Thinkers360 thought leader interviews profile prominent members of the Thinkers360 community who embody the power of ideas in their work. In this edition, we speak with Alex Goryachev, WSJ Bestselling Author, and Speaker. Alex brings over 20 years of extensive experience working in the fields of Digital Transformation, Innovation Strategy, Ecosystem Partnerships, Employee Engagement, and Parenting. He pioneered the concept of Ecosystem Co-Innovation, and subsequently created and led a large network of global co-innovation centers all over the world.
Alex is a Wall Street Journal Best Selling Author of Fearless Innovation, a pragmatic and effective guide to help your organization survive, transform and prosper. He is also featured in the live listing of the Thinkers360 Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Ecosystems (October 2021)
Thinkers360: Alex, you are a former music promoter, digital entertainment pioneer, a tech industry veteran, and bestselling author. With such diverse background, why did you choose innovation as something to focus on?
AG: I never did – innovation chose me. I grew up in a country that no longer exists, and since my early childhood quickly realized that innovation is the only way to survive, thrive, and prosper.
My life’s calling is connecting the unconnected. By working with governments, startups, and companies around the world, I realized that most of the organizations that are trying to transform and become more innovative have many of the answers within their ecosystem. They just need help unlocking it.
My job is to help organizations dismantle bureaucracy, re-invent business processes, thus creating an employee culture of co-innovation that results in pragmatic and measurable growth.
Thinkers360: Digital Innovation seems to be a hot topic nowadays. How do you feel about that?
AG: I am afraid that Digital Innovation is rapidly becoming an overused buzzword that is losing all its meaning. Digitization is not a single fit-all solution to organizational challenges, it’s just one of the most critical levers for survival and growth. Innovation is never about technology alone. It’s about people.
It’s essential that companies understand their priorities and focus on their customers and culture. Successful companies that “make it” in digital space stay open and co-innovate with others to take advantage of other opportunities that digitization enables.
Thinkers360: In your Wall Street Journal best-selling book “Fearless Innovation” you state that most of the corporate innovation projects fail. Why is that?
AG: Politics, tribal wars, siloed communication, and lack of glamour. Real innovation is not as exciting as launching a “Silicon Valley outpost” or ribbon-cutting for the “employee innovation hub” with kombucha on tap.
The full spectrum of innovation requires a lot of “back-office” work, which could be perceived by many as “boring,” “noncreative,” or, worse, “not important.” In reality, this back-office work—strategy, planning, operations, finance, product management—is what sets successful innovation apart from overhyped initiatives that lead to failure. Successful innovation requires a good balance of creativity and discipline.
Thinkers360: What’s your main advice for upcoming thought leaders?
AG: Stop counter-productive nonsense like thinking “disruptively” and start thinking pragmatically. Focus on a clear vision, well-articulated strategy, and execute in small measurable milestones. Innovation is all about concrete results, and I would encourage you to focus your attention on reaching clearly defined and agreed-upon metrics that are right for your organization.
Thinkers360: What do you like about the Thinkers360 platform and what’s your main advice for upcoming thought leaders?
AG: Let’s talk about “thought leadership” first. Just like being an innovator, being a thought leader is an honor that is earned. Once earned, it becomes a reputation that must be maintained. Focus on becoming a true expert in your field and be of service to others that are tackling similar problems.
My interest in Thinkers360 is simple. Just like most humans, I rarely learn something when I speak. I do it when I listen. Innovation, which I live and breathe, is all about getting a 360-degree perspective, listening to diverse opinions, and exchanging often controversial ideas. Thinkers360’s content feeds my craving for new perspectives and often challenges the way I view the industry.
Thinkers360: What makes you hopeful about the state of innovation today?
AG: For the first time in history since World War II, we are innovating across the entire spectrum.
A good reference for that is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – you’ll see physical safety and survival at the foundational level, and self-realization at the very top.
The last two years made all of us fight for our survival, realize the fragile nature of life and the power of now. The state of the world today inspires us to live to our fullest potential and focus on what truly matters. That’s what real innovation is about.