Columbus Innovators Get Real at Leadership Forum

By Amanda Pierce

“Innovation is finding a new method of doing something,” said Mark Kvamme, co-founder & partner at Drive Capital, as he set the stage for Relā’s Leadership Forum event on Wednesday. In theory, it’s simple. And yet somehow, rookies and pros alike still seem to get in their own way when it comes to fostering innovation and capitalizing on its transformative outcomes.

An impressive roster of local innovators and more than 300 business leaders dug into these issues and more at the annual half-day leadership experience designed to deliver best practices and inspiration to grow leaders in our city. Though each speaker offered a unique take on leading innovation informed by their own experiences, a few common themes prevailed:

Take calculated risks and celebrate failure

Culture can fuel or squelch innovation. When fear of failure dominates a workplace, change is slow and painful. But by fostering a test-and-learn environment, people are free to explore and uncover new methods, products, ways of thinking… the possibilities are endless!

Of course, not all tests will result in success. When a failure occurs, celebrate it, advised Taivara CEO Brooke Paul. Celebrate the fact that you tried, reflect on the lessons learned and encourage your team to fail again.

Be deliberate about creative collisions

“You create things when innovative, inspired people with different viewpoints, experiences and skills come together,” said Alex Bander, CEO of the Columbus Idea Foundry. Creative collisions take center stage in their Franklinton headquarters where artists and techies commune to create and experiment alongside one another.

Invest in yourself (and your team!)

Learning and innovation go hand-in-hand – without one, you can’t have the other. By investing in continuous learning and creating a safe environment for exploration, you expose yourself and those around you to diverse ways of creating, thinking and doing.

Reduce limiting beliefs

Nancy Kramer’s advice for combatting naysayers? Understand their personal limiting beliefs. After all, innovation begins with an individual’s personal belief system. As the founder of Resource/Ammirati, Kramer credits her most innovative ideas to her most central personal belief: anything is possible. “If you believe you can, you can. But if you don’t believe, you won’t.”


 Amanda Pierce is an Account Manager for Marketing Works and a member of Relā’s Marketing Committee.

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