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Innovation Transformation: Natalie Neelan, Strategic Front-End Innovation Nationwide Mutual Insurance and Author “Rebel at Work"

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"To me, the next big thing for innovators is to find ways to socialize the critical trends, like sustainability and humanness, into all parts of the company via crowdsourcing, a relentless communication campaign, or other digital methods."

With the world and industries rapidly evolving, FEI has asked its esteemed speaking faculty what they see in their crystal ball, how they see the world transforming, and where they think innovation trends are heading and where the opportunities lie.

The next featured thought leader in our Innovation Transformation series is Natalie Neelan, Strategic Front-End Innovation Nationwide Mutual Insurance Author “Rebel at Work.”

What do you think is the future of the innovation industry?

I believe the strategic front end of innovation will become the focus--the preliminary actions that fuel money making initiatives.

The front end of innovation isn’t about a process. It considers divergent knowledge (like trends) to convergently synthesize opportunities. Many companies follow the thinking that test and learn methodologies (like design thinking) is front-end innovation, when in fact it is the back end of innovation.

The front end of innovation is also responsible for internal stakeholder and strategic alignment—absolute musts—before even hatching a potential concept worth exploration. Mid-line leaders don’t want to be on the outside of solution. In fact, they want to create the solutions themselves. There are ways to neutralize these potential rough patches.

The employees of the strategic front end of innovation don’t follow rigid processes and, when found and empowered, will transform the industry by working on initiatives that have greater chances of viability.

What do you think is the next big thing for innovators?

To me, the next big thing for innovators is to find ways to socialize the critical trends, like sustainability and humanness, into all parts of the company via crowdsourcing, a relentless communication campaign, or other digital methods. Ongoing messaging highlights the necessity of integrating these trends into everyday innovation. It also makes innovation initiatives easier to sponsor.

What are the opportunities that you’re seeing?

Much like digital marketing helps the pre-sale of a product/ service, I believe there is a massive opportunity for innovators to amplify the “why innovation is important to you, my fellow employee.” It isn’t a lack of capital that kills ideas inside corporate America, it is a lack of political capital. Innovators must be proficient at building, and spending that political capital.

Download the full whitepaper to read more about the future of innovation.

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