I have been the head of research at Embiggen, a corporate innovation and foresight consulting startup. It has been so exciting with our team growing and with us, getting our first clients. One cool initiative we had within the firm was to have an ask-me-anything and I was the first to take the stage. Let me share my answers to two questions that were fascinating:
What three insights in innovation can you apply to your personal life?
- Organizational Ambidexterity – A fancy term to explain how successful organizations are able to manage both exploration and exploitation activities. Explore means knowing what options are out there and exploitation means capitalizing on opportunities when they emerge. For personal success, it’s also crucial to do these two activities. If you don’t explore enough, then you don’t know what you are missing. If you don’t exploit enough, then you are letting opportunities go to waste.
- Path dependence – Organizations tend to get locked in a certain path, based on their previous decisions. A company manufacturing one product would find it hard to do something else, given that they have invested everything to make these operations efficient. Yet, this fixation can then be the cause of their future failure. Similarly, people tend to get locked in their routines, just doing what they are used to doing. It’s important to take note when one is getting stuck in one of these paths.
- Legitimation – Technologies, no matter how novel and impactful they are, can still fail if they are not validated or perceived legitimate by important stakeholders. Similarly, no matter how good a person’s skills are, the market may not properly value their skills if they cannot get others to notice them. So, instead of just building on your skills, it’s important to find a way to demonstrate these skills.
What life advice can you give to university students?
I listed a couple of things I wish I had known earlier:
- Reach out to people – The best way to find out about a career opportunity is to just message people who are in the positions you’d like to have. Don’t be afraid to send emails or Linkedin connections to people. Obviously, just don’t be too bothersome and try to provide some value in your message. It’s very low risk in general; the worst case is that they do not respond.
- Learn by doing – Don’t spend months reading books and listening to lectures just to learn a new skill. Don’t expect to be an expert after all those efforts. Instead, the best way to learn something is by doing. Think of what you plan to do with the new skill and then work backwards from there. For instance, if you want to learn programming, start from the idea of the app you want to create and then figure out what modules you need to learn to get there.
- CBT Basics – If there’s one topic I wish was thought in school, it would be the basics of cognitive behavioral therapy. People tend to have various distortions that impede them from reaching their potential. Just knowing the basic distortions can really help a lot of people deal with various anxieties they have.
- Be more strategic – There’s always an easier path to any goal. You don’t have to give 100% to everything you do to get there. In many cases, it would be best to just focus on a few important tasks and just give the bare minimum to things that are not too critical.