On this week’s episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Tamara Ghandour, Author of Innovation is Everybody’s Business. Tamara and I talk about innovation. What it means today in today’s changing environment. And what individuals and teams can do to build their innovation muscles. Let’s get started.
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Interview Transcript with Tamara Ghandour, Author of Innovation is Everybody’s Business
Brian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I’m your host, Brian Ardinger and as always, we have another amazing guest. Today we have Tamara Ghandour. She’s the Author of Innovation is Everybody’s Business: How to Ignite, Scale, and Sustain Innovation for Competitive Edge.
You also have a podcast called Inside Launch Street, which I had great opportunity to be on last week when we recorded. And we said, Hey, let’s get you on our show and let’s share the community. So welcome.
Tamara Ghandour: Thank you, Brian, it’s good to see you again. It’s been so long.
Brian Ardinger: It’s nice to have you on our show. You know, obviously our audience is probably overlapped to some degree. But I thought it’d be an important to get you on our show to talk a little bit about what you’re seeing out there in the world of innovation.
And one of the reasons I liked your book and some of the stuff that you’re doing…it’s not just about the people, it’s about the mechanics behind it and the blocking and tackling, and you even have an Innovation Quotient Edge Assessment that people can go through to find out how they can be coming an innovator and that.
Tamara Ghandour: We believe very strongly, and I think science has also shown us that everybody has the ability to innovate. I’ve been in innovation 25, I don’t know so many years. I can’t even count now. But you know, this because you’re in it too. There was a lot of focus on the process and the initiatives and the kind of structure of innovation. But what I kept seeing time and time again, is that those efforts failed.
And when I really kind of dug into it, what I really realized is that they’re failing because they weren’t focusing on the people side. Like how do we as humans innovate? How do we unlock that in ourselves and our teams? And how do we tap the power of diversity of thinking. How do we drive it from the inside to the outside, to the culture and kind of bubbling up from there.
So I think over the years, that’s why our business has transformed into what it is. Why its been successful is because we get people at an individual and a team level to recognize their power of innovation. And how to apply that in their daily world. And then from there, the initiative and the culture and the process and all that kind of follow, but I’m sure you’ve heard this too Brian.
It’s like, I can’t tell you the number of times I got a phone call from a client who says I’ve invested a lot of money in whatever the latest and greatest innovation philosophy is, and my team’s not doing it. What do I do to get them to do it? And there’s always this kind of, you know, awkward silence of, well it’s not that you need to do something to connect them to the process. It’s that you need to do something to connect them to themselves and how they innovate.
Brian Ardinger: Well, and that’s a very important point. I think a lot of people think that innovation is that mad scientist or that founder, the only way you can innovate. So the fact that, we talk about this too, where you don’t have to be a founder to be innovative. And, you know, first of all, it helps to define what innovation is for your company. And it’s not just creating the next Uber or the next Twitter. But it can be just as simple as, Hey, I’ve seen a problem in our way we process things. How do we go about making it better?
And so that’s what I liked about the assessment. It allowed everybody to play a role in innovation. I think everybody does have a role to play in creating new value in an organization.
Tamara Ghandour: Actually, I want to highlight something you said, because I think it’s so important. You said that innovation doesn’t have to be the next, like Uber, Twitter, Airbnb. I think we put a lot of false pressure on ourselves to make innovation this big blue skies, disruptive thing, but, and I’m sure you’ve seen this in your work. What I find is that, that the challenge with that is it’s great. If it happens. But there’s incredible opportunity to just rearrange the box you have.
And I think that when we, as the leaders go to our teams and go, we gotta be disruptive, disrupt or die, like all the cliches, right. I could come up, with what ends up happening is people shut down because they’re like, well, but I’m staring at my box and my box is my reality. And you want me to go out the box, but I don’t even know where to go outside the box. So like, I think there’s this funny struggle that happens unintentionally when we’re trying to force the next Uber.
