Top Innovation Leaders and the Lessons They Teach

Innovation can be sparked by anything, and these innovators can help.

Innovation is all about a diversity of voices. The more perspectives on a problem, the more creative and effective the solutions to them will be. When building your innovation strategy, take a moment to check out these innovation leaders and how they’re approaching new opportunities.

  • Andi Platenberg, founder of FutureTight, works on innovation at the enterprise level and mentoring startups. Platenberg’s focus is about the hard work of getting organizations to understand and get behind change. Platenberg encourages us to not just look at the broad vision, but study the gritty details of getting change done.
  • Janice Fraser, currently a senior vice president at Bionic, has spent her career translating the scrappy methods of entrepreneurship and venture capital to internal corporate innovation approaches. Fraser’s lesson is that you need to balance the needs of internal organizations and departments with the individual drive to create, design, and build that your team members join the company to satisfy.
  • Diana Kander focuses on curiosity. Kander has found that too often, organizations become institutionally incurious; if it doesn’t apply to their products or industry, it’s not worth paying attention to. Kander aims to break this attitude through public speaking, workshops, and her popular podcast, “Professional AF.”
  • Nicole Rufuku, CEO and co-founder of Bonsai Hiring, looks at innovation through the lens of the job interview. Rufuku argues that hiring and retaining inventive and thoughtful employees starts with the first impression you make and that by changing your hiring process, you can bolster your organization’s innovative power. Conversely, she argues that employees who lack the innovative spark can hamper creative efforts and even derail giant legacy organizations.
Lightbulb in the shape of brain.
Build on the thoughts of others to reach your innovative potential.
  • Sangeeta Badal looks to research to build on the innovative power of small businesses. Badal searches for new research and innovations that can be translated into tools for small businesses to take off, creating jobs, revolutionizing industries, and building stronger connections between commerce and academia. Badal’s fundamental point is that brilliant research needs to be practically applied, and she works to enable that daily.
  • Bernard Moon, co-founder of the seed capital company SparkLabs, looks at how a small amount of money in the right place can push an idea into reality. While Moon tends, for obvious reasons, to focus on entrepreneurship outside legacy companies, much of his work translates well to any organization, allowing for a shift in thought and approach to innovation.
  • Robert Wolcott is a clinical professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at Northwestern, and his research is often invaluable for understanding how innovation in all forms succeeds or fails. Wolcott is particularly interested in the psychology of innovation, how we embrace or reject change, and the impact it can have on organizations.
  • Jay Acunzo is a podcaster and speaker who focuses not on best practices, but best approaches. Acunzo emphasizes that small companies and giant conglomerates simply can’t use the same tactics to innovate, but they can learn from and build on the approaches the other uses. His background at Google and Hubspot informs his documentary and speaking work and offers some fascinating insights.

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