Women Leading Innovation

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FountainBlue’s When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series was on the topic Women Leading Innovation. Below are notes from the conversation.
Our panelists represented a broad stroke of leaders in high tech across the valley, all with in-depth experience working with technologists, management, engineers and other stakeholders. But they had many things in common:
• They have a combination of wisdom and knowledge, perseverance and strength, leadership and empowerment, and other qualities which helped them drive results while learning and inspiring.
• They are humble about their accomplishments yet generous with their wisdom and time.
• They focus on the problem at hand, and invite new ways of solving problems which would facilitate innovative approaches and techniques for themselves, their teams and their organizations.
• They are constantly evolving and growing and pushing their envelope for themselves and for those around them.
• They balance their left-brained thinking and methodology and learning with right-brain creativity and novelty.
They shared their advice and thoughts about what innovation is and is not:
• Innovation is generally not about one right answer, but an invitation to have many approaches and answers to a pressing problem.
• Innovation is a team sport, better done in a group, rather than inviting a single hero for every problem.
• Innovation does not happen in a silo. People from different areas, different backgrounds, different industries, etc. will help add the type of diverse thinking to a team that can help solve problems through out-of-the-box thinking.
• Innovation is not a destination, it’s a journey. So don’t get complacent with something you’ve innovate, but do continue to iterate and also to innovate.
• The quest for innovation is not seeking a panacea, it’s about always understanding and serving the customer.
• Innovation is not just about technology, it’s about people, processes, business models.
They also shared their thoughts on what innovators are.
• Innovators persevere, overcoming naysayers and obstacles.
• Innovators don’t take things personally, but do take feedback to re-direct their efforts.
• Innovators follow rapid-prototyping practices of failing frequently and quickly and learn through the iterations.
• Innovators push their own comfort zones and that of others, for the good of all.
• Innovators are customer-focused, delivering solutions for customers, rather than creating a technology without a market.
• Innovators have failed much more than they’ve succeeded, and generally learn more from failures than successes.
Here is their advice for those who want to better innovate:
• Think of yourself both as a problem-solver and an innovator.
• Brand yourself as an innovator, someone who can be persistent, resilient and creative about delivering results.
• Do your homework, but don’t expect to have all the information before you make a decision or take action. Choose an area of innovation in the intersection of your passion, your skills and the market need. Instead, follow the 80-20 rule.
• Start by solving small problems and progressively solve larger ones.
• Deliver results and communicate those results in tangible ways.
• Lead by example.
• Connect the dots and bring people together for the larger cause.
• Recognize the sponsors who give you the framework, time and money to innovate. Keep them in the loop, and committed to the cause.
• Be proactive in your communications around your project, especially if it’s something not all stakeholders buy into.
• Navigate political waters and leverage your influencing skills so you get the executive support to continue innovating.
• Success in innovation is always tied to the customers/markets, the leadership/people, and the execution (technology implementation, financing, processes, revenue models, etc.)
The bottom line is that innovation will set you apart, as a leader, as a team, as an organization, and those who innovate best will build the most momentum most quickly.
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Thank you to our panelists for FountainBlue’s When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series on the topic Women Leading Innovation:
Facilitator Francine Gordon, FGordon Group
Panelist Raji Arasu, VP Product Development, eBay
Panelist Cornelia Davis, Senior Technologist, Office of the CTO, EMC Corporation
Panelist Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue
Panelist Vijaya Kaza, Director of Engineering, Cisco
Please join us in also in thanking our hosts at EMC for graciously hosting us for this month’s event.

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