardinger: Are there particular resources that people should be following in the world of innovation? How do you stay up to date with all the stuff that's going on? Rachel Kuhr Conn: I don't have a great answer for that one. I have a lot of people that I talked to. A lot of consultants and great thinkers that I try to involve in my day to day. But we do have a blog and we do have eBooks and things that we're creating on our end to try and spread that knowledge as much as possible. I like to think that it's helpful and help drives all of that. But it is really hard to figure all of this out. I've been in this space for a long time, really trying to figure out what is expert look like. And it was really, really hard to get to the bottom of finding a lot of these pieces. For More InformationBrian Ardinger: If people want to find out more about yourself or about productive, but what's the best way to do that? Rachel Kuhr Conn: Sure, they can go to That's B E product and I'm on Twitter. I guess that's probably the easiest way to do it. Design K U H R is my Twitter name and really excited to chat with anybody and see whatever they like to talk about. Brian Ardinger: Excellent. Well, Rachel, thanks for coming on Inside Outside Innovation. Very excited to finally meet you and have a chance to talk more. Love to stay in touch and keep you in mind for further conversations about the world of innovation.Rachel Kuhr Conn: Perfect. This was awesome. Thank you so much for having me. And I can't wait to listen and hear more about what people have to say.Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  
On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Kapil Kane, Director of Innovation at Intel China, and Co-founder of the corporate accelerator GrowthX. Kapil and I talk about his journey from his early product development days at Apple working on the first touchscreen, to today where he runs Intel's award-winning accelerator. Let's get started.Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast to help the new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat to what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage, and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript with Kapil Kane, Director of Innovation at Intel ChinaBrian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today, we have Kapil Kane. He is the Director of Innovation at Intel China, and co-founder of the GrowthX Corporate Innovation Accelerator. Welcome to the show. Kapil Kane: Thanks Brian. Glad to be here. Brian Ardinger: You are calling in from Shanghai right now in the midst of a pandemic lockdown. Let's talk a little bit about your journey into the world of innovation. Kapil Kane: I was doing my PhD at Stanford when I dropped out of the program to join Apple, to build the touchscreen. The very first task, I remember I was an intern at the time. And I was the very first engineer to actually make a drawing of the touch screen. Like a revision 0 0 1.And my journey started from there. Although the touchscreen project failed. We had to hand it over to this other team, that was working on a secret project, which turned out to be the iPhone. But my last project at Apple was iPad. So, I came around full circle. And then I left Apple and joined Intel to actually create a tablet version of Classmate PC, which was inspired by one laptop per child from MIT Media Lab, which is to create an affordable education computing device for the emerging market or for the less fortunate as it was envisioned. And then on, you know, I got into this role of Innovation Director at Intel China. And so that's my journey. Brian Ardinger: Excellent. Tell us a little bit about how you got to China. And how you got to cofound this corporate innovation accelerator called GrowthX. Kapil Kane: Coming to China was with Apple. This is when we were developing the very first Mac Book Air. And at the time, if some of you guys remember, it was called a Unibody. That means it was carved out of a solid block of metal. Whereas everything before that was sheet metal, and hundreds of parts joined together.So, it was a completely new way of manufacturing a product. And so, we were designing the product as well as designing the manufacturing process at the same time. So, we thought it would be better to have some of the designers move to China so that we can do both designing product and process at the same time. And so, I volunteered. As a, so I was one of the first three product designers to move from Cupertino to China. And I've been here ever since. Brian Ardinger: Let's fast forward to today, you're running this thing called GrowthX. How did the idea of a corporate innovation accelerator start and then give us some insight into what's going on with GrowthX?Kapil Kane: Intel has this amazing culture of innovation. And it's something that I can think of it like the Google's 15% thing. Where we encourage our employees to spend a percentage of their time on things they believe is important for our future. And so, we have lots of this cool innovation that has been created in the labs.And around 2005, that's when I took over the innovation at Intel China. We saw that there's lots of cool things happening in the labs, but we couldn't find those things being commercialized. Not lending into the market. When I took over this role, this role was created because until that point, there was lots of different efforts of innovation, like very vibrant culture. Even to the date, there's a very vibrant culture of innovation. And we thought we needed some streamlining.And so that's when they created this position to streamline all the different innovation activities at Intel China. And we have around 10,000 people here in China. So, it's by no means small offsite operation. It's a pretty huge operation. Brian Ardinger: Kind of a little bit different than a lot of companies. A lot of companies we hear about the fact that most of the core is not that innovative. And so, they created an accelerator kind of program. Or a lab to kickstart that. But where at Intel, it seems like the reverse it's like you had to kind of harness or extra harness some of the activity. Kapil Kane: Exactly. And also, the concept of accelerator is, is quite different. Like if you look at the other corporates who are building accelerators, they are accelerating outside startups with the hope that they will get to know what they're doing. They may be able to acquire them or partner with them. But for me, I didn't even know what an accelerator was when I took over this role. And in my very first week, I happened to be in a round table conference at American Chamber of Commerce. And the guy sitting next to me happened to be running China's very first startup accelerator, Chinaaccelerator. The guy, William Bao Bean. He's a legend in China.And I just happened to ask him what he does. And he explained to me the concept of accelerator. And I thought, you know, maybe I can replicate this right inside of Intel because we are so much creativity. We just need to give them the tools to turn those cool innovations into viable businesses. And that's where the idea for accelerator came along.And that was the, the birth of GrowthX, where we started up as accelerators. We pick the teams. We make them believe they are actual startups. We have the CEO, CTO, CMO, and we bring them in a batch of cohort. And we have business sprints. We have around eight sprints focusing on different aspects of business. We have mentors.We have entrepreneurs in residence. And we run this outside of Intel from a coworking space. So, it's just like any startup accelerator. Just the thing is that all the startups are internal projects. And we've been running this for six years now. Brian Ardinger: Let's talk a little bit about some of the differences or similarities that you've seen between entrepreneurs in the outside versus intrepreneurship. And are there key skillsets, mindsets, tool sets that are similar or different.Kapil Kane: I think what we are seeing, and it may be different for different companies. For us, most of those innovators will come to our accelerator. They are techies. You know, they get very excited about the technology. And they have no