Innovation Nation
Innovation Nation

Episode · 1 year ago

How to Promote a Fail-Fast Culture w/ Alisa Coffey

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

What’s the optimal environment for innovation? 

In this episode, I interview Alisa Coffey, Head of Marketing at Abaco, about how she creates a culture of change and why she loves failure. 

What we talked about:  

  • Technology tools of the future spark innovation 
  • Alisa: “We need to fail fast.” 
  • The importance of collaboration and consensus in spurring creativity  

To stay connected with Innovation Nation, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

Innovation is all around us. In fact, everyone innovates, often unbeknowntes to themselves. Many mistakenly assumed the innovation is either a big capital project, a figurative bolt of lightning that brings inspiration, or the province of some exceptionally gifted person. This is the myth of innovation. But you can innovate as well. You are listening to innovation nation, the podcast where top executives and industry experts are sharing their insights on harnessing the power of innovation. We're here to help you stay ahead of the curve by driving your own innovation. Here's your host, Jasmine Martyr Rosen Hi. Thanks for joining to zoods innovation nation podcast. This is Jasmine March Rossi and the host. I'm joined today by Lisa Coffee, who is the head of marketing at Abaco systems ink a because of global organization and their primary client bases are the military and your space. Thanks...

...for joining us, Lisa. Thanks for having me, Jasmine. Such a pleasure. So tell me please, avocade does were globally and how do you drive innovation in those competitive industries? So I would say that it starts with thinking about the environment that you're in. You choose to be around people that are innovative. You choose to be around technologies that are are setting the tone for the future and when I moved from Siemens earlier this year over to Abaco, that was a major a major point that I considered when I made the move. I knew that I wanted to work with technology that was right on the edge and that was going to be changing the future. I had previously worked with things like D printing and watched it go from a concept to a young girl in Alabama designing a person's arm for a vet that had didn't have...

...an arm. And then I watched generative design come about and it's really interesting to see that an aircraft that has a hundred and fifty different parts doing one thing could be combined into one piece of one part. One hundred and fifty two one. That's pretty amazing. And then if you think about blockchain, a lot of people instantly go to the topic of Bitcoin, but I think that there there's more to it. There's supply chain integrity that can be ensured by blockchain. There's secure communication that can happen between city systems and auttomous autonomous vehicles, all these things are are just so interesting to me and I would feel if I wasn't right on the edge of this, I would feel like I just didn't have a good vision of what was going on in the future. So it's amazing how much innovation truly is around us. Just a few things, as you mentioned. I mean, who would have thought of the D printed arm up until very recently, or or with covid all the people...

...popped up and made face shields, and the technology that we're using even for this meeting, the fact that we all have zoom and Webex and all the different communication methods that we have. It's pretty amazing. Yeah, and actually we've collaborated a lot at a distance without ever meeting in person. That's all because of technology. That's right. That's right. At AVOCO, one of the things that we do is take commercialized products like something like your cell phone, and then we ruggedize them for really harsh environments. The power density that's required for electronics ever the last couple of couple of years, or the last ten years, has really changed. I mean we had this flip phone that did a limited amount of processing to now everybody has a smartphone with multiple APPS and just you feel lost when it's not in your hand. And I think I told you that I walk around with two phones, one for personal and...

...one for business, just to be able to make it all happen. But our company takes these things and looks at what's required for the power density and puts more processing into a smaller space, and then they spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to cool the electronics that are that are inside of these systems. In fact, we have three hundred engineers at our company and half of the time they spend doing the design of the systems and at least half of the time they spend trying to decide what they need to do to be able to cool the systems, because things are changing so fast. We have four patents that were working on right now related to this thermal topic. They're all in process. One of them is related to chemical vapor disposition and diamond head spreaders. I mean big words that you know. Some people haven't even considered these methods of cooling. They they're more efficient than the heat...

...sinks that we had in the past or the fans and they're absolutely required. If you think about a soldier being on the ground. They need the radar, they need navigation, they need real time processing and they need to be able to do it in really harsh environments. It's amazing how much complexity is all around us, yet it's made to a peer so simple usage of the apps and very often, like writing, time feedback. You started with the example of a cell phone, and guess I'M A to cell phone person as well, and even a few years ago that was not a thing, right, that's right. But I've read, yeah, I've read somewhere that using the phone for actually talking on the phone, the cell phone is the number seven function to me. Look how our attitudes also shift with that innovation without US feeling bad. So it's also how people process it. What do you do with your people on the ground to kind of promote that sense of innovation...

...and openness to change? So I think that's very important and a culture of change is absolutely required. You need to be able to look at what's going on where you have holes. Don't change just for the chain the sake of changing, but when you see that there's a problem, you have to dig in and look at alternative ways to be able to solve those things and on my team we spend a lot of time talking through issues and then collaborating on solutions. Earlier this year we had something we were working on and we put it out there and it was a complete failure and you know my the person on my team. I told her, I said great job, great job on that failure, because we need to fail and we need to fail fast, and that failure let us see clearly what needed to be solved so that we could move to the next step. That's very important to tell my team.

