Innovation Junkies Podcast

Innovation Junkie Origin Story

Welcome to the Innovation Junkies Podcast! To kick things off, we’ll introduce you to our hosts, Jeff Standridge and Jeff Amerine, and share our experiences that launched into Innovation Junkie. Expect tips, tricks, tactics, & strategies from movers & shakers in the world of innovation, strategic growth, and organizational leadership. Here we go!

Jeff Standridge: This is Jeff Standridge and this is the Innovation Junkies Podcast. If you want to drastically improve your business or improve in growth strategy and generate sustained results for your organization, you’ve come to the right place. Over the next half hour we’re going to be sharing specific strategies, tactics, and tips that you can use to grow your business, no matter the size, no matter the industry, no matter the geography. We’ll be talking about everything from sales and marketing, to organizational, operational and leadership effectiveness, to innovation, digital transformation, and everything in between. Routinely, we’ll bring in a top mover and shaker, someone who’s done something unbelievable with his or her business, we’ll dig deep. We’ll uncover specific strategies, tactics and tools that they’ve used to help you achieve your business goals. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies Podcast.

Jeff Standridge: Hi guys, Jeff Standridge here, I’m here with my colleague Jeff Amerine. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies Podcast.

Jeff Amerine: God, it’s great to be here. We’re kicking off something brand new that should be exciting to this audience, I can’t wait to get into it.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, I’m the same way. This is something we’ve been talking about for some time. Many of you may be listeners to the Startup Junkies Podcast, which Jeff Amerine and his team have been running for… How long now Jeff? Three, four, five years?

Jeff Amerine: I don’t know, I think we started when cable TV was invented. Might’ve been 1982? Seems like it. No, it was about five years ago, 2015.

Jeff Standridge: About five years ago, fantastic. Well, let’s talk a little bit about this podcast, help our listeners understand what they can expect from you and me, but maybe before we do that, let’s talk a little bit about how each of us came to the world of innovation, how about you start?

Jeff Amerine: You’d have to pick on me first wouldn’t you? Well-

Jeff Standridge: And I’m going to be doing that a lot over the course of this.

Jeff Amerine: My innovation journey really… I bet you will. My innovation journey really started when I was in the military, in the air force. The last assignment I had, I was at Hanscom Field, which is in Massachusetts, not far from Boston. And we were working to upgrade and modernize the communications and the command and control systems for the nuclear triad. Got involved with project management, with R&D, with advanced electronics, with communications and all that, and that was the first step into system engineering, product management, international business role for a bunch of years with Westinghouse Electric. Where we worked on cutting edge stuff, some of which became the precursor to digital cellular, to satellite communications, worked on things that were related to SiriusXM, back before they were called that and a variety of other things.

But that’s how it all got started and then catch the bug and you get involved in technical leadership roles along the way, which I did, and both on the consulting side, new products, international telecommunications, doing some innovative things for trucking companies along the way. And then finally running the technology commercialization function for the University of Arkansas for a bunch of years. For me, innovation has always been a part of the job, trying to figure out how to do new things, whether it was in the startup setting or Fortune 500. What about you Jeff?

Jeff Standridge: Well, interestingly, I come to the world of entrepreneurship and innovation from that of being, what I call, an entrepreneur and a change agent. So I spent my time, first of all, in healthcare about 10 or 12 years. Paramedic on the streets, respiratory therapist on a helicopter team with one of the largest children’s hospitals in Arkansas, in the country rather, Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Ended up becoming a professor at the University of Arkansas for medical sciences and when I chose to go to graduate school, I knew I didn’t want to do another clinical degree, so I chose a doctorate in leadership and organizational behavior effectively. Worked with my doctoral chair to put together a curriculum that I felt like would be the most benefit and ended up spending 20 years with Axiom Corporation. First of all, as a consultant and an internal change agent, and then ultimately moved into the entrepreneurial world, got involved in the mergers and acquisitions function, built out a merger and acquisition integration team, involved in the integration and acquisition of 21 companies in seven countries in Europe.

