Core Value #2 — Innovative: Search For a Better Solution. Then Top It.


InnovativeThe term innovation drums up images of world-changing ideas or inventions.  Certainly we at The Fool want to change the world, but innovation is more about making everything better every day and embracing change.  It’s constantly searching for ways to “Top It!”

We want Fools to relentlessly search for better solutions and try new things.  Fools should make small, thoughtful changes and double down on the winner and learn from the losers. One of our favorite books is Little Bets by Peter Sims. It reinforces our “test and learn” mentality, and I highly recommend it.

Big innovation comes in big steps and small steps, and we always want to be walking forward.

Even our vocabulary and cultural habits embrace and push an innovative spirit.  I hear these phrases almost every day: “test and learn,” “fail fast,” “try stuff,” “top it,” ”small bet,” “minimum viable product.”  I have heard or said each of these terms in the past 48 hours.

We want Fools to be bold and, most of all, to focus on solving the real problems. “Top It!” is a phrase that is a constant reminder to build a better solution.  It’s easy to criticize an idea and lose sight of the problem you are trying to solve.  In an instant any Fool can reframe the conversation with that two-word term – TOP IT – and we are back on track to focus on the problem we’re trying to solve.

Here are my honest answers to questions I referenced in my first post about core values:

1)        Do we hire for this value?

Yes.  We are looking for people that want to make those small bets and top it with us.  In an interview we want to hear about a time that you saw a problem and just made it better.  We want to hear your ideas for our company or the job you seek.  You don’t have to have solved world hunger, but show us that you like to test and learn and are open to change.

 2)      Will we fire for this value?

I credit Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh with putting this question in my head and pushing the idea that core values are ONLY real if they actually drive action in your organization.  You demonstrate their importance if you are willing to take action to increase their presence and also to eliminate blockers to their success.  If an employee is a blocker to innovation and change, it just doesn’t work. 

3)      Can you see and feel this value walking through the office?

Yes.  We are constantly innovating in our physical space, too.  If you come to our Intergalactic HQ in Alexandria, VA for a culture tour you’ll see that our 5th floor is completely mobile.  All of our desks are on wheels and if you come two months in a row it will look different the second time.  Things change pretty quickly around here.

4)      Is the value referenced frequently?  When was the last time?

I actually received an email from our Chief Performance Officer while I was writing this blog post.  It’s important to note that innovation as a core value is for everyone.  It’s not something that is expected of just the marketing, investing, product, or culture team.  Everyone is expected to innovate within their role and top it.  This is note was about our bonus payouts and innovation in accounting and employee ownership:

“I’d like to tell you about an experimental opportunity for your bonus payout that’s new this year. Like everything at The Fool, seeking innovation is a constant in our culture.  Heck, it’s a core value.  And, for the first time ever, we’re putting the power of choice in your hands in an innovative way…”

Also pretty cool that we’re encouraging employee ownership – I think.

Now – I encourage you to TOP IT!  How do you drive innovation in your company? Give me some ideas in the comments.

About SamCicotello

Chief Learning Officer Chief Rabblerouser Professional Boat Rocker Envelope Pusher Brain Expander

3 Responses to “Core Value #2 — Innovative: Search For a Better Solution. Then Top It.”

  1. I was going to say that innovation starts with asking questions, a la “Why are we doing this in this way?” or “Do we have evidence that this really works?” or “Is there even anything inside this filing cabinet that’s sitting inconveniently in my workspace?” But upon further reflection, I think it starts–like science–with being able to have an open (and curious) mind about one’s workspace, one’s projects, one’s what-have-you. After all, if you aren’t really attuned to what’s going on, you won’t know to ask the questions. If Isaac Newton, for example, hadn’t noticed the leaves and/or apples falling, he never would have asked what made them fall. And then there would be no such thing as gravity and we would all float off into space. And then we would actually long for the day when all we had to worry about was an inconveniently-placed filing cabinet!

  2. An innovator is a person who is willing to take a “risk” to accomplish a goal and can “accept” the outcome. The standard “job application” needs to be flushed down the toilet along with traditional HR Offices. If you want anyone to succeed or be able to TOP IT, then companies need to start actually “LISTENING” to people who actually “want” to be employed by them. Ask questions in the interview about what their passions in life are, if they were in charge for a month, what would they change or do differently, etc. not how long they worked for ABCville or what is the reason for leaving. How in the hell is that going to help your company? Ask questions that matter and see if “they” the person, will help “you” the company TOP IT! By Steve Jobs standards, he did “acid” so do you think the standard “job application” would have revealed all that he was able to do? My mind is always “on” and “running”, I went to college here and there but didn’t like the politics involved to get to a “major”. I saw college as “pay us for 4 years in mindless credit classes that you will never need in the real world, then we will teach you something”, so because I do not have that 5×7 piece of paper telling you that I am a smart person, I don’t qualify to work for most companies in positions that are interesting to me. They say things evolve when a person is able to see a better solution, well….like how those prehistoric inventions vinyl records, eight track tapes, cassette tapes, etc., are no longer used…..I can see that colleges can also become vulnerable one day just as big publishing firms have began dwindling. With the internet at hand and the way we use it in our daily lives, if you want to learn something bad enough or have a “passion” to TOP IT…. you or I or anyone out there will learn IT. Society needs to revamp its entire process of hiring people if they want anything to get better. Ever meet a college grad that is just plain “stupid”? Go figure! NOTE: I still want a nurse, doctor, surgeon, pilot to have his/her college degree : )

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  1. Core Value #3: Honesty – Make us Proud | Best Places to Work - July 16, 2013

    […] to Innovation, I actually hear “make us proud” more frequently than “core value honesty.” But our CEO has […]

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