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Corporate Innovation Management: Changing the Culture

Posted on Tuesday, May 24th 2016

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Most large organizations are facing the challenge of a workforce that’s gotten into a routine, a rhythm, and is not thinking outside the box. There is no excitement. There isn’t enough creative energy on a day-to-day basis, and there’s no methodology to inculcate such energy in a systematic way.

I want to call out another specific point from my previous article, Corporate Innovation Management: A Methodology Discussion, that addresses this issue.

In my interview with Jim Euchner for the Research-Technology Management journal, I said:

JE:

How can large, established companies incorporate some of the ideas from One Million by One Million in their new-business innovation space?

SM:

This is an area where we have done a significant amount of work for about four years now. I hadn’t started One Million by One Million with this direction in mind, but I was approached by Oracle in 2011 or 2012—a vice president had read about me or listened to one of my speeches at a conference and he called me with essentially the same question. He was interested in how he might create excitement in the Oracle workforce, how he might get the employee base to think about innovation. I designed a custom program for Oracle, and today, it is one of our largest deployments. We have been running there for several years now, very successfully, but it was born out of that catalytic conversation. The program is open to over 10,000 employees at Oracle now. We started with only about 700.

Now we’ve productized that approach. Let me explain to you how we have evolved that and how that program runs. Two to three times a year, we run a contest; we call it the Oracle One Million by One Million Challenge. We invite people to participate in this challenge with their innovation agenda. So all the employees, of whatever division or group, are encouraged to start attending our free roundtables—these Thursday-morning roundtables. Once a week, at least, they are spending an hour and a half just thinking about new ideas, how new ideas are presented, how new ideas are dissected and strategized upon, and so forth. They are simmering in the atmosphere and ambiance of innovation.

This goes on for several weeks. In parallel, we ask the employees to start thinking about what they would like to create. We have come to the conclusion, after several years, that most employees in large organizations don’t have enough background, enough methodology knowledge, to be able to develop and present an idea in a way that makes a lot of business sense. They need more methodology guidance before even coming up with the idea—things like how ideas are framed, how ideas are validated, and so forth.

What we ask for is a kind of college essay in which they explain why they want to participate in  One Million by One Million, why they want to learn about the process of bringing a product to market, and why they want to learn about entrepreneurship. The essays tend to be quite elaborate. We also ask whether they are comfortable with online learning, because the program is pure online learning. There’s not going to be a classroom teacher who’s going to sit and do any one-on-one coaching or anything; you’re going to have to be able to learn using the framework, using the online curriculum, participating in the online roundtables, discussing your ideas, and so forth. You need to be a self-motivated person and you need to be comfortable with online learning.

We select a group of winners from among these essays, who receive a scholarship to the One Million by One Million premium program, funded by the corporation. These scholarships cover the $1,000 annual membership fee.

The methodology described above is a structured way of injecting an organization with a heavy dose of excitement 2-3 times a year, for 8-10 weeks at a time.

It’s easy.

It’s lightweight.

It’s affordable.

And it works.

Photo credit: thetaxhaven/Flickr.com.

This segment is a part in the series : Corporate Innovation Management

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