Finding Your Everyday Innovator Style with Tamara Ghandour
In today’s episode of The Leadership Habit Podcast, Jenn DeWall sat down with author, speaker, and founder and president of Launch Street, Tamara Ghandour to discuss being and everyday innovator and her newest book, Innovation is Everybody’s Business. Innovation is Everybody’s Business is for those looking for solutions to the daily pain of how to improve our work, a reality for many people, whether they work in the C-suite or on the front lines, this book will resonate with those that recognize that being more innovative is their ticket to being indispensable. We truly enjoyed this conversation with Tamara and hope you do too.
Full Transcript Below:
Jenn DeWall: Hi everyone. It’s Jenn DeWall, and today on The Leadership Habit podcast, I am welcoming back to the show, everyday innovator Tamara Ghandour. She is going to share her new book with us. Innovation is Everybody’s Business. Tamara, thank you so much for coming back to The Leadership Habit. I loved talking to you before, and I’m so excited to share your new book with our listeners.
Tamara Ghandour: Well, I am excited too, Jenn. So this is, we’re going to dig in like we did last time and just we’re going to go where the conversation takes us. Yeah. It could be anywhere.
Jenn DeWall: And Christian will sit on the side, just wondering how long it’s going to be. So you know, for those that may not have listened to their first podcast with us, could you just do a quick refresher or just introduce yourself to those that may have never heard of you before?
Tamara Ghandour: Yeah, sure. So, hello, I’m Tamara. You’re supposed to say hi, Tamara.
Jenn DeWall: Hi Tamara.
Meet Tamara Ghandour, Innovation Expert
Tamara Ghandour: So here’s the kind of reader’s digest version. So I’ve been playing in the innovation space for 25 plus years now, and I started that journey in advertising on Madison Avenue, but really in innovation and brand strategy. And what that meant was it was my job to give companies new product and new service ideas.
So they would come to us and say, the market is shifting, or we need to serve our service, our customers better. What do we do? It was an amazing experience. We worked with the best of the best in the world to all the fortune 500 companies. Everything that you’re going to find in Target and Safeway and kind of all the box retailers.
However, over time what I came to discover was that it was a little bit of a fool’s errand because here we were these outside people coming in and saying, Hey, here’s all your new innovation. We’re going to go behind a black curtain, figure it out and come to you. And the ideas might be brilliant, but nothing ever really happened with most of those ideas. And that happened time and time again. It wasn’t just us. It was just across the board in innovation.
And I had this one experience that really made me realize that you know what? The higher impact way to go with innovation is to help people understand how to innovate. So that’s really what took me down this path of like the neuroscience and behavioral psychology and all that behind it to say, well, how can we as humans drive more innovation in everything that we do every day? How do we unlock that in ourselves? And I think more importantly, how do we get to a place where we are contributing and adding value? How do we get to a place where our voices are heard through that innovation, through that creativity. So that’s the short version of how I got to sit across the table from you today.
Jenn DeWall: No, but I love that because you bring up one of the most important things about innovation is that it’s something that we should be doing every day, no matter what our role is, what organization we work for. It’s not something that just needs to take place with a consultant behind a black curtain, and then the results appear.
Tamara Ghandour: Well yeah, and I think we have this funny kind of myth that we buy into that it’s like certain people in certain times and certain segments kind of all these certain points in time things and the reality is the best innovation happens when we’re doing the work, right? Whether that work is in front of our computer, out in the field, doing something on a construction site, you know, whatever it is that we’re doing, there are so many moments where we can contribute our incredible value to the world that right now we tend to just kind of look over and like, yeah, yeah, I’ll, I’ll just, I’ll deal with it. I’ll keep going.
But if we took a moment and said, how do I think differently about this, we could create incredible outcomes and value for ourselves and the people around us. So to your point, right, it really doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, what matters is that you have this ability in your brain that’s innate to all of us, that if we unlock, it just leads to tremendous value.
Innovation is Everyone’s Business
Jenn DeWall: So I feel like this completely segues into the title of your book. Yeah. Innovation is Everybody’s Business. So maybe expand on that a little bit about how you came to that title.
Tamara Ghandour: So, you know, it’s funny. So that is the most requested keynote. That’s how the publisher, and I kind of decided on the topic. So you’re like, Oh, well, obviously people want this. That’s what we should give them. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, that’s- is that marketing one-on-one or something like that? That’s what your marketing guests can tell you if we did that. Right. But to just to back it up kind of further for a second.
So years ago in my career, I was working in advertising, and I was actually working on a big food brand, and we had this big creative meeting where we’re going to set the strategy for the year and say, this is what this is, this is the creative strategy we’re gonna use for all our advertising, all our marketing, all our promotions. Really what that meeting was with all of us sitting around the room, everyone that touched the brand and listening to Steve. Steve was the creative director who had all the brilliant ideas. Maybe you know the guy, right? He walks down the hall, and we’re all just behind him with our notepads and our pens going, I hope he says some wisdom. Oh my gosh. Maybe I’ll write it down. I can go implement it. But that’s what the day was supposed to be.
Really. We were just there for Steve, and we had easel pads up. We had scented markers out like we were ready to capture his brilliance. Well, that day, Steve decided that he didn’t feel the mojo. So he didn’t show up to the meeting. So the clients were there. The account management is there. Accounting, media buy like everybody is there. But the one person that we thought we needed, and I failed to mention,
Jenn DeWall: Keyword- thought.
Tamara Ghandour: Exactly. And I also failed to mention that I was in charge of this meeting. So I thought my career was over because I was like the one person I was supposed to like corral into the room, did not show up. So here’s what happened. Started out with total awkward silence, right? I sat down and said, Steve’s not coming. Nobody knew what to do. Nobody said anything.
