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Inspiring Innovation Through Disruption with Natalie Born

  • November 9, 2020
21 min read
Inspiring Innovation Through Disruption with Natalie Born

Ilana Shabtay
VP of Marketing

Natalie Born
Founder and Chief Disruptor, Innovation Meets Leadership

Natalie Born is the Founder and Chief Disruptor of Innovation Meets Leadership and the Vice President of Innovation for Territory Global. Before innovation consulting, she was the Senior Vice President of Business Development at an automotive mar-tech firm.

With over 15 years of experience leading product development teams and two approved U.S. patents under her belt, Natalie helps organizations create products with their customer at the center of the design. She is also a keynote speaker and the host of The Innovation Meets Leadership Podcast.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Natalie Born talks about why she started her company, Innovation Meets Leadership, and her podcast, The Innovation Meets Leadership Podcast
  • The business challenges that Natalie has faced during her career
  • How do you create a culture of innovation within your organization?
  • Bringing innovation into the dealership experience
  • Natalie shares her advice for staying inspired during difficult times
  • The importance of mentorship

In this episode…

As a leader, it’s important to create a culture where your organization is constantly learning, growing, and getting better. Natalie Born, the Founder and Chief Disruptor of Innovation Meets Leadership, believes that the ability to “disrupt yourself before you’re disrupted” is the key to promoting innovation and staying ahead of the trends that are happening in your industry.

Tune in to this episode of Inside Auto Podcast as Ilana Shabtay is joined by Natalie Born, the Founder and Chief Disruptor of Innovation Meets Leadership. Natalie discusses her role as an innovation consultant and her experience leading product development teams. She also provides her insights into overcoming business challenges, instilling a culture of innovation within your organization, and the value of mentorship.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by AutoLeadStar, a company that helps car dealerships engage quality customers on the web and convert them into car buyers.

Co-founded by Aharon Horwitz, Yishai Goldstein, and Eliav Moshe, AutoLeadStar’s state-of-the-art software automates a dealership’s entire marketing funnel and provides around-the-clock service for dealers.

AutoLeadStar’s innovative technology helps dealerships automate ads, connect with customers, and discover ROI and performance metrics

Visit their website at to learn more about their around-the-clock marketing service.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:03

Welcome to Inside Auto Podcast where we feature everyone and anyone you’d want to talk to in and out of the automotive industry.

Ilana Shabtay 0:14

Ilana Shabtay here host of Inside Auto Podcast where we interview top dealers, GMs marketers, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in and out of the automotive industry. And before we introduce today’s guest, today’s episode is sponsored by AutoLeadStar is pioneering marketing automation in the automotive industry with sophisticated machine learning that future proofs dealerships marketing operations and replaces traditional marketing methods. I’m excited to welcome Natalie Born, today’s guest, the Founder and Chief Disruptor of Innovation Meets Leadership and the Vice President of Innovation for Territory Global. Prior to innovation consulting, Natalie was the Senior Vice President of Business Development at an automotive mar-tech firm. As an accomplished executive with two approved U.S. patents under her belt and over 15 years experience leading product development teams, she’s consistently sharing her expertise to ensure companies are designing their products and strategy with the customer at the center of design. Natalie also has her own podcast, The Innovation Meets Leadership Podcast, which we’ll be talking about a little bit today. I highly recommend it, you should tune into that as well. Natalie, welcome. I’m so happy to have you here with us today.

Natalie Born 1:31

Thank you, Ilana, and hello to all your listeners as well.

Ilana Shabtay 1:34

We’re so excited to have you and you are all about innovation. Tell us about Innovation Meets Leadership and how you got how you got to this from the business side and the podcast, I’d actually be interested.

Natalie Born 1:47

Yeah, you know, you mentioned something in the bio, which is, you know, I’ve been in the product world forever. And one of the things that I’ve seen just at least in the product world is you don’t survive as a company, if you don’t put leadership at the center of what you do. So you’re constantly growing constantly learning constantly getting better. And if you don’t have the ability to think outside the box, so innovation, and really Innovation Meets Leadership, the podcast, and my site is bringing all those thought leadership ideas together into usable things that that someone can take, giving them a toolset really to work with to really think outside the box in their own day to day job, whether they’re in technology, or auto, or marketing, whatever they do, just helping them to really think outside of the lane that they’re in today.

