Brodie Riordan, industrial psychologist, author, executive coach, and adjunct professor in the Smith School, spoke about developing as a leader at a recent CLIC virtual Lunch and Learn. She provided six tips for navigating your leadership development.
- Have a Growth Mindset: focus on growth and openness to possibilities. Be ready to accept failure and learn from it.
- Have Experiences: not any experience, an experience that challenges you. Seek exposure to what you have never done.
- Form Relationships: build connections with people you can count on for support but also for honest feedback.
- Ask for Feedback: consider it a control loop that allows you to obtain information about yourself. Ask for specific feedback whether it is good or bad. Be aware that negative feedback tends to be more focused and detailed than positive feedback. You may need to ask for more details about positive feedback the same details.
- Engage in reflection: build in time to pause and reflect on your experiences in order to gain the most from them.
- Serendipity: be open to random opportunities that can arise.
Overall, remember we all are work in progress and we should always try to become incrementally better, Riordan said.
Dr. Riordan's career has included global leadership roles in talent and learning & development with Procter & Gamble, Corporate Executive Board (CEB), and McKinsey & Company, where she co-led Partner Learning and led learning and development for Senior Partners, globally She is the author of the recently published book, Feedback Fundamental and Evidence-Based Best Practices.
Kevin Richman, head of customer experience at e-notice and an MBA Alumnus of the Robert H. Smith School of Business, shared his experience working on innovation in the public sector and at the intersection of the public sector and the private sector at a recent virtual Lunch and Learn hosted by the Center for Leadership, Innovation, and Change.
His current organization, e-notice, is an early-stage tech startup focused on supporting and redefining how the public receives important and critical information it needs. At e-notice, Richman supports newspapers, government, and the private sector to ensure that the necessary and required information is available for the public more efficiently and effectively. Most of the work e-notice currently does is at the state level, although the federal level is a focus as well. Richman explained that there are important challenges in the arena in which e-notice operates. Among them are how to permanently engage the public with information, how to connect governments with effective and efficient methodologies for spreading news, and how to navigate leadership transitions in government that often create changes in priorities.
For engaging the public with the news, it is important to help the stakeholders to recognize that posting new information on a website is not enough for engaging audiences. To obtain insights that help to improve the user experience it is important to use inputs from qualitative and quantitative data. These data aid decision-making to improve the user experience. From his personal experience, Richman noted that it is important to understand the basic expectations the user has and make sure to cover them, then identify new layers of higher expectations for additional services that can be offered. This identification of expectations is something that should be a continuous practice as the customer´s needs evolve.
Richman noted that while most people don't recognize it, innovation and change have been core pieces of government forever, but generally as a result of crises. With the world now changing more quickly and increasingly interconnected, governments need to be constantly testing new possibilities and building innovation competencies and experiences so they can become more fit-for-purpose to today's societal needs and demands. This challenges how we view problems, the tools and methods we use, and how we move forward, he explained.
Something exciting to him about working in the government space is the huge impact that these organizations can have on people's lives. Keven stated that this aspect is his main motivation to continue working in this arena. One project that was special for him was one related to bring school lunches to students who belong to vulnerable populations. He was involved in this project while working for the Office of Personnel Management Innovation Lab (Lab @ OPM) and was grateful for the direct impact on students and their families.
Richman explained that previously he served for two years as an innovation specialist with the Observatory for Public Sector Innovation (OPSI) at the OECD. He supported governments around the world that are working to provide greater value for citizens by helping uncover what is next, providing trusted advice to foster innovation, and turning the new into the normal. Richman's primary focus was assisting governments in creating sustainable innovation through systems thinking and improving individual, leadership, and organizational capabilities, capacity, and design. He worked directly with leaders and civil servants on sustainable innovation through solving complex problems and organizational capabilities.
Before that Richman served 10 years in the US Government working on innovation, customer experience, leading people, data analytics, service design and communications. Richman is also on the advisory board for Young Government Leaders – a non-profit helping young leaders in the United States government build a community, develop professionally, and build resilience.
Paola Canelos, Smith alumna and associate director of clinical development at AstraZeneca, was a recent speaker/guest at a CLIC lunch and learn. She shared AstraZeneca's strategy to grow through innovation and how that strategy is being implemented across the company.
Canelos noted that IDEA Pharma, a leading drug industry consulting company has developed a "Freshness Index" that provides a snapshot of the state of creative production in large pharmaceutical companies. The index shows how much of each company's revenue is coming from drugs fresh out of the pipeline (new in the past five years) versus how much is coming from older medications. Recent findings suggest a large proportion of revenue in the global biopharma industry is coming from older drugs, indicating that innovation may be somewhat stagnant. The global biopharma industry operates in an extremely challenging environment which, in turn, can make innovation difficult, Canelos said. biopharma companies are expected to grow revenue and boost shareholder return despite ever-increasing R&D costs, slower time to market, and pressure by governments, health care providers, and health plans to control costs and improve outcomes. Despite these challenges, some companies, such as AstraZeneca, are recognizing that innovation is key for their success.
From the perspective of Canelos, the nature of an organization's internal culture is crucial for innovation. She mentioned several factors that are important. First, the internal culture is connected to a clear strategic purpose of growth through innovation that permeates the entire organization. This means that all the members of the organization have a clear understanding of the innovative purpose of the organization, their goals relate to innovation, and they are committed to these goals. Second, the internal culture stimulates organizational members to push their boundaries so that they are willing to generate new ideas that could be "life-changing." Third, the internal culture does not penalize the error. Instead, people see failures as a learning opportunity that allows them to improve the next time.
