On the road to success, what drives innovation?

Takeaways from DPI conference talk with Michele Romanow, entitled Getting to Success: Embracing Change, Encouraging Disruption, and Incentivizing Innovation.

I recently had the pleasure of attending DPI’s annual 3-day Professional Development Week conference here in Ottawa.  This training event welcomes approximately 1,000 professionals from the private and public sector who are passionate about self-development.  The conference was kicked off with a keynote address on innovation, presented by Michele Romanow, successful tech entrepreneur, where she discussed her viewpoints on embracing change and fostering innovation.

I’d like to share my three key takeaways from her presentation on how to achieve success when everything tries to stand in your way.

1.   An idea – your starting point

I learned that innovation is not a perfect journey.  There are many unforeseen events that, at times, can throw us completely off course.  To help oversee these obstacles, innovation can start from the simplest of ideas.  All one needs is a business plan to support the idea, which doesn’t have to be flawless; we simply should follow it as best we can.  Don’t consider your project a failure if unsuccessful on the first try.

2.   Iteration – your journey

Innovation doesn’t necessarily come from having new ideas or good business plans. It’s more about our ability to be agile and iterate when our plans appear to be faltering.  Here are some steps that help drive innovation:

  • Take what was successful in your original approach;
  • Toss out what wasn’t;
  • Work quickly;
  • Adjust as you go.

3.   Influence, communication, and collaboration– fueling innovation

On the road to success, what sustains innovation? It’s the desire to improve upon something, to having an idea that can influence change for the better for everyone.  No matter our work environment, it’s about encouraging positive change, and for leaders to remind their teams that it’s about the team succeeding, not just one person.  Understanding the need for change and communicating it with our teammates is a great way to incentivize innovation.

You may be wondering: “How do you innovate in a public sector environment, when under both time and resource constraints?”  It’s important to communicate your ideas at the highest level possible.  Strive to cultivate a collaborative working environment, where every opinion matters. Learn how to be funny so you aren’t too harsh on your subordinates. At the same time, ensure that they’re completing their duties. Don’t focus too much on the steps needed to get there, but more on centering and communicating the desired end results.


Going into this presentation, I was never expecting a clear roadmap to innovation.  What I learned is that there isn’t just one, there are many.  And it’s through iterations of our ideas and taking initiative that we can concretely change something for the better of everyone.  That is what defines successful innovation for me.

I would love to hear some of your accounts on how innovation through iteration has brought success in the private or public sectors.


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