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IAM1907 – CEO and Author Helps Companies Institutionalize Innovation

Podcast Interview with Rebecca Costa

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of IAMCEO podcast, Rebecca D. Costa is an American sociobiologist and futurist. She is the preeminent global expert on the subject of “fast adaptation” and recipient of the prestigious Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Award.

Her career spans four decades of working with founders, executives, and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Costa’s first book, The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse, was an international bestseller.

Her follow-on book, titled On the Verge was introduced in 2017 to critical acclaim, shooting to the top of Amazon’s #1 New Business Releases. Costa presently hosts the popular news podcast, The Costa Report, along with 12 world-renowned subject experts.

Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, SF Chronicle, The Guardian, other leading publications.

Key insights from the podcast include:

CEO Story: Right after college landed on what was later called the Silicon Valley. Rebecca later realized that she has a passion for what’s next. Build her business and wrote bestselling books.

Business Service: Help corporations to have the predictive analytical data for what is most likely the next trend.

Secret Sauce: Assigning a person to Institutionalize innovation.

CEO Hack: Asking deeper questions, instead of just asking the end result. Ask the people that exceeded the goals or brought innovation to the company, what did they do differently.

CEO Nugget: Getting things done. True to your own style and it’s important to communicate that.

CEO Defined: You have to have a vision and a passion for the future. Assign a person that will institutionalize innovation in your company.

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Rebecca Costa 00:00

Primary function is to have vision to be looking at what the new disruptors are and to preparing the culture and the leaders in the company to embrace that disruption to get there before anybody else to get the jump on opportunity.

Before anyone else that is the CEO's function.

Intro 00:21

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of.

This is the IAMCEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:48

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the IAMCEO podcast, and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners or what I like to call CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month, we are focused on innovation, disruption, women entrepreneurship, DEI, gig economy, remote economy, even the cannabis industry. Think about these industries and these disruptive technologies that really sometimes aren't as disruptive, but there are people that are just paying attention to what the market needs and they're providing that. So really think about the things that are quote and quote outside of the norm, but really help entrepreneurship to grow and fully develop.

I think it's an extremely exciting time when we're talking about any type of innovation or disruption, because I think that there are so many opportunities and needs that aren't felt that are starting to be filled by different groups, different organizations, or even different industries. So what I want you to do is sit back and enjoy this special of the IAMCEO podcast.

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the IAMCEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Rebecca Costa of rebeccacosta.com. Rebecca, super excited to have you on the show.

Rebecca Costa 02:12

Thank you for having me.

Gresham Harkless 02:13

Yeah. Super excited about all the awesome things that you're doing. Before we jump into the interview, I want to read a little bit more about Rebecca so you can hear about some of those awesome things. Rebecca DeCosta is an American sociologist and futurist. She is the preeminent global expert on the subject of fast adaptation and the recipient of the prestigious Edward O. Wilson biodiversity technology award.

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Her career spans four decades of working with founders, executives, and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Rebecca's first book, The Watchman's Rattle, A Radical New Theory of Collapse, was an international bestseller. Her follow on book titled On the Verge was introduced in 2017 to critical acclaim, shooting to the top of the number, the Amazon number one new business releases.

Costa presently hosts the Popular News Podcast, the Casa Report, along with 12 world renowned subject matter experts. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, SF Chronicle, The Guardian and other leading publications.

Rebecca, super excited to hear about all the work that you're doing and even more excited to have you on the show. Are you ready to speak to the IAMCEO community?

Rebecca Costa 03:23

I am indeed that when I listen to all those credentials, it makes me feel old.

Gresham Harkless 03:30

No, we just say a little seasoned and experienced and definitely an expert in all the things that you've been able to accomplish. So I guess what I wanted to do, because I had to kick everything off, was rewind the clock a little bit, hear a little bit more on how you got started, what I like to call your CEO story.

Rebecca Costa 03:45

I was fortunate right after college to land in what later became Silicon Valley. This was the early eighties, and it was just a wonderful time to be a young person when everything was just new and venture capital was flowing in nobody's business and everybody had an idea that seemed to be fundable. I didn't have an appreciation then for how supportive the infrastructure was as it was building out for entrepreneurs and for creative thinkers and I had a science background and pretty much if you could spell your last name, they were hiring because nobody had the required prerequisite experience. Because everything was new.

