So Who Are the New Breed of Innovators?

Edith Harmon, Chuck Jones, and Dee Kapur are the new breed of innovators. They have achieved a pragmatic sense of balance between the pressing needs of business and the open-ended possibilities of product opportunities. They also balance the corporate strategic big picture with the needs of particular product programs. It is more than using a different set of methods; they have a different state of mind that they bring to every decision they make. They have acquired this state of mind; they have learned how to manage a process for inno­vation and how to cultivate people to succeed in that process. It is a mentality and understanding that you also can learn. We introduce you to these individuals so that you can learn from them. The ques­tion to ask yourself is this: What can you do now to become an effec­tive pragmatic innovator?

They have become respected in their companies, even though their approaches are not typical, because they understand how to fos­ter and manage a corporate environment of innovation in companies such as Ford, Whirlpool, and New Balance. Although these three innovators are all in larger companies, innovators exist in every type and size of company. The next chapter describes the young and the restless team from start-up BodyMedia, and later in this book, you will read the case study of Eric Close, president and CEo of RedZone Robotics. In contrast, these individuals have made prag­matic innovation work in small start-up companies. This book also discusses David Kelley of iDEo and others in product-development consulting firms.

These individuals know that innovation is all about people, from the team who develops the product to the customers who use it. They know how to identify motivated and skilled people with whom to work and that innovation is about succeeding with others and learn­ing how to set goals. These leaders are comfortable with and often enjoy the challenge of finding innovative solutions in seemingly con­tradictory situations. Where others see risk, they see opportunity. Their managing style is reminiscent of hockey great Wayne Gretzky’s style of playing (when he was still playing): instead of skating to where the puck was, he skated to where the puck would be.