Andy Stefanovich, author of Look at More: A Proven Approach to Innovation, Growth, and Change (which was an Inc. bestseller and included in AdAge’s “Ten Marketing Books Your Should Have Read” in 2011) is a prominent—and much sought after—thought leader and innovator. Stefanovich, a TEDx speaker and guest lecturer, has been invited to share his ideas with some of the world’s leading corporations and institutions, including Yale University, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, NASA, Coca-Cola, and Disney. He is also a frequently invited commentator on CNBC. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Andy to discuss inspiration, innovation and life balance.
gA: In your book, Look at More, you credit inspiration with being at the root of innovation. What inspires you?
AS: Inspiration and passion inspire me. Inspiration is my inspiration and passion is my passion. These abstract, but critical, elements to anyone’s life can serve as fuel to create, innovate, and lead a great existence.
gA: Please can you explain your 5 Ms and how they feed into innovation?
AS: My five Ms explained in five lines:
Mood: The company’s ethos, i.e. the climate for creative energy within an organization.
Mindset: The individual’s propensity, passion and capability for creating.
Mechanisms: The tools, techniques and technologies used to create.
Measurement: What are we measuring to drive innovation and what might we consider measuring that we are not?
Momentum: Assuring creative energy is not an event or episodic, but instead a part of an ongoing cultural underpinning.
gA: How do you ensure that you consistently engineer original and innovative solutions for branding, marketing, innovation and design work?
AS: As a corporate curator and provocateur for executives and corporations, I start the project inspired from the outset by choreographing inspiration as a regular cadence into my life. In short, I get inspired to be inspiring. For me, it is a way of life and about making it the way you are, not just what you do.
gA: During your career, you have worked with many “dream company” clients, such as Nike, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and GE. Who are your dream company clients for 2014 and beyond?
AS: My dream client? Anyone who has a belief in the right things: people, change, growth, inspiration, and so forth. These higher order issues are my focus and business will follow suit (in their traditional metrics) if we concentrate on these life issues. This is where I choose to spend my time. These people and companies are special and need to realize their full potential.
gA: How have the Internet and social media affected innovation?
AS: Social media and the Internet have both hurt and helped innovation. Hurt them in that people see innovation largely through the lens of the digital world and must realize that innovation is agnostic to platform or issue set—it is democratic in its ability to move anything forward. On the other hand, together they have helped innovation by putting more ideas into the ethos to be pursued, critiqued, built upon etc. Since the Internet originated it has fast tracked millions of ideas.
gA: What are your top five pieces of advice for small business owners and entrepreneurs?
AS: My quick top five pieces of advice for young entrepreneurs are as follows:
- Hustle. Those who out work (in mind and body) usually win.
- Believe in something. Have a strong heart for something you feel is important and be passionate about putting it in the world.
- Have a strong point of view. People follow direct and positive tones. Have one and deliver it exhaustively.
- Be human. Empathetic, compassionate, egoless, real, authentic, transparent, etc.
- Never stop art directing. There is always a better version, better next iteration, better_____… Be restless for improvement.
gA: In your view, which are the most innovative brands we are currently seeing? Who are the ones to watch?
AS: The most innovative brands to watch are those we aren’t seeing. Go to “micropolotians” (cities of 5-50k) where makers are making, craftsmen are crafting, etc. Not too big and not too remote, but just the right climate and conditions for innovating.
gA: The old-school thinking was that family life often had to be sacrificed to achieve career success but you have managed both. How do you strike the balance of juggling a wife, children and home, with maintaining your position as a marketing and entrepreneurial pioneer and thought maker?
AS: I believe in Stew Friedman’s approach to work/ life integration, not balance. By mashing up my four domains—self/ family/ community/ work—(more than feels comfortable sometimes), I get the benefit of them fueling each other for a rising-tide effect on my life overall.
gA: When the children are in bed and the thoughts are silenced, how do you unwind?
AS: When my children are in bed, I sit in my Eames lounge chair, snack on sunflower seeds and watch mindless TV. You have to manufacture down and “dumb” time in your life and that’s mine.