Ready, Set, Innovate

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed that many of my tweets last week focused on innovation and creativity. I am passionate about inspiring creativity and innovation among the practitioners in our organization, and I believe that fostering this type of environment keeps our community engaged and excited.

In fact, the winner of MIT’s 2013 Richard Beckham Memorial Prize, given to pioneers in the organizational development field, was an essay titled “Creating Employee Networks That Deliver Open Innovation”. The essay contends that executives and leaders should utilize their organizations’ innovation brokers, idea scouts, and idea connectors to improve the organization and convert “external knowledge into innovative outcomes.”

Given all of the recent conversation about innovation, creativity and employee engagement, it was perfect timing that we held our third Innovation Day over the weekend. Innovation Day is an opportunity for our consultants to come together as an organization to develop our skills and create innovative solutions for our clients and organization. Here are some of my take aways from holding these events.

  • Innovation can’t be planned, but it can be enabled – You can plan time dedicated to innovation, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. Innovation is not a switch we turn and off. It is not inaccessible during our normal day to day and then suddenly available to us the moment we say so. That’s why these events aren’t about all of us sitting in a room together brainstorming. Instead, they are about enabling innovation. Enabling by providing people the skills to think about their work or themselves differently. Enabling by providing time devoted to doing and learning things you never seem to have time for. Enabling by bringing new people together to talk about their experiences and learn from each other. Sure, we could sit in a room all day to “innovate,” but without a foundation, without experience, what could we hope to come away with?
  • Great things happen when you come face to face – There are many wonderful collaborative tools out there, some like Connections, we use to broadcast our training courses to our employees across the country. However, if you have the opportunity to come together in person, take it. In a world where we are so often talking to each other from behind computer screens or working from different locations from our coworkers, the chance to come together, meet new people, reconnect with old ones, share stories, and build relationships is priceless.  Saturday was a great day for me to hear first-hand our client experiences and hear from our consultants what is working and what is not and to be energized by the enthusiasm around personal and professional development.
  • Innovative ideas are spurred through challenge and discomfort – It is through challenging ourselves, experiencing difficulties and failures that we grow. The same is true of innovation. If the world was perfect, there would be no need to innovate. Often we look at challenges as frustrating or demotivating, but really, they are an opportunity to create something better. It is ok to make mistakes. It is ok to not be satisfied. This is what inspires us. Those questions you find yourself asking over and over, “Why can’t it be this way?” or “Why didn’t it work?” – those are the questions that drive us to find answers and do more.

I would encourage you all not just to make time to innovate, but to make time to learn, collaborate with your colleagues, and challenge yourself and your colleagues and clients. It is through action that innovation happens.