Innovators on Tap
About this podcast
Innovators on Tap is a podcast that encourages you to challenge the status quo, think about what’s possible, and pursue the impossible.
About this podcast
Innovators on Tap is a podcast that encourages you to challenge the status quo, think about what’s possible, and pursue the impossible.
Innovators on Tap
- Season 3
BONUS: The Power of Principles w/ Leif Abraham
This episode is a replay of the previously released interview with Leif Abraham, Co-CEO at Public.com. Honesty kills bullshit. You’re an owner, act like one. Enable, don’t direct. No — this isn’t unsolicited advice from me - although it could be. These are actually 3 of the 9 core culture principles for Public.com, an investing app that is making the stock market social. Today’s guest, Leif Abraham, is the author of these principles and the Co-Founder and CEO of Public.com. Leif developed these principles through a successful career as a creative director before founding his first two companies, And.Co & PayWithATweet, both of which went on to be acquired. He believes that for any company to be successful, the values have to be more than simple sayings, but the principles that guide your behavior and approach to work each and every day. As Leif says: “Autonomy without principles creates anarchy.” We also discuss why Leif thinks real innovation doesn’t rely on consultants, the importance of building an inclusive community around a product, and why he looks for the right values, over the right skills, in new hires. To put it in his words: “It’s easier to teach skills than it is to teach values” You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
BONUS: The Future of AI w/ Danny Lange
This episode is a replay of the previously released interview with Danny Lange, SVP of AI at Unity. Enjoy! Did you ever wonder how a computer can be trained to beat a human at chess? Or how Amazon seems to anticipate what you’re looking for, before typing your request in the search bar? Or how it is that the Uber app always seems to know the faster route to your destination? All of these technologies rely on the same thing - Artificial Intelligence, or more specifically Machine Learning, where computers are able to not only use past information, but to also test future possibilities to find the best way. To some people this topic can be a bit unnerving as they struggle with the idea that machines are taking over our world, but to me this is an incredible opportunity to make our world a better place. One of the people that sees a better future is Danny Lange, who has led AI research at some of the world’s most well known companies: IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, and Uber - and now is applying his expertise at Unity, where they are leveraging the complexity of video games to push the technology even further. In our conversation, we explore the difference between artificial and human intelligence, if AI can make the leap from curiosity to creativity, and some lessons learned working at some of the biggest technology companies in the world. We had an incredible conversation, but I was most struck by Danny’s insight that “When it comes to AI, the real skill of the future is to understand consequences, to understand the impact of what we're doing”. While AI engineers will need to still be technically talented, they will also need to have a deep understanding of the human impact of their decision, and the biases that are a part of our decisions both past and present, so we can make the world how we want it to be, not just re-create the way it has always been. As Danny says, one of the benefits of AI is that “It allows us humans to focus more on what it means to be human” You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
Do Things For The Right Reason w/ Todd Adams
Gears. Bearings. Conveyors. Drainage systems. Plumbing fixtures. Not what you first think of when it comes to innovation - but areas that maybe even more affected by innovation that all those tech companies that we normally think about. Why? Because while we often associate coming up with a new idea as the hard part of innovation, transforming existing industries can be even harder. It’s the real world for most of us. Today’s guest, Todd Adams, is the CEO of Rexnord, one of the real world companies driving innovation across several different industries. But like many successful leaders, he never imagined himself in that role. As he revealed during our conversation: “I never aspired to be CEO. I wanted to contribute to the success of an organization and learn along the way” Whether you want to be a CEO or not, Todd has some great advice about how you should go about any opportunity. “Make sure you want to do things for the right reason. People sometimes aspire to roles because they want the title, the recognition, the money...but you actually have to love the job” If you take away one piece of career advice from all the episodes we’ve done so far, that might just be the best. You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!!
