3 Tips On How to be Innovative In Your Career

This article was inspired by this week’s interview. Namely Naz Kallel’s start up and Alan Marson’s expert food consulting advice. Both come from different areas of the food industry and the experience between these two people are older than me. However, Naz and Alan’s advice complement each other. After listening and writing down the show notes, this is what I’ve learned.

Learn How to Look for Solutions

Every day it seems like there are problems. Every second something happens at the white house, there are a bunch of problems. Though those are problems that are a bit harder to solve, it’s important to think of ways to fix them. Just imagine, nothing else. Write it down. Now more than ever, social media shows us so many things wrong with the world. If we just thought of solutions, it would make the world a better place, right?

Ugly food has been a creeping problem recently. Funny enough, we discussed it about 3 years ago in food science class and now we see people doing something about it. Naz was able to see the problem, and not only think of a solution (giving technology for farmers to tell her to pick up excess produce) but also build a business out of it!

I started the podcast the same way. Nicole from Foodgrads wrote an article about a problem, I thought of a solution to use a podcast to interview people about their jobs. It was an idea I was floating around and once I saw that someone else had a problem, I gave her a solution.

People who can analyze problems and figure out solutions are so valuable and those that execute are worth their weight in gold.

So I leave you with a challenge that every time something on the news makes you mad, sit down and write how you would solve it.

Be on the Cutting Edge

Naz mentions “uberification” to gather her ugly fruit around San Diego. Uber is technically a cutting edge industry and anyone who hops on the trend to empower people to share their assets. Podcasts are also cutting edge technically. A lot of big advertisers are looking into podcasts because they’ve noticed the podcast model makes the consumer trust the brand more.

So how can you be on the “cutting edge”? Expos like the Fancy Food Show help, even farmers markets, but also articles like foodbeast and Food Dive show amazing food trends no one has ever heard of. This is hard to realize, but if you are an expert at something, you might actually be on the cutting edge! 99% of the world’s population is probably not as smart as you are in a specific subject.

If I were to boil down my experiences, am I on the cutting edge of my industry? I focus a lot of my time on food. My facebook is full of it, I go eat at trendy restaurants for fun, I work at a private company (more on this below) that does a billion/year so they have innovation to burn, I’m networked with amazing professionals and I always ask my podcast guests “what new technologies are really exciting you right now?”

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I pick out 5 pieces of content from the latest food industry news to the greatest new products and leave my snarky comments every week.

This is not to brag, but I put a lot of time into food, and to be on the cutting edge, it does take commitment. I would say it might even take a bit of sanity…

It’s a Two-Way Street

You can be innovative all you want, but you can’t execute innovation unless it passes the stage gates.

While interviewing Alan, we had a very good discussion on big companies and small companies, or more specifically, private companies versus public companies.

He said that innovation comes from private companies and in general, all small companies are private companies. This is because private companies don’t have to appease to the stakeholders, stockholders, and board of directors. They can technically do whatever they want. Projects that would take 3 years to roll out on a big company can get pushed as quickly as a year. The point being, the less people you have to please, the more you can take risks and innovate.

Another question I brought up was if a public company acquired a private company, what would he do?

He would leave.

The fastest way a big company can innovate is to buy out a small company. However, most of the magic is sucked out of it and many creative innovators leave their masters and search for something new. I’ve heard stories of acquisition nightmares over and over again.

Innovation is hard, and it’s really a chemical reaction based on risk, timing, and relationships.

Next week, I’ll show you 5 exercises I do to be innovative in my life

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