PODCAST

Innovation Storytellers

Susan Lindner

Did you ever wonder how an innovation got to its finish line? How innovators saw the future, made a product, and created change – in our world and in their companies? I did. Innovation Storytellers invites changemakers to describe how they created their innovation and just as important – THE STORIES – that made us fall in love with them. Come learn how great innovations need great stories to make them move around the world and how to become a better storyteller in the process. I’m Susan Lindner, the Innovation Storyteller. But I wasn’t always. I’ve been a wannabe revolutionary, an epidemiologist at the CDC and an AIDS educator in the brothels of Thailand helping to turn former sex workers into entrepreneurs. Trained as an anthropologist and the Founder of Emerging Media, I’ve spent the last twenty years working with innovators from 60+ countries. Ranging from cutting edge startups to Fortune 100 companies like GE, Corning, Citi, Olayan, and nine foreign governments, helping their leaders to tell their stories and teaching them how to become incredible advocates for their innovations. Great innovation stories make change possible. They let us step into a future we can’t see yet. I started this podcast to shine a light on our generation of great innovators, to learn how they brought their innovation to life and the stories they told to bring them to the world.

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60: How the Big Easy Attracts Innovation to New Orleans
3d ago
60: How the Big Easy Attracts Innovation to New Orleans
New Orleans is famous for its distinctive music, Creole cuisine, and annual celebrations and festivals, such as Mardi Gras. But it's not a city that many would associate with innovation. However, the melting pot of cultures has helped create a mindset in which innovation thrives. For example, the combination of African music and the blues combined with other American influences gave rise to the only indigenous art music to form out of the US. In this week's episode of Innovation Storytellers, Michael Hecht, President & CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc discusses how cultural clashes create environments in which innovation thrives. We also explore how bringing a financial and a moral perspective together are critical components in driving innovation forward. Michael also shares with me how post-hurricane Katrina, New Orleans needed to rebuild entrepreneurship and focus on technology.
60: How the Big Easy Attracts Innovation to New Orleans
3d ago
60: How the Big Easy Attracts Innovation to New Orleans
New Orleans is famous for its distinctive music, Creole cuisine, and annual celebrations and festivals, such as Mardi Gras. But it's not a city that many would associate with innovation. However, the melting pot of cultures has helped create a mindset in which innovation thrives. For example, the combination of African music and the blues combined with other American influences gave rise to the only indigenous art music to form out of the US. In this week's episode of Innovation Storytellers, Michael Hecht, President & CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc discusses how cultural clashes create environments in which innovation thrives. We also explore how bringing a financial and a moral perspective together are critical components in driving innovation forward. Michael also shares with me how post-hurricane Katrina, New Orleans needed to rebuild entrepreneurship and focus on technology.
59: From Transforming the NYSE to Prepping the Next Gen of Innovators at DePaul University
14-06-2022
59: From Transforming the NYSE to Prepping the Next Gen of Innovators at DePaul University
Implementing any new technology or innovation will often require culture change. Steve Rubinow, the award-winning CIO, strategist, transformation expert, and professional lecturer at DePaul University, shares his experiences with helping people through the journey of change. He also shares his goal of three zeros which are zero costs, latency, and downtime.  Steve discusses how every enterprise has to be as fast and reliable as possible simultaneously. Customers demand proper functionality and security at the same time too. But if you don't do anything about it, someone else will, and your customers will go there in a hurry. He also advises leaders to listen to the suggestions for improvement from their customers because the best answers can come from the most unlikely places.
58: How Edison Innovations Finds the Gaps in the Market
07-06-2022
58: How Edison Innovations Finds the Gaps in the Market
Edison Innovations has built a reputation for using crowdsourcing and virtual research technologies combined with strategic marketing and business planning to offer a new dimension in developing new products and services. I invited its founder and CEO, Larry MacDonald on the podcast to learn more about the story behind the company and how it got its name. Steve Jobs once said, "Some say, give the customers what they want. But that's not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do." Larry shares his take on this quote and discusses how his design-thinking approach to innovation was inspired by playing with Lego bricks. We talk about how technology can monitor what students have learned so they can relearn the foundational material they have missed school due to sickness. He also shares many stories of other innovations that he has worked with and his lessons learned along the way.
57: Exploring Overlooked Niches in Innovation
26-05-2022
57: Exploring Overlooked Niches in Innovation
Anthony Mills currently serves as Executive Director of Global Innovation Institute (GInI), CEO of Legacy Innovation Group, and adviser to numerous advisory boards. So I asked him to join me on this week's episode of the Innovation Storytellers podcast to talk about innovation and design thinking.  Anthony shares with me why great innovators are incredibly resourceful and use diplomacy to tell their stories in a way that gets stakeholders on board. We also discuss the importance of identifying the negative consequences your innovations could have on stakeholders and addressing those concerns from the outset. Finally, we talk about how cognitive biases can wreak havoc with our ability to think about the future because of all the filters and biases we bring to the table. We explore why innovators must recognize them when they occur. Anthony advises how every innovator is challenged by looking through the biases to see objectively the future they can create.