real background in business. So, we spend a lot of time and effort to make them understand that it's not about, can you build it, but should you build it? That's where we focused on changing their mindset. If we change their mindset, like, you know, typically they're of this mindset that I will build something, then I will show it to the customers. Or they think that customers won't even look at us. If I don't have some finished product to show to them. And this is where we turn it on its head and tell them that you don't need anything. You just need a sketch. You need a questionnaire. And you're not trying to sell something. You're trying to understand the challenges. So, think of it that way as you engage with your potential customers is don't be ashamed or embarrassed, that you're not in the show. You are simply, think of it as if you're co-designing with them. Or trying to collectively solve the challenges.So that's the biggest challenge we have. I think technically they're amazing, is this business mindset that we're trying to cultivate. Not just business mindset. The, the lean startup kind of a methodology, you know, is like build, measure, learn, do an MVP. Test it. Learn, iterate. So that's one big change. I say, because like outside entrepreneurs, founders, I see they're more, I mean, again, you know, there's all flavors of entrepreneurs. But our guys are always very tech focused, and they don't understand about the fundraising and stuff. Although I have seen they're very, very good at tapping into the resources to move their ideas forward.And even to the point that they sometimes feel like getting into our accelerator, and doing all the sprints is like homework, just to get to the seed money, seed funding, to build something. But in their head, they are still, you know, that's what they want. But they have to go through all the motions of the accelerator as something like, you know, they had to do in order to move their idea forward.So, I still believe that's entrepreneurship, but it's in a different way. Because they still want to move their ideas forward. Right. So, I used to really get frustrated in the beginning. But now I think, you know, in the end, their goal is the same. It's just, they have a different idea of how to get to the goal.Brian Ardinger: Can you talk a little bit about how you go about identifying which people or companies, so to speak, to get into the accelerator? What's your evaluation process to identify who might be successful at this? Kapil Kane: So, I think that's a very good question. And it took us some time to figure it out. There are a few things. The ideas, they aligned strategically to where Intel wants to go. That's one thing. Second thing we also realized is we are good at accelerating adjacent innovations. That means building something on top of something that exists, rather than this breakthrough moonshots. There are two reasons. Just because we are in China and our employees, they interact a lot with our customers who are based in China, right? Like all the electronics are made in China. So typically, they come up, their innovation ideas are about how can we empower our customers. They're more customer centric. They're more something that, you know, hey, we have this product. If we tweak it this way, I can open up a completely new market segment, which can bring us millions of dollars. Rather than saying, hey, let's invent a new chip. Or let's invent a completely new manufacturing process. So that's the second thing. The third thing we look at is like a founder accelerator fit is, are these guys coachable? And can we really help them in the short period of time of like four months. And the way we do that is before we do the intake, into the accelerator, we have only five slots per batch. And we do two batches a year. And we get anywhere from 30 to 60 applications. And we'll shortlist of about 15 to 20 and bring those teams into the bootcamp.And during the bootcamp, we help them build their business case. And help pitch their business case in a very short time. And during this bootcamp, we also challenge our founders to go, and actually talk to the customers. Make cold calls. Or do a survey, right. And that tells us if these guys are really willing to get out of the building or not.And we also see if they've incorporated the advice from the coaches into their final pitch or not. So, we also make our evaluation based on that. So, it's like, you know, the kind of innovation. The strategic fit to Intel and the founder accelerator fit as well. Brian Ardinger: Are only teams coming into the accelerator or do they have to have a team, or can an individual founder apply? Kapil Kane: Individuals can come in, but once they get into the accelerator on the very first sprint, their assignment is to resource their team with, you know, CEO, CTO, and CMO at the minimum. Brian Ardinger: And that allows them to have enough people to actually run experiments and create something to move it forward. Kapil Kane: Yeah. And also, the skill, you know, because typically like I said, if a founder is a very bright technologists, he may not really understand everything on the business side. So, we encourage them to get people from the sales and marketing groups to join in.And we also give them enough budget to hire interns and MBA intern for example, to act as a CMO. And also, you know to hire tech talents as well for that short period of time to work on their ideas, so that they can focus on the business side of the things. Brian Ardinger: So, I'd like to talk a little bit about the balance between this inside innovation versus outside innovation. So, companies that come through GrowthX are they expected potentially to spin out into a startup outside of the company? Are they been brought back in these technologies? Talk a little bit about this inside outside balance. Kapil Kane: So, 90% of the companies are inside. We have only been able to spin out one company so far. After activating around 60. Okay. So very, very small ratio. So mostly you can think of them as internal teams coming to the accelerator to de-risk their business plans, to bring back to the business units. Having said that we have accelerated external startups as well. And by that it's not to invest and take an equity in them. But to work with them on identifying a business opportunity for Intel and going to market together.So basically, startups who are building on top of our core technologists, who are working in a field that we are never been to. So, this is a way we could test the market at the same time. We can help the startups as well by providing them with the technology, all our resources and jointly see if we can and like, you know, break new grounds together. So, we have done that, and we had some successes there. But our main focus is accelerating internal innovations and trying to line them into the market. Brian Ardinger: That brings up a great question that is always asked, especially in the corporate environment, is like, how do you measure success? Because a lot of times corporates have a different way to measure outcomes because they're working with existing business models, existing optimization. Versus in a startup environment where a lot of it is unknown. So how do you go about measuring success? Kapil Kane: The two ways we measure success. One is the business impact. That means what's the real revenue created from the projects that we accelerated. So, these are direct like revenue numbers. This is X million dollars created from this project. Second is the revenue potential that those projects create. So that's on the business side of things. The second way we measure it is people impact. Impact on people. How we are helping people grow. And we actually ran a study where we tracked the people who went to our accelerators for two years. And we saw that on an average, we have anywhere from 1.5 to 6 times accelerated career growth for the people who have gone through the accelerator. So, it could mean two things. There is no causation, right? There's a correlation. It could be one thing that are we are attracting good people. Our second could be that we are upscaling people. Which is both good because we know like if we