Marisa Agrasut – Cofounder & Chief Innovation Officer of The Inceptery

Marisa Agrasut’s instinctive commitment to innovation has led to her starting a company bringing fresh ideas to other businesses.

What’s your story?

As a kid I was always imagining, making, creating, improving – this was my way into this world! Studies focused on design and innovation (essentially problem solving and creation) and my work in various roles started more commercial and “mainstream”. Underneath I was quite maverick, didn’t feel like it quite “fit”, the methods were incomplete. I bring the most when I am in liminality. It was not until the AFC that I truly realised this was significant and exciting. Since then, through wanting to bring more altruism to my work I’ve co-founded two purpose-led businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?

What’s exciting is that there are more organisations, people, teams and individuals who are embracing innovation as a practice and way of operating and using it for purposeful, global and local challenges; towards creating sustainable (social, environmental, economic) and in some cases regenerative business practices – through their products, services, business models. There is a sense of optimism and empowerment from those who may in the past have been disempowered, too small, too insignificant to even attempt to make an impact with their ideas and work. It feels like we have moved a step closer to democratising innovation!

Marisa on bike

What drives you in business to push beyond what other people consider normal?

It’s not intentional, but that is my ‘normal’, even if not common in others. If your way of making sense of the world is a different paradigm, it’s almost impossible to view the world any differently. I was brought up with very subtle but definite Buddhist undertones – (the middle way), but my natural tendency is extreme, sometimes a bit “ridiculous. I often found myself in the unusual; with labels people wanted to attach, with expectations or perspectives that I held. When you don’t fit into those boxes, you have to define new ones or go beyond the standard boundaries.

What have been the most useful skills you have learnt and applied in your journey?

In my case I feel like it’s the power of breadth. My dad used to tell me I was a jack of all trades or a generalist – but for innovation this is precisely where the value comes in, at least right now where I operate. Having the openness and ability to seek out new (sometimes fringe) experiences and diverse perspectives quite randomly without being locked into a particular specialism is something I have come to realise is invaluable for my work and key to the ability to adapt.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

That’s subjective and hugely contextual. There is a lot of advice that contradicts, and multiple truths exist, so I think it’s knowing when to use something for the right purpose. In that sense the advice could be interpreted as developing sound sensemaking, heuristics or judgement for each situation, rather than applying advice blindly or without nuance. The analogy of not only using a hammer (or seeing everything as a nail) is useful. Busy-ness, information overload and decision-making fatigue can make it attractive to want to use ‘rules’ and oversimplification. That’s useful sometimes, but at other times it can be downright harmful.

Who inspires you?

I’m inspired almost daily for different reasons. In specific moments or when I think about it in sufficient depth – from my parents, family, friends, and acquaintances, to the traditionally successful, to the pioneers who most think are absolutely crazy.

Generally those who:

  • Aren’t afraid to address the elephant in the room, saying what others won’t risk.
  • Are visionary with unique perspectives (made relatively accessible)
  • Show unyielding resilience in high adversity.
  • Show steadfast commitment and perseverance.
  • Have cultivated wisdom – both worldly and spiritual (they freely share it with others).

Right now – AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), Sadhguru and Daniel Schmachtenberger.

What have you learnt recently that blew you away?

In 2020 I discovered a body of work (Systems Innovation) that helped me make better sense of things, it gave me the vocabulary, definitions and tools to share. Through this I got a much better understanding of the world of complexity we now live in and how it can be leveraged. It applies directly in innovation – business, technology, transformation, human systems, the earth. I was familiar with the broad concepts and approach of Systems Thinking but lacked structure and detail. Sounds geeky but this changed everything – bridging a huge ontological chasm for me personally, into my work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?

For the bigger picture, I’ve mostly trusted in serendipity, seeing what unfolds in ‘real’ life, going with the flow (the opposite of the day to day, work stuff). As the next version I’d be a more focused on planning big life events, goals, achievements.  I’d also spend more time with those who are naturally aligned with my own values, approaches and outlook to support a shared vision. I find myself in the company of those I am trying to convince instead! It’s a challenge and takes a lot of energy.

How do you unwind?

I don’t extol busy-ness, it always feels like there’s lots to do. There’s an ongoing guilt, even if I long to be still at times. Spending time catching up, playing games with friends and family, meeting new people, hanging with my husband (cooking, eating, exploring on bicycle), giving my 3 cats love. In 2018 I started learning bachata. It’s helped me grow in a very different way, it’s fun too. I also need a lot of time alone doing yoga and meditating -it’s not been easy creating space for that lately. Including lots of laughter’s really important too.

What is a major mindset change, belief shift or ‘ah ha’ moment that you’ve experienced in relation to your business?

Realising ‘It’s anyone’s game’ – is crucial for survival. I experience the world as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. I hold onto that dearly. The writing and ideas around blackswans, antifragility, our shift from a Gaussian to the Paretian resonates. We’re implicitly programmed to believe hard work, commitment, integrity, consistency, rationality, and dedication guarantees success. Innovation, entrepreneurship, business and life together, is inherently complex and unpredictable, out of anyone’s control. It’s full of different success, failures and learning, if I did not view the world in this way, I’d go totally crazy trying to control or manage everything.

Everyone in business should read this book:

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It came out quite a while ago and I read it a few years back. This was very interesting for the time, but I wonder if, given our ongoing and increased use of smartphones, social media and technology, the way we process information, perceive and make decisions has changed drastically over these few years.

Another is Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

I’d love to read more books. I’ve thought about subscribing to Blinkest, but even that seems like a lot to get through right now.


Shameless plug for your business:

At The Inceptery, our mission is pushing emergent boundaries. We support teams and organisations build-in social, environmental and economic value; a sustainability-led imperative into their businesses – from their products, services and culture to their strategy and business model(s). We see innovation as a discipline and practice within itself, (not an event). We do this by leveraging our experience in innovation, sustainability and co-creation.

If you’re interested in exploring humanity-centre, planet restorative and future visioned – collaborative action-oriented experimentation and impact-making – get in touch.

How can people connect with you?

To connect with me as a person – they can dance (bachata) with me, we could talk about innovation, sustainability, entrepreneurship, or about their pets 🙂 or we could talk about working together somehow. I love those explorations.

Connecting practically – though I’m not very good at social media, LinkedIn would be the best place. But I do prefer to know how they found me before I accept. I’m always curious about the pathway to connecting and their personal story.

Social Media Links?

About Marisa Agrasut

On a mission to create positive impact on the world, Marisa considers herself an accidental entrepreneur. She discovered this during the 2009 economic crisis and in 2010, embarked on her first - people, planet, profit venture; at the time challenging the negative perception of plant-based diets; enabling reduced-carbon and responsible consumption through a (then) pioneering circularity, systems-thinking, and purpose-led business. In 2015 with a more intentional move back to her innovation roots, relocating to Singapore, she found few-to-no organisations combining both sustainability and innovation. It was this that seeded her vision for The Inceptery. The Inceptery, is an innovation practice that focuses working at the edge of conventional boundaries and assumptions, challenging notions of success in our current paradigm, they help future oriented organisations to embed resilience through responsible and emergent shared value creation. Harbouring a lifetime fascination with the limitless power of intentionality and externalising creative processes collectively - meeting at the intersect of where we sense-make, gain insight, find needs, opportunities and originate ideas; she is determined to bring together new consciousness, solutions, businesses and technology to improve human-planetary conditions profitably.