November 18, 2013

Panel talks value of risk in innovation careers


Panelists: Paul Beck; Fisher alumna Elaine Burchfield; Gretchen Goffe, executive director of Fisher's Innovation Initiative; Fisher alumnus Zach Weprin; and Ohio State alumnus Phil Scott.

Innovation Fisher, a student organization that offers exposure to the real-world application of innovation practice, theory, and methodologies, hosted a “Pathways into Innovation Careers Panel” last week – an event that brought together four professionals to speak to an audience of MBAs.

The panelists included Fisher alumni Elaine Burchfield and Zach Weprin. Burchfield is senior manager for innovation and commercialization at T. Marzetti Company, while Weprin co-founded the restaurant chain Fusian. The professionals shared their thoughts on preparing for a career in innovation, its challenges, and advice for students interested in innovation.

“You have to be willing to take risks, learn from your mistakes and move on,” Burchfield said. “And make sure there are positive people around you.”

Additional members of the panel included Ohio State alumnus Phil Scott, executive vice president of product innovation at the advertising firm GSW, and Paul Beck, a partner at Kalypso, an innovation consulting firm.

The notion of taking risks and embracing failure – touchstones in innovation – dominated much of the panel conversation and hit home with many of the students. Lindsey Lorenz, an MBA candidate, walked away from the event feeling inspired.

“It was very motivating to hear their engaging stories about their paths,” she said. “The one thing they all had in common was their passion for setting big goals and striving to accomplish them.  I loved Paul Beck’s quote that ‘small goals will not take you to the top of high mountains.’ ”

Scott drew from his experience at GSW as well as from his time as a marketing director at Eastman Kodak and urged students to broaden their definition of innovation and apply it to a discipline for which they have a passion.

“Innovation is a combination of a way of thinking and also putting a process to that way of thinking, regardless of the career path you’ve chosen,” Scott said. “You can have innovation and creativity in a finance job. You should have it in a marketing job. You can have it in a developer’s job. You can’t develop a culture of innovation without having some process involved where you’re thinking outside of your own world and your own sphere of influence.”