The future is looking bright with new technologies and innovative ideas allowing for smarter and not harder work. As corporations shift gears to stay aligned with changes, small and large forward-thinking organizations are making disruptions. Executive Director & CEO, Anthony Mills, shares his thoughts on the importance of getting the proper training and certifications to create a culture and environment that nurtures + sustains innovative ideas to ultimately magnify an organizations success and increase the positive impact they have on the world.
- 2:37 – How to drive an effective corporate innovation program
- 7:55 – The different stages & phases of innovation
- 12:53 – Bringing human and machine parts together
- 13:47 – The learning ‘sandbox’
- 20:25 – The three-horizon concept
- 25:46 – Why trend timing is important
- 29:35 – How small companies disrupt
- 31:26 – The benefits of partnering with disruptors
- 36:43 – The importance of certifications
- 38:22 – Lead by casting a vision
Full Episode Transcription :
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We’re super excited to speak with you and welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us. And maybe with that, tell us a little bit about your personal experience with reaching for and contributing to innovation and how does this shape your career?
Yeah, absolutely. You know, I came up from the background of product development and product innovation, leading a product innovation inside of businesses at various levels up to an executive level. So I’ve led a lot of different teams and pursuing new product innovation and new business innovation. And that, that has sort of led me on the journey of, of pursuing innovation very broadly. And, and now I’m running the global innovation Institute, which is a certifying and accreditation and membership organization. And we are, you know, our mission is to be out there really helping individuals learn innovation, how to drive innovation in an applied and practical way in business and to get them certified and up to speed on that. So that’s, that’s our mission. You know, we’re living that out working through a number of partnerships around the world, some trainers and consulting firms to drive a program around business innovation.
Yeah, it sounds really interesting. I’d love to hear a little bit more specifics around how that sort of occasion works and the process that you take an organization through or evaluate them on.
Absolutely. You know for an organization as a whole to really drive an effect of what we call a corporate innovation program, where the, the goal is to produce actually a, a pipeline and ongoing pipeline of sustainable innovation. In order for them to do that, they really have to architect a comprehensive program and there’s, there’s six main fundamentals to the program. There’s the foundation which involves leadership and sponsorship and the culture, the environment and the philosophy and the values. The second one is, is the, the procedures, the mechanics, how all the processes and the roles and responsibilities and structures. And the third are the financial elements in the budgeting. The fourth are the enablers that we need to get people to be able to think and act like innovators, including resources like innovation labs and other innovation tools. The fifth is engagement. We’re actually in driving people to engage in an innovation program.
We can run innovation both from a top down standpoint where the, the leadership defines the innovation strategy and dictates the projects. But we can also drive it from a bottom up standpoint where we’re asking the organization to help come up, identify new opportunities and come up with new ideas and new insights for the organization to pursue. So that’s where an engagement really comes in as driving much more of the bottom up innovation. And then the last element of that architecture is the reinforcement. We have to constantly reinforce the program. And we do that with incentives, rewards and recognition and making sure that we’re incentivizing people to get engaged. We’re rewarding the people who do get engaged and we’re recognizing them in the organization and beyond the organization for their contributions. So, so that’s the architecture. You have to build out a comprehensive architecture and put all the moving pieces in the place to build and drive, the sustained pipeline of innovation and so we help organizations really do that. And part of the way we do that is we define specific roles in the organization that are needed to be able to drive that program of innovation. So on the, on the, on the most frontline fundamental level is the innovation professional. And the innovation manager. So the innovation professional, the ones who run innovation projects and have to drive the projects and execute the projects and really basically do all the, the on the grounds boot work for innovation. And then the innovation managers either going to be project managers leading those projects or program managers helping to drive the innovation program. But they’re really the ones of the frontline of leadership of driving this pipeline. You know? And then beyond that, we have people who go deeper into innovation. We teach them design thinking and design thinking itself is probably one of the most important and impactful approaches to innovation that organization can pursue. And so we, a big part of understanding design thinking is understanding the philosophy of human centered design and understanding the design thinking process. And then understanding design methods and using design methods is what actually enables these specialists to go out and go really deep on innovation and help the organization really uncover what the real root cause of problems are. The real needs are real opportunities so that they’re innovating around the right problem and not the wrong problem.
