Welcome to the final post in our Values Deep Dive Series, where we take a closer look at our company’s core values and the people who live them each day. We’ve shared about community, honesty, excellence, partnership and equity. But we can’t end the series without talking about the value that is so important it makes up the bulk of our company name: innovation.
When selecting someone to represent innovation, it was difficult, because each employee of Innovatemap must be innovative. We chose Mike Reynolds, CEO, and Christian Beck, Executive Partner, Growth Strategy and Design, because these two executives have helped to nurture the innovator in all of us.
We describe innovation as: We believe in harnessing creativity to bring about meaningful change so tomorrow is better than today. Why is it important that the word “creativity” is included in the explanation of the value?
Mike: We’re running a creative agency that requires the balance of business acumen with phenomenal creative that actually solves problems. There’s a big difference between art and design. Art is the free expression of creativity. Design is applying that creativity to a business purpose. To us, creativity is everything. We get hired. Someone is committing dollars to us. There are expectations; there are timelines. At the same time, one of the reasons clients come to us is because our creative is going to be second to none. It’s going to be great. So we need elite-level creative, but we also need the ability to apply that creative to a specific partnership or a specific project to solve a specific business problem. You cannot do that unless you have a complete mix of the two types of thinking.
Christian: I’ve never subscribed to the idea that “creativity” means “artistic.” To me, a creative person is able to evaluate how things are done and find a different way. Creativity can show itself in ways people don’t always think about, like finding creative ways to stay organized. People may think that’s the antithesis of creativity, but even organization itself can be done in a creative way. At Innovatemap, we push for everyone to be innovative. The whole attitude is that everybody is really responsible for making improvements in some way. My father-in-law worked at a Toyota manufacturing plant for 25 years, and they famously have a Kaizen approach to innovation, where any small improvement is encouraged. Factories may not be creative, but creative thinking makes them more efficient. The same applies to us.
Have you always been innovative?
Mike: It’s a value but it’s also an inborn trait. When I think of the word “innovative,” it’s always having the voice in your head thinking about what’s possible. Or thinking, “there’s got to be a better way.” Innovation to me is endless curiosity, openness to change and an eagerness to problem solve. I’ve always been very excited by ideating and problem solving.
Christian: It does come naturally to many. My background is in software design, but I’ve always had the tendency to question the way things are, deconstruct and dismantle ideas. I’ve always tried to look for areas of improvement when things don’t make sense. What comes naturally to me is the questioning of the status quo, and not accepting everything at face value helps me explore new ways of doing things.
Where do you find inspiration for innovative thinking?
Mike: I am always looking for it. I think you can find inspiration in anything. I feel like many people will seek out industry go-to’s like podcasts and blogs. And yes, you can get great content to match with laser precision what’s on your mind. But I glean innovation inspiration from anything. It could be watching kids play, it could be sports, it could be from other industries. I will always be looking at anything I see and thinking of the business of it. If I have a great experience – like at a restaurant, for example – that could be the next biggest inspiration for what we’re doing for our business gleaned from an unbelievable experience I had at a dinner. It makes me want to translate the inspiration back to myself personally and professionally. Relationships are at the core of our business, so anytime I can glean inspiration from a positive human experience I see, I’m going to give it some deep thought.
Christian: It can come from books. My reading extends beyond the directly applicable. I read about innovation and design, but I like reading books that only vaguely connect to my world. When it comes to selecting a book, I follow my curiosity and trust that there will be random connections made. To be creative, you have to stop focusing on the problem you’re trying to solve and let it sit in the back of your brain. Then trigger things that help your brain light up, like reading, for me. A lot of people in many different industries have had success with drawing inspiration for innovation outside of their core work, often when they’re not even thinking about work.
How do you go about assessing someone’s ability to innovate, particularly in the hiring process?
Mike: In the hiring process, we’ll interview with our values in mind. We do intentionally try to decipher an ability to innovate. We’ll ask open-ended questions and request stories about things they’ve done and changes they’ve made in the past. During the hiring process, we legitimately have conversations where we dive deep to try to glean a sense of if the candidate has the raw talent to be innovative. Open-mindedness to change, adaptability, and out-of-the-box thinking are all attributes we look for through these stories and conversations.
Christian: We look for leading indicators of innovation. Do they show curiosity? We’ll often ask candidates to tell us about their own ideas on innovations that could be made to existing products. We want to know: do you explore the things around you? Do you wonder why something is the way it is? We aren’t just looking for proven success stories. You can be innovative and have no successes to show for it yet.
Thank you both to Mike and Christian for sharing a bit about the importance of innovation and what innovation means to them. It’s important to note that our clients sometimes hire us not because of our ability to innovate, but because we do good work. What they don’t realize is there is often a deeper transformation that can happen throughout the partnership. We help them grow and transform in ways they may not have imagined. Sometimes that can be a little uncomfortable. But pushing through that discomfort is powerful, and we’re so proud to be able to use those moments to innovate and grow alongside our clients.
If you’ve enjoyed our Innovatemap Values Deep Dive series, I encourage you to check out our careers page. And keep challenging the things you simply assume to be true!