Making your mark on the wall

I spend a quite a bit of my time with with innovators and entrepreneurs these days.  As CEO of the Arizona BioIndustry Association or AZBio as we say, I get to connect with teams that are researching and developing products for a better world… Sustainable Health (and health care) , more plentiful food, greener energy… pretty heady stuff.  My job’s not nearly as sexy.  Here at AZBio our job is ground support, providing opportunities for them to connect and engage with each other, pulling together educational and support resources and sharing their stories.  Our job is not to change the world.  Our job at AZBIO is to support them so that they can.


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Sometimes you need that extra edge

Whether you are a beginner or a pro, when it comes to winning in the innovation game, sometimes you need that extra edge.


Most  innovators can tell you that success is tied to a number of factors.  When they come together in the right order and with the right combinations, it can lead to a winning run.  It’s a bit like a game of pool.

You need a good break

In the game of pool, the “break” occurs when the player shoots into the racked balls to start the pool game. This break causes the balls to disperse all around the table where they may be shot at and pocketed.

In the innovation game, you may need to exert a bit a force to reorder things.  The form of our business may be shaped by process, procedure and institutional knowledge that says that this is the way we have always done it so this is the way it is done.  Sometimes it takes a a bit of applied energy to break up that old thinking and spread things out so that you can make room for new opportunities.

Scope out ALL your aim spots.

The “aim spot” is the exact spot where the cue tip contacts the cue ball or where the cue ball connects with the object ball to send it sailing towards the pocket.

Knowing where to apply your energy to effect forward movement is an art.  The best pool players know this and so do the most successful innovators.  Your first point of impact is critical.  Scanning the various opportunities spread out before you and then choosing the one most likely for success takes a combination of focus and strategy.  Select the one that is best positioned to get to that first success point while also positioning yourself for the follow up shot.  Then focus in on your first action, identify exactly where you need to apply your impact.

Be sure to call your shot

To “call” your shot means to verbally announce which ball you are shooting for and where you plan to pocket it.

In pool, if your don’t call your shot, the point does not count. In business we ‘call our shot’ by letting the team know the who-what-where-and why of our strategy.  If we don’t call it clearly, the team’s efforts are scattered and the impact is lessened.  Lack of a clearly stated direction can have your team bouncing all over the place and missing out on new opportunities or missing what you are shooting for completely.

Reach Farther

The “bridge” is where the shaft of the cue stick is rested on and where it slides when taking a shot. This bridge may either be the “bridge hand”, or the “bridge stick”, which is used when a longer reach is needed to access the cue ball.

Sometimes the shot you need is outside your personal reach.  You need a tool or a “hand” to line things up.  This may be an advisor, an investor or a strategic partner.  Whatever resource you need… use it.  Many a shot was missed when we fail to use the tools and resources at our disposal.  True innovation makes it better for all of your key constituencies – employees, customers, partners, and investors.  Bring them into the mix early and work in combination.

Master the Art of the Combination

A “combination” is where the cue ball hits one object ball into another, with the intent of sinking one of the object balls.

Innovation rarely occurs as a single event or action.  Normally it is a chain where one change can affect multiple results.  Look for all the possible applications your innovation can apply to.  Don’t limit yourself to only one.  Equally important, combine your energies with other strategic partners who can also benefit.  Use their reach and energy to move the game forward faster.

Take advantage of your edge

Innovation can give you that extra edge..but knowing how to execute will give you a chance to run the table.  So rack up those new ideas, line up your shot and get in the game.

The Best Support is Bidirectional

As I go about my day, I wear a hat or two or three.  I’m a Mom, a wife, a non-profit executive, a CEO, a board member, an investor and a few other things.  Across them all, it it all ties back to one thing.  I need the help and support of others to get the job done.  This week, at one of my many meetings, a fellow board member shared a thought that has really stayed with me.  “We need to provide value BEFORE we ask for support.”   As I have continued through my week, that message kept coming back to me. Continue reading

What’s Your CorePurpose? How will you achieve it?

AZBio Member John Hoffman of QMR

This week, Tuesday in fact, I have my first BIG meeting as the President and CEO of AZBIO, the Arizona BioIndustry Association.  It’s probably the most important meeting we will have all year – the first phase of our strategic planning process.

There will be other important events and meetings through out the year, but this one lays the foundation for what we will do and who we will do it for.Continue reading

Help! I’m chained to my desk!

We’ve all been there. Those times when we have so much to do that we’re just not sure how it will all get done.  Emails are pouring in.  Reports are due.  The phone won’t stop ringing.  New social media communication tools are pinging you from all sides.  A new crisis has just popped up and you have not finished dealing with the old one! Each forms a link in a chain that has you attached to your desk.   Continue reading

Responsibility, Leadership and Noblesse Oblige

iStock Photo via

Leadership is a popular word these days. Consultants preach it, journalists either praise it or bemoan it, companies, boards investors and customers demand it.

The days when leaders were anointed at birth, except in a very few cases, are long gone. Today’s leaders may have great power… or none depending on the authority they wield.  But whatever level that may be, with leadership comes a corresponding measure of responsibility.

“For of those to whom much is given, much is required”

Bible (Luke 12:48)

Through the ages it has been written that leadership and responsibility go hand in hand.  Today, leadership takes many forms. We lead people in organizations. We lead with thoughts, ideas, and experience.  We lead in the development of processes and products.  As leaders, however and where ever we may lead, it is important to remember, leadership is not something that is merely handed to us, it is a privilege that must be continually earned.  For when our leadership falters, others cease to follow. If others choose not to follow, we are not leading, we are simply walking alone.Continue reading

Are you a class act?


Over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting some pretty amazing people.  Some were captains of industry, others were politicians, scientists, professional athletes, engineers, artists, celebrities or brilliant thought leaders.

Each, in their own way, was at the top of their personal game and it showed, not just in their accomplishments, which in some cases are legendary, but in the way they treated people.  Each one was a class act.Continue reading