To help illustrate where the pursuit of innovation management can lead, our Innovation Pathways series asks our current students, recent graduates, and established alumni to describe their journeys.
Isoken (Iso) Igbinedion WG’21 began her career in operations at Target. Her experience and interests in last-mile technologies led her to her first role at Amazon as a manager and operations consultant for third-party merchants on Amazon Prime Now’s mobile platform. She later moved to a PM role on the Whole Foods Operations Integration team, focused on scaling the Whole Foods Market delivery offering in new markets. Iso serves on the board of the Innovation and Design Club as the VP of marketing, as well as the board of Wharton’s Tech Club as VP of community.
What experience do you have with innovation management?
I began innovating processes early in my career at Target, finding successful ways to drive customer and employee engagement while reducing labor hours, teaching me a valuable lesson about myself: constraints breed new ideas. My success at Target spurred a desire to seek professional experience that would require me to build processes from scratch, leading me to an area manager position at Amazon. There, I had the opportunity to design the Prime Now 1-2 hour delivery process, and soon after, transition into a PM role, leading the product strategy and development of enhancements to Amazon Prime Now’s order fulfillment and workforce management software applications.
One of the challenges we were trying to solve for was how to optimize our fulfillment software to allow our business to operate in a manager-less environment. This included developing self-learning algorithms that tracked employee movement in app to ensure all employee decision points were consolidated virtually without the need for human intervention. The experiences I had at Amazon really drove a passion for human-centered design thinking. In order to create solutions to problems that stemmed from our desire to create innovative processes and systems, it required a very keen understanding of who our customers were and what the customer journey looked like.
What did you learn in the Mack Institute’s Collaborative Innovation Program (CIP) that changed the way you think about innovation management?
Working on my Collaborative Innovation Program project taught me that innovation is truly about human dynamics. The best ideas are fostered when collaborative and participative approaches are used. Doing this requires leaders to adopt and drive an innovation culture within teams. It is extremely important to reinforce this culture at all levels of an organization to ensure team members adopt the frameworks used during the design thinking process. You need buy-in from all team members otherwise, no matter how revolutionary your end-product is, implementation will be next to impossible.
I have always lived by the mantra “innovation starts with design thinking.”
Did you learn anything from the CIP corporate partner regarding managing innovation that has stuck with you?
I learned pretty quickly that thinking outside the box requires us to first understand what’s inside of that box. Doing this allows us to pivot quickly when ideas don’t work on the first try, and the ability to shift focus and perspective is critical when attempting to drive change management through innovative management practices. There were so many layers and problems to solve for my corporate partner, and in order to prioritize our work effectively, we had to dive deep into their work processes, organizational structure, and current change management processes.
Do you expect your ability to manage innovation to play an ongoing and important role in your career?
Absolutely! I joined Wharton’s Innovation and Design club as the vice president of marketing for just that purpose. I have always lived by the mantra “innovation starts with design thinking.” Design thinking is anchored in understanding customers’ needs and producing creative ideas. These practices are critical for any leader, in any organization, as they look to solve business problems, truly transforming the way we can develop products, processes, and even organizations. I believe this skill set will be crucial as I progress in my career, and I hope to use innovation as a strategic driver of value creation for the organizations I will work for.
Where are you hoping that your career will take you in the next 10 years?
Leading large teams from diverse backgrounds and designing the user experience for internal products has provided me with a solid foundation to achieve my career aspirations. I’d like my career journey to focus on roles that allow me to continue to innovate within spaces and industries that have not seen disruption. In the near future, I see myself in a product management role continuing to develop my knowledge and expertise, and using that experience to transition into a career as a serial entrepreneur, eventually founding my own tech-enabled business or product line.