And then the person from accounting raised their hand and said, Hey, I know I’m not creative, but I’ve been seeing this interesting pattern in the numbers. And that led to an idea. And then the guy from media guy said, Hey, a media buyer. I said, Hey, I’ve been seeing our competitors doing this. And it led me to an interesting idea, and before I knew it, the entire room was bubbling with innovation, and we set an incredible creative strategy for the year that led to increased sales. Without Steve. Now, that was early, early on in my career, but it is what got me obsessed with this idea that innovation is something for everybody if we have the room for it. And I used to think that we needed Steve, right? We had to have the Steves to get that creativity. We see it on the cover of the magazines, right?
They’re cool guys and their hoodies from Silicon Valley, no offense, I grew up in that area. I love Silicon Valley, but that they aren’t the only ones that innovate. And some of the best innovation I’ve seen in my experience has been from the customer service representative, the receptionist at the desk, the operations person. It really does come from everywhere. As long as we don’t hold that one person on the pedestal and say, Oh, it’s just for Steve and sorry Steve, I’m still telling your story.
Everyone can be an Everyday Innovator
Jenn DeWall: I love that, though, because it goes back to even that leadership quote, like whether you think you’re a leader or not, you’re right. Whether you think that you’re an innovator or not, you’re right because you truly have it as something that you can contribute based on your own unique experience. You can add value. It’s not something that just has to be deferred to Steve, but it does require a level of confidence and knowledge that your idea can be shared.
Tamara Ghandour: It’s interesting that you mentioned the word confidence cause I think that’s, you know, if you would ask me a question, why did you develop the assessment that tells people how they innovate? So, right, we quantify it and then give them the tools to channel that power within them. I like to call it a superpower because I think it’s super in the fact that it leads to this incredible outcome, but ordinary and the fact that we all do it. But if you would ask me why I developed the assessment, it was exactly for that to give people a confidence to go,
Oh I’m, I am the innovative one that I am an everyday innovator. That is me. Because I think most of us were trained out of it. So we just have to work our way back in. And confidence is really step one. It’s not to say we know all the answers and that you know, we are going to step up and suddenly be the shining star. But to have the confidence to recognize, Oh, I innovate in this unique way, and that’s something that I bring to the table that nobody else can.
Jenn DeWall: See your value. And then being able to build. Because I mean even what you just talked about with that story with Steve, it was everyone working together, learning, and just building on other people’s ideas. So recognize it’s not, it doesn’t have to be a solo journey.
Innovation is a Team Sport
Tamara Ghandour: Not only does it not have to be, but it also shouldn’t be and really isn’t. So one of the things that you know, we’ve come to realize in our work is, you know, we idolize the one person, the lone innovator in the garage. But the reality is it’s just, and it’s BS. So it’s just not the case. And in fact, if you looked at any of those people that we idolize, they have teams around them that contribute, that get things done that actually add to their vision.
So innovation is a team sport. There’s, yeah, I kind of think of it like, I mean I’m a little bit of a football fan, so I think of it a little bit like football, right? The quarterback is supposed to be the best quarterback, the wide receiver, the best wide receiver, the offensive line, the best line. Like all of them have their roles, and their job is to that at their best. But their job is also to support everybody else and win together as a team. So I think to be a brilliant team, you have to be your best at yourself, but also as the team.
Jenn DeWall: So, you know, to hit back at this like, and I know we’ve touched on this a little bit, so being innovative has always been something that’s reserved for the select few, but you say that it’s for everyone. So how did you initially come to that belief? Like beyond maybe even that meeting with Steve, what are other things that you noticed in your career, throughout your expertise from over two decades of work on focusing on innovation. How else, what other data do you have that helped you come to that conclusion?
Tamara Ghandour: So when I decided to really delve into this, I actually took a step back and said, okay, I think this is true. I’m seeing it all the time. Right. in fact, let me give you just a quick story about Lisa. So Lisa was this receptionist at this company that I really wanted to work for, and I walked in and my red three-piece Ann Taylor power suit, maybe you’ve seen it. So at some point, yeah, hello the nineties, but in a scrunchie and matching shoes, I’m pretty sure of it.
But she was amazing. So she was one of these people that just at every moment would turn a challenge into an opportunity for a solution. And I walked in, and the CEO was late to meet me, he, I was supposed to interview with him. So she comes around the corner, and she goes, well the first step of the interview, Tamara, is I’m going to sit down with you, and I’m going to start off with some questions. And then when Simon’s ready you guys will meet. So she sits down with me, and we start chatting, and I think this is all part of the process, right? And then Simon comes in, and this is where I got the first clue. So Simon comes on, excuse me, Simon comes around the corner, and she jumps up, shoves the clipboard that she’d been taking notes on in his chest and goes, Simon, this very declarative tone.
Here the answers to Tamara’s questions for the pre-interview portion. You can use it as a springboard for conversation. And she doesn’t let him speak. And she shoves us in the conference room. So I have an interview with Simon, and I get the job. Three months later, I’m sitting with Lisa at this in the same conference room, and I said to her, Hey Lisa, I just wanted to let you know the reason I really wanted this job is because I thought it was super cool that everybody at the company interviewed me. You know, everyone from the receptionist to the CEO like that says a lot about the company. So she starts laughing. And she goes, Tamara, that wasn’t the process. She said, here’s the deal. She said Simon was running late, and he’s the CEO. He had fires to put out, and she said, you know, it presented a problem.
And I thought to myself, well, I can let you sit on that vinyl bench. She made a joke about my red three-piece suit. I was like, and you obviously wanted the job. You were in the power red suit. She said, or I could figure out an innovative solution right then and there and do something that made everybody look good. She said my job is to keep this place running smoothly. So that’s what I did. And if you ask Simon why that company went on to be millions of dollars in revenue and ultimately get bought out, he’ll tell you. It’s because of innovation from people like Lisa, who just did it every day, did it every day in their jobs regardless. Right?
Jenn DeWall: Without even thinking.