56: Thawing the Middle Manager Permafrost to Innovate
24-05-2022
56: Thawing the Middle Manager Permafrost to Innovate
Outcome is an innovation consultancy that works with senior teams worldwide on the strategy, leadership, and culture required for innovation to solve today's innovation-led growth challenges while building the capabilities for shaping the future. Cris Beswick, the co-founder of Outcome, joins me on this week's episode of the Innovation Storytellers podcast to share his story. We discuss how innovators in the workplace know there are better ways of doing things, but organizations are often resistant to embracing change. But even when they do, they chase after growth and shiny new technologies. However, this usually results in low-value ideas that aren't aligned with the organization's strategy. Cris explains the importance of strategy, governance, structure, and why the five core components of their innovation system ensure that initiatives avoid descending into chaos. This is a must-listen episode if you are looking for a practical framework on how to build a culture of innovation in your organization.
55: How Story-Listening Defeats Innovation Bias
17-05-2022
55: How Story-Listening Defeats Innovation Bias
When Graham Brown witnessed trends around how teenage girls in Japan were using pocket-bell pagers to message each other in the mid-1990s, he knew a significant shift was happening and saw the potential for SMS messages before mobile providers had introduced the feature on early mobile phones. But when Brown excitedly approached mobile phone companies with his observations, he was told, "We don't market to kids." Ironically, it would be teenagers who would teach mobile companies how to make money from data packages much later on.  In this episode of the podcast, we explore how, throughout the history of technology, young people have often been the ones to drop clues about future trends through their digital social interactions - often going so far as to corrupt technologies to make them better.  We also talk about how story listening can help brands defeat innovation bias, and stay open to the way technology needs to evolve.
54: Unleashing Employee Innovation at WTW
11-05-2022
54: Unleashing Employee Innovation at WTW
At WTW (NASDAQ: WTW), they provide data-driven, insight-led solutions in people, risk, and capital. By leveraging their colleagues' global view and local expertise in serving 140 countries and markets, they help their clients sharpen their strategy, enhance organizational resilience, motivate their workforce, and maximize performance. But what does innovation look like inside a $9 billion company? Karen O’Leonard, Head of Innovation at Willis Towers Watson, joins me in a conversation about the innovative strategies that have helped her company grow. She also shares how seeing disproportionate ratios of men to women in the tech industry fueled her passion to get more women involved in innovation and build a culture where everyone can shine. We also discuss what happens when innovation fails. For example, it might be the best idea possible at the wrong time, or there are simply no available resources. Karen shares her mantra of falling in love with the problem, not the solution. Unfortunately, we have all seen teams fall in love with their solution, and they will go down swinging with it, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary from their customers. Food for thought indeed.
53: Saving Our Oceans with Innovation
03-05-2022
53: Saving Our Oceans with Innovation
Ocean Visions brings together leading oceanographic research and academic institutions, the private sector, and public-interest organizations to design and advance solutions to the growing crises in our ocean and climate. I invited Executive Director & Chief Innovation Officer,  Brad Ack, to join me on the podcast to learn more about Ocean Visions’ innovative conservation and sustainability initiatives. In this episode, Brad shares the story behind how Ocean Visions came to be, and how the company now works to solve some of the world's biggest problems through multiple disciplines and by engaging different perspectives. We discuss how the pollution problem impacting our world requires enormous innovation and redesigning our entire economic system. But with many businesses promising to reach net-zero by 2030, the goal has been set. So, what will it take to get there? Listen in to learn more.
52: Once Upon an Innovation
26-04-2022
52: Once Upon an Innovation
Since the early 2000s, business storytelling has become a widely accepted strategy for companies around the world. Stories are harnessed in advertising, marketing, PR, and leadership and culture development. After recently reading the book Once Upon an Innovation and how the authors apply story techniques to creative problem solving and innovation, I invited them onto the podcast to learn more. Jean Storlie and Mimi Sherlock share how stories trigger the brain to release oxytocin, the trust and empathy hormone, making them a powerful tool for understanding and addressing users' needs. This also means that storytelling methods can be applied to the other half of the battle—getting others on board with new ideas moving through the various checkpoints in an organization.  Although innovation is a very emotional process with its ups and downs, my guests illustrate how storytelling can be applied to accelerate innovation and lead change.