It's All About People w/ Peggy Troy
Arguably no industry has been impacted by COVID more than healthcare. And because of this disruption, no industry has probably moved as fast to embrace innovation - whether they wanted to or not. For example, telemedicine, which has been around for more than a decade, has suddenly become not only a mainstream option, but also a way to create access that wasn’t possible before. On today’s episode, we speak with someone with intimate knowledge of the healthcare industry: Peggy Troy, who is the President and CEO of Children’s Wisconsin — a hospital system with over 5,000 employees and more than a billion dollars in revenue. In our conversation, we discuss how to innovate inside a heavily regulated industry, the importance of having passion for your work, and being a servant leader. We also talk about Peggy’s unique career path to CEO - going from a degree in nursing to running an entire healthcare system. Her background has given her a different perspective than your typical business leader. As she says: “If you want to be CEO, you need to understand the value of your workforce. It’s about the people. I don’t care what business you’re in, it’s about the people” You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
Passion, Problem-solving, & Pixar w/ Jim Murphy
Have you ever turned down an opportunity because you thought it was too risky? What would you do if you got a second chance? On today’s episode, we talk with Jim Murphy, who has had an over two decade career at Pixar - even though he originally turned them down. That’s right. As a budding animator, he was offered the chance to work for Pixar, but it was only a 6 month contract with no guarantees. He decided that was too risky and so he said no…... and then something incredible happened: Toy Story. Jim spent the next week watching the movie every day and realizing he needed to work at Pixar. Eventually, he got a second chance and has been involved in Pixar's tremendous success ever since: working on films such as The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, Ratatouille, and then even directing his own hit short film Lava. But this episode isn’t about filmmaking: it’s a lesson in creativity, culture, and making the most out of the opportunities that present themselves: As Jim described the early days at Pixar: “The art form was new, we were just a ragtag bunch of artists from all different mediums. And we all had something to prove. That’s the lightning in the bottle — nobody really believes you can do it and you have this surprise for the world” You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
Developing Trust in AI w/ Phaedra Boinodiris
Doing what others say you can’t do is an extremely powerful motivator for most entrepreneurs. And for today’s guest, Phaedra Boinodiris, this mindset has been integral to her story. While she was a graduate student at University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, she was working on a case challenge sponsored by IBM so she decided to create a game that taught “business process management to non-technical people.” She remembers one of her classmates telling her “games are for kids and IBM isn’t going to buy it.” Well, turns out Phaedra was right and her classmate was wrong. IBM loved her idea so much that they hired her on. And ever since, her career has been focused on gamification and artificial intelligence — and today she leads IBM’s Trust in AI division. However, she isn’t simply promoting the benefits of AI, she is equally passionate about helping people understand the potential consequences. As she says during our conversation: “If you pick any industry, AI is already disrupting it. So we need to market it in a way that makes it appealing for everyone. We need explainability, transparency, robustness, and accountability.” You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
Making Learning Social w/ Amanda DoAmaral
One of the key mindsets that I’ve always looked for in people is their ability to be unafraid of failure, yet unwilling to fail. And today’s guest, Amanda DoAmaral is someone who represents this idea. She is the CEO and founder of Fiveable, a social learning network that helps build confidence, content knowledge & technical skills in high school students trying to earn college credit. While Fiveable today has more than 200,000 users and looks like it is destined for continued success ...but the journey to this point was anything but easy. From living with teammates to save money, to hearing no countless times from investors, to even liquidating a retirement account to keep the company afloat, Amanda could have given up many times along the way. But she didn't’ - she kept going. While we often glamorize entrepreneurship, the fact is it’s extremely hard. And to succeed, you have to be unwilling to fail. As Amanda said in our conversation: “Failure happens. All the time. And we have to understand that even the people we admire made a lot of mistakes as well. If you have that mindset, it's easier to take risks.”
