Tag Archives: women inventors

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of April 2024

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of April 2024Drum roll please…

At the beginning of each month, we will profile the ten articles from the previous month that generated the most traffic to Human-Centered Change & Innovation. Did your favorite make the cut?

But enough delay, here are April’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. Ignite Innovation with These 3 Key Ingredients — by Howard Tiersky
  2. What Have We Learned About Digital Transformation? — by Geoffrey A. Moore
  3. The Collective Growth Mindset — by Stefan Lindegaard
  4. Companies Are Not Families — by David Burkus
  5. 24 Customer Experience Mistakes to Stop in 2024 — by Shep Hyken
  6. Transformation is Human Not Digital — by Greg Satell
  7. Embrace the Art of Getting Started — by Mike Shipulski
  8. Trust as a Competitive Advantage — by Greg Satell
  9. 3 Innovation Lessons from The Departed — by Robyn Bolton
  10. Humans Are Not as Different from AI as We Think — by Geoffrey A. Moore

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in March that continue to resonate with people:

If you’re not familiar with Human-Centered Change & Innovation, we publish 4-7 new articles every week built around innovation and transformation insights from our roster of contributing authors and ad hoc submissions from community members. Get the articles right in your Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin feeds too!

Have something to contribute?

Human-Centered Change & Innovation is open to contributions from any and all innovation and transformation professionals out there (practitioners, professors, researchers, consultants, authors, etc.) who have valuable human-centered change and innovation insights to share with everyone for the greater good. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

P.S. Here are our Top 40 Innovation Bloggers lists from the last four years:

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Women Start-up Entrepreneurs Battle Against Gender Stereotypes and Ageism

Women Start-up Entrepreneurs Battle Against Gender Stereotypes and Ageism

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

It’s been thirty-five years since I exited my life as a top retail corporate executive, and become a serial female entrepreneur. It’s been an awesome roller-coaster ride, which includes ten years as one of many adventurous, brave, global women start-up entrepreneurs. Its also been a very challenging, rewarding, and fulfilling learning journey, where I have been both privileged and humbled to have impacted thousands of men and women positively, and globally through my consulting, learning, mentoring, and coaching practice.

Yet, I can’t help wondering how my journey could have been significantly less challenging, and possibly even more profoundly impactful, had gender stereotypes and later, ageism not been so pervasive. Where the “Gender Stereotypes and Their Impact on Women Entrepreneurs” by the Cherie Blair Foundation qualify this further by providing evidence of gender stereotyping impacting women’s journeys to and through entrepreneurship. Which then affects their “aspirations, sources of support, opportunities, access to resources, perceptions, and the wider entrepreneurial ecosystem”.

What is the impact of gender stereotypes on women start-up entrepreneurs?

Some of the key findings revealed by this report include:

  • 70% of women entrepreneurs surveyed said that gender stereotypes have negatively affected their work as an entrepreneur.
  • More than six in ten of those surveyed (61%) believe that gender stereotypes impact their business growth and almost half (49%) say they affect profitability.
  • Stereotypes start early, shape women’s journeys to entrepreneurship, and can have a lasting impact on aspirations, confidence, and behavior.
  • Over half of the women entrepreneurs surveyed (56%) said that social approval or disapproval of different careers played a role in their choice of career.
  • The majority of women entrepreneurs surveyed (70%) also reported knowing a woman entrepreneur when they were children, suggesting the powerful influence of role models on children and young women.

What is the impact of gender stereotyping on women start-up entrepreneurs raising venture capital?

When I attended a recent webinar “Coaching for Success – How Can Investors Support Start-up Founders” held by EMCC Asia Pacific I checked out the percentage of women start-up entrepreneurs who had actually received venture capitalist’s funds. I was shocked, yet not surprised to see TechCrunch report that in the US “women-founded start-ups raised 1.9% of all VC funds in 2022, a drop from 2021.”

Here in Australia, as reported by the Women’s Agenda just 3%  of total VC capital went to all-women-founded start-ups in 2022, while just 10 percent went to those with at least one woman in their co-founding teams. This report also reveals that “83 percent of women believe their gender has impacted their ability to raise external capital, compared with 14 percent of men”.

What is the impact of gender stereotyping on women start-up entrepreneurs’ ability to impact globally?

The new Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2021/2022 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report showed that “start-up rates for women dropped by 15% from 2019 to 2020, and held constant in 2021. Women also experienced sharper declines than men in their intentions to start a business within three years and overall start-up rates in 2020, but not in upper-middle income countries”. Where “Women represent two out of every five early-stage entrepreneurs”.