So let’s take a pause there cause you’ve covered a lot of ground and my brain is swirling with questions and I have a feeling there’s probably a lot of detail we can get into around the design process and what that looks like. But the first thing I’m struck by is just the level of similarity that innovation success models for educational success. The idea of leadership buy in support, personal responsibility, aligned incentives, engagement, participation. I think that’s a really fascinating part. And how education innovation co-align or coexist or or potentially co-create. And I’m taking even a step further down it’d be helpful actually to hear, I mean I believe, I know innovation means, but how do you define innovation? How, how should a company define innovation? Cause that’s a fairly broad concept,
Right? So, so I’ll tackle that and there’s several pieces to the answer. So most fundamentally innovation is doing something in a new and novel way. Okay. Now we did distinguish between innovation in general and business innovation, business innovation as a type of innovation. We run in businesses and it has to be profitable for both the business and the recipients of the innovation. Okay. If it’s only profitable for the recipient but not the business, the business loses money. So business innovation is doing something in a new and novel way that is profitable for both the business and the recipient. Sure. So that being said, there’s actually many different types and scopes of innovation. Perhaps what a lot of people think of is what we call incremental innovation or sustaining innovation. And that’s just continuing to innovate around existing product lines. Okay. So when you go from iPhone three to an iPhone four to an iPhone five to iPhone six and you’re adding maybe innovative new features by and large, this is just sustaining innovation and that’s the bread and butter type of innovation that most organizations need to do in order to sustain the product lines.
Improvement more so innovation in some ways. Or you could make the case, right?
Yeah. Innovation is well there’s what you have are new and novel bits and pieces on it. Like, like fingerprint sensors or facial recognition no, those features are new and novel, but the overall product is not. So that’s why it’s just sustaining innovation. The technology in itself is actually pretty radical, the little pieces, but the overall package is sustaining. So, so beyond that, after you know, incremental innovation, we tend to have what you might call breakthrough innovation and breakthrough innovations where you’re, you’re, you’re delivering significantly more value. So when the first really good wearables came, came out, Apple watch and so forth and you know, the jaw bone and so forth, some of those wearables delivered substantially more value than what people had before. Or when the first really good tablets came out like an iPad. Those were breakthrough innovations because they were substantially more value than what was available before.
The next step would be a disruptive innovation. And a disruptive innovation is similar to a breakthrough, but it actually disrupts some other product category in some other market. Okay. And it may in fact be that you could create a completely new market with a new category and by doing so, you obsolete some other product. That’s the idea of technological disruption and disruptive innovation. So there’s that. And businesses ultimately have to be pursuing sustaining breakthrough and disruptive innovation any given time throughout, in their, in their portfolio of innovations are pursuing. There’s actually a fourth type of innovation we talk about. And that’s transformational innovation and transformational innovation is any innovation that changes how society as a whole operates. So the automobile, the, the, the jet airplane, the, the highway system, the internet, these are transformational innovations. But transformational innovations don’t happen by one company alone.
It happened by ecosystems of businesses working in chronicity with one another over years. So part of what you need to be doing in a business is actually aligning your, your, your portfolio of efforts toward that next transformational innovation. Where’s our, where’s the world going? Where is our industry going? Where do we want it to go, and how do we align to that to be part of the transformational innovation? This is exactly what automotive companies are doing right now in their research around autonomous vehicles or some of the it, you know, technology firms are doing around artificial intelligence. They’re, they’re pursuing that next wave of transformational innovation. Some of it’s going to have major impacts if and when autonomous vehicles and autonomous transportation systems become mainstream, that is going to radically transform how our society operates.
