Providing the Spark for Innovation

by Matthew Gann

Providing the Spark for InnovationAbout a year ago, I took a new role at Medco Health Solutions – as the “Crowdsourcing Lead” for our Sparx program. The program was conceived to make Medco better by crowdsourcing ideas directly from employees. In my year’s experience fostering innovation and collaboration across Medco, I’ve experienced first-hand the joys and perils of leading innovation.

The program’s name is no accident – we were focused on providing the all-important “sparks” for innovation to flourish. We knew it wouldn’t be easy to create enthusiasm and momentum for our crowdsourcing efforts. But we also knew those sparks of interest would be critical.

All the hard work is paying off. Inside Medco, the Sparx program has gained credibility and staying power, and is already yielding results. I’ve even chosen “Sparking Innovation” as my speech title for the March 8th Innovation Leaders Forum in Boston.

Among many lessons I’ve learned, here are two highlights:

Momentum established early is easier to sustain.

When I took on the role of Crowdsourcing Lead, it was critical to build the momentum necessary for the program to thrive. I started by delivering a series of presentations, articles, and e-mails to key members of senior management. We immediately realized an uptick in activity, which was bolstered by a couple of incredibly successful ideation events. I then promoted those successes throughout the company, including via an internal broadcast. As a result, we’ve had steady participation volume across the entire enterprise, including a number of repeat clients.

Timing is everything, but not always.

On the Thursday prior to the launch of an ideation event, we received news that the sponsoring group would be undergoing significant changes due to a contract loss. Instead of launching, we delayed one week and regrouped, choosing to shift the focus of the event to those areas of greatest importance for the duration of the contract. Using a heavy dose of incentives and moderation by the core team to spark interest, this event wound up being very successful with a number of ideas implemented to make servicing and transition as seamless as possible. The bottom line is a client lost today is a potential new client in the future, so Sparx may eventually play a role in winning back the business.

There is much more I’d like to share. Too much for one post! If you want to learn more about Medco’s innovation efforts, please drop me a line, or come say hi at ILF Boston 2012!

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Matt Gann currently serves as the in-house crowdsourcing expert at Medco Health Solutions. A former Director of  Marketing at Medco, Matt’s expertise in product management and new product development landed him his current position where he now helps the enterprise brainstorm innovative solutions to complex business problems.

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