The Power of Non-Linearity w/ Igor Jablokov
“Hey Siri” “Ok Google” “Hey Alexa” If I told you 15 years ago that we would all be talking to our electronic devices, would you have believed me? Would you have thought I needed some therapy? Regardless of your answer, it’s clear that speech recognition has become normalized. We now talk to our devices in order to call a friend, to find directions to a local restaurant, and even, when we are really bored, to tell us a joke. On today’s episode, we talk with Igor Jablokov, a pioneer in voice recognition. Igor led the team at IBM that created the first ever speech enabled web browser and then went on to found the company Yap, which was sold to Amazon in 2011 and became the basis for Amazon Alexa. Now, Igor is the CEO of another startup: Pryon — which seeks to bring the power of voice recognition to the enterprise level. Instead of having to manually sort through emails, databases, and documents at work, Pryon enables you to simply ask your device for the relevant information, and then the machine does the discovery and surfacing for you. But Igor is more than a technologist — he’s also a self described artist and creative. And the episode is about much more than just speech recognition — it’s about the power of adaptation, non-linearity, and believing in your own distinctive journey as you pursue innovation. As Igor said “There’s not a recipe. You can try and hit some of the basics. But each one of us has this unique fingerprint and path. It’s just doing the hard work every day” You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
The Future of Higher Ed w/ Kris Ropella & Tim Hanley
It’s been just over one year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and disrupted nearly every aspect of our daily lives. One of the industries that has been most affected has been Education and more specifically Higher Education. Once the pandemic hit, every college and university was forced to move all classes online, seemingly overnight, and campus life, normally centered on close, personal interactions, became a socially distanced affair. Beyond the challenges associated with transitioning everyone to a virtual world, Higher Ed was thrust into a financial crisis and forced to make tough decisions on its current and future business model. The question everyone is now asking: where does Higher Ed go from here? Well on today’s episode, we have two college leaders who are trying to answer that question everyday: Kris Ropella, who is the Dean of the College of Engineering at Marquette University and has had a decades long career inside Higher ED, and Tim Hanley, interim Dean of the College of Business, who spent a majority of his career outside of higher ed as a partner at Deloitte. They share their insights on the structural barriers to change and how they’re working to build a new model that will thrive in the post-pandemic world. Whether you are in Higher Education or not, this episode provides great insight on how the world is changing and what you can do to adapt, including this advice from Tim Hanley, on what a great leader of the future looks like “The leaders of tomorrow are bold, they don’t follow all the rules, but they are also listening, getting feedback, and are open to change” You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
The Serial 1 E-Bike Story w/ Jason Huntsman & Hannah Altenburg
In 1903, William Harley and the Davidson Brothers built their first motorcycle in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since that first bike shipped, Harley Davidson has become an American icon and likely the best known motorcycle brand across the world, selling upwards of 300,000 motorcyles each year. But what happens to a business when consumer preferences and behaviors change? While motorcycles continue to sell well to their traditional customer base focused on the open road, a new segment of consumers has developed, that is more interested in sustainability and local travel. Harley’s response? Serial 1. Serial 1, which started as a skunkworks project inside the company, and now operates as an independent entity, is creating a brand new line of electric bicycles to meet these changing consumer desires. On today’s show, we talk with Jason Huntsman, President of Serial 1, and Hannah Altenburg, Lead Brand Marketing Specialist, to discuss the journey from idea to development to the upcoming product launch. Both were part of the team that started this project inside Harley and share their unique perspective and advice for anyone who is trying to create change inside a larger organization. As Jason said during our interview: “You can’t listen to everyone. You have to find your true north, pick a few advisors you trust, and then take everyone else’s opinion and keep moving” You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
Everyone Can Be A Leader w/ Chris Lowney
A Jesuit, a banker, and an author sit down for a podcast. No, this isn’t some ridiculous set-up to a joke, it’s actually how I would describe today’s episode. But if you are expecting 3 guests, I have to tell you, there’s only one. His name: Chris Lowney. Chris has a unique story: He entered a Jesuit seminary after highschool and spent 7 years studying to become a priest, but then left the seminary and went on to an incredibly successful career as an investment banker at JP Morgan, and now is a best-selling author of Heroic Leadership and other books and a world-renowned speaker. While Chris’ journey may be out of the ordinary, it does embody a key trait of all innovators: the ability to take lessons from different industries and experiences and apply them in new ways to your current pursuit. We cover a wide range of topics and Chris shares his tremendous insight on both life and some of his keys to success. Including this advice: “People are better than we give them credit for and they are better than they think they are. If you give them a chance and some belief, they will outperform. Create an environment where people feel like they have a chance and know that you believe they can do it.” You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