Yeah. So I, I love this topic on so many levels and from a personal value standpoint, thank you as well for explaining innovation as a concept and the different stages and phases. And I think it’s pretty helpful for the audience to hear. I’m kind of shifting into that same concept around ecosystems and transformation relation. Yeah. We’re talking here about education as a concept. I believe that, you know, because of the technological advances that you’ve mentioned around mobility, around wearables, around AI around accessibility that we are in the midst of a educational transformation innovation segment. We’re time we’re on the verge of one. I would love to get your thoughts and reactions to that. And when you look at how we’ve educated people for the last hundred years for one type of economic model and we’re now shifting into a new economic model and we hear a lot about the fourth industrial revolution, right. I feel like this is all converging around this exact topic that yours highlighting.
Yeah. You know, I guess there’s, there’s actually multiple answers to that as well. Certainly I think we’ll all agree that the traditional educational model that’s used in, in our, you know, primary and secondary education system was designed around the, the industrial mindset of, you know, cranking out factory workers. And that model though it’s still in widespread use in many countries like the U S is really not an optimal model per se, for, for really tight turning out the type of critical thinking skills and, and, and project and team oriented skills that we need today. So, so there’s room for a lot of evolution it happening in the world of education. And you see, you know, some of the country’s leading in that are countries like Finland and Denmark. I’ve really been revamping their educational systems and approaches. And, and you know, likewise when it comes to adult education, I think we recognize that for some time too.
And I think there’s a lot of, you know, I think adult education has increasingly become more and more experiential and nature hands on project based learning type pursuits. And I think that’s become much more mainstream before adult learning. So, so in all of these facets of the educational system, we’re seeing these transformations, these changes. And certainly I think the, we’re overdue for many of these changes. I will add if we want to, if I may for a moment look, say or 20 years into the future, where are some of that going? Actually where some of these things are going to kind of blow your mind a little bit is, is there are many researchers now that are working not only in artificial intelligence, but how do we actually embed that into the human brain and bring the human and the machine parts together. And when they succeed at doing that in a commercially viable way and other technologically, you know, efficient way that’s going to radically transform our abilities, humans actually learn. And I think that’s my understanding and to be able to absorb new knowledge. So that’s the trajectory we’re headed toward. I think that’s probably 15, 20 years down the road. But there’s a lot of work being done on that right now. So, so the, the whole space of learning and education is certainly in a lot of influx.
Yeah. So I, I agree with your assessment and I do find that the human machine interface, if it’s called, are human, you know, the data interface really fascinating. You mentioned one topic that I wanted to get your, additional thoughts on what is it about the Nordic countries specifically besides just their economic model, if you will, that makes them an environment that’s ripe for experimenting or that they’re trying to experiment and innovate around education more so than the US for example?
Well, I think their legislatures, they’re leaders are much more in tune to promoting true entrepreneurial-ism and experimentation. I believe it’s Finland. Even they have a law that you’re, you’re allowed to take, I think it’s at least six months to leave your job and try a new start up. And if it doesn’t work, they’re obligated to give you your old job back. So, so some of the Scandinavian countries like that are extremely pro entrepreneurial, pro startup pro, get out there and try things and experiment. And they’re very supportive of that and they’re supportive of entrepreneurs trying that. So it’s just, it’s a different cultural mindset, you know, compared to much of Western Europe or the US where you’re more or less on your own to try to make it work. You know?
So you’re telling me my entrepreneurialism is genetic. It’s basically, it comes down to, I’m kidding. I you see my last name? So that was just a joke. No, that’s really, that’s really fascinating. I think that’s really exciting actually, that they are aligning, again back to leadership incentives and alignment around concepts, that they’re really creating both the space and the opportunity for people to experiment, to try and fail to take that risk while giving some some padding, if you will, for for people learning those lessons. I think that’s really compelling.
I’m right on the same page with you guys. That is amazing that they, I mean, one of the things I love thinking about when you think about how to learn a new skill or how to improve something, how to, how to make whatever you’re working on better. A lot of it has to do with the conditions and structures at the foundation of what you do, right? So if one of the conditions is, Oh, you can just go and try something completely new outside of your normal realm of understanding and if it doesn’t work, you just come right back. That’s, that’s a safety.
