What is Innovation?

Innovation is a window into the uncertain future :: Carolina Duque Chopitea

Episode Summary

Episode 66 of 'What is Innovation?" is here! Jared talks with Carolina Duque Chopitea, Director of Technology and Product at Reciqlo, a Circular Economy company that builds solutions for glass recycling, and Co-founder of Brandformers, a digital marketing and consultancy company that helps brands with their digital transition. They discuss why it's important to see innovation as a way of looking at the future, and they unpack the ingredients of innovation that go beyond technology. How do you balance the good and the bad of tech innovation? Are you innovating with a meaningful purpose? Carolina's insights and expertise will help guide you to become more 'circular' in your view of technology and innovation.

Episode Notes

Carolina Duque Chopitea, Director of Technology and Product at Reciqlo, a Circular Economy company that builds solutions for glass recycling, and Co-founder of Brandformers, a digital marketing and consultancy company that helps brands with their digital transition, discusses why it's important to see innovation as a way of looking at the future, and they unpack the ingredients of innovation that go beyond technology. 

More about our guest:

Carolina Duque Chopitea holds a master’s degree in Business Analytics from Hult International Business School (San Francisco) and has recently co-authored “Tomorrow's people and new technology” , a book that explores how the emerging technologies that power the Fourth Industrial Revolution are changing our lives. With her multidisciplinary background and experience working in technology Carolina helps brands and organizations to build technological and innovative solutions that contribute towards the sustainable development of our plant.

Episode Guide:

1:20 - What is Innovation

1:59 - Blockchain

2:44 - Book: Tomorrow's people and new technology

6:22 - Big data: shaping it and getting shaped by it

9:08 - Practical Innovation and value

11:56 - Innovation from non-economic projects

12:36 - What isn't innovation?

14:59 - Not something from scratch or zero

17:37 - Innovation Skill: Learning and Promoting

21:32 - Innovation: Shaping Careers

23:45 - Advice to innovators

Resources Mentioned: 

Books / Articles:


OUTLAST Consulting offers professional development and strategic advisory services in the areas of innovation and diversity management.

Episode Transcription

/This transcript was automatically generated using AI; please forgive any inconsistencies. We are working to provide the correct and more concise copy of the transcript. For urgent need, please send us an email.



Jared Simmons  00:05

Hello, and welcome to what is innovation. The podcast that explores the reality of a word that is in danger of losing its meaning altogether. This podcast is produced by Outlast consulting, LLC, a boutique consultancy that helps companies use innovation principles to solve their toughest business problems. I'm your host Jared Simmons, and I'm so excited to have Catalina duke he will be there. Karolina duke he will be there is a partner and director of technology and product at recycle a circular economy company that builds technological solutions for glass recycling, and the co founder of brand formers, a digital marketing company that helps brands in their digital transition. She holds a master's degree in Business Analytics from Hult International Business School, and a degree in Political Science and Environmental Studies from the University of Victoria, Canada. With her multidisciplinary background and experience, Catalina works with brands and organizations to help them build technological and innovative solutions that contribute toward the sustainable development of our planet. Karolina, thank you so much for joining us on the show today. I'm very excited for the conversation.


Carolina Duque Chopitea  01:15

Thanks for having us. My pleasure.


Jared Simmons  01:18

So why don't we dive right in? What in your mind is innovation?


Carolina Duque Chopitea  01:23

So I think innovation, for my perspective, it's a window into the uncertain future, to be honest. And I think it is like that, because we really don't know how the future will be like. But innovation may not be a process a product or a technology kind of gives us an idea on how the future can look like or the possibilities of development. So I think it's kind of this little bit of machine that lets us look into the future. Right? Like, for example, Blockchain. 


Carolina Duque Chopitea  01:59

Blockchain was introduced as a technology. But it's also a new process or way of relating with one another, with society, in my view, is a very innovative technology. But we still don't know how blockchain is to be adopted, I mean, that there hasn't been mass adoption of that technology, because it's relatively new. And we cannot really know how adoption might look like or what other companies might emerge in this space. But we can imagine a little bit or start analyzing what are the possibilities within this technology, like based on how we see things like emerging, so I think that's a very, in my perspective, a really kind of something that inspires me to be interested about innovation. And this kind of also inspired the book that I co authored with Ranger and phallic starts, tomorrow's people are new technologies. Because what we do in this book is kind of looking at innovation as a window into understanding the future, because we analyze our different emerging technologies. And then we kind of imagine, really, because it's based on our imagination, and kind of our analysis on how these technologies are going to impact the future and what we can do to kind of shape that future.