This means that almost half of the world’s potential entrepreneurs have been handicapped, and are still being restrained and held back from adding value to the quality of people’s lives and making the difference they want to, and can make in the world.

What are some of the key challenges women start-up entrepreneurs face?

Referring to my own personal experience with founding ImagineNation™ as an Israeli Australian start-up 10 years ago, I am able to share a range of key frustrations and challenges which confronted me. This was catalyzed by a recent article featured in Business News Daily which shares the range of core challenges and how other women start-up entrepreneurs might possibly choose to deal with, resolve and overcome them.

Hopefully, other women start-up entrepreneurs might find some inspiration, motivation, and encouragement to be steadfast in pursuing their dreams courageously, with a bit of healthy self-compassion to creatively execute their vision for a better world, from my story.

  1. Defying social expectations

As a relatively new arrival to the Israeli start-up scene, I was repeatedly told that as an “outsider” I could not know “how we do things around here” despite my 25 years of culture and change management consulting experience. I attended weekly start-up events in Tel Aviv, and often stood, as a lone woman, alongside diverse groups of young men, usually drinking beer and dressed in black. I also found that being older than the average start-up entrepreneur, despite my 25 years of experience in mentoring women in business, I also faced the dreaded “ageism bias” and as a result, I was largely ignored at many of these crucial networking events. Because in Israel “if you don’t network, you don’t work!”

I chose to detach from this, by refusing to conform to what appeared to be men’s ideas of what a start-up entrepreneur should look, be and act like. Instead, I chose to learn as much as I could from my range of experiences, enabling me to adapt, innovate and grow, as do many other women start-up entrepreneurs when faced with these challenges, to accelerate my innovation solution.

  1. Accessing funding

With no family or relatives locally, or the ability to get a financial guarantor, I had no access to source funds externally, despite meeting a number of local venture capitalists. Who, I noticed, tended to focus mostly on investing in a “quick win” or in growth-stage start-ups. When attending a government-sponsored meeting in Sydney, to qualify for an Australian Government Entrepreneurship Grant, I was confronted by a panel of three aggressive and oppositional male VC consultants who mercilessly tore my start-up invention and myself apart. Telling me it was not worth investing in and would be replicated by others within six months. To date, it still hasn’t been copied.

I eventually recovered my composure, confidence, and courage and made the decision to bootstrap, self-fund, and pay my own way forwards, which took longer, and yet was the best decision.

  1. Struggling to be taken seriously

Even when I applied my then 25 years of consulting, learning, and development knowledge, skills, and corporate experience to research, model, and replicate the “secret sauce” behind the Israeli start-up system, it was hard for me to be taken seriously. Finding that some people, in both Israel and Australia, found defensive ways to negate and minimize my 10-year immersion in an innovation culture when I was designing, iterating, pivoting, and marketing my unique innovation learning and coaching curriculum.

I focused on continuing to develop my self-efficacy, on finding my tribe, and on researching, and building a global reputation as a thought leader on the people side of innovation, by experimenting with blogging and presenting webinars.

  1. Owning your accomplishments

In the first 9 years, I presented more than 6 free innovation webinars, and 10 blog posts a year, generously sharing my IP and knowledge, without really recognizing and acknowledging the value of my own creative ideas and inventions. Whilst this helped me find my collaborators, build an ecosystem, and added to my reputation-building efforts, I gave away far too much without getting sound financial commitments from potential clients.

I now truly value and esteem my knowledge and IP at a deeper, and still share free webinars and 10 blog posts a year.  I now focus on only presenting 2 learning and coaching programs a year where I charge participants more than double, compared to what I initially charged.

  1. Building a support network

Interestingly, this has been very challenging, due to having lived in a patriarchal culture in Israel and a “boys club” and the “old boys’ network” here in Australia which permeates every level of our organizational culture and civil society. In my experience, I have also sadly discovered that the majority of women in the consulting, learning, and development sectors prefer to compete, rather than collaborate.

I find that I am still constantly challenged by people’s ageism bias, and manage this by mostly working globally, and online, mentoring and coaching both men and women who are seeking to fulfill their potential, adapt, innovate, and grow to effect positive change in their worlds.

I also focused on developing the “friendlies” included in my global Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams alumni and network, my Linked In tribe, and my International Coaching Federation (ICF) colleagues to draw upon, and support when needed.

  1. Balancing business and family life

Having recovered from a significant burnout experience more than 25 years ago, I have been able to achieve and sustain a reasonable work-life balance. By managing, developing, and leading my business effectively, being both self-disciplined, and methodical, and being curious and creative, even when my old habitual task holism threatens to take over.

