Business software provider AppDynamics has hired Linda Tong, who spent two years as vice president of innovation and product for the National Football League, to lead its own innovation lab efforts.
The company’s technology monitors the performance of customer software and was purchased by networking giant Cisco (CSCO) in March for $3.7 billion.
“Innovation” is one of those buzzwords that gets thrown around a lot in technology and other circles. But at its essence, Tong sees her job as building a culture in which people can think broadly and be empowered to do things differently.
“For me, innovation is like weight loss,” Tong describes to Fortune. “You’re actively trying to transform your body and make changes that you inherently resist. It’s painful, but you know you need to do it.” The key to success, according to Tong, is a long-term commitment to making cultural changes, not a quick-and-dirty realignment.
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A better idea is to implement incremental change and breed that into the culture, she says.
“If you throw people at a problem, there might be a rapid change.” Tong says. “But as in weight loss, if you drink some lemonade pepper drink, you may lose weight fast, but then you turn a corner, and you’re 20 pounds heavier again.”
While she could not speak to what she did at the NFL, it’s fair to say the League has done a lot in the last few years to keep fans stoked and broaden its reach to potential new fans.
Its mobile app, for example, lets people view condensed games as well as archived video on their devices. The NFL also partnered with YouTube on a virtual reality series for the Google (GOOGL) Daydream VR headset access to “behind the scenes” looks at the game.
Individual teams also have their own cool technology. The New England Patriots use their app and wireless beacon technology to send ticket holders at Gillette Stadium to the bathrooms and food concessions with the shortest lines at any given time, for example.
In her pre-NFL life, Tong was also chief product officer at Tapjoy, a mobile advertising specialist.
In her new role as vice president of AppDynamics Innovation Labs, Tong reports to Bhaskar Sunkara, AppDynamics’s co-founder, chief technology officer, and vice president of product.