No one had 50 years experience in the semiconductor industry, so you didn't have to have a lot of qualifications. What you had to have was the ability to adapt quickly, learn, and you wanted to be a bright person in a very, very dynamic environment. You needed to be able to respond very fast. So, I was very lucky to ride the wave of any number of technologies and eventually to form my own company. And what I realized is that I have a great passion for what's next, I have a great passion for what the next disruptor is. It's in my DNA. I'm curious about what the next thing is.

I'm always fascinated that people are just even CEOs. CEOs in particular, I feel this is a crime that get really stuck in the minutia. They're looking at quarterly profits. They're looking at operational problems that are going to hang them up. They're really stuck in the minutia. And this is probably going to get a little bit ahead in your program and we'll talk about this, but I think that the CEOs primary function is to have vision, is to have vision to be looking at what the new disruptors are and to preparing the culture and the leaders in the company to embrace that disruption to get there before anybody else. To head off danger and to get the jump on opportunity before anyone else. That is the CEO's function and we've reduced it in many cases to profitability.

I think that because of that, our whole economy is suffering, that we are not a future-oriented business community, and there's a bit of a disconnect between futurists like myself. That's the label that was put on me. You're a futurist. Now, I want to make it clear, that doesn't mean I talk to dead people or read tarot cards or anything. I'm not that kind of futurist. I'm a data analyst. I look at predictive analytical data for what is the most likely next trend. Then I work with corporations to help them get ready for that, right? Get there first. I'm always shocked. I go into the C suite, I go into the board of directors level of multinational corporations, and they have no idea what's about to hit them. They look at me like I'm speaking a foreign language.

I remember, two years ago, three years ago talking about NFTs. NFTs are not friendly, let's face it. Non fungible tokens that already, it sounds like English, it's not like an actual visual pops up in your head of what a non fungible token is and so automatically even the words and people are saying why do we need to care about that. 10 years before that it was blockchain technology. Why do we need to care about that? So these things by the time the leadership hears about them, 9 times out of 10 it's too late. You should have been on top of this a decade ago, right? And then that just throws the whole organization into a pressure cooker, and I'm against that.

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I think that is the fault of the CEO. If you are ever playing catch up, then the CEO didn't understand what their primary function is. So there's a chunk of data that would be really valuable. Why is it valuable? For two reasons. The negative reason is it's going to slam you up the side of the head. Somebody's going to fund it, buy it, license it, and it's coming, right? Number two, you could make an investment or buy that patent or secure it at the lowest possible price. When it's provisional, people who are filing provisional patents generally need funding. What a wonderful opportunity to get in there early.

So, the second chunk of data, what is your program for checking on major research projects in universities? When I saw that, I said how are you getting your information about the future?

Gresham Harkless 09:04

Yeah, absolutely. And I love how you said, institutionalize in that aspect. So I know this is some of the work that you do with clients, and this might also touch on what I like to call your secret sauce and what sets you apart and makes you unique, do you think that organizations that I guess institutionalize you, sometimes you hear there's organizations like Google, you hear they have a certain amount of time that they spend on creativity.

Do you think that's the way you work? And obviously, that is needed in organizations as a whole.

Rebecca Costa 09:31

Yes, I think you have to institutionalize innovation the same way you institutionalize the efficiency in your corporation and profitability. You have to have people budget processes assigned, right? That are identifiable that everyone in the company knows. You know who to go to in HR if you didn't get your paycheck. In that same way, you've got to institutionalize innovation. And you mentioned what my company does, my company's called the Costa Group. That's what we do. We go into corporations and we help them to institutionalize innovation.

Sometimes it starts out with very simple things like there's an innovation trade show inside the company one day a year and all the board, the C-suite, the CEO has to be present. And on that day we go curate university developments that are relevant to them. We go curate people that have patents that are relevant to them. And they come into the corporation and actually show them what they have so that it's not theoretical. You can touch and feel the innovation. That it's real. And then we ask them, do you want to put money into it? Do you want to license the technology? Do you want to partner with this company?