had to do something really cool and innovative, we know who these people to count on. Right. And the second thing is it's good to upskill people. So those are the two ways we measure our success. Brian Ardinger: And I think a lot of corporates have a tough time finding those curious restless entrepreneurs within their own companies. And this might be a great way to help figure that out. Obviously, a lot of startups don't make it. You know, the number of ideas that you think are going to make it, there's a large portion that fall by the wayside. How do you deal with failure? Or what happens to the teams and that, that don't get to where they were hoping to get at the very beginning? Kapil Kane: That's the win-win part of intrepreneurship versus entrepreneurship. When you are an entrepreneur, you have your day job. Your paycheck. No matter what you do, but the payoff is also limited. Right? I think one of the great things about intrepreneurship and especially, let's say for the GrowthX are those who are not successful, they simply go back to what they were doing before. But if they are successful also, they typically go back to a day job. They will hand it over to the business units to take it forward.So, for them, their goal is to come up with new ideas and bring those new ideas to the market. So that's the kind of people we have. We have people who have been through our accelerator three times, four times. And try to bring lots of ideas to the market. Some people have maybe succeeded once in three times. Some people have multiple projects that have been successful. But the trend we have seen is people coming in. Getting their idea to the next level. Going back, coming up with more ideas.Brian Ardinger: Awesome. So, you've been in the trenches in Asia, looking at kind of what's hot. What's next? What are some of the trends that you're seeing that you're excited about? Kapil Kane: Oh, man. I'm not really like a trend kind of a guy. But I see a lot of noise in metaverse. I see, you know, like this digital transformation is also pretty big here because there are lots of SOEs here who are trying to digitalize. Retail, new retail is a huge buzz in China. So, those are kind of the buzz things. There's also like a lot of deep technology initiatives in China, especially zero carbon. Space tech is also picking up. Yeah. So, I'm excited more about like a long-term sustainable things. Rather than the short term, shiny things. The bigger problems.They are the bigger problems. You know, but I think the China is definitely taking the long-term approach, right. With their five-year plans. With the policies, aligning the whole industry in that direction. Some of them may fail. Some of them will succeed. But at least we see like a huge effort going in those directions.Like for example, in the past five-year plan, it was AI, Smart Manufacturing. Right. Also, there's this thing about the Smart Cities was also part of the last five-year plan. There was something called Common Prosperity. So, they want to make the second tier, third tier cities also prosperous. But I think the biggest thing, if you want to just think about China for the long run is the Sustainability, Carbon Zero and Space. Maybe even Quantum Computing. They are really going into this steep tech, rather than cute tech. Brian Ardinger: The great way to explain it. Cute tech. Well, Kapil I want to thank you for coming on Inside Outside Innovation and sharing your insights and your expertise. Really do appreciate your time. If people want to find out more about yourself or about GrowthX, what's the best way to do that?Kapil Kane: I think the best way to reach me is on LinkedIn. I mean, LinkedIn used to be open in China until it was blocked a few months ago. So, if you guys want to reach out, best place is LinkedIn. Brian Ardinger: Excellent. Well, thanks again for coming on the show. Really appreciate the time and looking forward to staying connected and stay safe out there.Kapil Kane: Thanks. And thanks for having me on the show, Brian.Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  
On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Dr. Alex Young founder of Virti. Alex, and I talk about the impact of new technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence on the training and human performance space, and some of the challenges and opportunities facing companies in the changing world of work. Let's get, started. Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast to help the new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript with Dr. Alex Young founder of VirtiBrian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today, we have Dr. Alex Young. He is the founder of Virti. Virti helps HR teams and organizations using things like artificial intelligence and augmented reality to improve and measure training. So welcome to the show, Alex. Alex Young: Thanks so much, Brian. It's great to be here. Brian Ardinger: I'm excited to have you because you come from a different background. You were a trauma and orthopedic surgeon before you became a entrepreneur founder. So how did you go from being a surgeon to being a founder of a virtual reality training type of company?Alex Young: Yeah, so it's been a really interesting journey. I mean, my interests have always been around how to improve learning and the performance of people really in any sector. And my original degree, as you mentioned, was in medicine. And then I specialized in orthopedic surgery, working in the UK and also in the US for a little while.And I've always, always been a bit of a tech nerd as well. So had a couple of companies when I was actually training to be a doctor. And taught myself how to code. Pretty terrible coding skills but managed to build a few companies around that. And then really with Virti, what I wanted to do was build a deep technology company, which tackled one of the major problems I was seeing. Both in healthcare, but also in every other sector, really on the planet which was how do we democratize and scale soft skills type of training for the workforce of the future. And when I trained as a doctor and a surgeon, often we do communication role-plays and things to train people really how to be more empathetic. How to be better communicators. How to do things in health care, like break bad news to patients, or explain a diagnosis. And in the operating room about how to make decisions under pressure and lead teams. And often those sort of training sessions, were not very scalable. They weren't hugely engaging, and they were quite biased and not that data driven. So, as you mentioned with Virti, what we do is we use AI and tools like virtual reality to put people into these very scalable, very measurable scenarios, where they can fail in a safe environment and run through lots of soft skills trainings senarios whether that's on a sales team training. Whether it's for managers or leaders, to understand how to deliver feedback. Or it's on your hiring or HR side, where we can actually find if people have some innate biases in the questions they ask during interviews. Or how they deliver team performance. So really, really interesting journey and lots and lots of parallels between healthcare and being an entrepreneur. Brian Ardinger: Absolutely. The whole concept of this metaverse and some of the new things that are coming in when it comes to augmented reality and virtual reality, what are some of the things that you're seeing in that space? How has it changed and evolved since you've started the company? And what are you seeing? Alex Young: I think the whole VR space has been on a bit of a rollercoaster. Really, you know, going back all the way to the 1980s when NASA first started using VR tech for some of the training that they were doing. And in the healthcare sector there's always been lots of, kind of, sort of use cases of virtual reality for things like surgical training. But it's never really seen mass adoption. And I think now with some of the newer headsets coming out and with companies like Meta, which of course rebranded from Facebook. Putting kind of billions behind the type of technology. We're seeing some of these PR teams like the Metaverse really galvanizing