Ilana Shabtay 2:33

And I think that’s such an important thing, especially as we have management and remote working and all the new challenges that COVID has brought to us. So thinking about how to become a real leader to promote innovation and to promote even something as small as you know, what, you know, that’s not so small, but work ethic and and feeling good about your work. And so I know that that’s really your specialty, what are some of the business challenges you’ve been able to overcome? And how?

Natalie Born 3:04

Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, when I think about the biggest challenge, especially when we think about where we’ve landed in 2020, culture is so important to organizations. And as I started to lean into innovation, what I realized is if you don’t have a culture of set up, to hear people’s ideas and to invest in your people, then you really make it it’s very difficult to innovate. And so a lot of times when we think of innovation, we think Apple or you know, these really large companies that have done all these big things, but innovation can be really small. I was talking to a customer the other day that was telling me that they change their checkout process, and they realized they were losing hundreds of thousands of dollars every month, because they had a poor labeling of their checkout process. And so you could you know, innovation is, you know, capturing that that revenue that you’re leaving on the table innovation is thinking about your customer process and saying, How can we make it better? It’s actually asking your customer those questions, and bringing them to the center and saying, you know, you just went through a process, how did it go, I think about when I bought a car. We have a pretty big dealer group out here in Atlanta, and I was searching for my car, and then I landed on the car, I want it and when I clicked on it, it brought me back to a page with thousands of cars. And I was like, What happened? And so just that little touch, right, I ended up not buying a car there because I could never get the experience to line up to show me what I want it. And so these little things, to me, it’s innovative to realize that that process is broken and fix it. That’s incremental innovation as well.

Ilana Shabtay 4:39

Yeah, and that I mean, if you’ve listened to some of my other podcast episodes that we often talk about the customer experience, especially in automotive, and that is something that I really want to drive home especially 2021 more people are online and spending more time online specifically for dealers. The checkout process has to be seamless, not even the checkout process. The research process of someone like you who’s trying to find you know, pricing or more information on a specific model, it should be very easy to get from the ad to that specific VDP. And that I think that totally brings your point home. Are there any other ways that you are helping dealers today or automotive in general, bring innovation into their experience? Yeah, you

Natalie Born 5:26

know, it’s funny when you think about some of the trends that are going on right now. And 2020 has thrust us right into everybody being at their home. And what’s interesting is in some specific dealerships, you would think that, you know, sales are dropping, but you know, some of the dealer groups that I’ve talked to and work with, before COVID hit, they were actually working on an e commerce process for their dealership. And it’s interesting, something I always say all the time, is disrupt yourself before you’re disrupted. So as you think about some of the trends that are going on in auto, whether it is this, this ability, the seamless ability to engage with vehicle details and get to the vehicle you want, and almost go almost all the way with the process, if not complete the whole process online. These things are really important to kind of the way that we think about the world shifting and I was just reading something the other day that said over the next 10 to 15 years that they believe analysts believe the automotive industry is going to double, which is crazy to think about. But what that means is it may not be in all the revenue streams, we think it may mean that business models change, it may mean that pockets or pools of where revenue lives may shift a bit. And so I think as a, you know, as dealers as people in auto, it’s important to think about, you know, where are those trends going and disrupt ourselves before we’re disrupted. So get to that trend before anybody else does in your industry.

Ilana Shabtay 6:50

Yeah, and I and

Ilana Shabtay 6:52

I was just reading about this and just talking to customers about the fact that dealers that were actually adopting the dealer tech before the pandemic outbreak, were set up for success and had some of their best months, because they were able to react fast. And they were able to deploy messaging across all channels instantly, and have a checkout process or a research process that was more fitting to the customer. And they were just lightyears ahead of some of the other dealers resisting the change, which is exactly what you’re saying, disrupt yourself before it’s disrupted. I love that I’m gonna steal that. steal it, steal it, because I’ll give you credit, I’m gonna steal it.

