Learning & Development
If you aren’t finding formal innovation programs at your company, you may see it within the Learning and Development department. These departments encourage employees to find their own learning opportunities, and will often sponsor all or some of the expenses.
GE’s BrilliantYOU takes it to the next level. At GE, there is a formal leadership institute where executives can get classroom innovation experience. And available to every GE employee they launched a series of online learning innovation initiatives through BrilliantYOU. On the platform, employees can login and gain access to the best online learning programs, right at their desk.
Innovation & Design Labs
Some companies have dedicated teams focusing on innovation full- or part-time with the goal of developing and leading innovation programs.
One model allows startups to set up a short-term residence within the company’s innovation lab. At BMW’s Innovation Lab, successful startups can participate in a ten-week program. The startups get mentorship and collaborate with BMW to test products and services in live customer environments.
The crème de la crème of innovation programs is the intrapreneurship program. I love when companies create platforms for employees to ideate and see their ideas launched within the company.
Adobe’s Kickbox is an intrapreneurship program where employees receive $1,000, and a self-contained innovation kit for creating and refining new ideas within Adobe.
Looking for places that innovation is encouraged will unlock new opportunities for a better job you at your company.
Now take it a step closer in and evaluate the team and leadership surrounding your current role.
Environmentally Friendly Innovation
Your company works to reduce its carbon footprint for the good of the business and society as a whole. You can find this work through efforts like green energy choices and eco-friendly policies.
Employees like you can take the initiative and launch new environmentally friendly innovation programs. These projects reduce waste and expenses, improving the environment and net profit.
Many companies make corporate donations of funds, time, or resources to the greater good of the community.
If your company is just starting to explore corporate responsibility, it will often support efforts of in-kind services to non-profits. It is an affordable to allow employees to give back to the community. Plus it provides a platform to share stories of impact.
You could find a worthy cause that employees at your company would be passionate about and launch a new corporate philanthropy program. Ideas like these can be even more fun if you co-lead with a colleague!
Ethical Labor Practices
Good companies treat employees fairly and ethically. This is especially relevant if operating across international locations with different labor laws than those in the U.S.
When a company wants to innovate around complex human rights issues, it is worth first understanding where the business operates. Then you can develop programs that incorporate human rights considerations into all aspects of operations.
You could research best practices around ethical labor practices and find inspiration for new programs at your company from companies that make their initiatives public. Both Hitachi’s outline of labor practices and Google’s Supplier Code of Conduct are excellent places to start.
Companies often outline how they execute on their commitment toward ensuring work conditions are safe, workers get treated with respect, and business operations conducted ethically.
While corporate responsibility programs have become the sine qua non, major kudos for companies with initiatives focused on social entrepreneurship.
Social entrepreneurship programs encourage employees to pursue innovative solutions to the world’s most significant problems. It is a great place to recharge your passion for your work.
Through self-reflection, you found that you find that you enjoy solving complex problems and are a strategic thinker. You also learned that you are empathetic and enjoy helping others.
Having spent time with recently hired employees to learn about improving their onboarding experience, you surfaced a problem: new hires feel lost and alone in your big company.
Now you get to start to brainstorm what solutions could improve the employee’s situation. Think about how you might be able to be a part of that.
Answer these questions to get one step closer:
— What are some solutions that I could do in my current role?
— Which ideas could I do as a side project in addition to my current role?
— Who leads these efforts already in the company?
— How can I approach this person to see if he/she is already working on this problem?
— In what ways could I assist this person in developing and executing on the solution?
Map out the design thinking approach you have been applying throughout this process: inspiration, ideation, and implementation.
Once you have started to connect the dots on the valuable research and conversations you have been having (inspiration), you can begin to nail down some potential solutions (ideation) and your role in making it happen (implementation).
Goal 1: Show enthusiasm without coming off as a know-it-all.
Goal 2: Outline your research but make it clear that it has not distracted you from your job. Explain that you did the research on your own time, or how it relates to your existing role.
Goal 3: Get buy-in that there is a problem, and leave the door open to identifying solutions you could participate in.
Where Are There Places Of Overlap? What Are Things You Could Do To Further Your Idea That Would Also Benefit Your Current Role?
For example, if you are a product manager wanting to innovate for the customer, your customer interview questions could cover both product needs and your “other idea” needs. Win-win.
Career Growth Opportunity DiagramWhere Are There Places You Have Created Or Shown Improved Efficiencies? In What Areas Have You Found The Opportunity To Fill Some Time?
Let’s say you are in marketing and installed a new tool that automates marketing efforts. You could show how things are running smoothly on that front, giving you a little time to think about new market opportunities.
What Areas Have You Had Problems In The Past? Have You Heard About Places Where You Have Been Asked To Improve During Feedback Sessions?
If you have received criticism about your work, bring that to the conversation as well. Perhaps you have heard that you show interest in too many things, and seem distracted.
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