Then I got into the world of real entrepreneurship, started a company for Axiom in Poland and scaled that company to about 350 people and did the same thing in China, followed by acquisitions in the Middle East, North Africa and Brazil, Latin America. And then finally, rounded out my career there in the sales world, actually leading a sales team to take what traditionally had been Fortune 500, Fortune 1000 products and services down to the mid markets. And so that’s where I really fell in love with the small business. As you know Jeff, started a venture fund, which you were involved in called Cadron Creek Capital, and we ultimately partnered together to create our second fund together, Cadron Capital Partners. And have been working with you and others in the startup and corporate innovation world now, for about the last five years. It’s been a great journey, I’ve learned a lot and love what I do when I get up every day.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, and it’s been a lot of fun over the course of the last year, taking all that, Think Like a Startup, the people skills, the cultural oriented stuff that we’ve done for a bunch of years in mentoring, coaching, training with early stage ventures and now working with later stage, both for-profit and nonprofit companies, under the Innovation Junkie brand. That’s the impetus for the new brand, it’s been very exciting and very fulfilling so far, so it’s been a fun ride.

Jeff Standridge: It has, working with healthcare organizations, technology and tech enabled companies, data-driven organizations. What we would do with Innovation Junkie on a daily basis has really been invigorating to me, and as I said, making me enjoy immensely what I do when I get up every day and put two feet on the floor. Well, let’s talk about what people can expect from the Innovation Junkies Podcast. They heard from the intro that we’re going to be talking about leadership, operational and organizational effectiveness, about strategic growth, digital transformation, and certainly innovation. What do you hope to do with this podcast and what do you hope for our listeners to expect?

Jeff Amerine: I think a lot of times when people think of innovation, they think of the mechanics, the plumbing and the process and all of that. I hope that we are able to find thought leaders, and I know we will, that will come on that have been disruptors in organizations of all sizes that have led really important change, new product, new service development. I really want to get their insights and learn even more about the people side of what it takes to be an innovator in an organization of really any size. And so that’s what I hope to get out of it. I think it’s going to be some really valuable information, it will be a little different than what we hear about in the startup journey, and that many of these innovators might be in very large organizations, both for-profit and non-profit or might be independent authors that study this. So I think it’s going to be a really cool context and some great stories that we’re going to hear from the folks that we bring on.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, that’s right and I’m very excited about the list of guests that we’ve been working on in trying to make sure that we provide the best to our listeners, and I’m very excited about that. I’m also excited to actually provide tips, tricks, tactics, and strategies. So one of the things that they should expect from us, is that when we talk to these movers and shakers in the world of innovation, strategic growth, et cetera, we’ll be working to extract out of them, what do they actually do? And how can our listeners apply what these movers and shakers did, how can they apply that to their business?

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, exactly. And I think that some of the context that we can learn more about is, some companies will want to be innovative and we’ll call that innovation theater sometimes and that they’re checking a box and whatnot, because they know they need to do it, but there’s not really that top level commitment to it. I think it’ll be interesting to hear how the folks that we bring on overcame those sorts of obstacles, and we can learn more for them, to how to really make it stick and how to make the people side of it really work well.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, I agree. If our listeners don’t walk away from each episode with something they can do, either incrementally, or transformationally, then we’ve let them down, I think.

Jeff Amerine: Hey folks, we’ll be right back with the episode, but first we want to tell you about a limited opportunity to take advantage of our strategic growth diagnostic. For a short time only, we’re offering a free strategy call to see whether or not our unique diagnostic tool is right for you. Go to innovationjunkie.com\diagnostic to learn more. One thing that I think might be interesting to explore a little bit, because it’s important to what we do at Innovation Junkie, is the framework that you largely honchoed in coming up with. I think it’d be worthwhile to go through that a little bit, because some of the context of the questions that I’ll be asking will be around those pieces, the structure of those pieces and how people think about it. So it might be good for you just to talk a little bit more about the framework that we use on engagements, because I think it’s novel and it’s appropriate point of education for the audience.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, I appreciate that and it’s been transformational for a number of our clients. Everything we do and everything we want to focus on in this podcast, is about strategic growth, helping our listeners and our clients at Innovation Junkie create sustained strategic growth. Sustained, obviously, not something that’s a one-shot wonder, but also strategic growth. Strategic growth can be incremental and it can be explosive. So we’re not trying to say one over the other, but just to sustain strategic growth, that’s what we work to try to create every day with our clients and what we want our listeners to walk away with. What we’ve found over the course of our careers, is that there are really two pillars that support sustained strategic growth. And that’s the effectiveness of the organizations with whom we work and the effectiveness of the leaders who lead those organizations.

