Encouraging Innovation

Some people believe they are more creative than others. It’s true that we may conceptualise differently and come up with a variety of solutions, however, nothing precludes any individual from having a great idea.

Maybe the problem is with the culture of the employer, rather than the employees.

One of the more interesting examples occurred at BSkyB. For a number of years Sky (the BSkyB consumer brand) had been operated in a manner that led to silos of excellence becoming firmly established within the organisation. Nobody could argue that this approach was not returning good commercial results, but it was not generating great ideas.

With the appointment of James Murdoch as CEO, a ‘wave of change’ became the corporate theme accompanied with impressive presentations clearly defining the company goals and ambitions. It became clear to every employee that working effectively across the company was a key cultural change.

On the surface this is fantastic. However, presentations alone will not generate new ideas or breakdown the silos. To do this we piloted the idea of Innovation boot-camps in 2006. The boot-camp mentality fits well with the internal Sky working philosophy. An outline of the pilot is offered below:

  • Company strategy reduced down to an opportunity map. This equates to areas that the Sky board would be interested in exploring. The opportunity map went on to form the bedrock of a number of other initiatives.
  • Divisional directors were required to submit 3 possible candidates each for the pilot. A candidate could be a ‘high flyer’, senior Director or someone who had just joined the company.
  • HBDI profiling was used during the selection phase to ensure a balanced team of 9 was formed.
  • The opportunity “Social Media” was selected and the team of 9, were taken through a 12 day off-site intensive innovation boot-camp
  • The boot-camp, took the team through the Understand, Create, Deliver cycle.
  • The Understanding phase was aimed at exploring the area of interest. It also included guest appearances from selected external and internal experts. One fascinating addition was a specialist on ‘learning’ who stayed with the team and taught them how to absorb and analyse data more efficiently.
  • During the Creation phase, the team were taught ideation skills and generated 240+ ideas. There was then the more important iterative cycle of filtering and re-enforcing the idea pool.
  • The Deliver phase took the strongest ideas (6 in this case) and produced an outline business case, deployment plan and supporting presentation. The presentation material was aided by the inclusion of a couple of graphical artists who sketched up the ideas or infographics.
  • The innovation team then presented their ideas to the Dragon’s Den (Sky Executive team) and a number of ideas were selected for progression.