October 20, 2021

The Politics of American Innovation Today by Laura Schlafly

Laura Schlafly of Career Choices with Laura

Laura Schlafly of Career Choices With Laura

I want to thank Laura Schlafly of Career Choices With Laura for submitting this great post on The Politics of American Innovation Today.

Within an organization, be it a local non-profit or an international manufacturing behemoth like Apple, we will always find individuals who are the internal politicians and influencers within any decision process.  If we have a proposal, our agenda, for some significant change then it behooves us to entice the influencers to be inclined to our idea by offering something which will be seen as a desirable advantage for them.

Similarly, but on a more global scale, the decisions that stem from the desire for companies and countries to be ever more innovative to achieve mastery of global markets, growth of emerging economies, and international political hegemony, creates tremendous pressures on a country’s leadership. I read with great fascination a recent January 21, 2012 N.Y. Times article, titled:

“How the U.S. Lost Out on IPhone Work” This well-researched article elicited many comments and opinions on the current state of innovation in America, which has been widely decried as having become substandard in various ways, when compared to that of China.  To me, it is an economic transition that played out in the 1960’s through the 1980’s with Japan’s path from a country of cheaply made copycat products, to a world super power producer of superior designs with high quality.

Below, I have posted the reply of one of the anonymous commenters, which I happen to align with.


“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.””

Exactly.  It is up to us as individuals and up to our government as our representatives to solve these problems. As individuals we can make sure to educate ourselves and have good skills. Our representatives need to ensure that our schools can teach such skills to those willing to learn them and to provide the type of environment where companies can succeed.

We cannot force anyone to manufacture anything here unless the environment is right. If we force companies to produce here in an unprofitable way,  soon no one will be producing here. Better, we can entice high tech companies with an educated work force, a predictable business environment, good infrastructure, and a steady tax regime. We also have to accept that we cannot out compete the world in every industry.

Let’s start by educating our kids so that they can perform engineering and design jobs. We should not lament that we do not have any 12 hour night time factory jobs where workers live on-site. We should instead prepare our children for higher value-added jobs so that they can enjoy a better life.


Such are the politics involved in the selection of where to locate major production facilities in a global economy.  So much more political maneuvering occurred behind the scenes than is revealed in this article.

Laura Schlafly
Career Choices with Laura

PODCAST: For Innovation to Succeed, You Must Be Willing to Be a Politician

Many people cringe at the thought of being “political” in business.  But, at the end of the day, when you are entering into a phase of innovation, you must be willing to sit down and get buy in from the political movers and shakers in your organization.  During this podcast, Bea Fields addresses the topic of political savvy and its relationship to the innovation process.

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PODCAST: Is Your Perfectionism Squelching the Innovation Process?

If you are a perfectionism, you may have a need to know 100% of the facts before you begin the innovation process.  During this podcast, Bea Fields will present a different approach to help the perfectionists of the world so that they can actually get the innovation ball rolling.


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PODCAST: How to Deal With Difficult People During the Innovation Process

During the innovation process, you will more than likely bump into a few “stoppers” and “nay-sayers”.  During this podcast, Bea Fields will discuss how to handle difficult people who are on your innovation team.

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PODCAST: How to Deal With Creative People During the Innovation Process

The creative thinkers on your team will be critical to the innovation process.  During thie presentation, Bea Fields will discuss how to deal with creative people on your innovation team.


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Video: Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from

I have always said that innovation just “doesn’t happen”. It occurs out of a series of events and minds coming together to create a breakthrough idea, product or service.

No one says it better than in this TED video by Steven Johnson:  Where good ideas come from!

I Stands for Innovation: 6 Skills Today’s Leaders Need to Turn Ideas into New Products and Services

INNOVATION! You see the word everywhere today, in every business journal and even on billboards.  Everyone is talking innovation these days, because we are all competing to find the next big idea…a way to make our next million!

