S1E10: Michelle Royal on Unleashing and Learning Innovation

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The thing most innovative companies have in common is a deep understanding of their customer’s needs. Michelle Royal knows; she’s been helping companies unleash their innovative potential for nearly 20 years through her consultancy, Royal Innovation Design Group (RIDG).

In this episode, Michelle and Andi talk about how to stay innovative during crisis, harnessing the potential to innovate within even the most inflexible of organizations, and how all organizations can enable innovation on the inside.

Check out this episode!


Michelle Royal:             People talk about thinking outside the box, and I think the box is the most important thing that we provide. We can actually, like a diorama, build complete worlds inside of a box. We don’t have to think out of the box because, as humans, we naturally have this ability to look at the box and see something to be solved.

Andi Graham:               Starting and running a business is hard. Starting and running a values-based business is even harder. Doing so requires making decisions that put people before profits, that honor individuals as humans, and sacrifice short-term wins for long-term sustainable growth.

Andi Graham:               I’m Andi Graham, the CEO at Big Sea, a digital marketing agency with offices in Saint Petersburg, Florida and Colorado Springs, Colorado. This is Walk the Walk. It’s a podcast for entrepreneurs who make tough choices in the name of integrity every day, even when it’s hard.

Andi Graham:               If you’ve been listening for a little while or even if you’re brand new, I’d love it if you took 10 seconds to hit that subscribe button and maybe even give it a rating or a review on your favorite platform.

Andi Graham:               Today, we’re talking to Michelle Royal. She’s the CEO and founder at RIDG, which is the Royal Innovation Design Group. She’s a self-made speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience, specializing in using visualization and facilitation to create breakthroughs in the state of mind and behavior.

Andi Graham:               Michelle works with mid-sized and large organizations to really help them unleash their potential to stay creative and innovative, something that has been desperately needed and incredibly difficult during the pandemic when we’re all tucked into survival mode.

Andi Graham:               So please enjoy this conversation with Michelle Royal.

Andi Graham:               Hi, Michelle. It’s so great to have you here.

Michelle Royal:             Hello.

Andi Graham:               Nice to talk again. Yay. I was so excited to talk you because I’m finding I’ve been reading a ton of research. As you know, this podcast is about entrepreneurs running values-based businesses, people who have really strong guiding principles and use them to make decisions in their businesses.

Michelle Royal:             Yes.

Andi Graham:               And I have found a lot of correlation around innovation and strong guiding principles. And so I want to talk to you a little bit about that. But first, I want to learn a little bit about you. You have been dealing in the world of innovation for a very long time, and I’m curious how you got into innovation as your thing. How did that become?

Michelle Royal:             So I got into … It seems like a long story. How much time do we have? How many podcasts are we going to do? So I’ll give you the long and the short of it. It was actually the last recession. Let’s just start there. It was 2006, so it was right on the cusp of us becoming really … becoming into … coming to terms with the recession.

Michelle Royal:             And I was shifting careers. I had already shifted careers once. But what I did was I took an art and psychology background, I had a masters in art and psychology, transitioned that into a business that I built with a business partner, sold off my portion of that, and then really wanted to get into the creative aspect of business.

Michelle Royal:             So I was focused primarily on sales prior to that. And I worked with a design firm, just a graph … like an agency, very small agency. It was literally three people. So I was all things biz dev. And in the exploration and networking, I went to a design thinking and innovation conference. I was, though, at the time, because it was a recession, wasn’t sure how to sell agency services and was flat broke.

Michelle Royal:             So the story is ultimate entrepreneur, had $250 cash to my name, went to … volunteered at this $1,500 ticket conference so I could attend it, and put my last $250 towards the hotel room. So when you walk into the lobby of the Ritz Carlton and you hand them cash, even in 2006, it was not acceptable. So it was an interesting way in how I ended up with the room itself.

Michelle Royal:             But so I was at that conference and what I’d like to say is it was day two, I’d been exposed to all these processes with BMW and Phillips, talking about their innovation process at a corporate level, how they were talking product innovation, service innovation, service design, design thinking, all of these concepts that I had really never heard of before come to light. And I’m sitting underneath this glass chandelier in the Ritz Carlton ballroom, next to all of these corporate leaders.

