Why innovation is the lifeblood of an organization
With nearly two decades of experience in the corporate sector, an Executive MBA and his own innovation company, Innovinco, Tom Pullen has acquired many insights about business, innovation and leadership. The forward-thinking CEO and entrepreneur from the U.K. who now lives and works in Paris, spoke to us about some of the key lessons he's learned in his career and at HEC Paris.
KEY LESSONS FROM THE CORPORATE WORLD
At Danone, where Tom served as Global Marketing Director and “Chef de Groupe” for Evian, he discovered that business has a dual purpose - it’s not just about profits, but also about giving back to society. His time at Mars as Senior Brand Manager taught him another important lesson – ultimately the consumer is our boss. At Boots, he noted that there are a lot of different business models within a corporation, and they are most powerful when they work together toward one mission. It’s a strategy Tom applies to his own company, Innovinco, which helps companies accelerate innovation.
Tom learned one of his biggest lessons as CEO of Innovinco - you need to master or at least understand all the functions that make up a business. This can be challenging, as everybody has strengths and weaknesses. Tom also points out that being a CEO of a startup can become all consuming. "It's important to keep some element of balance in your life,” he says.
THE IMPORTANCE OF INNOVATION
There is a reason why innovation is at the heart of Tom’s business endeavors. “I think that innovation is the lifeblood of the organization,” he affirms. “It’s a really interesting litmus test, a visible and tangible sign regarding the health of the organization.” Innovation helps ensure future success for the company in a rapidly changing world. According to Tom, innovation motivates and excites people. It’s a way for an organization to unite around something positive.
It’s also a way of signaling to the world what an attractive employer you are . . . the last thing people want is to be stuck in an organization that doesn’t move, that doesn’t shift.”
– Tom Pullen
DEBUNKING THE ENTREPRENEUR MYTH
“There are a lot of myths in the general public about entrepreneurs,” says Tom. Many of these myths revolve around stereotypes that aren't helpful such as “entrepreneurs must be hugely charismatic,” or a “the typical entrepreneur is a 23-year-old guy who likes tech,” he states. “My strong belief is that entrepreneurship can be learned.” In fact, he adds, some recent studies show that the most high-performing entrepreneurs actually start when they’re about 40, an age when they have about half of their career behind them, a wide network and financial security. The lesson here is to not believe the stereotypes you see in films and other media: “No one should ever feel that they don’t have the right profile to become an entrepreneur.”
LESSONS LEARNED FROM HEC PARIS
At HEC Paris, Tom completed two majors: one in entrepreneurship and innovation and the other in accelerating entrepreneurial projects. “The reason I did the project accelerator program," he explains, "was that it was a really useful way of understanding how to set up a growing company.” Because he was in the process of building Innovinco during his time at HEC Paris, Tom could immediately apply what he learned to his work. “For people like me who are starting a business at the same time as trying to do an Executive MBA, it was amazing to be able to go to lessons, and then apply the learning to my startup at the end of the day by saying: “So what have I learned today, and what does that mean for my company?”