I featured Chris Denson’s podcast Innovation Crush in a ‘best of’ list early on in my column – and it seemed about time to circle back, because innovation, as a concept, is in a funny place right now. This phase could easily be likened to the awkward, sometimes undefined, sometimes overly defined, scary and exciting teenage years. If innovation were personified, she would be an eager fourteen-year old, struggling to show the world who she really was.
When Denson first launched his podcast, back in 2014, it was born out of frustration. He was just leaving a large company, he knew what he wanted to do next and it had everything to do with innovation. Except, innovation itself was so ubiquitous, each place he stopped had no real idea what he was offering. Everyone was trying to put innovation into these easily identifiable (already existent) categories, and the irony of this alone balances between funny and frustrating. Denson noted that innovation had become cliche, overly defined, or undefined, and none of those work.
Innovation Crush is a show that brags about smashing convention to bits. Denson profiles some of the world’s most daring projects and the people behind them with the goal of defining innovation as an operating system rather than an end result. From marketing ideas to technology innovations, disruptive business models, personal development, and everything between, Denson leads listeners on a journey that shows innovation in everything, everyone, everywhere. In podcasting, of course there’s a level of learning that needs to take place, but the 101 approach is not what’s happening here. What Denson brings is conversational, funny, and feels personal- everything podcast listeners look for.
With my partner, our approach to innovation has always been that innovation is a state of being and doing. This state creates opportunities for big impact and is the foundation for a culture of curiosity and openness to free-thinking. The similarities Denson presents, bringing innovation to the table as an operating system rather than an end result, is inspiring. Ultimately, we want to encourage this level of thinking, where curiosity is encouraged, and free-thinking is expected, because when we constantly put innovation in a box, or under a specific predefined category, we are limiting our own evolution.
One of the things I love about podcasting is how it allows everyone involved to remain in the practice or thought process of innovation, which is how we sustain success. To this point, Denson shared how the interviews and perspective on his show give him new insights that he can constantly bring back around to his career. In so many ways, these conversations have become Denson’s mentor moments, from management issues, to communication, and everything in between- this real time learning process is like having a birds eye view of his entire industry.
The episodes are a way for Denson to encourage his listeners to get curious. Keeping that childlike sense of wonder is so lost, and routine really kills that, but routine is what we’ve learned as a euphemism for success. Innovation, comes in and needs less rigid structure, and a lot of company culture is failing because these don’t mesh well. So many company cultures are failing because they are attempting to force concepts together that defy one another in the definition of their being.
The level of transformation and reorganization we see in our rapidly changing business ecosystem is also represented in how humans are evolving. In responding to a question about innovation and the human condition, Denson revealed the true path of innovation. His response pointed out that innovation is the human condition We are all striving to evolve and in that, we become synonymous with innovation itself.