A safety net absolutely.
It’s almost unheard of.
Well, and if I can park on that just a second, that that’s really the crux of driving a good innovation program. Whether it’s inside of a company or in a nation is creating the right culture and environment that is supportive of innovation and that that nurtures innovation. And much of that is giving people the, the, we call it the head room to think and the elbow room to, to play an experiment, right? The head room and an elbow room. But giving him that space to really go out and try things and experiment and a lot of Liberty and just experimenting with new things and defining what that sandbox is, where you want to play an experiment but the Liberty to, to try things and fail. Because as long as we’re learning and we’re advancing our knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, we’ll get there eventually.
And, and, but there’s no substitute for creating a culture and an environment, whether in a company or in a country that nurtures and sustains that. That’s the crux of it. And the reason that so many innovation programs fail is they try to go in a purely strategically and operationally without first cultivating the right culture that nurtures and sustains it. And then the first time someone makes a mistake or has a failure, they get punished. Well that shuts down the program right there, right away. So the culture is so important, the leadership and is what really sets the tone for that culture there. They’re going to say we actually, we call it the mandate for innovation. So those who are sponsoring your innovation program have to actually issue a mandate for innovation. Say they say we value innovation, we take innovation very seriously. In fact, when we want innovation from you, it’s not just a nice to have, it’s really a must have and we’re going to create the culture and the environment and the safety net to help you be innovative. So that’s very important that the leadership, what they say and then what they actually do and backing up these teams that are pursuing innovation is what ultimately sets the culture and determines the success. The innovation program.
Yeah. So coming back around using that concept of, I don’t know where you started, you mentioned working with innovation labs and incubators and working with the companies themselves. And I I’m sure to hear the distinction between startups and large companies, but I mean, how do you see that kind of playing out within, you know, does it have, does it have to be carved off as a separate environment to have an innovation segment or can it be done well as part of the core business and if so, how do you do that in a way that, cause again, you’re seeing like potentially has the potential, to the clash, the standpoint that you want operational excellence, you want efficiencies, you want maximum productivity, but at the same time you want to incentivize risk and failure and change and new ideas. And so how, how do you reconcile that without having it as a separate
Yeah, part of it, part of it is structural in nature. How you do it because you know, I, I like to say there’s really three swim lanes a matter of business to a business. One is execution, one is renewal and one is reinvention. So execution is the operational excellence in doing what you do today and you’re doing it extremely well. And the reason that’s important is I want to maximize how much profit and revenue I can generate off of that today because I need that to reinvest in innovation and pursuing for tomorrow. Renewal is about constantly renewing our, our offerings, our products and services, our customer experiences to be relevant to our market so that they constantly irrelevant. And then re-invention it was really about reinventing who we are from, you know, generation to generation so that we are resilient over the long run.
So structurally how you do that in our organization is a lot of that ongoing, obviously the, the, the executional part, it happens in your normal day to day business units and operating units. Right? And likewise, a lot of that incremental innovation I talked about also is embedded inside of your standard business units. As when we start talking about the more longterm breakthrough and disruptive innovation, we tend to take that work structurally and put it in a separate group like a core innovation group or sometimes an ex works innovation group and, and an innovation lab somewhere. And these are typically very highly curated people with some very specific skill sets. They’re, they’re intellectually curious. They’re there, they’re there, there are certain personality traits and intellectual traits and these people tend to have that make for good advanced innovation people. And so we’ll take those types of people and we’ll put together, we’ll put them in small teams, four or five, six people and we’re run several different teams like that in a core innovation group or advanced innovation group.