51: HowGood shows us how Regenerative Agriculture Will Save our Health & Planet
19-04-2022
51: HowGood shows us how Regenerative Agriculture Will Save our Health & Planet
HowGood is a SaaS data platform with the world's largest database on food and personal care product sustainability. With more than 33,000 ingredients, chemicals and materials assessed, HowGood helps leading brands, retailers and restaurants improve their environmental and social impact. Ethan Soloviev, Chief Innovation Officer at HowGood, joins me on the Innovation Storytellers Podcast in a conversation about how he became an innovator in regenerative agriculture. We talk about the massive consumer shift as shoppers increasingly demand more sustainable products along with transparency around the environmental and social impacts of products. I also learned how regenerative agriculture is not just about sustainability and reducing carbon. It shouldn't stop at net zero ether. By contrast, it should be about aiming to create more life than was there before. We discuss how by regenerating the soil, water, and biodiversity, the result is a more viable business. Ethan shares examples of how farmers who adopt these principles, thinking, and decision-making are becoming more profitable.
50: How Coty is taking the Beauty industry into AR, VR and the Metaverse
12-04-2022
50: How Coty is taking the Beauty industry into AR, VR and the Metaverse
Did you know that some of the most incredible innovations are happening in the beauty and fragrance space? This is just one of the many reasons why I invited Shanna Weinblatt, Senior Director, Innovation & Beauty Tech at Coty, to discuss how they are leveraging AR, AI, VR, and ultra-personalization. But to begin with, I learn more about her path into the world of innovation. Coty is a world leader in beauty and home to an illustrious roster of cosmetic, skincare, and fragrance brands. The company also has a mission to challenge the definition of beauty, encourage authenticity, and celebrate diversity. Most of all, the company's ethos is to think big and challenge convention. We discuss how in an increasingly digital world where everything is becoming more decentralized, everyone is a creator. Shanna also shares why she believes there will be a place in the metaverse where people will visit beauty brands. To further strengthen this point, we discuss Decentraland's Metaverse Fashion Week and how it received more industry attention than any digital fashion event before.
49: How Intel China Transforms Brilliant Employees Into Internal Startups
05-04-2022
49: How Intel China Transforms Brilliant Employees Into Internal Startups
Kapil Kane, Director of Innovation at Intel China, joins me on today's episode of Innovation Storytellers to share his innovation journey working at Apple under Steve Jobs. Despite leading product design for the iPod, MacBook, MacBook Air, iMac, and iPad, Kapil describes being allergic to the word “innovation”, and reveals that nobody ever said that word in all his years at Apple. Instead, they just did it - without giving what they were doing a label. Kapil also shares how Intel China are transforming brilliant employees into internal startups. Inspired by startup accelerators outside Intel, Kapil reveals why they decided to follow a similar process with their internal innovation teams. The result is the award-winning corporate startup accelerator Growth X.
48: Rethinking Data Science and Advancing Women in Tech at Amazon
29-03-2022
48: Rethinking Data Science and Advancing Women in Tech at Amazon
Nancy Wang is the General Manager of Data Protection Services at AWS and the Founder and CEO of Advancing Women in Tech (AWIT). In today's episode, Nancy shares the story behind AWIT, and how this nonprofit organization is dedicated to empowering women to attain more leadership roles in product and tech.  We discuss the importance of mentorship and continuing education for women and underrepresented individuals to help accelerate their careers in the tech industry. AWIT has already put 27,000 individuals worldwide through its Coursera-based courses, which range from real-world to cloud product management. AWIT is opening up its mission and scope to serve more women and underrepresented groups to empower women at all stages of their tech career. Nancy reveals how, by focusing not only on early career stages, but also on those already in the pipeline who are just a few steps away from reaching the senior executive level or C-suite, they are making a real difference - and sparks ideas for how you can do the same.
47: How to Handle Being Ahead of Your Time in AI, IOT, Smart Homes, NLP and Voice Tech
22-03-2022
47: How to Handle Being Ahead of Your Time in AI, IOT, Smart Homes, NLP and Voice Tech
When it comes to innovation, everybody's looking for the game-changer. But Lon Safko shares the reality that humans need baby steps before they can leap forward. In this episode of the podcast, Lon and I talk about how the stories that connect us are the breadcrumbs that allow humans to understand what's coming - without fear.  Lon shares the inspiration behind his bestselling books, and how having the ability to look into the future is both a gift and a curse. He also spills the details of his formula for helping people to become more creative and innovative.  Finally, Lon shares an amusing anecdote of what happened when he received an unexpected phone call from John Sculley, the former CEO of Apple, and how it led to him partnering with the tech giant.
