From Binoculars to Breakthroughs: Birding and Innovation

This September, I’ll eagerly be scanning and listening for both migrating birds and rare species, as I do throughout the year. Indeed, I’m one of those individuals who can be spotted amidst a crowd, peering through a long scope at a distant bird.

In fact, last February, upon receiving a “Rare Bird Alert” on my phone about a rare eagle sighting in Maine, I jumped into my bird-mobile and drove 4.5-hours to catch a glimpse of it. It wasn’t until I arrived that I realized I had forgotten my coat. Nevertheless, there I was, trudging through muddy terrain in light fog, alongside a hundred other freezing fanatics from as far as Canada and the UK. Thankfully, we all succeeded in spotting the rare Stellar’s Sea Eagle, and it was truly magnificent!

When people discover that I am a birder, they often express surprise, saying, “Wow, that’s so different from your day job at Unilever.”

But is it? Birding cultivates a range of skills that can be immensely valuable in industries and positions that demand innovation. Here are my top 10 reasons to consider adding a birder to your innovation team:

  1. Curiosity and Exploration: Birders possess an innate curiosity about the world around them and an inclination to explore and discover new things. This natural curiosity fuels their creativity and propels them to venture into uncharted territories within industries, leading to innovative ideas and approaches.
  2. Systems Thinking: Birding fosters an understanding of the interconnectedness of ecosystems and the intricate relationships between different bird species, plants, and habitats. This systems-thinking approach can be applied to industries that require innovation and technology, where comprehending the broader context and the interdependencies between various components is crucial for developing innovative solutions.
  3. Observational Skills: Birders excel at observation, which proves advantageous in numerous business contexts, such as consumer science, research, and market analysis. Their ability to perceive and interpret subtle details helps uncover consumer preferences, identify market trends, and understand customer behavior.
  4. Flexible Attention to Detail: To be a proficient birder, one must literally know when to focus on the forest vs. the trees. In the business context, this flexibility proves valuable for simultaneously grasping the overall context and delving into details when necessary.
  5. Pattern Recognition: Birdwatchers hone their pattern recognition skills by identifying various bird species based on visual and auditory cues. This acute eye for detail translates well into industries that necessitate meticulous observation and analysis, as innovation often entails identifying subtle patterns, trends, or opportunities that others may overlook.
  6. Decision Making: Birders frequently find themselves making prompt judgments based on incomplete data, a situation commonly encountered in the business world as well. Birders rely on their pattern recognition skills, allowing them to recognize familiar scenarios and make optimal decisions until further information becomes available.
  7. Listening Skills: The better a birder you are, the less you rely on sight and the more you rely on listening to calls to identify species. In the workplace, it is crucial to truly listen and understand others, rather than merely appearing attentive until one has a chance to speak. When people feel genuinely heard, it leads to better outcomes for all parties involved.
  8. Data Collection and Analysis: Birders frequently maintain records of their sightings, engage in field research, study bird behaviors, migration patterns, and habitat requirements. This experience in conducting research and gathering data proves valuable in industries that require innovation or research and development, where data-driven decision-making and evidence-based practices are essential.
  9. Sustainability Mindset: Many birdwatchers are passionate about preserving the Earth for future generations. This mindset can be relevant in industries where sustainability and environmental considerations are crucial aspects of innovation. Birdwatchers may bring a heightened awareness of ecological impact, leading to the development of innovative, eco-friendly practices or technologies.
  10. Collaboration and Networking: Birders regularly interact with other birdwatchers, scientists, and conservationists to share knowledge and collaborate on projects. This networking and collaborative mindset can be applied to innovation industries, where interdisciplinary teamwork and knowledge exchange can yield groundbreaking ideas.

Watch Innovation Soar

Although being a birdwatcher may not directly provide expertise in all areas of innovation, the skills and qualities developed through birdwatching contribute to a mindset conducive to creative problem-solving, adaptability, and a holistic approach to innovation. So consider becoming a birdwatcher or hiring one to be part of your team and watch as your innovation acumen soars!

