Eliza Pollack, director of innovation at the City of Philadelphia and Alberto Machado, chief executive officer at Valudor Products, recently shared advice with MindShift webinar attendees on how to tackle business challenges with innovation. Natalie Nixon, president at Figure 8 Thinking and author of the award winning book, The Creativity Leap: Unleash Curiosity, Improvisation and Intuition at Work 54moderated the discussion.
Here are five takeaways from the speakers.
1) Innovation workshops can help internal stakeholders unlock the potential and knowledge they already have
Pollack spent a lot of time getting departments to recognize that her job was not about criticizing their work. It was really about setting a framework where people knew that she was there to be supportive and be a thought partner. She could help shepherd them through a process. In doing so, she was able to help experts unlock the potential and the knowledge that they already have just in a way that felt very different.
2) Innovation is about culture change
When whoever is in an innovation position leaves, what happens to everything they’ve worked on? The focus has to be on training others to feel prepared and empowered so that the work and the values and the culture last regardless and much longer than the person in the innovation role..
It’s about people change, process change and thinking about how we deliver services and programs. How can they become more efficient, effective and equitable. Pollack finds that very often that’s achieved by a small tweak not by imploding the system.
That comes in many forms. Sometimes it looks like rethinking a process or reimagining someone’s role. Other times it’s about replicating a process that was done eight years ago in the private sector that’s been really successful and it hasn’t made its way to government yet.
3) It’s about listening to and engaging with customers in a different way
Machado advised that innovation is heavily based on a good problem definition and listening to customers. Leaders should focus on extracting what customers want, how they perceive what businesses do and how businesses do things differently in ways that are going to be more successful and that will translate into a more profitable growth for the company. And you have to follow the trends and tools available.
In regards to listening and engaging with internal stakeholders, Pollack likes to gather diverse players. When there is equal distribution across different levels and different roles you’re more likely to get the folks that are most impacted by a decision, but the most often left out of the decision making conversation.
It’s also important to find different ways to get people to engage. People have really different comfort levels and personalities when it comes to engaging in these kinds of workshops, speaking publicly and being authentic. Pollack tries to make sure that her workshops have elements of conversations as a full group, conversations in breakouts and conversations in pairs.
There are also some things that she’ll ask people to verbally speak, and there are some things that she’ll ask people to write down. There’s always a mix of all of those options, because facilitators must be cognizant of creating an environment that is the most equitable, the most inclusive and is really going to make as many people participate as possible.
4) If you create metrics for innovation, you can sustain it
Machado recommended looking at leading indicators, like are you engaging and acquiring new customers. Are you entering customer information in systems like a CRM and are those metrics being reviewed on a weekly basis, to detect outliers?
In this case, leaders have to attack and make sure that an individual or group of individuals understand what needs to be done to get the results you want.
In addition to metrics you have to set milestones and drive actionable conversations around timing. For example, should we be engaging 300 new prospects but we’re only at 200. That should trigger a discussion on what’s going on with those metrics and why we’re at risk of not hitting the milestone.
5) Innovation is an invention converted into value through creativity
Nixon defines innovation as an invention converted into value. She suggests teams can convert innovation into cultural value, social value and even financial value. In her opinion it’s creativity that converts it and for those who download the WonderRigor™ Tip Sheet you can read more about that.
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