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The Story Behind Michelle Royal’s One Billion Innovators

June 20, 2017

Michelle Royal was one of the main keynote speakers during Tampa Bay Technology Forum’s (TBTF) PoweredUP Technology Festival – an impressive roster that included St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Nielsen CIO Kim Anstett and Valpak CIO Chris Cate. Michelle is the CEO and founder of RIDG (Royal Innovation Design Group), a strategic consulting firm with a mission to “build better innovators.” Michelle is also the author of the upcoming book, One Billion Innovators.

Michelle’s journey began in 2006 with a moment of inspiration at the Sarasota International Design Summit. She had volunteered in order to cover the cost of the $800 ticket. With merely $200 in her pocket for the hotel room that she shared with a friend, Michelle was on a mission – a self-described “scrappy entrepreneur.”

During the Sarasota International Design Summit Michelle was in awe of the influential individuals that surrounded her, such as the Chief Design Officers for BMW and Phillips. But it was when she saw Tom Wujec (Chief Evangelist at Autodesk) on stage, that Michelle had a revelation. It was then that she had a sudden flash of inspiration in the form of a question: “What if everyone in the world knew how to innovate?” Meaning, what if everyone had the knowledge, process, and capacity to effectively innovate? This question hounded her, which propelled her into the world of innovation and she has never looked back since.

Michelle’s question relates to how we can form the future of innovation for all. But what is innovation? In her keynote address, Michelle explained that innovation is the “realized value of an idea,” which means it is not the brainstorm, or the “conversation in the coffee shop that you think you should have intellectual property on” – it is what you actually put into the marketplace. Michelle explains one way to frame the innovation process is using the “Line of Appropriateness” graph. On the horizontal axis are three words: Incremental, Radical and Disruptive. The vertical axis represents the amount of resources: low to high.

RIDG is constantly receiving inquiries from clients who are looking to be disruptive, to hedge against disruption, or invent the next wave of disruption – yet it is a process. Michelle shares that 2% of innovation within the world necessitates high levels of time, talent and money, such as Universities or Companies able to invest back into innovation for their business. Innovation begins at the incremental stage, which includes the group of “process improvement” peers. These people are individuals that create mastery around the core concept of continuous improvement; all of which is composed of an aggregate of small things that help to create an exponential impact. The radical category is comprised of mostly technology companies, start-ups, the entrepreneurial ecosystem – a mashed up kind of place. Michelle explains that 98% of the world’s innovation resides in the mashed-up place.

In the process of understanding how to innovate, Michelle describes the role of the innovator. In the process between incremental to disruptive, we all have a life cycle of contribution. The purpose of an idea is to serve as many people as possible. This, in turn, makes the innovators “servant leaders.” Michelle explains that we all must become servants to an idea and to acquiesce our egos for the purpose of achieving this idea. Therefore, this new system of thinking requires us to invite others on a journey with us to make contributions for the sake of an idea.

Michelle describes an innovator as a “Master of Uncertainty,” a person who helps to embrace risk and drive change. This is the individual who says, “I know we have been doing it that way, but why don’t we try to do it a different way…and did you have any ideas?” This is a person who doesn’t care about doing it their way, but works to embrace and involve all in a new mode of thinking to serve an idea.

Michelle concluded her keynote by revealing that the next 5-10 years are going to be absolutely transformative, not just here in Tampa Bay, but throughout humanity. She proposed that we have to create an aligned state of mind, a cohesive story, and effective strategies in order for innovation to be possible. Michelle states that we need to trust, respect, and care about each other. She even went on to say that this is a “human job” despite the technology we are developing.

Michelle is just one example of how innovation has been cultivated in Tampa Bay. “If it can work in Tampa, then it can work anywhere,” she said, and closed by saying,

“It’s time to stop saying ‘why not’, it is time to say, ‘how can we?’ How can we build more risk in decision-making as a community? How can we build an environment of trust and respect? How can we do that together? So if you are ready, if you are ready to be a peloton of innovators; if you are ready to join in that big idea, then I invite you to join me on that journey of ‘One Billion Innovators.’ Let’s explore the answers to these questions on how can we … let’s build momentum around the story and let’s build this future of our collective value together.”

Watch Michelle Royal’s full Keynote Presentation here. Also, be sure to learn more about One Billion Innovators! Be sure to stay in the loop with RIDG by following them on Twitter and linking them on Facebook!

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This post was written by Elevate, Inc.

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