Canelos stated that it is important in her role to not only understand the strategy but also to bring it to life. In doing this, she relies on her technical skills and her broad experience in the pharma industry that allows her to understand the trends in the industry and what competitors are doing. She also relies on managerial skills that allow her to bring people from different functions to the table, stimulate an internal culture of innovation, and make decisions about the next actions to face the competitive landscape in the pharma industry.
Michael Wajsgras, director of innovation and growth initiatives for Constellation Energy, recently came to speak with MBA students about his journey to becoming an intrapreneur. After securing his Master of Business Administration from the Smith School of Business, Wajsgras experienced his first exposure to innovation at MCI, an innovative start-up in communications that successfully challenged AT&T, a communications giant.
Throughout his post-graduate career and before taking on his current role, Wajsgras always worked in areas where he focused on creating new things. It was not commonly referred to as "innovation" at that time though. He spent some time working with startups, which provided more freedom to be creative but fewer resources in comparison to larger corporations. These experiences set him on a path to leave a lasting footprint in all of the companies he has worked for.
The conversation was fueled by the students' work experience before the MBA program and how lessons learned from Wajsgras' experience in innovation could impact work in various industries and functions. He advised students to focus on frequent, meaningful engagements and to solve problems that are relevant to your customers. In whatever position the students are in, whether in their internships or full-time jobs after graduation, they would consider how the product/service offerings make sense to the customers. What do the customers need? This should be the initial consideration when creating something new.
When asked how to be a successful innovator, Wajsgras shared three points to take away:
Obtain buy-in from the corporation: When innovating, there will be natural resistance in the organization. As a foundation, one has to have the right culture within the organization to embrace innovation from the top. Executive sponsorship is essential and support from the top offers influence to help achieve buy-in from the organization as a whole.
Define your purpose: One has to have a defined purpose behind the innovation; something people understand and can get behind. There has to be a dedicated organization and employees need goals and objectives around the innovation.
Clearly define the process: Wajsgras shared that he has seen failures due to a lack of focus on the innovation process. Before attempting to create, it is imperative to clearly define the process to achieve the end product/service.
Wajsgras was able to connect his experience with examples of how some of the students could begin thinking about innovation in their areas of interest. Students said these lessons opened their eyes to new ways of thinking about making an impact in their future careers, no matter the field.
Jessie Sweet's career so far at candy giant Mars Inc. has been, well, pretty sweet.
A project manager at Mars Inc. in the Mars Symbioscience division and a Smith Alum (2014), Sweet was the honored guest at the third Innovation Lunch and Learn for MBA students facilitated by the Center for Leadership, Innovation, and Change.
Mars Symbioscience develops products through a technology-based health and life sciences approach.
For example, this division does research behind cocoa flavanols – plant-based nutrients found naturally in cocoa – and develops products with more nutritional value and fewer calories than a traditional chocolate bar.
Sweet had been in marketing before she transitioned into project management at Mars via implementations of IT and operations projects.
During her time at Smith she intended to focus on marketing but subsequently earned her PMP (Project Management Professional Certification), which she believes has been helpful in her newest role at Mars helping to facilitate innovation discovery and& implementation.
As part of the process in product development, for example, associates at her division formed an innovation group where they can express ideas and obtain feedback. This has helped associates engage with each other and share ideas while also being able to learn why certain ideas may not move forward because of the risks and costs involved. To prioritize projects, Sweet emphasizes analyzing missed opportunity costs and evaluating the complexity of the implementation.
Sweet described her role as focused on innovation execution. She noted that for innovation you need both a "big ideas" person and an executor. What these two people must have in common for innovation to work is passion for new ideas and continuous improvement. Sweet shared, "you may not be the one to come up with the "innovative idea" but every new idea needs someone who recognizes its value, who is willing to advocate for it, and who will put in the work to see it through before it can become an innovation."
In her work, Sweet has found that it is advantageous to take the
perspective of project team members, ask a lot of questions, and to try to understand their point of view. By doing this and being open-minded to others' approaches and listening, Sweet finds that often team members experience "aha" moments and produce new insights. These conversations are best achieved in person rather than through email. Sweet recommended to the students, "always be curious, continue to ask why, and look for opportunities where you can add value."
The MBA students in attendance noted that what is particularly striking about Sweet is her natural curiosity and ability to really listen to others. The students were grateful to Sweet for sharing her views about what it takes to facilitate and implement new ideas in an innovative division of a global company.
On Feb. 6, 2017, the Center for Leadership, Innovation, and Change (CLIC) at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business hosted a lunch and learn for MBA students featuring Caroline Cooksey, VP of Data and Research Operations at CCMI focused on managing and leading innovation.
Cooksey and students talked about challenges in leading innovation centered around customers, results, change management, and sustainability of change. A few takeaways from Cooksey were:
"Customers are the key to innovation. When you really listen to their annoyances, frustrations, or unhappiness with your product/services, you are left with a reservoir of potential new solutions."
"I think of innovation in terms of the results and not the bells and whistles. Did I save someone time, reduce their costs, improve their accuracy, or allow them to do something that they couldn't do before?"
"Innovation and change often go hand in hand. While it is easy to be a proponent of new ideas/change, the difficulty is when change takes us out of our comfort zone. To overcome resistance or apathy, the effort must be top-down, bottom-up, and sideways."
"Innovation has to be sustainable; otherwise it was a quick fix."