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Becoming Thoughtfully Ruthless with Val Wright

Join Val at Harvest Summit this October, read about the Harvest Summit experience and apply to attend here.

We are thrilled to welcome Val Wright back to our Harvest Council for our second annual Harvest Summit.  Val is a card carrying member of the #harvestsummit community, a leading innovation expert, and one of only 64 experts inducted into Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame.  With her unique mix of passions, from leadership consulting to writing (she is the author of Thoughtfully Ruthless: The Key to Exponential Growthto speaking she embodies the cross pollination spirit of Harvest Summit.

Val left a successful career at Microsoft’s Xbox, where she worked on the team that created Kinect for Xbox, one of the most successful innovations ever, to start her own consulting firm, in turn coaching others to spread their wings and grow.  On the brink of releasing her second book, we sat down with Val to talk innovation, career advice and team dynamics.

Follow Val @valerwright and on LinkedIn and get her latest bits of wisdom from her blog or Inc. column.  We invite you to download a free sample chapter here and take the Thoughtfully Ruthless Executive Assessment, the first five respondents will receive a free copy of Val’s book.

What’s the most memorable innovation project you’ve worked on and why?

Creating Kinect for Xbox. It was an against all odds bet that created freedom, broke some rules, and made bold choices resulting in turning around the Xbox division from a billion dollar write off to creating the fastest selling device of all time, which won a Guinness book of world record, selling over 20 million devices. Now used in multiple industries including by surgeons to train other surgeons virtually in operating theaters around the world.

How did team dynamics contribute to the project’s success?  

The watchman goby fish and the pistol shrimp have a symbiotic relationship, one is blind the other cannot dig. Together they live successfully because they have a mutually beneficial relationship. It is the same for innovation to occur, you need a symbiotic relationship with creative, technical, and business thinking. That is what we unlocked with the Xbox and Kinect.

Too often teams are heavily weighted in technical or creative thinking without the business filter of gaining market share and making a profit. Or decisions are based too much on the financials which suffocates innovation. With Kinect we had to first admit where we didn’t have strength and then cultivate those relationships so that we could disrupt how we made products, change our brand perception in the market place, and use Kinect as a strategic stepping stone in Microsoft’s evolution as a company.  This is further explored in my forthcoming book The Innovation Trifecta: How to Catapult Innovation by Developing a Symbiotic Relationship between Creative, Business, and Technical Thinking.

In your recently published book Thoughtfully Ruthless you share insightful processes, steps and check lists.  Which do you come back to time and time again?

These are my top three:

  1. Focusing on the Right Spot – I rarely meet an executive who tells me they have the right amount of space and silence to focus on the long term strategic aspects of their business, it is too easy to get dragged into the 30-day danger zone of the immediate, tactical, and unnecessarily urgent items of the day.
  2. Building a Leapfrog Organization – 75% of hiring is a waste of time because leaders hire for today not for the business that you want to become in two years.
  3. Your Sensibly Selfish Charter – It isn’t the midlife spread you need to worry about, it is the midlife sponge taking on too many commitments and responsibilities! We need to embrace our inner teenager and become more selfish with what energizes and inspires us.

If you had to boil down your unique approach Thoughtfully Ruthless™ to 3 words– what would they be?

I have just two: intentional and bold.

As an industry event veteran, what do the most successful events have in common that make attendees walk away better off than when they came in?

When you are provoked, surprised, and given new unexpected ways of looking at your business and how you lead in your business, your community, and in your whole life. That is why Harvest Summit is the perfect experience. There are no walls, literally. I always encourage the executives I advise to look at their calendar and ask “Will today get me closer to the outcomes I want to drive my business?” If not, cancel your meetings and go and do what will.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

“Val, hire your own coach.” As I quit my corporate career I realized all of my mentors were business executives, not experts who had established their own consulting and speaking business. A dear friend told me to go and hire my own coach, so I hired Alan Weiss, who I call the David Beckham of Consulting because of his prolific track record writing 63 books and being a sought after thought leader. Now Alan gives me priceless advice every day.

As a successful woman in the tech world, what advice would you give your 25-year old self?

Even if your company doesn’t value it or encourage it keep demonstrating your brilliance to the outside world. If you are just brilliant, without the ability to demonstrate your brilliance, you will remain the world’s best kept secret.

Contact Val at and she will send you her Brilliance Barometer where you can check how brilliant you are at demonstrating your brilliance and how to rapidly accelerate your promotional trajectory and growth of your company.  

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