Aug 26, 2013

Purposeful Innovation

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 9.02.49 AMWhen Jeff Bezos purchased the Washington Post I went from occasionally reading the paper to reading daily on my Kindle. One of the reasons I started reading was that I’m looking forward to seeing what “innovations” Bezos can bring to the Washington Post.

This morning I came across something they re-posted that Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson had earlier published on LinkedIn. “In 1943, with the Allies racing to maintain a technological advantage in World War II, aviation legend Kelly Johnson and his team at Lockheed’s Skunk Works designed and developed the P-80 Shooting Star in just 143 days. America’s first jet fighter was the result of innovation with a purpose.”

Hewson says, “When purpose drives innovation, great things happen.” She continues, “Purpose is important. I often tell my team: If you want to reach great heights, start with a great purpose.”

We live in a world full of innovation. The computers we use, the smart phones in our pockets, and the technology we’ve come to rely upon seems to innovate itself out of existence every few months. Some of the innovations seem to be meaningful, but others seem to simply be innovation for innovation’s sake.

“Good leaders organize and align people around what the team needs to do,” writes Hewson. “Great leaders motivate and inspire people with why they’re doing it. That’s purpose. And that’s the key to achieving something truly transformational.”

I couldn’t agree more. She also suggests that innovation with a purpose isn’t just for companies. She argues, and I agree, we can apply this to ourselves.

“Ask yourself: What drives me? What kind of contribution do I want to make?” she suggests. “Define your own, individual purpose. Then ask: What skills do I need to learn? What professional experiences do I need to have? How can I get the most out of the talented people in my group?”

She argues we should be asking ourselves what we need to do to innovate personally so we can achieve a purpose that benefits ourselves and our company. “When innovation with purpose becomes a fundamental part of your career, your professional life will have a tighter focus and clearer direction. The questions you ask and the answers you discover will take you in directions that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.”

I like the idea of purposeful innovation. I particularly like the idea of taking a more purposeful approach to career development. What are you doing to ensure there is a purpose behind your actions?


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About the author

Ty Kiisel
Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business financing and trends accessible in common sense language devoid of the jargon.


  1. I’m working with a couple of teenagers, doing very manual, mindless work. This morning during a period of downtime one asked if I had a couple of screws. I told him to look in the toolbox, wondering what he had in mind. 10 minutes later he had devised a tool that made all our jobs easier and quicker by about 15%! This boy has a future!

  2. If you want to hear a heartwrenching story of innovation crushed, check out the story of the Avro Arrow:

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