Natalie Born 7:30

But it’s so important, not only in the work that we do, but it’s important in our personal life. So if you think about yourself as an individual, your agency, your leadership, what your what your capabilities are as a human, and you kind of shift that and say, am I disrupting myself my own personal life? Or am I stuck in a comfort zone, and I’ll tell you what, 2020 has put a lot of us in our homes in a comfort zone, or eating too much where you know, consuming too much TV, and we’re starting to kind of lower ourselves to sleep, we’re kind of losing our edge. And so I’m in 2020, has been hard. So don’t get me wrong for everybody. But, you know, I think it’s important to to continue to ask yourself, you know, am I am I relaxing in the season, or am I at least staying up to where I want to be in order to be able to create the future, and you have to be inspired to create the future. So you have to be pouring inspiration into us, if we’re going to inspire our teams, our company to come along on the journey with us where we’re going to go. So we have to continue to invest in ourselves and disrupt ourselves before disrupt it, before we disrupt it. If we can do that in our personal life, then we can do it in our professional life, too. And I believe it always starts with us. And we have to kind of hold the mirror up at home and say, you know, you know, I’ve had that conversation with myself many times, like I need to get walking again. Because I’m just sitting at home all day, right? And it’s it’s the weight all of it right? It starts to add up. And so you know, we’re all in this together, but but we need to think about creative ways that we can keep ourselves in the game.

Ilana Shabtay 9:05

Yeah, I love that. Do you? What are some of the ways that you either yourself get inspired? Or some of your clients? What are some of the tricks that they’ve been using, and to stay inspired and inspire others and just stay on top of our feet here in 2020?

Natalie Born 9:21

Yeah, so I’ve actually been a part of a conference this week called Work Forward. And it’s grabbed people from all the all these different industries that believe that there’s a better way of working. It has really cool tenets, like let’s remove workplace fear and replace it with workplace joy. Let’s help you know, our peers and our colleagues work remotely and figure out what does that look like for them. And so I’ve been in this week long conference, and every day we’re collaborating with people we don’t even know we’re just meeting them for the first time. And it’s a really neat way because I think a lot of times, especially when I was younger, I used to think like everything I thought was right, which is kind of embarrassing. To say out loud, but then as you get older, you realize, there’s so much value in bringing a diverse, unique set of people to the table to solve a problem. So when you can bring people from different backgrounds and different perspectives to the table, and you put the problem on the table and say, of course, I have ideas, but it’s not my idea that needs to win, there’s something powerful that happens. And this kind of goes into the work that I do and innovation, which is, I don’t have to come to the table with the brilliant idea, I just have to find all the brilliant people get them in a room together. And the beauty of it is as we put stickies on the board, or you know, as we start to generate ideas, the ideas we start with, and what we end with, it’s a combination of some really cool ideas that all these people have brought to the table. So I do want to encourage your listeners, you know, if you’re not used to being in a place of collaboration with any problem or challenge you’re having, I would encourage you to trust some people to come around you, and help you solve some of the problems that you’re facing today, whether it’s personally or in a business setting. Because always, you know, there’s wisdom and a multitude of counselors, right. So the more people you can get on problem to solve that problem, the better it’s going to be in the more effective that that solution and that outcome will be.

Ilana Shabtay 11:16

I love that. So collaboration, listening, trust, all things that could inspire. So on that I did also want to talk a little bit about your thoughts and having a mentor, I did listen to your podcast with Laurie Halter on this. There’s a whole episode dedicated to it. So again, I recommend our listeners to listen to that as well. And but it plays a big role in all of this. It plays a big role in understanding and you know how to how to grow professionally. And personally give us a bit of an overview of what happened in that episode and advice to our listeners about mentorship?

Natalie Born 11:52

Yeah, it’s interesting. It started with this Harvard Business Review article that, that I had read on mentorship. And it was talking about how people that have mentors actually performed better. They outpace their other peers, they last longer in business, if they have a mentor, and they also have better work life balance. And I thought, well, that’s crazy, right? There’s there’s all these huge benefits for somebody that that has a mentor, why do so many of us not have one. And so that kind of sparked this conversation. And then Laurie and I both kind of went down memory lane and thought about mentors we had had that really just changed our world. And in my case, I never asked anybody, Hey, will you be my mentor, but there were people along the way that just put kind of put me under their wing and said, hey, you’re headed off in this direction, and it’s not good. Let me talk to you. Let me tell you what I’ve learned and what I’m reading and what I’m doing. And so just throughout my career, having different people to just point me in the direction that was was best for me and was wise for me, was so important. And I think sometimes we we kind of forget how important it is to have someone that’s 10, 15, 20 years ahead of you to point you in the direction and say, Look, I’ve been down this path before, it’s only gonna cause you pain, you need to turn around and come this way. And so that’s essentially what the whole episode is about is going through those decision points we have in our lives, and how mentors really played an integral role. And so I would say, in my own life, I would not have gotten as far as fast without having some people come alongside of me and just help me be better think differently. And you know, one of the things I say on my podcast all the time is break the box, right? So that you’ve got to have people in your life that help you break the boxes that you put yourself in and we all do it. We all have areas where I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the Johari window. Have you ever heard of this thing where it’s like, you know, most of us operate in like what’s known to us, but not others, and then what others know about us and what we know about ourselves. But there’s these two other windows, which is the things we don’t know about ourselves. Because we’ve never been through that experience and the things other people don’t know about us. And I feel like when you have a good mentor, they start to unlock the area of you may not know this about yourself, and I don’t know about you, but we’re going to test you we’re going to put you out there in the water safely, and see if you can deliver on what I think the capability inside of you is. And it’s so important as a leader to unlock the capabilities inside people and to help them grow to the potential that’s inside of them.

