Ep. 182: Tamara Ghandour - Harnessing The Power of Innovation – Everyday

May 09, 2022 | 25 Minutes

Our guest this week is Tamara Ghandour, the author of Innovation is Everybody’s Business and the founder of LaunchStreet, a consultancy that helps businesses unleash their innovation potential. Tamara speaks with IMA’s Adam Larson about the importance of building an innovation mindset for individuals and teams and the value that is unlocked when businesses focus on the practice of innovation rather than the process.

Contact Tamara: https://www.linkedin.com/in/innovationtamaraghandour
What is your innovation type: https://www.gotolaunchstreet.com/innovation-training-programs/whats-your-innovation-type/

Full Episode Transcript:
Adam: (00:05)
Welcome to the Count Me In podcast. I'm your host, Adam Larson. And my guest today is Tamara Ghandour, a leader in the field of human-centric innovation and its pivotal role in helping individuals and businesses create breakthrough outcomes. Tomorrow is the president of launch street, the founder of everyday innovator's tribe, the host of her own podcast and the author of the book. Innovation is everybody's business. She is also the creator of the innovation quotient edge, a powerful tool for determining your unique innovation style. This was a really insightful conversation with great tips for unleashing your innovation potential. So here without further ado is my talk with Tamara Ghandour. So Tamara, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. I'm really excited to have you on, and as we talk about innovation today, I wanted to kind of focus in a little bit. so you talk about how innovation is, how you win against the winds of change. So maybe we can start off by talking a little bit more about that.

Tamara: (01:08)
Yeah, Adam, I think first of all, thank you for having me. I think that's a great place to start because it sets the stage for why innovation is so important and how we can leverage it in ourselves to add value and to contribute and to carbon niche out for ourselves. So here's the thing and I I'm sure we can do a whole podcast on everything that's going on, but let me just kind of sum up the winds of change for us. And the reality of the world that we're in. So, you know, we've got COVID which accelerated everything. So we'll just leave that as the blanket statement, but on top of that, right, we've got AI and technology taking over a lot of the base jobs. A lot of the functions that we have been known to do as humans in our roles, things that we're used to doing, but AI and technology can now do a lot of that.

Tamara: (01:50)
So we've got that happening. We've got web 3.0 in the metaverse coming and kind of how that's going to change everything. I just heard about a project where healthcare going on to the metaverse like, it's incredible, what's happening over there. And then on top of that, right, you've got decentralized finance, you've got the great resignation of where is everybody and why can't I find people to hire or keep people, right? You've got that going on as a wind of change. And then we've got a lot of uncertainty with global politics and just the state of the world. So I say all that, and it sounds like a lot of doom and gloom, but let me focus in on where I think actually it adds to a lot of, opportunity, you know, when times are stable, it breeds efficiency, but it also breeds complacency when times are unstable.

Tamara: (02:35)
Like we're in now, it breeds resilience. We've seen a lot of that from all of us in the past couple of years, but also innovation, a chance to change and to innovate. And you know, the thing about being an innovator that I think is so important right now is when you look at all of that, particularly AI and technology, that's doing the baseline of our job. What that actually means. If you look at it in the right way, is that we have the opportunity to do something that is uniquely human, which is that creative problem solving that empathy, that innovation, that strategic thinking. So we actually have the ability right now, more so than ever with everything going on to actually bring those insights, to bring that innovative mind to the table and be that strategic voice that our clients, our leaders, our teams, our customers, that they all need right now. So the uncertainties crazy on one hand yet on the other hand, the winds of change is what allow us to innovate and shift and change and do things in a way that's, that's different and unique to us.

Adam: (03:37)
Hmm. So, you know, you have this concept that you talk about a, bit as about an everyday innovator. So we're talking about innovation with the winds of change. What is that everyday innovator style. And why does it matter when we're trying to have these, when we're trying to sail the winds of change, if you will, 

Tamara: (03:54)
I like the way you said that I'm going to sail the winds. That's a great way to say that. So every day, and being an everyday innovator is so important, but let me kind of back up as to why oftentimes with innovation, we buy into these myths and I see this all the time. I've been in business for 25 years now. And you know, we think it's Suzie down the hall with a purple streak or the Elon Musk and the Steve jobs and the JK Rowling's and maybe the Oprahs of the world, right? Like they're bestowed with something that we don't have, or we think it's for certain times, like the 3:00 PM brainstorm with the SCED markers and the blank eel pads, right. But every other time, just keep your head down and do your job. Or we think that it is, for certain departments, right?