You've got to have a sandbox for faders, because if you're not experimenting and failing, you're not going to learn right and bail fast. That that's really good thing. It gives you. It gets you a lot of insight. You can really build on that and it and then you know exactly what to do next, because you know what tidn work. Google has been talking a lot about psychological safety. Harvard Business School Professor Ramy Amonson has been talking about psychological safety. That that's goes hand in hand. Would openness to failing fast. Do you pay attention to that? How do you promote the fail fast culture to drive innovation? So I guess. I guess really just when somebody has a hard time with something that they're working on and it just isn't successful, it's not enough to just say okay, you failed, you feild fast, that's great. I think you have to look at what the problem was like, really investigate the reason for the failure and then record it and...

...making the notes about that and and putting it down on paper so that we know next time that there's there's potentially this issue, but now we know exactly how to resolve it. Means that we're all better because of it. And I think it depends on you know, how you respond to somebody when they bring an opportunity and it just doesn't work. If you give them a really hard time, they're probably not going to go out and put that creativity had on and try something new. They'd sink back into what they know works. And doing what you know works is great, but it's going to keep you exactly where you are, not a so true. Yeah, you talked about earlier in terms of decisionmaking, making sure that you build consensus. How do you look at consensus? How do you approach that? Absolutely, we have a lot of conversations where we bring up the ideas that we think will work...

...and the discussion. The discussion happens in the team and sometimes from people who were outside of our team as well. And if an idea pops up and it's not something that I've ever considered and it's completely in contradiction to what I've thought in the past, but it makes sense, then it's not so much that we're getting consensus as that my mind changes and I'm the one who ultimately has to deliver the decision, but my decision might not be the one that I started with. It very often includes includes different things that have come from different members of my team and extended teams. And then and then with that, another thing that I really like is the ability to have a diverse team. I think that people come from different places, they think different ways and only having a perception from one side is very limiting and when you can bring in other thoughts, I think that really does spur on creativity and then ultimately...

...action. That leads to innovation. Absolutely, and that's a hallmark of successful leaders, being open to new facts and being agilely enough to change their approach and opinion once presented with fresh facts. Absolutely absolutely so. You mentioned earlier that you're not an advocate of change for change is sake. That Ha. How do you promote that openness to change with the people that you work with day in and day out? Slowly, honestly slowly. I've found that if you bring in too much change at one time, all at the same time, then it can be very overwhelming to people. But if you introduce an amount of change that is somebody can swallow an absorb in one day and they get that under their belt, a few days later you can bring a little bit more. And I think it's important sometimes not to reveal the entire plan...

...in the front end of the project because it does seem very overwhelming. And when you say to somebody we're going to have something done by this date and they're looking at the fact that it's only a couple months in the future and they're thinking how are we going to get there? There that's impossible, you know, but it isn't as long as you thought it through. You set milestones for yourself and for your team and you work towards them and then, if they feel like they're not if they feel like they're not able to really turn that page, and get to the next level. Then you step back just a second and you you do a little bit to enable them so that they are successful in turning the page, and then once that page is turned, then we can start reading the next one. That is actually so true. Could not agree with that more. Sometimes people see the whole journey of a thousand miles and that's accomplished one step at a time and if you don't...

...come to a bridge, you're guaranteed not to cross it. So one bridge at a time. That's right. That's right. Are there any questions that you wish I'd asked you and I have not. There's one other thing that I did want to mention. At our company, with the level of innovation that we have, we want to bring one other people who are very like minded, and I was talking to our chief technical officer earlier this week and he said, at Leasta if you can mention it, please tell them that we're hiring engineers. It's okay, we're talking to the right audience. Eventually, he said systems engineers and mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and even people with background and computer science. And you know this is not for somebody who is Spain of heart. This is somebody who's ready to be right on the edge...

...of the latest technology, developing things that in ten years or still going to be relevant. It's actually, yeah, very impressive to see the ascendants of the importance of engineering again in the United States and globe. Absolutely, absolutely it is. Yeah, yes, my my favorite part of the economy, I think, lies and in the engineering technology area. Yeah, it's very exciting. I should choose. His roots are also kind of in German engineering and the precision and creativity and innovation that that requires. It's hugely important and nowadays there's also a lot of emphasis of having more female engineers. That's right. You do see a lot of that and when you think about the people graduating and being recognized for innovation awards, you see a lot of women coming up. When I when I talked to many of my colleagues, have children who are graduating college now and it's very often that their women engineers. Absolutely...

...well, it's great to see that you're part of such an innovatible organization and fostering it with great practices. Appreciate your joining us. Elicit thank you very thank you so much. Such a pleasure. Jasmin you've been listening to innovation nation. For more subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast player or connect with us on Linkedin. Thanks for listening.

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