Michelle Royal:             Tom Wujec, who is the chief evangelist of Autodesk, is up on the stage. He put up an image of design thinking, which is still tried and true as the generative process for designing new things today. And this … I talk about it, an idea knocked on the door in my heart. It’s the only way I know to describe it. And it came in the form of a question, and it was, “What if everyone in the world knew how to do this? What if they knew, A, that they could and, B, how and, C, what it would mean?”

Michelle Royal:             It was just all this flooded to me, and I was instantly inspired to what is my greatest calling in life, which is now the manifestation of my business and my team and everything that we do. And even if I didn’t have the business, this would be my mission in life.

Michelle Royal:             And I was told by a lot of consultants that I’d never be able to work in the world that I’m working in, because I sought a lot of advice even then. And within two years, I was working with the European Commission on a large scale economic development initiative, training innovation capacities in individuals, creating public/private partnerships between creative industries and universities and businesses across borders, across cultures and came back to the states with all of that knowledge. It was roughly a six-month project. Came back to the United States with all of that knowledge and started implementing it with other consultants.

Michelle Royal:             And then in 2013, said, “I’m going to build the business I always wanted to build.” And RIDG, Royal Innovation Design Group, was born.

Andi Graham:               And so RIDG is in 2013. What kinds of companies do you work with and what kinds of work do you do with them?

Michelle Royal:             We work primarily with business-to-business companies, business that serve other businesses. And we primarily work with either their executive team on the overall strategy of the organization, specifically those that are seeking to align their strategy with innovation efforts, everything from defining innovation to codifying or creating a scalable innovation process within their business.

Michelle Royal:             And then, typically, that ends up working with their next level team, which could be EVPs, VPs, vice presidents, executive vice presidents, and then typically the innovation team, which could be a chief innovation officer, but we are more like a fractional chief innovation officer for an organization versus the innovation team that’s actually delivering on the work.

Michelle Royal:             And the size can be everything from 10 million to all the way up to five billion and with budgets of at least 10 million as far as what they’re going to act on, not necessarily what our services are. But we do serve those organizations to help them create a clear picture of what innovation is going to look like, what it’s going to mean for their organization, the metrics around that, the return on investment, which is a huge … seems to be ethereal in the world of innovation, which it doesn’t make sense to me because it’s all about generating value in the organization, i.e., typically financial growth.

Michelle Royal:             And so we help them throughout all of that process, but all business-to-business firms, typically service-oriented.

Andi Graham:               Okay. I have two questions there.

Michelle Royal:             Yes.

Andi Graham:               So large companies, five billion dollar companies, are not typically known as the most innovative companies. They’re a little bit slower moving and things like that. And then, on the flip side of that, so how do you …

Andi Graham:               So you go in and try to transform that and change that?

Michelle Royal:             So here’s what’s interesting, so the origin story of how I even got inspired to move into innovation. I was sitting in conference with corporate leaders of multi-billion dollar Fortune 500 companies who were leading innovation. Innovation, there’s …

Michelle Royal:             You get out of the world of innovation whenever you get into a Six Sigma world where all you’re trying to do is process improve. That means that you know what you’re delivering, how it’s being delivered, who it’s being delivered for, and there’s almost a manufacturing mindset of, “We’re going to …”

Michelle Royal:             I think it was Ikea had a commercial just yesterday that I saw that said, “Since 1960s, we have …” They showed the same product that they have sold and how the price has been reduced. So even though inflation has increased, the price has been reduced. That is not innovation. That’s the Billy bookshelf …

Andi Graham:               Bookshelf. Yeah.

Michelle Royal:             … that you can buy today, and you could have bought it the year you were born, right? It’s still the same bookshelf. There have been innovations maybe in how the product is produced or manufactured, but ultimately, that’s Six Sigma. They’ve been able to reduce the cost to them, increase their profitability or match it, but it’s not a new product, it’s not a new experience, it’s not a new anything. It is the Billy bookshelf. You can buy it today or you can buy it 10 years ago. You can add to that system. It’s dependable. It’s reliable. It’s certainly not going to do a tremendous amount for you.

Michelle Royal:             Now, there’s this website called Ikea Hacks and [inaudible 00:10:48] the Billy bookshelf, and they turn it into all kinds of things, like why not put Flex Seal around it and make it into a canoe? I don’t know. I’m just making stuff up.

Michelle Royal:             That is the diff … So to say that a large corporation isn’t innovative is fascinating to me because that was my first exposure to innovation, was through large corporations telling their stories of how they’re creating new continuous value in the marketplace, which had nothing to do with improving that which had already been created.