Innovation is a Whole-Brain Experience
Tamara Ghandour: Without even thinking. So I kept running into experiences like that and thinking, wow, this is innovation. Why are we talking about it as this magical thing that’s only about technology in certain people? So I kept seeing this. So then I decided I need to understand like what’s really going on here? And here’s what I discovered. This is the part that I thought was so cool. All of us have the structure for innovation in our brains. So it’s not something that only a few people have. And here’s the part that is really good for people like me who did not get good grades. It turns out the neuroscience shows that the structure for intelligence and the structure for innovation are actually two different things. So think of intelligence as like superhighways, deep lanes, and grooves. Think of innovation as loose side roads all connected together. So innovation is actually a whole-brain experience, and one does not rely on the other. So how smart you are does not impact your ability to innovate.
Yeah, there’s like a baseline at the bottom. But in general we actually all have the ability, the science actually shows it. And then on top of that, our brains are super flexible. They’re kind of like a muscle. They’re not really a muscle, but it acts like one in this way. And basically, the more we flex it, the stronger it gets. And it’s pliable, which means that if we teach it new things or look at things in a different way, it actually stretches and grows with us. So the science actually shows that innovation is 100% possible for all of us. And if we look around us at any given time, there are hotspots of innovation happening everywhere.
Jenn DeWall: Yes! I love that whole point that you just made because I think people do often correlate or associate innovation and intelligence. Whereas you could actually argue that the more intelligent than you are in some ways, the deeper your expertise, the less innovative you actually are because you’ve stopped seeing solutions you’ve started adhering to.
Tamara Ghandour: You’ve almost gone too deep. Right? Yeah. That’s interesting. I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but you’re absolutely right. It’s, it’s intelligence is brilliant, right? It’s are superhighways, but all those side roads are what leads you to new and interesting findings and different ways to look at things. Have you ever gotten lost? And even if you’re like,
Jenn DeWall: Yes, I’m probably lost right now!
Tamara Ghandour: But you know, you notice things that you never saw before, even in areas that you’ve been in. So you’re like, oh, I never noticed that billboard before. Oh, I never noticed that store on the corner. Oh, I’ve never noticed that. So that’s what happens when we travel those loose side roads in our brain. We see things in a whole different way versus being on that superhighway, which is very just like point a to point B, gosh, I love this conversation so well, and I think that’s why it’s, I think that’s why a lot of what we do really resonates with people’s because we’re not saying here’s a new tool and here’s a new process. We’re saying, Hey, you have this hard wiring in your brain. We’ve got to go for some resistors, which we can talk about if we have the time.
But you’ve got the ability. It just might be a little bit dusty because you haven’t focused on it for a while. I think Dolly Parton, who’s one of my favorite people in the world if you’re listening to Dolly, I love you, call me. But I think she said it best. She’s, it was something to the effect of, “Figure out who you are and then do it on purpose.” And I might be botching that a little bit, but the point is the same. And with how we innovate, it’s the same thing. Figure out how you innovate, figure out how that lights you up, but do it on purpose every single day and just start flexing those muscles.
What is an Everyday Innovator Style?
Jenn DeWall: So you said every day and the title of your book obviously like brings in every day. What is an everyday innovator style?
Tamara Ghandour: Ooh, so here’s the part that’s cool. Your style and my style are totally different. And in fact, our brains are as unique as our thumbprint, so no two are the same how we’re wired. So if you think about all the experiences and perspectives that go into it, right, it makes a lot of sense. But what we discovered in our research, kind of digging into neuroscience is that there are nine triggers of innovation.
We call them triggers because they activate innovation in your brain. But nine ways that we as humans can innovate. And your style- Yeah. And it ranges from everything from being a risk-taker, which means you like to get uncomfortable and, in fact, innovate best in those uncomfortable moments to people who are more collaborative in how they innovate. Meaning they pull disparate people and ideas and experiences together to make innovation happen, to futuristics, which are all about ten steps ahead and being in tomorrow land.
So we are some combination of that. So your everyday innovator style is unique to you. It’s the top two power triggers. So the way you innovate the most, the most natural, the strongest. It’s your wellspring of innovation. So it’s those two plus a dormant trigger, which is how you innovate the least. So I’ll give you an example of mine just to kind of bring it to life. So my power triggers are risk-taker and experiential. So, and you know me a little bit, it kind of makes sense, right? Like I like to get uncomfortable. I’m willing to lead when other people tend to get held back. That’s how I innovate, right? I innovate in those uncomfortable moments. It’s not to say other people aren’t risk-takers in the sense of like willing to be daring and try new things. But that’s my innovation zone. Like if I leave,
Jenn DeWall: Some people don’t love risk. I mean most humans, yeah, they kind of run from it. So it takes a different type of skillset to be able to embrace it.
Tamara Ghandour: It does. And I, and I think that for those of us who find it, who discovered that we’re risk-takers on the assessment realize that that’s not only a willingness for us, it’s where we play at our strongest and where we innovate the most. So put me in an uncomfortable situation, and I’m good because I’m going to actually find the innovation in that space, in that space. And then for me, experiential is all about learning emotion. So experientials are all about the tangible, the touching, the feeling like seeing it in 360 you have, you innovate by doing. So for me to hold back and keep stuff in my brain, like everything, every idea I’ve ever had is duct tape and paper somewhere in my desk because I have to visualize it to innovate.
But when I get it out of my head, I can create incredible things. Now, not every idea moves forward, but, but that’s how I innovate. My dormant trigger is collaborative, which when I first took the assessment I was like, but I like people I don’t understand. Hold on. No, this can’t be right. Like I built the assessment. I should be good at everything that is happening here. But as I said earlier, collaboratives pull in nuggets and create a whole innovation. They’re brilliant at that. I bring ideas to about 80 and 90%, and then I get feedback. So I don’t innovate- as well if you put me in a brainstorm, totally cold where I’ve got to pull stuff out of people, I actually go a little bit like, like a deer in the headlights. I’m like, Oh no, like this is not. But if you asked me to get uncomfortable and think about things and play with things and then put me in the brainstorm, I’m great.