46: FreshRiver.AI Helps Companies find their Voice with AI
15-03-2022
46: FreshRiver.AI Helps Companies find their Voice with AI
Inventions from previous industrial revolutions transformed the world. However, Joti Balani believes that, when it comes to innovation, we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. In today's episode, Joti explains how every innovation involves taking what the previous generations have given us and coming together to solve more problems. Business leaders must foster innovative mindsets and curious minds if they want to achieve their goals, increase revenue, reduce costs, or improve the customer experience. And while everyone around the table needs to focus on solving the customer's problems, it's also important to remember that there are two sides to every story.  Joti shares how a combination of conversational AI and fresh perspectives are beginning to transform the world again, as we prepare to enter a new industrial revolution.
45: Seeking Signs of Intelligent Innovation Everywhere
08-03-2022
45: Seeking Signs of Intelligent Innovation Everywhere
In this episode, Chris Mattmann shares how NASA is continuously in search of intelligent innovations everywhere. Although most people associate NASA with images beamed back from Mars, Mattmannn shares how his work also helped journalists in government track international financial crime amongst the world’s elite by uncovering insights in the Panama Papers, which won the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism in 2017. Mattmann also shares how every dollar spent in space comes back fivefold on earth. For example, if you look at the evolution of the iPhone camera over the last 15 years, the seamless technology for these cameras came from space and originated from a Caltech patent. He also shares how investments in space have led to innovation around regenerative food and different types of sustainable food. There are many examples of innovation in our daily lives that all came from explorations of Mars and interstellar space. But if you would like to hear more about what he believes is the greatest innovation of all time, listen to the full episode.
44: The Human Investment in Innovation Transformation
01-03-2022
44: The Human Investment in Innovation Transformation
In today's episode, I interview Chris Harris, VP of Global Field Engineering at Couchbase, about how he has been accelerating technology innovation at the database software company and establishing a more open, collaborative culture. Together, we talk about how databases can be the building blocks that allow businesses to innovate with greater ease.  Innovation unlocks the ability to set a vision, but bringing it to life successfully requires we use a set of foundational tools and architecture. With the surge in demand for improved end-user experiences, Chris shares his insights about why the way we approach innovation is more critical than ever.
43: Part II: The Secrets to Repeatable Innovation Success
22-02-2022
43: Part II: The Secrets to Repeatable Innovation Success
This week on Innovation Storytellers, we welcome the return of Tendayi Viki, Author of Pirates In The Navy and Associate Partner at Strategyzer. We last spoke to him in episode 20 about how to be an Innovation Pirate in the Corporate Navy. Today, we learn how his path began in Zimbabwe, and how his journey took him to the UK and Stanford University, where he caught the innovation bug. Tendayi discusses how innovation succeeds because it's a passionate person pushing it through. But the truth is, especially in a corporate context, that innovation thrives through collaboration across functions. He also argues that anything that involves creativity or bringing something new into the world will consist of a hit-and-miss process. But that process can also be systematic.  Tendayi believes we are surrounded by the secrets to repeatable innovation success everywhere we look. Listen to our inspiring conversation now, and don’t forget to leave a review!
42: From Nuclear Subs to Reinventing the Faucet, How Nasoni is Reimagining Self-Care and Sustainability
15-02-2022
42: From Nuclear Subs to Reinventing the Faucet, How Nasoni is Reimagining Self-Care and Sustainability
Steve Waddell shares the inspirational journey that led to him developing an innovative bathroom faucet that saves water while improving functionality. It was a rollercoaster ride of tremendous highs, such as winning $50k on Steve Harvey's Funderdome TV show, only to discover he would have to wait one year to receive his winnings. Unperturbed, listen as Waddel shares his engaging story of how he managed to secure a credit card for $50k to develop engineered designs and the first production prototypes of his faucets, knowing he could pay it all off when the check came at the end of the year. Today, the resulting product, Nasoni's award-winning fountain faucet, is an industry-leading bathroom faucet known for product innovation and customer satisfaction.  Don’t miss this episode!
41: How to Apply Brave Creativity in the Innovation Process
08-02-2022
41: How to Apply Brave Creativity in the Innovation Process
Do you dare to take the creativity leap needed to bridge the gap between the churn of work and the highly sought-after prize called innovation?  In this episode, Natalie Nixon, PhD, president of Figure 8 Thinking, reveals why she believes creativity is the engine for innovation as an invention, and shares how it can be converted into a scalable value that can be both financial and cultural. Natalie explains that most organizations don't understand creativity, which is seldom appreciated beyond the arts realm. However, by introducing the idea that, if we think about creativity as our ability to toggle between wonder and rigor to solve problems, then we’ll realize that it's not only the most exceptional dancers, musicians, and painters who are creative, but also the best lawyers, engineers, accountants, and teachers.