Andi Graham:               All right. All right. So maybe it’s a semantics issue.

Michelle Royal:             It is.

Andi Graham:               I’m just kidding. No.

Michelle Royal:             And we have a definition of innovation in our organization that we try to help … as we’ve tried to define it. My first definition was the realized value of an idea. Well, in a country that worships the entrepreneur guru, the realized value of an idea is something that we often associate with the founder or generator, right?

Michelle Royal:             But it’s dangerous because, without the entire system supporting the entrepreneur, that idea will never be realized, i.e. … That’s part of the issue with entrepreneurs, is that they put all of the onus on themselves to complete it, and then they get lost in that, in the drudgery of delivery, right?

Michelle Royal:             So we define innovation at RIDG, and I think this might be helpful, how we even view it, our goal is to help you see yourself already as an innovator, and then to amplify that for new value creation in the organization, because that’s what my fundamental belief. What if everyone knew that they could do this, are doing this? It’s a human process. Innovation is about, by, and for people. It is a fundamental belief about who we are as a company and an organization.

Michelle Royal:             So in a world where AI and RPA and all of the other technological innovations are coming about, we talk about the human side of things. So our definition of innovation is people making money by turning failure into ideas that work. So it’s very systematically put together in that order, because the clients we work with typically are … understand the profit sharing principle, even if they aren’t profit sharing companies. They understand the contribution that they’re making in the organization to help it grow. They understand how that feeds back into either their job security or their job joy, right? The joy of their job.

Michelle Royal:             It doesn’t matter the size of the company. We work with the most passionate individuals ever, and they all desire, have a deep, deep desire for service. I could just go on and on. You could give me another question, but …

Andi Graham:               No. I think that’s … So you just answered what makes a company innovative then. When you look at two companies side by side and they’re doing the exact same thing, what would one of them … what’s one of them doing differently that makes them innovative verse the other one? I’m even just thinking from my capacity. We’re a marketing agency. There’s 30 of us in the Tampa Bay area.

Michelle Royal:             Yeah.

Andi Graham:               What are we doing or what could we be doing that would be innovative? And I don’t just mean services and things, but how do you build that into the culture? How do you … Is that what you look at when you think of innovation? Is it like …

Michelle Royal:             Yeah. So our clients often will … They’re either being affected by change or they want to lead change. So the other thing to remember is that innovation is synonymous with change. And we are in a melting pot of change, which is why the last recession really put a highlight or a spotlight on innovation.

Michelle Royal:             And innovation can be forced or it can be intuitive. The experience of buying or adopting an innovation can be forced or it can be intuitive. It can be chosen. It can be not chosen. Right now, we’re all working in the virtual environment. And when COVID first hit, many of our potential clients, let’s just say potential clients, said, “Oh yeah. We’ve already … We’ve adapted to the new norm. We are on Zoom.” And that was the extent to how they felt their work was going to change.

Michelle Royal:             And so even the world of work itself is going through its own evolution. Innovation is going to be the company that makes money off of that. Or, if they are a nonprofit, social innovation, or if they are a green organization, sustainable innovation, which is … There’s tons of concepts that go behind that.

Michelle Royal:             So that leads you into the values conversation of how [crosstalk 00:16:03].

Andi Graham:               Big time.

Michelle Royal:             … innovation is going to then … You define innovation or look at innovation according to who you are as an organization and what it’s going to mean. For a lot of companies, they want to disrupt. And one of the first things we do is we educate them on the reality of their ability to be the disrupter versus to ride the wave of disruption.

Michelle Royal:             Now, have you ever tried to learn something new like surfing?

Andi Graham:               Well, that would take …

Michelle Royal:             Yeah. It takes body stability, strength. You also have visual components that go into the surfing process. You have the actual tools, the certain board that you’re surfing on.

Andi Graham:               Humility.

Michelle Royal:             Humility? Why? Why do you need humility?

Andi Graham:               Because you are knocked down over and over and over again.

Michelle Royal:             Right.

Andi Graham:               Yeah.

Michelle Royal:             Which is that critical component, the middle portion of our definition. It’s people making money by turning failure into ideas that work. Innovation is never about the bright idea, because the companies we come to, the teams have been rejected time and time again and they’re like, “How come finally … The first thing we have to overcome is that someone’s finally listening to ideas. How come no one listened to my ideas before?”