So we spend a lot of time looking at those particular aspects. If the organization has a number of bottlenecks, if the operations of the organization have a number of bottlenecks, then that affects the ability of the organization to create sustained strategic growth. If the effectiveness of the leaders is hampered by a depth issue, or a talent issue, or a leadership practice issue, that affects an organization’s ability to generate sustained strategic growth, so we spend a lot of time on those two pillars. And then I’m really excited about the diagnostic, which our listeners will hear about in the episode. The strategic growth diagnostic that allows these organizations to answer a few questions among their top leadership, 30 minutes or so across five to seven, maybe up to 10, of their executive leaders.

And really answer questions that help them to pinpoint areas of strength and areas of deficiency across six major categories of leadership, organizational and operational effectiveness, which we’ve talked about. Revenue velocity, which is really having to do with the sales and marketing engine of an organization. Innovation readiness and the degree, and you said this, the degree to which they actually weave innovation into the practices of the organization, into the leadership structure, and into the expectations of the organization all the way up to the C-suite, even to the board level, if necessary.

And then finally, digital readiness. Digital transformation will become a factor for every organization, and we’ve seen that with the recent pandemic that we’ve gone through. Organizations that were on the cusp of doing some innovative things digitally, they’ve had to accelerate those plans and those actions in order to remain viable. And so we’re going to spend some time really digging in with our listeners across those areas, revenue velocity, leadership, organizational and operational effectiveness, digital readiness, and innovation readiness. And that serves as the basis of our practice framework as well and we stand behind it, we believe in it and that’s why we want to talk with our guests about those aspects as well. Is that what you’re in it for?

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, and then based on how that diagnostic goes for our practice, that’s where we’ll have prescriptive interventions that build all the way from the innovation, to acceleration of what they’re doing, building that strategic growth plan to execution, making sure that the plan is not something that just sits on the shelf. And then finally, this idea of an advisory and ongoing support. And I think that one of the things that’s really crucial, is there’s plenty of examples of organizations that have gathered up their innovators and put them in a corner, in a skunkworks type of setting.

And they’ve done pretty amazing things, that one group, but that doesn’t really necessarily do a lot to create a lasting culture of innovation. And I think the interesting thing, is how you take innovators and make them champions within the organization so that you’ve got a true lasting culture of innovation. And I know we’re going to have guests on that will go really deep with that, do some great storytelling and talk about it. But that’s the thing that I think can really change the world, is when that culture takes hold in organizations of all sizes, and it’s not just isolated to a group that’s off on an island somewhere within a big organization.

Jeff Standridge: No, I think that’s great. It might be appropriate at this point in the episode for you and me to share a few philosophical points that we have about strategic growth and innovation. And I won’t pick on you first this time, because I’ve got a couple that I’ll start with.

Jeff Amerine: Okay.

Jeff Standridge: We like to talk about no three ring binders allowed. When we were building a strategic growth plan for an organization, we advocate being very pragmatic and there are six or seven components that need to be in a strategic growth plan. And a strategic growth plan really should say as much about what an organization is not going to do, as it does about what an organization is going to do. It either says it by omission, in other words, we don’t address it in the strategic growth plan. Doesn’t mean we’re not going to do it, but it’s not a strategic investment area for us as an organization, or we’re going to put minimal resources on it. Unfortunately, many organizations try to encompass everything they’re already doing so that everyone will have some tie to the strategic plan. And it’s okay to work in an area of the business that is vital, but maybe not strategic. Your thoughts on that?

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, I think that’s really key. And the other thing that I would say about that as part of the planning, is you weave in very important elements of the culture, like the vision for where you want to be in three to five years and the purpose or mission, why you’re doing it, answering that why question. It’s important also to be cognizant of the core values that defines the kind of business you’re going to take, how are you going to treat people? But that process also eventually gets you to this idea of short-term and long-term targets, so they’ve got something to aim at. And I think it’s really crucially important because so many times you’ll go through a planning process and it won’t stick. Everybody knows that they need to do it, and they just go through it, and it doesn’t inform what they do day to day. And so I think that the key thing that we’ve learned, is you’ve got to have the buy-in of not just the upper echelon of folks, but people that are influencers throughout the organization. Absolutely the case.

