Chris Denson is an award-winning innovator, marketer, recovering comedian, and host of the Innovation Crush podcast, with over 750K+ subscribers around the world. Having been a guest speaker, curator, and attendee at 100’s of industry events, Chris is an expert at uncovering the best thinking and commonalities across a diverse array of cultures. Applying his expertise to the likes of SXSW, CES, The White House, Art Basel Miami, and Omnicom Media Group, his work has been featured in Adweek, Forbes, the New York Times, and Inc, to name a few. He is also the author of the Amazon #1 bestselling book, "Crushing the Box: 10 Essential Rules for Breaking Essential Rules”, a series of personal and professional examinations of what it takes to be an innovator. As an industry taste-maker, Chris has worked from London to Africa to Argentina. He served as Director of Omnicom Media Group’s Ignition Factory, the key group responsible for emerging innovations across media, technology, and culture for Fortune 50 clients including Warner Bros, Wells Fargo, The CW, Hilton, and Asics to name a few. Prior to his work at Omnicom, Chris worked in front of – and behind the camera for Paramount, BET, Playboy Television, The American Film Institute, New York Film Academy and more. With over 200 episodes, Innovation Crush has featured inspiring individuals and organizations ranging from Alexis Ohanian and Nolan Bushnell to Cindy Gallop, WeWork CEO Miguel McKelvey, Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak, Arcade Fire's Marika Anthony Shaw, Bassem Youssef, OkGo's Damian Kulash, NASA, DJ Skee, Orlando Jones, Jean Case, adidas, NBA's Matt Barnes, Spotify, L’Oreal’s Connected Beauty Incubator, and 100s of others. Additionally, the show has been featured programming on Delta Airlines, and parts of live events around the world.
REEL | CHRIS DENSON
INTERVIEWS | INNOVATION CRUSH
BEST SELLING BOOK | “CRUSHING THE BOX: 10 ESSENTIAL RULES FOR BREAKING ESSENTIAL RULES”
AD LIBBING (ARTICLE) | breaking the rules an interview with innovation ExperT
There’s a ton of little factoids that truly makes us who we are, but they may not be in our LinkedIn bio. What is the unique lens that you bring to innovation?
CD: Both through necessity and curiosity, I’ve worked on a lot of different kinds of projects in my life. I coached a swim team, I produced music videos, I worked in property management, I’m a parent and I’ve worked at The White House. As a result, I’ve experienced many different walks of life, and I’ve tried to participate and add value to each of them. At the center of all my work, I explore the basic human needs of the people I’m working for, with, or in service of — which are all often one in the same. The means of satisfying those human needs always changes, whether it’s Facebook, artificial intelligence, yoga or a much-needed conversation. Meanwhile, almost every organization promises to cater to one or more of these needs. I think if you truly understand what makes people tick — the creative possibilities are endless.
What was the inspiration and driving force behind your book?
CD: Conversations like this, honestly. I get asked often, how innovation comes to life. What are the best practices? What are some good examples? Who’s doing it well? Who sucks? I’ve been lucky enough to gather the experience of close to 200 visionaries on my show, and couple that with my triumphs and failures working with startups, brands and service organizations. Conversations and projects are more easily forgotten. But a tool to go back and reference time and again is something I thought might be valuable. Not to mention, that as much as these are business-related concepts, they’re just as much life philosophy as well. I also felt like as a kid growing up in Detroit and a former entertainer, my voice in this space was unique.
I love the 10 metaphors that are the titles of your chapters, like “Swim Like an Otter” and “Put Women in Their Place.” How did those come about?
CD: My creative lens has always been to take a concept we’re all familiar with and give it new meaning. Sometimes that’s as simple as a pun. Other times, it’s saying why can’t we use augmented reality for tattoos. Simultaneously, I’ve always learned best that way, through comparative statistics or drawing parallels from other disciplines. So each chapter title is a concept that flips a particular construct that we might already be familiar with and filters it through a whole new lens. Plus, most of them are rooted in real-life career moments or anecdotes from my guests, and in some cases offer up new rules of the game that may not have come to the forefront of the conversation before. Lastly, it’s just more fun! At least I hope it is, to talk about things like eating your own brain, or swimming like an otter, or becoming a mercenary, rather than words we find in white papers.
Out of the 10 essential rules, which ones do companies struggle with the most? Why?
CD: I’d say either “Assemble a Caper Crew” or “Eat Your Brain.” The first refers to building an innovation practice. Lots of organizations say they want to, or attempt to do so, but it’s easier said than done, and few do it to their fullest potential. The latter is more about creating and continuing a spirit of experimentation and exploration. Giant companies are having their lunch eaten by small startups, or at the very least becoming less culturally relevant than they were a decade a go, or in some cases, last week.
At the end of your podcast, you ask everyone to define innovation. Let’s get yours.
CD: Innovation is reimagining and reinvention of how we interact with the things that are most important to us.