Harnessing the Collective Super Mind to Unleash Innovation

The super mind is something that global corporate enterprise, and anyone within the innovation discipline, can carry forward. But first, just what is the super mind?

“We assume that the super mind is a group of individuals that are acting in an intelligent way. This is coming from Thomas Malone research from the collective intelligence at MIT,” notes Liebana. “However, when we were engaging with 55 different countries, and hundreds of stakeholders and organizations, we saw the complexity of coordinating all these organizations with their own interests, their own goals, and applying innovation on top of all this. We thought that this collective intelligence was the key to enable this innovation happening. We needed to understand how to handle so many different stakeholders in a way that we can coordinate them to create value for the operation, but also from an innovation perspective.”

Harnessing that collective intelligence could include artificial intelligence as part of the process. Yet, how much of that process is also human centric?

Liebana says, “I think you go step by step at the beginning, but we were talking about the framework like a job to be done analysis where we are trying to understand what the other perspectives in the innovation value are—not only the functional and the system technologies, but how we can go beyond that and going through the emotional and the social aspects of the fan experience. There is a combination of so many different stakeholders, understanding the customer journey, understanding which is the key touch points and the pain points that we are going to face, how we can leverage the system technologies, the mobile apps, the physical devices and so on. And how we can integrate all that in a way that is going to be harmonic, and then create this symphony of emotions that we were seeing all around the studios.”

However, technology such as AI is only the tool at the end of the day to overcome the challenges of such a large project. It is still humans that are the focus.

He continues, “I think when we are talking about a super mind, for the FIFA World Cup, we are applying a human centric approach because at the end of the day, all the value that we are creating is for the fans. We have a clear customer. We know what they are looking for, what they are expecting, and we are trying to provide this. The challenge is how you combine and synchronize all these emotional aspects of that mega brand with all the operations. But finding, for example, the right timing, to explore and to expand the innovation potential and then coming into the operations and trying to synchronize all these, I think it’s the best approach.”

Finding the Value

Even with the interaction of so many countries, and the use of so many technologies, it is the experience that was framed by who the customers are. And by the ultimate value.

“One of the first principle of this super mind innovation, we were assuming it’s a holistic perspective,” says Liebana. “The key theme for us is to identify what kind of value we are generating. And when you think about value, you don’t think about technology, you think about what is the ultimate value that you want to create. And this is where we are coming from in a functional, emotional and social aspect. So once you understand what you are trying to do is just to orchestrate an emotional dance with all the fans. So this is not related to technology.”

It feels like this methodology can be applied going forward, beyond soccer, to other mega events, the entertainment industry, corporate enterprises and so on—to create and harness collective intelligence to create new value.

“I really think that it’s not that difficult to apply the same concepts,” Liebana says. “When we are talking about collective intelligence, the quantities is a critical factor. What we have learned because of the complexity of the number of stakeholders is that the more you interact, the more friction you create, the better quality you are going to create. And you need to put this idea on the table, let them discuss and have a very difficult answer in the discussions so that the more pressure you put, the earlier you are going to transform a rock into a diamond.”

What could be next after the FIFA World Cup? And what lies ahead in the future, both from a technology perspective and a human consciousness one? See the video from FEI for more on Seth Adler’s conversation with Oscar Barranco Liebana.

Creating the Happiness Mindset for Innovation

To start off, a key question is can happiness possibly be operationalized at global corporate enterprises? Is that even possible? Can it even be measured?

“That is actually a debate that both psychologists and economists are having with some regularity,” says Sanderson. “Certainly, we know there are ways to measure happiness. But one of the challenges is that when we think about happiness, it’s not just one dimension, that broadly happiness includes three distinct components. There’s the component of pleasure, like the pleasure of having a great glass of wine, or you’re hearing a beautiful piece of music. There is anticipation and engagement. So doing things in your life, job, career, or community that you find personally engaging and fulfilling. And then there’s also doing things that you find meaningful, which bring you a sense of contentment and peace.”