It takes focused attention and deep intention, being passionately purposeful to ensure that I stay on track with doing the “one thing” I am creating, inventing, and innovating whilst on the roller-coaster ride.

  1. Coping with fear of failure

Self-doubt, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, risk adversity, and rejection are the key neurological perils confronting many women (and men) start-up entrepreneurs. This creates opportunities for women start-up entrepreneurs to learn how to bravely and boldly be, think and act differently in articulating their passionate purpose and achieving their vision in an uncertain and constantly changing world.

I experienced a number of significant failures, which deeply hurt me viscerally, emotionally, and cognitively, as well as resulted in serious financial losses.

I focussed on using these as “teachable moments” to learn how to take smart risks, manage my self-talk and not self-depreciate my inherent self-worth. To seek feedback and help when I froze as a result of my mistakes, losses, and failure, which ultimately enabled me to develop the deep courage, healthy self-compassion, and GRIT to stay in the start-up entrepreneurship game.

This enables me to role model, mentor, teach and coach other women start-up entrepreneurs, develop embodied presence, and be congruent in walking my talk.

How can you take action to eliminate gender (and age) stereotypes as a women start-up entrepreneur?

If we want to ensure that almost half of the world’s potential women start-up entrepreneurs are empowered, and enabled to add value to the quality of people’s lives and make the difference they want to, and can make in the world, make sure to take personal responsibility in:

  • Supporting women in their efforts to make a difference and contribute to the common good, despite age or gender differences, gives women start-up entrepreneurs greater chances of long-term growth and impactful success.
  • Eliminating from your locus of control and influence, any gender stereotyping and ageism biases.

We can then maximize the benefits gender and age differences and diversity bring, and collectively make the world a fairer, more inclusive, equitable, and balanced place in all domains that contribute to the common good, and a planet that balances and includes all people equally, with profits.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, presented by Janet Sernack, is a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starts October 3, 2023. It can be customised as a bespoke corporate learning program.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus, human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique innovation context. Find out more about our products and tools.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Everyday Innovation

Everyday Innovation

GUEST POST from John Bessant

We’re all innovators, even if we never thought of calling ourselves that…

Here’s a challenge.

Close your eyes and try to visualize an entrepreneur.

There’s a good chance that what you’ve come up with will be one of the usual suspects — Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, perhaps some of the older versions like Steve Jobs or even Thomas Edison. Hopefully there’s a fair number of women represented, players like Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce or Ariana Huffington; after all statistics show that close to half of the entrepreneurs in the world are female.

But there’s an equally good chance that you won’t have come up with some of these characters, though they all have a strong claim to be featured in our ‘entrepreneur’s gallery’. They may not have become trillionaires but they certainly made an impact. People like Margaret Knight, back in the 19th century; a natural born inventor who was famous before she hit her teens for the wooden sledges she’d fashion for local kids. Working in a textile factory she witnessed an awful (but preventable) accident in which a worker was badly injured by a shuttle flying off a loom. It prompted her to develop a safety device to prevent this happening; she succeeded, her idea worked and it was widely adopted by other textile mills in the area. Unfortunately she was too young to hold a patent and in any case had little understanding of the legal mechanics of doing so. A hard lesson — but one which later served her well.

Margaret Knight Patent Illustration

She moved on through a series of jobs which gave her an appreciation of many different technologies and production processes and finally found herself at the Columbia Paper Company. Her job involved folding every paper bag by hand — a slow process and one with a high potential for human error. During her long working day (10 hour shifts, monotonously folding and gluing) she had ample opportunity to think about how to improve the process — and by night she’d sketch out her ideas in the boarding house where she was living. Within six months she’d managed to build a working prototype out of wood which could cut, fold and glue bags each time a crank was turned.

This time she tried to patent her idea, only to find someone had got there first, having stolen her concept. He’d seen the potential in the design and had decided to copy it and pass it off as his own. After all who would believe that a woman factory worker could produce something so clever and complex?

But Margaret Knight was tough as well as clever; she’d kept all her working drawings and was not going to surrender meekly. Although it cost her most of her savings she was vindicated; in 1871 she was granted US Patent 116842, the first woman in the country to hold a patent. It may have been an improvement innovation but its impact was radical. Her invention revolutionized the paper bag industry by replacing the work of thirty people with one machine. It provided the ‘dominant design’ around which others would innovate, and created the model for the paper shopping bags we still use today.

