Lynn Altman is an innovation veteran, with 22 years and over 800 new product and branding projects completed for Top 100 Global Brands, including Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Gillette, McDonald’s, American Express and UBS. Altman has also done extensive work in the financial, CPG, beauty and pharmaceutical industries with companies such as Capital One, Bank of America, Dial, Nestlé, L’Oréal, and Wyeth.
The Edison Awards recently spoke with Altman about her interest in innovation, what misconceptions she feels people have about the fields and some of her career highlights. Here’s what she had to say:(edited for brevity and clarity)
When did your interest in science or engineering begin?
My father is an engineer and he was the one who showed me the link between engineering and creativity—they both involve theoretical and practical problem-solving skills. My passion for innovation comes directly from the lessons he taught me.
What was it like to be a woman studying in your field?
Early in my career, I had a male business partner and had to correct clients when they asked me to “type something up” or made other biased assumptions about my role in the company. I felt like I was constantly having to prove myself and my abilities—but as a female martial artist, business leader and working mother, that feeling is nothing new to me.
Do you think people have any misconceptions about what you do?
I love the field of innovation because it brings together consumer psychology with company capabilities. While not trained as an engineer, there are similar cognitive abilities at play, namely the refined and ever-growing skill set needed to solve new problems that have endless variables and outcomes. Being an innovator and an engineer both require a certain kind of strategic imagination that can create practical, usable solutions that didn’t exist before.
What are some of your career highlights thus far?
I was a partner in an innovation firm starting at age 24. After 12 years, I went out on my own to form Brand Now. In 2006, Penguin Books published my book, “Brand It Yourself: The Fast, Focused Way to Marketplace Magic”. I have also been interviewed on nationally syndicated radio shows and on CNBC’s On The Money and ABC’s News Now. Over 70 of my products are currently in the marketplace.
What project is your greatest success and can you share with us the story behind it?
My company is my greatest innovation—and the measure of its success is that 90% of my clients reward Brand Now with repeat business. When I started in this industry, I was determined to deliver a smarter innovation process, so I looked at some of the key problems that client face during research and development. What I found was that projects took too long, didn’t involve consumer input early enough in the process and big agencies were passing off innovation work to juniors and freelancers. My first offering to clients was the 20/20 process, that delivered 20 ideas in 20 days and involved using extremely articulate consumers to fuel the ideation process.
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