Ilana Shabtay 14:26

And any advice for grown professionals that want to find a mentor or tap into a potential mentor resource? A little bit more? Because it does, it just seems like it’s such an important piece to growing, collaborating, listening and building trust everything that we’ve been speaking about?

Natalie Born 14:45

Yeah, you know, it’s funny, so for me, I never had the awkward conversation Will you be my mentor? But what I did do is I looked at people that I admired. I looked at people that were Doing things I want it to do or where I want it to be. And I started asking, Hey, can I meet with you monthly? And can I buy you coffee? I have some things that, that I’d like to ask you about a run by you. As a matter of fact, there was a season in my life where we went through a major reorg. And I got put on a team I did not want to be on. And I came to this mentor, and we sat down and had coffee one day at Starbucks. And he said, I’m going to tell you, so I’m going to say some pretty blunt things to you. I was like, Oh, my gosh, I was like bracing myself.

Natalie Born 15:31

And he’s like,

Natalie Born 15:33

you need to change your attitude, or you need to leave. And I was like, well, that’s like the rudest thing anyone’s ever said to me. And like, a couple days later, I kept thinking about it. And I said, that was the best thing. Anyway,

Ilana Shabtay 15:45

no fluff is what we need. Right? Right.

Natalie Born 15:48

Yeah, it was, it was really because I had a, I had to put a stake in the ground with my attitude. And I had to put a stake in the ground with my actions. And so so many times a mentor will do that for you, they will help you put a stake in the ground on what you need to change.

Ilana Shabtay 16:00

Yeah, I think that’s I think that’s a great idea, and a very good actionable for anyone listening, if there is someone that you’re interested in, building that relationship with, it’s really just about, it’s not even about saying like, Hey, will you be my mentor? It’s about what what can you actually do to get what you need from them. And, and, and, you know, get the advice that you want, and the face time or virtual FaceTime that you need. So, you know, even saying, Can we meet monthly, I’ll buy you coffee. And that’s an excellent, excellent tip for someone who’s looking to tap into some mentorship. So I appreciate that. And I think that’s something that we can all take away from. That’s, that’s wonderful. Anything else that you want to share with our listeners when it comes to innovation, leadership, mentorship? in or out of the automotive industry? We’re here we’re listening. We’re always interested in hearing what our thought leaders have to say.

Natalie Born 16:53

Yeah, you know, I believe everyone has leadership capability inside themselves, some people for massive big things, some some people for smaller things, but we all have leadership capability inside of us, we all have influence, and we’re all bleeding every day. So I would encourage all of us to bring innovation into the forefront of how we think about our own leadership in our own agency, and to bring it into how we think about our job day to day. And again, it doesn’t have to be this massive big innovation. It can be small, incremental, bite sized things where we say, I’m going to make the way I work work better for me. I’m going to help my team work better and asking the hard questions. What can I do to improve on your experience? What can I do to help us as a team think outside the box sometimes innovation is just asking the right questions and driving towards the right results. So my request to all your listeners will be to think about how you can bring innovation into your your day to day and really make it a forefront thought as you wake up in the morning.

Ilana Shabtay 17:53

That’s awesome. You’re clearly such a an expert when it comes to this topic. Thank you so much for sharing with us today. And we really I learned a lot I’m sure our listeners learned a lot. And once again, if you enjoyed this episode, please tune in to Inside Auto Podcast as well as The Innovation Meets Leadership Podcast. It’s a wonderful podcast run by our guest today, Natalie Born. Thank you. We’ll catch you next time.

Natalie Born 18:16

Thanks for having me.

Outro 18:21

Thanks for listening to Inside Auto Podcast. Check out our other episodes with top entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

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