Stop talking, start innovating

Achieving success Silicon Valley style

Next Step

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The next step in your company’s success should be to innovate.

Jennifer Vessels
Next Step—Silicon Valley & Oslo

Talk about innovation is everywhere—in board rooms, conferences, employee meetings, and university classes. In 2019, it is estimated that over NOK 10 billion will be spent developing innovation competency.

However, to gain real returns, business leaders must stop talking and start being innovative daily in their actions, decisions, and management approaches. In Silicon Valley, innovation comes through action.

For Norwegian businesses to be innovative, leaders must:

1. Be curious and listen.

Meet with at least one customer, partner, or competitor every week. Ask open-ended questions and really listen to their concerns and desires. Be open to their ideas and needs to stimulate creative ways to create value.

Uber and Airbnb were not the results of long research projects but of determination to find a better way. What customers, colleagues, or co-collaborators can you meet within the next month to understand their needs, desires, and opportunities for the future?

2. Take a risk.

Successful innovation starts with a commitment to create something new. This requires breaking out of the “comfort zone” and doing something different. For Norwegians, this can be a bit scary. Innovation, however, is all about doing something differently and can be well worth the risk!

Start by challenging yourself to do at least one thing differently each day. It can be as simple as taking a new route home from work, eating lunch out instead of in the office, or going to the gym at a different time of day. You will be surprised at how quickly these small changes can open your mind. Suddenly the idea of breaking out of “business as usual” may not seem so daunting.

3. Empower team members.

Innovation comes from iterative exploration, creation, piloting, and adapting new approaches to solve problems and enhance opportunities. This demands quick decision making, creativity, and fast action by all involved in the project.

Innovation is a team sport in which all members must be empowered, aligned, and committed to achieving the desired outcome. Are your employees empowered to do what it takes to succeed?

4. Invite diversity.

Innovation cannot be created in a silo. It comes through collaboration, debate, and different perspectives. While it may be a bit uncomfortable for many in Norway to engage with people who look and act differently, innovation is built through diversity.

Success comes from understanding, addressing, and integrating the ideas of others. In Silicon Valley, corporate executives and investors listen to and learn from entrepreneurs. Leaders invite challenges from 24-year-old engineers. Often people from multiple countries contribute to discussions.

If you want to start innovating, meet with people who challenge you. By listening to their viewpoint you will gain new insights to start innovating.

5. Commit to success

Success requires hard work and dedication to doing what it takes to bring “a something new” to the market. Real innovators’ commitment to creating value in new ways fuels them through long hours, reduced income, and the challenges inherent in building something great. What’s holding you back from making a difference in the world through innovation?

This is the year for innovation. Now is the time to stop talking and start innovating today by doing something different; taking small risks; empowering team members to succeed; inviting challenge, listening to different views, and committing to do what it takes to achieve the dream of successful innovation.

Jennifer Vessels is founder of Silicon Valley-based Next Step, leader of Executive Growth Alliance, and a speaker. She can be reached at

This article originally appeared in the March 8, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.