businesses and people behind this idea of a shared space. Where people can go, communicate with others. Practice in safe environment. Or just go and relax. And, you know, play games with each other. And I think on the back of the pandemic where everyone was very isolated and teams still work remotely, it's really, really interesting having that projection in a shared space where you can build rapport a little bit easier than perhaps that of over Zoom, looking at your camera. And you get a bit more inclusivity with team communication.And I think, you know, for us as a training company, we were founded back in 2018. Really under that premise of how can we scale role play or in-person training. And make it more affordable, more scalable and more data driven. And for us, it's just been a great time to sort of execute on that vision and help lots of companies to upskill their people. Brian Ardinger: You mentioned you started the company before COVID and that. But obviously we've seen a massive shift when it comes to this change with COVID. And the fact that everybody's now trying to up-skill cross sell, figure out new ways to do work and that. Are you finding particular industries or jobs settings that are more conducive to this virtual reality environment? Alex Young: I think it's really interesting, just the diverse views of kind of sectors and categories. Kind of find, you know, helpfulness from immersive technology. It can be used throughout absolutely everything. For us specialization, which is obviously soft skills, I think, you know, we're seeing a big uptake by people like sales teams. Particularly in industries like franchises, where they got to upskill new franchisees from a playbook and have a certain way of doing things.The traditional method there obviously was doing in-person meetings or in-person webinars and, you know, live webinars and things like that. And it just wasn't either that engaging or that scalable. We've seen big uptakes there. Other industries outside of healthcare, where we've seen big uptake, things like aviation, which again, anything that kind of has infrequent, but very impactful hazardous outcomes. We found that putting people into virtual reality scenarios to be really, really helpful.So, things like how to communicate with a passenger on an airline who might be rude to the staff. Or, you know, disruptive to other passengers. Being able to deescalate them. It doesn't happen too usually often, but, but it can be incredibly disruptive and cause flights to be landed in places other than their destination. That kind of thing is just great for running people through that talk of repeatable training, Brian Ardinger: The trend of VR, seems to be just on the early stages of that. What's holding this back from companies being more focused on using this type of environment? Alex Young: So, although virtual reality and the concept of virtual reality and the Metaverse has been around for a while. I think the technology now is only really sort of on that precipice of kind of mass adoption. As you mentioned, I think with anything new in the hardware space, whether it's an iPhone, whether it's a new type of computer, in this case, it's the VR headsets. There is going to be a lot of speculation and a lot of blockers and barriers to adoption just because the hardware itself is expensive and people need to understand how it fits naturally into their workplace. I think what we're seeing now is some of the usefulness of the content. And the apps that sit on these pieces of hardware, really the things that are driving adoption. And as they become more and more impactful, the quality of those becomes better. We're seeing people, you know, much more eager to adopt. And, you know, again, the technology as a whole, it's gone through a huge amount of technological change. Even just they've the last sort of two and a half years in terms of what the tech can do. So, we've now got things like eye tracking. The headsets they need wires, that attach headsets to computers. You know, the chips and power of the actual headsets themselves is much faster. What we're now saying is we're still on that adoption curve. It's still very early. But we're seeing real impactful business outcomes being seen by people who are actually using them. Say we've done a lot of research around how the tech works. We've seen people's learning retention increased by upwards of 200%. It's in confidence and employee's ability to action some of the training they've practiced in VR. Outperform in-person training in some cases. And we've seen the time for training reduced when you combine virtual reality with in-person training. So, lots of cost savings. Lots of better impact. Lots of better engagement. Some of the data coming out of it. Brian Ardinger: What are some of the surprises that you've seen over the years of how your original assumptions were about how to build a company, or the features and solutions you were going to build out there? What are some of the assumptions that have changed? Or some of the surprises that you've seen?Alex Young: We've been very lucky in that, you know, we spend a lot of time researching things back in 2018 when the company was founded. And we spoke to E learning development professionals and spoke to people in HR. We spoke to end users (employees) and really got a good understanding of what they were using at the moment in terms of either e-learning or in-person training. And then tried to pull out the critical elements of that into what we built.I think in terms of what we have built at Virti, one of the big complaints that people made, which I've got to say I didn't realize until I sort of truly spoke to a wide variety of HR and learning development professionals was that if you deliver off the shelf content to, we as a company have our own scenarios, soft skills training, and other types of training, and that's great. And people can pick up and plug those, you know, straight into that training workflows. But actually, people want the ability to create their own content and they want a system that's easy to use in order to do that. And for things like virtual reality and soft skills training, where a lot of it is conversational scripts, people aren't that intimidated by doing that themselves. And, you know, they've got their own experiences and their own ways of doing that. The big things that we did quite early on, on the back of that feedback was build out this No Code creation set of tools across both video and computer-generated scenarios so that people can actually create their own.And that then throws out a whole host of, you know, real creativity, back to us as a company. And it's really exciting for me as the founder to look at what people create. Whether it's, you know, very immersive diversity inclusivity scenarios, based on people's previous experiences. Whether it's video training or onboarding training for that company. That's really, really exciting.Brian Ardinger: I'm glad you brought that up because this idea, and we talk a lot about it on the show about no-code and low-code and democratization of some of these tools that makes it easier for people to spin things up, test things, try things. It's interesting to see that you're seeing that evolve in the virtual reality space as well.Alex Young: We talk about soft skills. Or power skills as I like to call them, in terms of leadership training or helping managers deliver feedback. But there are lots of different ways to do that. And there are lots of different learning points. And I think the types of scenarios that you can put people through are almost limitless in some ways, in terms of the demographics of the people that you're communicating with. The actual setting. The types of conversation. People's emotions. And even just from one scenario, you can tweak things behind the scenes and create a whole host of slightly different, slightly more difficult or easier scenarios that you can then run your employees through.And that's where it becomes really interesting because the data of the system can then pick out some subtle changes and improvements. And it can also start to grade who your best performers are in the leadership space. In the