In her role as chief operating officer of Innocorp, ltd., Deb Kusmec says the greatest compliment she ever received was from the company’s attorney. He told her he had observed that Innocorp “always did the right thing because it was the right thing to do,” not because of money or fame. He appreciated that philosophy and enjoyed working with people who had such noble intentions. “Everybody in this company behaves that way,” says Deb. “We like what we do, we love our customers, and we work hard.”
According to leadership guru Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, every organization knows “what” it does, and most have a good understanding of “how” they do it. But very few are clear on “why” they do what they do — what their belief is and why their line of work is important to customers. Innocorp’s “why” is unambiguous: It is in the business of saving lives, and it has been from the very beginning. Company president Michael Aguilar first experienced the effects of drunk driving when an intoxicated neighbor veered off the road into his neighbor’s yard, narrowly missing his son David, but hitting his son’s friend, Tyler. Tyler recovered from his injuries, but Michael and Deb, his wife, never forgot their anger and dismay that their neighbor could make such a poor decision to drive impaired, a choice that could have taken the lives of their son and son’s friend.
Innocorp’s purpose in creating products such as the Fatal Vision® Alcohol Impairment Goggles and Fatal Vision® Drowsy and Distracted Goggles is to create engaging and memorable experiences that foster a conversation with participants about the dangers of impaired and distracted driving. Deb remembers conducting a SIDNE® (Simulated Impaired DriviNg Experience) training session with a police officer who was working with a group of students. After he was done, one girl ran up to him because she had more questions, and he turned around and gave her his full attention. “He had reached her on an important level,” says Deb. “If you get a student to ask you a question, then you know you’ve gotten her attention.”
Deb and the rest of the Innocorp team hear stories every day about how their products are making a difference in lives around the world. One officer told them how he was at a gas station when a mother came up and thanked him for saving her middle-school daughter’s life. He brought the Fatal Vision® Alcohol Impairment Goggles into her classroom, and soon after, she was at a friend’s house with her older brother. She recognized that he was behaving like he was drunk and refused to get in the car with him, calling her mother for a ride instead.
When Innocorp began in 1996, the company was focused on impaired driving prevention education. As the years passed, however, it began developing more and more products in response to customers’ requests, such as the Fatal Vision® Concussion Goggles and the Fatal Vision® Marijuana Experience. Most recently, Innocorp has introduced tools to show students the dangers of distracted driving — a subject which is very personal for Deb. When she and Michael were driving in stop-and-go traffic, Michael saw a woman texting on her phone in his rear-view mirror right before she rear-ended them.
The Fatal Vision® Drowsy and Distracted Goggles not only address distracted driving, but they also include a mode for simulating drowsy driving. One Innocorp employee has his own personal story for that — his brother was killed in a drowsy driving crash. “Many of us at Innocorp have been touched in one way or another by the issues that we address,” says Deb. “We work with people who truly feel they make a difference. Every one of us is dedicated to helping our customers reach their audiences.”
For Deb, the process of coming up with an idea for a new product is quite a rush. She first conceived the idea for the Distract-a-Match® Game when she was walking her dog and pondering how she could find a simple way to demonstrate how distractions lead to mistakes. When she got home, she started printing and cutting out shapes for what became a rough prototype of the game — a shape- and color-matching exercise that helps demonstrate the impact of cognitive, visual, and manual distractions on our reaction time and judgment.
Even with the initial excitement of an idea, it usually takes two to three years before a product is ready for the market. That process involves lots of research, testing, refinements, more testing, and the ever-important customer feedback on prototypes. But for Deb and everyone else at Innocorp, it’s well worth it for the good that they do. “We save lives here,” she says. “You don’t get to do that in most jobs. That’s the “Why” for us at Innocorp.”