And if you really look at Uber, it actually, isn’t what it did ended up being disruptive, but it was just some mapping technology and allowing people to use their cars. And I don’t mean that to put down Uber. I love Uber, but I think your question though, was around the assessment. Right?
Brian Ardinger: Tell us a little bit about like, what does it show? And one of the things I liked about it is it talked about the diversity of skill sets and that, that have to come to play, to become an innovative team.
Tamara Ghandour: So, I got super obsessed with how we, as people innovate. And I came to this realization very early on in my career that everybody is innovative. Right, I had some experiences that made me go wait a minute, did Jill and accounts payable just come up with an innovative idea? Like she’s not the creative one, hold on. What is this?
Coupled with people constantly saying to me when, I do a lot of keynoting, so when I go off stage and saying things like, well, that’s great Tamara that Apple does that, but what about the rest of us? Like, and how am I supposed to apply that? Me, Susie? Right.
We started to dig into the neuroscience, the behavioral psychology, like the real, like the research and the science behind our brains and how we innovate and what we came to uncover and all the research, and combining that with our years of experience, was that everybody’s innovative. It’s universal. That we all do it.
However, how we innovate is unique to each of us and there’s actually nine styles or triggers. So, ways that we can innovate and we all have this thing. Think of it as like an equalizer. It’s not that we are a void of all but two, but there are two in there that are your absolute power play, like your wellspring of innovation.
And the way I do it, the two that are me. So, I’m a risk-taker experiential, might be different than like Laura who’s on my team, who’s a collaborative tweaker, and we can go into what those mean if we have the time, but the people can go to the website and take the assessment and find out.
But the point of it is it’s really empowering when you understand your own strengths around innovation and how that maps onto your behaviors and your actions, and really aligning that with how you operate when people are able to tap into that innovation and bring it to their work and life every day when they understand that.
So, it was a combination of years, wonderful experience, but also the science behind it that actually shows us that we all have these incredible structures for innovation, but we do it a little differently. A lot of us fall short because, see the cover of Fast Company magazine, but the article in it says, I need to meditate in the morning and be fearless, right. That’s innovation.
And then I try to do it and it doesn’t work for me. And I go, well, I’m not innovative. So, we have to recognize that we all do it a little differently and there’s power in ourselves for that. But there’s also power in, Brian if I know how you innovate, I know how to leverage you best. And if I don’t, then I don’t.
Brian Ardinger: Well, let’s talk a little bit more about the team aspect of innovation. I think a lot of times, again, we think about the lone wolf or the person who comes up with the crazy ideas as the innovator, but…
Tamara Ghandour: And they do It all by themselves.
Brian Ardinger: Exactly. So, we know that that’s not the case, but we also, I think under estimate, like how do we bring a team together, cross-collaboration and different types of skillsets to actually take on bigger problems. When do teams start in the innovation process and how does that actually evolve? And what have you seen in your experiences?
Tamara Ghandour: Can I share a couple of client stories with you? Cause I think that probably explains it best. We have worked with teams. We have an online Academy, whereas kind of like the tools, resources, and support to innovate and I have seen people and teams come in at the starting point where they’re like, we’re pulling the team together and we got to start with a place of innovation, but I’ve also seen teams come in that feel very siloed, disengaged, stressed out, especially with everything we’ve been through kind of in the last year.
So, there’s a lot of places you can start from, but let me share an experience I had. I was working with a huge reseller of electronics, a billion dollar company. And this was the internal auditing team. So, this wasn’t the sexy marketing team, right? It wasn’t the R and D team. It wasn’t the innovation team.
These are the guys and gals that are responsible for operational excellence inside the company. And the leader of the team. And in fact, I have this whole story in my book too. It was one of many, but he was brilliant. He said, you know, we have this team we’re global. We got this when we could all get together.
So, you know, we’re coming together, and we’ve got new challenges that we’re facing. We’ve got to dial up innovation, we’re all smart. We’re all good at our jobs, but we’ve got to dial up the collaboration and the innovation. I see it framed at the edges, but the challenges that are coming up are bigger than what we faced before. So, we got to do this.