sales space. And in the communication space. And actually, give people a gold standard or a ball that they can hit if they're looking to improve their soft skills, which is a really, really cool and really gamified. Brian Ardinger: And that's an interesting point as well. When you talk about soft skills, I think one of the challenges is it's very difficult to measure that. And you're saying with technology and that, and you have an opportunity to collect data that you might not have been able to collect in the past and use that in different ways to really put some metrics or some insight into what's going on.Alex Young: A hundred percent. And I think that the simplest way that I think about things is if I do an in-person role play like I did when I was a doctor or like I did, when I was, you know, practicing my own sales skills as the founder of a technology company. You will do a role play and then a third person, the coach will feed back to you. And they might say something like you started the conversation off well. Or give you some technical feedback on the content of what you're saying. Or they might give you some feedback on your eye contact or your body language.But it's very subjective based on what they're seeing at the time and the assessors own personal experiences and their own abilities. And what the technology can do is it can actually track entire conversations. It can look at people's cadence of that tone. It can look at what conversational items, you know, that they're actually talking about.And with some of the new hardware, you can also look at things like eye tracking. Physiological data. So, you can see if people are getting a little bit scared during parts of the conversation as well. And then you can feed that back to the user who might not know some of these subtle things, especially in the eye contact area. So, there's loads and loads of really interesting things that we can do. And the most important thing is then feeding that back and helping people be able to learn and improve in really kind of objective ways. Brian Ardinger: Any type of technology adoption, there's this focus on innovation. And how do you get folks to adopt new technologies and things like that. So, you've obviously had an opportunity to see how companies take new technologies and the culture that's required. So, I wanted to dig a little bit into what you've seen when it comes to the culture of innovation. And how have you seen better companies adapt to this kind of new innovations. And what are some of the things that you've seen when it comes to the culture of innovation?Alex Young: It's a great question. And I think we, the gamble operating in health care, is our sort of immediate or near target market. And that is something that is quite slow to adopt. Any type of technology because of any kind of patient safety concerns and things like that. And you've got to go through lots of rigorous procurement processes and so forth. But even there, one of the key things that I always look for is who's going to sponsor, you know, the adoption of this technology entirely in the new company. Who is that going to be?Is it someone in the C Suite? Is it a champion in the L & D or HR Department? Who's going to really come on board and align with someone from our team who's typically on the customer successful or learning development side. And look at what the real goals and the outcome of introducing this tech is, both in the near term or say, you know, a year or two years.And I think that's where we, as a company, forget a little bit about the technology and we say, okay, how can we help and align to your business goals? Whether that is just getting to payback of the platform as quickly as possible. You know if we can show we can make you money or we can show you that we are driving things like sales revenues or improving customer satisfaction and things like that through better training. Or just by, you know, retaining your staff because we do a lot of onboarding training and, you know, there's some craziest statistics from places like Gallup or, you know, LinkedIn's workplace Survey, which shows that, you know, that people don't engage with our onboarding or if the onboarding isn't good enough, they will leave your company in like the first 45 days. Which is terrifying us as a business owner myself. And I think it's those things that we really obsessed over. And then I think the next part is making sure everyone within that organization, that's adopting the software is basically understanding what their role is. That the users are incentivized to use it. And it's meaningful and it's going to be helpful to them. Rather than being a hindrance or just another password that they need to remember. And most importantly you know, for us, it's in providing value to our customers and what they're doing. And collecting feedback and iterating on that. So, it's always an interesting journey. Every company is slightly different. Some people love adopting new technology and wants to be at the forefront of any innovation. Some people want to wait until they've seen some use cases come out. And some people are just super cynical. And it's just human nature and different folks you know, different industries. But it's always fun working with lots of different types of companies and people.Brian Ardinger: You have a podcast out called the human performance podcast. So, whenever I have a podcast host, I always like to get your take on what's going on in that particular space. Some of the things you've learned in this space of human performance. What are some of the best guests or some of the insights that you've learned from your podcast and the guests that you've had on it?Alex Young: It's been absolutely fascinating actually. I mean, the podcast began really as a way to provide some stories to our users and our customers that sort of inspired them in their day-to-day lives. And some of the things that I was really, really interested in was how people's mindsets or how their own performance made them do, you know, extraordinary things. On that podcast, some highlights, but for me personally have been, we've had a couple of astronauts who've been on, who've done, you know, multiple space walks and have to fix shuttle antennas, literally in the middle of the space. That for emergency situations, or sports people who've come back from injury and done amazing things.But I think, you know throughout, the thing that fascinates me is always how people deal with some of these just enormous achievements. And by that, I mean a lot of people who do really, really well are actually the most humble and nicest people on the planet. And will bend over backwards to help out folks.And I think a lot of that is about their mindset and it's about them really seeing themselves as a servant to the training and to what they're doing and being very, very coachable. And one great story is that from Scott Parazynski. He's one of the astronauts we've had on the podcast. He not only has done, I think over 40 space walks, but he's someone who is just always learning. And always wanting to challenge himself.And has that in him. Which he's kind of learned over time. And he's also been to the top of Everest. He's been into a volcano in extreme temperatures. And he's just done some crazy, crazy stuff. And the thing that keeps him going is always that want and need to learn new things. To challenge himself. And to really sort of improve himself as an individual. And it's just amazing hearing stories like that every single week. So, I always think, you know, whatever podcast it's not about the host, it's always about the guests. Which really make it for everybody. For More InformationBrian Ardinger: Absolutely. Thank you for coming on Inside Outside Innovation, to talk about your learnings and what you're seeing in the world. Both as a founder, as a, as a technology person and as a person who's focused on human performance. So, Alex, thank you for coming on the show. If people want to find out more about yourself or about Virti, what's the best way to do that? Alex Young: You can follow Virti at @Virtilabs on all social media. And the website is And then I'm Alexander F. Young on all social media. And by all means, follow me. I talk about soft skills and human performance across every channel. Brian Ardinger: Excellent. Well, Alex, thanks again for coming on the show and appreciate the time. Looking forward to continuing the conversation in the years to come.Alex Young: Thank you so much, Brian. Really enjoyed it.Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  We use Amazon Affiliate links for books and Descript Affiliate for transcripts.  
