ISMAC is Where It’s At, SF

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FountainBlue’s October 20 When She Speaks in SF event was on the topic of ISMAC is Where It’s At: Immersive, Security, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud. Our panel this quarter was quite diverse, representing a wide range of industries, backgrounds and perspectives. But they had much in common:

  • They shared a passion for doing things well, for doing things differently, for constantly raising the bar to better understand the needs of the customer, and to better deliver solutions which solve problems.
  • They each had a wide breadth of experiences, which they developed and learned from, and which proved invaluable as they continued on their professional and personal journey.
  • They generously and regularly shared their wisdom, advice and learnings to those around them, ensuring that they also benefited.
  • They had an innate curiosity, an astounding passion, and a drive to innovate, perpetuate, expand and grow. Therefore, each team and company and industry they worked with benefited greatly from their leadership and participation.

Below is their compiled advice on how to lead innovation, wherever you’re sitting at the table.

Be Strategic

  • Be consciously disruptive when it makes sense for the long term, and practical and efficient in your day-to-day operations, continually raising the question – how can this technology, this process, this team function better? What problems can we solve today and for tomorrow?
  • When an innovation goes wrong for whatever reason, own up to it, make up for it, learn from it, and move on!
  • Be careful generalizing innovation successes. What works in one context may not work in another. However, DO consider when an innovative concept may be applicable to another context.

It’s About the Customer

  • Being customer-focused is the heart of innovation. Delivering to the trends of the market and the needs of the customer is integral to the success of companies.
  • Technology is so pervasive and growing so rapidly that it’s difficult to stay ahead of the curve. Having a finger on the pulse of market trends and customer needs will help leaders design and develop relevant and customizable technology solutions.
  • Focus not so much on the sexiness of the technology, but rather on the potential appeal to the customer. Even if it’s the next best thing to sliced bread, if nobody buys it, it’s not an innovation which is sustainable.
  • Understand there may be an aversion to adoption before you design and develop a solution. Understanding why the aversion exists might lead you to a more relevant, more promising solution.
  • When appropriate, think not just about your customer, but also about your customer’s customer. 
  • Provide omni-channel solutions which take into account the desired communication channels of the customers (web, mobile, social media).

Be Collaborative

  • Build an ecosystem approach to innovation, which invites input from marketing, sales, operations, finance leaders from within the company, plus partners, vendors and customers outside the company.
  • Speak in the language of data to make your case to all stakeholders. 
  • Make friends in places high and low. You never know who will be instrumental in bringing an innovative idea to market – it takes a village!
  • Find a way to fund your novel idea from grants, executives, investors, etc., It’s hard to innovate without the resources to support that innovation.
  • Embrace diversity in your team as it will stimulate innovative-out-of-the-box thinking.

Below are some innovation ideas worth exploring.

  • Develop a solution which can lead a transition from paper to digital in volume for any one industry at a time. The slow-adopting industries might be the most challenging, but may have the most potential for adoption.
  • IT and IoT innovations which make life easier and more automated will abound and change the way we work and play.
  • Artificial intelligence, machine learning, bots and devices will continue to flourish in the marketplace. Creating a platform where they can interact, a standard which keeps them secure and interchangeable may be a great opportunity ahead.
  • Infrastructure solutions including storage and security will become increasingly more important.
  • Process innovation is a form of innovation which can’t be ignored. It will ensure that the right products and services efficiently get into the hands of the right customers.
  • Online learning will be hot, both for corporations and for individuals.
  • Collaborative communication solutions will continue to abound, solving problems across the enterprise.
  • Small businesses will adopt enterprise-level solutions which help them innovate better, collaborate better, serve customers better.
  • The empowered consumer will have much power – they will be wealthy, specific and demanding. This spells opportunity for those who can efficiently deliver personalized solutions.

The bottom line is that we can each facilitate a culture of innovation by making it SAFE to think differently, rewarding those who communicate differently, and celebrating those who are doing things differently – like creating new widgets, gadgets, and systems.


Please join me in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s October 20 When She Speaks event was on the topic of ISMAC is Where It’s At: Immersive, Security, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud and our gracious hosts at AppDynamics.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue, CMO, 888 Steps
  • Panelist Michelle Chen, PhD, Executive Director, Business Development & Licensing, West Coast Innovation Hub, Merck
  • Panelist Yvonne Chen, Head of Marketing/Sr Director of Marketing, Udemy
  • Panelist Shanthi Ramamurthy, Managing Director, Accenture Technology
  • Panelist Alexandra Shapiro, CMO, BigCommerce
  • Panelist Megan Slater, VP of Business Technology, AppDynamics
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