Pallotta to address the ‘why’ of innovation at Thought Leaders Luncheon

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According to Dan Pallotta, the key to great innovation is the purpose behind it and the drive to contribute to humanity.

Pallotta, a national expert on charities, will share his insight about the “why” of innovation at the 6th Annual Thought Leaders Luncheon, hosted by Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin.

Business literature includes lots of tips on how to be creative and set up an innovative environment in the workplace, but there is little conversation around the reason for innovation, Pallotta said.

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“An unspoken purpose of it in a lot of the business literature is to win, is to crush the competition,” he said. “I think the best innovation comes from a much more powerful place than that. It comes from a desire to contribute to the lives of others.”

Two of the main goals of innovation, he said, are showing people who didn’t think something was possible that it is possible, and making people’s lives easier or better in some way.

For example, a company like Samsung focuses on gaining market share, while a company like Apple sets out to “put a dent in the universe,” Pallotta said.

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Company leaders should stop trying to think outside the box, according to Pallotta, and take a step back to understand the nature of the box. The problem should be well-stated, at which point it is on the way to being solved.

“You can’t start by thinking outside the box. You freak people out when you say that,” he said. “You can’t think outside the box if you don’t know what the box is.”

Innovators must have courage, persistence and tenacity to not only identify the great idea, but also execute on it, Pallotta said.

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“A lot of people think innovation is all about coming up with the great idea, and the great idea is the easy part,” he said. “Building it, on the other hand, actually doing it, now that’s where the real heavy lifting comes in.”

The best innovation comes from understanding one’s fellow human being and finding something that would make his or her life easier, Pallotta said. For example, the 2014 Honda Odyssey comes with an in-car vacuum for parents driving messy children around, he said.

Charities can benefit from the type of innovation employed at for-profit companies, too, Pallotta said.

“Don’t think that just because you’re a charity, you already have the ‘We’re trying to advance humanity’ thing down,” he said. “There are all kinds of influences in people’s lives. There are all kinds of things that can get in the way of you really having a methodical focus on moving the human race forward.”

Pallotta is returning to the Thought Leaders Luncheon as an encore to his speech last year on the critical issues in the nonprofit sector that are largely preventing its organizations from maximizing their missions.

The Thought Leaders Luncheon will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 5, at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center hotel in downtown Milwaukee. Networking and registration will start at 11 a.m., and the lunch and program will begin at noon. For more information or to register, visit

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