On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Andy Binns, Coauthor of the new book, Corporate Explorer. Andy and I talk about the innovation imperative facing corporations today. And what they can do to foster an entrepreneurial environment, to create corporate explorers within their companies. Let's get started.Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast to help new innovators navigate what's next. Each week, we'll give you a front row seat into what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in today's world of accelerating change and uncertainty. Join us as we explore, engage, and experiment with the best and the brightest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses. It's time to get started.Interview Transcript with Andy Binns, Coauthor of Corporate ExplorerBrian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today, we have Andy Binns. Andy is the Cofounder of ChangeLogic and coauthor of a new book called Corporate Explorer: How Corporations Beat Startups at the Innovation Game. Welcome to the show, Andy.Andy Binns: Hey Brian, thanks very much for the invitation. I'm delighted to be here. Brian Ardinger: I'm excited to have you on the show. You have been in this innovation space for a while with McKinsey and IBM. Now you have a new book called corporate Explorer, which is exploring a lot of topics that I think are near and dear to the heart of a lot of our listeners is how can we, as corporations, become better at this whole innovation stuff? Why is innovation becoming so important for corporations to figure out?Andy Binns: That is really actually the point isn't it. And we try to open the book Corporate Explorer by saying, look, a lot of what we're talking about is really old. And it's been around forever, right? And even the notion of a corporate explorer didn't turn up in the last few years. You know, one of the earliest ones that I know of is the creation of the ATM machine. The ATM machine, Della Ru a UK based currency printer literally has the license to print money. And it's like, well, surely people want to access this differently. And this guy comes up with the notion of the ATM machine somewhere in, Surry in south of London, with Barclays Bank in the 1960s. And this was a 300-year-old corporation. This can be done by corporations, but to your point, it's got more important. And it's got more important because we know that digital is there. And transforming not only a business, but an industry. You cannot safely set within automotive and say, all those guys over in consumer devices no longer have anything to do with us. That's true there, but it’s there in a dozen other industries you care to name. And so, this notion of disruption that Clay Christiansen taught us all about. It's kind of like it's present. We don't dispute it. And we certainly don't dispute it after the last two years we've had. This high degree of uncertainty is present.And so, a lot of corporations, even those who are doing really well today, I think see that the dynamics of their industry are changing at such a pace that they can't ignore a bunch of different innovations. Either because they want new revenue streams and or they need new capability. Both of these stories are going on.Brian Ardinger: Yeah, they're being forced to. It's kind of spot on. We've got technology advancements that are coming on. We've got new changes in marketplaces. We've got a pandemic. All these things are colliding at once requiring companies to think and act to move faster than they've ever had before. And yet, we still find example after example of companies that are struggling with this. And overcoming obstacles that you would think that they'd be able to overcome. Because they have quite a few advantages from a corporate perspective.Andy Binns: Absolutely. And that's why corporate innovations beat startups at the innovation game. Now they don't beat them every time. They may not even beat them half the time. But they do. And the point about assets is exactly why they do that. Right. It's when you can leverage brands customer access, technical capabilities, whatever it might be, then that's, what's going to bring you success.Brian Ardinger: So, let's dig into that a little bit more. What are the key advantages that corporations maybe aren't recognizing or aren't using to the fullest extent when they are wanting to do more innovation initiatives? Andy Binns: One of the stories we tell in Corporate Explorer is that analog devices, a really strong technology innovation company, electrical engineers. Running around making phenomenal semiconductors. Worrying about the speeds and feeds of that circuits. And then they start to observe a change in the world, particularly the industrial markets where there's this opportunity to connect their sensors, accelerometers, and various other ones to the cloud. And to use analytics, to observe the functioning of the machine.Right. It's a great space, a lot of startups are active in. And they build this product line around condition-based monitoring. They make some acquisitions to build it out so they can do acoustic sensing as well as motion and all the rest of it. But if you're a startup and you go into, tell the same solution. No one's ever heard of you. You go into Analog Devices, you're 60 years old, and your brand is based on never retiring a product and always meeting your supply commitments. But totally different conversation. The market access is a real opportunity in many cases for these corporations. And also, they can access customers in different ways because they matter as a supplier to a bunch of automotive industry clients or whatever it might be. So, I think that's a big area. The other area is sort of some of the permission to play. So, another case that we give in Corporate Explorer is of the insurance company, Unica in Austria, where they move into sort of a digital insurance product. And again, they already have the actuaries. They can already design the insurance product. They already have the licenses from the relevant European authorities to sell insurance. So again, they can just move that a little bit faster when they are using these assets to make things happen. Brian Ardinger: So, having said that corporations still aren't necessarily good at innovation. They stumble on the fact that a lot of times they get focused on executing and optimizing their existing business model. For fear of messing up that apple cart, they don't necessarily take the next steps and that. How do you create that culture of innovation such that they are willing to take risks and leverage those advantages they do have? Andy Binns: We talk in the book about these being the silent killers of exploration. A term we borrowed from Mike Beer and the silent killers is that actually there isn't a deliberate agenda to stop innovators. Right? Sometimes it feels that way, but it's rarely the case. Mostly they're on autopilot. They're on autopilot because they're focused on the short term. They wanted to eliminate risk to the degree that that's possible. They want to preserve the way they think business should be done. Right. Which is that power of sort of professional skills and identity, which has such an influence on corporations.And so, I think what they need to do is to learn. It's a learning agenda for them. And I think we are those teachers. You are that teacher, the listeners on the podcast are their teachers. And what they've got to learn about is experimentation. Moving into small increments. Rather than spending a lot that needs to spend little amounts. So that they are in a position to find out where the markets are and where the opportunities lie.I think that they need to trust their Corporate Explorers. Get off this notion