How to Innovate in 2023, According to Experts


January 3, 2023

A century ago, economist Joseph Schumpeter said that crises were seedbeds of innovation and entrepreneurship. History shows that during these times, new technologies are developed and industries remade. 

These are times when people discover undiscovered possibilities. 

For example, from previous depressions came the incandescent light bulb, radio, refrigeration, the first working helicopter, and the ballpoint pen. The 1930s was the decade of the great depression yet economic historian alexander Field described it as the most technologically progressive decade of the 20th century.  From the dot com bomb came eCommerce, big data, and VOIP. The global pandemic was rich with innovations.  

As we look to 2023 there’s a lot of doom and gloom that economists and the media tell we’re in store for – climbing inflation, a strengthening recession, continued talent crisis, faltering customer experience, lagging trust…the list goes on and on. 

However, if we tap into Joseph’s mindset, the year ahead could be the best year ever for companies and the employees who power them.

Following are outlooks from industry experts on what to expect with innovation in the year ahead:

Reexamine Physical Workspaces – Jay Baer

Jay Baer, Customer Experience & Marketing Expert & Advisor, Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker & Emcee

“One of the primary innovations to come isn’t so much driven by the economy as by the pandemic. It’s the fundamental reexamination of physical spaces, and how we use them. Already, we’ve seen homebuilders make big shifts in the floorplans of new domiciles to accommodate working from home. But certainly, there are more innovations to come in that arena. And then of course the BIG move is the future of work environments. With most office workers reporting for duty 2-3 times per week, how does the “office” change, not to mention the attending ecosystem of parking garages, public transport, lunch restaurants, coffee shops, and more? Today, most of this ecosystem is in “wait and see” or “ride it out” modes, but innovation is coming, to be sure. And it will literally change the fabric of work and the relationship between work life and home life.”

The Great Reset – Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group and author of Mean People Suck

“It might be hard for any employee to consider what great innovations will emerge from these trying times. We went from the “great resignation” to the “great regret.” With CEOs asking employees to work longer hours for no additional pay and corporate layoffs, we’re currently in the midst of some turmoil.

But like the great depression and the dot com bust, this too shall pass and what will emerge is a truth we cannot run from: we all want jobs with meaning and impact. The great regret will turn into the “great reset”: an era when leaders will want employees who are engaged in their work and feel encouraged to share their innovative new ideas. Companies will remove layers of the hierarchy and implement more of a “bullseye organization” focused on serving customer needs through active and engaged employees. 

How do we get there? One question: asking employees to rate their managers on how well they support and encourage new ideas.”

Becoming Trusted Leaders – Sue Dyer

Sue Dyer

Sue Dyer, President, sudycoTM

“In 2022, “distrust” for the first time became the normal response worldwide. So, instead of first trusting each other, we will instead distrust each other. What this means to employers is two-fold. First, that you must work hard to get, keep, and grow trust with your employees and customers. And getting it back will be much harder than it has been in the past. Second, those employers and leaders who know how to create and grow a high-trust culture will have a clear competitive advantage in the marketplace – whether you are looking to sell your goods and services, hire great people, or grow your business. 

Trust is the glue that allows for people, businesses, society, and governments, to survive and thrive. 2023 is such an important time to learn how to create a high-trust atmosphere! It isn’t magic. The skills can be learned. 

Our economies worldwide are interdependent. So, we all either win together or lose together. I vote for us all learning how to become elite trusted leaders. No matter your role in your business, you can contribute to growing the global economy along with our business, by working to become a trusted leader!

Are you ready? Take the Trusted Leader Pledge!”

Hunting Discomfort – Sterling Hawkins

Sterling Hawkins

Sterling Hawkins, CEO, Sterling Hawkins Group, Author Hunting Discomfort

“Innovation isn’t just important. It’s a mission-critical imperative in a world that’s forever disordered by pandemic fallout, tech disruption, and universal instability. It’s oftentimes not the change itself, but our uncomfortable relationship to the change that makes dealing with it difficult. Instead of fighting it, embrace its discomfort. Lean in to how it opens up incredible new opportunities for innovation that are impossible to see prior. 

We all remember the challenges of the pandemic. You wouldn’t expect it to be a time of incredible innovation for a hotel when hospitality was one of the most impacted industries. Homeikan, a Japanese chain of traditional inns, faced dramatically declining business similar to other hotels around the world in 2020. The leadership knew what their challenge was, but the solution was far from obvious. Many other hotels let go of staff, operated in a limited capacity, or closed their doors completely. 

