CEO at MUSE by Interaxon, Derek Luke talked to us about the importance of innovation, creativity and collaboration and his tips on how to implement them into the workplace, as well as what he hopes to accomplish within the next 10 years.
Derek Luke brings more than two decades of experience in executive leadership at multinational corporations, including Blackberry and Seagate, to his role at Muse®. Drawing from his years of experience in the highly competitive technology industry, Derek has helped strengthen Muse®’s execution across design, development, sales and marketing to position the company for aggressive growth and success.
Prior to joining Muse®, Derek served as EVP and COO for Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), a $1.5B non-for-profit Canadian Government Fund with a portfolio of 245+ cleantech companies. At Blackberry, Derek served as senior vice president of Manufacturing Excellence, Supply Chain Quality and Global Repair Services.
Today, Derek is passionate about equal opportunity and equal pay in the STEM landscape — something he has worked hard to integrate into the company’s corporate culture. He is a true believer in creating a workplace that breeds innovation, creativity and collaboration. He brings his knowledge of connecting design, development, manufacturing, supply chain, government relations, sales and marketing to the team.
As the head of a large growing company, what would you say is the most challenging part of being a leader that everyone looks up too?
Leaders have to put themselves second.
No matter what challenges or conflicts arise, I take a step back from emotional reactions and approach all situations with a present and calm mind. This allows me to be a recurring positive force for the entire team.
You’re a firm supporter of creating a workplace that incorporates innovation, creativity and collaboration. How do you believe these three aspects can contribute to the success of a company?
Muse® has led the way for people to live happier, healthier and more connected lives through neurotechnology. The company created the first widely available consumer tool that helps people learn meditation through real-time feedback on their brain state, and has revolutionized the field of electroencephalography (EEG) research.
This success stems from how we’ve fostered innovation, creativity and collaboration within the workplace since day 1. It’s what allows us to drive greater creativity and insights, and retain the best employees.
Can you tell us about some of the strategies you use to integrate innovation, creativity and collaboration within your employees?
Muse® has a barrier-free workplace, where all departments are encouraged to co-collaborate in order to nurture creativity and offer new perspectives. Both the Toronto and Denver offices are open concept and all employees (including the leadership team) co-collaborate beside each other. Additionally, the company holds weekly meetings focused on group meditation and opening the floor to the entire team to discuss updates, concerns, and company news in order to foster inclusion, transparency and sharing.
Interaxon is an application that provides resources and services that address health and wellness issues. What do you believe is the number one benefit that Interaxon can have on employees and their leaders?
Working at Muse® has helped our employees understand the importance of adopting a meditation practice in both corporate settings and everyday life. Some key skills learned through the practice include active listening, resilience building and managing stress to name a few.
You have several years of experience in leadership roles. In your expert opinion, what makes a leader a great leader?
Emotional intelligence and resilience are key leadership skills that have the ability to create a company that fearlessly progresses. Throughout my time at Muse®, I’ve found that listening, and being self-aware of my emotions and of those around me have helped us persevere as leaders in the neurotech and meditation space.
What would you say is the biggest mistake that leaders make and how can it impact the success of a company?
Not listening to those who surround you.
We are a community of people who want to do good and as we take on many challenges to create innovative products, we need the perspectives of all talent to troubleshoot everyday challenges, and to drive greater creativity and insights. That is why listening to those around you (investors, employees & the Muse® community), is important.
How would you describe yourself as a leader?
I am an inclusive and supportive leader. I believe in empowering individuals and teams by removing barriers and always rewarding collaboration – something that I have seen overcome some of the most complex problems.
Equal pay and equal opportunities are topics that you’re very passionate about. Can you further explain why you’re very passionate about these issues?
Inequality needs to be addressed at every level and equal opportunities need to be available for all. It is up to leaders in the space to recruit, retain and promote diversity and inclusion, and foster a collaborative environment where everyone can openly discuss challenges and ideas.
What does the future of Interaxon look like? What are you hoping to accomplish in the next 5-10 years?
We acquired the Meditation Studio App in July 2018 and have shifted from hardware to hardware-enabled SaaS. Now, we’re focused on providing new content, new tools and new challenges on an ongoing basis to help our users deepen their meditation practice.
In addition, we are consistently working on bringing innovative products to our consumers. Our next project is a new, flexible/fabric form factor that can be worn while meditating. This new form factor is great for meditating before sleep while travelling and has new advantages in both fit and comfort. Technology integrated into the soft band will allow us to roll out new features and data and will open new avenues for EEG that are beyond meditation.
On a final note, what has been the biggest accomplishment of your professional career? What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of our company’s culture and paving the way for inclusion and diversity.
If you create a diverse culture from day one (like we did), and you have leaders who believe in equality, this naturally becomes a part of the ingrained core values of the organization. By having that, you don’t need metrics or campaigns, it is a living and breathing part of the company.