Tamara: (04:34)
Marketing R and D or certain industries, technologies Silicon valley. But that actually is a sliver of what it means to be an innovator. And what I really come to see in my years of experience is that the best innovation comes from the places where you least expect, right? The everyday innovators who are out there rolling up their sleeves, doing their jobs, the best innovation is small. It's big, but it is inside all of us. And, you know, I used to believe that a little bit of those myths too, but we did a lot of research. We dug into the neuroscience and to change principles. And what we actually found out in our research is that we all have the ability to innovate. So we all have the structures in it, right? Neuroscience shows that it's a whole brain experience that MRIs light up when people create a problem, solve strategic thinking, you know, think differently.

Tamara: (05:21)
and our brains are flexible. We can actually get stronger. It's called neuroplasticity, but the way that all comes together and why it's so important is that Adam is you and me in the roles that we do when we bring innovation to the table and what we have right in front of us, we can get incredible impact. We can create those breakthrough outcomes. So, you know, innovation being siloed, just sabotages it for all of us. When we, as everyday innovators, when we understand that about ourselves, when we unleash that about ourselves, that's where we start to see the value and the difference. And we see it in individuals, leaders, and in teams and how they perform as well. It's why we built the assessment to tell people how they innovate, because we wanted people to say, oh, this is how I innovate. Cause I don't know about you, Adam, but I got pretty tired of hearing people go, you need to innovate.

Tamara: (06:08)
And I was like, how? And then I would try to do it the way you did it, but it didn't work for me because you do it in a way that's different than the way I do it. So understanding your everyday innovator style allows you to tap into what's actually already inside of you. All we're asking you to do is amplify what you're already incredible out. Maybe you're not using it. Maybe you've been trained out of it, but you know what? It's a lot easier for me to tomorrow to innovate in the way I innovate then Adam, to try to do you and vice versa. So that's why it's important.

Adam: (06:38)
That makes sense. Now you've said, you've said that anybody can be an innovator and a lot of times you'll get a book by like a Josh Linkner and you're like, wow, look at all this great innovation that I can do, but you may not be able to apply it exactly how you've seen somebody write it out. Are there other like sabotages to innovation within a team organization? What are some things thatt you you've seen that kind of prohibit people from becoming that innovator?

Tamara: (07:05)
Yeah. So, and I, Josh is great by the way, but I, but I will tell you, you know, I, I take issue with a lot of the innovation experts out there because I think they give us these big lofty processes and culture things. And the rest of us are like, I can't give my people 20% to do nothing. I I can't do, you know, a kombucha bar I can't, you know, to, for people to collaborate. So it that's the part that like, I could go on a whole soap box about that, but I think innovation should be accessible like in the moment. And it should be something that we all get to do. So when I look at teams, I work with a lot of them and there's a couple things that really sabotage innovation inside a team or inside any organization.

Tamara: (07:45)
So one of them is that 3:00 PM brainstorm with the SCED markers I talked about because what we're then doing is telling our people, Hey, guess what? I only want you to innovate for one hour in this week and that's at a 3:00 PM brainstorm, but for all the other hours you're working, just keep your head down. And what we're doing is we're actually minimizing innovation in all the times where actually we would have the ideas where it would make an impact. And then we shuffle into the brainstorm and we're cold and it's, you know, it's dormant and we haven't used it in a while. So that's number one is thinking that innovation has to be this one hour, you know, a week, a month kind of thing. When it really should be something we're doing all the time. Just number one. The second big thing is, and I know, because I have been guilty of this.

Tamara: (08:31)
I'm just going to own it early in my career is we reward outcomes, not behaviors. So let me just share a quick story with you. I'm leading a team of about 12 we're all in innovation. Funny enough, right? We're consultants, we're working with big companies like Proctor and gamble, general mills Clorox. And one of the things I used to love to do as a VP is get input from everybody in the organization about challenges. I would try, I was trying to solve. Now, this is pre like everybody's online all the time. So I would put up no joke, an easel pad on the wall. And in the middle of the circle, I would put this like, here's the challenge I'm trying to figure out. We need new revenue streams for X, Y, Z. We can't figure out this challenge on this client, whatever it was.