Michelle Royal:             That is one of the first things that we have to overcome, is that sense of rejection that many employees feel whenever they were like, “But I had all these ideas.” And if they weren’t rejected, right, they didn’t have a system for allowing, instead of rejection, for them to just fail and learn and let the idea evolve.

Michelle Royal:             So you have to have a learning system, a failure system. Your risk mitigation is not just the money you put forward. It’s also all of the psychological process to move through that and to see how wrong you can be.

Michelle Royal:             And so innovating from what current needs are, matching that with what future trends can be coming your way, responding to external changes, that’s a whole lot of failure. And you have to find what’s going to be the small stepping stones. You have to find out where you’re going to win and how you can win, how you’re going to measure that winning, redefining what winning means, making sure, though, that all of those things lead to some improvement in your top or bottom line, depending upon where we are in the organization.

Michelle Royal:             It’s fairly complex. It’s very, very human. And yet there’s … it applies to, like I said, a 10 million organization or a billion dollar organization, for working with the right team.

Andi Graham:               So we talk a little bit about core values and I’m curious because I started reading a lot and I have a couple things I want to dive into. But-

Michelle Royal:             Sure.

Andi Graham:               Curiosity and empathy are really the core of design thinking and often the basis of innovation. And so when we start thinking about things like that, that requires a culture that embraces failure, that embraces the ability to take risks, that embraces resiliency and perseverance.

Andi Graham:               And so I’m wondering if there’s … How can leaders build a culture of innovation where people feel free? Again, I hate to go back to the five billion companies, but such … We have tried to hire from a local very large 500-person agency here once, a few times. And what we find is that the larger the organization is, the more this person only really understands this very small sphere of domain knowledge, that we need them to have a much wider range of decision making capabilities and ability … trial and error and curiosity and all those things.

Andi Graham:               And so I’m curious how you build that culture of innovation and maintain that level of curiosity and just risk taking. I don’t know.

Michelle Royal:             Right. So we start with evaluating and understanding where they currently do take risks and are able to not just take risks, but where they are able to … I think you talked about risk taking, and what was the other?

Andi Graham:               Curiosity, empathy. Yeah.

Michelle Royal:             Curiosity, empathy, and risk taking. We work with extremely high-performing teams, meaning they are incredible at what they do. They are most likely the best in their organization. No one gets promoted to head of innovation or leading an innovation effort without having some kind of aspirational force in the organization that they believe can influence, guide, or take the company to a whole different direction.

Michelle Royal:             So our method is always, and the RIDG way, is a universally sound change management process in which we always start with orientation, which is where are they already? Where are they already this way?

Michelle Royal:             We were working with a company one time, and there was a discussion about millennials and there was a comment, “Millennials just aren’t loyal.” And I said, “Let’s reframe that. Let’s ask a different question,” which I didn’t have to have them do an empathy or do any sort of great deep dive. It’s just about driving a different question.

Michelle Royal:             So you cultivate it by modeling it and leading it, right? So the question was, “What are millennials loyal to and can I meet them there? Am I willing?” So we talk about humility. I would say humility is probably a greater quality or bigger quality or more advanced quality than curiosity, empathy. It is the foundation, it is the precursor, and it becomes fun.

Michelle Royal:             I often tell my clients, “I hope that we get proven wrong several times throughout the process, even in our discovery.” And so we drive a way of working which allows them to see it, and then we have a system which shows them how to support it. And then, a lot of times, our clients adopt our values and they adopt some of our methodology, but they how end up expressing to us is always so magnificent, because it works for them in their system.

Andi Graham:               Yeah.

Michelle Royal:             And so that’s always pretty incredible. But training a culture, a total culture of empathy, starts with being able to scale empathy, which then becomes, “Can you scale empathy?” And you 100% can.

Michelle Royal:             There are frameworks and tools that, for us, become like … Do you know jujitsu? You move with, right? Or let me see. Who is it? Bruce Lee says, “Be like water. When you are in the cup, be the cup. When you are in the river, be the river.” So we try to be like water and utilize their language, because we have 100 different ways of asking for or providing presence, listening, perspective, guidance, reflection as humans. We’re magnificent and complex, and yet the deep need is connection, which is what drives empathy.

Michelle Royal:             So if we can be humble enough to open up that connection, then we can lead ideas through that.

Andi Graham:               Ego is the enemy.

Michelle Royal:             Yeah.

Andi Graham:               Right?

Michelle Royal:             Yeah.

