One of the things I most love about Design Thinking is the opportunity to hear stories. Everyone has a story to share; some are more far-fetched than others, but we all have a story to tell. We laugh and we cry. And, for those of us working in innovation and leadership, we learn.
When we share our stories of our careers in innovation, we learn that no two people have followed the same path to success. Many us have common themes in our career journeys but there is really no single way to achieve a position of success.
What is Success in Innovation?
Of course, each of us has our own definition of success coupled with our own set of skills and accomplishments. This is why each pathway to innovation leadership is so different. Like many other New Product Development Professionals (NPDP), my background is technical. As a Chemical Engineer fresh out of grad school, my first job was in research. My supervisor honed and refined my leadership skills with training and job opportunities. Over the years, I have tended toward areas of innovation that involve helping people learn and apply tools to improve their own systems and processes.
Another person, who is also successful in innovation, started out as a retail sales clerk, and worked his way up in the sales division of his company. He changed jobs a lot, going among firms closely related within one industry. One day, he was tapped to lead a new marketing and innovation division; the organization recognized his quiet leadership skills and ability to connect with customers.
The definition of success in innovation is never linked to just a title. Being the CIO (Chief Innovation Officer) of an organization is a great position to hold, but only if you respect the role and responsibilities. Success as an innovation leader means providing excellent service and skills to a market to improve the lives of others. Seeking a title or position conflates our value as innovation professionals and might mistake monetary rewards over those that come from a job well done.
How to Gain Innovation Success?
Demonstrating success as an innovation leader is intricately tied to success of our customers and clients. Successful innovations benefit end-users by giving them basic necessities, convenience, or luxury. (Watch for a future blog post on these different levels of innovation.) While a new product offers optimal technologies for a consumer, providing a memorable experience leads to long-term innovation success.
Let me share a story. Having moved less than 10 miles within a local region, my husband and I ended up with two safety deposit boxes at two different branches of the same bank. We needed to access the safety deposit boxes to get the title to the car to trade it in on a new one. However, we didn’t know anymore which box held the title.
At the branch closest to our house, the teller was friendly and immediately took us to the box. She asked if we wanted a cup of coffee and chatted about the weather. In contrast, at the other bank branch, we waited ten minutes in a queue. Upon finally getting to the teller, she asked if we could wait for someone else to assist us. Finally, after accessing the safety deposit box (and the car title – yay!), we had to wait another ten minutes for the teller to lock the box and let us leave the vault. Though the teller did smile, she never offered common courtesies or apologies for the long wait. Our experience at the two branches was like day and night.
Providing an excellent experience for your customer is as important as – and perhaps more so – than the technology foundation of your innovation.
What is Your Innovation Leadership Career Path?
So how do you pursue a career for success as an innovation leader? First, remember that success is defined only by you – using your strongest skills to help improve the lives of others. Next, understand that “success” is not the same as a title or position. Successful innovation leaders create outstanding experiences for customers, building on products, technologies, and markets. Finally, sharing stories with customers and other innovation leaders guides your path and your career journey.
Join me on Thursday, 5 March 2020 at the AIChE STS dinner meeting to learn Three Tips to Advance Your Career Effortlessly. If you’re not in Houston or you are unable to attend the STS AIChE meeting, please join me for a recap of the three tips on Monday, 23 March 2020 at noon CDT (1 pm EDT, 10 am PDT). Each webinar attendee receives a complimentary workstyle assessment to help you build innovation leadership (limited to one per company via the authorized partner network with Jill Hickman Companies). Contact me at email@example.com for more information on becoming a successful innovation leader!
I am inspired by writing, teaching, and coaching. I tackle life with an infusion of rigor, zeal, and faith. It brings me joy to help you build innovation leaders. Teresa Jurgens-Kowal is an experienced professional with a passion for lifelong learning with a PhD in Chemical Engineering and an MBA in Computer and Information Decision Making. My credentials include PE (State of Louisiana), NPDP, PMP®, and CPEM, and I am a DiSC® certified facilitator. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or area code 281 + phone 280-8717 for more information on coaching for entrepreneurs and innovators.
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