Q&A: Baton Global

By Kavilash Chawla, Partner and Kelly Dittmann, Managing Director

Kavilash Chawla and Kelly Dittmann, both leaders at Baton Global, offer their insights on the digital transformation going on in the financial space. Chawla is a partner at Baton, while Dittman helps in business and strategy development and digital transformation.

How do you personally define innovation?
In business, innovation often results when ideas are generated to further satisfy customer needs. The process of innovating is an iterative/continuous approach focused on transforming or expanding products/services/value into new markets.

Innovation and iteration are oftentimes confused with one another. The iteration journey starts from an existing product, service or known element, whereas the innovation journey starts with an envisioned outcome. You may end up at the same place, but innovation is about taking the imagined and making it real, whereas iteration is focused on taking the real and improving on it. Both are critically important, but the departure point of an imagined future for innovation empowers innovators to change the future, not just the present.

What’s the most challenging aspect of getting an innovative product to market?
Consumer education, timing, protective leadership and design thinking. Truly innovative products deliver value and services that consumers may not have necessarily appreciated they needed or wanted. Finding the pool of early adopters who can validate a product and provide that initial commercial traction is critical to successfully getting an innovative product to market, as that early traction enables funding, scalability, etc.

Striking the market at the right time, complemented with the “protective leadership” and “design thinking skills” needed to encourage exploration, development and trust of new ideas to fuel transformational innovation.

What was your first significant innovation, invention or process?
As an advisory firm, our playground is in the generation, incubation, acceleration and implementation of ideas that change our clients and change the world for the better. Our first significant innovation as a firm was reimagining how clients measure success. By working with our clients to envision a detailed future state of success, we have been able to develop new measurement systems that integrate nontraditional qualitative and quantitative data sources to directly improve both the understanding and pricing of risk and to enable them to achieve their envisioned future.

The innovation journey started by challenging existing assumptions about both definitions of success and the measures of success, and then building systems based on the envisioned future rather than iterating off of existing systems.

What’s the best thing that happened to Baton Global in the last year?
Bringing on new talent. Last year was a good growth year for us, and the opportunity to bring on new bright, driven and, most importantly, compassionate people to our team has by far and away been the most rewarding aspect of 2017. Our deep expertise and experience create value for our clients by delivering financial, social and organizational impact through insight, innovation and integration solutions. We are thrilled to be serving our Des Moines market.

Professionally, what’s your top goal for 2018?
Our top goal for 2018 is the same goal we have set every year as a company, to serve our clients so they can serve the world. Running a profitable and efficient business is necessary, but it is not sufficient. By focusing on creating positive value and impact for our clients, we are not only better able to exceed our operational and profitability targets but we are able to be fulfilled as human beings by being rewarded for doing good that makes our communities more resilient and our world stronger.

What are some of the ways that your company cultivates a culture of innovation?
As a research-driven advisory firm, intellectual curiosity is a cornerstone of everything we do, and runs strong through the veins of all of our team members. One of the key ways we foster innovation is by asking all team members to generate thought leadership for the firm. We ask they spend time thinking, reimagining, challenging and wrestling with the status quo to come up with ways to advance the body of knowledge and the application of knowledge. We have found that giving people the freedom to think is necessary to building a culture of innovation. By continuously challenging ourselves to innovate, design and solve problems centered around customers’ needs/wants, we continuously improve and deliver value for our clients.

What are two or three of the most exciting areas of innovation that you are working on?
One of the most exciting areas of innovation we are working on is using deep learning to enable the collection, conversion and integration of qualitative data into quantitative outputs that can then inform long-term strategic thinking. This utilization of data will help inform decision-making and improve our customer/user experience.

What areas of education or expertise are in the shortest supply for companies like yours?
Critical thinking skills, design thinking skills.

What do you see as the most pressing global innovation challenge?
Access. We see the most pressing global innovation challenge is access to the opportunity to participate and innovate. At 7 billion strong, there is more than enough brainpower in the world to solve even the most daunting challenges we face. The innovation challenge is how do we connect all this brainpower together to empower innovation. Until everyone can participate freely, we will never be able to harness all the knowledge and wisdom represented by the 7 billion people on Earth.

Welcoming change. Change occurs in every aspect of our lives, and change will only become more dramatic with the current forms of innovation that are being developed and implemented. We look forward to welcoming change, innovation and improving the lives of others.