Innovation is the key to forward movement. It creates value and improves existing systems so new ideas can emerge. Innovation research shows 61 percent of executives embrace open innovation to generate ideas. Positive change is derived through collaboration and sharing, which results in better ways of implementing products and services.
So who is responsible for innovation? This question was examined in detail in the latest IdeaScale Nation podcast.
Kelly Wagner, who serves as Director of Innovation for the Credit Union in Colorado, described her experiences innovating in an industry that is primed for disruption. Leading a team of innovation navigators is rewarding because it allows new ideas to be generated, cultivated, and implemented.
Innovation enables companies to enter territory that does not necessarily relate to their industry. Wagner cited T-Mobile’s checking services as an example.
Innovation also forces industries to think and do things differently. According to Wagner, this could be now or in five to ten years when the business models are changing. “We started by wanting to define innovation for the organization, and created a definition of what it would look like,” Wagner noted.
The Innovation Process
The team began by committing to creating a culture of experimentation. They see innovation as a fluid journey with no end in mind. After acquiring executive sponsorship to provide support and resources, they defined a strategy.
The IdeaScale platform is a part of that strategy, giving innovators a place to share and cultivate ideas within the company. Internal idea generation is a critical part of employee engagement, and it helps the organization see what employees and members need long-term.
The training was provided using a model built around design thinking. The key was to identify what problems existed, then work toward finding a solution. Focus was placed on strategy, with four steps rooted in research and development.
Deploy Ideas Faster
The aim was to deploy ideas more quickly. To do this, the team built a competency where everyone would share responsibility for innovating.
Define Leadership Expectations
Next, the team defined leadership expectations to reinforce the innovation culture. The team designed a toolkit to help refine skills as potential organizational leaders.
The toolkit included:
- On-site training
- Blog posts
- Self-paced items
This content was designed to expand innovational thinking. Further exploration was developed through quarterly sessions where team members could gather ideas from different departments and industries to use in their own areas of work.
Various teams were formed to focus on rich ideas. They used design thinking to break the process down into:
The IdeaScale platform was used to gather and cultivate ideas. They recruited innovation advisors in the organization to lead in different ways, deploying ideas 50 percent times faster than before.
The innovation teams worked with key departments such as IT, e-commerce, and marketing to ensure they were defining and solving the right problems. These skills can be taught across multiple departments to further employee development and training.
The innovation team began using a model that is broken up into percentages. Incremental innovation receives 70 percent of the focus, sustainability receives 20 percent, and the remaining 10 percent is concentrated on the future.
So who is responsible for innovation? Everybody!
What Innovation Truly Means
While many organizations use “innovation” as a buzzword, true innovation is a lot more than that. Wagner explained that in her role as director of innovation, she is expected to think and do differently. She strives to “add value to a scenario and inspire hope by having a conversation to ask the questions, why, why, and what if?”