Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

Honk if you love change. Quotes and resources on innovation.

heart innovationI love innovation. I have spent about half my career immersed in new product development, some in the hyper-change environment of start-ups.

I hope you are inspired, moved, by the following quotes and resources to embrace more innovation.

The world is changing around us. We need to innovate to be better―to be relevant, to be competitive, make a difference.

“Fall in love with the problem, not the solution”

This quote actually came from an innovation! Brad Smith, President and CEO of Intuit, posts a blog on LinkedIn. He gets his thought leadership out into the world via a software upgrade that did not exist a year ago.

It’s human nature to love our own ideas. But sometimes that means that we hang on to them too long. Along the innovation journey, every innovator must ask: Are we making sufficient progress to believe that our original hypothesis is correct, or do we need to make a change?

In the Lean Startup, Eric Ries talks about how innovators must decide whether to pivot or preserve. Companies hang in the balance on this very dilemma.

At Intuit, we rally our employees around this mantra: fall in love with the problem, not the solution.

If you never lose sight of the problem, how you attack the solution can remain more flexible, iterative, and ultimately, be more likely to succeed.

Recently I had an insightful conversation with Eric about the topic, specifically around when it’s time to pivot and how fast you have to decide.”

“Fall in love with the problem, not the solution” Brad Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer, Intuit. Nov 2 2012 

Don’t underestimate Eric Ries. Don’t say (like I did), “He looks so young. What could he know?” Consider the following excerpts:

“A pivot is a change in strategy without a change in vision…it is not giving up on the vision … it is not a change in the product. We change the product all the time.”

“The problem is that vision, product, and strategy came to us all together in a flash.”

“The reason it is so painful to pivot is because it requires us to give up some elements of what we thought we would be doing…”

  • Did you watch it? What did you think?
  • Did you hear the different kinds of pivots?
  • Have you ever done a “pivot”?
  • Did you hang in there to hear the “Innovation Accounting Dashboard?”

Embracing the chaos

Innovation has a tendency to be disruptive, messy, ambiguous, and sometimes even intimidating. Knowing that, and expecting the chaos, gives us back some certainty.

  • “Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what’s out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it.” ―Pema Chödrön
  • “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” —Picasso
  • “When all think alike, then no one is thinking.”—Walter Lippman
  • “The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” —Charles DuBois

Navigating the chaos

Within the very disruptive nature of innovation, our work is about helping people reinvent (innovate) themselves―sponsors first, then change targets. What are the conditions that facilitate their innovation?

  • Leadership: “Not the cry, but the flight of the wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.” ―Chinese Proverb
  • Curiosity: “The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of the mind for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.” ―Anatole France
  • Courage: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” ―Ambrose Redmoon

For practitioners:

  • Compassion: “The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.”―Pema Chödrön
  • “The quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first. The quality of our thinking depends on the way we treat each other while we are thinking.” ―Nancy Kline (an excellent resource here)

What’s the point?

What does the realization of innovation look like?

  • “Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” —Theodore Levitt
  • “Innovation is the process of turning ideas into manufacturable and marketable form.” —Watts Humprey
  • “The purpose of innovation is to create value.” ―Jorge Barba

Innovation is so important in the Pharma space that the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) put this beautiful little video (2:39 minutes) on their 26th Annual Global Conference (2012) agenda:

“I am innovation”

Can’t get enough? More great innovation resources

  • Management Innovation eXchange (MIX)―Hack Management 2.0 is “an open innovation project aimed at reinventing management for the 21st century. The premise: while ‘modern’ management is one of humankind’s most important inventions, it is now a mature technology that must be reinvented for a new age.” MIX was originally convened by Gary Hamel; MIX partners include Dell Computer, HCL Technologies, London Business School, and McKinsey & Company.
  • Innovation Excellence blog: “featuring regular contributions from the brightest minds in the field of enterprise innovation—thought leaders, practitioners, consultants, vendors, and academia.”


If you are a business leader facing a transformational change, or former client, and would like to catch up on what’s new, just give me a ring. Let’s talk innovation.

Thoughts? Reactions? Please share in the Comments section.

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Parting thought: “Fall in love with the problem.”

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6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I love this article. Happy new year, Gail!

Comment by Helene

Thanks Helene! Happy New Year to you also.

Comment by Gail Severini

Very interesting and well written blog. Very insightful. I wonder if you have published any books.

Comment by Michele Roach

Michele, you have made my day! I used to think that there was a book “inside me” – not sure anymore – I am loving the dynamic nature of blogging. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment – it is relevant to me to understand what other is important to other people. Thank you.

Comment by Gail Severini

The other thing I meant to ask was whether you do any public speaking? I am very interested in what you have to say especially as it relates to personal change. Also my husband’s employer is faced with a “change or cease to be relevant” challenge and could benefit from the wisdom in this blog.

Comment by Michele Roach

Hi again. I do about three public speaking events a year – all are focused on organizational change. What your question reminds me tho is that all organizational change is firstly about personal change. I will work on a blog post to talk about that and the typical change journey for individuals – will take me a month or two.

I empathize with your husband and his employer’s situation – we talk about this as a “burning platform” and often work with leaders to help their people understand the business imperatives and to adapt to the new opportunities. This is never easy – the leader’s role is to help their people through that discomfort. There are tools and processes that can bring clarity to this process. If you think a conversation would be helpful please feel free to pass along my information – 416 845-3040.

Comment by Gail Severini

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