Innovation symposium

Julie Demers, executive director of the New Hampshire Tech Alliance, speaks at a symposium about innovation at Fratello’s Italian Grille in Manchester on Thursday. Also pictured are Mike Cote of the New Hampshire Union Leader, Brian Fleming of the Sandbox ColLABorative at Southern New Hampshire University, Erica Johnson of QA Cafe & CloudShark, and Heather Staples Lavoie of Geneia.

MANCHESTER — Innovation isn’t necessarily about inventing the next Snapchat.

It’s about the willingness to take risks and to put everything on the line, says Julie Demers, executive director of the New Hampshire Tech Alliance.

“It doesn’t always have to be something ultimately life changing or the next biggest app or the next biggest business,” she said at the Union Leader’s Symposium Series on innovation Thursday morning at Fratello’s Italian Grille in Manchester. “Innovation is something that needs to be woven into things that we do everyday.”

The four panelists were featured in the Union Leader’s “New Hampshire Innovators” special edition back in September.

Erica Johnson, CEO of QA Cafe & CloudShark in Portsmouth, said innovation needs to break through the status quo.

“Innovation might not be a brand new thing or it could be,” she said. “It also could be the evolution of something, thinking differently and pushing what you know today to what could be possible.”

Workforce and talent is required in innovation, said Heather Staples Lavoie, president of Geneia LLC.

“It is a marathon, and so keeping everyone going and motivated toward doing the right thing is most of the work,” she said. “It is absolutely 1,000% the team. Day in and day out it is the people that make it work.”

Brian Fleming, executive director of the Sandbox ColLABorative at Southern New Hampshire University, agreed.

“Ideas generally come from people, and to be an educational organization we have to be in a position to value the perspectives and views and passions of different people, and I think if you try to squelch that too early with a spreadsheet it’s counterproductive to the work we do,” he said.

What about failure?

Johnson likes to call it “not yet successes.”

“Even if you abandon an idea or pivot completely I don’t see it as a failure,” she said. “I see it as opening new opportunities or opening up new resources to be able to do something else.”

Failure is a natural part of the cycle in developing products or starting a new business, Lavoie said.

“There are going to be technical challenges. There are going to be features that didn’t work the way expected,” she said.

Talking about failure is important in innovation, Demers said.

“I think it is almost as important to share the stories of failure, the horror stories, as it is the success stories,” she said.

Fleming said the SNHU story is all about transformation in higher education.

“You are going to get some things right. You are going to get some things wrong,” he said.

The Union Leader Symposium Series is presented by the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses program. Thursday’s event was moderated by Union Leader Business Editor Mike Cote.

Saturday, January 18, 2020