Happiness and its dimensions may be more relevant to the workplace than one might originally think. For example, bringing in the right talent to the innovation team, creating the right culture and environment, and having the right leadership are all components that could and should bring happiness to an organization or group. One must understand talent wants and needs and then execute on that. But as the return to office movement has shown, with hybrid work coming out of the pandemic, there’s clearly still a divide.

Sanderson points to a study that might help balance that divide, as it shows how the meaning of one’s job is important: “There was a study that was done with people who had the exact same job. They were custodians in a hospital. And then they asked, how much do you like that job? And half the people said, I don’t like the job at all. What I do is I mop floors, wash windows and clean bathrooms. Another set of people said, I love my job. But they described it. They thought about it in a totally different way. They said, I’m keeping a sterile environment and protecting patients. I’m an important conduit between the nursing staff and the doctors and the patients. I’m a sense of moral support for the family. I love that example because what it really describes is how you think about your job really matters. And we can frankly all do a better job of helping people understand the meaning, value and purpose behind their job, and that leads to greater happiness, and actually better work performance.”

The study also shows how a change of mindset can be important, when it comes to an innovation team, its members and leadership. That mindset about their job matters and leadership can play a role in how the job is interpreted and shaped over time. It is also certainly key that leadership reinforce that message when things get stressful.

The Anxiety Age

So just what would Sanderson suggest when there is stress or anxiety in work and life? Like happiness, anxiety is also how we think.

Sanderson notes, “There’s a great book that I recommend, and it’s called, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. And it’s by a neuroscientist at Stanford. But what this book says is the reason why zebras don’t get ulcers is that zebras only show this anxiety when there is a predator, I would imagine, or when they’re about to die. Guess when people do it, all the time. I’m late for my plane. I have a blind date. I have a job interview. I have a lot of emails in my inbox. Whatever it is. So the reality is, yes, life can be stressful, work can be stressful, people’s personal lives can be stressful. But we could all learn to be more like the zebra. And show that sort of physiological stress reaction when things are truly life and death versus the sort of everyday ups and downs of life that are not actually life and death.”

So how can a businessperson overcome anxiety? “I think one way is actually talking about it. And that is the reality. Part of it is just sort of understanding, wait, is this life or death or is it not? I think it’s also the case of allowing people to obsess but for limited periods of time. One of my favorite examples of this comes from cognitive psychology. Say you’re going to set aside a time every day. And in that ten-minute period, you can panic about anything under the sun, and then it’s over. Then you’re moving on. There are ways that we can train ourselves to think about anxiety provoking things in a different way,” she says.

While some of this mindset is up to the individual, organizations also play a role in shaping the worker’s mindset. Sanderson concludes, “Organizations play a tremendous role in helping people understand how their job fits into the broader picture, the broader enterprise and really contains value and meaning.”

See the video from FEI for more on Seth Adler’s conversation with Professor Catherine Sanderson, as they tackle psychology, the pandemic, and the work/life environment.

Breaking Through Challenges to Problem Solve

The Butterfly Network is in the medical device sector, and the company has developed an ultrasound system on a semiconductor chip.

“It’s sort of like taking the world of medical imaging from the analog world of film into the digital camera world, into the digital age,” relates Sanchez. “And so what we’ve been able to do is make an imaging device for only $2,700. It can plug into your iPhone, and it can image anywhere in your body. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket but powerful enough to image anything.”

Sanchez and his team successfully tackled a problem it identified in the market, and the innovators aimed to bring a solution for that problem. The challenges were numerous.

