Women Leading Innovation



FountainBlue’s October 10 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Women Leading Innovation. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a range of panelists from different companies, roles, educational and functional backgrounds, and perspectives on the table, all with such deep and successful experience around innovation. They shared their perspectives on what innovation is:

  • Innovation is sometimes in-elegant, taking a more circuitous path, rather than taking the planned course.
  • Hence failing quickly and failing forward is an essential component of innovating.
  • Innovation comes from the top down – leadership needs to believe in it and empower it from the bottom up.
  • Innovation comes from the bottom up, from any chair – leadership needs to encourage original, out-of-the-box thinking, no matter who has what role or title.
  • Exposing yourself to new ideas and people may lead to thinking, speaking or acting differently may lead to a innovative business solutions or ideas.
  • Collaboration is a key ingredient of innovation, whether it’s internal with your team and organization or with the ecosystem of partners, providers and customers.
  • Innovation is a moving target – what’s innovative today will soon get outdated. Continue to focus on technology advancements and the needs of the customer to help ensure that innovations remain relevant.

They generously shared their wisdom and advice about innovation.

  • Communicate the larger purpose and story, in order to receive the resources, people and funding for innovative projects.
  • Innovative leaders welcome a range of perspectives on to their teams and extended teams, so have an open mind-set and culture, team and organization attracts and retains the best innovators. With that said, it’s difficult to facilitate this out-of-the-box, rule-breaking mind set within a corporation, so walk that fine line so that you stay within the culture while lightly pushing the boundaries.
  • Take a customer-driven perspective and understand the needs, pains and problems of the customer, so that you can improve their user experience and support their objectives. (Women may have an edge here, as they are naturally more empathic and other-focused.)
  • Adopt an inclusive mind set, facilitate a culture of innovation for your team and organization, and help create tangible opportunities to share ideas and fund innovation facilitates innovation within corporations.
  • Be warm and accepting of yourself and surrounding yourself with others who support you for who you are will help create a more open, safer culture of innovation.
  • Focus on program innovation rather than project innovation so that you can coordinate across departments and deliver across the life cycle of the product, and continue to serve the needs of the customer. If you focus just on a one-time project development, you may not get the long-term support you need for the product to succeed, and you may not get integrated support from all departments throughout the product life cycle.
  • Manage how much energy is invested in any innovation idea. Make sure that it’s needed and practical now, or plan for adopting a concept in the future.
  • Define and communicate boundaries of time and energy to protect your personal life, while supporting the innovation goals for yourself and for your team.
  • Get the support you need to remain positive, flexible and innovative, whether it’s within your corporate women’s group, within an external growth, amongst your community and friends, etc.,
  • Be willing to be uncomfortable! Innovators buck the status-quo – that may make YOU uncomfortable, but it will certainly make many others uncomfortable, and successful innovators know how to manage that for themselves, their teams, their customers and sponsors.

In the end, successful innovators want to stretch themselves, stretch what technology can offer, stretch their view of the world – and others benefit from their successes.


Please join us in thanking our hosts at eBay and our speakers below:

Facilitator Christine Kohl-Zaugg, Founder & CIO, BluBubble

Panelist Serpil Bayraktar, Principal Engineer, Chief Architect’s Office – Development, Cisco

Panelist Tasneem Brutch, Ph.D., Software Architect and Director of R&D, Samsung Research America

Panelist Gayathri Radhakrishnan, Director Strategy & Corporate Development, Dell Software

Panelist Kirsten Wolberg, VP of Technology, PayPal


%d bloggers like this: