Q&A with Noel Sobelman, Change Logic’s New Principal and Innovation Practice Lead
Change Logic is thrilled to welcome our new Principal, Noel Sobelman to lead our Innovation Practice. We sat down with Noel recently to learn more about him and his new role.
Q: Welcome to the team, Noel. You have had a very long and successful career. What were your early years like?
A: I’m a mechanical engineer who started out at Motorola in my first job out of college. It was in the late 80’s after Motorola had just received the Malcolm Baldridge award, so I got a great introduction to what was then called “Total Quality Management.” I also worked in manufacturing at Honeywell, where I got the desire to learn more about the business side of new product development. At that point, I decided to get my MBA at Darden. At Darden, I took an elective class called “Innovation and Technology Management,” taught by a former Corning CTO. This class is where I discovered what has become my career passion—helping companies build innovation capabilities that drive lasting impact. I spent the next stage in my career working in various product management, marketing and line management roles for technology-driven companies, and the common thread was always innovation and new product development.
Q: Where are you from? Tell us about your family and what you enjoy doing outside of work.
A: I grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Princeton, New Jersey, called West Windsor—where my three brothers and I played lots of back yard football, basketball, and baseball. I’m pretty sure this is how I got my competitive streak. Our family moved to Scottsdale, Arizona when I was a teenager, and that is where I spent the next 20 years of my life. 115-degree summer days can be tough, but 320 days-a-year of sunshine more than made up for the hot summer months (it really is a dry heat).
I now live in San Diego with my wife Erika, daughter Paige, and our dog Fiyero. I enjoy San Diego’s easy-going culture and the many outdoor activities that the city and its nearby getaways have to offer. When I’m not working, you can usually find me with my wife and daughter at the beach, on a hike, or attending one of San Diego’s many street fairs or art & music festivals.
Q: What would you say to a business leader who doesn’t understand/believe in the value of a management consultant?
A: One of the reasons I joined Change Logic is that we are not really management consultants in the traditional model. The big consulting firms want to tell you what to do and, increasingly, do it for you. My philosophy is the reverse. I believe my clients know how to get things done—what I am going to do is help them do it better, faster, and more efficiently.
Implementing an ambidextrous innovation and portfolio management approach is much easier when you have experienced facilitation. It cannot be accomplished by edict; you need to bring people with you. An experienced advisor can make success more likely, less painful, and occur more quickly. I have found a natural home at Change Logic. We have rigorous tools and methods, a facilitative approach, and the insights to challenge clients to think.
Q: What’s the best advice you have given to a business leader (CEO, CTO)?
A: Much of my work with clients involves the design and implementation of a new way of working. I tell the CEOs and business leaders I work with that implementing a new process or tool is relatively easy compared to the organizational behavior changes necessary for success. They need to become relentless advocates for change. For innovation, this entails communicating a clear ambition that unites core and new-growth innovation around a common purpose—providing visible support for new-growth innovation, and confronting tension between exploit and explore businesses.
Q: How are you staying sane and healthy during this challenging time?
A: I make a point of turning off my computer and getting outdoors for a hike each day. Sometimes it’s a walk down to the local 7-Eleven for a cup of coffee. Other times, it's a short hike on a nearby mountain trail. I try to use that time to catch up on my favorite podcasts (Exponent, Masters of Scale, Shift, Follow Your Different, and Future Squared to name a few) or to call friends and family.
Q: What excites you most about your new position with Change Logic?
A: I’m most excited about the opportunity to create lasting change for Change Logic clients. The firm’s approach to helping companies ideate, incubate, and scale new businesses is based on decades of research that Change Logic has successfully applied to create impactful results. The opportunity to work alongside a team of renowned innovation thought leaders and practitioners is a career dream come true for this "innovation lifer".