At WTW (NASDAQ: WTW), they provide data-driven, insight-led solutions in people, risk, and capital. By leveraging their colleagues’ global view and local expertise in serving 140 countries and markets, they help their clients sharpen their strategy, enhance organizational resilience, motivate their workforce, and maximize performance. But what does innovation look like inside a $9 billion company?

Karen O’Leonard, Head of Innovation at Willis Towers Watson, joins me in a conversation about the innovative strategies that have helped her company grow. She also shares how seeing disproportionate ratios of men to women in the tech industry fueled her passion to get more women involved in innovation and build a culture where everyone can shine.

We also discuss what happens when innovation fails. For example, it might be the best idea possible at the wrong time, or there are simply no available resources. Karen shares her mantra of falling in love with the problem, not the solution. Unfortunately, we have all seen teams fall in love with their solution, and they will go down swinging with it, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary from their customers. Food for thought indeed.

Guest Details: 

Name: Karen O’Leonard
Title: Head of Innovation
Company: Willis Towers Watson
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Karen O’Leonard has been bringing new solutions to market for more than two decades. Through her deep experience in product management, data, and analytics, Karen has successfully launched new software products and data-driven services to customers across the globe.

Karen currently serves as Willis Towers Watson’s Head of Innovation, leading global and cross-business initiatives to support the company’s growth strategy. Her team fuels the organization’s innovation pipeline by incubating early-stage concepts and fostering a culture of experimentation using design thinking and rapid prototyping methodologies. In 2019 Karen started the Willis Towers Watson Growth Board, whose purpose is to invest in disruptive and transformational projects that can open up new markets, customer channels, and business models.

Prior to joining Willis Towers Watson, Karen spent over a decade in the Silicon Valley, working in product development roles at Apple and Javasoft, a division of Sun Microsystems. She then joined two founders in starting a company that grew into a multi-million dollar business before selling it to Deloitte. Post-acquisition, Karen served as Deloitte’s Vice President of Talent Analytics, where she built an analytics platform and advisory service to help HR leaders harness their data for better decision-making. She is a passionate supporter of environmental issues and women’s causes.