Tamara Ghandour: So we all have these different ways of doing it and an understanding that I can create a work and a life and, and a method that works for me and brings out the best in me as much as I can. And then you can do the same for your team.
Jenn DeWall: Now, for those of you or for those that are listening that aren’t aware or don’t have any idea about this assessment, tell us how you can get this assessment. Where is it? So understand that for yourself.
Tamara Ghandour: Super simple. All you have to do is our website. So gotolaunchstreet.com and its there, and you can take it, and it’s great because it takes five-ish minutes online, ask you a bunch of questions, and then you’ll get your results and find out your everyday innovator style. So it’s really exciting. It’s great to see the light bulb go off for people.
I think, you know, I gave myself as an example, but the reason I love it is that other people get to figure out their value and their uniqueness. And I’ll give you a quick example. Her name is Kelly. She works with the Army research lab. So talk about a highly structured, regulated, this is how we do things kind of environment. Now they have this incredible leadership that recognized if they were going to stay ahead of the game, they needed to really get out of the silos, and they needed to bring more innovation to everybody. So these are the people that are responsible for keeping our soldiers safe technology like an advantage on the battlefield, right? So they’ve got big jobs. So there’s all these researchers and scientists and people doing amazing things with robots and chemicals and whatever. And there’s the operation staff, which is where Kelly was.
So they weren’t considered the innovative ones at first because they’re not the ones right in the, in the labs, which is structured, they’re too routine, and their job is to process, right? Ultimately her job is to keep that, those operations moving efficiently. So Kelly took the assessment along with a lot of people, and the ops team and a couple of generals, which is by no means intimidating when you’re standing in front of them and their fatigues. I was not intimidated at all. Kelly realized she’s a collaborative tweaker style. So here are two things that she did. So in realizing that she set up these cohorts with her teammates cause they were in the silos. So she broke down silos in the organization, helped them share best practices and challenges, and actually leverage each other better. And she gets to be more innovative because she’s pulling from disparate people and ideas all the time.
So she set herself up for success and also broke down silos in the organization when she realized, Oh, this is my superpower. Like this is how I innovate. And then with the tweaker side, so for tweakers they’re all about editing and evolving and optimizing. So they are, they bring brilliant optimized innovation to things that already started. So Kelly is brilliant when things are stuck, right? Someone started something, and they’ve hit a brick wall, they don’t know what to do next. Kelly realizes about herself. So now you better believe that the minute she sees a project that’s stalled, she puts herself in the situation to be on that project. Because she knows as the tweaker side of her, and that’s how she innovates it. She’s going to move them forward. So she, to me, is, I just, I really admire her because she’s a brilliant example of someone who said, Oh my gosh, this is how I innovate. I’m going to do this intentionally. And in doing that, she’s recognized by leadership all the time, and she’s made a huge impact across the organization.
A Mental Model for Innovation
Jenn DeWall: I love the story of Kelly. I mean, he was going back with where we started our interview today, thinking about how confidence plays into being an everyday innovator, but then she quickly identified through the assessment what her strengths are and then started to lean into them, which helps build their confidence. And the other piece that I like that you just talked about is the celebration of where innovation can occur and how you can impact it in the process. Whether you’re the one that champions the idea or comes in when things are stuck, there’s value in. You need everyone at different pieces. But one of the things that I want to ask about, because I know that it comes back to confidence, it comes back to what you would call in your book a mental model that we have to have.
So you’re adamant that what we’re going to talk about is not just another tool or process. We’ve seen tons of them, but it’s a mental model about how we can approach innovation. Why not just give people another tool? Why focus on the mental model?
Tamara Ghandour: you know, here’s the thing with tools, right? They’re easy. They feel like shortcuts. You think, Oh, I mean, we see this across as magic, right? Whether it’s collaboration or weight loss like you see, it was like, Oh, just give me the tool, and I’ll apply it. But I think we all know that 95% of that doesn’t work and it doesn’t work. Because we’re not, we don’t have the mental model to actually do it. But let me share an example with you that happened recently. So I’m at the airport. I’ve been on the road for 12 days. Right? You’ve experienced that, you know the mindset you’re in, right? Where you’re sitting in the waiting room and, or the waiting room, or the terminal. Waiting. I call it a waiting room.
I was like my usual lounge. There’s my seat. So I’m sitting there, I’ve got one person on each side of me, so there’s three of us and our plane or the terminal thing. The little sign is doing the whole like delayed 20 minutes delayed 40 minutes, right. Delayed 60 minutes. Like I can see it coming, the flights getting canceled, and I’m frustrated as I’ll get out because I said I’ve been on the road forever. I just want to get home. I want to sleep in my bed, and I want to curl up with my dog. I want to see my kids. Like I, I’m not in airports, don’t bring out the best in me. So I’m just going to say that out loud. Now if you see me at the airport, I’m sorry, I apologize. But the cancellations line goes on and over. The muted speaker, you know, the person’s like a flight has been canceled, and all of his Denver people are like, Oh my God.
So the guy on one side of me says, well, this is totally out of my control—nothing I can do. I’m just going to go have a drink at a bar. He goes over. He gets a flight out, two days later, the person on the other side of me gets all irate. They can’t do this to me. How dare they? I need to get home tonight. I need someone to complain to. I’m getting in line, and I am telling them everything that I think about this, right? So it gets in line with every other enraged passenger and gets up to them, I think, okay, it must take him an hour and a half to get to the front. And he also gets on a plane two days later. So I’m sitting there, and I’m going, okay, well this isn’t fun, but I’m at a major airport, so there’s gotta be other flights to Denver.