Or how about Betty Nesmith Graham, a single mother working as a secretary in the Dallas headquarters of the Texas Bank. Which meant spending much of her time typing (or to be more precise, correcting the mistakes she’s made by re-typing). In her frustration she wondered if there was a way to cover up the mistakes, somehow magically clean the paper and type over it once again. After all, when she was painting (her hobby when she got time for it) she’d not spend ages rubbing out or throwing away the canvas so she could start again. She’d just paint over what she’d done wrong, fix it, move on.
She began to experiment at home on the kitchen table. Took a small brush, mixed up some egg white and a little of her precious white tempera paint in the kitchen blender. Played around until the consistency felt right, then dipped her smallest water colour brush into the mixture and painted carefully over a line of typing on the polite letter informing her that her phone bill was overdue for payment. The black key strokes faded beneath the white, the page became blank again ready for someone to type a new line on it.

Back at work the next day it didn’t take her long to make another mistake, her fingers overstepping themselves as she tried to type faster. But this time she carefully wound the roller up a few notches, took a nail varnish pot filled with her concoction from her handbag and painted over the mistake. After a couple of minutes she picked up the mistaken page — and saw her mis-typed words erased, the letter ready for her to try again.

That was the birth of what became ‘Liquid Paper’; it wasn’t an easy journey from idea to successful business but by 1979 over 25 million bottles/year were being made and she employed over 200 people. At this high point she decided to sell the (by now very profitable) business to the Gillette Corporation for $47.5million.


Or Brownie Mae Wise, another single mother trying to keep her family afloat and working as a demonstrator for Stanley Home Products, selling door-to-door. They began experimenting with a new idea, hosting demonstration events in people’s houses and she took to it like a natural. Her social skills coupled with her sales gift meant that pretty soon she was the top agent with much of her success coming with a new product the company had just taken on for a client — Tupperware. She pioneered the idea of social marketing, turning the Tupperware party into a model which transformed the Tupperware business and led to her becoming a powerful role model for women of her time. In 1954 she was featured as the first woman on the cover of Business Week magazine.

With examples like these we clearly need to expand our picture of what makes an entrepreneur. We should, for example, add Dr Govindar Venkataswamy who worked all his life as a surgeon in India specializing in cataract treatment; on retirement he set himself the goal of bringing this operation within the reach of the rural poor in his native state of Tamil Nadu. To do so he needed to find a way of bringing down the cost from around $300 in a city hospital to $30, without compromising safety. He found an answer not in the world of healthcare but by adopting ideas from McDonalds, the fast-food business. The model for his Aravind eye care system worked, the average cost of the operation today is $25, it has one of the best safety records in the world and around 15million people can see who would otherwise have gone blind.

Or how about students Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork who founded Luminaid as a response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake? They realized that there was a requirement for something beyond food, water and basic first-aid supplies — light. For vulnerable communities, access to a safe, waterproof and transportable light source, which can be powered by the sun could be valuable. Accessible lighting provides a sense of security and community; beyond this, light facilitates study into the evening, providing much-needed access to education for disadvantaged children across settings around the world. Since 2010 over 250,000 LuminAID lanterns and chargers have been distributed by major aid agency partners to those in need, 50,000 of which were sponsored directly through their Give Light, Get Light program.

People like them are also change agents, driven by the desire not for money but for impact, making the world a better place.

And what about the quiet unsung heroes who work away in organizations and who come up with new ideas and take them forward — they too qualify as change agents. People like George Laurer, working for IBM in the early 1970s. One Sunday afternoon he walked across the lawn to tell his neighbor Paul McEnroe (who also happened to be his boss) “I didn’t do what you asked.”

What McEnroe had asked for was a circular bullseye optical scanning code which could be printed on labels. This needed to be compatible with the scanners being installed in supermarkets for which IBM was developing technology. But Laurer could see the problem — printed circles in a high speed press risked blurring at the edges and misinformation. So instead he devised his own code, a pattern of vertical stripes, readable even under difficult lighting conditions.

McEnroe told him to go ahead with preparing his presentation for the next day anyway but didn’t exactly offer warm support, telling Laurer “…there’s nothing I can do about it now….you make the presentation but if it’s not accepted it’s going to be your butt not mine”

Fortunately for George — and IBM — the idea was accepted; it was the bar code strip, formally known as the Universal Product Code — UPC — which provides us with a continuing reminder of the power of such ‘quiet innovation’.

Another group we ought to add into our (now very large) community — user innovators. For many people in all walks of life frustration is often the Mother of Invention. They want a solution to a problem which is bugging them and they’re not afraid to experiment and hack their way to a solution which works. Very often they aren’t particularly interested in spreading their ideas more widely but if someone else can benefit then that’s OK. Examples include farmers improvising add-ons and fixes to their equipment or patients and their carers coming up with solutions to make living with chronic disease more comfortable.

