Leaders listen.

“Companies don’t have any shortage of ideas. They have a shortage in leadership getting those ideas off the ground.”
– Stephen Gates, Global Head of Design at Citi

I’ve heard hundreds of decision makers share their stories about how their executives play the safe hand 99% of the time. These execs are often unwilling, or unable, to take a brilliant bottom-up idea to market. And who can really blame them? Most brands are playing the long-game, which often demands a fiscally conservative approach. And new ideas usually cost a lot of money to get off the ground.

I heard Stephen’s quote earlier today as I was editing a podcast episode for the week ahead. He’s this week’s featured guest on our podcast, Design Story. Hearing this line brought me back to my first consulting gig for a Fortune 500 company. This client was a major automotive manufacturer whom, in part, brought us in to help them with this very problem. They had a huge pool of ideas and didn’t know what to do with them.

To explain….
This is a brand that has always done two things well: they created a quality product and marketed themselves as a lifestyle brand. Nevertheless, their data suggested they needed to consider new products/services to help them expand their brand. If they didn’t, they might plateau, and perhaps, even fade away.

So, this company’s leadership decided they were going to invest in brand reach initiatives. They already had determined the “big winners”, new products or services that they decided to invest in right away.

Leadership also knew, that with over 5000 employees, they had a ton of ideas waiting to be discovered. Surely their human resources had more to offer than the functions they were hired for?

They decided to bring us in to build an innovation funnel. This funnel would allow their associates and employees across the entire enterprise to submit their ideas to a central internal team. This team would vet the ideas, figure out the costs, risks, and potential for the ideas, and bring the best ones to life.

In the end, this engagement was an inexpensive way to improve their brand. Even if none of these ideas take off, this innovation funnel sends a message to their employees: “we’re listening“.

We need more companies like this.
We need more leaders who show they are listening, and executives truly looking for the next big thing.

Until next time,



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