June 20, 2023

Innovation by Design & Scaling Innovation

Episode 201 of The Innovation Engine podcast.

For this episode of The Innovation Engine, we’re joined by Sam Yen, the Chief Innovation Officer for Commercial Banking at JPMorgan Chase. Sam is responsible for JPMorgan Chase’s digital products, platforms, innovation, and product strategy, which means there are a massive amount of innovation imperatives that fall under his purview.

To kick off the episode, Sam shares some of his guiding principles for leading teams and prioritizing work in a financial institution of JPMorgan Chase’s scale. He stresses the importance of being customer or client-centered, maintaining effective communication, ensuring a deep understanding of end-to-end experiences in product delivery, and keeping the bigger picture in mind while fostering a culture of quick learning and iteration.

Sam also shares his insights into why the power of design includes — but also extends far beyond — crafting user experiences that are intuitive, delightful, and even “forgettable” in terms of ease of use.

Co-hosts Scott Varho and Rob Murray discuss with Sam the challenges and constraints of fostering innovation in a large financial institution and how the constraints by which financial services companies are bound can, perhaps counterintuitively, lead to more focused solutions.

We also touch on Sam’s previous work at SAP and the four phases of scaling innovation in large organizations he uncovered with Janaki Kumar and Baba Shiv. The four phases Sam details on the innovation journey run from the “lonely soldier phase” all the way through to a fully scaled culture of innovation.

Finally, we cover Sam’s experience working on a year-long design challenge at Stanford. Sam shares what he learned along the way about the value of diversity in teams, and why of his four patents, he’s most proud of the one for capturing multi-modal communication in meetings.

Listen to the Episode

Tune in to listen to Sam Yen’s unique insights on the journey of innovation by design and scaling innovation in large organizations. 

Episode Highlights

  • Why the role of design includes but also extends well beyond delivering a delightful and intuitive user experience
  • Principles for managing large teams and prioritizing what those teams choose to focus on
  • The concept of thinking of risk as a line of boxes that gets increasingly larger over time, and the process of de-risking ideas incrementally as they scale
  • Why innovation requires excelling at both creativity AND execution; you don’t get to pick just one
  • The emphasis that’s often placed on creative problem solving must also be paired with an emphasis on creative problem finding. This is necessary to go beyond incremental innovation and to come up with ideas that enable breakthrough innovation
  • The four phases of innovation readiness: lonely soldier, success in silos, push to pull, and scaled
  • The value of diverse teams in delivering innovative solutions and the difference between constructive tension and destructive tension

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is an acclaimed design leader who has had an exceptional career trajectory. Prior to his role as Chief Innovation Officer for Commercial Banking at JPMorgan Chase, he served as Managing Director for SAP Silicon Valley and was SAP’s first Chief Design Officer. At SAP, Sam led their Design Thinking practice both internally and for customers. With his unique combination of real-world experience and education (Sam has a PhD from Stanford in Design, Mechanical Engineering, and Aero/Astro), Sam offers a valuable perspective on integrating design principles at the highest levels of corporate decision-making and scaling innovation throughout large organizations.


Watch the Full Episode

You can tune in to the full episode via the YouTube embed below.

Watch Episode Highlights

These are just a few of the highlights from this episode of The Innovation Engine, featuring Sam Yen.

About The Innovation Engine

Since 2014, 3Pillar has published The Innovation Engine, a podcast that sees a wide range of innovation experts come on to discuss topics that include technology, leadership, and company culture. You can download and subscribe to The Innovation Engine on Apple Podcasts. You can also tune in via the podcast’s home on Spotify to listen online, via Android or iOS, or on any device supporting a mobile browser.