Someone who worked in the hotel noticed that several famous writers in the area were taking advantage of isolation to finish their latest work. So, embracing the change, the hotel retooled its service model to target those clients. It installed rotary phones in each room; trained staff to act like publishing houses interacting with writers; and created the illusion that guests were taking a step back in time to feel like great authors of the past. Bookings for the hotel sold out within hours of the offering announcement. 

You cannot always change the conditions and the environment you’re living and working in. But when you embrace the discomfort of change, you can start to reframe those circumstances in a new way. You can take change and use it as an impetus to innovate for your company, your market, or even yourself in entirely new ways. It’s not just survival that’s on the other side, but just like Homeikan, potentially incredible breakthrough results.” 

Reinvesting in Think-Time – Josh Linkner

Josh Linkner

Josh Linkner, Co-founder & Chairman, Platypus Labs, Co-founder & Managing Partner, Mudita Venture Partners, & Founding Partner, ImpactEleven

“We spend so much of our professional lives being “heads down.” With the new realities of our world and the future of work upon us, we have an opportunity to allocate a small amount of time to being “heads up.”  Let’s take some of the commuting time we save from hybrid work and reinvest it into think-time where we turn off email and our social feeds to spend time in contemplation.  Use these ‘jam sessions’ as an opportunity to explore fresh ideas and reimagine previous approaches. Even 30 minutes a week can make a massive difference in finding better ways to work, engage, and serve.”

Embracing Smart AI – Cathy McPhillips

Cathy McPhillips

Cathy McPhillips, Chief Growth Officer, Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute

“We often hear the fear marketers have: “Will AI take my job?” But in actuality, artificial intelligence could actually be what saves marketers’ jobs. Especially with the recent advancements in more intelligent technologies, marketers can have a trusty co-worker in the form of AI that can handle actions such as analyzing data at speeds humans will never achieve and removing the rote, repetitive tasks that lead to burnout and dissatisfaction in the workplace. Employers and business leaders need to work with teams to determine those areas and use cases where technology can assist, fill a gap on the team (not because they don’t want to hire, but because they haven’t been able to find a suitable hire), and help team members who are pulled in a million directions focus on what they love doing. What if artificial intelligence and more technology are actually what leads us to happier lives, more rewarding careers, and better opportunities for personal connections and growth? Artificial intelligence is advancing no matter what, and companies that embrace it will be the ones with a competitive advantage and more satisfied, engaged, and loyal team members.”

Build Your Brand – Jason Miller

Jason Miller

Jason Miller, Head of Brand Experience and Content,

“The biggest opportunity for companies and employees in 2023 will be building their brands. It may sound a bit fluffy in terms of innovation, but it’s the only way forward in a world where trust is completely eroded, and conversations have moved to dark social. Branding has taken a back seat to big data and growth hacking for too long, and 2023 is the year that branding strikes back. Years ago, Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”, and that room is now primarily private communities and offline conversations. Focusing on brand building and knowing exactly who you are, what you stand for, and what you don’t is how to build trust, which lifts the entire ship. If you can extend that brand-building to your employees, that’s the holy grail. The Edelman Trust Barometer last year reported that a business’ societal role is here to stay and that will be led by companies who double down on their brand-building initiatives.”

Building Empathy and Simplicity – Margaret Molloy

Margaret Molloy

Margaret Molloy, Global CMO, Siegel+Gale

“Given increased prices and myriad uncertainty, consumers and B2B buyers are plagued by a cognitive tax—which yields an appetite for simpler experiences. This is a crucial opportunity for all companies to innovate. 

Companies can innovate by focusing on essentials to lift some of the burden surrounding decision-makers and spark customer joy and confidence. This context is waiting for the brand that speaks in plain language, uses design to great effect, and emphasizes product or service utility more. Marketers must then anticipate questions, edit product assortment, curate the information they share at every touchpoint, and make it easy for people to buy from them and, ultimately, use the product. Buyer joy comes from the comfort people feel from making the right decision and having their dignity respected. Loyalty will surely follow. 

It comes down to understanding the customer/buyer and being empathetic. And it’s a win for all. When you simplify the customer experience, there is less hesitation to buy and less post-purchase dissonance. True innovation comes from knowing what to strip away and what to retain.”

