Innovation Finalist Interview with Dan Simons, Partner, and Concept Developer, Farmers Restaurant Group
Dan Simons, Partner, Farmers Restaurant Group, and Concept Developer, Founding Farmers Tysons, by Jennifer Motruk, VP of Marketing + Communications, Farmers Restaurant Group
1. In your opinion, what makes a company innovative?
In my opinion, what makes a company innovative is a relentless commitment to improvement, whether in process, product or culture.
2. What makes YOUR company innovative?
Our company – Farmers Restaurant Group – is innovative because we are motivated to do right by the farmers who invest in the Founding Farmers restaurants, and to do right by the guests that we are privileged to serve every day. This promise that inspires us to always improve, to never make excuses, and to continually strive to outperform expectations. In addition, we just never feel like we’re “done.” No matter what we do, we feel we’re never more than 70% of the way there.
3. What are some innovative companies or who are innovative people that inspire you and your team?
I personally love what Jonathan Ive designs at Apple, and what Leon Musk does at Tesla. That is some really inspiring stuff! Also, Seth Goldman’s vision and growth at Honest Tea has been amazing, and the innovation shown by the strategic decisions of North Dakota Farmers Union on behalf of their members is remarkable.
4. What are some publications, print or digital, you read daily or have read that help you stay on top of your game? These could be books, magazines, blogs, e-newsletters, etc.
Step One: I avoid the mainstream, 24-hour news channels as I believe they interrupt thinking and try to create “urgency” from things that are neither urgent, nor important to know. I read The New Yorker, The Economist, Consumer Reports, and Popular Science. I get my daily news mainly digitally from Quartz, (qz.com) and I like Fast Company online as well. I also read anything I can get my hands on about brain science that relates to emotional intelligence, productivity, and wellness.
5. What advice would you give to up-and-coming leaders striving to be innovative in today’s business environment?
I would advise up-and-coming leaders to try and shield themselves from the overwhelming amount of valueless input they will undoubtedly receive, and otherwise surround themselves with high-value people and high-value informational sources.
There’s too much noise out there to just “hope” you won’t drown in it. Everyone needs active strategies to accomplish this. I would advise focusing on personal productivity and time management skills, abilities, and administration. Everyone also needs to find time to unplug, to foster downtime and personal wellness, both physically and mentally, and spending time with the most valuable relationships in life. These all are part of a great recipe for innovation and joy. And for me, I would say that innovation without joy is simply a waste of time.