And they’re the ones that are out there pursuing these longterm innovations and the more radical stuff. And we actually talk about strategic timeframes. Okay. It’s a concept that actually came out of McKinsey called horizon one, horizon two, horizon three you may have heard of horizon one’s a short term and it’s all about just continuation and continuing and extending your core business. Horizon two is the medium term. And it’s about finding new avenues and new lines of business that relate to that they relate to your core business. Whereas horizon three is the real longterm and it doesn’t necessarily relate to your current core business. It’s completely different lines of business. And so that’s where that the horizon two is largely about a horizon two and three are largely about that reinvention of the business, whereas the renewal and the ongoing execution happens in horizon one, the current timeframe. So that structurally how it’s typically done.
Yeah. So that raises another question. You know, so hear a lot about this concept of fail early, fail fast, fail often, right? And I think there’s some truth to that obviously, but there’s also the reconciliation of that sometimes innovation takes time, right? That experimentation of innovation requires time and persistence before that breakthrough, for example, happens. How, how have you seen companies that you’re certifying or, or, or consulting work through that, that time continuum around, you know, the expectations and, and those horizons you just kind of mentioned.
So, you know, there’s actually a couple of parts of that. Number one, there are expectations that results happen over time. Ultimately, when it’s all said and done, we do need results. We do need outcomes, we do need impact. So we can’t just have failure after failure after failure and spin our wheels. That’s not, that inevitably is not acceptable. And so, you know, it’s the idea of intelligent innovation, smart innovation. And, and just to give a little bit of background, the, the old industrial era R and D mentality was invest millions of dollars into developing new technology and only after, you know, five years and $50 million when we go out and test it in the market, see what work. So the intelligent approach is we don’t do that. We get we get a concept out there, a minimal viable product, and we go test that as rapidly and as quickly as we can.
And so, so this is what’s called the validated learning cycles and an innovation work. Like this is a very iterative, and it does involve doing a lot of experiments, but we have to have a trajectory to those experiments that at each point we’re learning something. So the ultimate would we get to an end point. So, so having, you know, having endpoints and having deliverables is important. It’s, it’s really, I guess a lot of it comes down to the skill set of the people doing it. But, but understanding and having the skills you need to know how to go out there and intelligently experiment and learn so that ultimately you do and end up at the right point.
So let me ask you a following on it. So what about the thoughts of, of the renewal of these experiments? So for example, like we’d take five years ago when technology was different and there was a thesis or a crazy idea or a product vision and someone had, and they put an X team aside and said, go build this model and try it out. And they put a year and some money into it and it didn’t work. But now five years later, the market has matured. Technology has become faster. It’s adaptable, it’s different things. Is it, is it wise or should companies plan for renewal of that innovation of those projects? Because factors change.
Absolutely. And we call that trend timing. And it a lot of times, you know, concepts have come to market that were ahead of their time ahead of the trend and they fail because they were too early to market. Some of the early food delivery businesses were too early and they, the market wasn’t ready for it yet and they didn’t, they didn’t get the traction they needed. So, so you have to be sensitive to the trend timing when the trends are right. You don’t want to be too early, you won’t get enough traction. You don’t want to be too late, you’ll lose market share. So, so that’s important. So, so to your point, there may be concepts that we investigate now and, and we do research or do proof of concept and we realize that it’s a good concept maybe in three years or four years, but the timing’s not right for it now.
So we’re going to put it, we’re going to put it in our parking lot, right? We’re going to have it there. And every year we’re going to revisit our parking lot and say have things changed? Now have the market change, has, has other, you know, a trends change such that now is the right time to really bring that back out as a project, develop it and pursue it. So absolutely. Absolutely. The other thing I wanted to add to, in addition to what I said earlier is in any given business, you’re going to have multiple teams pursuing multiple different concepts at any given time. So it’s almost like being a venture capital investor where for every 10 investments I make six maybe are going to fail, three are going to be okay and one’s going to be the real rock star. So, so businesses, if they’re really smart about this, they’ll have teams, you know, that’d be running 10 projects and they know that one of them is going to pay for all the rest and some of them aren’t going to work.
