John Jakovich

Chief Innovation Officer, Tessitura

Putting the i in team


5 min

Innovation is more important now than ever before.

As a naturally skeptical person, I bristle when I hear big assertions like that one. Sure, innovation is a trendy topic, even more so than it’s been in the recent past. But more important than ever?

Just because some of us bristle, doesn’t mean it’s not true. There are powerful trends, alongside longstanding challenges, driving the need for us to innovate faster.

There are powerful trends driving the need for us to innovate faster.

What do we mean when we talk about innovation?

I define innovation as the delivery of creativity to generate value. Innovation starts with an idea for new or improved products, processes or services. That’s where creativity factors in. But innovation doesn’t end there. It requires practical application. Innovation must provide value for your customers or other stakeholders.

You can be creative without delivering anything. You can deliver something new that doesn’t provide any economic, social, cultural, educational or emotional benefit for your audiences. But when you innovate to create value, you’re identifying and addressing unmet needs or desires.

I lead innovation at a technology company, so you might imagine that I believe innovation should center technology. Yet, although technology can be a catalyst or vehicle for change, innovation isn’t about technology. That’s one reason everyone can innovate.

What’s driving the need for innovation?

The biggest reason innovation is so critical now is that modern digital transformation has fundamentally shifted how we operate our businesses, engage with our audiences, and deliver our programs and services. Three factors are particularly salient today.

  • Technology has advanced. Digital transformation is powered by improvements in and greater access to technology. Moving more services to the cloud allows us to increase flexibility, mobility and cost efficiency. We can access data more quickly. And machine learning and artificial intelligence do a better job of unlocking the value in that data at scale, informing decisions and even predictions.
  • Audiences have evolved. Audience expectations around automation and self-service have increased. Our audiences anticipate and expect seamless, personalized interactions with our organizations. Digital transformation increases convenience and removes friction for them.
  • Change is accelerating. The pandemic fast-tracked digital transformation for all of us. It forced everyone to work in new ways and challenge previous assumptions. I think we all learned we could be more agile than we thought. 

Creating a culture of innovation

Many people conflate modern innovation with antiquated ideas of invention. They picture brilliant individuals — people like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison or Steve Jobs — dedicating years to creating the tools that make our lives easier or help us navigate the world better.

But innovation today shouldn’t depend on the talents or skills of any one person. Innovation is a mindset you can and must cultivate throughout your entire organization. That’s because consistent, repeatable innovation isn’t driven by individuals. It’s driven by high-performing teams.

Innovation is a mindset you can and must cultivate throughout your entire organization.

Perhaps you’ve heard of, or like me remember, the 1980 Miracle on Ice. Sports Illustrated named it the top sports moment of the 20th century. That year, the U.S. men’s hockey team upset the heavily favored Soviet team in the first game of the Olympic medal round. The Russian team was highly skilled and filled with brilliant, individual players. Nevertheless, the American players prevailed by demonstrating they were the better team overall.

Why is teamwork the secret to unlocking innovation?

  • Teams can offer an environment of mutual support. On a team, individuals collaborate to foster shared success.
  • Teams facilitate idea sharing. They generate creativity beyond the ideas or experiences any one person can bring to the conversation.
  • Teams sharpen new concepts. Teams interrogate and test ideas against diverse perspectives. They enable productive conflict.
  • Teams mitigate risk. They build redundancies in both knowledge and skills.

In this blog series, Tessitura’s Chief Growth Officer Mara Hazzard-Wallingford and I will explore how you can implement modern innovation in a team-centric way.

Smart, hardworking individuals are valuable assets to every organization. But to navigate change more effectively and push creativity forward faster, you need to focus on how your staff work together in teams.



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John Jakovich

John Jakovich

Chief Innovation Officer

John Jakovich leads Tessitura Network’s technology teams.

Prior to joining Tessitura Network in November 2015, he had spent more than a decade as a senior technology leader working with some of the non-profit industry’s largest organizations and within the Tessitura Network ecosystem. He was the Vice President of Technology at SofTrek Corporation, a provider of non-profit CRM systems for philanthropic organizations and, before that, Chief Information Officer at Jacobson Consulting Applications (JCA), a firm that provides strategic and technology consulting to non-profit organizations.    

John has over 20 years of experience in IT management and software development for enterprise systems, the majority of which he spent developing business intelligence solutions for the non-profit industry. He studied computer science at California State University Chico and San Marcos and started his engineering career in the dynamic southern California internet start-up market of the mid-nineties.  John worked at several successful start-ups in the e-commerce and artificial intelligence and eventually landed at Kintera, Inc. (later acquired by Blackbaud Inc.).  

John lives in Fort Collins, CO. He enjoys spending time outdoors with his family, taking advantage of the active Colorado lifestyle, including snowboarding, hiking and running.

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