Well, so everybody takes the assessment. Everybody’s does their IQ like knows what their everyday innovator style is. They’re all excited of course, to learn about themselves. But then we do this exercise that was the eye-opening for them. The first was about 25 of them. I broke them into teams where everybody is the same.
So, everybody in this team is a collaborative. Everybody in this team is a futuristic. And with M&Ms I have them build this thing. And you could see. So, first of all, the inquisitive, which is all about innovating by asking questions, didn’t finish the exercise because they were too busy asking the other questions.
The collaboratives, which is all about like intersection employment perspectives had a fabulous time and talked on and on, but the ideas were meh that they came up with on the table, right. Futuristics were too far in the future to like pull it back. So, they’re all brilliant in their own. Right. But when they were together and acting the same, the ideas were okay.
Then I broke them up into diverse teams. So, they had a little bit of everything at the table and there was some discomfort, there were challenges. And once they figured that out, right. Cause now you’ve got to deal with people, not like you. Who think differently and you’ve got to respect it and understand and pull it out of them really.
But the, Oh my God, Brian do things that they came up with were game-changing and this just a hypothetical exercise, but they actually came up with stuff that they could apply to their world. I did this exercise with the Hilton as well. And the same kind of thing, the client afterwards said I think the most brilliant thing that came out of this is we now understand how much stronger we are as a team when we recognize each other’s differences and actually pull it out.
We’re so busy trying to get a herd mentality that we’re killing innovation. We’re having a great time. But we’re killing innovation in the process. So hopefully that answers your question kind of where we’re headed.
Brian Ardinger: That’s fantastic. I’d love to get your perspective on what have you seen, maybe the mistakes that were happening 10 years ago versus the. Mistakes that are being made now, when it comes to innovation. And what have you seen from that trend line, from where companies have moved from innovation to where they are now?
Tamara Ghandour: Yeah, I think you, and I’ve talked a little bit offline about this too. I think the big shift, which I’m most excited about and hopefully will continue to push in that direction, and help our clients do that. I do think there’s a democratizing of innovation.
So, I do think that innovation used to be highly siloed. It was a select group of people with a special t-shirt right. And they got to do crazy stuff. And in fact, I used to work with a large consumer-packaged goods company, and they had a whole disruptive innovation team. This was about 10 years ago, actually.
And their ideas were brilliant. And never went anywhere because they put that idea ball all over the fence to the base brands, the people that were running the business and they were like, duck and weave, we want nothing to do with it.
I do think we’ve come to this realization that innovation shouldn’t be siloed. And also that it’s not only for the select few. We used to believe that innovation was like this magical thing that you know Brian, maybe you had, and I don’t, but maybe if I’m by you you’ll say something brilliant. I can like attach onto.
So, you know, we attach these special titles to people. I think that’s starting to go away. And I think to your point earlier about innovation also being small, I think companies are starting to realize that the most innovative companies are innovating across the business, not with one breakthrough product or service that happens sometimes.
But it’s that innovation infused across everything that actually makes the biggest changes for them in the marketplace. So, I do think there’s a shift to democratize innovation, which of course makes me thrilled because I think being an innovator and being innovative as a choice, not like you can choose to leverage that, or you could not, but it’s there for all of us.
Brian Ardinger: Well, and the democratization I think has sped up as well and accelerated. Where I’d imagined two or three years ago, you were talking about disruption and people would “get it” with quotes around it. They would get it, but now they actually get it. When the fact that the world has changed under their feet in virtually every single industry, every single company has been impacted by the pandemic and other changes in and around that, that have accelerated.
And so the, you know, the speed at which people have now realized that they do need to innovate because the world is not going to be the same as it was before. I’d love to get your input or insights into what are some of the trends that you’re seeing now because of that shift. And how are maybe corporations approaching you or, or thinking about it differently now that there’s, that understood pressure.
