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Shawn Kanungo

November 16, 2021 by Speakers' Spotlight

Become a Dangerous One: Shawn Kanungo on Encouraging Innovation

Innovation requires dangerous thinking. Globally recognized innovation strategist Shawn Kanungo recently joined the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) for their annual conference to discuss strategy in a world of disruption. It all comes down to individuals, he said, and learning how to start flexing our innovation muscles to become “dangerous thinkers”, or change agents.

In his dynamic keynote, Shawn provided a bold roadmap for the future on how to take unexpected approaches to innovation to remain competitive and relevant in today’s fast-paced world. He specifically spoke to how disruptive and innovative thinking applies to the theme of CSAE’s 2021 conference, community.

Here’s a few takeaways we got from it:

1) Innovation Requires Dangerous Thinking

It takes a dangerous one, or a disruptor, to see the world clearly, Shawn said. True innovators see the future clearly and have the courage to flip old narratives to be able to meet the demands of that future.

The era of big tech is over, Shawn said. It is individuals who are making a difference today — not corporations, not startups, not big tech. We’re starting to see this right now through the “great resignation” that’s occurring. People know that they’re no longer just a number or a cog within an organization, and are re-imagining work and what they want from it based on that.

The balance of power is shifting because technology is enabling individuals. All the tools needed to put our ideas out there and to have our voices heard, sits in our pocket — the smartphone. Forces are coming together today to allow individuals to be the “Davids” in a David vs. Goliath world; to be the dangerous ones, the innovators.

To capitalize on this, Shawn recommends:

  1. Find your personal moat: What is your unfair advantage?
  2. Muscle: Flex it regularly. Use whatever medium available to get your message out there, whether it’s through videos, podcasts, blogs, etc.
  3. Collaborate: Learn with and from others.
  4. Practice what you preach: Leaders make leaders. Become a platform for others.

2) The Future is Not Digital

Every facet of our society lives offline and online — healthcare, retail, even dating. In a post-pandemic era, organizations are competing against anyone looking to build trust and relationships with your consumers because the most precious commodity today is attention.

While we’ve all had to move our lives, both personally and professionally, into the digital world, doing everything digitally actually devalues what we deliver, Shawn says. It makes it transactional and less significant. Many organizations assume that people not only want but appreciate speed, but, in an Amazon world, speed is actually an expectation now. So to compete, you need to double down on what makes us human to stand out from your competition.

It’s called “costly signaling”, which means investing in things that are meaningful, magical, and memorable to create greater meaning and significance to your community. For example, you could write the exact same message in a text or in a handwritten note, but the handwritten note hits a little harder every time, Shawn says.

Technology is an accelerant but what creates community or connection is us, individuals, human to human relationships. This is why the future isn’t digital, because in a digital and remote world, meeting people in-person will become the new costly signaling.

3) Innovation is Contagious

Humans are not original, Shawn says. We are hard-wired for “mimetic desire”. Mimetic comes from mime, which means imitation. Humans subconsciously imitate each other’s desires every day.

From observing and working with companies across the world, Shawn has witnessed what he calls “mimetic innovation”. Innovation is contagious, he says. Once people see others get recognized for doing something new, something exciting, something innovative, others will follow.

What stops us is our obsession with efficiency and optimizing existing practices, Shawn says. We need to stop focusing on what we know and spend more time, resources, and effort in creating luck. The best way to create luck, Shawn says, is through innovation. Trying new things increases our surface area for getting lucky. Change the conversation from “what if it doesn’t work?” to “what if this works out better than we could have imagined?”

It starts with you, Shawn says. Be bold and creative, and start building your muscle for danger. It may be small projects at first, but eventually you will build enough innovation capital to earn trust and buy-in from others, and then you will have permission to push even further.

To illustrate this, Shawn shared a case study of how one association was able to grow their membership and reach within the broader community by, as Shawn says, “thinking dangerously.” Watch the video below to learn more.

Shawn Kanungo is a globally recognized innovation strategist who has worked with hundreds of organizations on their journey to digital transformation. Through his dynamic keynotes, Shawn shares insight into strategizing for disruption and innovation and how we can create the future, together.

Interested in learning more about Shawn and what he can bring to your next event as a keynote speaker? Email us at [email protected].