But what does it take to truly be innovative?  See, innovation to me is a bit different than creativity.  From my perspective, creativity is thinking of new ideas.  The majority of people say that they have creative ideas all day long, but they never do anything with them…they don’t speak about them, write about them or do anything to try to get them into the marketplace.

Innovation is a bit different…it is a process which may or may not start with creative thinking.  From my observations, innovation is much more related to a creative thinker being out in the world, noticing something odd or something new and asking the question “WHY?” and then “HOW?” She then goes and answers the question “WHY?” by coming up with the HOW and then creating something brand new that never existed.  So, the creativity is sparked most often by a question or an observation in life.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos

I have never met Amazon Founder, Jeff Bezos (who changed my life!  I am an Amazon junkie!) , but the stories and interviews I have read and heard go something like this.

Bezos is of course one of these computer geniuses who in the early 1990’s noticed that internet usage was increasing by 2300 percent a year.  At this time, the internet was not really being used for commerce (a small bit but not to a great degree)  but he knew it was coming, so he immediately began looking at what type of offering he could make on the internet that would change the way we all do business.

So, Bezos went about reviewing the top 20 mail order businesses and began asking himself several questions such as “What type of business could be conducted more efficiently over the Internet than by traditional mail order Because there were no comprehensive mail order catalogs for books (they would be gigantic), he believed that the internet would be a perfect vehicle to set up an online bookstore.

Bezos began attending book conferences, publishing events and becoming masterful on how to best sell books.  This venture selling books online started in his garage (how many times have we heard this scenario about innovation?  Starting in a garage or a bathroom?), and here we are today…buying everything under the sun on Amazon.  I had to do a little time capsule display a few months ago, and I ordered a bottle of Tang on Amazon, have recently purchased a clock, furniture, and bedding on the Amazon and just saw where I can even buy a lawn mower…they have everything imaginable.

I could probably go on and on about other great innovators like Steve Jobs, whose big motive is to “Put a ding in the universe” or Bill Gates, whose vision was to see every home in the world with a computer running windows (that was going to be possible until Steve Jobs came along and said…I think we can do this better and in a way that is really hot/cool”).  But, the bottom line is that these innovators use certain skills including:

1. Breaking up the status quo. Innovators don’t accept that what is available is the best option.  They take ideas that are already in existence and make them better.

2. Questioning everything.  Innovators invest a great deal of time each day asking questions…asking “Why?” and “How?” and “What’s next?”  By sitting down and writing out some questions that are the unthinkable each day, you can exercise your innovative thinking.

3. Brainstorming. Most innovators are not sitting in their offices alone thinking up ideas.  They get out and talk to people and get ideas.  My husband, Mike and I are building a home right now, and we have a great crew helping us out.  We have hit about 100 snags, and we then go to our crew and say “Okay…we have this issue, let’s talk options…what are all of the possible solutions.”  And, as soon as the best one comes to the surface, we act…but trust me…we are relying on the bright ideas of others to make this home beautiful and truly efficient and effective.

4. Nosy-ness. Most innovators are nosy.  They get into doors and look around.  They open drawers and look at files and scope out retail shops and look around.  They take in everything, and pull it all back in and say…”Hmmm…something is missing, and it is this.”

Duct Tape Has Over 500 Uses. I Believe I Have Seen Jack Bauer Use This Approach On "24"

5. Problem Oriented Passion. The majority of people I have met who are truly innovators started their big idea because they quite frankly got ticked off about something not working in life.  The positive passion and inspiration are great, but the majority of time, something is missing in life or someone needs something to make life easier, and they go out and find a way to make it happen.  Duct Tape was invented to keep moisture out of the ammunition cases (see…a problem was here…moisture was getting into ammunition cases). Because it was waterproof, people referred to the tape as “Duck Tape.”  Of course, now, we use Duct Tape for everything…I saw a show one night on all of the uses for Duct Tape…including a house that had repaired everything in the house with Duct Tape.   You can see some of the uses for duct tape here.

