By Shekinah Eliassen, Associate Director – Marketing
How can we foster bolder, purpose-driven innovation within our companies?
This is the topic a group of 20 businesswomen and men recently discussed around a large oval table in a sunlit room in Aspen, Colo.
We have all been selected as a 2017 Aspen Institute First Mover Fellow. This program is an innovation lab and leadership development program for corporate social intrapreneurs — innovators inside companies — who are creating new products, services and management practices.
My fellow Fellows hail from companies like Nike, Johnson & Johnson, Google, IDEO, Toyota, GE and AT&T, among others. I am honored to be the first to represent Clorox as a First Movers Fellow.
Our backgrounds range across a variety of sectors and roles, yet every single one of us is focused on pursuing an innovation with a social or environmental purpose that would also drive business growth. Everyone’s passion for tackling these grand challenges through business was tangible and contagious.
I’ve never been in a business setting where the talk of purpose ran so deep and true.
Initially, it felt a little awkward to talk so openly about purpose. But the practice of sharing reflections and personal stories of when we felt most motivated, inspired and passionate helped further crystalize our own sense of purpose.
What was most clear, after four days with this inspiring group, was that leaders who carve out the space to define their purpose are often the ones who find a strong sense of fulfillment and joy in their work and also make a lasting impact on the planet and others.
Reflecting back on my time in Aspen, I identified five consistent characteristics in this group of Innovators with Purpose:
- Be curious. Each of the Fellows is such a dynamic, thoughtful person, I had so much to learn from each one. Learning opportunities surround us every day. It’s just a matter of recognizing and stepping into it.
- Take time to reflect. We were given personal reflection time every day. It was a powerful reminder of the importance of establishing a practice of balance and reflection amidst all the ‘doing.’
- Have a hacker mindset. Many of the Fellows are pursuing unproven initiatives, and their passion to hack and discover emboldened my passion to do the same.
- Be bold. Part of being a hacker is taking calculated risks, leaning in and learning fast. Each of the Fellows in my class has made a choice not to take the easy route, but to push ahead, learn and evolve.
- Use storytelling to connect. Human connection makes interactions most memorable — and often most rewarding. Being vulnerable is part of building a deep-rooted connection. During the seminar, we had many opportunities to open up and share parts of our story. It was these moments of connection that have stitched a quilt that now tightly binds us as a cohort and will serve us as we help one another navigate onward and push harder to fulfill our purposes.
Have you identified other traits to lead to a purpose-driven innovation? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Send me a note.
Shekinah has been selected as an Aspen Institute Fellow for the 12-month First Movers Fellowship Program. She’s working to identify innovations in e-commerce packaging and delivery that strive to be ‘closed loop,’ meaning they reduce consumer frustration, minimize the amount of raw materials used and deliver profitable growth.