It’s not the weather, right? It was mechanical. So there’s gotta be other flights. So here’s what I’m gonna do, right? There’s gotta be an opportunity here somewhere. So I’m going to get online with customer service, and I’m going to go on the website and go onto Kayak and every other app. So I’m gonna do it all at once and see what, what ha, what kind of pops open first. So I find a flight 30 minutes leaving 30 minutes later on the other side of the terminal, book it go rushing down the terminal, make it as we’re about to close the doors, and I get home at like one o’clock in the morning. So I got home late, but I got home. The reason I share that is not to say I’m some amazing traveler because I am not, I don’t like to travel, and I’m never in a good mindset, but each of us had a very different mental model at that moment.
One guy’s mental model was things are outside of my control. I can’t do anything about it. Right? I just got to go about my day and whatever happens, happens. The other mental model was, Oh my gosh. This is a disaster. This is horrible. I’m never going to be able to solve this. Those two mental models lead to bad results on the backend, right? Right. So our mental, our mental models are what drive how we behave. It’s not just how we think. It’s how we behave and how we act. So if we have a bad mental model, it sabotages our behavior. If you always think the negative is coming, the negative is always coming. If you think there isn’t an opportunity, there isn’t an opportunity. So a bad mental model equals bad actions, and a strong mental model equals strong actions, right? So when I think about innovation, what I think about is layering on a mental model on all of our brains actually allows us to see that there’s an opportunity to think differently about what’s right in front of us.
That there’s an opportunity for something to happen differently for there to be a new solution, not to say it’s always the solution you want. I didn’t want to run across the airport and sweat and then jump in the middle seat and get home late. Like none of that was fun. But, but the mental model drives the action. So for us in this book and the Innovation is Everybody’s Business. It was really important to me that people understood that I’m not trying to give you another tool for the toolbox. It’s going to get dusty, and you’re going to put it aside. I really wanted people to understand that if they had this ability to see how they innovate and then layered on that mental model to see that in front of them every day, that they can create powerful outcomes and everything.
Jenn DeWall: It’s all starts with you and your mindset. Yeah. How you’re approaching that situation. I think that’s a great example because how often as a leader do you see maybe someone else taking a path one way, and then you see another person doing it another, and then you might go a different way, but it is all up to you. What path do you want to take? What is one going to yield that result or outcome that you seek? It’s important to take responsibility, to understand that. Also a no, I mean, I love this expression like for an entrepreneur, like you eat no’s for breakfast. So a no from my airline and saying that your canceled means okay, I guess I’ll give up. I know for someone else means, okay, well maybe there’s just another way.
Tamara Ghandour: Exactly. And again, I might’ve been stuck there for two days. I can’t control the outcome of, you know, what the airplanes do, but I can control how I, not just how I respond to things, but how I act and how I follow up if I think of my myself in a leadership role now if I have a mindset that Hey, innovation is possible, we can do more with less. Our resources, we can look at that a little bit different then we can create different outcomes. And when we look at teams in business who do incredibly well, there’s a, there’s a couple of factors, but one of them is they see innovation as part of their jobs every single day. And they see the opportunities that can create has nothing to do with resources or you know, the backing of the C suite. I mean, all that stuff comes into play at some point, but it is not the driving factor of why some teams and why some businesses are successful.
Everyday Innovation Starts With You
Jenn DeWall: Innovation starts with you.
Tamara Ghandour: It totally does. And then it like ladders up the team, and when everybody’s doing it, it’s like a party.
Jenn DeWall: Oh my gosh. Just think about what that is. But it is taking that responsibility that you too can do it and that you’re responsible for attributing to it. You can’t just leave that to someone else as well. It’s your responsibility to leverage that and see how you can add value to the team.
Tamara Ghandour: Well, I think in being innovative is a choice. And by choice, I mean you can choose to unlock that part of yourself or you can not, but that’s up to you. So when I meet people who say to me, well, I’m not innovative, or I don’t like, this isn’t for me, what they’re really saying is I’m choosing not to put the effort in to make that happen. And I’m sorry to those people out there that have said that to me. But that’s the reality, right? Because science shows us that everybody can do it.
So there’s really no out if like talking to my kids like there’s no out in this here. Like it is what it is, but it’s our decision to make it happen. And that’s why I think you know, in the book we have a lot of, I call them innovator experiments cause the mind likes experimentation more than activities. So you say to someone, we’re going to experiment on this and that person’s brain goes, Ooh, discovery. Interesting. Let’s see what happens. But if you say, I have an activity or a task. Your brain goes, Ooh, that’s a lot of energy. I don’t. I don’t want to do that. That’s a lot of work. Let’s not. So it’s also at the subconscious level, but they’re experiments in here because I want people to put innovation into action. I want to give them the ability to make it happen. But it starts with this mindset and understanding of here’s how I innovate and, and yeah, I believe I can do it, and I’m going to make it happen.
Jenn DeWall: So how does unlocking your everyday innovation like your everyday innovation style help you in a time that’s defined maybe by dizzying rates of change? Like right now, where technology is forcing us to think about doing things differently or, there’s continuous disruption, and there’s just so many impacts. Like how, how does unlocking your everyday innovator style help you succeed in this new environment that most businesses and leaders are operating in?
Tamara Ghandour: Yeah, it’s a little bit crazy town, isn’t it? Because we, that the rates of change are so fast yet they’re only getting faster. So the moment we’re sitting here right now, having this conversation is the slowest it’s going to be in the next 20 years. Like it’s not gonna slow down. It’s, it’s, it’s almost mind-blowing when you think about it. But I, I think that the, let me back up and make one point first, which is, you know, we talk about change and disruption and these big case studies, right?
Jenn DeWall: Buzzwords, too, right?