Tamara Ghandour: I’m glad you asked that. It’s a great question, because I think there’s so many angles we could cover. So, I’m going to go outside and then come inside. I think externally to your point, innovation and disruption was this thing that we put in quotes, right? Innovate or die, disrupt, or be disruptive. Like it all sounded good, sounded really sexy, but we were at the top of our curves, our business lifecycle curves.
And as you know, every curve has a cliff or a decline and before 2020, many industries, we’re on a top of that curve. And maybe there was a decline coming, but they were good enough, that they didn’t have innovate. Right. And we always say success is the enemy of innovation, but it’s really true because why would we, when what we’re doing is working. It makes it harder to take the risk to make the investment the time the energy.
And all of that is actually harder. And I don’t really even know that I really understood it until this last year. I think this last year has forced innovation because a lot of companies in a lot of industries, not just technology, right? Not just hotels with Airbnb, right? Like everybody felt it in some way.
So, I think one of the biggest trends I’m seeing is people are innovating outside of their inner circle in a way that I haven’t seen. And let me give you a small business example. There’s a restaurant around the corner from me that when the pandemic hit, they did what every other restaurant did at first, they went to, to go curbside, right?
And I’m not knocking restaurants. They had it rougher than a lot of industries, but this restaurant, the founders are really innovative, and they realized we’ve got to do more than just what we’re doing on the curb. Right. That’s not enough. And they realize they’re in a community, of families where suddenly we had kids at home, all the time, and we were cooking all the time and we don’t want to order everything over Uber Eats, like we’re cooking all. And I know this because I have two boys. I’m like, they ate me out of house and home in 2020.
And so, they started creating these at-home meal kit. So, you got the experience and like the flavor and the joy of this meal, but I got to make it at home and not feel like I was just ordering in and wasting all my money.
I think those one-rung out innovations are the trend that we started to see, that we’ll continue to see, because there’s so much opportunity for innovation, and success in that like one, two rungs out, that we haven’t explored. We either stay super close in or we try to get super disruptive and go 10 rungs out. Right. And I think one and two is the play. I think that’s a big, big trend.
And then I think internally, we are seeing way more innovation in actually how we work than ever before. I was talking to a colleague of mine who owns a real estate company, with a lot of realtors and investors and all that in his company.
And he goes, you know, we had four floors in my office. He was like, I felt very important. He said, but the truth is we learned that we can work from home. So now they’re taking half of one floor and they’re completely remodeling the office to be this kind of flexible rotating workspace. It’s going to look nothing the way it did, how we interact with our virtual meetings, our workflow process.
I think that there’s this huge trend in not just the product and the business, but also our work style and our workflow as well. And I think we’ve all learned a lot of what works and what doesn’t work and that’s going to change everything.
Brian Ardinger: It’s also interesting to see which companies have approached this as the opportunity to reset and look for father ahead versus the companies that have said, okay, let’s just ride it out and get back to normal – quote, unquote normal.
Yeah. And it’ll be interesting to see which of these types of transformations and changes actually stick. And which particular companies continue to innovate and continue to move things forward versus the ones that tried to go back to something that, you know, in my opinion is not coming back.
Tamara Ghandour: It is not coming back. Here’s the thing I’ll tell you this very early on, I was in a mastermind with a bunch of other people who owned businesses similar to mine, right? Like we’re, we’re delivering expertise and platforms and whatever. And I’ll never forget one woman in there said, I’m just going to ride it out and see what happens.
And I remember thinking either I’m the idiot or she is. Yeah. Like I’m not sure which one of us is wrong. Because I’m over there making changes, hustling I’m up at 3:00 AM trying to get like this online platform developed. Right. But wasn’t sure at that point, which one of us was going to be on top because it was just so new, what was happening.
But I really think that I understand being afraid of change or hesitant or wanting to really think about it. Like I get that. But to your point, I don’t think we’re ever going back to the way things were. So if we don’t raise our heads up and start to go, where’s the opportunity in this obstacle? How do I turn this uncertainty into my success into innovation?
