More than twenty years ago, Amy Radin was one of the first chief innovation officers in corporate America. She had been hired at Citi to lead digital transformation of the bank’s credit card business, which was close to 25% of Citi’s bottom line. Her boss then asked her to take her job one step further. “He said, ‘Amy, I want you to make us more innovative,’” Radin recalls. “So I started a little skunkworks operation where we started to experiment with looking at trends and at different technologies. And we set up pilots to help us understand opportunities to innovate.”
Radin parlayed that work into a new title for herself — chief innovation officer — and she held that job at Citi for several years. But when the financial crisis hit in 2008, she says, “it was not a great time to be an innovator in financial services.”
After a couple of subsequent corporate jobs, Radin decided to strike out on her own and build what she calls “a portfolio career” under her LLC, Pragmatic Innovation Partners. Throughout the past several years, that’s evolved to include speaking engagements, consulting, angel investing, and authoring a book, The Change Maker's Playbook: How to Seek, Seed and Scale Innovation In Any Company. Through her work as a chief innovation officer at Citi and at other companies, Radin realized how difficult the innovation process can be. The book, she says, “is written for operators, for people who are trying to get stuff done, versus a lot of other books in this genre that tend to be conceptual or academic.”
“What really gets me out of bed in the morning, professionally, is the ability to share my expertise and insight about creating something new and making it commercially viable.”
Radin’s consulting practice grew organically out of networking and the buzz from her book. She has a diverse portfolio of clients across a number of industries. For instance, she’s working with a pharma tech company to help shape a marketing strategy, with a European bank to develop its customer experience capabilities, and with a U.S.-based financial services sector trade association to launch a global innovation awards program. “It’s very diverse, but it all comes down to something has to change and be rethought, and how do I bring my marketing, digital, and innovation expertise to bear on the business problem at hand,” Radin says.
In addition to her consulting work, Radin is an angel investor through SoundBoard Venture Fund, and is on the global board of directors at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. The accounting and financial services industry, she says, is being disrupted by technology and workforce changes, sparking the need for insight from non-CPA professionals who “think systematically about innovation and digital transformation.”
“What really gets me out of bed in the morning, professionally, is the ability to share my expertise and insight about creating something new and making it commercially viable,” says Radin. Her membership in Fast Company Innovation Board allows her to share her wisdom via Expert Panels and long-form articles. In addition to publishing articles on innovation, Radin also focuses on leadership. “Without great leadership, you're not going to have a persistently innovative organization,” she says.
Radin is also benefiting from the collective knowledge of her fellow members. “Fast Company Executive Board members are terrific,” Radin says. “It's definitely a very diverse and interesting group of people and I’ve learned a lot from them.”