Perspectives from Kellee M. Franklin, PhD, Strategic Innovation Leader
This is the first in a new series of articles on thought leaders in the innovation space.
“We can choose to embrace life as a curious learner-innovator. A learner-innovator outlook, one in which we are willing to ‘leap into the unknowable’, encourages us to at least consider how we might live and lead others differently…”
— Kellee M. Franklin, PhD. From “Leap into the Unknowable”
Kellee M. Franklin is a strategic innovation leader, human-centered design expert and executive advisor who focuses on business and digital transformation. She’s a leadership coach, advisor and fellow for several medical organizations, and runs the consulting firm Mindful Innovation Labs, which helps clients “align innovation, mindfulness, and technology with purpose-driven business practices in the digital age.”
Kellee comes with an impressive list of innovation projects that she’s been part of, including rolling out a first-of-its-kind learning platform with the US Army National Guard and helping to launch the nation’s first web-based cyber security identification system. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I had the chance to interview her. We talked about what’s working (and not) in the innovation space today; here’s three big ideas I took away from our discussion.
1. Innovation Shouldn’t Be Exclusive
One of the first questions I posed to Kellee was: what approaches to innovation do you find to be wrong-headed? So often, we only pay attention to the successes — the “unicorns”, the Ubers, the Apples. Without naming-names, Kellee quickly pointed to in-house innovation labs that are exclusive and accessible only to the innovation group. She’s seen companies that stand-up an innovation lab, but who don’t invite the wider organization in to reap the benefits. “Limiting the accessibility to ‘innovation’ is really not at the spirit of innovation,” she said. In contrast, she’s seen the most success in companies that work across disciplines and break down silos. “Multidisciplinary and collaborative efforts is where I see the best products getting produced.”
“Limiting the accessibility to ‘innovation’ is really not at the spirit of innovation.” — Kellee M. Franklin
2. Education & Mindset
Closing off innovation is one good way to stifle innovation, but Kellee also spoke about some of the ingredients for successful innovation — namely education and the right mindset. She spoke about the importance of educating everyone within organizations about why innovation and human-centered design matters. “They know enough to know that they should be doing it but they still don’t understand the process of why it’s important and how to get there.” She stressed the need for companies to educate their people on more than “we should do this,” and talk about how it can lead to better business outcomes.
Kellee also described how an open mind is essential to good innovation. In fact, you might describe that as her innovation superpower. When I asked her to tell me her innovation “silver bullet”, she replied that it’s: “an inner belief that all-things are possible — and, helping others discover this within themselves.”
“How do we help people change their mindset so that they’re more open, reflective and contemplative and can allow ideas to come to them, see things differently and not be blocked by a fixed mindset?”
– Kellee M. Franklin
3. There’s No Failure in Innovation
One of the ideas that Kellee spoke about that I found particularly fascinating was her comment that: “innovation falls on a continuum.” In today’s start-up culture, we often think of innovation as something completely new, radical or disruptive. Not so, according to Kellee: “It is not always bright-shiny objects. It can be simply bringing new ideas and concepts into antiquated domains — shifting viewpoints and mindsets to allow fresh thinking to flourish.”
In fact, for Kellee, mistakes and so-called “failures” have an important place in innovation: “I really think around innovation that you have to look at anything that you try and it doesn’t succeed as an opportunity to learn….I do not embrace failure, especially when it comes to innovation.”
“I do not embrace failure, especially when it comes to innovation.” — Kellee M. Franklin
I enjoyed chatting with Kellee immensely and hope you enjoyed reading some highlights from our interview. Stay tuned for more articles about innovation experts and let me know if you have a recommendation of who I should talk to!