Then here’s the thing, when you stand still, the world still moves. So, you’re creating a bigger disconnect between you and what you’re going for. I could get on my soap box about that. I just, I get that it’s hard and I’ve done a lot of digging into the science of fear and how to get over it, but it’s happening whether we like it or not.
Brian Ardinger: So, do you have any examples either from your own business or other clients that you may be working with that seem to get it? And are pushing the boundaries further forward.
Tamara Ghandour: Yeah, I’ll happily pull back and be transparent and share mine because like a lot of us, I was in the situation where at the start of 2020, the rug was totally pulled out. So, we develop innovators and innovation, right, skills within companies. But I did that, and my team did that through being in person. Right. That was the whole in person.
Like we had some like some online tools and platform, and I’d always wanted to build something online, but I just, because I was at the top of the curve, like the success, was I was too busy doing what I was doing. Right.
So, as you can imagine, and for a lot of us, it just came to a screeching halt one day. I mean, really, it was just like this domino effect of cancellations, not just because they didn’t want to be in person, but because my clients were trying to figure out what the heck to do. Like all of us were going well, what do we do now? Right.
So that’s the situation I was in and I felt like I had two choices. Choice one was to incrementally improve, meaning take a keynote and put it online. Take a strategic session and put it online. Right. Take a workshop and put it online. And a lot of colleagues, right, your face just said it all Brian. And you’re like, yeah, all right.
So that’s like curbside and to go for restaurants. It’s so close in it’s really not even innovation. And that was one path. And then the other path I could take was to say, all right, and this is where I think my clients are doing it really well too is what are the new problems created by this change that I can solve? What are the new challenges? And what are the new needs of the people that I serve that my company serves. And how do I bring my solution to them in a way that works for them?
Brian Ardinger: I think that’s such a great point because a lot of companies thought about it from the standpoint of, well, what do I have to do now, as a company, to change. Versus like, what are my customers going through right now?
And how can I address their problems because they’re obviously going through the same kind of things. But maybe different on how I address those particular problems. If you only focus on what your core problems are and how you delivered it in the past, versus what are my customers really going through? I think that’s a big disconnect.
Tamara Ghandour: Well, and I think a lot of us were on the hamster wheel of trying to solve yesterday’s problems. But in a way that worked for us virtually, and that’s it. And I think this, by the way, I think this is true across every industry. I don’t know one industry that isn’t trying to figure out or needs to figure out, how do I innovate against the new problems and the new opportunities.
And I think to me, that was the key to our transition, was okay we need to develop an online platform that’s about driving innovation and delivering it to people who are now virtual and needed it to deal with the uncertainty, versus it’s a nice to have and an added culture benefit, right? So that switched for us.
And we had to switch everything and how we did it. Do you get emails? And you look at that emails from a business that you buy from and you think, why are you sending me this? So in the retail business there, Walmart sent me this wonderful email the other day that said, Tops that will make you look good on a Zoom call.
I was like, yes, that’s what I need. In that same day, and they’re all trying to sell online. Right? Like online selling is the obvious part. And the same day, I got an email from White House / Black Market, who I’ve spent a lot of time and money in, saying evening gowns for date night for Valentines. And I was like, where am I going? Like are you kidding me?
So sorry, White House / Black Market, but you’re missing the part. So, when I look at like what one company has done versus another one is solving a new problem that I have that they’d realized. And the other one is still solving an old problem. To me, that’s the fundamental shift in how to be innovative right now.
Brian Ardinger: I was just reading an article today about Levi’s. Apparently skinny jeans are now out. They’re going to much more, a loose fit, you know, because that’s what customers want. We’ve got that to look forward to.
Tamara Ghandour: Well, yeah, that’s what I was wondering. Like, are we all going to have closets full of unfashionable 2019 clothing? But I think the point of that though is change creates new problems to solve. And that to me is that’s where innovation is. That’s the exciting part. That’s what we help our clients do. You know, you’ve got to get over that hurdle and start thinking of it that way.
