“Since we live in a world where the unimaginable is suddenly possible, we need to seize on that by imagining what else might be possible now that seemed unimaginable before.”

Jennifer Palmieri, in Dear Madam President: An Open Letter for the Women Who Will Rule the World

 

Marillyn Hewson, the first female CEO of defense contractor Lockheed Martin and #22 on the Forbes 2017 Power List, landed the top job in part by applying best practices of one LM division to another, and stretching out of her comfort zone. She connected dots differently.

Marillyn Hewson, the first female CEO of defense contractor Lockheed Martin and #22 on the Forbes 2017 Power List, landed the top job in part by applying best practices of one LM division to another, and stretching out of her comfort zone. She connected dots differently.

Career success in the 21st century demands that you solve challenges and achieve objectives in new ways, even challenging the status quo. It will be more fulfilling too.  Finding better ways to do things internally, or developing new products, services or markets – seizing and creating opportunities to innovate as Hewson did  – will increase what Rita Trehan, former head of Human Resources for Honeywell and AES Energy Global, calls your “career currency” and advance your career.

The definition of “innovate” is: “to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.”

Improve Internal Systems

What process could be more efficient? Propose a solution, either an incremental change or a transformational one, depending.  For example, if client information isn’t being shared in real time, review your customer relationship management system (CRM) to see if it can fix that. If your company does not have a CRM that can, then research them and recommend two or three, with your top pick.

Tweaking the CRM is an incremental change while installing a new internal system is transformational. Both help you shine. Do you see a way to reduce waste? Who else might be able to use that material, internally or externally? Jessica Schreiber noticed tons of fabric being discarded in New York City when she worked in its Sanitation Department, as she explained to me, so she started a nonprofit, Fabscrap, to collect it from the sources and resell it. She connected different dots. That’s transformational.

Ask Your End-User

As you develop your idea and the business case for it, asking people who would use it, both ensure it will serve their needs and builds internal support for it. Then, present it to the people who can make it happen.

Sometimes a solution pops up when you least expect it. A facilities manager at a medical device company noticed Chrysler’s electric vehicles while on vacation in another region and had a proverbial “ah-ha” moment when I led communications at this Chrysler division.  To get around his corporate campus, everyone used their own cars, which was highly-inefficient and polluting. So, he recommended our EVs, developed a new internal transportation system with them and won an Innovation Award from his company and accolades from us.

Innovate in the Marketplace

Do you notice a market that’s not being served or a novel way to reach your current customers? Heidi Binko saw that coal communities were suffering in the transition to a clean, green economy, so she started the Just Transition Fund, collaborating with employers, foundations and community leaders to create different jobs and retrain workers.  She described her innovation strategy to me as, “using different assets of a place.”

Our Chrysler division’s market research described the top customer as 55+ in residential communities, so I immediately thought of AARP and cold-called them. Ultimately, I built a highly-successful, multi-pronged collaboration with them that helped us achieve “best year ever” results.

Innovate Your Career – Where You Are

Rita Trehan, Business Woman of the Year

 

As Rita Trehan told me, “If you’re continuously looking at ways to learn new things, to seek out opportunities, to try new things and sometimes fail, but learn from them…the more you’re building up your capabilities. That makes you very valuable to an organization.”

If you’re dissatisfied with your current path or want to engage other talents or interests, innovate your career. Alaina Love had been a successful research scientist at Merck when she decided she preferred human resources, even though being a scientist was perceived as more prestigious.  So, she transitioned to Merck’s HR department and stayed there for several years, eventually leaving to form her own HR consultancy and write books.

“Don’t wait for permission or an invitation or expect to find your place in someone else’s story.
Jump in to whatever it is you want to do.  Embrace … all that your experience and perspective give you to teach the rest of us.”

Jennifer Palmieri, in Dear Madam President: An Open Letter for the Women Who Will Rule the World.

Jennifer Palmieri, author of Dear Madam President: An Open Letter for the Women Who Will Rule the World.

 

The full post can be read on Forbes.