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What Drives Innovation


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Innovation has become a buzzword among business leaders, and this week’s Motivational Mondays guest challenges today’s innovators to create disruption focused on driving growth, building revenue, and improving outcomes – even if that starts at a micro level.

As the former director of Cisco’s global Co-Innovation Center, Alex Goryachev has lived and breathed innovation for his entire career, eventually becoming known throughout Silicon Valley as an “innovation therapist.” Listen to this week’s episode for his insightful discussion with Corey Andrew Powell about the state of today’s workplace, the role of technology, and what it takes for businesses and leaders to adapt and thrive.

Becoming a Digital Native

Early on in the episode, Goryachev recounts what originally sparked his interest in technology, and he realizes he had almost “no choice” in the matter. After moving to the U.S. at the age of 15, it was such a struggle to speak English that he often retreated to his computer.

Though he’s now a renowned public speaker, that language barrier in his teen years pushed him to spend a lot of time on the burgeoning internet. It was simply easier to hold conversations online. As a result, he tells Powell, “I'm what I'd call a digital native. I kind of built this thing as it grew.”

What Innovation Really Means

Decades later, the internet that Goryachev grew up on has become a central part of the workplace — and the leading driver of innovation so many leaders talk about. But, he jokes to Powell, if you were to ask those same leaders what innovation actually means, they would “quickly make their way to the exit.”

So what does innovation mean, then? Goryachev argues that there’s no room for disruption for the sake of disruption — innovation needs to be tackled pragmatically, with a clear and measurable goal.

“A lot of organizations, a lot of people — they begin thinking about innovation in terms of [coming] up with this billion-dollar idea,” says Goryachev. But he argues there’s a case for simply innovating to save time and money — even if it’s just for the benefit of employee wellness, so they can be happier and go home earlier.

What Creates Innovation

Goryachev acknowledges that while the chaos of creativity is beautiful, companies need to begin with “a pragmatic metric” if they want to be truly innovative and successful. The “innovation concept,” he says, “needs to be rather defined and measured.” As an overall concept, that means companies need to ask, “What are we trying to achieve?”

In other words, companies need to have a purpose. Many people think that innovation means coming up with million- or billion-dollar ideas or disrupting something in the company or culturally, but Goryachev says innovation can happen on a smaller scale and can involve anything from developing products faster to making employees happier.

Goryachev also observes that “innovation is about diversity,” which is part of why Silicon Valley is so successful, in his view – it’s where many people from all around the world come together to share perspectives, respect one another, and listen to each other. This is a fundamental element of innovation: “For corporations to stay innovative, it’s essential that we listen to the voice of an intern with as much intensity as we listen to the voice of our vice president, so that we don’t get attached to the titles, but we get attached to diversity of opinions.”

In this discussion, Goryachev shares insights about what it takes to spark innovation and practical tips for how leaders can foster an innovative environment. Tune in to the full episode for a breakdown of the current state of innovation and the urgent need for leaders to stay nimble and adaptable in order to thrive.

For more discussions about innovation, listen to the Motivational Mondays episode with David McKillips, CEO of CEC Entertainment.

Listen to this episode to learn about...

[1:00] Why Goryachev first became interested in technology
[2:12] His motivation for writing Fearless Innovation
[7:00] The pitfalls of being a “disruptor”
[8:34] The role of diversity in innovation
[12:54] Why calculated risks are important
[15:30] Why pivoting is as important as innovation
[19:38]  What about technology keeps Goryachev up at night 

Listen to the bonus episode to hear Goryachev’s thoughts on how AI can enhance human creativity rather than replace it.



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