And then each of those demonstrators sit down with the board and the top management and they make a decision in that room. We're going to move forward. It's premature. It's not our business line. We're not going to move forward. We think that this is a good opportunity for us to fund you to license, get an exclusive license. Whatever partnership, whatever it is, but they make a decision in that room and then it flows downward that kind of progressive action and support to assign people at lower levels to move forward with these innovators.

It's got to come from the top down. It never works. Innovation never works when it's from the bottom up. It never works. You lose those people.

Gresham Harkless 11:46

No, that's extremely powerful. I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, something from your books or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient.

Rebecca Costa 11:58

I didn't get deep enough. I was just looking, I only had time for the actual result and that unfortunately caused me to turn my attention to what wasn't working. I asked those questions of things that weren't working and weren't producing. So, if we missed the sales goal, I go alright why did we miss the sales goal? What are we going to do? So I became very negatively focused as opposed to focusing in on what did the people do that exceeded their goals? Right or who brought innovation into the company or who changed the way we did things in the past. What did they do differently? How do I get more of my company to behave like them?

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So, unfortunately, I was like a lot of CEOs. I was focusing in on what was not working trying to fix it. And I think that didn't make me a good CEO. Yeah. Also, I think it probably doesn't fall under a hack, but I think it's very important. And that is as animated as I am today, right? I'm an introvert. So, when I'm working on something in my office, and somebody comes in and they have a pants on fire emergency, I feel a little resentful because I want to get my work done. That's how introverts are. So I think you have to be true to your own style.

Gresham Harkless 13:28

Yeah, that makes so much sense. It actually like segue right to the question that I was going to ask, which is around the CEO nugget, which is essentially like something you might tell your younger business self or advice you would give to your best client. And I almost wonder if that's it, because the word that you said it, obviously you said you were introvert.

So, this is the way that you could show up to show your team.

Rebecca Costa 13:47

Yes, I had a vice president of finance one day tell me people think you don't like them. And I said why would they think that. If I don't like someone, it's not as though I wouldn't tell them and say, hey, I have a problem with you. I have command of the English language. I wouldn't try to resolve my differences with them. Do I seem like a person who would dodge that? And they said, no, but we notice that when there's a company party, you only stay for five minutes and leave. You don't have cocktails with us. You don't hang with us.

We have these picnics and you come to the picnic and then you leave. You don't like us. And I said, I'm just not comfortable in really large groups. But you make speeches to 5,000 & 10,000 people in a room. And I said, that's different. I'm on a stage. I know what I'm going to talk about, and then I go back to my hotel room and order room service, have a bath and catch my flight home.

So, it's not just important to be true to yourself. It's important to communicate that. One thing I will say is that all CEOs need to be honest about their focus on the future and whether they have institutionalized innovation and whether they have put people, actual people and resources toward their company's future, or are they focused on efficiency?

Gresham Harkless 15:11

That makes so much sense. I truly appreciate that definition. Obviously, appreciate your time even more. What I want to do now is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know. And of course, how best people could get ahold of you, listen to your show, get copies of your book and find out about all the awesome things you and your team are working on.

Rebecca Costa 15:29

They can reach me at my name rebeccacosta.com. There are a lot of videos and articles and interviews that I've done on that page. Also, there's a link to our podcast, which is dedicated completely toward disruptors, future disruptors.

So, any CEOs listening right now, the podcast is a must, whether it's space flight, or nutrition, or we're talking about the broadcast world, whatever it is, we're on top of what's going on in the future.

Gresham Harkless 16:01

Yeah, I absolutely appreciate that. And of course, to make it even easier, we'll have the links and information in the show notes so that everybody can subscribe, follow up with you and of course, contact you to make sure they're institutionalizing that innovation within their organizations.

Truly appreciate that Rebecca, of course appreciate your time even more, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Rebecca Costa 16:20

Thank you.

Outro 16:21

Thank you for listening to the IAMCEO podcast, powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. IAMCEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Check out the latest and greatest apps, books, and habits to level up your business at CEOhacks.co.

This has been the IAMCEO podcast with Gresham Harless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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