6. Stick-To-Itiveness. I am not 100% sure of the accuracy of this quote, but quote masters say that Thomas  Edison said “I have not failed 1,000 times.  I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.”  Whether or not this is an accurate quote, I have studied Edison enough to know that he was a master of sticking to a project and continuously experimenting so that he could get it right.  He did indeed finally discover the magical formula for the light bulb, yet so often, we stop our innovative processes after failing one single time.  If you are going to lead the edge in your industry, you have to be willing to stick to it until you reach your new idea comes to life.

If you are a leader or business owner who is struggling with innovation, I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you to see how I can be of assistance.  Just send an e-mail to bea@beafields.com, and we will set up a time to speak.

How do I create an environment where my top employees’ contributions can keep my company relevant in today’s world?


Radical innovation is going to be a critical component in a leader’s toolkit in the future, and this does not mean that you “try innovation” over a week-end brainstorming retreat. It happens by disrupting the current environment, challenging old assumptions and even turning the culture upside down so that you can move ahead and start being highly competitive.

Each day I meet leaders, and the first question I ask is “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being super sticky, how stuck are you?” Most people laugh, and they usually respond by saying “I’m a 20 or a 25!” So, when you are stuck, you have to break up the pattern…turn a table upside down and figure out a way to still use the table as an eating surface, roll out of the bed on the other side, shave with the hand you don’t normally use…do something to be disruptive. This is the same for companies…what would happen if you do the opposite of what you’ve always done? What would you do if you totally destroyed your most profitable item and had to start from scratch? Or, how would an artist, physician or scientist suggest that you change your company?

To keep your company relevant, a culture must foster a sense of psychological safety for employees to not only feel comfortable but be encouraged to challenge the status quo and bring fresh, radical ideas to the table and feel safe that they are not going to be criticized or made to feel silly in the process. Everyone in the company needs to be brought up to speed on the vision and direction of the company, and the leader needs to make a statement that the game is now on…everyone is going to be challenged to think radically, innovate, think strategically and that a part of this is to be open to divergent thinking and to allow open debate to get to the root of the issue. You have to be willing to get very uncomfortable…to laugh nervously and feel the sweat bead up on your brow.

Staying ahead will also call leaders to design an environment that includes a diversity of people…a mix of cultures, ages, ethnicities and religions can bring new, more creative ideas to the table. It will also be very important to add a Chief Knowledge Officer to your staff…someone who has their finger on the pulse of what is going on in the world and how your company fits in and how competitive you are to people who are thousands of miles around the world from you.

Tomorrow is already here. Are you relevant, or are you becoming obsolete? Only you can answer that question! .

Is Your Organization Truly Built for Innovation?

Is your business or organization really designed for innovation?  Are you sure?  Every day I speak to leaders who swear that their businesses are designed for innovation, but in my opinion, this is usually not the case. Why? Because they are stifling open debate, shooting the messenger and making it unsafe for people to voice their opinions.

If your business or company is truly an innovative one, your doors will be open for debate, and your culture will be designed to make it psychologically safe for both employees and customers to voice not only their suggestions, dreams and goals but their concerns, complaints and frustrations.  A recent article in Harvard Business Review: The Customer-Centered Innovation Map is a must read for any business that wants to thrive in the future.  The article comes from the perspective that when a customer buys a product or service from your company, they are actually hiring you to get a job done.  This “job to be done” could be to make more money, look more beautiful, live a more healthy life, move into a dream home, become more credible or build a better relationship.  At each step of the process of the job getting done, both your employees and customers are going to experience both successes and struggle points (and some people will struggle more than others.) By carefully mapping the job a customer is trying to get done, you can find golden opportunities to innovate as you help the customer through your process.   Along the way, you will want to ask questions such as “How can we do this much more efficiently?” and “What struggles and inconveniences are our customers experiencing?” and “How are trends affecting the way the job gets done?” and “What causes execution to go off track?”  As you move through the life cycle of working with a client, looking at each and every compliment, complaint and challenge can open the door for your company to provide a new product, offering or level of customer service that will set you apart from your competition.