He says, “It was a pretty enormous challenge that we put in front of us. We wanted to create a single chip that was capable of doing things that only a $150,000 ultrasound machine could do, with two images in three dimensions. And it needed to be power efficient and run on a battery. It needed to be small enough to fit in your pocket, and it needed to be affordable and manufacturable and something that we could scale up and sell hundreds of thousands of devices.”

As many small ventures find, the task at first seemed insurmountable. “It’s a pretty tall order that we put in front of us. Part of the reason I believe that we were very successful at this is we were sort of in a sense, we didn’t know any better. It’s like if you had asked someone who is an expert, could we do this? They might have said, no, it’s not possible. But we did it anyway.”

Building an innovation team with the right culture helped in terms of problem solving and product development.

Sanchez recalls, “Part of what allowed us to do what we did is we had a team of people that all had a few common traits. We were all intensely curious, intensely interested in learning and developing new ideas. We never let not knowing what to do or not knowing how to do something, get in the way of getting it done. We had a sort of confidence that we can solve any problem that comes at us, and we will have the drive to learn what it takes to solve the problem, and it was kind of essential in actually succeeding at this.”

Embracing the problem at hand, and being driven to find a solution, inspired Sanchez and his team. That motivation was key for the company to develop its imaging product. As many innovators find, it was stepping out of that comfort zone that inspired a solution.

“I think it’s definitely very important to care about the thing that you’re doing to a great degree. If you’re passionate about a problem, that kind of inspires you to think about it at all times in the day to really devote all of your energy to solving it. I think it’s also great if the problem presents in such a way that you have to learn new things, step outside your comfort zone to solve it, because that makes it incredibly exciting. There’s just sort of the human drive to want to continue to work on the problem because of that excitement,” he says.

Of course, ultimately it was different disciplines that were collaborating to develop this new technology.

“There were many issues to solve where we needed mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, analog and digital chip designers, process engineers,” says Sanchez. “There were semiconductor or silicon process engineers, deep learning scientists, imaging scientists, front end mobile engineers, cloud software engineers—just all of the disciplines that needed to come in to make this solution come together.”

He adds, “It was hugely exciting for me because I was the person that wanted to study everything. So this was just a fantastic problem to wrap my head around because of how many disciplines went into it and the opportunity to meet incredibly talented, smart people in all these different domains.”

So what’s next for the Butterfly Network? See the full video from FEI, where Adler and Sanchez continue the conversation, and touch on other innovation themes such as technology, AI, and more.

Powering Innovation’s Long-Term Play

Cummins designs, manufactures, and distributes engines, filtration, and power generation products. What were some of the takeaways following the panel, which focused on seeking innovation through external channels and partnerships?

“Even in our session, with Eric and myself talking about it, it was so much about we can’t do everything ourselves,” says Jaithwa. “We have to understand that the market is evolving faster than what it used to be. In the energy industry, it’s all about decarbonization right now. The perception is we are an engine manufacturing company. But if you think about it, we just made a pretty big announcement of creating a company which is focused on new growth areas. It’s not a short-term goal. It’s pretty significant and that’s exactly what we were trying talk about in the panel about how we see innovation, how we see innovation disrupting our industry, and how we see innovation being on the front foot of everything that we do.”

He continues, “The way I like to describe this question is understanding our strengths and weaknesses as a company. We are pretty big from a size perspective, our customers have certain expectations when they hear the word Cummins for anybody in the energy industry. We are going towards net zero growth and we are helping customers achieve their net zero and decarbonization goals. When we talk about innovation, when we talk about expanding our reach, the principles that are critical is understanding where we stand strong as a company and what our weakness is.”

As for weaknesses, or gaps, acquisitions play a key role in supplementing what the company sees as a potential weakness. For example, Jaithwa points out, “There are things that we think we want to get to diversify our markets, for example, hydrogenics. We acquired multiple battery companies. We acquired hydrogen fuel cell companies. We could have put down many engineers and started to figure out things ourselves, but that wasn’t the right path. The goal was to find the right solution in the market, figure out if that’s right for us as a company, then find the right company, and then double down on internal integration, because then we can go to the market faster.”