Brian Ardinger: Well, and I think to bring it back to the beginning. And you know, at the end of the day, it’s going to be required by individuals to create and build that competency of innovation. That muscle of innovation. It Is not just something that again, used to be the creative thinkers in your group.
Everybody has got an opportunity now to play a role in that. The sooner people can start building those skills and understand where their strengths are, and solve real problems in the marketplace, the better off we’re all going to be.
Tamara Ghandour: I agree. And I think the key in what you said there too, is the fact that it’s a muscle. So, the brain is not actually a muscle, but it acts like one. And so, we need to warm it up. We need to exercise it. We need to be intentional about doing innovation every day.
If you look at the difference between someone who you would consider wildly innovative and someone who’s stuck, it’s just a matter of practice. Right. And going to the gym of innovation, that’s really the big difference. And I think that as leaders, we have to give our people, the platform, the tools, and the resources to innovate daily.
I can’t tell you the number of times, and I’m sure you’ve seen this too. Where leaders say, I asked my team for innovative ideas and I got nothing in return. It’s like, well, you did a 180 on them. Right. You’ve never asked them before. And suddenly you’re saying, well, my team doesn’t have innovative ideas. Well, the problem is not that your team doesn’t have the ideas. The problem is you suddenly gone from 0 to 250 and they’re not there yet. We’ve got to warm them up a little bit.
So, I think as leaders, we have to do a little bit more work, especially right now where we’re dealing with fear and uncertainty and that on one hand shuts us down. But I think we need to do more work to warm our teams up and build that muscle that you were talking about.
Brian Ardinger: Well, I think leaders to have to warm up from the standpoint of incentivizing different things in the past. And recognize that innovative ideas are sometimes going to fail and that’s okay. Versus old ways and old measurements and old means of creating or building that existing business versus something new.
Tamara Ghandour: One of the things I talk about it in my book and we delve into on the Academy is it’s about rewarding behaviors, not outcomes. So, I always joke about, there’s a longer story in the book that we don’t have time to get into, but I joke about it’s like either you try something, right. It works or doesn’t work, and it’s either the failure shelf or is Cake on Friday. Right. And there’s no in between the Russian roulette of what you’re going to get. And if you’re on the other side of that, why would you put your ideas and your innovation forward when those are your options.
So, I think as leaders, we want to reward the behaviors like collaborating, helping someone when it doesn’t benefit them, taking a risk, speaking up in a meeting and disagreeing. In fact, that’s one of the ones that I reward my team for, because as you can tell, I tend to not talk with question marks. I tend to be very declarative of everything I say, even when I’m asking you a question.
And I know that, but I don’t want to drive a culture where everyone yeses me. So, I reward people for disagreeing with me, regardless of where it goes. It’s irrelevant. I reward people for giving me ideas for challenges that face the company without even reading the idea, because it’s not about that. It’s about rewarding them for the behaviors that drive innovation.
For More Information
Brian Ardinger: Well Tamara, this has been a great conversation. Thank you again for coming on Inside Outside Innovation to share some of your insights. And I’m sure we’ll have you back to talk more and keep this conversation going. I encourage everybody out there to grab the book Innovation is Everybody’s Business. Go online and check out that assessment. It’s really a great tool and it’s free to kind of figure out where you sit. If people want to find out more about you or the book, what’s the best way to do that.
Tamara Ghandour: Our website is probably the hub. So, it’s gotolaunchstreet, G-O-T-O-LaunchStreet.com. So that’s probably the best place. And the only thing I’d say is thank you. It’s great to be on. I think actually cross-collaboration drives innovation. So, I’m always excited when I get to be on these, not just to share my world, but I learned so much. Thank you.
Brian Ardinger: Absolutely. Well, thank you again for being on the show and looking forward to continuing the conversation. That’s it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out InsideOutside.io or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.
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