The Circle of Innovation
If you’re a long time listener of the show, you’ve noticed that many common themes around innovation and leadership emerge from these conversations. Recently, I took these ideas, and the many lessons learned throughout my career, and presented them as a TED Talk at Marquette University. On today’s episode, we are replaying my talk, called the Circle of Innovation, which is a summary of how you can implement behaviors in your life that will make you a more innovative leader. I even include some experiments that you can try to test these ideas in your own life and hopefully get comfortable pushing yourself beyond your typical boundaries. You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
What The Jesuits Can Teach Us About Innovation w/ Father Nicky Santos
When you think of innovation, what comes to mind? It might be a company, like Tesla. A founder, like Steve Jobs. Or even a location, like Silicon Valley. But what is unlikely to come to mind is a religious order that has been around since 1540 and each member takes a vow of poverty. But that is exactly the focus of today’s episode: The Jesuits. A religious order of the Catholic Church founded by Ignatius of Loyola, who today are often most known for their focus on education and the founding of many world class universities across the United States. Today’s guest is Father Nicky Santos, a Jesuit priest who also has a master’s degree in moral theology, an MBA and a PhD in Marketing. He explains that it’s not only education that the Jesuits are pioneers in, but they also have been on the frontier of innovation. I like to say that innovation starts with imagining a better future, and Fr. Nicky explains that’s exactly what the Jesuits have been trained to do. “The early Jesuits were going all across the world and getting people to imagine possibilities that they have never imagined before.” Our conversation touches on Fr. Nicky’s journey from India to Priesthood and the multiple degrees he has gotten along the way, his theory of GRAMS, which are Jesuit principles that he believes also drive innovation, and what he thinks the future of Jesuit education and innovation will be. You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
The Power of Intellectual Curiosity w/ David Reeves
Today’s guest is David Reeves, President of OpenGov — a Silicon Valley company that offers cloud based services to local governments so they can achieve better performance and ultimately create better outcomes for the public. Put another way, they're applying the practices and standards developed by private industry to the public sector … and if you’ve ever waited 2 hours at the DMV to update the address on your drivers license, you know that it’s not a minute too soon. David has had a long career in the tech industry and has been fortunate to work alongside a number of successful entrepreneurs and innovators during his career - gaining many valuable lessons from their experiences. We discussed what he sees as the most critical trait for success in an entrepreneurial organization and he said: “You need intellectual curiosity. Top notch people have an innate intellectual curiosity about what they are doing. They are more capable of being adaptable and learning new things” We also touched some of the unique challenges of pursuing innovation in a public-private partnership, the pros and cons of accelerators like Y Combinator, and the power of relationships in business and life. You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
Personal Disruption w/ Abim Kolawole
When we talk about innovation, we often focus on disrupting certain industries, but innovation also requires you to embrace personal disruption: your beliefs will be challenged, your direction will be changed, and your responsibilities will be shifted. Today’s guest, Abim Kolawole, has embraced personal disruption throughout his entire career. Starting out as a lawyer for the SEC, he pivoted into running the claims business at Northwestern Mutual, and then pivoted again to his current role as VP of Digital Innovation. When I asked him about the winding path he has taken, he said: “Your career journey is about optionality. You have to keep your options open to maximize opportunity. ” But this episode is not just about Abim’s story, but rather its about the classic Innovator’s Dilemma: why large, successful, well managed companies struggle to adopt new innovations and technologies even though they see them coming. We also discuss how large companies can use a crisis to force themselves to innovate, how to build a team that can accomplish innovation and not just talk about it, and the necessity to be rapidly adaptable in today’s fast-paced society. You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
Venture Philanthropy w/ BJ Cassin