Internal integration is where the rubber hits the road. Mergers, acquisitions, venture capital, partnerships, there are many different paths that one could follow. How can a company enhance that integration ability? The answer might be different, depending on the culture and leadership, Jaithwa points out.

“Every company has a different culture to it. And based on the culture and based on the person who’s leading the company at that point of time, a lot of these questions are answered accordingly,” Jaithwa observes. “When we acquired these technologies, we knew as a company, it’s not going to pick up in the next two years. It’s not a short-term play. It’s a mid-term to long-term play. The approach there from an integration internally is very different. Or so the team gets everything that they need to be separated out from the company itself and have the flexibility to draw an experiment play and not be measured by the same metrics of revenue and EBITDA.”

Integrating innovation might also come about by talking to customers and changing one’s mindset depending upon their needs. Companies both large and small are looking at ways to minimize their carbon footprint, for example.

Jaithwa says, “It’s not a simple question, because now you’re changing your whole mindset of powering your facility from utility and diesel or natural gas to saying, I want batteries, I want hydrogen, I want solar, I want like 15 things. How would you do it? So that’s why it’s a mix of a short term, medium term, and long-term play, and the integration internally depends on where we are playing and at what time cycle.”

Check out the full video from FEI for the conversation between Adler and Jaithwa, as they discuss themes such net zero, decarbonization, sustainability, hydrogen technology—and perhaps most importantly, adapting to change.

External Partnerships Fuel Innovation

Innovation Resources

Cummins, which designs, manufactures, and distributes engines, filtration, and power generation products, is 180 degrees different from BD, which is in the medical device industry. So just what were some of the key takeaways focused on innovation from such a diverse session partnership?

Agdeppa discovered that despite the companies’ differences, they were expounding on the same themes. “It was really a validation that if we look externally, we’re still having the same approaches of understanding the greatest customer needs. How do we motivate our teams around innovating in new spaces that are unfamiliar to our leadership? And so there’s a technical aspect. There’s the clinical need aspect for us. And for them, it’s their trucking and power systems’ needs. But at the end of the day, how do we get our stakeholders on board, and it was a wonderful discussion teasing that out,” he says.

Looking externally from within the innovation discipline in the organization to outside the company generated its own benefits, noted Agdeppa.

Agdeppa notes, “So within a large corporation like BD, it is looking at other business groups that are not dealing with catheters or needles or syringes, but looking beyond in terms of those that are not making disposables, but are making durable medical goods. But it’s also looking beyond the four walls of the company. So, insights on how other industries are looking at, let’s say, sustainability. We’re still on that journey, and our customers are as well. But other industries are more mature in terms of how they are looking at sustainability as a driver for their strategy, for instance.”

That cross disciplinary, cross industry approach to innovation has always been there. But it feels like it is absolutely necessary at this moment.

“I think it’s absolutely necessary,” Agdeppa agrees. “We can’t invent by ourselves, and given the speed of innovation in any industry, we need to look elsewhere to get that jump start. And I think we haven’t fully realized that, until COVID hit us, and we had to develop products in three months as opposed to three years. We had to address an immediate clear and present danger within a few weeks as opposed to a couple of years or within five years, ten years. So it was definitely a kick in the pants in terms of COVID. The one good thing coming out of it is how do we reach out to others to accelerate our development? And how do we sustain that moving forward?”

What advice would Agdeppa share at this current economic time, in this year of uncertainty? He observes, “I think it’s still taking that step back, but having a different lens in terms of the one offs with COVID, the one offs with supply chain issues, the one offs with just the current financial lending issues. That will pass us, and we’re getting to a point later this year and moving forward that get back to basics. How do we grow in the long term? As opposed to being reactionary. I would turn that around and say, sure, take that step back, but go back to what you were doing before and enhancing that in terms of a long-term vision as opposed to being reactionary to all of those external forces that are just pounding us.”