Jared Simmons  03:19

Right, that's brilliant. I love the fact that you view innovation as sort of a machine or a portal, almost into the future versus being a thing, or a technology or an object or a project or whatever it is more like, like you said, a window. It's a way of viewing an uncertain future. I like that a lot. And I think it also


Carolina Duque Chopitea  03:40

kind of gets humanity an incredible advantage when you have that opportunity to center a future because it can allow you to strategically influence shape the future and think about it. I mean, innovation is not just something that happens to us, right. It's a process and we get to shape that. So I think if people and also policymakers alike start thinking about innovation as a predictive tool, kind of is not necessarily Yeah, then we can also be better prepared to for the future. Right? Because I don't know, again, with the for example, with cryptocurrencies, like a lot of I mean, people and regulators were not prepared for a lot of the things that happen. But they were not completely unknown unknowns. I mean, a lot of the things that have happened there could have been predicted based on the innovation that was happening on the possibilities. So we could have been a bit better prepared to kind of, I don't know, to have a framework to work within these technologies, right?


Jared Simmons  04:36

I see. So it's not looking at the technologies, where they are for what they are today. It's looking at what they could be in the opportunities they could create in the future. So not looking at the green screen, terminal Apple two as you know what it is but looking at, what if this were connected to a world wide web? What if this screen had more colors? What if this interface had a little thing You can move around thinking about casting the vision of that current technology into the future.


Carolina Duque Chopitea  05:05

Yeah, no. And I also think it's like the good and bad, right? Because he knows you're gonna have lots of good things. But it can also have a lot of implications for people and daily life. So if we're able to kind of see it as this little kind of time machine, yeah. Well, I was able to shape it and not let it shape us. And then we are also more empowered to make decisions on how do we want innovation or the technologies or products that emerge from innovation. How do we want them to be used in society?


Jared Simmons  05:34

Yes, I see. I see. So it's a forward moving process, that if you acknowledge that it has this sort of inevitable forward progression through time, you have two choices, basically, you can shape it, or you can let it shape you. Yeah, I would say that. Okay. Got it. Got it. No, that's really interesting. It's fascinating. And I think that if you approach it from that point of view, then it does make you look at things like blockchain differently. Blockchain is on an inevitable, innovation driven path forward. It's not, is blockchain useful? Does blockchain work? Blah, blah, blah, it's how will blockchain evolve into the future? And do I want to be part of shaping it? Or do I want to have it shaped the way I live?


Carolina Duque Chopitea  06:18

And I also think, like, I mean, that can be applied for many technologies. I think, like, for example, big data was an innovation and other time that we didn't got to shaped. And it basically shaped us and shaped the world that we're living in. And we got very little input in deciding how we wanted big data to be managed to be used. And even though it's very innovative, and very innovative things can emerge from the data mining and data processing. Sure. And I think it was also not very well planned to set it that way. And we didn't have a lot of inputs. And I think, because at the time, I mean, the innovation was at, we would have I don't know, big data now. Right? Like that was very innovative. Yep. But at the time, we didn't know the implications for the future. But we could have had an idea if we would have sit down and kind of analyze that and be like, Okay, what are the implications for these in the future? So I think innovation kind of, for my view, is that window into the future?


Jared Simmons  07:22

Man, that is so great, we could unpack that for hours, because it just makes so many things go off in my head. Like if governments and regulatory bodies viewed innovation, the way you do, Big Data wouldn't be in the sort of mess that it is now, they wouldn't have looked at these highly networked large ways of storing information and accessing it rapidly, they would have looked at that and said, Okay, well, what are the potential future implications of this, versus taking a wait and see sort of approach,


Carolina Duque Chopitea  07:50

and it shouldn't be included in their policy toolkit? It's so important, especially as they're increasingly dealing with our technology focused society. I mean, this is just going to exponential like the, the process of innovation every time it's like faster, they're, like more technologies emerging and like new processes, new ideas coming up all the time. And it's impossible for regulators to catch up because they're always waiting for it to happen, instead of kind of being more proactive approach to


Jared Simmons  08:19

it. Right, right. And the regulatory world is less networked and collaborative, then the world of technology, people in Spain and Argentina and the US, and you know, Kenya are all thinking about AI, or NF T's or whatever else, but the regulatory bodies aren't talking to each other. They're not thinking, you know, as collaboratively and proactively. So until that happens, I think innovation, and innovation is collaboration dependent. And so until we start thinking about borders, when we think about regulating technology, we're always going to be a step behind.


