Guest Post by Phillip Collingwood, Customer Success Specialist
Hoosiers are innovating, and nowhere was that more present than last week’s Day of Innovation, hosted by Centric. Held in Butler University’s brand-new business school, the conference featured problem-solvers from across the state and across a variety of industries. Innovation Awards were given to an electic range of recipients from Antonia Sawyer, B.S., of #ShipHappens for creating a free, Naloxone (overdose-blocker) shipping platform to Professor Nick Elam for alleviating the fouling epidemic at the end of basketball games.
The diversity of innovation on display at the event was a reminder that innovation comes in many forms. While at the event, I attended three breakout sessions, all hosted by unlikely innovators.
Breakout Session One: “Fail Fast? Get it Right the First Time”, facilitated by Alan Gray II and Phillip Everson of Herff Jones
The first breakout session I attended concerned the problem-solving process, and used hanging paintings as the example. For centuries, society has hung paintings using a hammer and nail. Gray asked the group to voice their complaints with this method and highlighted how many difficulties we accept as part of the process. Gray articulated that this was the expected problem-solving path to displaying a painting on a wall. This was problem-oriented thinking. Solution-oriented thinking is what inspired 3M to create command strips. Instead of accepting the established problem-solving path, they worked to find a new solution that eliminated many of the associated with the old method. People agreed, and 3M’s solution-oriented thinking has made them millions.
Breakout Session Two: “Improv to Ignite Innovation”, facilitated by Maria Meschi of your Creative Accomplice
Improv Improves Innovation
I wanted to attend something a little different in the middle of the day, so I chose the improvisation workshop. Before attending, I saw the link between improvisation and innovation, but I did not realize the effect improv could have on collaboration culture.
Meschi had the group engage in activities with various themes. The first theme was constant support. None of the activities had losers, and even a non-sensical response was to be greeted with positive reinforcement. This broke down the fear of being wrong. The mentality was that if a list of types of dogs including “rottweilers, chihuahuas, loud ones, ones that wake you up, brown dogs, and pitbulls” received a round of applause, that person is more likely to voice their ideas later without fear of being mocked.
The second theme was that nobody could guide the group alone. In one activity, groups of three had to alternate drawing one feature on a face to create a monster. Learning to pass the marker and see where your teammate takes the drawing can be difficult, especially when you get excited to pursue a specific idea. However, sharing leadership is a necessary skill to grow both personally and as a team.
Breakout Session Three: “An Accessibility Frame of Mind: Including Everyone”, facilitated by JoAnne Juett of Salesforce
Accessible Doesn’t Mean Worse, Just Different
Of all the breakouts, this group activity lead by Juett enlightened me the most. Juett started by making a fantastic point about accessibility in products, stating that true accessibility requires the ability of independent access. An individual with visual impairment needing someone to read a website to them is the same as an individual with a mobility impairment needing to be carried up a flight of stairs—both are inaccessible.
To drive emphasis on this point, the audience was split into groups of four and one person was assigned a disability. My group had to brainstorm how to address customers leaving items in their online shopping carts while ensuring that the group member with a hearing impairment was still able to access and contribute to the idea process. Since relaying summaries of side conversations to the impaired group member would not be allowing individual access, we had to avoid all verbal communication- a difficult task with traditional brainstorming methods.
As a result, my team used a whiteboard to discuss, which provided advantages and disadvantages. On the con side, it took longer to express ideas and even longer to check that everybody understood what you meant. On the pro side, multiple people could express their ideas, without interruption, at the same time, unlike a verbal conversation. Additionally, old ideas remained relevant as they remained on the board throughout. The think tank was much more organized, and people took their time to evaluate others’ ideas before trying to respond. Perhaps not ideal for every single meeting, I would certainly consider silent brainstorming again.
Overall, the event did an incredible job connecting some of Indiana’s greatest minds. Thank you to Centric for organizing this year’s Day of Innovation and thank you to Butler University for the space. If I could make one recommendation for attendees next year, it would be to get a full night’s sleep beforehand and drink plenty of the coffee, because when Hoosiers are innovating, it is hard to keep up!