Interviews | August 19, 2021
Sparking Innovation and Inspiration
For much of the past 18 months, we’ve all just been trying to get through every day. With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting daily life and business operations, PSDA members had to adapt on the fly to unavoidable circumstances. There was little time to sit down and engage in thoughtful, deliberate brainstorming about innovation when so many new challenges were cropping up by the minute.
But the situation has changed. As we slowly return to a sense of normalcy, or at least the next normal, there is interest in focusing on the efficient, innovative moves that will set us up well for the long term. Plus, there is plenty to look forward to — like CEO Summit, which returns in October, providing an opportunity for PSDA members to connect again.
Julie Holmes — who describes herself as “an inventor, app developer, pragmatic technologist and innovation expert” — will be delivering the opening keynote at CEO Summit. PostScript caught up with Holmes ahead of her session, “Innovation in Times of Change: How to Rethink and Reframe Effectively When You Have to React Quickly,” to learn more about her career and what CEO Summit attendees will take away.
Can you share a little bit about your career path? How did you end up involved in technology and innovation?
My career started with technology and management consulting — working with large enterprise organizations all over the world on technology systems. And as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation consultant, my job was to understand the current business processes and practices of organizations, and then figure out how we could improve those — save them time and money, and improve their results and performance — through technology and new systems. Since those early days, my passion for finding and solving problems, big and small, has taken me all over the world. I’ve worked with hundreds of clients and delved into almost every area of business such as products, services, sales, marketing, HR and beyond.
You describe yourself as a “pragmatic technologist and innovator.” Can you share what that means?
Pragmatic technology is about understanding that while tech is really cool — and it is cool! — it is tricky to make sure you’re focused only on the technology and the initiatives that can really have impact — not just some value, but a true return on investment. When we’re looking at a piece of technology, it isn’t like, “Wow, this saved me five minutes, but it cost me five hours to get it implemented or to use it on a regular basis,” or, “I’m constantly having to field questions about it.” It’s about looking at your infrastructure, processes and operations, and all of the technology that underpins it, and making sure it is valuable and delivering the right types of returns.
When it comes to being pragmatic about innovation, it’s much the same. To often we see innovation being done simply for the sake of it — a badge that businesses wear to show how cool they are. Pragmatic innovation starts with purpose and recognizes that there is no right or wrong way to solve a challenge or embrace an opportunity. In fact, what’s really cool is when you can do that with as little effort, cost or change as possible. That’s pragmatic!
What’s your favorite part about speaking at conferences like CEO Summit?
The best part about speaking at conferences like CEO Summit is the opportunity to see the lightbulb go on as people spot new opportunities in their businesses and their organizations. Those new opportunities can be anything from new partnerships to new products to new markets. I look at myself a bit like a catalyst. I’m here to start the ball rolling. I’m here to give that spark, and then I get to look on in wonder as brilliant CEOs turn that little spark into thousands of ideas that will light their business for years to come.
Can you share a sneak peek of the innovation strategies you’ll discuss during your session?
During this program for the CEO Summit, I’ll be talking about two major areas. The first area is about understanding how to create an innovative mindset. What are the requirements in order to have a culture of innovation? It’s really easy to say things like, “Everybody needs to bring new ideas to the table.” It’s an entirely different phenomenon when you want to put that into practice. Do you really want all those new ideas? Or are there actually some bad ideas that might get brought to the table? On the flip side of that, what are you doing to make sure those ideas are manageable and viable so that you really can implement them? Understanding that innovation mindset and building the infrastructure for it is that first part.
In the second part, we will be getting a hands-on and real-world way to structure and create a repeatable process for innovation within your business. I’m going to share one of my favorite innovation tools with the group — a tool that I’ve used to spot small, tiny improvements that helped organizations to focus, launch brand new, next-generation products to diversify, and plan outreach to markets that have generated millions of dollars of revenue. Same process, a whole array of options on how to use it.
What’s the number-one reason CEO Summit attendees should be excited for your session?
Attendees should be excited about this session because they’re going to innovate while they’re sitting at their table. Real-time, real-world. We’re going to make magic happen while we’re all sitting together … oh, and we’re going to have fun, too!
Technology event CEO Summit Q&A