Carolina Duque Chopitea  08:54

Yeah, I agree with that. So hopefully, we're able to, we have to be more practice about it. I think I do have a second definition of what I think innovation is


Jared Simmons  09:05

a bonus definition. Yeah, that's great. I love it.


Carolina Duque Chopitea  09:08

I also think that a key part of innovation is problem solving and practical implementation of those solutions that have utility as well for society. Yes, so I think that having a creative idea is not enough to be considered innovation, like that idea has to materialize. And therefore the implementation part is such an important characteristic of innovation. Because we can all have ideas, but I think going from idea to innovation is actually the implementation of those ideas in certain ways.


Jared Simmons  09:41

I see. I see. I like that. That's, that's great.


Carolina Duque Chopitea  09:46

And I think that the second part of it, which is the heavy utility for society, is that it has to add some kind of human value to people you know, because I mean, humans are very crafty beings and we think Got our ideas and processes like all the time and, and we implement them. While I was like kind of going through the questions in my mind, I remember the sign that I had a friend and she was in University online. And this was like pre buttons me. And basically her attendance was measured on the, like her mouse activity. So what she did was to put a fan next to the mouse, so it would slightly move all the time. So they wouldn't know when she was gone. I can judge if he's good or bad, but he was very clever. Very clever. I mean, what did he know the team? I wouldn't say so. I mean, probably not. A lot of people have tried it. And it is a new process, I would say.


Jared Simmons  10:41

Right. But the question is the human value to people is questionable, though. Yeah.


Carolina Duque Chopitea  10:46

To herself is very. Like, they human utility is very important. And I mean, doesn't necessarily has to be economic value. Because I mean, governments and NGOs and, and even companies innovate all the time and doesn't necessarily has economic value, but they have some utility or society or some value for society. Right. And I think that's also a very important characteristic of what innovation is.


Jared Simmons  11:12

That is That is brilliant. I love that. I couldn't agree more, because I think a lot of opportunities to reapply innovation get missed because people are defining innovation in narrow terms in terms of impact or value created. And if you only look for Okay, well, what made a billion dollars? Or what put a person on the moon? If those are your criteria for what's innovative, then you're going to miss, how did we eradicate polio? How did these other things that had other forms of human value? How did they come about these lessons for innovation, riddled throughout those types of solutions, and we missed the opportunity to reapply them because they don't get labeled as innovation because they generated social good or some other type of good.


Carolina Duque Chopitea  11:56

It's interesting, because I love the most innovative things of our time. I have actually come from non economic projects. Yes, I like the internet was a government bond program and suddenly became this like, huge thing. Right. And of course, now we profit from it in different ways. But at the beginning, it wasn't made for profit is a communication internal tool for the government. Right. Right. So I think it's very important to I don't know, to also see value in innovation beyond just economic value.


Jared Simmons  12:26

Yes, I couldn't agree more. I'm so glad you added that that was a great bonus. So I've loved the way you think about what innovation is. I'm very curious to hear from you. What isn't innovation?


Carolina Duque Chopitea  12:38

Well, so I think innovation is not just technology, process and products. And I'm pretty sure like a lot of your guests have probably touched on this point. But I think it cannot be emphasized enough. That innovation is not just about technology, but solving problems for society and the technology or process that emerges from that. It's just kind of a means or parts of it. So I think that if I would have to kind of put together an innovation formula for you. Yeah, it would be kind of like problem solving plus utility for society, plus the technology part or product or process or product, plus the execution. So I mean, technology's just a part of it, but it's not innovation.


Jared Simmons  13:24

I see. I see. I know, as a recovering chemical engineer, I love equations. So thank you for that.


Carolina Duque Chopitea  13:32

Another thing I think innovation is not I think innovation is not creativity


Jared Simmons  13:37

is not creativity. It's not creativity. Okay.


Carolina Duque Chopitea  13:40

I mean, I think innovation must definitely include creativity. But I believe that it's not just creativity. So I mean, like innovation can include creativity, but creativity does not include innovation.


Jared Simmons  13:53

I see. I'm picturing the Venn diagram, in my head. Creativity is inside of innovation. But innovation is bigger than Yeah,


Carolina Duque Chopitea  14:03

exactly. So I think it's not just a creative process, not just being creative, because you can be creative about something. But that doesn't necessarily means was innovative.


