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Nadeem Ahmad talks about his book ‘Become an Innovation Navigator’

Executive coach, innovation leader, and author Nadeem Ahmad chatted about his new book “Become an Innovation Navigator.”

Nadeem Ahmad
Nadeem Ahmad. Photo Courtesy of Nadeem Ahmad.
Nadeem Ahmad. Photo Courtesy of Nadeem Ahmad.

Executive coach, innovation leader, and author Nadeem Ahmad chatted about his new book “Become an Innovation Navigator.”

Book synopsis

Are you struggling to make sense of the latest emerging technology trends, like artificial intelligence (AI), and manage the change they bring about? If so, you’re not alone.

Many business leaders are grappling with the same challenge. The book provides a framework to help you become an “Innovation Navigator,” who can lead and navigate their business through innovation and transform emerging technology trends into commercial reality and success.

An Amazon best-selling book, it reached No. 1 in Amazon’s Strategic Management section, as well as No. 1 in the Business Systems & Planning section.

Background on Nadeem Ahmad

Nadeem Ahmad is a technology strategist and thought leader, driven by the potential of technology to transform the way people work, live, and connect with one another. His career spans almost three decades and has been dedicated to investigating emerging technology domains and helping businesses harness the power of innovation to translate the promise of emerging technologies to commercial reality.

As a senior leader within the CTO offices of two global IT consulting organizations he has shaped technology vision & strategy with a focus on defining revenue generating solutions to leverage market shifts, leading business and technology innovation projects, spearheading ventures in wireless & enterprise mobility, workplace transformation, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and private 5G, and leading global multi-disciplinary teams.

His contributions have earned him prestigious recognition within the industry, including the “Leadership Excellence in Technology Award” from the National Diversity Council.

Q & A interview

How do you define an “innovation navigator,” and what role do they play in organizations?

An “Innovation Navigator,” as I’ve coined in my book, is someone who understands the important role innovation plays in both growth and value creation. They have the ability to foresee and evaluate the potential impact of emerging technology trends, and then develop strategies that leverage these technologies for competitive advantage. These individuals excel at managing the delicate balance between innovation and risk management.

In addition, Innovation Navigators not only recognize the importance of innovation but also possess the mindset and leadership traits to drive it. They’re able to challenge limiting beliefs and foster a culture where continuous learning, creativity, and risk-taking are not just encouraged, but celebrated.

Over the years, especially during my time as an executive coach, I’ve seen how a change in mindset can make a world of difference. I’ve had clients who initially struggled with the notion of change, viewing it as a threat rather than an opportunity. But once they embraced their inner “Innovation Navigator,” the transformation was remarkable. They were not only able to adapt to changes but also to lead and inspire their teams to do the same.

In an organization, an Innovation Navigator plays a vital role in driving growth and creating value. This person is crucial for helping a team or organization adapt to fast-paced changes in the business landscape. The Innovation Navigator applies the theories and concepts of innovation practically, ensuring that they are tailored to the organization’s unique context and challenges.

I would note that this is not a role confined to a specific title; anyone in the organization, regardless of their position, has the potential to be an Innovation Navigator by taking initiative, inspiring others, and applying insights effectively.

In your book, “Become an Innovation Navigator,” you discuss the importance of innovation in today’s business landscape. Why is innovation so crucial for companies?

First, the rate of technological change is accelerating exponentially, and it’s only going to get faster. Remember the saying, “The only constant is change”? Well, in today’s world, the only constant is rapid change.

If a company isn’t innovating, it’s essentially moving backward relative to its competition. Think of it like being on a treadmill that’s constantly speeding up – if you don’t keep pace, you’re going to be thrown off.

This reminds me of something Peter Diamandis said in his opening keynote at his recent Abundance 360 event, “there will be two types of companies in the future – those who use AI and those who don’t exist.” The transformative power of an emerging technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes AI no longer an optional part of a business strategy – it’s becoming the backbone.

Companies that leverage AI for everything from customer service to data analytics have a significant edge. Those who ignore it? They’re essentially volunteering for obsolescence.

But beyond survival, innovation isn’t just about not sinking; it’s about sailing to new horizons. It’s the engine that drives growth, opens up new markets, and creates new revenue streams. Companies that innovate don’t just stay afloat; they soar. They’re the ones that set trends, define consumer expectations, and even disrupt entire industries.

When you foster a culture of innovation, you’re doing more than just staying ahead of the competition. You’re creating an environment where people are excited to contribute, where they feel their ideas are valued, and where they can see the tangible impact of their work. Innovation breeds engagement, and engaged employees are more productive, happier, and, yes, more innovative.

I believe your ability to innovate and adapt is not just a “nice-to-have”; it’s the compass by which your organization will navigate the future.

