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Cooking Up a Recipe for Organizational Success

Several years ago, when Columbia Strategic Communication Lecturer Don Waisanen, Ph.D., arrived late to watch a keynote session at a conference, he scrambled to find the last seat in the house. It turned out to be serendipitous. He happened to sit down next to and find a new friend in Sanjay Puligadda. Waisanen and Puligadda started chatting and quickly discovered they shared interests in communication, leadership, organizational development—and improvisation.  

“Sanjay told me he was working on a tool to measure and improve ‘innovation’ in organizations, bringing concreteness and practicality to a concept that’s too often talked about in the abstract. I couldn’t help but take that bite—and down a rabbit hole of conversations we went,” Waisanen recalled. That “rabbit hole” led to a new book that addresses questions such as: What are the differences between more and less innovative organizations? And what can people actually do to make their organization “innovative”?  

Their new book draws on Waisanen's course the Strategic Storyteller. Innovation Soup: A Recipe for Organizational Success (Business Expert Press), provides step-by-step instructions for how to “bake” innovation into the culture of an organization. The book uses Puligadda’s tool the InnoQ, built on years of rigorous research, to highlight eleven dimensions for measuring, tracking, and improving innovation.  

For Waisanen, the book was a great chance to use techniques he teaches in the Strategic Storyteller course in the M.S. in Strategic Communication program at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies. In the Strategic Storyteller, students practice telling stories across media to achieve organizational objectives. “The book alternates between on-the-ground characters facing predicaments and high-level concepts that can help people transform such experiences—that’s at the core of all we discuss in the story course,” said Waisanen. 

He also thinks the tale of how the book came about has a lesson for students: “Keep networking and meeting new people,” he explained. “Whether it’s sitting down next to someone you’ve never met at a conference or going out of your way to introduce yourself to others at an event, great professional development is half planning—and half being open to surprises.”  

Don Waisanen is a lecturer for Columbia’s M.S. in Strategic Communication program. In addition to the Strategic Storyteller, he teaches Strategic Communication Management, covering tactics for planning, implementing, and measuring strategic communication initiatives. Students learn to assess organizational needs, identify stakeholders and draft messaging that speaks credibly to a variety of constituencies, both internal and external. 

Waisanen has published more than forty-five scholarly publications covering topics such as public speaking and stakeholder communication strategies. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and a B.A. from Westmont College. 

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