Outrageous Innovative Thinking

If you want to be innovative and grow your brand in a big way, you need to have the confidence and the  arrogance to THINK BIG. Give yourself (and your team) permission to dream, to be expansive, to go all out during the ideation phase.

Look at the image in this blog and (just like the guy in the picture) ask yourself, “Why not?”

Throughout history, the people who are game changers ask themselves this question. Steve Jobs said, “Let’s make a dent in the universe.” He had the arrogance to think big, to not be limited by any boundaries and to dream beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations.

If you have a branding or business challenge that you’re trying to innovate around, think big!

Get crazy!

Ask yourself, “If I were going to imagine the most crazy, far out, amazing outcome, what would that be?” By allowing yourself to be outrageous, you will find that you’ll come up with unusual, innovative solutions.

Brainstorming can be focused around many different aspects of a business, an opportunity or a business challenge, and “outrageous innovative thinking” is just another thought process to help you develop breakthrough ideas.  As is true in all brainstorming, in the beginning, you can’t allow your practical brain to shut down ideas. In the beginning of brainstorming concepts, there should be no filtering! Every idea is a viable idea.  This is necessary because that crazy, outrageous, “completely impossible” idea may cause you (or someone on your team) to think of an idea that IS doable and incredibly possible (but still a breakthrough idea). It is very possible that in the end, you may circle back to something more modest, but you might not start that way.

You and your team members might eventually say, “Well, we can’t do that but we could do this one little piece“… and that will lead you to some innovation, some new thinking and perhaps something new for your business.

To begin, think big.


Do You Have An Innovation Mindset?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to have an innovation mindset.  I’m talking about the right frame of mind to allow innovation to happen and actually promote innovation within your world.

If You Do, Then You Will Expect Innovation

One of the first critical elements is to expect innovation to happen.

Some people think progress and new ideas come from a “Eureka!” moment that hits you like a lightning bolt, but in today’s business world, innovation is a regular, daily, ongoing, grind-it-out, get-it-done kind of an occurrence. While you might have a 5 am burst of inspiration, but most of the time, that is not how it happens.

In the business world, you can’t afford to wait for inspiration to strike. You have to make it happen. At Miracle-Gro,  we had regularly scheduled innovation meetings. At LEGO, we had to introduce multiple new products for our sub-brands and product lines every six months. Kids are some of the toughest consumers around! They have short attention spans, and they want to know “What’s hot this season?” You can’t show them the toy from last season. That’s old news! It’s got to be different! New! Exciting!

In the technology world, innovation and improvements are expected and planned all the time. The professionals in those businesses work under a system of “planned obsolescence.” That means that, by design, the cell phone you buy today will be outdated within two years.

Do You Expect Innovation?

As you are thinking about your own business world, expect innovation.  Arrange your business life around the idea that innovation is going to happen, can happen, and will happen (if you have that expectation).

If you knew without a doubt that you could have innovative ideas about your business, what would you do differently?  That’s a big idea to think about.

Innovation can be challenging, and often you spend  a LOT of time working on something that (seemingly) bears no fruit.  I’m sure Edison felt that way as he was discovering the 10,000 ways NOT to build a lightbulb.  But if you have a firm resolve and an expectation of success, this will speed your progress.

If someone knew nothing about gardening, they might think that their neighbor who gardens is crazy.  From afar, they would see that the gardener spends a lot of time watering, weeding and otherwise tending uselessly to an empty patch of dirt.  They might ask themselves, “Why are they doing that?”

They don’t have an expectation of success.  The gardener knows that if they are diligent and keep working at it, they will be successful.

The same mindset applies to innovation.

If you are diligent and keep working at it, you will be successful.

So expect innovation to happen, and it will.

Get Ready For Success

Now, take a moment to think about something you’d like to innovate—a business problem, an industry challenge, or even coming up with a new way to approach an issue in your personal life. Put some time on the calendar to think about it and work on it at regularly-scheduled intervals and then, get ready to innovate!

Innovation Built on What You Already Have

When you think about how to grow your business or your brand, one of the key elements to think about is building on what you already have. Apple did a great job with this. Apple is considered one of the most innovative brands around, but they started with the computer.

When Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started out, they didn’t say, “Hey! Let’s make a telephone company.” They started with computers. They had a philosophy of making computers in an elegant, simple, sleek way that was accessible to everyone, easy to understand and user-friendly. They then moved on to the iPod and then later came the iPhone and the iPad. They took their knowledge of computers and their philosophy of elegance and simplicity and added it to those new industries.

I liken it to hopping on lily pads. If I were standing on one lily pad, in the center, very balanced…and if I tried to step onto the next lily pad (on the edge), I would fall in the water. But if I take one foot and put it in the center of the second lily pad and distribute my weight evenly, it would be different.  Once I get balanced, then I can take my foot off of the first lily pad. If I keep doing this over and over again, taking advantage of the balance and structure where I am at the moment, I can progress and grow. And when I look back, I’ll find that I’m all the way across the pond!

Everyone thinks that innovation is making huge leaps forward, but sometimes, it doesn’t work that way.   That doesn’t mean that if it’s not BIG innovation, it doesn’t count as innovation.  It does!  Sometimes it’s just more evolutionary.

This is how you can grow your brand too. You can innovate little by little, approaching different industries or different segments of the industry with your own philosophy and your own way of doing business. How you would approach a certain business segment is going to be very different from how another competitor would approach it.

Grow your brand your way. Take inventory of what assets you already have and ask yourself, “How can I build what I already have?  What little steps can I take today that will get me to where I want to go?”



Tonight I was privileged to attend an inspiring opening keynote speech by David Gutelius, a Silicone Valley serial entrepreneur and company builder who used machine learning to help develop Siri (which eventually sold to Apple), TrapIt, Tempo AI and Desti.   The PAC talk, Creating a New Reality, was a great way to launch the Principia Public Affairs Conference on Innovation this year, and I thought you might get some inspiration from hearing what I heard. Here are some of the key takeaways that I had:

  • Everyone is an innovator (or can be). Start thinking of yourself that way. (Amen to that!)
  • Innovation is a disruption that necessarily requires some upheaval, some throwing away of the old way of doing things. I have always embraced change, and I’m somewhat of a rebel so I love the concept of innovation.
  • Mark shared the first known reference to the word “innovate” in an English proclamation by King Edward VI in 1548 (A Proclamation against Those that Doeth Innovate) and talked about the negative connotation innovation carried with it for so long. We’ve all heard about the business proclamation, “innovate or die” but clearly in King Edward’s time, it would’ve been “innovate and die.”
  • One of the other key messages that Mark shared (and I wholeheartedly believe in) is the relationship between innovation and execution, and the difference between creativity and innovation. He said that creativity is coming up with new ideas, and innovation is executing those ideas. This is CRITICAL. Innovation that just sits in your head is nothing.
  • Failure is a part of innovation. “If you are not failing, you’re not pushing yourself enough.”
  • He talked about the need to address the naysayers. Negativity can be deadly to innovation, so it’s important to believe that solutions can be reached. But notice that he didn’t say “ignore;” he said “address.” I take that to mean that we need to counter objections with logical solutions that address those concerns in order to successfully launch a product.
  • The biggest naysayer is often your own negative voice, so it’s important to guard against listening to that voice too much (I feel there is a much bigger, longer, more in-depth blog post to be written about on this topic alone!).
  • Empathy and passion are important aspects of the innovation process. You need to be able to feel what others feel so that you can understand the problems, and you need to help others see the benefits of your ideas in order to sell them in
  • “You were made for greatness.” What will matter in the years to come will be: what difference did you make in the world? Your individual perspective and ideas are needed in the world.
  • David told some stories about projects he has worked on, which were fascinating. He admonished everyone in the audience to be an innovator, ending with this: Innovation is not something you do; it’s who you are.

Prinicipia’sPublic Affairs Conference happens every year and is open to the public.  Also, you can find out more about The Data Guild (David’s incubator organization) and follow him on Twitterhere.

St. Louis Personal Branding, Digital Branding, and Innovation Conversations: A Recap of Product Camp 2016

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak at Product Camp St. Louis, a conference filled with inventors, product managers, project engineers and other entrepreneurs. I actually spoke on three different topics as a St. Louis expert in personal branding, a professional from a digital branding agency, and as a catalyst for St. Louis innovation. The feedback has been phenomenal for all three sessions.