But that’s really all that experimentation. That’s how we find the rock stars that pay for all the rest. And I can give you examples. I mean, you look at Amazon for example, to me, they are the number one this in terms of they’ll experiment, they’ll try things. Some things don’t work like, like fire phone, right? Other things are phenomenally successful, like Amazon prime or Amazon web services. Phenomenal, successful. All of these started out as experiments and Amazon and they’re constantly Amazon go these electronic, you know, stores is an experiment that I would still say it’s still in an experimental stage. Drone delivery is an experiment, but they’re openly willing to pursue all of these experiments knowing that some will fail in someone succeed and ultimately it’s a numbers game. How many experiments can you run?
Can I chime in on the experimentation part here? Because this is Anthony. We talked about this on our previous call where there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of similarities between what you’re talking about in innovation and how all you need is one winner. Right? And it far outweighs anything else that has been a short term loss. And I think you know, from my background, that’s one of the most eye-opening things. And when I’m working with someone on conversion rate optimization is it’s hard to get someone to embrace failure, right? Especially if it’s dollars going in. Same thing with any sort of paid marketing, paid advertising, right? You have to understand you’re going to lose a lot, but you’re going to lose your way to the winner because you’re testing and optimizing and changing. Let’s say you take a month or three months or six months on a failed project and then a failed project or a failed ad campaign at the end of the three months, you stop, you learn your lesson, you do the next one, but when you get the winner, it’s the lifetime of the business that’s impacted positively. So I love that idea of experimenting with the entire business. I’m wondering, we, we discussed this a little before, but how do you approach this with different size companies? Because you mentioned me, I was shocked when you said this can be small startups. So if you only have 20 people, is it possible to have an innovation practice or an innovation lab?
Not, not with 20 people. If you’re a startup, you’re singular, you’re focused on one thing and you’re basically are doing your validated learning cycles and your MVPs around that one thing. Okay. So, so startups by it, by their inherent nature are singular in focus. They need to be singular focus. They’re not a corporate organization who needs to run multiple projects. They want to, they want to figure out their product market fit as quickly as possible so they have to be singular about that. So, so then that raises the question, at what point does the organization as it grows become less singular? You start focusing on multiple endeavors and you know, that probably gets to be, you know, when they’re 50 people and they’re, you know, maybe 20, 30, 40, $50 million in revenue and depending on the type of business in the industry and so forth. But as they grow, they will begin to branch out and pursue different innovation projects in different areas. And the bigger they are actually, the bigger the are doesn’t necessarily necessarily always mean the more radical innovation projects they’ll do. It often means they’ll still be doing a dozen or so radical innovation projects, but the scope of them tends to be much bigger. The impact. Yeah. The, the, the winner loss around each one tends to be a much bigger, so, so it’s not so much we’re going to scale up to a thousand innovation project per se because that can be very untenable organizationally, but we’re going to scale up to a manageable number of projects in there. And as the organization grows, the scope of those projects tend to grow as well.
Hmm. And I would imagine the bigger companies have, they have bigger budgets and more, more wiggle room to work on the transformational projects as opposed to the smaller innovative ones because they can handle a loss.
That’s correct. I mean, number one they, they have a lot of resources that doesn’t always mean they use them effectively and efficiently and intelligently, but they certainly have a lot of resources so they can certainly invest in running labs, run experiments. Again, it’s important that these labs are managed and run intelligently and that they have an intelligent approach to doing it. And so, but, but the buffer is certainly their buffer is bigger so they can afford to fail, fail bigger, fail more, but at the end of the day they have to produce results still. The other thing too is how is the organization structured?