Tamara Ghandour: Total buzzwords. It drives me a little bit bonkers because it’s like, Oh, like these companies went under and Oh, this person found themselves irrelevant. But, I think the thing that we have to recognize is that underneath kind of these big media statements and case studies are people being drastically affected by it. So our relevancy in work, our life cycle for that is shorter than it’s ever been because of change, right? Because we have to keep up with it. We have to be. We have to adapt. Being adaptive is now part of our work, right?
It’s not, it’s not something we could kind of rely on maybe once and then move on. So I think we have to recognize how personal change really is. That it’s not just about the big case studies is really is about us as individuals and how we manage it. Now, I totally lost track of your original question because I went down that path. What was your question? I.
Unlocking Your Everyday Innovator Style
Jenn DeWall: No, I mean, if you like, how does unlocking your everyday innovator style help you navigate these circumstances?
Tamara Ghandour: So thank you. I got off on the track of like how personal it is because I do because I have so many one on one conversations with people like that’s all great tomorrow that these businesses don’t exist. But here’s what I’m personally dealing with. So there’s a couple of layers to it. So layer one is when you understand how you innovate, and you apply that you actually get to work smarter, not harder.
Jenn DeWall: So smarter, not harder. That means less time, less resources, but the same result or better results.
Tamara Ghandour: So I think oftentimes we work hard, right? We double down, it’s a little bit like being stuck in a riptide in the ocean. It’s like you think swimming harder’s the way out, but actually swimming sideways is how you get out of the riptide. So you see people flailing, flailing, flailing, and actually, I write about that experience in the book because I almost drowned when I was 12 trying to double down, but it doesn’t get us anywhere. So we’ve got to shift and bring innovation in. When we do that, we get actually much stronger results, better results because we’re thinking differently, which means we’re not tackling the same challenge over and over again. It means our results are more meaningful. So we’re working smarter, not harder. So that’s number one.
The second thing is we perform at our peak more often. So have you ever had that moment where actually it can even be hours where you’re in that state of flow as we talk about, right? And like the world around you disappears and time goes away, and you’re just, you are in it, and you’re giving your best work, and it’s like, Oh, the clouds part, and…
Jenn DeWall: And it feels effortless!
Tamara Ghandour: Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you said that. Yes. Effortless. When we unlock innovation, that’s how we get into the state of flow. And the cool part is, is this wonderful cycle. So we do an activity as we have in the book, or actually, I should say experiment, not activity. We do an experiment as we have in the book that gets you into your mindset, whether you’re collaborative or tweaker, or whatever you are, right? We have things specific to you that get you into that mindset.
You get into the state of flow that actually leads to a solution and an idea that a-ha thing, like that feeling of accomplishment that you get when you’ve been in that zone and working so well, and you know what you’re producing is so amazing. So that then leads to releasing dopamine and feel-good in your brain. So it actually being innovative taps your reward center, which I think is awesome because who doesn’t want that more often, right? Like that’s why when we solve a sticky challenge, even if it’s like figuring out how to get into your house, when you’ve locked yourself out, like something little like that or some major thing at work, when we actually innovate and create a problem-solve, we tap that center in our brain because we’re in that state of flow. And it feels really good. So why wouldn’t we want that more often?
So when you look at actually job engagement and productivity and happiness is there’s actually a direct correlation to being innovative and the room and the ability to do that. So on the individual level, right? We work smarter, not harder. We perform at our peak. We get in that state of flow. We tap our reward center. And then I think at the team level. It also allows us to leverage each other and for people to leverage the best in us, which, as I think, as we all know, right? We said it earlier. You can’t do it alone. So, and who wants to really? We’re humans, and we’re tribal. We kind of want to be together, but I, but understanding how we innovate our everyday style actually helps us then leverage each other.
Tapping into Your Everyday Innovator Style
Jenn DeWall: So, what’s an example of someone’s everyday innovation style? Or I guess how, I mean, what type of things come to mind when you think about someone that was able to tap into their innovation and like what type of, I guess results or success did they create?
Tamara Ghandour: Yeah. So I’m going to give you a team example. Because this was recent. I was actually a Colorado company, so his name was Morty. He’s the leader of the team, and he’s an imaginative, I know what a great name, right? I did the look on her face. It’s like, I know. He’s like, yeah, I think my grandparents named me. I was like, Aw, that’s so sweet. So he’s an imaginative-futuristic, and he is responsible for a team of about 25 that does operational excellence, excellence for the company. So that means that they audit processes across the company and to figure out how to improve them to make everybody’s lives better. Right inside the company. This is not the sexiest position. This is not the customer-facing one; it’s not marketing or sales, right? These are in the guts of the company. So I went out, and I led a workshop for them.
Tamara Ghandour: And so Morty is this imaginative-futuristic, and he’s standing at the front of his team. We’ve done all these really fun exercises with M & M’s actually, to help them understand how they innovate their different styles in the room and as he imagined a future futuristic. He said, Hey guys, I have a question. What’s our biggest challenge? What’s the thing that we’re constantly facing? And like they’d have this conversation a hundred times. Everybody in the room said how to get the stuff we need in a timely manner and fast enough from our clients, which are the other internal.
Jenn DeWall: Did they even think about how to do that in a different way if they memorize it? Right?
Tamara Ghandour: I mean all of them, right? Like they all said that at the same time, I just almost fell over laughing. But it was clearly their biggest challenge is getting what they need to do their jobs. Right. I mean, we’ve all been in that position, so he’s a futuristic and he said, Hey, what if we thought differently? Like what if we thought with the end in mind, right? Total futuristic, like let’s go to tomorrow land, and we’ll work our way backward. And he said, what if we thought of something totally new? So that’s the imaginative side, which is all about the novel than the gaps. So he throws that out there and then someone who’s an inquisitive, raise their hands and they’re all about innovating in the questions, not the answers, digging deep, pulling back layers of the onion. He goes, that inquisitive goes, what if we’ve been thinking about this wrong? What if there’s a different way to think about this? Like why do we just assume that’s the way it has to be? Brilliant, inquisitive, everyday innovator style right there, right? Then the collaborative-tweaker. Steven was actually his name.