Tamara: (09:10)
And I would ask for people to submit sticky notes. And what I noticed is that I was getting these great sticky notes from three of the 12 people over and over again. Right. And I thought to myself, love it. But what I need is from everybody, right? I need all the perspectives to come together to solve this challenge. And I wasn't getting it. So instead of rewarding the outcome, the ideas those people gave me, I went down to Starbucks, I got a bunch of coffee gift cards. I came back up to the office. It's an open floor plan. I walked in and I said, as loud as I could to one of the people that had submitted ideas, I said, Hey, Adam, I want to thank you for submitting ideas. I haven't looked at 'em. I don't even know what they are, but I want to reward you for taking the time and the effort and the thoughtfulness to give me your ideas, handed them a gift card.

Tamara: (09:56)
Everybody heard it. And guess what happened by the end of the day, I had sticky notes from everybody, right? And I was handing out gift cards. I needed more all over the place. But my point is, the mistake that we make is we wait for the successor, failure to reward or punish. If we want to drive innovation in a team, we need to reward behaviors, not outcomes. If we reward taking risks, giving feedback, collaboration, going outta your way to wow, a customer, whatever it is that you want to reward, we'll get more of that. And that will drive innovation innately. When we wait for outcome, you know what it is. I think of it as Russian roulette, it's like black or red and you don't know which one's going to land on. You could do all the right things and still fail. You could do all the right wrong things and still succeed. So when we wait for that, it's like telling our team, we want them to play Russian roulette and nobody wants to play that at work.

Adam: (10:49)
No it, so it sounds like what you're saying is you have to be proactive. If you want to build a team of high performing innovators, you have to be proactive as opposed to reacting to whatever's going on. Am I understanding that correctly?

Tamara: (11:01)
Yeah. I, you know what? I think that's a great, a great lens on it. I think you need to be proactive and intentional in building innovation into your culture. And I'm just going to add a little bit to that. I think it has to start from the human side. So this kind of goes to the last mistake I would say is oftentimes, and this is when our phone starts to ring too, as clients call us and they say, all right, I implemented design thinking. I implemented fill in the blank process and my people aren't doing it and it's not working. And you know, is it the process? Is it the like, is it, you know, the initiative? Well, first of all, we all have initiative fatigue. Nobody wants more initiative, but second, you know, you need to take a step back, right? We need to get the humans on our team to understand how they innovate and how they contribute.

Tamara: (11:49)
And if we start being proactive about how you and I, and everybody on the team has these different styles of innovation and understanding how we can be innovative, then the culture and the process kind of naturally fall out from there of what you should do. It's not that the process is bad. It's just that the people aren't bought in. And we just did this whole thing with a team. I loved it so much instead of a title and job responsibility map. And you know how you see like a hierarchy of a company. We did a contribution map where we mapped out how everybody innovates and how that innovation contributes to the greater change this company was trying to make. And I guarantee you, after that, it was incredible how high performing and how innovative and some of the solutions that came out of this team. It's because we needed to back up and to say, Hey, look, the process and the culture will come, but let's talk about the people first.

Adam: (12:38)
I really like that. You kind of gave everybody, Hey, everybody, this is the why, this is why we're here. Yeah. Let's continue on together. And this is where your value is. I that's, that would be really encouraging from an employee standpoint. I like that.

Tamara: (12:51)
Well, and imagine for a second, right, Adam, like let's say, I just did this with a team. It was everybody from the, morning receptionist to the CEO, the morning receptionist now. So she came to work and like loved her job, great person, but wasn't feeling connected, but it turns out, guess what? She's the first person the client sees when they come into the office. So she owns the brand to the outside world and her contributions are how she innovates on the spot to make those people who come in the office feel comfortable and welcome and living the values of the company. And she innovates on the spot all the time. Because guess where problems go wrong? Scheduling people are late. Clients are coming in, right? Like that is a mess up there, but she right understands now. And the VP understands how their leadership, how that contributes to the greater change. And, I think, especially not just vision, especially when we're trying to drive change, we're trying to figure out new paths. We're trying to carve out a new niche trust with AI and technology and changing customer needs and changing, employee needs. We gotta understand how we all contribute and how we all innovate.

Adam: (13:57)
So can can being an everyday innovator help reduce stress and minimize burnout. Because I know even just talking to teammates on our team, we're all saying, we're trying not to burnout. We're trying to make sure, especially going from like going from, all at home to hybrid, a lot of places are switching to hybrid and you're trying not to burn, but yet there seems to be more things on our to-do list than not on the to-do list. And I liked how you just said, you know, for the receptionist she's innovating every day as she does her daily tasks and does those things, and it's seen at a more practical application.

