Practical Innovation and Taking Smart Risk to Drive Your Business – Think “Steer Left. Turn Right.”

Posted by Elise Mitchell on October 7, 2015

Elise Mitchell is appearing as a featured speaker at the ICCO Global Summit, Food for Thought: A PR Perspective in Milan, Italy on October 8th. Here she gives an overview of that presentation and a corresponding document available for download.


I’ve learned a lot about business and building my own company from riding a motorcycle. It’s a fascinating sport, which requires a unique combination of preparation and focus with an ability to adapt and respond to sometimes very significant risk.

But it’s not just speed: one of the biggest risks you face is how to navigate your bike, particularly through turns. And it’s far different from driving a car.

  • You start by looking through the turn. As you approach a turn, you keep your eyes focused on where you want to end up, not staring directly into the turn itself.
  • You use your own body weight to carefully lean the bike, which begins the turning process.
  • You complete the turning process by doing something that seems counterintuitive: briefly turn the bike in the opposite direction of the way you want to go. This is called counter-steering – or simply think “steer left to turn right.”

I’m inspired by this concept and how beautifully it illustrates innovation – doing something risky, or counterintuitive, in order to find a way forward. Innovation is a critical skill in today’s ever-changing business environment. If you’re not innovating, you risk falling behind because others are, and they will eventually move past you no matter how secure you think your position is in the marketplace.

Innovation takes you into the future and ensures your company remains relevant. It keeps you in the game! But innovation is also incredibly challenging, and there are plenty of leaders who are not innovating.


  • Time and money – They think they don’t have enough of either to spend on innovating. They’re too focused on the here-and-now.
  • Insular thinking – Many leaders don’t get out enough and lack a broader perspective outside of their industry. As a result, they can’t see the need to innovate.
  • Arrogance – They don’t make enough time to listen to customer/client needs and how those are changing. They think they already know what the marketplace wants.
  • Commitment to the past – They refuse to adapt and change, thinking how things were so much better in the “good ol’ days.” Always hoping for a return to business as usual (as if that could ever be).
  • Fear of failing – No one likes to fail, especially if time and money have been invested in trying to make something go. So while in their head, many leaders know they need to look toward the future, but in their heart, they don’t want to try to avoid the chances (or perception) of missing the mark.

Make no mistake – failure is no fun. But neither is being left behind, which is what will happen to you if you fail to innovate. Innovation is essential for growth, and your chances of success are often greater than you think.

Here at Mitchell, innovation has been a top priority since the company was started. Our entrepreneurial mindset has helped us see when our clients’ needs have changed through the years so we could change too. As an example, in addition to our core competency of PR, today we offer clients services in digital, social, web technology, content marketing, consumer insights, training, and big-idea creative. In the process, we’ve evolved to become an integrated communications company, and we fully expect that to continue changing in the future.

Practical innovation is the key, and sometimes doing things that seem counterintuitive.

So how do you make practical innovation a part of your roadmap to success? I invite you to download some of my thoughts about how to take smart risk that can help you drive your business forward.

And I’d like to hear from you, too – how are you innovating, and what are your tips for taking smart risk? Please connect with me on Twitter: @elisemitch and LinkedIn: Elise Smith Mitchell.

Topics: Leadership, Innovation