What Does It Mean to Innovate?

Jennifer Nietz - Director of Operations


You usually hear from me in the corner of our newsletter every month discussing industry news and trends.  However, the events from last several weeks have caused me to focus in a different area.

In April, I was honored at the AA-ISP Annual Leadership Summit with the 2016 Innovators Award.  As I have shared this wonderful acknowledgement with my friends and family, I have had to tell people what it means.  The actual definition of the award recipient is as follows:

  • Is a true “thought-leader” with respect to advancing Inside Sales
  • Is unwilling to settle for “good-enough”… constantly pushes the envelope. Willing to take risks
  • Is often an early-adopter, implementing new ideas before others
  • Viewed by peer groups as an person/organization with a “can do” attitude

As the application was read out loud to all of the attendees, I was very humbled to learn that I was the recipient.  Shocked? No, because the above bullet points do define me and what I aim to do. However, humbled because I consider the above just part of my job and really wouldn’t know my professional career any other way.

So today during my lunch break I found myself in the kitchen reflecting on an appropriate industry to report out on, and I started reading The Wall Street Journal.  I came across this article in the Small Business section, and it brought me back to this whole innovation thing.  It’s a perfect summary on what it means to innovate, and better yet, emphasizes how everyone can be innovators.

The article is written by Dr. Stephen Hicks and titled, “What Entrepreneurs Can Teach Us All About Life.”

Dr. Hicks starts off by writing, “We often think of entrepreneurs as larger-than-life characters.  They take big risks. They make their own rules. They innovate and experiment, questioning things everybody else takes for granted.  It can almost seem like entrepreneurs are a breed apart.  But they’re not.  All of us are born with the ability to take risks, think creatively and challenge the everyday way of doing things.” I love this – all of us are born with the ability to take risks! I tell my teams this all of the time—if they have an opinion, suggestion, or view, challenge it! That is the only way innovation and improvement occurs and ensures that status quo gets challenged.  I believe that this is so important for individual and organizational growth.

Another fascinating aspect of the Dr. Hicks’ positionis to keep in mind that when you go to work for an entrepreneur, “The entrepreneur owns the business and feels responsible for defining its purpose and strategy. Employees come into a pre-existing business and follow along.  While working for someone else might be a perfectly good career option,” don’t let it define your life.  Your life is your project to initiate and maintain, and you shouldn’t follow someone else’s script.  The only person that controls the decisions you make and the thoughts you share is your own self.  I love the saying, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.”

So why don’t more people take the entrepreneurial risks? Dr. Hicks attributes stalling on risks to three areas:

  • Fear of self-investment
  • Fear of failure and disapproval
  • Too late to change

It is never too late to change! I learned from that article that Ray Kroc was in his 50s when he set McDonald’s on its trajectory – wow!

So you may be asking, “How do I become more innovative?”  Well, start simple—practice.  I didn’t start innovating until I was out of college and in my first role; however, I was practicing and actually, that is one of the reasons that I pursued a new career.  I needed to be in a place where I could innovate and take risks.

Dr. Hicks recommends doing something risky every day.  Get to know someone entrepreneurial.  On social media, follow or subscribe to an entrepreneurial role model; mine is Richard Branson.  Think of one new idea every day and write it down.

So as I come to a close, I actually decided to bring innovation into our monthly newsletters. Along with our industry report out, I will be doing a monthly innovation insight highlighting insights on new ideas to consider for your place of business, personal career, or even innovation that has occurred in other organizations.

Questions or comments? Please contact Jennifer Nietz at jnietz@teamCOACT.com