Tamara: (14:31)
Yeah. Well that's the beauty of innovation. Let me just say this real quick. And I want to answer your question about burnout cause it's so important. The way we define innovation at launch stream and this kind of, this is a curated definition that we've prayed over time working with clients so that it's something that's accessible and empowering to everybody is think differently about what's right in front of you to create an advantage. So think differently, right? A new perspective, create a problem solving on, the moments, problem solving, about what's right in front of you, right? Your job, your resources, your challenges, your opportunities, what you do, and then to create an advantage. And that advantage could be a better way to do something, a better client interaction, a new product in the market, whatever it is. So that's our definition. I just want to make sure I say that.

Tamara: (15:10)
And for those listening, I would take that definition to your teams. Cause I guarantee you, part of the burnout is confusion of like we need to innovate, but what does that even mean? So let me get to burnout real quick. because I feel you. And I think that the, I just actually got off a plane from Indianapolis. I was with a group of women in Autocare. So, auto after market, like everything from Jiffy lube to kind of manufacturing of tinted. And one of the things I heard loud and clear before I got there was we are burnt out. We're doing more with less, our everybody's got 10 more todos on their plate than ever before. And on top of that, right, we've got change and innovate. So not only are we doing more, but we have to do everything differently, which takes more energy, right?

Tamara: (15:51)
It takes more thought process. So let me tell, give you a few reasons why innovation helps with that. And then some really easy tips like daily tips to implement. So when we understand how we innovate and we tap that natural strength, here's what happens. We perform at our peak. We get into that state of flow more readily, meaning like good focused effort and work, right? We have more innovative solutions. So we're not banging our head against the brick wall. We see more solutions and opportunities that we missed before. so when you think about that for a second, think of it as innovation metabolism, when you dial it up, dial up your innovation, we'll say you spend five minutes in the morning doing an exercise that gets you into kind of more of an innovative mindset. And everybody has different ones depending on their styles that will benefit you all day long.

Tamara: (16:39)
So part of the burnout, part of what happens from burnout is we're on a hamster wheel and we can't figure out how to get off. So it's just like we're spinning and spinning and spinning. Right? And I could see you nodding on that. Like it, just is no fun to feel like you're solving the same problems and over and over again, you are just like losing your mind because your to-do list is now 10 pages long. Every time one thing comes off a hundred other things come on. That's how I feel. But when we drive innovation, I like to think of it as swimming sideways out of a rip tide. So instead of just swimming harder and swimming harder, which is what we're doing right now, right? We're all doing it. Innovation helps us swim out of the rip tide. So having an innovative, mind's going to help you figure out a solution.

Tamara: (17:18)
That's going to solve a lot of those things on your to list. It's going to help you manage your to-do list in a new way. It's going to help you get more joy and satisfaction because it taps the dopamine in your brain. The feel good chemicals. So innovation helps us with burnout because we get off the hamster wheel and that's part of what's keeping us in, exhaustion and it helps us figure out how do we do the things? How do we drive solutions that make everything easier? So let me give you two quick tips that help with burnout. One is, and I learned this from the book, the one thing, and I think it's it. Keller Williams, the guy that did Keller Williams, the paint company. I can't remember which one wrote it. So I apologize, but the book is great, but he talks about he, the way he picked his to-do list was what's the one thing by doing this makes all of the things easier or makes them go away.

Tamara: (18:04)
What an innovative way to look at your to-do list. So I look at it a little differently, but I love that as a premise, which is, what's the one thing, if I solved this would make these other problems or these other tasks go away. And if I solve this with some innovation and create some real breakthrough, right? These other things get easier for me and for my team. So the question I want everybody asking themselves is what's the one thing if I solve this makes everything else easier. Makes upper other problems go away. I think part of the reason we're burned out is we're stuck in the weeds. So we gotta give ourselves a chance to get up. I'm going to give you one other tip. And that is, I want people to take five to seven minutes between every task and every meeting. And here's why, because I know that sounds like Sacra.