Because there’s an argument to be made for large organizations to actually be broken into independent business units and each business unit pursues their own advanced innovation. Okay. And that makes sense if they’re pursuing very different industries or markets for example. But it also makes sure that each business unit is as hungrier. Okay. Because the smaller you are, the hungrier you are in general. And big organizations often have a hard time getting their arms around emerging technology and emerging things because the scope isn’t there big enough yet for them to be hungry for it. Whereas for small organizations, it is so actually smaller organizations can benefit from the standpoint they’re hungry or, and they’re willing to take something that a bigger organization might pass on and sometimes to their detriment when it’s too late. This is why startups often will disrupt an established legacy company because they figured out a new business model and some new special twist to what they’re doing that, that they’ve locked in on and is working and they’re nimble and how they, you know, in their learning cycles, they’re very nimble and being able to change quickly and adapt. Whereas large corporates move like big ships. So their agility and their ability to adapt isn’t always there. So there’s definitely pros and cons. Yes, I have a lot more resources. They have a lot more buffer. They can pursue a lot of really cool advanced projects, but that doesn’t necessarily mean at the end of the day they’re gonna win. They might still get disrupted.
So, so bringing those two concepts together, and even something you’ve mentioned before, what are your thoughts on this movement towards corporate venture capital? Right. So you now see a lot of these big corporations carving out their own benefit arms focused on this exact topic. Right. And how does that measure what, how does that come into your world of innovation?
Yes. For, organizations, for, you know, relatively large organizations? I, my perception is it’s a must. Okay. Now you have to understand there’s a difference between the philosophically between the approach in corporate venture capital and traditional standard, you know, institutional venture capital, institutional venture capital is purely a financial play and it’s about maximum maximizing your returns from the exits. Okay. Whereas with corporate venture capital, the financials are important, but they’re not typically the first priority. The first priority is strategic alignment. So, so are the startups. We’re going to invest in doing something as strategically aligned to our trajectory in the future that if, if it really succeeds and gets traction, we can integrate it in. So that’s, that’s the philosophy that is taken. And in that standpoint, I am a huge believer in corporate venture capital in the sense that I think of it like an insurance policy rather than sit back and hope for the best and hope we don’t get disrupted, rather let’s start investing in the businesses that might disrupt us and have an equity stake in them and do partnerships with them and learn from them, do projects together.
And really get engaged. And in fact, so many of these startups are so far ahead in their thinking about what they’re pursuing and how to pursue it. Then the corporates are, it actually, you can think of it like the guy on the ship out in front with the telescope, you know, guiding the ship. It’s a great way to actually be doing technology scouting and, and, and, and disruptions scouting and looking for what’s the next thing that startups are doing and, and so rather than, rather than being disrupted by them rather than get beat by them, less invested in them, let’s be a part of what they’re doing, let’s support them. And then, you know, with the idea that if this really succeeds and scales, then you know, the ideal is to take full equity ownership and basically embed that, you know, an example of that is what Google did some years ago and, and Google ventures investing in nest and the learning thermostat and then, yeah, that really took off. It was doing well. It fits strategically with their desire for connected home, which you know, gets into their, their smart speaker devices. And so they said, let’s, let’s go ahead and buy nest outright in full which they did, they took full equity of nest. So that’s an example. And, but, but NAS started out as a corporate venturing investment for, for Google ventures. And this is absolutely critically important as a way in terms of disruptive innovation and transformative innovation to be really plugged in to stuff that the corporates would not otherwise be doing.
So we could, we could talk about this literally for hours. In fact, we probably should do that at some point. I’d love to have a dinner with you at some point cause this could be a really fun conversation. Just one closing question, which is just to give you some promotion. What’s the value you see for companies getting certified in innovation?
Well, it’s, it’s, it’s very important, you know, to, if you’re, if you’re trying to, particularly when you’re trying to run an innovation program and especially like a core innovation group, it’s important to have people who, you know, have the right knowledge. And skills to be able to do that. And one of the ways to ensure those people have that knowledge and skills is to have them be formally trained, certified. So just like with other certifications, like in human resources or project management, it’s a way to attest to their level of knowledge and skills that they’ve demonstrated. And that’s important because we want to make sure we were putting people in the right leadership positions. We have the right skills and knowledge to drive the program. So certification allows us to do that. It’s very important.