He goes, Oh yeah, cause now he’s heard from all these different people, and he can optimize it. He goes, I have an idea. What if we started with how do we have everything we need at the beginning? What if that’s the problem we try to solve? So they went through the room, and all these different perspectives, tapping the power of the diversity of thinking in the room came together to realize, Hey, there’s a different way to solve our biggest challenge. They took that starting point and then created whole new processes out of it that’s going to ultimately save the company millions of dollars, not just in time, but also in resources and actual dollars. So that to me is a great example because of the imaginative, futuristic look to the future. And I was like, what’s possible with the forest through the trees? And then the inquisitive dug deep and said, let’s challenge assumptions.
And then the collaborative-tweaker was like, Hey, let me build on what you’re saying. So I love them as a team because, to me, that was, they just, they embraced the fact that, Hey, we all do this differently and let’s leverage each other. And then all of them just at that moment did it, I mean, honestly, Jenn, all I did was facilitate the conversation. They had all the brilliance, and it was awesome to watch.
Jenn DeWall: Well, absolutely. And you’re watching them leverage their own individual strengths in your book. Innovation is Everybody’s Business. You talk about everyday innovation and how it can be used for a competitive advantage. And clearly, that’s one example of how that team then could create something that saved the company. They ended up being more agile or saving and resources. What are other things that you’ve noticed by people embracing more of that like everyday innovator style??
Everyday Innovators Know that Small Innovations can Bring Big Results
Tamara Ghandour: So I’m going to give you an example. Someone, actually I interviewed on my podcast, I’m a while back now—Mike Dubin, who’s the founder of Dollar Shave Club. So so I don’t know if you use Dollar Shave Club for those who haven’t heard of it or don’t know of it, right? You get, it’s a razor subscription model. So here’s the thing about dollar shave club. So I don’t know about you, but buying a razor is the most frustrating experience ever. Right? I was there the other day, and I was looking at the razor aisle, and I was like, why is it one blade and a pivoting head and two blades and a moisture strip and three blades and two blades like I don’t even know.
Jenn DeWall: And how do I remember what razor I buy because I will buy the wrong razor heads?
Tamara Ghandour: But here’s the thing, when Mike came onto the scene, there was no innovation in that category. In fact, everybody was trying to one-up each other. It was like three blades turned to four blades, which went to five blades and a pivoting head like it just, it was getting ridiculous. So I interviewed Mike, and I said to him, Hey, how did you come up with Dollar Shave Club? So when Dollar Shave Club came on the scene, it was like you could only buy razors in the grocery store, and it was a razor blade, right? You bought the razor, and then you refill the razor blades. That’s how the companies made their money. He comes along, and he says, no, no, I’m going to do a subscription model. In fact, I’m not going to make the product better. In fact, it’s just a single blade, but I’m going to deliver it to your doorstep every month.
So I asked him, I said, well, how did you come up with this idea? I mean, you took on the Titans of the industry at the time, right? And that was at the time when subscription models were not as common as it is now. In fact, barely anyone was doing it. So like did you come up with this? And he said a couple of really interesting things I think relate to your question. One he said was, here’s the deal, Tamara, I, I’d be talking with friends, and we’d have these ridiculous conversations about how frustrating buying a razor was. Like why is buying a razor so hard? And he said, you know, I thought to myself, I can take the frustration out of this. There’s got to be a way to do this. But here’s where I think thinking differently about what’s right in front of you to create an advantage.
This is where I think Mike did it brilliantly. He said, you know, I could’ve come up with a better razor, right? Something that like, you know, maybe talk to you and told you your vital stats and like some ridiculousness because that’s where the industry was headed. This is your blood pressure. And he said, or I could think a little bit differently. And he looked at some other business models and said, what if I just made this a subscription model? So he didn’t change the product, he changed the distribution path. That’s it. That’s all he did. It’s a tiny little innovation that led to being bought out for $4 billion by Unilever in 2016. So, right. So to me, Mike is a great example of every day being an incredible everyday innovator because all he did was think a little bit differently about what was right in front of him.
How do I take the frustration out, and how do I deliver this product in a way that’s meaningful to customers and that nobody else is doing? Because here’s the thing, and this is another thing that I think having understanding how you innovate your everyday innovator style where this really helps, we get stuck in something I call the ER trap. So it was like -er, right? It’s like better, faster, or stronger or smoother. Like we always try to find all the -er, right? We all try to out ER each other. At the end of the day, the problem is you’re on a hamster wheel, and you’re doing the same thing over and over again because your competition can out ER you tomorrow, and then it just, you leapfrog from there, right? But you’re staying on the same kind of path together. It’s hard to win by just being better.
Tamara Ghandour: You have to be different and innovative in today’s market, but the beauty is you don’t have to be blue skies breakthrough. You just have to do something small like Mike Dubin did.
Jenn DeWall: Small, which can yield gigantic results, $4 billion. And I think that’s the great thing about innovation that is probably the misconception that you see is that people think that it needs to be something grand and has to go and align with those buzzwords that we know like disruptive and it’s something that’s so novel whereas it’s not that. It’s just applying a different way of looking at it.
Tamara Ghandour: And if we look at any of us, and listeners- look at the brands and businesses we love, chances are they just did something a little bit different that really spoke to us. That’s really what being an everyday innovator is. You know, it’s not, it’s usually not the big technology that we’re like, Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. It’s just this little thing that made all the difference. And frankly, I know, I think we have this tendency of thinking that like innovation in technology, new products or maybe like clever marketing and it can be all those things. But as all the examples I’ve shared, it’s everything else. And you know, I even, and.
Jenn DeWall: There’s not just one track.