For housewife Valerie Gordon-Hunter back in 1947 the frustration was the endless process of washing nappies for her three children and her dream of finding some kind of disposable version. She developed her own solution– the Paddi — made out of old nylon parachutes, tissue wadding and cotton wool which she sewed together at her kitchen table.

At the same time across the Atlantic Marion Donovan came up with the idea of a cover which would stop the contents of a dirty nappy from soiling surrounding clothes or bed linen. Once again the target was reducing the superhuman effort involved in constantly washing clothing; her invention was called the ‘Boater’ because of its resemblance to a boat. It involved a shower curtain as raw material sewn into a pair of pants which, with the addition of snap fasteners to replace safety pins, kept the nappy in place without soiling the surrounding clothes or bed sheets. And she hit on the idea of some kind of absorbent insert which could be disposable — experimenting with various mixes of cotton wool and once again nylon parachute material.

Disposable Diapers

Today’s market for disposable nappies is estimated at around $10bn.

Sometimes it’s a matter of inspired improvisation. On a hot July day in 1904 at the St Louis World’s fair the ice cream seller next to Ernest Hamwi’s waffle stall hit the nightmare scenario — a queue of people wanting ice cream and no dishes left to sell it in. But Ernest came to the rescue — he had the idea of rolling one of his waffles into a cone shape, and one of the great ideas in the food world was born.

Improvisation of this kind is often something which is born out of crisis; it’s useful to remember the Apollo 13 space mission which had the world holding its breath in the aftermath of the radio message “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” At 2am on April 14, 1970 the failure of a major part of the electrical system suddenly put the crew’s lives at risk. With one of its main oxygen tanks ruptured and with the clock ticking away the teams on the ground and in the module had to improvise solutions fast. They needed to secure enough breathable oxygen for three men in a capsule only designed to take two — and so built an air purifier system using plastic covers from their flight plans, plastic bags, some sticky tape and a soggy sock!

The same kind of crisis-driven improvisation led Willem Kalff to develop the world’s first kidney dialysis machine. Because he was working during wartime under Nazi occupation in the Netherlands his was something of a ‘scrapyard challenge’; he built his machine out of salvaged car and washing machine parts, orange juice cans and sausage skins.

It’s the same kind of spirit that led to ‘citizen innovators’ developing a wide range of apps to help deal with the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake; their solutions included crisis mapping, reuniting displaced families, mobilising an alternative banking system to help distribute aid and crowdsourcing design information to feed 3D printers creating urgently needed medical spare parts.

We could go on but the point is clear. Innovation– creating value from an idea — is something which all sorts of people do in many different contexts. Peter Drucker’s famous comment is helpful here; ‘innovation is what entrepreneurs do’. We’re familiar with the start-up but that’s only one of the many places in which we might find ‘entrepreneurs’ — people who make change happen.

In fact we are all potentially entrepreneurs — think about situations like these in your own life. Standing in a queue and turning over in your mind the thought that ‘there has to be a better way…’ You’re beginning the same kind of mental journey of innovation, frustration prompting you to think of alternative solutions. Or look around your home and list all the little hacks you’ve put in place to solve problems or make life easier. Innovation, once again.

We shouldn’t be surprised; after all this is something human beings have been doing for thousands of years. Our survival as a species rather depended on being able to come up with now solutions to the problem of not being eaten or having enough to eat ourselves. We’re not big or fast — but we do have half a kilogram of grey stuff inside our heads which is pretty useful at coming up with new ideas.

This isn’t just semantics. At a time when we need as much innovation as we can get (never mind trying to survive a pandemic we also have a planet whose future is in considerable doubt unless we change things pretty fast and radically) mobilizing the skills of innovation is an urgent priority. Not for nothing are efforts being made to introduce the core skills of entrepreneurial behavior to everyone from kindergarten kids through to care home residents.

And the good news is that we have learned a lot about what those skills involve; far from entrepreneurs being somehow magically different (like unicorns) we now understand the core elements in the craft. Turning ideas into value is about learning to make a journey and we have a map for that which has been drawn from over 100 years of experience of success (and failure) — a kind of supercharged ‘Trip Advisor’ or Hitchhiker’s Guide.

It still helps to have a growth mindset and plenty of ‘grit’ — being prepared to persevere in the face of obstacles and learning to manage failure as part of the process. But thinking about how to develop our skills as an ‘everyday entrepreneur’ might be a good resolution for kicking off the 2022 new year.

Image credits: Pixabay, USPTO, Unsplash

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