Many of you may have heard of the now famous Sand Hill Road - where the first VC firms planted their roots, and where nearly every top technology company received early funding coming - including Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook to name just a few. Today, we speak with one of the original Silicon Valley venture capitalists: BJ Cassin. But BJ’s story doesn’t end with the impact he had as a venture capitalist, it goes far beyond it. Prior to his investing career, BJ co-founded the technology company Xidex which went on to achieve Fortune 500 status in 1987 and helped revolutionize the microfilm and data storage industry. And later in his career, BJ became passionate about increasing opportunities in the education system. Starting in 2000 with a $22 million dollar gift, the Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation was launched to help replicate two very innovative school models across the country - Cristo Rey and Nativity schools. He is now implementing his venture philanthropy model with the Drexel Fund that funds a range of innovative schools, networks, and educational entrepreneurs. If there is a theme that has come to define BJ’s success, it is the ability to take an idea and scale it to more places to impact more people. He describes his greatest joy as “Seeing people open a new school and recognizing there are a lot of entrepreneurs in the system. All they need is guidance, some capital, and an idea.” BJ’s story is a great opportunity to reflect on how you can replicate the best ideas in your own life to scale the impact on those around you. You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
The 10 Principles of Innovation
As I’ve interviewed a number of innovators and entrepreneurs on the show over the last couple of years, it has re-confirmed my belief that innovation is not a process or a recipe, but it is fundamentally about people and their mindset. In the first half of season three, I’ve had a chance to talk with a wide range of incredible guests, who have proven that there is no one particular way to successfully innovate. And while people have different styles, and describe their strategies and philosophies in different ways, if you listen closely they share similar core beliefs that fuel their thinking. As I looked back through these interviews, I realized there are ten broad themes which can be applied to your own innovation journey. Think of these 10 ideas as the Innovators on Tap Principles of Innovation. They may look a little different depending on the situation and are often applied in unique ways in different companies, but the core ideas are the same. The key is look below the surface of what they did, and understand why they did it - to understand the mindset driving their approach. Our hope is that these principles help guide you throughout your own innovator’s journey. You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
Building Resilience w/ Wafaa Arbash
Today’s guest is Wafaa Arbash, the founder & CEO of WorkAround — a company helping refugees and displaced populations find sustainable income through data labeling for machine learning algorithms. However, Wafaa’s story goes much deeper than her role as a founder and CEO — she also is a great example of the power of resilience. She originally came to the United States from Syria in 2013, with a plan to stay 8 weeks. However, shortly after arrival, a crisis emerged in her home country which made it clear to her and her family that she would be much safer staying in the U.S. a little longer. The crisis in Syria continues and her original 8 week visit has turned into 7 years, where she’s now leveraging her talents to help displaced people that are still being affected by the unrest in her home country. Wafaa says that one of the keys to her success was: “You need to be proactive. You need to build a toolbox for yourself that allows you to be resilient” You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
If you’ve listened to this show before, you know that one of the key premises is that Innovation is fundamentally about people and not process - that’s it requires a unique mindset. This is what I call the Innovator’s Spirit — which are the beliefs that enable the behaviors that make innovation possible. The challenge for many of us is that our life experiences have created beliefs that actually get in the way of innovation. We have seen things, done things and have been told things that create “false truths” which limit our ability to take risk and challenge the status quo, that convince us to settle for good enough and accept artificial boundary conditions. These limits on our thinking about what’s possible are all around us, so on today’s episode I’m going to challenge several ideas that many people consider conventional wisdom. To help me do this, I’ve asked Kyle Hagge, the producer of Innovator’s of Tap and an aspiring entrepreneur to join me on this side of the microphone as we challenge the value of some age-old ideas. You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!
The Science of Behavior w/ Julie Miller
This episode is a replay of the previously released interview with Julie Miller, behavioral scientist. We will be back with new episodes in 2021! Happy New Year! For many businesses that want to innovate, the biggest challenge is not coming up with a new idea, but figuring out how to get consumers to embrace the idea. We dealt with this problem often at Cree, including when we tried to get customers to switch from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs. The key to driving change is to first understand how humans behave. I recently had a chance to talk with Julie Miller, who is a behavioral scientist, a researcher at Dan Ariely’s Center for Advanced Hindsight, and an Innovation Partner at Wake Innovates. Julie has been using her knowledge of human behavior to help companies connect with their customers, teach organizations to become more innovative, and recognize that “We rely way too much on asking people, when instead, we should be watching people and testing things.” We discuss how behavioral science is more than simple user experience, why incremental improvement may actually be more risky than innovation, and the importance of workplace culture to create the right environments and contexts for employees to pursue new ideas. You can follow the podcast and host Chuck Swoboda on Twitter for further exploration and discussion on innovation. The episode is also available wherever else you listen to podcasts. Enjoy!