Beyond If Beyond If
If/When May 2, 2021

Strategic Innovation: Going Beyond Research & Development

Show Contributors: Gina Colarelli O'Connor, Heather Wishart-Smith, Paul Thies


Regardless of industry, the concept of Innovation as an organized corporate endeavor is ever present in companies big and small. And while there is no shortage of great ideas, why does it sometimes seem that relatively few are well deployed? How can organizations experience a better return on investment and execute a clear path to market for their emerging ideas? The answer lies in developing strategic innovation plans. On this episode, we discuss the topic of strategic innovation and what differentiates it from Research & Development with Dr. Gina O’Connor, Professor of Innovation Management and Fischer Family Chaired Professor at Babson College, and Heather Wishart-Smith, Senior Vice President, Technology & Innovation at Jacobs.

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Episode notes

Gina Colarelli O’Connor is Professor of Innovation Management and Fischer Family Chaired Professor at Babson College. She conducts research and teaches on the topic of Corporate Innovation. Prior to joining Babson in 2018, Professor O’Connor was a faculty member at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lally School of Management, where she also served as the Director of the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship, Director of the MBA program, Director of the Radical Innovation Research program, and Associate Dean. 

Gina has published numerous scholarly papers and co-authored three books for organizational leaders on managing breakthrough innovation in large mature companies. Five of her papers have received best paper of the year awards. The second book, Grabbing Lightning was named one of the top books of the year by Strategy + Business Magazine in 2009 and the third, Beyond the Champion: Institutionalizing Innovation through People, was nominated for the Academy of Management’s Best Book of the Year in 2019. In 2018 Gina was honored to be named a Crawford Fellow by the Product Development & Management Association. She has worked with many mature organizations to help them build Strategic Innovation capabilities, and now is converting her research into Executive Education as the academic leader of Babson’s Corporate Innovation Practice area. 

Heather Wishart-Smith is the Senior Vice President, Technology & Innovation for Jacobs. A registered Professional Engineer and certified Project Management Professional, Ms. Wishart-Smith is a Fellow of Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) and its National President for the 2020-2021 centennial year.

Prior to her current position at Jacobs, Heather led Innovation and Jacobs Connected Enterprise (JCE) for Buildings, Infrastructure and Advanced Facilities, and before that she led the Buildings & Infrastructure Mid-Atlantic region, with oversight including design, consulting, and program management/construction management projects in the rail, highway, transit, Federal, corporate/commercial, science & technology, and related markets.

A former Navy Civil Engineer Corps officer, she served at the Presidential Retreat, Camp David, under two different presidential administrations, among other duty stations. She has published and presented articles on several leadership, architectural, engineering, and construction topics in the military and transportation sectors. Ms. Wishart-Smith holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Virginia.