This year, Planview IdeaPlace hosted our first ever Ignite Innovation Summit in Boston, Massachusetts. Packed with opportunities, success stories, and inspirational talks from some of today’s most noteworthy enterprise innovation leaders, the outcome was truly remarkable.
Over 140 attendees from globally recognized companies like IBM, AT&T, MetLife, Cigna, PwC, Pfizer, Unitedhealth Group, Siemens, Estee Lauder and more came together to share knowledge gained from years of collective experience, thousands of ideas and challenges, a willingness to accept risk, and a shared passion for positive change through innovation. Below are the top 10 takeaways from the Summit, gleaned from the many impressive presentations, interviews, and in-depth conversations that took place.
#1. Engagement is the Top Priority
Throughout the day, the topic of engagement was touched on again, again, and again — specifically when it came to best practices for engaging employees and expanding innovation programs to external crowds. Planview IdeaPlace CTO James Gardner introduced Crowdcast, a forthcoming feature of the Planview IdeaPlace innovation management software that will better enable crowdsourcing across large groups, making engagement easier to accomplish and leverage. In nearly every one-on-one interview we conducted, leaders expressed that this is a primary goal — if not the core focus — of their existing innovation programs, and one they hope to expand moving forward.
#2. Impact is the Outcome to Strive For
As much as leaders are expected to drive bottom line returns, it turns out that this really isn’t the primary focus when implementing enterprise innovation programs. Instead, several of our expert innovators — including those from IBM, AT&T, Cigna, and Accenture — reported that impact is measured in improved customer experience and employee happiness through greater process efficiency, broader networks, and more robust programs and services. However, heightened ROI is often the resulting bonus of these other elements, even if it’s not the end-goal.
#3. Failing Doesn’t Equal Failure
Another repeat piece of advice? Let ideas fail, and encourage people not to be disheartened by the occasional defeat. As long as you fail fast, learn from your mistakes, and don’t repeat your blunders, failed ideas and approaches are often the gateway to new and better ways of thinking, collaborating, and executing.
As MetLife’s John Geyer put it: “You’ve got to have a relentless pursuit of a great idea.” And that means refusing to give up, even if things don’t work out as you anticipated.
#4. Embracing Counterintuitive Thinking is Necessary
It’s easy enough to talk about innovation as a byproduct of out-of-the-box thinking, but putting that idea to practice is much more challenging — especially for larger companies with long histories and traditional business models. Thankfully, this doesn’t always require a massive overhaul. Sometimes, a few tweaks here and there in how, why, or where a company finds direction is all it takes to go from stale to strong.
In her talk, Wendy Meyer from Pfizer quoted journalist Robert Wieder: “Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.”
#5. It Comes Down to People
A superior tool does not automatically lead to a successful innovation program. Rather, a superior tool coupled with human passion, knowledge, experience, and creativity can be the ticket to boosted, long-term, repeatable returns. People with great ideas and a desire to share them is the foundation of change. Innovation management software makes it possible to find them.
“The technology is the technology. The people are the platform.” – Norman Lewis, PwC
#6. You Can’t Fake Extraordinary
In a nutshell: mimicry is not innovative, and neither is following directly in the footsteps of a company or person that’s successfully implemented a brand new idea. Cigna’s Tim McKnight summed it up nicely with a quote from Seth Godin: “You can’t be remarkable by following someone else who is remarkable.”
#7. Disruption is Critical, Culture is Crucial
Shaking things up is par for the course when it comes to innovation, but the idea of disruption can be so daunting that leaders shut themselves off from giving it a go. But a company culture with a strong sense of acceptance for trial and error, collaboration, fearlessness, and empowerment is one that can stand united in the face of change — not to mention drive it on a global scale.
Noted IBM’s Chief Innovation Officer, Linda Bernardi, “The journey of disruption is exciting, messy, and difficult…[it’s] critical, and intimidation is rampant. Be mindful that [you] don’t use fear.”
#8. Better Ideas, Not More Ideas
It’s true that, when we talk about crowdsourcing, we talk a lot about larger networks as an avenue to more ideas. But that’s only step one — step two is utilizing that increase in ideation to hunt down the best solutions to business problems; in addition to increased possibilities, you’re getting far more inputon those ideas.
In his talk, PwC’s Norman Lewis made it clear: “We don’t want 10,000 ideas. We want [people] to tell us what are good ideas and what aren’t.”
#9. Broaden Diversity, Gain Perspective
Expanding the idea network is tough and daunting, even for companies that already have global reach. But that’s what makes crowdsourcing through innovation management so incredibly powerful: extending challenges to your entire employee and customer base provides access to far more ideas, cultures, and experiences, which will allow the best possible solutions and suggestions to be heard.
“The best programs I’ve been part of have had a broad panel of people participating, so you get diverse perspectives.” – Tim McKnight, Cigna
#10. To Ignite Innovation, Stop Trying So Hard
Much of the advice from speakers boiled down to letting go — of existing expectations, long-time approaches, outdated processes, and most importantly, an attempt to move the innovation needle faster without considering the foundation of your program.
Said Cigna’s Tim McKnight, “According to a study by HBR, companies that pause have top line growth that is 40% greater than those with a go-go-go mindset.” Finally, IBM’s Linda Bernardi succinctly summed up the core truth of successful enterprise innovation:
“The singular outcome of resistance is failure.”
We’d like to extend our sincere thanks to all of the incredible speakers and attendees at this year’s Summit! Stay tuned for more amazing findings and content from Ignite.