Andi Graham:               I was reading about Steve Jobs before this, and I was learning about his trip through India when he was a teen. And there’s a lot of links between spirituality and innovation and how a spiritual mind is really one that is more open to questioning their belief systems and theories. There’s a little more self-awareness around emotions.

Andi Graham:               And Steve Jobs went to India when he was a teen and came back, had a spiritual … If you read the whole story of how he lived without shoes for months and all of these things like hiking around, the story’s just so interesting, how he came back and then Apple was born out of that journey.

Andi Graham:               That spiritual mind is always looking for the higher purpose and meaning, and I think innovation can bring that purpose and bring the positive impact that comes with it. But do large organizations that you work with … is that stuff too hippy dippy? Is that too much to talk about?

Michelle Royal:             Not at all. My experience is actually that the leaders of large organizations are heavily driven by purpose. Many of them are in a legacy state. They’re thinking about their overall contribution, at least those that are attracted to working with us.

Michelle Royal:             And they really see that there’s aspiration and inspiration and that who they uniquely are in the world can have a greater impact. So is it a lot of that underpinned by we have shareholders, stockholders, a board that we have to report to? We have to show our proficiency in being able to lead the future, or else our jobs might be at risk. Is there some fear that might be leading that? Yeah.

Michelle Royal:             However, I can’t say that spiritually, that there isn’t … that fear isn’t an incredible fuel for some kind of clarity and purpose. If you look at individuals who move through massive transformation where they come face to face with their own ineptitude, weakness, frailty side by side, the other side of that, and that’s whenever you started talking about that there’s an openness.

Michelle Royal:             There’s also a certain kind of closedness. There’s that diversity in thought. There’s a both end to it. There’s an, “I’m an individual and I’m part of a collective whole. I’m a human and quantum. I am …,” right? “I am perceiving and living, and yet this is a blip in time that means nothing.”

Michelle Royal:             And so there is that greater meaning comes out of our ability to stretch to extremes or feel the extreme between the two things that are different. So I find that great … that leaders of large organizations specifically have a great sense of purpose. They sometimes are challenged in how to communicate that on the very human level because they are so skilled to communicate and think through business systems and frameworks.

Michelle Royal:             And activating that human language and human story, for me, is critical. as I’ve learned to understand, it becomes critical in being able to influence and align the partnerships that are required to really live as an innovation-based organization.

Andi Graham:               I like that, an innovation-based organization. I love that. I would like to have an innovation-based organization where all of my employees feel empowered to take risks and to fail and to try new things and to always put new ideas on the table.

Andi Graham:               And the authors of The Innovator’s DNA say that roughly two-thirds of the innovation skills can be learned. So I think that’s interesting. So I’m wondering what can I do next week for my team to teach them better skills and innovation?

Michelle Royal:             Okay. Well, so excuse me. The skills of innovation certainly … You seem like a … I’ve been in your organization before, and you have a process or a system for driving client work, which has … And a lot of your creativity is committed to the client, right? Yes. Which is amazing. And it is. It’s an amazing gift that you bring to your client.

Michelle Royal:             And there is something really beautiful about, just the same as in the airplane, putting on your own oxygen mask first. And so people naturally, I was thinking about this, about constraints and creativity. Constraints provide a framework or a box or … People talk about thinking outside the box, and I think the box is the most important thing that we provide. We can actually, like a diorama, build complete worlds inside of a box. We don’t have to think out of the box because, as humans, we naturally have this ability to look at the box and see something to be solved in a creative mindset.

Michelle Royal:             So the box could be a schedule. It could be a client need. And because human desire is the desire for identity and purpose and meaning, just naturally we have it.

Michelle Royal:             So in your training of skills or providing the opportunity for the skills to be realized, I would think as a marketing firm that the skills are already implicit and it would be about applying your unique Big Sea way of solving a creative problem in your organization for you.

Michelle Royal:             So my question would be what most immediately needs to be solved over the course of the next 30 days that, week by week, there could be an hour put to and then implemented over the course of the next four weeks? Does that make …

Michelle Royal:             So that’s what I [crosstalk 00:31:11].

Andi Graham:               Yeah.

Michelle Royal:             … would do. I think you guys already have skills that can just be adjusted to your unique problem or a problem that you uniquely have.

Andi Graham:               Yes. And I [crosstalk 00:31:23].

Michelle Royal:             … get a lot of advice for a lot of other people and [crosstalk 00:31:26].

