The heartful innovator – part 1


In this new series, regular contributor RAVI VENKATESAN helps us understand what innovation is, how it differs from creativity, and what we can focus upon to become more innovative.

There are many ways people have defined innovation. One of the most accepted is by Baragheh et al (2009)¹: “A multi-stage process whereby organizations transform ideas into new/improved products, service or processes, in order to advance, compete and differentiate themselves successfully in their marketplace.”Like many academic definitions, this is hard to digest. A simpler definition is, “An idea or set of ideas that, when implemented, are perceived as new and transformative.”

In modern times, startups are considered to be some of the most innovative organizations, especially those in the field of technology. Only a few of these innovative companies make it to what is called Unicorn status, the term coined by Aileen Lee in 2013 to describe companies that achieve a valuation of a billion dollars. The chances of a company achieving this status are 0.00006%. I lead the portfolio of Innovation for one of these rare companies and have spent 20 years of my career in roles leading Innovation of one kind or another at various organizations. I would like to share some of the best ideas I have collected over the years in this series of articles with you.

As we dive into innovation, it is important to consider how it is different from creativity. An artist who creates a wonderful painting is very creative and gives expression to her creativity, but she is not necessarily innovative. Whereas a person who discovers coloring glass with metallic oxide powders, which leads to stained glass, may not be creative, but is definitely innovative. Innovation leads to new ways in which things are done, leads to new products and services, and even leads to new aspects being added to our experience of this world as humans. The other distinction is that while creativity is an individual attribute, innovation usually happens as a result of collaboration and multiple ideas coming together.


As technology and hyper connectivity continue to disrupt the world we live in at an accelerated pace, being an innovator offers tremendous opportunities. However, the same forces of rapid change also threaten our ability to be innovative, by exponentially increasing stress at the workplace as well as at home.

Innovation leads to new ways in which things are done,
leads to new products and services,
and even leads to new aspects being added to our
experience of this world as humans.

How to be more innovative? As for many things, the answer lies within. The field of ontological coaching distinguishes between first order and second order learning. Think about the results we achieve as the observer (the person achieving the results, in this case us), the actions that are used to achieve the results, and the results themselves. First order learning involves changing the actions to change the results. This is what most of us normally do, and it leads to improvements, but not at extraordinary or exponential levels. For that we need to get into second order learning, which involves changing the observer. The key to changing the results is to change our own inner state.

The diagram below shows four key aspects that we will focus on, along with the states they can be in. These are our Intellect, Mind, Ego and Awareness. When we make shifts to all these aspects, and put our inner state into what Dr. Alan Watkins calls Coherence or Flow or Stable Variability, we are able to come up with the best ideas and collaborate with others in best ways to innovate.

In the next few articles, we will better understand the relevant aspects of our own inner state, and the shifts in this state that lead to being able to come up with great ideas and be innovative.


¹ Baragheh, A. et al., 2009. ‘Towards a Multidisciplinary Definition of Innovation,’ Management Decision, Vol. 47, 8: pp. 1323-1339.


Ravi Venkatesan

About Ravi Venkatesan

Ravi lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and is currently Chief Technology Officer at USAT. He is also a regular public speaker and public speaking coach. He has been a Heartfulness meditator for over 20 years and is passionate about applying meditation lessons to improve workplace relationships and productivity.

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