I had the opportunity to attend Brightidea’s Birds of a Feather (BOF 3.0) event at Chevron’s headquarters the other day. For those of you not familiar with Bright Idea Birds of a Feather events, they are periodic events for innovation practioners from Brightidea customers (e.g. HP) and non-customers (e.g. Chevron) to get together to discuss innovation challenges and share practical experiences peer-to-peer. The third incarnation of BOF was hosted in Chevron’s ‘Innovation Zone’ – a flexible space used to inspire creativity where:
- everything is on wheels
- the space can be used for multiple purposes (including prototyping, recruiting, training, sharing)
- people can experiment with co-location of groups
- informal meetings and mentoring can take place when the space is not scheduled
The day was a mix of presentations from Chevron and HP and unconference open-sharing sessions, interspersed with breaks for people to just talk one-to-one with colleagues from other companies.
The Chevron Kickoff
Peter Breunig and Jack Anderson of Chevron shared their thoughts on innovation and ingenuity (a Chevron value). These included:
- Innovation must be focused on business strategy – For Chevron this means (finding oil, getting it out of the ground, and boiling it)
- Team-based innovation often requires convincing people that all want to be Michael Jordan, that being Scottie Pippen or Dennis Rodman is cool too and will help the team succeed (everyone has a role).
- You must maintain a crystal clear business focus or derivative projects can distract you
- When it comes to innovation – “Don’t be afraid to let your horses run”
HP and The Garage
Art Beckman of HP spoke about HP’s innovation management system that they have named “The Garage.” In the words of HP, innovation management ultimately strives to systematically gather, organize, and collaborate on ideas. The innovation management push at HP is not just a way to improve management of innovation ideas but is also a push to bring together software and solutions people together to be a stronger team. The effort is helping to break down silos and encourage collaboration across geographies and functions.
HP is focusing on creating an innovation federation instead of a top-down model. The Garage team has been championing the model in advance of its rollout to build awareness and is putting the best model in front of the federated states that they can so that people want to use it (because they don’t have to use it).
HP has innovation program leads in place in each business unit as the first step of their strategy. HP has created a process for funding ideas into action and is building out an incentive system for employees and executives too. Recognition may be the most important thing, but incentives don’t hurt in HP’s opinion. Innovation report cards and celebrating innovation successes also factor into their strategy.
HP has three people in The Garage dedicated to implementing the innovation management solution, and 15 Innovation Program Leads (some part-time – some allocated full-time), and some of those with big business units might have their own sub-level of Innovation Program Leads.
HP is looking to eventually take their internal innovation management solution externally to customers.
Open submissions are the trickiest part (ideas not submitted to specific innovation challenges) because they often end up generating answers to questions that nobody is asking. It is also a lot more work to get the business involved on these kind of open submissions, where innovation challenges generate ideas focused on a guiding question/problem.
HP has begun involving the business earlier in the process so that the Garage doesn’t waste time evaluating or collating it. HP puts a lot more emphasis on campaigns and are putting together a repeatable process for getting a campaign up and going as fast as possible. HP is primarily focusing on generating ideas that are connected to the business (or a business unit).
The key is to get the problem for a challenge properly framed and make it visible to the organization through as many channels as possible. To that end, HP hosts webinars on the challenge, and are also experimenting with running in-person or virtual brainstorms on the challenge topic.
To maximize the success of any innovation management system, you should seek to involve the people who feel they may not have ideas to share, but may have comments or opinions to contribute on submitted ideas. Everyone has different innovation strengths. HP is utilizing a belt system (black belt, etc.) metaphor for showing and recognizing the people who are contributing.
How do you keep revolutionary ideas that might not have a business owner from being killed?
- The Garage team works on these, but the Garage team can’t carry the idea the whole way
Two pushbacks an audience member:
- Why do ideation sessions if we don’t necessarily have the money to develop the idea right now?
- I already have enough good ideas that I can’t develop, why should I generate more?
How many focused campaigns do you think you can really run in a year?
- Probably in the 3-5 range (about one per quarter)
- Try not to ask the same people all the time to submit to multiple challenges in multiple locations
- They try to spread around the live challenges across several business groups
How do you integrate the work of HP Labs with the work of Garage and the business units?
- HP Labs is invited to the challenge and the Innovation Program Leads and other people in the business unit also work with people in HP Labs
Braden Kelley Insights
Different groups have different participation rates. Could this be a leading indicator on the level of trust or performance in a group? Groups with low participation rates could have low employee engagement, and may have a need for some extra attention to revitalizing the culture and trust in that particular group. This would be worth exploring – potentially matching up participation data with employee survey data.
More from the Brightidea Birds of a Feather (BOF 3.0):
Braden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultanc
y focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.