Andi Graham:               Oh, for sure.

Michelle Royal:             Yeah.

Andi Graham:               I feel like sometimes we have very … And over the course of the past three to four years, we’ve even tightened more. Our processes are so tight that they don’t allow for room for negotiation in any capacity. And so we have been talking about how can we loosen some of these things so that the outcome is important, but the process itself is a little bit looser depending on where we have to go with [crosstalk 00:31:51].

Michelle Royal:             The spirit of the law versus the function of the law.

Andi Graham:               Yeah, [crosstalk 00:31:55].

Michelle Royal:             So the other key thing about that, in our internal training program where we take someone from entry level facilitator into an innovation specialist, and whenever we work with clients, the skills that we train, the first thing that we train them on is around orientation, which isn’t school orientation.

Michelle Royal:             The skills of the orientation start with, “Let’s talk about what we’re going to achieve today and where we are today and challenges.” So it’s about how to host a meeting. That’s the first skill of orientation. And then the second skill of orientation is around looking at your immediate environment, which your immediate environment could be the immediate physical space, work environment. For us, it’s about challenges that we face in our physical environment, which now have changed from the office environment to the home office environment for many, many people.

Michelle Royal:             And then it’s the external local or external regional or external world factors that we have to take into play, and we orient ourselves around things that we didn’t know, things that we might need to know. And so orientation is a skill set, which some could say, “In this innovation process, there’s only so much you can train.” I think you can train all of it personally. That’s my [crosstalk 00:33:25]. I believe you can train 100% of it, because … And here’s why.

Michelle Royal:             Saying that you can only train two-thirds of innovation means that someone does not fully understand the breadth and depth of the innovation process, which starts in that crazy ideation stage and then backs into what could actually be applied, the testing and experimentation of that idea so that it can morph and change and evolve over a period of time until it becomes truly market ready, where it’s not just this test group, but it’s just broader audience that you’re really going to for the whole new market.

Michelle Royal:             At some point, though, even the quality control, even the risk manager, even the individual who would end up leading on some sort of a Six Sigma down the road process, right, some sort of a process improvement down the road, has to sign off on the quality of that and idea.

Michelle Royal:             And we all associate Apple as one of the most innovative companies because of their profit model and because we’re all so dependent upon everything they produce, same with Microsoft, et cetera. Their design process, down to how things feel and look and the psychology behind it and the small changes that they make and the manufacturing orchestration that is involved, it’s not like all of the individuals who contribute to the innovation are not multifaceted in skills that none of us will ever have, nor is there a part of their product deliver or service delivery experience that goes unskilled.

Michelle Royal:             Every single piece of it, so if I think that innovation, only two-thirds of it can be trained, then I am missing out on the full picture of what it takes to get an innovation to market. We try to educate our clients on that as well, the engagement of the holistic nature of people driving that value for the organization, which immediately makes everyone’s job important. Everyone becomes an innovator, which is why …

Michelle Royal:             And that could be my unique view of the world based on my mission. I just understand innovation so deeply, and we help companies understand it and create that system. Everyone is an innovator.

Andi Graham:               I like that. So let’s … You mentioned … You jumped into COVID just a little bit, but I’m curious, because this has been such a unique and interesting time. So it’s such a fun thing to talk about.

Andi Graham:               I was saying we have tried to get our clients to do video calls with us for the past three years. It’s like literally pulling teeth to try to get people, “Can we just jump on Zoom?” “No, no, no. We’ll do a call. We’ll see you in the morning. We’ll be there.” And we’re like, “Just let’s do this video call.” And now, all of a sudden, everybody can use Zoom. It’s no problem. Whatever. We’ll jump on a call.

Andi Graham:               So I’m curious how you’ve seen folks and your clients along the way, or even just out in the wider world, how you’ve seen people balance innovation with the safety and security that they need. Did everybody shelter in place and tuck inside and say, “Okay, let’s slow down for a second and just protect what we have?” Or are there companies who are …

Andi Graham:               Obviously, there’s the pivots that are happening, but are there companies that are just forging their path and continuing down that road of innovation?

Michelle Royal:             Right. A lot of companies, especially those we serve, as we continue to tell them the stories of the Great Depression and the innovation opportunities, the recession and the great opportunities, the … Half the companies that are Fortune 500 and half the companies that are on NASDAQ didn’t exist … were created … Let me put it this way, were created during the recession of 2008.

