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From Fresh Eyes at FEI 2018

As a rookie attendee of the FEI conference, I was downright giddy about the opportunity to hear from an impressive roster of disruptive entrepreneurs and veteran innovators who are helping shape the corporate culture we know today. And FEI Day One did not disappoint …

As I began my introductory foray into the world of innovative thinking, I was pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of viewpoints. More specifically, the infusion of innovation into corporate hierarchy. I’d like to share a few of the nuggets of wisdom I gleaned during my Day One journey.

Innovation: a 4-letter word in the eyes of established brands?

When it comes to our legacy brands - those household names steeped in history that continue to thrive in an ever-changing landscape - is there room for disruption and innovative thinking?

Bob Dixon, director of product technology innovation for the United States Postal Service, certainly thinks so. “Without evolving and tinkering with the core of an established brand, no matter how uncomfortable, (brand) death is inevitable.”

In this era of perpetual technological advancements and keeping up with the Trendsetting Jones’, it seems quite necessary that organizations get comfortable with the idea of innovative reform/growth.

But how do we get the necessary buy-in to successfully infuse innovation into these established brands? What is the special sauce that satiates even the most discriminating of pessimistic palates?

Matt Phillips, president of Philips and Co., suggests a two-pronged approach to successfully integrating innovation into an established corporate framework: Process and People.

The application of “processes” is certainly a critical component of creating and driving change. Applying a variety of proven methodologies, such as design thinking, ideation, lean innovations, are key, but we must “engage the people behind the brand and those that influence the brand”, says Philips.

In listening to the points of view of today’s speakers from organizations large and small, it seems that constructing the road to innovation includes laying the foundations of both methodical procedure (through Process) and empathic design (through People) to ensure a smooth ride to success.

Innovative Thinking Takes Courage

“Innovation needs good leadership and an optimistic point of view … growth takes courage”, says Jeff Immelt, former General Electric Chairman/CEO. As a leader within a legacy brand corporate framework, Jeff saw firsthand the value of combining innovative thinking with systematic execution. Robust execution is what is most often found through the resources of legacy organizations with well-established brands.

It seems pretty intuitive that challenging the status quo in general takes guts, but waging war against corporate bureaucracy and vested interests must take Lion King-sized courage. Hearing Jeff stress the importance of good leaders navigating innovative ideas through the murky waters of corporate roadblocks, served to underscore the significance of merging progressive ideas with existing, cultural ethos.

So, with FEI Day One under my belt and fresh, new perspectives on innovation thinking to reflect upon, I’d like to thank today’s speakers for sharing your experiences and wisdom.

This FEI newbie is looking forward to Day Two and the wisdom yet to be bestowed by both the next generation of creative thinkers and the pioneers who laid the groundwork for present day innovation.

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