Intentional Recruitment – Michelle Ngome

Michelle Ngome

Michelle Ngome, Inclusive Marketing Consulting, Line 25 Consulting

“We are in a dynamic workforce and companies will need to be intentional in their recruitment marketing strategies. The market is still competitive on both ends, but companies will have to do more than just publish on various job boards. Candidates in specific industries or roles are looking to work from home, have reasonable pay, solid leadership, and growth within the organization. Organizations will have to increase their visibility by demonstrating thought leadership through conferences, DEI initiatives, networking, and community engagement. Also, utilizing and leveraging employee engagement to share various stories and insights about the organization. Furthermore, as candidates prioritize their desires, they will have to ask better questions to do their due diligence.”

Developing Clear Processes – Robert Rose

Robert Rose

Robert Rose, Founder, Chief Troublemaker, The Content Advisory

“In a word: headroom. When times are uncertain, the immediate response (either because of fear, uncertainty, or doubt) is to make sure we and our teams are fully resourced. Sometimes it’s because we’re trying to fit the same (or more) work with fewer resources – or because we’re trying to avoid the perception that we aren’t as busy as we could be.  That’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to any availability for innovative thinking or creating.  

Counterintuitively, the one activity that we can perform to help give us more headroom is process. So much of marketing, communications, research, sales, and operations are done as routines that have built up over time, rather than true processes. Thus, one of the most “innovative” things a team can do is take the time to map their current activities and develop better, more clear processes. There will be discoveries there to make room, create, or delete activities that give you more “headroom”. It’s in that space that more, new innovative ideas can emerge – even in challenging times.”   

Agility, Balance, and Optimism – Tom Stein

Tom Stein

Tom Stein, Chairman & Chief Growth Officer, Stein IAS

“Timely question, Carla! I facilitated a session at B2B World Fest in London in November titled Risky Business that addressed the best approaches marketing teams can take during a period of known and unknown risks. Victoria Morrissey, CMO of Ferguson (and formerly of Caterpillar), and Alvaro Del Pozo, VP of International Marketing at Adobe, were part of the session. The following are our collective takeaways.

For starters, marketers should structure to be agile – perhaps obvious but never easy to do. Prioritization may be even more important. As we learned during the pandemic, we need to prioritize our people – to make sure they are safe and have everything they need to operate effectively, both physically and emotionally. We need to prioritize our customers – they are under the same stress we are, so how can we innovate to support them? And we need to prioritize our purpose as brands and communicate, as Victoria says, not B2B or even B2H, but H2H … heart-to-heart. This is what lets data, insights, and innovation come to life; this is what shifts perceptions; this is what engenders trust and creates preference and loyalty when they are most needed.

I have two final thoughts to share:

The first is the need to balance the short-term realities of uncertainty while also remaining true to your long-term vision. This is crucial. We all need to decide where to optimize and drive efficiencies, so we have the dollars and energy to change the game. Because when we exit 2023, we need to be ahead of the game (and competitors 😊). 

The second is optimism. We as marketers have a responsibility to be positive in what can seem like a sea of negativity. Our colleagues need this from us. Our customers need this from us. The world needs this from us.”

Follow Rule 105 – Kaiser Yang

Kaiser Yang

Kaiser Yang, Co-founder & Managing Partner, Platypus Labs, and author of Crack the Code: 8 Surprising Keys to Unlock Innovation 

“Leaders can boost their results in 2023 with Rule 105.

In our professional lives, our days consist of delivering value in one form or another. With the stakes high and competition fierce, how do we optimize performance in 2023? 

Enter Rule 105, a remarkably simple approach to enjoying sustainable and meaningful results. Rule 105 is simply this: consistently deliver 105% on expectations in every unit of work you ship.

Your customers, colleagues, or investors will be blown away if you regularly deliver more than expected. It doesn’t have to be 500% over-delivery, just 5% will do the job quite nicely. That 5% could be finishing the job 5% ahead of schedule, delivering 5% more of whatever you promised in the first place, coming in 5% under budget, or adding 5% better service. Rule 105 will catapult you above the competitive pack and deliver a disproportionate return in the form of customer loyalty, competitive advantage, and sustainable growth. Simply put, that extra little something makes a gigantic difference.

The rule is simple and accessible to us all. Challenge yourself in 2023 to add a small dose of something extra, and you’ll enjoy oversized success as a result.”

Want to learn more proven ways to innovate in 2023? Check out:

What Keeps People From Hitting Their Goals

How to Create a Culture of Innovation

The 4-Minute Creative Thinking Test

5 Steps to Improve Team Innovation

Photo credit: Bich Tran via Pexels

About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.