Ryan, of Be The Match, and five of his peers were selected to participate in an out-of-the-box experiment called, The Innovation Lab. Sequestered away from the rest of the organization, the team was responsible for researching umbilical cord blood donation and seeing how it can help with blood marrow registry and research objectives. Ryan’s team was tasked with a problem– not with solving it, but rather with developing recommendations for how to address the problem so that the company could fix it. The experiment was a success. Ryan talks to Bruce Holoubek, owner of Contracted Leadership, and Host of The Development Exponent Podcast to provide us with the organizational and developmental perspectives and insights from that experiment.
If your organization is looking to initiate an innovation project or lab, it helps to use a successful example for support. Here we unbox this out-of-the-box experiment to pick the pearls out of lessons learned.
When starting something not done before, the first measure of success has to be, does this actually work? For example, in starting an Innovation Lab, pulling a group of people who didn’t know each other to go offsite to work on a problem that was new, was in itself an unsure venture. To gather these diverse individuals who had one thing in common– and ability to think and approach problems differently, and have them work well together, closely and for extended time, is in itself a success. Another measure of success was having a copious package to bring to leadership at the end of the experiment and having them applaud the team.
Although there can be many measurements of success, primarily we have to ask, can the team function, and can we deliver?
When initiating a project, volunteers are excited by the prospect of doing something new, but they don’t often have the specifics on what exactly they will be doing. The excitement can quickly turn into anxiety– two feelings that are on the same end of the energy spectrum, yet the latter carries detrimental effects.
Also, for several reasons a major fear of many successful professionals is to have to step away from their regular role. It comes from the worry that they will be replaced, that their boss will see the job can be done without them, that their job is not as important to the organization as they previously thought, or that their progress and role reputation will be ruined by a less-qualified stand-in.
Remember to include the rest of the organization in progress updates. Healthy organizations create a feeling of investment in their employees, so success and failure isn’t just shared between the team and leadership. Everyone in the organization should feel connected to what’s developing. One way to do this is to internally share short videos or clips of the team working on something as they talk about what they expect the outcome to be, and sharing why they are excited. Transparency builds trust and alleviates anxiety.
Make it Work
For a truly innovative approach and fresh ideas, start by picking your team from across the organization:
- Have someone from marketing, finance, tech, HR, data, etc..
- Make your team equally female and male.
- Have cultural diversity.
- Provide access to subject matter experts
- Have team-building conversations
In team building, appreciate the excitement that everyone feels to come from their niche and be picked to work on a completely different project. Team members should feel as experts asked to share their niche knowledge. Illustrate that the team acts as one brain. Then ask the team members to share how and when they work best– ask them to be vulnerable– but begin by being vulnerable yourself to help them open up about needs or dislikes, and quirks. There are also personal issues that affect work, so encourage team members to check in with one another to identify pain points and obstacles. We don’t have to over-share, but we do need to stay tuned in to give support and ensure the strength of each link of the chain.
Did the offsite location work? Did climate affect how people were able to work? Did we use the best methods for sharing and collaborating? Did we offer accessibility and convenience to our team? What other things can we take into consideration for next time? Have your team weigh in on the unique experience of being on the project. Then, check in with each person to see how this experience shaped or affected their outlook on their permanent role. Do they now wish to make a shift? Are they more sure now they want to stay where they are at? How have they grown and how can they contribute their newly developed skills into the organization.You’ve opened the box, use the treasures effectively!
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Although there can be many measurements of success, primarily we have to ask, can the team function, and can we deliver? #levelupyourleadership #leadership #contractleaders
Anticipate anxiety: when employees are attempting innovative projects they are entering the unknown. They begin with excitement but excitement can quickly turn into anxiety. #levelupyourleadership #leadership #contractleaders
Transparency builds trust and alleviates anxiety. #levelupyourleadership #leadership #contractleaders
Everyone in the organization should feel connected to what’s developing. One way to do this is to internally share short videos or clips of the team working on something as they talk about what they expect the outcome to be, and sharing why they are excited. #levelupyourleadership #leadership #contractleaders
For any project, to create an innovative team, start by picking your team from across the organization: 1. Have someone from marketing, finance, tech, HR, data, etc.. 2. Make your team equally female and male. 3. Have cultural diversity. 4. Have team-building conversations 5. Provide access to subject matter experts and research. #levelupyourleadership #leadership #contractleaders
Have your team members weigh in on the unique experience of being on the project. See how this experience shaped their outlook on their permanent role. Do they now wish to make a shift? How have they grown and how can they contribute their newly developed skills into the organization? #levelupyourleadership #leadership #contractleaders