#CommunityLIVE flashback: 7 questions with Josh Linkner

Josh Linkner really delivered at CommunityLIVE this year. He gave a great keynote speech focusing on how we can all harness innovation.

We enjoyed Josh so much, we interviewed him after his speech to get even more nuggets of wisdom.

Q: What are some ways people can harness their own innovation?

A: First of all, we need to give ourselves permission to do it. The biggest blocker of creativity is not natural talent, it’s fear. Fear is a poisonous force.

You know, we are actually hardwired as human beings to be creative, but we tend not to because we’re worried about the consequences. So we have to realize that if we give ourselves permission, a little room to breathe, and a little bit of time, creativity starts to flow naturally. It’s a very natural state for people.

If you can remove the fear, you start to liberate your creativity.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges from a technology or innovation perspective that you see CTOs and CIOs facing in their organizations?

A: The challenges today are stronger than ever. We live in a world of incredible speed, huge competition, incredible complexity, and the pace of change is increasing. So how do we rise above all of it? How do we compete in these very challenging times?

I think the best technology of all is, again, human creativity. It’s the one thing that can’t be outsourced or automated. If we harness it, it’s a source of sustainable competitive advantage.

So if you’re a CIO, maybe you think about that “I” in the middle of your title. Maybe it stands for Chief Imagination Officer. It’s injecting a sense of playful wonder and creativity into the work that allows us to solve our biggest challenges. When you look back at how the most profound problems in society have been solved, it’s usually by some creative flip. It’s not by a set path.

If we want change, if we want things to be different, if we want things to be better, it can’t be – by definition – the same. To map out that course forward, we need to embrace a little bit of creative risks, take some responsible risks, and allow our imaginations to soar.

Q: What do you think the next big thing is?

A: I’m a technology guy. I live and breathe it. But I believe our jobs as CIOs, CISOs, and CEOs is to, instead of getting behind the next technology, support our business initiatives.

I’ve often asked the question, “What if Mozart had a Mac?”

On the one hand, you could say he wouldn’t have had to write all his music out by hand, so he could have had 10 times the body of work. Or, if he was doing things just for technology’s sake, maybe his work would have been of less quality.

So, for me, it’s about letting the technology drive the art, not the other way around. I’m doing things because they serve customers, other team members, or the world more profoundly as opposed to doing them just for technology’s sake.

There’s lots of choices: The internet of things, augmented reality, machine learning, big data, and all these things are great. And there will be 10 more things coming down the pipe. But it’s about using the technology to advance the causes that we support. Whether it’s serving customers or our communities.

Q: You’ve had a very storied and exciting career – what has been your favorite experience so far?

A: I’ve been very luck to do all the fun things I’ve been able to do. I would say two things. One, I like to create things out of nothing. I grew up playing jazz music and I look at business the same way – you’re just playing different instruments.

But the biggest reward is the one you wouldn’t think. It’s not awards. The real thing is when someone comes up to me and I know I’ve made a difference in his or her life. There’s an intrinsic reward in that.

I remember a woman coming into my office who said, “Hey Josh, you probably don’t even know who I am, but I’ve been a software engineer here for two years. I just want you to know my husband and I just closed on a house and we’re the first people in our families to be homeowners. I just want to thank you.”

I said, “Listen, I want to thank you. You created this, not me. I’m glad you’re here.”

Knowing we created an environment that supported someone to achieve his or her dream was intrinsically way more rewarding than any financial gain.

Q: You’re from Detroit, our headquarters are in Cleveland – a couple of strong Midwestern cities. Tell me why I should visit Detroit.

A: First of all, Detroit is a city with a soul. It’s an amazing city with a storied history of innovation and creativity. So many of us in our business lives are trying to reinvent or reimagine our futures, we know doing things the way we’ve always done them is not going to carry the day.

Detroit is like a learning laboratory, it’s like a living experiment of reinvention. And this once broken city is now rising from the ashes – there’s new development, art galleries, and restaurants. There’s this amazing spirit of grit and determination and tenacity and resilience. The people and the changes that are underway is so energizing.

I say, come witness it. Come be part of it. Join and witness the greatest turnaround story in American history. And it’s happening in real-time, so to be able to tell your kids and grandkids about it and tell them you saw it happen is pretty cool.

Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

A: [Laughs] I wish I had some clever answer that I do yoga and meditate on top of a mountain, but, like most of us, I check my mobile device. I’m very lucky to be here to speak today and share ideas, but none of us are superheroes, we’re all trying to do the best we can, and I’m addicted to technology like everyone else is.

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: Too often, we think of creativity and innovation as overwhelming. We think it’s beyond us or we don’t have the talent, so we don’t even try. I want to encourage people. This is totally accessible – all of us can embrace creativity and innovation no matter where we sit on the org chart, what our tenure is, or what our experiences are.

If you were bad in art in third grade, it doesn’t matter. You can still be creative in your business. We’re hardwired for it as human beings. If we can tap into that, we can accomplish incredible things.

We hope you found our interview with Josh as insightful and inspiring as we did. Maybe it’s time to pay a visit to his hometown of Detroit?

But until then, let’s all go to Nashville! There will be even more insight and advice waiting there at CommunityLIVE 2018.

Scoop Skupien

Scoop Skupien

Scoop Skupien is a former radio station mascot. These days, he's a senior content strategist at Hyland and the editor of this blog. An author with an MBA and two books in print, he’s been writing about tech for Hyland for a decade. His industry certifications include CDIA and ecmp.

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