This is part 2 of Rethink Today, Innovate Now, Create Tomorrow! Please read part 1 here.
In our first post, we discussed the principles of innovation. Let’s keep that convo going.
My friend Michael Trebony, now with Apple, was the Director of Innovation at Best Buy. A large part of his role was connecting innovators with key influencers and senior leaders. He knew the road and could remove obstacles: clearing the way and coaching innovators along their path. Michael helped innovators tell their story and positioned their creations for success. One such innovator was Moira Hardek. Moira, a Double Agent with the Geek Squad, recognized a challenge and an opportunity neatly wrapped together as they often are.
She was very alone as a female Geek Squad Agent. On a personal level, she wanted to have lunch with female coworkers, but there were very few female agents. On a professional level, she found that clients – women in particular – preferred a female agent. Mothers with young children clambering around would breathe a sigh of relief when they saw Moira at their door to repair their computers. And so her journey began.
Her early research revealed that girls will actually veer away from technology unless they are introduced to it at a very young age. She then began to ponder the possibility of doing a just-for-girls summer camp that would create competence, confidence, and a sense of the possibilities in technology careers.
She began sharing her thoughts and ideas and was able to assemble a team of people who had attended camp as children. They all agreed that most technology training is excruciatingly boring. What unified them was a love of children and the belief that there just has to be a better way! Together, they crafted a plan for such a camp and offered it to Moira’s grade school alma mater. That was the beginning. It was an outstanding success. She knew she was on to something. What she didn’t know was how difficult it would be to push the idea up the chain of command and gain approval every step of the way (here is a link to their story that I did for the television show Life to the Max).
She had a great idea and worked for a great organization and yet it was a very laborious journey with many-a-hurdle over which to jump. Building a culture of innovation at all levels requires intentional effort. Many innovations are not nearly as complicated as Moira’s Geek Squad Summer Academy. Just imagine moving a million dollars worth of tech equipment from one location to the next and the challenge encountered if one box is misplaced. Truly a logistical nightmare and one that required big thinking as well as detailed thinking every step of the way.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to hunt out the long-term benefits for Best Buy, but there were competing interests seeking resources and a brutal marketplace to boot. Suffice to say it was not a slam dunk, and Best Buy is known for being innovative. Imagine the battle to move innovation along in most companies. As noted earlier, developing an innovation mindset or culture is not for the faint of heart or those wanting to sprinkle fairy dust and hope for the best. There is no “easy button” and there are plenty of rules, both written and unwritten, that undermine an innovation mindset before it’s even started.
Today, the Geek Squad Summer Academy is no more. However, Moira hasn’t lost her knack to pave new roads. She now runs an organization, called CodeNow, dedicated to empowering and teaching technology skills by way of gaming.
Recognize that innovation is a top priority. You know you need it, but how? To begin you’ll need support so you can better find innovative, forward-thinking people from a cross-section of the organization. Spur the conversation with them and gather their ideas on why it’s critical, especially now. Define exactly what you want and why it’s important to the team and organization. Then, identify the barriers to an innovation mindset and set forth with a plan to mitigate as many as you can. Ultimately, you’ll need a systematic process to pave the trail to an innovation mindset, so be prepared to seek that out. In the meantime, eat your “Wheaties.” You’re about to run a marathon race.
Don’t forget our programs for fostering innovation and change within your business: Creating a Mindset for Change, Driving Agility, Innovate and Create: Leverage The Power of Generations, and the Leading Early Talent series.
For more information on these programs — or if you’d like a demo — please contact Laura Goodrich at Laura@GWTNext.com or Greg Stiever at Greg@GWTNext.com