Jared Simmons  14:12

Right, it can feel the human value. Yeah. Because also


Carolina Duque Chopitea  14:15

you can ask, like, I don't know, you can create some art and be very creative at that process. But that doesn't necessarily every time you are painting, it's not like innovation. Right? Right. And I think that's also it's okay, because not everything has to be innovative all the time. So I think that is that distinction for me, I think between innovation and creativity,


Jared Simmons  14:36

ya know that that's super helpful and important to internalize. And I feel like creativity outside of the arts often gets labeled as innovation. Yeah. So if you do something creative, and you're an accountant, oh, that's innovation. If you do something creative, and you're an engineer, oh, that's innovation. But you're right. There's more to it than that. And I really liked your equation to kind of build out the picture.


Carolina Duque Chopitea  14:59

I also think As innovation is not creating something from scratch or from zero, I mean, not all the time. I think sometimes we have this kind of generalized idea of what innovation is. And it's just kind of this cloud of things. I mean, it can be trading something from scratch. But I mean, it's very rare the case that you wake up in the morning and have the greatest idea of it all, yeah, maybe it can happen. And that's awesome. But it's more likely, it won't be like that. But it would rather be able to find other technologies and other processes that exist today, or be inspired on something that's already out there. And then on your own experience, got it. But it's very rare, something that's like completely from zero, I think.


Jared Simmons  15:41

So I would imagine that could create some pressure on folks who are expected to be innovative, or expected to drive innovation in their company, or your founding a startup and you're sitting in front of a blank whiteboard, and I need to be innovative. I think a lot of people believe that you have to come up with something from nothing for it to be innovative. And it's really a high bar to set for yourself. Yeah, I couldn't imagine. No,


Carolina Duque Chopitea  16:04

no, I think so. I mean, I think it's very, very hard to just come up with something that because I think also when, when we create something or reinvent something, it's like, based on experiences and or knowledge, and it's a combination of like many things that are happening to you and to your environment, and that you can see and, and kind of creating something from something that you cannot imagine it's very hard to explain it, but it would be like really, really hard. Yeah, I mean, it could happen that you maybe have like this kind of great idea from one day to another. But I mean, normally innovation happens from I don't know, from seeing other things from experiencing other things from like learning other things and wanting to make something better are wanting to create something like new that not necessarily 100% different than something out there, you know,


Jared Simmons  16:57

right? Right. Right, exactly. I think it's born of this sort of false narrative that things that we see as innovative. were birthed from this magical idea that popped in someone's head. And that's where it came from. Most of the things we'd look at and say, Oh, wow, that's really innovative. They came from that process you just described?


Carolina Duque Chopitea  17:18

Yeah, I think it's a very, yeah, as you said, like, if you said, that bar is so high, it will be very frustrating, I need to give you I mean, writer's block or innovators block.


Jared Simmons  17:34

Innovators block,


Carolina Duque Chopitea  17:37

I do have one more thing that I think innovation is not. And that I think is like, also connected to that part of like, innovation is not something you have to create from zero. I said, innovation is not a gift, like it is a skill. And with any other skill, you can learn it and it can be also promoted. I mean, you can argue that some people are born with personality traits that can foster innovation easier. But you can basically say that about anything or any sport as well, right? I mean, some people have more ease to do some other things than other people. But with practice and perseverance, you can like always learn it. Right. Right. Yeah. Ah, so I think this message is like for people out there who believe themselves that they are not innovative enough, or they're innovative people, you know, because I think lots of people also see themselves as that. I'm not innovative, or I'm not creative. Right, right. But I think you can practices, right. And that's also something that like, I don't know, with different tools and different processes, you can actually practice it right. And in my company, from farmers, my digital marketing company, we actually practices a lot. And we have been able to build and implement different technologies and tools and processes to help our teams innovation. And we create like different spaces. So they can, like think about problem solving in a more negative way. And to kind of come with a plan of action. And not always, the innovative solution wins either, because as I said, Not everything has to be innovation. Sometimes the innovation solution wins, but also sometimes the practical solution wins. Right. And that's also okay. Yeah, you know, but I think that the process of trying to innovate in that process, you also use a lot of useful tools, I think, that can help you with innovative or good solutions.