Can you provide examples of successful innovation navigation in real-world business scenarios?

Oh wow, so many to choose from, but here are a few of my favorite examples:

Apple and the Smartphone Revolution

I certainly can remember the time when mobile phones were just for calling and then maybe texting. Apple turned that notion on its head with the iPhone. The company didn’t invent the smartphone, but they certainly made it accessible and desirable to the general public. In doing so, they not only transformed their own business but also the entire mobile industry.

Amazon and E-commerce

Amazon started as an online bookstore but quickly realized the potential of the broader e-commerce market. They continually innovate their business model, introducing features like Amazon Prime, AWS, and even venturing into smart home technology with Alexa. This constant drive to innovate has made them one of the most valuable companies globally.

Netflix and Streaming

Blockbuster could’ve been the king of home entertainment, but they failed to see the shift towards online streaming. Netflix did. What began as a DVD rental service morphed into a streaming giant, and now they’re even producing their own award-winning content. They adapted to technological change and consumer behavior, and now they’re setting the standard for the industry.

Pfizer and Moderna – COVID-19 Vaccines

Most recently, regardless of your politics on the matter, one has to admit that the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines was an incredible feat of scientific innovation. Both companies used mRNA technology, a relatively new approach in vaccine development, to create highly effective vaccines in record time. This not only saved lives but also demonstrated how quick adaptation and risk-taking could lead to groundbreaking solutions in critical times.

In each of these examples, the key players were Innovation Navigators in their own right. They saw the trends, understood the implications, and took calculated risks.

They communicated their vision effectively, rallied their teams, and turned groundbreaking ideas into profitable solutions. The impact? A transformation not just of their own fortunes but often of entire industries.

What are some common misconceptions about innovation that you aim to address in your book?

Good question. One of the biggest misconceptions I aim to tackle in Become an Innovation Navigator is that innovation is inherently risky and unpredictable. Yes, there’s risk involved, but it’s not a roll of the dice.

Strategic innovation, the kind that Innovation Navigators specialize in, is about calculated risks. It’s about understanding the landscape, evaluating the potential impact of emerging technologies, and making informed decisions. You’re not gambling; you’re investing in your future.

Another myth is that innovation is a “lone genius” endeavor. We often hear tales of individual inventors who changed the world, but the reality is that innovation is a team sport.

It requires a blend of skills and perspectives to navigate the complex terrain of emerging technologies and market needs. I feel that as an Innovation Navigator, part of your role is to bring these diverse viewpoints together and channel them toward a unified objective.

In my experience as a mastermind and peer group coach, the best new ideas and approaches are born out of collaborating with others. I believe it is human nature to want to collaborate with one another. The only challenge is that as you get higher up the corporate ladder, the pool of collaborators gets smaller, but that’s another problem entirely!

Finally, there is an illusion that innovation is a one-time event. I’d argue that is very wrong. Innovation is an ongoing process, a continuous journey. You might reach milestones, but you never really arrive. That’s why being an Innovation Navigator is not a one-off job but a constant role you’ll play in your organization.

I wrote this book to debunk these specific myths and provide a roadmap for becoming an effective Innovation Navigator and to build a culture of innovation in your organization focused on continuous and never-ending improvement.

Are there any notable figures or thought leaders in the field of innovation navigation who have influenced your work?

I think Steve Jobs is probably an obvious answer, but I’ll still mention him because what struck me about him was his ability to get others to gravitate towards him because they were inspired by his vision.

It’s not only about being an innovative genius, for an innovation leader it’s about instilling a drive or passion within their teams to diligently pursue things to the very end on any innovation journey. That ability to infect a growth or abundance mindset across his teams is what set him apart from so many in his field.

Others cover various disciplines – technology, business strategy, psychology. Take Clayton Christensen, for example. His work on disruptive innovation laid the foundation for understanding how new technologies can fundamentally alter market landscapes.

Then there’s Geoffrey Moore, whose book, “Crossing the Chasm,” offered invaluable insights into the challenges of bringing innovative products to mainstream customers.

On the tech side, I’ve been influenced by people like Tim O’Reilly, who has this knack for seeing where technology is going before the rest of us even catch a glimpse. His thought leadership in technology trends has been an eye-opener for me.

Then there’s organizational psychologists and culture experts like Edgar Schein. His work on corporate culture has been a guiding light in understanding how to foster a culture of innovation within an organization, a topic for which I dedicate significant time to in my book.

These thought leaders’ work has been instrumental in helping me during my career – and hopefully, through my book, your readers too can navigate the world of business innovation.

“Become an Innovation Navigator” is available on Amazon by clicking here.

To learn more about Nadeem Ahmad, check out his official website.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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