Tamara Ghandour: No, it’s not one track. And then, the introduction of this book, I use that to kind of set up the framework for the book. Like how do you think about this book? Because I didn’t want it to be just another toolkit. And one of the things I talk about in there is I do not share stories about Steve Jobs. Elon Musk, even JK Rowling, love all those people. They’re brilliant innovators. But, but that’s not the rest of us. Right? And the rest of us have this incredible opportunity to be innovators in the way that works for us and the lives that we lead.
We don’t need to be like them. In fact, we’re not. And one of the neuroscientists I interviewed for my book said it best. He said creativity is common; genius is rare. And we confuse the two. We’re all creatives. We’re all, I use the word innovative for a lot of other reasons, but regardless of what word you use, it’s actually common. We all do it. We look at those geniuses and mistakes that we have to be like them, but we don’t. That’s their thing. And good for them. I love what Tesla’s doing, but totally different.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. And we don’t have to compare ourselves to that. The more that you compare, the more that you’re likely building, I would say, like bad judgments or just things that are going to detract from your ability to actually be innovative.
Tamara Ghandour: So you’re a while back when I was working in consulting, I had this incredible boss named Alpa Pandya. So, hi, Alpa! She’s the best. I’m still in touch with her today, and I was at a place in my career. Kind of to your point about being like other people where I thought that in order to be successful, I needed to be like the leaders in my company, right? So super buttoned-up, always professional, never a smile like that. It was a great company, but that was kind of what the professional person at the time was supposed to look like. So I tried really hard to be that person. And you, I mean, you can all hear me now. I’m not that person. Like I cannot, not smile. It’s just doesn’t work like this. I want to embrace myself for what I did. And for the longest time I was trying to, something that I thought was a person you needed to be like, step into those shoes, fake it till you make it, like all that right.
And I did fine, but I was just fine. I was fine. And I’ll never forget one day, and I write about this more in-depth in the book. I was sitting in Alpa’s office, and the real me came out, sure what happened. And I had a like, Oh, no moment. I was like, Oh God, Oh my God, she now knows that I’m actually this kind of crazy risk-taker experiential person. Oh no. And she embraced it and I just never forget her at that moment, that realization of like, Oh, Oh, there’s actually value in my uniqueness. And Alpa was one of those people who saw that uniqueness, and everybody pulls that out of them and recognize them for that uniqueness and what they could bring to the table. And I think it’s really powerful when we understand what’s unique about us and actually bring it to the world and really meaningful ways. And I think sometimes we get, and I totally suffered from this at multiple times in my life, but we get trapped in this, I need to be like someone else.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. It’s so easy to live in that.
Anyone can be an Everday Innovator
Tamara Ghandour: And all the posts you see out there are top 10 ways to be an innovator. Top 10 things used to be like Steve jobs, right? I know what Beyonce does in the morning that you can too! I love you, Beyonce, but no, not happening. So I don’t talk about any of those, any of those people, my book, there are in none of my stories. I specifically say that not because I don’t admire what they do, but because we need to be us. And that that is the best value we can bring, and that’s the highest impact we can make because only us, like only Jenn, has Jenn’s point of view and Jenn’s strengths and only Tamara has Tamara’s. So the book hopefully gives people that mental model for being able to unleash that into the world.
Jenn DeWall: What would be the piece of advice that you would want people to take from your book? If you think about those everyday innovators? Like what do you want them to walk away knowing?
Tamara Ghandour: Ooh, I feel like that was the Oprah couch question. I think I actually think there’s really two things. One is, is it innovation is possible for all of us, and for you specifically, whoever you are picking up the book. And the book is 268 pages of the mindset and the rationale and the science and the style and the stories that I think really prove that. So I really hope to change people’s views on what innovation really is. And I hope that they walk away going, Oh my gosh, I am innovative, I’m just as innovative as everybody else. I just am going to do it in my way, and I can apply it to my world. I have this crazy dream of unleashing 1 million everyday innovators into the world because I think if a million of us understood how we drove that or how we innovate and bring that to the world, the problems we could solve, the opportunities we could create, the satisfaction we’d all feel like, I think we could actually shift.
I think we could shift the world if we all kind of had that inside of us and brought it out. So that’s the first thing I want people to realize like, Hey, this is me. Like I am an everyday innovator just like everybody else. This is not for a select few. And the second thing is what, and we’ve talked a little bit about this throughout. I really hope that people understand and come to realize that innovation is right in front of them. So I think, you know, our definition is thinking differently about what’s right in front of you to create an advantage. So it can be the stay at home mom, the stuff she deals with. It’s the leader that’s got the team that needs to drive new results. It is the, you know, a worker at the counter who’s trying to have a stronger voice because they’re like, Hey, I’ve got ideas. Even though I’m only a part-time cashier, you know it, it is possible in everything that we do.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. So those are, I think, great. But that’s, those are the great parting messages that people, I think, really want. I really hope that our listeners walk away understanding that because there’s a lot of value in your book. Thank you so much for taking the time and walking through your book. Innovation is everybody’s business. For those of you that have enjoyed the conversation with Tamara today, you can get her book on Amazon. You can also find it at gotolaunchstreet.com. If you want to order a set of books for a group or organization, Tamara will also throw in additional freebies that come with that, so I would definitely check out gotolaunchstreet.com Tamara, thank you so much for sharing with us your insight on how we can all be every day innovators.
Tamara Ghandour: Well, thank you for having me. It is always nice to be surrounded by other everyday innovators because we all have it, so thank you.
Thank you for listening to today’s episode of the leadership habit podcast with Tamara Ghandour. You can find her newest book, Innovation is Everybody’s Business, on Amazon. If you want to learn more about how you can become a better innovator, how about over to gotolaunchstreet.com. There you can book Tamara to speak for your organization and find additional resources on how to move innovation efforts forward. If you liked today’s episode, please share it with your friends, and don’t forget to write us a review and rate it on your favorite podcast streaming service.