The Power of Optimism, Curiosity, and Resilience: A Talk with Dr. Navin Kunde

Person pulling a screen revealing blue Skys and light.
Innovation is borne of discovery.

Innovation is an invention brought to life. It’s making the world better, more useful. 

That’s innovation strategy, summed up by Dr. Navin Kunde, leader of the Clorox Open Innovation Group. An engineer, professor, and business school graduate, Kunde has some great advice for members of innovation leadership teams. 

Curiosity and Humility

Success in innovation is dependent on many factors, and they might not be the ones that come first to your mind.

While innovation strategy teams should have the confidence to put forth their ideas, Kunde stresses they must also be able to hold on to humility. Curiosity and humility are a powerful combination, he says. Remember the people who came before you who built the company for which you work. They are the reason you collect a paycheck now, and you’re building on their success. 

Person standing in front of many doors.
Curiosity is the precursor to innovation.

Resilience in Innovative Leadership

Another important quality to have as innovators is resilience, Kunde says, because most ideas don’t go anywhere, and you have to make peace with that.

At the same time, you must be able to muster enthusiasm for each idea, to hope that this is the one that makes the difference. It’s what lights the fire of innovation. Excitement, enthusiasm, failure, and success are intrinsic parts of every quest.

Balancing Learning and Doing

Getting into the nuts and bolts of innovation, Kunde says that to achieve success, you must spend time investigating and learning before you take action. This will allow you to identify potential pitfalls ahead of time so that you can plan ways to combat issues that arise. 

However, Kunde cautions, don’t allow your team to get stuck in analysis paralysis. Accept that you can’t prepare 100 percent for anything or learn everything about a topic before moving forward. The world is filled with information, and we will never know it all. True value comes from doing. 

How to Measure Innovation

Once you have assembled all the ingredients you need for innovation, how will you know if your plan is working?

Kunde acknowledges that measuring innovation is hard, but necessary. While you’ll see a lot of specific recommendations for measuring success with innovation, Kunde advises that you come up with a method that works for you.

It is not the method you choose as much as the fact that you have identified a means for measurement and that you execute it regularly. Although thinking and doing are critical, the fact is, these actions may still lead nowhere. So your focus should be on impact, and you don’t know if you are making an impact without measurement.

Group of colleagues discussing ideas.
Convincing decision-makers is an important part of the innovation process.

Data Narrative

What about sharing your impact? 

Data is king, Kunde says, but it isn’t everything. You must be able to tell a story based on your data. If you can’t, then it’s not useful. Worse, if you provide data without a story, people will make up their own stories. 

When you create your story, remember that it needs to be the kind that influences decision-makers. Many times, innovation teams are composed of engineers and others with superior analytical skills. However, soft skills such as storytelling matter.

Final Words of Advice

In closing, Kunde urges innovation leaders not to self-sensor. Shoot for the moon; set the bar high. You probably won’t get there, but you’ll achieve more than if you set your goals low. Dream the big dream, frame it up, share it, and go for it. 

Listen to IdeaScale’s full interview with Kunde, and join our newsletter to stay abreast of developments in innovation strategies for leaders today. 

Comments are closed.