An idea will always come from an individual but successful innovation needs a united team.
For many years Smallfry has been helping companies to exploit innovation as a business growth strategy. The innovation strategies built through our ‘Created Futures’ program are proven to deliver outstanding financial return for our clients, so it is not difficult to get senior management engaged, right through to board level. However, to effectively deliver an ambitious vision, we know that stakeholders from inside and outside the organisation will need to embrace creativity and understand how they can all play a part.
We have worked with Salts Healthcare for a number of years and, by guiding them through our Innovation programme, we have helped them conceive a credible vision and begin to create a sustainable pipeline of innovations. Early outputs from the process have smashed the initial targets and exceeded all expectations. While everyone is naturally delighted, we felt we hadn’t yet achieved the full engagement of the whole company. So, we asked ourselves: How can we make Salt’s vision contagious?
As Salts had recently established a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Aston, Birmingham, the obvious solution was to organise an ‘Astonbury’ festival, a one-day event conceived by Salts and Smallfry for all of their employees. Billed as a music event where the team could eat, drink, listen to live music, and glitter up while getting familiar with the Salts innovation process. We wanted to create a genuine excitement for creativity, so we left the business talk behind and made sure to make the event fun and engaging. It didn’t take long for people to grasp the concept of ‘sowing the seed of an idea’. The starring role of our ‘innovation greenhouse’ was to ‘Grow good ideas to improve lives’. Suggestions were captured on plant labels and placed into gridded seed trays. All entries earned a complementary drink, ensuring a high level of engagement, and the ideas placed in our secret winning locations won a range of prizes.
Reflecting on this event we have come up with our own tips for realising a Creative Vision:
Get Everyone Involved
The board and Senior management have no monopoly on creativity. Everyone is capable of spotting opportunities if their radar is suitably sensitised. Often those closest to the challenges are the furthest from the means to solve the problem. While support from the top must cascade down, those at the rockface are often the most acutely aware of the issues. So, try to find creative ways to encourage them all to engage.
Make it Big
It was without doubt an ambitious and bold event to stage, but it served to reinforce the level of commitment the board have to organically growing the business through the involvement and engagement of employees at every level. When you give people a chance, you might be surprised by what they come back with. Everyone involved agrees this process has certainly surfaced some hidden talents from within their teams.
Make it simple to follow and engaging enough for people from every level to want to take part. There is certainly no lack of ambition in the initiative, but by aiming to reach the stars we can at least guarantee to break free of the foggy cloud line. Strive to find clarity from the confusion and use simple visual metaphors to ensure the complexities are reduced to simple visual messages that anyone and everyone will understand and be confident to get involved with. Oh… and making it fun goes a long way to opening up the lines of communication and getting the best from people.
It was a rewarding experience being a part of Astonbury. Reports are that everyone left the event energised and with a real sense of ownership of the creative direction of Salts. We look forward to helping them develop some of the inspirational ideas that will no doubt bloom from this event.
– Steve May-Russell
3rd July 2018