As senior vice president, innovation and product development, I spend a lot of time on the hunt for the next big idea that will change our members’ lives in meaningful ways. And while that often means partnering with cutting-edge tech companies or helping to refine one of their projects in our start-up incubators, it is just as important to work within the organization. That’s why we foster a culture of innovation.
Of course, to encourage innovation, it is important that employees know what it actually entails, whether or not the word is in their job title. In my view, it means to think differently, to gain empathy, and to always challenge the status quo.
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You’ll notice I didn’t say “create long lists of cool new ideas and send them to the boss.” While I’m as big a fan of the office whiteboard as the next guy, at least until some really advanced 3-D printers come along, I think that innovation ultimately means raising the bar a little higher than the conventional brainstorming session.
The next great project might indeed start with a crazy-sounding idea (see: think differently, below), but that idea on its own means little if we don’t have the nuts, bolts, staff and time to carry it out. Ideas need to be housed within the four sturdy walls of reality; they need mocking up, fleshing out, and honing to the point of obsessiveness. With a focus on execution in mind, let me explain the kind of culture I believe will sustain both our mission and our bottom line, far into the future.