that importing people who've been in a series of failed startups, that they're going to know how to get this done. It's very disrespectful for all the many people who've done fabulous work in startups, and then moved to corporations. Done spectacularly well. But why would you trust them? They failed, right? The point is that inside the company, there are Explorers, and you need to give them the space, the license. We need to talk about what license means to make that happen. And then finally, the Corporate Explorers themselves need to see themselves not simply as innovators, but also as leaders of change. Too many innovators or potential Corporate Explorers in corporations go hide their project and try to get on with it without getting too much interference. And what they need to do is build a movement behind what they're doing. They need to win allies. They need to win advocates. They need to figure out how to get that movement going behind what they're doing, so that when they hit roadblocks, which we know they always will. They have people who are willing to support them and explain what it means, why this is learning. Not failure. If I had a criticism of our colleagues in that function in organizations is that sometimes they miss that change, that human social building this network inside the company toolkit. Which is actually one of those big things that's critical to success. Brian Ardinger: So, let's dig into the book a little bit. This idea of a Corporate Explorer. Can an average person within a company become a Corporate Explorer? Is there a certain skillset or knowledge or our mindset that's required? Talk a little bit about what it means to be a Corporate Explorer and tasks behind that. Andy Binns: To a large degree, the Corporate Explorer is exactly the Samsung Entrepreneur. They see a problem in the world. They want to solve. They're dissatisfied with something that's happening. We tell the story of Sara Carvalho at Bosch. That Sara is out hiking through the Andes, the lovely sounding image, right. And she gets home to the home of the people who are hosting her. And she says, I want to take a hot shower. Well, they don't have hot water in Peru. That's not something. Essentially then sets about how do we use Bosch's technology to create a solution to providing hot water.It could be Sara and these other examples I gave the same. We've told the story of Balaji Bondili at Deloitte. He gets involved in the tsunami relief in Asia. And he sees the power of the crowd. He's ah, the power of the crowd. This is something that could transform consulting. And like 10 years later, he gets into it right. So there's this passion behind something in the world you think you can fix. And some way you think you might be able to do something about. And that's true in entrepreneurs and in Corporate Explorers, the same. What's different is this social ability. The corporate explorers that succeed, are those that firstly can articulate a case in wagon gets attention. They're really good storytellers. They can bring the possibility and opportunity of what they're proposing to attention. And they do so not because they say, oh, we can just get a little bit better. Yeah. If you back me, it will be, yeah. There's a small piece of revenue that I can build. Know they've got ambition. They said this is transformative. And the thing is that that actually gets more senior attention than the safe I can do a little bit better. Because it starts to hit the scale of what a senior manager is interested in. So, they do that really well. And then they build out this network of support around that idea so that they're able to then execute it and sustain it.That's the piece of differences, is this great ambition and storytelling, combined with the social network. So that their building. And I'll tell you, there's another thing, Brian, I've learned as I've met these people. I hope it comes out in the book as we tell the stories, is that they're humble. They don't mind if other people make them successful.You go around Vienna, and my great friends at UNIQA Insurance. And there are a dozen people who think they help make Krisztian Kurtisz successful at building this digital community insurance product Cherrisk. And he just has a way of making other people feel they played a role that also is something, again, I think different from an Elon Musk that defines the great Corporate Explorer. It sort of takes a community of leaders around it, not just those involved in the project, or the venture themselves. But also, the people who are going to be actively engaged in supporting Brian Ardinger: If I'm in a corporation and I'm trying to understand, and maybe even find the Corporate Explorers within my own walls and that I can nurture and build that. Are there particular techniques or things that you've seen to help identify those Corporate Explorers within your company? And then what number of Corporate Explorers do you really need to have an impact? Andy Binns: I think this is sort of the proactive and reactive if you will. Right. And the reactive model is simply, are you listening? Are you actually looking out for them? I'll tell you one of the most successful Corporate Explorers we talk about in the book is Jim Peck at LexisNexis, right?He built a multibillion-dollar business in 10 years, inside and existing corporation, which does legal and news information. He builds this big data risk analytics business. And Jim saw the insight. He had the idea. He proposed, nobody gave him the responsibility. That this incidentally is true of Krisztian and UNIQA Insurance.Nobody gave him, here go build me a billion-dollar business. He proposed it. So, there's a reactive side. Now are you listening. Are you ready to cope with that? Ideally, do you have an ambition. A sort of strategic ambition that says, this is what we want to do, so that if I'm Jim or Krisztian in the business, I feel I have a license to propose those ideas.One of the great examples is MasterCard. And they had this ambition to wage a war on cash. That's actually a really empowering thing. That tells me I've got to find ways of converting this big number, like that point 85% of transactions on cash to digital. I know wow, those are the ideas, that's how I evaluate success, right?That reactive piece. And that inspired. The proactive thing is go looking for them. And I think there your best bet is some sort of participative competitive approach where you're focused on solving customer problems. What are the top 10 customer problems you want to solve in the world? And invite people to come up with ideas.And we can talk more about this. I think there's a problem in corporations of too much idea creation. But I think the, hey, how can we solve these customer problems? How can we add more value to different customer groups? What places are there, where there are customer groups we've identified that may have problems we can grow into. That kind of thing is a great place to encourage people to participate and then step forward with their idea.And then don't spend too much on any one idea. Startups run through scarcity and so should corporate ventures. They should be, they should be begging for cash. As corporations, in some cases are, they worried much more, particularly in Europe I find, they worry much more about the size of their office. And how big the team is that they can hire. And all this kind of stuff. Which is complete nonsense in comparison to have you validated the idea. Have you done enough to prove out whether that's a really a market for it or not?Brian Ardinger: Following on the incentives conversation, a lot of times we think, I mean, you mentioned there's a lot of intrinsic incentives that seem to be in play for the Corporate Explorers that actually have success within that. How does a company think about incentivizing folks to raise their hand and say, hey, I want to be an entrepreneur within the walls or, or I want to take my ideas forward? Are there things that seem to work better than others?Andy Binns: It's a pretty complex area for sure. And there's a view out there, I think that what we need to do in corporations is in some way mirror the rewards of the, of a startup. So, Intel had