Notes from the 9th Annual Open Innovation Conference, part 1

Ben AbbottBlog

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Being the Business Development Manager at Wazoku gives me the opportunity to attend some interesting events. I get to meet people, hand out brochures and see (and hear) some very interesting speeches!

As such, the team asked me to write a series of blog posts about the most interesting things I saw and learned about, so we could all share the knowledge. The latest of these events that I have been to was the 9th Annual Open Innovation Conference that took place in Philadelphia back in April.

One of the most fascinating workshops I had the chance of attending in this conference was titled “Future proofing your company via Enterprise-wide innovation culture building” and it was brilliantly delivered by Diane Stover-Hopkins who is, among other things, Innovation Strategy Executive at Beacon Healthcare Systems.

Diane has spent the past twenty years building innovation capabilities for organisations in the healthcare sector. Twenty years ago there was no “blueprint” for this and so she turned to other organisations, outside the healthcare sector (including Walmart, DuPont and Best Buy), for guidance on “the pursuit of a return on imagination!“. With this, Diane hoped to gain insight and expertise on how to:

  • Improve staff engagement (energy/passion/retention).
  • Enhanced problem solving.
  • Intensify opportunity seizing.
  • Strengthen differentiation in the market.
  • Increase nimbleness.
  • Build new community and business relationships.
  • Develop stronger responses to “commoditization”.

Based on this, Diane then realised that there are essentially 3 things an organization has to do to stay strong and grow:

  1. Cut costs.
  2. Reorganise.
  3. Innovate!!

The first two are limited as there is just so much cost cutting and reorganisation a business can make and still obtain results. However, there is no limit to how far an organisation can innovate, so they decided they should take a closer look at this. The first step they then took was to define what “Innovation” means to them: “A new or novel idea that when implemented, offers a solution for a customer and leads to a competitive advantage“. This is crucial, as it will allow organisations to define their strategy more clearly and easily construe what an innovation is, because as we all know, a change isn’t always an innovation. They also agreed that innovation could come from two sources: desperation or inspiration. (Desperation innovation would be when there is a particular challenge a business needs to tackle, inspiration would be when someone has a game-changing idea, without necessarily being prompted to).

Innovation is then, a very important aspect of a business. There are many ways of building innovation into a company’s DNA, the most important of them being:

  1. Building a workforce of more innovative problem solvers – happy staff nurture happy customers.
  2. Attracting and retain stars by allowing people to opportunity to work on projects that matter.

By implementing these two steps, a business creates an innovation-friendly culture, which can create three new positive “streams” for a business:

  1. Financial – happy customers are repeat buyers.
  2. Intellectual – the ability to create new solutions internally.
  3. Emotional – the “aliveness” of the organisation.

Bringing back all this knowledge to Beacon Healthcare Systems, the team then identified two primary innovation paths they could take. The “Everyman” vs the “Smartman”. They opted for the “Everyman” approach which means that they would be using crowdsourcing methodologies. This meant that the innovation programme would then be:

  • Enterprise wide (not specialised teams).
  • Everybody has access to the programme.
  • Some will be better than others, but everybody counts.
  • Long term – this approach may take longer, but will yield better results.
  • They would need to reframe culture.
  • A clear structure would need to be provided.

As they were taking the “Everyman”approach, they decided they need a clear and simple innovation process. They called this the “One-minute innovation process” and they apply it to all new ideas to assess them. It goes:

  • What is?
  • What if?
  • What wows?
  • What works?

This is based on the “Circle of Innovation” which is a method used by other companies to decide which ideas to pursue. An idea must fall in the Venn diagram of the following to receive funding:

  1. What is desirable? (to customers)
  2. What is possible? (with the technology)
  3. What is viable? (in the marketplace)

If an idea achieved all three parameters it became a “Wow project”, which they would create (scope), sell (to the business), execute (do it!), celebrate (success AND failure) and move on (to the next “Wow project”).

Finally, Diane wanted to share a few golden nuggets that she has learned over the past twenty years that she believes are critical to successfully building a culture of Innovation within an organisation:

  • You need a passionate senior leader (e.g. CEO) to be the champion.
  • Launch the project with an inspirational leader’s voice.
  • Begin work on an “Innovation Intent” and identify urgent problems and platforms.
  • Expand your understanding with “Innovisits” – visiting other companies innovation teams to share and exchange knowledge and experiences.
  • Adopt a language, tools and systems as the initial infrastructure i.e. from the beginning.
  • Train internal innovation coaches/consultants/champions.

Diane left use with the following thought – “Anxiety uses imagination to picture something you don’t want. Vision uses imagination to picture something you do want. either way, your mind is opening a window to the future. Why not chose an awesome view, one that inspires and excites you, one that builds optimism and an oceanic sense of what is possible?”

Have you found this useful? Give us your opinion in the comments!

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