It is not coincidental that, despite the waning of the virus, disruption in the marketplace is consistent and constant. What trends does Agdeppa see in the medical device industry?

Agdeppa says, “One example in our industry is the virtualization of care. Because of the need to keep distance from patients, whether you’re in the unit in the hospital or keeping them at home, the at-home piece and caring in the community, that is not going to change because COVID is over. It is here to stay and we have to figure out how we learn from other industries in terms of virtualization, how we use telemedicine, how we use the phones that we have in place. I think there is an opportunity for us to look forward to some disruptions, for other industries that can help us actually sustain caring for our patients, given what we’ve learned from COVID.”

Check out the full video from FEI for the conversation between Adler and Agdeppa, as they discuss themes such as resilience, transformation, agility, the outlook for the rest of the year, and more.

Benchmark With Your Peers On Industry Spend & Trends

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The results from this survey will provide you and your colleagues in All Things Innovation community with much needed benchmarking information on mindset and focus trends as well as budget and technology spend.

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Our goal is to provide resources for innovation disciplinarians to better collaborate with the rest of the organization.


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Gail Martino, Senior Program Manager, Unilever

Harsh Wardhan, Innovation Program Lead, Google

Michele Sandoval, Director of Innovation, E&J Gallo Winery

Oscar Barranco Liébana, Innovation Director, FIFA World Cup 2022

Zeinab Ali, Vice President R&D Transformation, Former Campbell

Mike Hatrick, Group Director IP Strategy & Portfolio, Trucks, Tech, Volvo Group Strategy, IP

Oksana Sobol, Senior Director, Insights Lead, The Clorox Company

Assess Trends Within the Analytics & Data Science Community

The results from this survey will provide you and your colleagues in our community with much needed benchmarking information on mindset and focus trends as well as budget and technology spend.

We’ll analyze the responses and output results into the Spend & Trends Report.

Our goal is to provide resources for analytics and data science disciplinarians to better collaborate with and within the marketing function as well as the rest of the organization.


We’ll send you the Report as soon as it’s released. Your responses will be kept completely confidential. We appreciate your time—this research helps our entire industry and we can’t do it without you. Thank you for helping us advance the analytics and data science discipline.


Michael Bagalman, Vice President, Business Intelligence and Data Science, STARZ

Michelle Ballen-Griffin, Head of Data Analytics, Future

June Dershewitz, Board Member, Digital Analytics Association

Anu Sundaram, Vice President, Business Analytics, Rue Gilt Groupe

Steve Weiss, Content Manager, Data Science & Business Analytics, LinkedIn Learning

Sunny Zhu, ESG Data Analytics & Operations,

Will Skills-Based Talent Propel the Future of Innovation?

Just what does the future of work look like with so much changing over the last few years? As it happened, Ranganathan spoke about the subject in her session at FEI.

“The session at FEI was about what the future of work is going to look like over the next decade or so, and I specifically focused on how the future of talent recruitment and development is going to look like,” she says. “There were two things we walked away with. One was skills as the currency of the future in talent. And the second is the framework that I call the 4G manager, the sort of managers that can help us move towards a skill space future.”

But what about thought leaders in innovation, that are time and again saying they can’t find the right talent for the organization? Should we try to build from within? Should we search in different channels?

“It actually makes me happy to hear that they’re facing that problem because you can only solve a problem that exists. And so we’re really glad this problem exists. Because the way we’ve hired conventionally has been really based on degrees or pedigrees where you studied, where you worked, what are all of the X’s on your LinkedIn profile. That is how we deem you suitable for the job we need you to do now. And so in the process of filtering people by their experience and their pedigree, we end up eliminating a large part of the talent pool that actually has the skills to be able to come do that job really well—and importantly has the fresh perspective to bring a lot of innovation to that job. So what I would say to a lot of those people is, if you were to pivot to a very different way of hiring, which I call skill space hiring, your talent pool could be ten times as wide as it is right now, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” asserts Ranganathan.