Jared Simmons  19:31

Right, right. Yeah, no, that's exactly right. You know, it's sometimes the sort of value that gets kicked off along the process is as valuable as whatever you have when you get to the end of it. I think of the space program and you know, a couple dozen people have walked on the moon that's great. But we have so much technology and so many innovative things. I mean, that program advanced society decades, then it wasn't because someone landed on On the moon, it was all the things they had to invent or create processes for along the way that we were able to take advantage of. Yeah, innovation is not a gift. It's a skill like that. It's goes back to the growth versus fixed mindset, a lot of stuff in there. But it rarely gets applied to innovation. We don't think about it in terms of innovation, there's still this art or mystique of you have to be Steve Jobs, or someone along those lines to be truly innovative. And the answer is you don't, it can be a learned practice to develop skill.


Carolina Duque Chopitea  20:32

I mean, many of you, I mean, you said you used to be a chemistry, chemists. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, if you actually apply the formula, and you like a problem solving, okay, first one, started going like part by part and like looking different tools to help you kind of in, in each space, and then you have to, like have integration at the right. Point of integration.


Jared Simmons  20:55

That's right. That's exactly right. I can visualize that on a whiteboard, you know, breaking it down, step by step ingredient by ingredient. Yeah, I like a lot of what innovation isn't in your definition of that. I hope it opens the door to innovation for folks, you know, like, you don't have to have some magical gift. You don't have to create something from scratch. All these things that you're highlighting are things that I think, push people out of that mindset and make it feel like this huge, difficult thing. And so hopefully that opens people's minds a bit to Yeah, maybe I could do something innovative at work tomorrow. Yeah. So how has innovation kind of as a mindset as a way of looking at things, how has it shaped your career? I think the


Carolina Duque Chopitea  21:41

most important ways that it has kind of shaped my career is because it has pushed me to be a problem solver and an executioner. So, yeah, I think it has really helped me to build character to not be scared to fail and to try new things, and to kind of be okay being taken out of my comfort zone. So right now, one of my startups are Reciqlo, which is focused on the circular economy of glass in that company. And every day, we are faced with different challenges. Because it's, I mean, it's our kind of technology startup. And we are very much focused on on innovation. I mean, from our business model to the new processes that we're building to that communication and traceability software that we're also trying to build. I mean, there's nothing out there that it's like quite exactly what we're trying to solve. So we basically have not like full guidance of what we're trying to do. And I mean, we're always trying to kind of like problem solve, and it's very challenging sometimes. But I also think that because I consider myself an innovative person, that also makes me more resilient and willing to persevere when we quite haven't like, I don't know, nail something. It's okay, let's try it again. Let's rethink it. Let's look at it from a different perspective or Listen, go outside the box right on. And I think that's kind of the biggest way that innovation has shaped my career. And it has, to some ways make it more more challenging, because I'm always kind of looking for problems to solve. So make it quite fun, I think. Yeah,


Jared Simmons  23:19

that career path has led me to very nice, very nice,


Carolina Duque Chopitea  23:24

but I'm not creating problems are in there, again.


Jared Simmons  23:28

You're not inventing problems? Do you have something to do? No, no, no, the world has more than enough problems. We're problem solvers to dive into, unfortunately, for sure. Before I let you go, I want to thank you again for making the time and providing these these great insights. Last question is, what advice do you have for innovators?


Carolina Duque Chopitea  23:49

I think my most important advice is to innovate with purpose. And not only because you want to be tech intrapreneur. I mean, as I said earlier, and probably lots of people have said in this program, innovation, or the technology that comes from the innovation is just a part of it. But it's not everything. So I encourage them to fall in love with the problem they are trying to solve and not with the technology, they are trying to be able to solve that problem. I think that's the first thing I would tell them. And the second thing I would tell them is to innovate for the good of society, and not only for their own personal gain and fame, and to create something that's valuable or good for the world. It's important.


Jared Simmons  24:34

And that is, is phenomenal advice for us all. innovate with purpose, and fall in love with the problem in that the technology. Those are fantastic nuggets. Thank you so much for those. And thank you for your time. Innovation is a window into an uncertain future. That's fantastic. Thanks for


Carolina Duque Chopitea  24:53

having me. This bus. Lots of fun.


Jared Simmons  24:55

All right. Take care.


Jared Simmons  25:01

We'd love to hear your thoughts about this week's show. You can drop us a line on Twitter at Outlast LLC OUTLST LLC. Or follow us on LinkedIn where we're at less consulting. Until next time, keep innovating. Whatever that means