As the Innovation Manager at Concentra Financial, I am always looking at ways to foster and grow our corporate innovation program. So this past May, I was grateful to attend the Business Innovation Summit in Toronto, hosted by the Conference Board of Canada. I experienced two days of high-profile keynote speakers and smaller interactive presentations focused on accelerating corporate innovation and commercialization in Canada.
I came away renewed, excited, and motivated with what I learned and I want to pass that on to you. Here are some of my key takeaways. Maybe you’ll find something of value that you can share in your credit union.
Innovation requires strong management. Simply put, innovation without methodology is just luck (M. Langdon)! How you manage innovation is more important than the investment. In order for strong management to be successful, a good solid framework for innovation must be developed. In Productivity Alberta’s workshop titled “Innovating for Productivity”, Matt Knight, Senior Director, outlined 4 steps required in developing an innovation plan for your company. These are:
- build a climate for innovation
- support idea generation and idea flow
- establish management and support systems for innovations
- optimize innovation through human resource and social systems
Collaboration is key. The theme of collaboration was repeated over and over again throughout the presentations. Nitin Kawale, President of Cisco Systems Canada, opened the conference. He emphasized that innovation is created by collaboration. He referenced the Steven Johnson book “Where Good Ideas Come From” (also the topic of this Ted Talk) that looks at the concept of Grand Cafés and that real innovations come from people sharing their ideas. In the 1600s, cafés were the first creative centres, the source of ideas. Today, networks are our cafés. Kawale and others emphasized the need to create space/hubs for collaboration. At Cisco, they don’t limit their collaboration internally; they are collaborating with business partners, customers, consultants and even competitors.
Get comfortable with failure. In a presentation by Lahav Gil, CEO and Founder of Kangaroo Group, he said it’s not surprising that we’re deeply scripted in fear. From a young age, we’re taught to play games like musical chairs at which if you fail to get the last chair, you lose, you’re out, you fail. Another example he referenced was the use of the term ‘trial and error’. Do we really mean to error? Is it fair to ask people to innovate and at the same time, not fail? No, it’s not. Gil encouraged us to have a process for handling failure that gets to the root cause and away from finger pointing. A good innovation principle is to fail early, fail fast and don’t punish for failure. I agree!
At the end of the two days, I was charged with energy from being around like-minded people and confident that Concentra is on the right track. We have a senior management -endorsed innovation program that supports idea generation and collaboration and includes one hour a week for each staff member to focus on innovative initiatives.
We’re evaluating and evolving the innovation program frequently to ensure it meets the needs of our organization; it’s telling us we’re on the right track to harness the power of innovation at Concentra.
How do you see/define innovation? How do you harness the power of it where you are? Share your comments here and let’s learn from each other.
Jocelyn Tratch, Innovation Manager