Athena GTX was recently honored as one of only a few companies invited to attend and display our solutions at the 2013 Iowa Innovation Corporation dinner and awards evening. The topic of conversation that night was all about…..”innovation”. I also recently read an interesting Linked In message from Delos Cosgrove, CEO/President of Cleveland Clinic about innovation. I thought all of this blended together and fit Athena’s visions quite well. I thought I would share some thoughts from both the evening and this recent message from Mr. Cosgrove along with some of our own thoughts.
As CEO’s we need to sometimes take a serious step back and look at ourselves, our teams, and our companies. Where does technical innovation really come from? Clearly it is not in the comfortable mainstream of an organization, but on the margins: where one idea flies quickly into another, disciplines and understandings overlap, and the next thing that happens is a team has created a new idea, product concept, solved a problem, or even found a solution to something previously thought to be impossible, impractical or unreachable. This happens because of a multidisciplinary team, but also because that team has a unique attitude. At Athena we use a motivational statement of “Innovation with Attitude”. What exactly is that “attitude”.
The innovation we seek is really disruptive innovation, and it is all about attitude. Innovation does not wait for fortunate circumstances to arise by happenstance or from detailed plans. It does not have a roadmap. It does not develop from people asking about what they should do next. It comes from creating an organization and culture where disruptive innovation is encouraged, highly valued and recruited, and it seems to happen almost every single day. Create an organization where the innovators love to be with each other, spending time talking about the “what if’s” and the “this may sound crazy, but…..”, and an organization of individuals that share intense passion and drive to create without any fear of failure.
Steve Jobs said, “Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night.” At Athena GTX we are designed to enjoy what we do, we maximize employees and leader encounters, and impromptu brainstorming sessions. I’d like to think my role is really about fueling that fire, the attitude, the passion and drive. Hire the innovative spirits and have the courage to let them go. You will be overwhelmed at the result. And you might get that call late at night more often than you think.
What is your organization doing to promote innovation at the margins? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Mark Darrah, PhD