Awesome. Well this has been, like I said, a really fun chat chat. I don’t know if you have any closing thoughts, but how else tell us, tell the listeners where they are. You can find out more about you and your background and your, your work and how they can learn more about it.
Absolutely. You know, they, they can, they can go look for global innovation Institute on online. That’s GI and I. Dot org very simple URL. So GI and I. Dot org global innovation Institute. They can always feel free to look me up on LinkedIn. Anthony Mills and connect with me. I’m an open networker, so happy to connect with more or less everyone.
Anthony, I just saw you light up when you’re talking about the guy on the boat and he’s exploring and he’s seeing ahead, he’s seeing the future. So maybe you can talk just a little bit about what, what led you to where you are right now.
What led you to, to be immersed in and passionate about the world of innovation?
Well, that’s a long story. You know, what led me to where I am now, I mean many pieces to it, but you know, one of the things that really set the course for me was when my father passed away when I was 11 and that really was impactful for me. I think it made me realize that life was short, life was important, and, and life really needed to have meaning. So for it to have meaning, we needed to really have a sense of purpose in life, right? So, so I think that was really the foundation for me in going through and pursuing, you know, my university years and, and education and pursuing my career where I came up. You know, I had an engineering background and product development is always about what’s my purpose, what in, in what, and then what’s the vision that guides us to that. So over the years, you know, I’ve, I’ve led innovation inside of businesses different sized businesses from startups to fortune 500. And it’s always, what’s the vision? Where are we going with this? I, and I lead by casting a vision and, and that’s how I get people to rally around that vision. And that easily gets people aligned to where we’re going and what we’re doing drives discipline. It drives commitment and it makes life so much easier when people are aligned to that vision. That vision comes out of a sense of purpose in a sense of mission. And that’s what’s always been my foundation driving is to be mission oriented and purpose driven. And I, and I believe the same applies to organizations. They need to be mission oriented and purpose-driven. And if you can give people a vision, they’ll rally around, you will get them to be innovative, you’ll get them passionate about it. And that’s what lights the fire instead of organization. Give them something to be passionate about. Give them a vision, give them a purpose and tie that purpose to something that’s human. Make it human, you know, don’t make it about money, don’t make it about the business, making it about people, make it about human. And they’ll get, they’ll get excited about that. And I’ve always led out of that sort of approach.
That resonates so deeply with me. So with that background and that being such a part of who you are, when you, when you have people come on board to either just go through one of the certifications or to work with on a consulting level, is it a requirement they already sort of have that figured out or is that part of the innovation process?
It helps if they have it figured out, but, but you know, we, we emphasize that in a lot of the material we talk about, there are points where we talk about how innovation drives a sense of purpose in the organization. And then in our chief innovation officer certification training, we talk about actual what’s called workplace innovation and management innovation. And a lot of that is how we manage the organization. And an a part of that is having a purpose, having a mission, having a vision. That’s a core part of it. And another part of it is being oriented around values and a culture code rather than rules and corporate policies. And so, so it’s those types of organizations. If you can give people a mission and a vision that lights them up and get some passionate, and then you can create a corporate culture around a culture code where there’s values instead of rules, people will innovate, they will blow your mind.
So good like the environment, like you’re talking about the environment, you have to create the environment,
You can create a very electric environment.
And honestly, this comes up often in my head and I’m going to share it now because the word culture is a, is a Petri dish, right? It’s where you grow things, right? That’s literally what they, that’s the first meaning of the word culture. You learn in fifth grade or whenever you start some kind of chemistry or biology or whatever your, you’re studying. But our culture is something that, is it an environment for things to grow in? Right? So I like that innovation grows out of a culture and environment where there’s values and purpose.
And the management guru, Peter Drucker, he said, as you may know, culture eats strategy for breakfast. You can have the best strategy in the world, but if your culture is, is detrimental is toxic, then that strategy is not going to happen. Right. It starts, everything starts to culture. Strategy comes after that.
Love it. We see, we see the world through very similar lenses. So I really appreciate Anthony your time and wisdom here today.