However, it can be challenging for firms, across whatever industry they are in, to make this kind of evolution in their hiring. How does that look when it succeeds?

She points out, “It’s easier for some job families than others. For some job families, it’s easy to boil it down to a bunch of very specific skills that are needed to succeed at the job. What skill space hiring looks like very tactically is you write out your conventional job description, and now you examine three things closely. Number one, what are all the industry specific things you’ve asked for? Number two, how have you described the job function this person needs to have done for X number of years. Number three, what are the degrees that you’ve asked for? And you get really intellectually honest with yourself and you ask are those three really necessary to do this job? Can I pull some of those out and replace them with some of those concrete skills that are needed to succeed in this job? To me, that is the simplest, but the most effective tactic to get started on skills-based hiring.”

That might be well and good from the organizational perspective. But what about from the candidate perspective? Just how is the skills-based methodology providing an advantage in the marketplace. Ranganathan feels there is a two-sided marketplace. There’s the hirer and there’s a job seeker.

She continues, “From a job seeker’s perspective, you want to start getting fluent in how the job description is evolving to describe those roles that you’re really interested in. And what kind of skills language are they using in there? Step two, how many of those skills can I honestly say that I have accumulated in my experience? And to what extent can I write that out in a way that feels credible? And now step three, update your LinkedIn profile, update your resume with that skills language rather than with all of that experience-based language.”

Of course, we might not be there quite yet, but after all, we are exploring the future of work. “I’m not saying it has to be one or the other, but it’s a bit of a yes and so now you can be found by the more progressive employers that are doing skill based hiring but your resume is also good enough to get noticed by very conventional hires who are doing more experience-based hiring,” she says.

For more on Seth Adler and Sudha Ranganathan’s conversation on the innovation talent pool, how diversity fits in, the greater appreciation for how work gets done—and even the downfall of competent jerks—check out the full FEI video.

Move Innovation Beyond Technology to Focus on People

Wardhan also participated in All Things Innovation’s roundtable on transformational innovation, held at the FEI event. One question asked of Wardhan and other participants, is what was the approach that you brought to the roundtable as far as design thinking, disruption and transformational innovation? The answer is all about people, says Wardhan.

“One thing that I keep going back to is start with people inside and out,” Wardhan says. “When we talk about people, we keep talking about, who’s the end customer? Who is the user? But I think we need to look around. We need to think about all the stakeholders, and that’s the approach that I keep going back to. And the other approach that I take is alignment on language when we say transformational innovation. What do we mean by transformation? What do we mean by innovation?”

Of course, when you go around a table, or a room or a group of executives, no one has the same definitions for any of these words. How can we actually collaborate with key stakeholders if no one is speaking literally the same language? We also found through the roundtable there was a concept of kind of loving the problem as opposed to the solution—kind of coming at it from a problem standpoint as opposed to a solution standpoint, because you can get collaboration around a problem, while it’s more difficult to sell a solution.

“Don’t quote me on this and I know I’m saying it on video,” says Wardhan. “It might be Einstein who said this. If I have 60 minutes to cut a watermelon, I would spend a majority of it, 50 minutes, sharpening the knife. That’s what it means by needing the problem until and unless it gives you the solution itself. What is surprising about that quote is it’s a different approach to look at the problem, not the solution. For those that are within large organizations, technology is a tool. But remember, it’s about the people. It feels like we’re reimagining how we act and actually go about innovation so that we can get to that resilience that each organization is striving for.”

“I would say we are relearning what innovation is,” Wardhan adds. “We are not necessarily talking about anything new. We are just trying to remind what innovation means and everything around it.”

See the video from FEI for more on learning, the impact of AI, people-centricity, sustainability and the rest of Seth Adler’s conversation with Harsh Wardhan.