Michelle Royal:             And it’s expected that over the course of the next 10 years, which is, again, same cycle, that there will be 50% new in both of those markets. And we are seeing, if you use virtual tools, you are seeing an infusion of private equity, venture capital into these virtual management tools for enterprise, for .. But they depend upon a lot of SMEs as well, small to medium sized enterprises, as well, small to medium sized businesses, SMBs.

Michelle Royal:             So their perspective is that this is a … If they don’t … If this could be a meteor that hits them and makes them extinct, for those who had innovation efforts in line, they’re looking to be more empathetic.

Michelle Royal:             And part of it could be I want to talk about the reality of now everyone can use Zoom. And yet, what are the other social factors that are happening from a stress management perspective, from a health and wellness, from a work-life balance, from a work completion or a work fulfillment standpoint that are affecting them and their ability to think new, think clear, and serve their clients at the highest level.

Michelle Royal:             The stress management alone, I’ve been learning a lot recently about the vagus nerve system and its connection overall in stress management, cortisol control, et cetera. Those, if you are in fight or flight, it is difficult. That is more difficult to generate new ideas.

Michelle Royal:             Now, generating new ideas, Andi, doesn’t always mean generating new ideas. Sometimes, it’s, “Am I willing to try something new with another team member?” And in some ways, we’ve been forced in a trying new things world together. And yet, my ability to then try something else that is new, whenever my desire is to feel competent and confident in what I can do, because everything is so much. We are in a world of extra right now, even though we are by ourselves.

Michelle Royal:             So everything is so much. So am I willing to try something new? Am I willing to offer something new? Am I willing to … It’s not just about a new idea that’s going to generate the breakthrough idea for the company. There’s a whole lot of onboarding into that process that has become, I think, the greater challenge.

Andi Graham:               I love it. Okay.

Michelle Royal:             Okay.

Andi Graham:               So what are you reading right now? Who are people you’re following? What should people be paying attention to?

Michelle Royal:             Okay. I am right now reading about the human brain. I’m reading about the vagus system. I’m reading … So I’m reading … Oh gosh. I’m literally reading a book called The Female Brain, The Male Brain. And what is the other book? I just don’t know the name of it because it’s a long … It’s a long … Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve.

Andi Graham:               Ah.

Michelle Royal:             Is what I’m reading about, which is funny. So why would an innovation expert be reading those things versus … But I also read my clients’ strategic plans and I read their great thinking and what matters to them from a trending perspective, the future of work, also reading about the future of work.

Michelle Royal:             We are in the great … So those are things that I’m reading, because I believe that being able to move the technology that is the human brain will move us into the future. And I love that Elon Musk just came out with his brain enhancement, which he said is like FitBit for the brain. My concern about that is that sensing, physical sensing, mental sensing, there’s some beautiful things that can come out of that. There’s also, for those who aren’t physically and/or psychologically aware, it could become the Google of, right? So how many of us actually learn the history, the dates, understand ourselves in time? It can be a bit overwhelming that way.

Michelle Royal:             But okay, what am I reading, who am I listening to?

Andi Graham:               Yeah.

Michelle Royal:             I listen to my team.

Andi Graham:               Ah.

Michelle Royal:             And I don’t … I have time for clients and my team and my family. And so those are the primary individuals. And then with my clients, my job is to unlock their expertise and their genius. And so I spend a lot of time listening to them, and then I spend a lot of time with my team, who are serving the individuals that are providing us a quality of life today.

Michelle Royal:             So my world is somewhat small, but I am aware, because media is at all times. So I am aware of what is happening in the world.

Michelle Royal:             Oh, that was link thing [inaudible 00:43:03].

Andi Graham:               So where can we find you and what can you do for folks out there?

Michelle Royal:             You can find us at www.ridg, R-I-D-G, dot com. That is R-I, D as in dog, G as in George dot com. And what was the final question?

Andi Graham:               What can you do for folks? What would they be coming to you to look for?

Michelle Royal:             Sure. So we can help you either facilitate amazing virtual meetings for your executive teams where you can redefine your strategy, align your strategy, create momentum around your strategy. We have a lot of clients asking us around virtualizing their work so that it is aligned with their innovation process. We can train you in the entire innovation process. We can help you create a foundation that aligns with your overall goals of the company.

Michelle Royal:             We exist to build better innovators, and so we believe that we can make you that, because you already are one.