Jeff Standridge: Another philosophical component here, and it’s based upon observation, is that a strategic growth plan is nothing if it’s not properly executed. And what ends up happening in many instances, is we create a three-year strategic growth plan. We, many times, put it in a three ring binder, we put it on the shelf and then we look up in six, nine, 12 months and say, “How have we been doing against that?” That’s the best case. The worst case, is something comes along that distracts us and we stop our implementation cadence for justifiable reasons. And one of the reasons that we focus heavily on, you can’t stop with a strategic growth plan, you’ve got to build your multi-year execution plan, and you’ve got to build your review monitoring and review cadence and checkup process, you’ve got to have assigned accountabilities. People have to get up every day and know that their responsibility is to own this work stream or that work stream that’s tied specifically to the execution. And I’m sure you have some thoughts on that as well.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, there’s some good nuggets that come out at Gino Wickman’s work on traction that I think are timeless, and you read that book and you find out that it’s pretty common sensical. But the idea of having a weekly review on a regular cadence to specifically go through the assignments, the issues that are important to the organization, to make sure that those things are happening the way they should, it all needs to tie in.

And I would say also, that it’s important to, if you want a certain kind of behavior, you’ve got to have the incentives for the behavior. So a lot of times when we see issues about people not performing to plan, it’s because they’ve got misaligned incentives. Innovation can not be an additional duty, if you want to be innovative, you want to have a strategic growth plan that’s got a few game changers in there that you’re working on, those have to be recognized, agreed upon and then people have got to be held to account for delivery. And you only get that by having the discipline of having a regular cadence of check-ins that aren’t hours and hours of meetings, but that are really where you handle the exceptions on progress.

Jeff Standridge: Hey, there’s another one there, Gino Wickman, maybe he’s a guest on our podcast. If any of you out there know Gino Wickman and invite him to join us, and Gino if you’re listening, hey, we’re going to be reaching out.

Jeff Amerine: Absolutely. And if you want to be a paid sponsor, we’ll take that too.

Jeff Standridge: There you go. Hey, the other thing I hope we’re going to do is have a little bit of fun. I know we have fun in real life and what I don’t want to do is to get on this podcast and be someone that we’re not.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah. I think the trick to that is to make sure that you’ve got bourbon within arms reach.

Jeff Standridge: There you go.

Jeff Amerine: When you’re on the podcast.

Jeff Standridge: It is early in the morning, but as I told Reagan a few moments ago, it’s five o’clock somewhere.

Jeff Amerine: Exactly. No, we’re going to have fun with this for sure.

Jeff Standridge: Well, that’s it, that’s our Innovation Junkies Podcast. That’s what you can expect from Jeff and Jeff. We’re called the Jeff’s, in many instances, Jeff A, Jeff Amerine, Jeff Standridge. We’re looking forward to spending time with you guys over the course of the next few weeks, months, and years, you can expect a drop from us on Mondays and then maybe a little bonus episode here and there in between.

Jeff Amerine: Looking forward to it. And we’re going to have some great guests, don’t miss it. It’ll be awesome.

Jeff Standridge: And speaking of guests, we’ve already talked about Gino Wickman, so Gino if you’re listening, we’ll be in touch. Our people will call your people or something like that. But also listeners, if you have guests that you think that we should be talking to, thinking about profiling on the podcast, give us a shout. Go to innovationjunkie.com, that’s innovationjunkie.com. Leave us a note, tell us who that guest is, if you know that person make an introduction, we’d love for that to happen. And we look forward to coming back in front of you guys every single week.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, I can’t wait. See you soon.

Jeff Standridge: All right, take care.

Jeff Amerine: Hey listeners, this is Jeff Amerine, we want to thank you for tuning in. We sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying the Innovation Junkies Podcast, please do us a huge favor, click the subscribe button right now and leave us a review. It would mean the world to both of us. And don’t forget to share us on social media.

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