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Innovation

Reflections on Delve Talks, Part 2: Building a Culture of Innovation

August 04, 2020

For our Delve Talks podcast, Dave Franchino and I had the opportunity to interview a dozen people from various industries, all of whom share a common interest, desire and occupation that involves innovation, creativity and culture building. You can find the whole series here.

We have been reflecting on these amazing conversations and decided to share a summary of what we learned. Below is part two of some high-levels insights and ideas for how to build a culture of innovation from our guests.

What does it take to build, maintain and scale a culture of innovation?

Have a vision
Have a vision, purpose, mission, and an exciting future you all believe in and are passionate to create. Make sure it is broad and inspiring to get people engaged.

    Focus on goals

    “The group has to have a very clear focus and goals. It's not like ‘Let's just set up any little innovation lab and let everybody go experiment.’ Everything has to be for a purpose. So be very clear on what you know the user needs or issues you want the innovation to solve for and then set the team off on those.” — Jake Leach, Chief Technology Officer, Dexcom

    Make sure people know why it matters

    “Build a mission that matters for the team, create that unified vision, and help the team understand why it matters to them and why it matters to the patient or the customer.” — Will Biederman, Head of Emerging Projects, Verily

    It should be aspirational

    “People want to be part of something that's bigger than themselves and the Volt at that time was bigger than all of us. This was going to be this, this is like the next step in electric vehicles, and we're going to do this even through bankruptcy. We're going to pull this off. And the reality is we did and every team in General Motors had a little piece of that.” — Lee Visci, Consultant, General Motors

    Have a vision, make a plan, and fill in the gaps

    “Developing a vision of where we want to go, developing the plan to get to that vision, maybe realizing that I don't have all the skills that are necessary to actually fully implement the plan. Then identifying people who are really good at those other areas, hiring them, empowering them to go and do their task, and trusting that they will get it done.” — Ian Robertson, Dean, UW-College of Engineering

    Give people purpose and help people participate

    “We need to create a community that has purpose. We need to make sure the right people are there. We need to make sure those people are participating. So, it gave individual product teams something to really, really encourage.” — Julie Norvaisas, Senior Director of User Research, LinkedIn

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    “Build a mission that matters for the team, create that unified vision, and help the team understand why it matters to them and why it matters to the patient or the customer.” — Will Biederman
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    Have fun

    The importance of play, joy, and fun in the process and on the team is a key component of success.

    Building empathy through play

    “One of the really enjoyable aspects of NuVasive was that our CEO had our quarterly meetings in the format of a ‘Tonight Show.’ And so, he was the host… we'd have all the employees in one room, and they would be the studio audience and then the guests would be maybe a doctor or patient or the V.P. of sales or the CFO or what have you. And it was a playful way for us to be transparent and share the key metrics that we were all driving towards to the company but do it in a fun and playful way.” — Jonathan Spangler, CEO,Ciari Guitars

    Fun at work creates an attitude that can reduce stress for your customers/members

    “As a CEO 18 years ago, I started out with the strategy and culture of ‘We're going to have fun at work. We’re going to make it fun for members, too.’ So, when people come in to get their mortgage with Summit, it’s a stressful experience to buy a home, especially if you're a first-time home buyer. And the more we can take the stress out of that and make that a fun experience, the better for people.” — Kim Sponem, President, Summit Credit Union

    12 Delve Talks Spangler
    “It was a playful way for us to be transparent and share the key metrics that we were all driving towards to the company.” — Jonathan Spangler
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    Transparency and Trust

    Trust is required to foster innovation and to do that there must be transparency and people must feel free to express themselves and be themselves

    Trust is a prerequisite for innovation and it starts at the top

    “Set the stage for these big ideas by being transparent within the organization. Transparency in the workplace builds trust. And, in my opinion, that trust is a prerequisite for innovation. So, everyone should feel comfortable expressing themselves without the fear of being judged, ignored or reprimanded. So, that trust is kind of like at the very foundation of building a culture of innovation and all of this can be done from leadership at the top.” — Will Beiderman

    Build trust over time by celebrating even small successes or thoughtful failures

    “Celebrate their small wins, and something big will come. You've got to continually be on the lookout to recognize and reward somehow. It doesn’t have to be monetary. It can just be with recognition, but reward and recognize the behavior that you want to see, and I think that can start at a small level.” — Lee Visci

    Trust mean empowering your people

    “And giving those people the freedom and empowering them to do things and explore things in a way that they think could be really compelling. Give them the time to do that. Give them the focus. Those are the things that tend to yield real innovation, not a bunch of, you know, complicated processes and specific tools and things. It's more about empowering people that have it in them and giving them some really key catalysts and giving them a vision of where they might go. And great people are going to figure it out.” — Vance Strader, Chief Group Engineer, Advanced Engineering, Harley-Davidson Motor Co.

    Lee Visci
    “Celebrate their small wins, and something big will come.” — Lee Visci
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    Try new things, worry about ROI later

    With early pilots, the ROI will come if there is value in the idea.

    “That's very much part of our culture is to pilot things, try different things. Let's not worry too much on the front end about whether or not this will be something that was a great ROI if it brings a member value, eventually it will be a good ROI …We start with an idea that if something is working really well for us, but we think it can work really a lot better for our members, we will break it and create new.” — Kim Sponem

    Anyone can experiment, start small

    “This concept of tiny experiments to kind of figure out the right way into a problem can be done by anybody. The act of experimenting, you know, anybody can do it. So being rigorous, but also being experimental, being consistent, but also being curious. There's a lot of these things that people might feel on the surface are opposites, but are, in fact, both critical for success.” — Julie Norvaisas

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    “We start with an idea that if something is working really well for us, but we think it can work really a lot better for our members, we will break it and create new.” — Kim Sponem
    Dan Murray
    “I would advise anyone in a larger company who has is starting a Horizon Three effort that you have to have the support of top leaders in the company.” — Dan Murray

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