Posted by Janelle Noble at 8:33 AM, January 15, 2013
Inside Scoop: Shifting
the Innovation Culture at ACT
At Brightidea, we often focus on large scale innovation
programs at companies with thousands if not hundreds of thousands of employees.
Often though, it is in smaller companies where innovation programs are tackling
common problems such as sustaining employee engagement with unique creativity
and resolve. One of these companies is the nonprofit organization that offers
millions of education and career assessments across the country, ACT, Inc. The
Innovation Team at ACT is taking a fresh approach to their innovation program through
the blending of the digital social innovation platform with physical events. The result is a structured program with
impressive engagement to boot.
Last year, the company hired its first Chief Innovation
Officer along with staff to effectively initiate its innovation department. While
the program scope covers new product innovations as well as process innovations,
the overall mandate was really about spurring a cultural shift in the organization.
Backed with the organizational structure, and the Brightidea-powered online
platform “Bloom”, the program quickly launched a hybrid model of targeted and
on-going campaigns where employees could contribute insight and solutions. The innovation team manages the on-going
campaign (or the “Open Forum”) and works with department heads to structure and
launch targeted campaigns. Departments must have the resources to manage a
targeted campaign, and the budget and support to move ideas beyond the evaluation
phase to implementation if plausible.
An exciting feature of their program is a newly launched
event series, “Bloom Out Loud”. Simply put, it’s the Bloom process, done out
loud and in-person to showcase the impact the Bloom program is making on the
business. Held quarterly, these fast-paced high-energy idea gatherings
highlight the best ideas from the Open Forum. Remote employees were included by
utilizing google hangout. Kari Stillman, who works with the Innovation Team at
ACT, cited some positive feedback on the cultural effect of the event. “We
received a lot of feedback saying it felt like the first time that we really
showcased a culture shift for the organization…It wasn’t leadership talking to
team members, it was peer-to-peer,” Stillman says.
The format for the event series is evolving, but at its
core, a select group of idea submitters are chosen to present their ideas,
in-person and with videos at the event. After the event two ideas move on to
the next phase, which includes an ideation workshop and rapid prototyping
session before presenting to the executive leadership team. Not only did this event gain traction for the
innovation program as a whole (more than 250 ACT team members including senior
leaders attended the first event), it is a step towards ensuring that strong ideas
have the opportunity to be heard by different business units. It also allows
for the community of participants to stay up-to-date on the progress of
projects initiated from ideas submitted in the Open Forum.
Since the program began in June, the team has accumulated a
company-wide participation rate of over 50% using Bloom, showing the focus on employee
engagement has really paid off.
“Bloom Out Loud is a great way to showcase and recognize the impact team members can have by sharing an idea. It also amplifies the culture of
innovation we strive to establish at ACT,” noted Stillman.
It will be exciting to see the returns this proactive
program will yield in weeks, months, and years to come and no doubt ACT’s
customers and employees will be reaping the benefits.