Tamara: (18:48)
Like, but tomorrow I have so much to do. I need those five minutes for that email. I get it. But here's what happens. The brain needs five to seven minutes to complete one task, clear it outta your brain and go to the next. But what we do because we're so busy is we go from task to meeting, to task, to meeting. And here's what happens when we don't close out that stuff. We carry mental residue around. So by the end of the day, it is like 10 pounds of Play-Doh on our heads. And that is exhausting and leads to so much burnout. So what I, now, what my team does all the time is we always take five to seven minutes of meditation or movement. So no Netflix, no emails, no Instagram like no consuming stimulus, just five minutes. Like that's all it takes. But if you do that between things, you'll actually be more productive and more innovative in the things you're doing. And here's what we do. Here's our role ready for this? This is the easiest one. If you're a leader, every meeting ends at 20 after or 50 after, no matter what, because you feel the time you have, we don't need those extra 10 minutes. You need them to get that mental residue away and to avoid burnout and keep your energy up. I don't need them. I'm not going to get more out of you in those 10 minutes. So get it done and then give people the time. Those are my tips. 

Adam: (20:03)
I love it. You're talking to a serial multitasker. My, colleagues are always like, yeah, Adam's probably already sent you the email. Like I'm always multitasking during meetings and I am a huge habitual. Like I go from one thing to another thing and I love that idea of stopping and letting your brain rest for a moment. Yeah,

Tamara: (20:22)
Just five minutes. And even if you in about five minutes, like take a breath. Right? I mean it's but, here's the thing. Do you find Adam? Cause I know I do. By the end of the, if I go from task to task meeting to meeting with like no break, like there's a little bit of a voice in the back of my head about the meeting I had three hours ago. That's still there and that email oh yeah. Is still in my head. Like even if I've completed the task, it just hasn't left me. Right. It's just in my brain swirling around taking up space. So by the time I get to my two o'clock meeting, I've got 10% to give that's it. So, you know, we always say like, you have to slow down to speed up and you know, to avoid burnout, like have people do less. That all sounds good. But the reality is that's not, that's, that's not something a lot of us can implement. So instead just allow people time to just turn off for a second and then turn it back on. But that turnoff moment will make a huge difference in how you feel.

Adam: (21:17)
So as we kind of, wrap up the conversation, this has been a wonderful conversation. I was, as you were talking about swimming out of the stream, as this is going upstream, it's kind of moving out of the stream. What I kind of saw was like to be a better innovator, to be a good innovator. You have to kind of change your perspective or you have to change your perspective and broaden it because that's the only way you can see it. Because even with the grass you're sitting among the weeds, it made me think of honey. I shrunk the kids, the little kids were down there and they saw the aunt as this massive thing. And the parents were almost stepping on them because they were so, but big. But until you change your perspective, you can't understand what somebody's going through. You can't understand what it's like and all and everything else. And so you have to change the perspective to get a new, a new look on what you need to do to be, to become that innovator.

Tamara: (22:05)
Yes, I a hundred percent agree. I love how you said that. And I'd say there there's two things that I would encourage people to do to really become an innovator. So obviously take the assessment cuz then you'll know how you innovate. There's all these different styles, but there's two things I would say, change your perspective and deepen your perspective. And here's what I mean by that change is exactly what you just said. Like, look at it from the perspective of that ant is huge instead of small, right? Look at it from a different angle. If you're in this seat at your job, look at it from your leader's perspective, your team's perspective, the client's perspective, the competitor's perspective is one of my favorites find a different perspective to look at it, ask disruptive questions that get you to new places. And what I mean by deepen is, we have a 10 day, especially when we are constantly stressed out, because we're constantly in fight ,flight or freeze, right?

Tamara: (22:55)
We're just, we're stressed out. So we stay on the surface. We stay in our primal brain and in order to find more innovation, we need to get past the primal and get it to our higher function. So we need to go deeper. So there's three words that we don't have time to go into the whole story, but let me just tell you this. I was presenting someone asked me a challenge question. I was panicked. I needed to like get my feedback under me. So I said to the person, well, that's an interesting question. Tell me more. And in saying those three words, tell me more. That person told me about their past experience, why they were asking this question, why they were skeptical, what they were hoping to get out of it, all the things they didn't ask or I didn't ask. And they didn't say we often jumped to solution too soon. So the next time someone presents an idea, asks you a question that you don't know the, oh, even if you know the answer to, in fact, especially when you know the answer, I want you to stop and just go, oh, that's interesting. Tell me more. And you'll find so much innovation in that depth of conversation that we're not getting. When we stay on the surface,

Closing: (23:55)
This has been Count Me In IMA's podcast, providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like, what you heard and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org