We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley Touchton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashley, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
Three words came to mind immediately: efficiency, vision, and drive. Efficiency is a joke among my friends and is both one of my strengths and largest pet-peeves. I also think it is where the other two stem from – in order to be efficient, you have to have a clear vision for what you want and where you are going and the drive to create changes in your life or work to make it happen. From picking out my clothes while I brush my teeth, to stirring my coffee with a knife because the spoons always run out first, to creating minimum viable product pilot plans to test solutions quickly; I am all about maximizing the time and effort spent doing something to the benefit I will get. I may sound crazy, but I think this applies to so many areas of life. In relationships, both personal and professional, you won’t get where you want to be without open communication and the ability to speak without fear of being judged. Ego, secrets, and judgement are inefficient and lead to miscommunications and wasted time. By being open and honest, you can quickly reach the root of any problems and work to fix them. As consultants, we are often brought in at some sort of inflection point or challenge. This requires us to quickly be able to understand the entire picture, visualize and define what the future state is that the group is trying to achieve, and create actionable steps to drive towards that vision. The processes and tactics in the innovation and startup landscape are largely undefined – nobody has the perfect approach (please share if you do!) and every organization is at a different spot despite hitting common roadblocks. My favorite people to work with are people who can communicate their version of the vision, who are excited to drive towards that vision, and who can work and pivot quickly in finding the most efficient solutions.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Orange Sparkle Ball is an innovation accelerator focused on moving ideas forward. Sitting between startup technology and organizational pain points, we work to structure and run pilots, create multi-faceted communication strategies to leadership and stakeholders, and develop spaces that support progress towards goals. I have the pleasure of working across that ecosystem with Venture Capital Firms, Fortune 500 Companies, Tech Startups, Accelerators, and Universities, to provide a full ecosystem approach to solutions. I have been with the Orange Sparkle Ball team for almost 5 years and have seen and been a part of many changes and pivots over those years. With industrial design backgrounds we have a large array of skills that can be applied in many different areas. At Orange Sparkle Ball, I have applied those skills to everything from designing and manufacturing bar games, to creating and marketing design education resources for kids, to orchestrating and managing a corporate innovation network. I am proud to work for a company that applies our agile client approach to our own work as well – it has given me the ability to work on many exciting projects, change approaches rapidly, and drive towards the successful initiatives. I think the biggest learning I’ve taken away from the last couple years, and the advice I wish I could give my younger self, is that “qualified” and “confidence” go hand in hand and it is a double edged sword. Just because someone has been in the work longer than you or is louder with their opinions, it does not make your ideas any less valuable. On the flip side, if you don’t speak up with the less viable ideas, you’ll never learn the nuances you need to come up with the ground breaking ones. Ask questions and be confident – most people are likely winging it as much as you are.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Wow – tough question! I’ve been in Atlanta for over 8 years now – it’s constantly evolving and the spots certainly change based on who I’m with (and COVID). But I recently moved to the West End and I love taking people around the neighborhood – Brunch at Babybird (a Ria’s Bluebird pop-up at Boggs Social and Supply), climbing at the newly opened and awesome Overlook Bouldering and Fitness, followed by beers at Monday Night Garage or Best End Brewery (don’t miss the Sicilian pizza)! Some other perfect days include: coffee and pastries from Little Tart in Krog Street Market followed by an Eastside Trail Beltline walk to shop at Ponce City Market; a picnic at Piedmont Park; or brews at Red’s Beer Garden followed by a double feature at the Starlight Drive-In.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I owe a tremendous amount of my success to Meaghan Kennedy and the Orange Sparkle Ball team. When I was hired at Orange Sparkle Ball and their sister non-profit Spark Corps, I was fresh out of Industrial Design school at Georgia Tech. In the first months of starting, I was given the opportunity to interface with large corporate clients 1:1, find opportunities and pitch for new business; write and define my own project scopes, budgets, and proposals; and give my opinion on the direction of the company. I think this is a hugely underrated trait of employers, especially in the consulting space. To be told so early on that my opinion is valuable and to be trusted with the weight of the company really shaped my professional view of myself. I was trained quickly to have an opinion and to speak up, even in situations when I did not feel like the most informed person in the room. At Orange Sparkle Ball, we trust our clients are the subject matter experts and we are there to poke holes in the process and push the vision forward. One of the greatest assets in my work is being removed from the project to be able to look at the content from the perspective of less informed audiences. Several years ago I would not have viewed this as an asset and would have sat quietly until I had the perfect thing to say which really slows down innovative processes. I also have to shoutout my parents Steve and Susan Touchton for teaching my brother and me that if you approach life and all people with empathy and kindness and you are always working the hardest that you can, you never have anything to apologize for. I believe these lessons gave me the confidence to approach life with passion and ambition without the need to be competitive or “the best.”