Each session was markedly different. In the digital branding session, I talked about the philosophy of content marketing and how that can drive tangible results for your business. It was so much fun to see how interested people are in learning how to leverage themselves and their companies, as well as how to leverage digital activities and digital assets to promote their organization. One of the things that I found most interesting about the digital branding session was the variety of perspectives in the room. Some people are very comfortable with the digital space and wanted to hear lots of specifics in terms of recommendations, while others were glad to hear the strategic overview of content marketing and digital branding. Here’s what attendees had to say:

  • “It was interesting to hear the importance of driving potential customers to your website.
  • “Thanks for the informative session.”
  • “Your session was great and great too for me-I’m not a marketing person so I have to learn that plus digital!”
  • “Thanks for your perspectives and strategies on building branding.”

The 2016 Product Camp St. Louis personal branding session focused on individual careers and how to position yourself in your world in a way that allows you to optimize and leverage your talents in the best way possible. I have discovered that most people find that challenging and interesting because most don’t think about their own personal brands. Here are some of the things that we heard:

  • “What was most interesting to me was just the idea that your personal brand should be as easy as breathing. Very insightful.”
  • “I was really impressed with the flow of conversation. I think it helps to have real life comparisons, so the more the better.
  • “It was interesting to me to hear that I need to actively manage my personal brand.”
  • “I liked hearing that I need to invest in my brand.”
  • “ It was interesting to me to hear that effective personal branding encompasses consistency, which is best served through authenticity.”

The innovation session talked about the mindset necessary to find new solutions and was more of a discussion about what is successful in different organizations. A key message in that discussion was the idea that innovation isn’t reserved for a few lucky people who get struck by an idea. Innovation is something everyone can take part in simply by actively pursuing innovation. One person commented that the session was inspiring and empowering. They wrote: “Thanks for the innovation session; it was interesting to hear such a positive message.” I was also excited to hear what others had to say about this because I will be giving another talk on Innovation Mindset at the end of March at a Public Affairs Conference on Innovation (find out more at www.prinnovatoin2016.com ). I will definitely be adding ideas from this conversation (I invite you to join me March 24-26—it’s going to be great!).

Thanks to everyone who attended St. Louis Product Camp 2016; I look forward to getting to know you all better in the coming months.

Speaker on Innovation

I’m so happy to announce that I have been asked to speak at the Principia Public Affairs Conference on March 24 through the 26th. This conference will focus on innovation, so I’ll be sharing stories about how we approached innovation include in companies like the ones I’ve worked for like LEGO and Miracle-Gro.

Here’s the description about the talk that I will give.

An Innovation Mindset: Do You Have What It Takes?

In today’s day and age, innovation is not about some once-in-a-lifetime “Eureka!” moment. It’s about having the right mindset to foster innovation, actively nurturing creativity , embracing both failure and success as progress, taking advantage of trends and putting ideas in to action quickly. Everyone can be an innovator; it just takes the right mindset.

Join a discussion about where innovation comes from and what is an innovation mindset, both in an individual and an organization. Rahna will share personal examples of product development and innovation from the toy industry, lawn & garden,  industrial manufacturing and oil & gas–to inspire attendees about how to develop an innovation mindset in themselves and others.

You can find out more about the conference and see who the other great speakers will be here:

I’ve written some blogs about these ideas, so if you’ve read my blog recently, you may recognize a few of the posts I’ve already shared on this topic:


I’m excited to give this talk because I have found that when you have to present something, you always learn from it, so I’m sure that as I reflect on processes and innovations that we’ve approached in the various companies that I’ve worked for, I’ll get new insights into the process of innovation.

I’ll be sure to share them with you here on this blog over the next coming weeks.


Well, I’ve done it.

I’ve committed to launching my book in the next three months… My husband is highly skeptical, my kids are indifferent, and my parents are cheering me on.

So many things have gotten in the way of publishing this thing: we moved, I work as Director of Advertising for Build-A-Bear Workshop, I consulted with a company that is protecting America’s infrastructure (sounds boring but it’s actually quite interesting), we moved again, I went Israel, and did a bunch of other stuff.

Sometimes I look at all these activities as distractions; sometimes I look at them simply as “life.”

Regardless I’m going to put all that behind me and move forward.

Wish me luck!

Use Your Ideas


Open Your Mind