this approach. Potentially ended after we published the book. And they said, okay, go and build a venture. We'll give you what you need.And if it reaches an external valuation of a billion dollars, we'll give you 10 million or a business unit, will buy it out for 10 million. It didn't work. And it didn't work, also if you think about it, it introduces a perverse incentive to spin out the venture outside of the corporation. So, you don't get the value from it because you're going to get far more on the open market than you are in the corporation.That's great for the individual Corporate Explorer or entrepreneurs. It's lousy for the corporation. It's a flawed notion of incentives. And most of the people I've mentioned, who've done this successfully, are ones who actually have received very little additional compensation. Now that doesn't mean that they haven't done very well for themselves. Because this is a great way to prove your career. To prove that you're a CEO.Jim Peck ended up being CEO, not only of LexisNexis Risk, but also of two further corporations. He's now CEO Nielsen IQ Market Research Fund, and Krisztian’s career has blossomed. Others have blossomed. There are real opportunities. It's just not the same as an entrepreneur. And so, I think what we need to do is. The issue is less about what we pay them, and it's more about the environment we create. That accepts that explore businesses are different than the core business. That how you evaluate them, how you manage the fact that there are high degrees of uncertainty around how fast they'll generate a return, that's the point. And if you make it so that that's accepted and understood and well-managed, then your corporate explorers will emerge. If you make it, oh, you've got a great idea. I want to see a five-year cash projection on how you're going to deliver the same margin as the core business, then you going to throw them out, right? You're going to eject them over time. That's really the area of incentive that I think we should focus on much more than the individual payment.Brian Ardinger: So, my question I want to ask about is how do you know if you're making progress? How do you know if your corporation is getting more innovative? What are some key measurements or ways to know if you're making progress? Andy Binns: You know, I think that it is for me about how many revenue generating businesses have you created. Again, there are some who would say, this is about how many billion-dollar external valuations. This is nonsense. I know the valuations matter. If I had a billion-dollar corporation and I was selling it, putting in my money in my pocket, I'd be delighted. Many people would. Of course. But that's not what corporate life is about. It's something else. And so, you've got to understand that that you're fulfilling different objectives. So, I want to see that I've got revenue generating businesses that in the markets I define on winning, we talk a lot about how, if you're going down this path of creating new businesses, you want to have a really clear ambition. Like this way to wage a war on cash.And then you want to know what are the hunting zones you're going to play in. In order to achieve it. So, I want to know how many ventures have I got in my hunting zones? And how many of those are on track towards the kind of revenue goals that I have for them or the kind of milestones that I need in order to get that? Because it's all about ideating, incubating, and scaling ventures. That's success, you know, activity is not success. And so, I want to ultimately see that happen. Brian Ardinger: And knowing that you can't bet on the winners at the very beginning. You have to have a portfolio of ideas that are coming through at all times. So that you can see the progress with evidence and, and, bet on the ones that are moving forward. Andy Binns: Absolutely. And this whole area of portfolio managing your innovation is something that I think is critical. One of my colleagues Noel Sobleman talks a lot about this. And I think he's on the money. Brian Ardinger: So last topic I want to talk about is we are in this great resignation. And this area where people are moving around and trying different things, and the world has completely changed. What are your thoughts when it comes to retention or hiring of innovators? And these corporate explorers? Andy Binns: I think it's a tough moment for corporations. One where they should be fairly concerned that they're going to lose their best talent. Because if you look at the stats, what goes side by side with great resignation is a record number of new business formations in the U.S. Some of those are going to set up coffee shops, coffee roasters, breweries, distilleries. People who are enjoying themselves, doing something different from corporate life.But there's a large number which are people seeking to realize their entrepreneurial ambition. And so, if I'm a manager in a corporate business or senior executive, and I'm seeing this happen, I should be asking myself, why am I losing my most entrepreneurial talent when I could be using that to sponsor growth in my business.That's where I think that needs it. So, all of the stuff we've talked about, about creating the license to explore. Giving them customer problems, to solve. Investing small amounts and making things happen, and then scaling the ones that work. I think that actually is a key part. It's not the whole answer to this story of, of the great resignation, but it's a piece of it.And it also is about, you know, people want a future. They want to believe in something. They want a why. And doing new stuff, demonstrating like in sustainability. Is one of the interesting things is that most of the ideas, you know, we do a little bit work with Wazoku is one of the idea management platforms. And Simon Hill told me that more than half of the ideas on the Wazoku platform across all of their client base has to do with sustainability right now.And people want to see you're making progress on something like. And that's a story of innovation. How can you scale that to a level that actually has business impact? And I think again, that creates purpose, commitment, a sense of being a part of something that matters. Again, a key level of the innovation component.Brian Ardinger: Like you said, it's really never been a better time to tap into new and exciting projects. There are far more problems out there that people need solved. And they're constantly changing. So, you're in a good spot, if you, again, encourage folks to raise their hand and find those problems and have the ability to solve them. Andy Binns: Yeah. I think that's exactly right, Brian. Yeah. Very well said. For More InformationBrian Ardinger: So, Andy, I want to thank you for coming on Inside Outside Innovation. If people want to find out more about yourself or about the book Corporate Explorer, what's the best way to do that? Andy Binns: Yeah, you could go to or and learn about us. Learn about our research. I've written this book with two professors. Mike Tushman from Harvard. Charles O’Reilly from Stanford. They've also written some other books on the topic. Lead and Disrupt in its second edition, is another excellent text to dig into this whole area of how corporations can win and do win at innovation. Brian Ardinger: Excellent. Well, Andy, thanks again for coming on Inside Outside Innovation. Really appreciate your time. Really appreciate your insights and look forward to continuing the conversation in the years to come. Andy Binns: Likewise. Thanks Brian.Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.FREE INNOVATION NEWSLETTER & TOOLSGet the latest episodes of the Inside Outside Innovation podcast, in addition to thought leadership in the form of blogs, innovation resources, videos, and invitations to exclusive events. SUBSCRIBE HEREYou can also search every Inside Outside Innovation Podcast by Topic and Company.  For more innovations resources, check out IO's Innovation Article Database, Innovation Tools Database, Innovation Book Database, and Innovation Video Database.  We use Amazon Affiliate links for books and Descript Affiliate for transcripts.  
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