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June 2, 2021

Emerging from the Pandemic: Innovating through Disruptions

Taryn Johnson | UWEBC Marketing Specialist

Phil, Kristi and MelanieWhat might be the longer-term shifts that come out of COVID, that we as leaders should consider? In our Product Management Special Interest Group meeting on May 5, 2021, we answered that question and more, discussing the opportunities for innovation that have come out of the pandemic.

Touching on every aspect of the business, we heard stories, perspectives and tips from Phil McKinney (CEO CableLabs and former CTO Hewlett-Packard), Kristi Jankowski (Executive Vice President – Innovation at Sargento) and Melanie Hayward (Senior Director at Exact Sciences) emphasizing the importance of having an agile culture and strong peer collaboration during disruptions.

The pandemic affected all of us and has changed the way we all think, act and do business. The businesses that have thrived did so because they were able to respond to the disruption and pivot quickly. “When you run into these kinds of disruptions - big disruptions - it is all about the collaboration and cooperation,” said McKinney. Reaching out to our peers and learning from them can be a game-changer.

McKinney also reminded us how important it is not to shy away from our failures as we try new and innovative ideas. “We reward failure,” he said. “Not so much the failure, but the learnings and the willingness to take the risk. Someone tried, and we reward trying.”

Jankowski shared this sentiment, saying “You have to have the type of organization that allows you to try and fail quickly and move on, and not be fearful of that experience…so that you can quickly determine what's important and let the rest go.” This type of clear strategic direction is what helped Sargento be agile during this last year, updating their marketing to the new needs of their audience, and even launching a new product this year.

Hayward shared how Exact Sciences was also able to be flexible and pivot when the company needed to shift some of its employees to online-only while others needed to come into the labs to continue their work with the proper equipment. “A competitive drive and willingness to take risks is what bred the innovation guiding us out of the pandemic,” she stated. This pandemic “amplified existing energy and values of Exact Sciences. It also emphasized the importance of strong partnerships.”

View the full meeting video and presentations here (member sign-on is required).

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