Innovation is the core of an organization. While numerous companies have innovation teams, many are looking to spread idea sharing throughout the entire company.
According to a 2017 Web Strategist report, 57 percent of corporations cite innovation as a top challenge. Since then, organizations have begun searching for ways to foster an internal culture of experimentation to generate new ideas. The most recent IdeaScale Nation podcast features Simplot, a company whose new program is closing the innovation gap by involving various sectors of the organization in the idea sharing process.
Building a Strategy Based on Innovation
JR Simplot founded his aptly named company to develop products made from dehydrated potatoes that could be used to feed troops in World War II. He hired scientists and other professionals to form innovation strategies for developing products. He is responsible for pioneering the frozen french fry, and for selling that idea to McDonald’s.
Simplot has always embodied a culture of innovation, and it’s this foundation that allows the company to try new ideas. That’s why innovation is the centerpiece of what Simplot does every day.
Tim Peterson, who supports sales operations and the direct salesforce at Simplot, recognizes the need to provide information that will drive new ideas. “They need answers and resources quickly, and innovation is part of our day in and day out work,” he said.
Simplot has always concentrated on building lasting relationships. Since the invention of frozen french fries, other products have been developed and are widely used today. These include its roasted vegetable line, an avocado product line, and even roasted apple slices. The expansion into additional products helps the company build relationships on a much broader scale than ever before.
Aaron Lewis’s role as demand forecaster at Simplot places him at the helm of innovation every day. He noted: “Innovation is interesting. Everyone interprets the meaning differently. Think of it as the process of discovery motivated by a willingness to do better.”
Simplot’s Innovation Program
Peterson and Lewis realized that innovation is at the core of the organization, but wanted to expand the process to incorporate various teams. Their team decided to implement a “design thinking” approach to broaden the scope of idea-sharing.
They began by using surveys and conducting interviews with fellow Simplot employees to find out what was important to them within the company. They treated innovation as an incentive, stressing the value of learning the interests of other team members. Phase One was built on three pillars: education, culture, and lessons learned.
By educating other departments on the importance of innovation, they were able to tap into the talents and skills of each person. Through this process, an innovation culture could emerge by finding a balance between normal job duties and new innovative efforts.
Peterson’s and Lewis’s team made innovation fun, getting people physically involved in the act of throwing around ideas by tossing beach balls back and forth while brainstorming. They took the process indoors where these ideas were entered into the IdeaScale platform and further discussed and analyzed. Lessons learned include:
- How to run the innovation program
- How to motivate innovation and make it a part of company culture
- How to make innovation a daily priority
- How to drive engagement
During the second phase, Simplot will continue to foster an innovation culture to forge a clear path forward. As they work through the different phases of learning, the focus will be placed on various departments to form new innovation strategies and campaigns.