16 brilliant thoughts about innovation from three brilliant innovators

I’m about to give you everything you’ll ever need to know about innovation.

It comes from three brilliant minds: Ron Baker, a CPA, thought leader, and founder of the VeraSage Institute; Gordon Viere, former CEO of CliftonLarsonAllen; and Gary Farrar, who leads BKD’s innovation process and digital business strategy. They came together for a panel discussion at the 2016 Winning Is Everything Conference in Las Vegas, and they brought the house down with one of the most thought-provoking discussions I’ve ever heard.

Usually, in reporting on a session like this, I’ll try to boil it down to its central theme, but that’s almost impossible here. Each thought put forth by these leaders was its own brilliant thesis on innovation, a stand-alone course worthy of extended study and discussion.

So I’m going to give you the best sound bites from this session and let you digest them at your own pace. We might revisit some of these at some point down the road, but until then, it might be enough to let the wisdom of these four leaders wash over us.

In no particular order, here they are.

  • When someone suggests best practices, run the other way. Quit following the crowd and believe, “We can do better.” — Gordon Viere
  • Innovation should always take us by surprise. It should grab your clients by the throat and delight them. — Ron Baker
  • The role of a chief innovation officer isn’t necessarily to innovate. It’s to create a culture of innovation. — Gary Farrar
  • The highest form of innovation might be management innovation. Our management ideas are stagnant. — Ron Baker
  • Innovation today is essential. You price for profit. You innovate for growth. — Ron Baker
  • We can’t afford to innovate at the same pace we did five or 10 years ago. We must accelerate the process. — Gary Farrar
  • Disruptive innovations don’t come just from technology. They come from new business models. — Ron Baker
  • Technology isn’t a competitive advantage. The first step is to determine what you want to do. Then find the technology to get you there. — Gordon Viere
  • Innovation is about finding your next competitive advantage. It’s about doing it differently and adding more value. — Gordon Viere
  • Innovation won’t happen unless your people feel comfortable challenging the status quo. — Gary Farrar
  • If you want to innovate, say, your audit practice and there are seven people on the team, only two should have audit backgrounds. — Gordon Viere
  • If you want radical innovation, you must have some people who are younger than 40 working on it. — Ron Baker
  • Younger workers are not lazy. They just want to be inspired. Upping your realization rate by 5 percent is not inspiring. — Ron Baker
  • You’re already funding innovation. Every person in your firm should be expected to improve on what they do. — Gary Farrar
  • Our goal isn’t efficiency. It’s effectiveness. I don’t want an efficient heart surgeon. I want an effective one. — Ron Baker
  • A key to success in any organization: Give people the opportunity to live their dreams, not yours. — Gordon Viere

Time to roll up your sleeves, friends. Go forth and innovate.


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