How do you stimulate an innovation mindset in a large campus with over 600 people? What can you do to make people excited to work together across functions and hierarchies? What are the business reasons to invest in such an endeavour? Go big! This is what we did in Shanghai, organising Innovation Days in a new format.
At first, we made sure that we got commitment from the regional top leadership team. Together we collected critical business challenges and opportunities from across all the functions. We then selected eight topics and formed a core teams that took ownership for each of these topics; every team was supported by a sponsor.
We then planned a two-day event with the objective to collect broad ideas. We first planned to inspire all 200 participants with keynote speakers. Then each team went through a program that allowed them to learn more about the topic, obtain a deeper understanding of the challenges and then creatively discover solution ideas. The second day, the teams go excited with creating prototypes and then presenting them to a group of regional managers. We gave the participants a platform where they can experiment and dream up new opportunities.
In order to make this large-scale event possible and successful, we decided to turn the core team members into facilitators. A few weeks prior to the Innovation Days we invited all of them for a preparation workshop. During this workshop we explained the detailed agenda and practised the important parts. In addition, the teams started to describe their challenge and collected information prior to the two-day event.
The regional leadership was excited about the outcome of the Innovation Days. During the two days, they observed a lot of energy and excitement in the different teams. The presentation of the prototypes illustrated the solutions in a tangible way. Some ideas provided important foundations for upcoming improvements in areas like trading, manufacturing, purchasing and others. In addition, the collaboration and exchange between the different functions and business units brought people closer and many participants expressed that they have learnt a lot.
What happened with these ideas? The core teams took them back as input to their projects. The leadership team reviewed the progress of all teams on a monthly basis. Six months later, as one of the concrete results, the company won the award as employer of the year in China; this was the result of the employer branding team during the innovation days.
"The [Innovation Days] grouped associates from all businesses and functions to exchange ideas on how to address the practical challenges they were facing and inspire each other with the aim to come up with creative ideas and innovative approaches." - Campus Managing Director
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.