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Innovation Happens When We Listen to Customers

Innovation Happens When We Listen to Customers

I recently attended the Leading Transformation CEO Summit hosted by Innosight. Innovation is something that I think about all the time. Seriously. 3am when I can’t sleep. In meeting. While driving. Always. If we want to create more change and solve the big problems, then I believe we need to disrupt the status quo. Ellevate’s mission is to support women at work — to help founders succeed (and get the funding they deserve); to see more diversity in leadership, on boards, and in politics; to provide more women with a supportive community that has meant so much to me over the years. I’m sharing below some of my key takeaways from the Summit in the hopes that you’ll be inspired as well. Share your top innovation tips in the comments!

Patrick Viguerie, Managing Partner at Innosight said, "Growth doesn’t just happen; it is a strategic choice.” So true. As leaders, we need to be actively focused on how we grow our businesses in new and differentiated ways. Patrick summed this up with, “no one has ever beaten disruption just by trying to do what they currently do better.”

Wendell Weeks, CEO of Corning, was incredibly inspirational. Corning has a fascinating story of reinventing itself throughout its 168-year history and Weeks has been driving this innovation since 2005. He spends 40% of his time working on product or customer innovation and shared that we must, “listen to the customer. Listen to their pain and then engage small internal teams to solve that pain.”

Jack Dorsey, Founder and CEO of Twitter and Square, was on hand to talk about his #JobsToBeDone approach to business framework. This is a scalable framework that isn’t dependent on a singular person or team. He asked the questions, “Why do people hire us (the company)” and what are the needs listed in the “HelpWanted” section. When a company puts the customer first, then it will have a clear focus on solving the most important needs of customers. As a CEO, Dorsey sees his role as driving an amazing team dynamic, building a framework (based on #JobsToBeDone) for decision-making, and raising the bar on what the company thinks is possible.

Rita McGrath, Professor at Columbia Business School, shared insights from her book Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen. She said that “companies don’t bet big enough often enough,” and if leaders listen to customers that have diverse perspectives; get out of the office to have real experiences with the products and customers; focus small teams on solving problems in creative ways; face the challenges head-on; and keep an eye to their future customer then they will see the inflection points ahead of the competition.

I’m reeling with ideas and inspiration but the biggest takeaway is actually quite comforting: Customers. I care intensely about the women in the Ellevate Network community and was a member myself prior to taking on the CEO role. I’m fortunate to meet members on an almost daily basis and to hear their stories and pain points. I work with a team of diverse, passionate change-makers who put our customers first and approach each problem with an innovative mindset. I’m confident that Ellevate will be able to disrupt gender inequalities through the power of community, technology, and passion for change. 


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