July 10, 2024

Telegrams from the Innovation Field

This week’s Wednesday Words comes from Amelia Rosenman, Ei’s Director of Programs. Amelia spends most of her time out in the “field,” facilitating learning experiences on everything from conscious leadership to public speaking to the art of empathy interviews. We thought you might like to ride along with Amelia during a recent program she led, to get a taste of the magic that happens in an Ei innovation sprint. Enjoy!

One day in 1997, my mom found me in the living room, phone bill in hand.

“Amelia? Do you know anything about a 70 minute phone call to New Mexico?”

“Yeah, mom, I interviewed this lady at SETI for Futures.”

SETI is the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence Institute. Futures, short for Future Problem Solving, is the afterschool program I participated in, where we researched topics that might affect the future, scoped out possible problems related to those topics, selected one underlying problem, and brainstormed solutions that would be implemented in years as "remote" (ha!) as 2025.

At the age of 11, while I had not yet grasped the cost associated with a lengthy landline call from California to New Mexico, I was already immersed in the art and science of future-oriented problem-solving.

So I suppose it makes perfect sense that my winding career path has led me to a role at Experience Institute where I get to lead companies large and small through that same kind of problem-solving. In fact, I’m fresh off a 5-day human-centered design sprint with one of our treasured partners, Baker Tilly, and I’m still buzzing from the energy the team members brought to their Innovation Lab in Madison, WI.

It’s an electric feeling and I want you to get to feel it, too. So, over the next few Ei blog posts, I’ll take you along the journey with me, sharing some key moments from each day of the sprint. And thanks to the proliferation of communication technologies that we could never have imagined back in 1997, these “telegrams” won’t even cost a cent!

Telegram: Day 1 of Innovation Ignite

At 8 AM the walls of the innovation lab are empty. The tables are neatly stacked with fresh notebooks and stacks of Post-Its. My co-facilitator Aaron Wilson-Ahlstrom and I feel the nervous energy we always feel on day 1, wondering:

  • What will the group be like?
  • Will the IT team figure out why my computer isn’t connecting to the smart screen?
  • How quickly will we learn everyone’s names?
  • Will lunch show up on time?

Somehow, just 8 hours later we can report:

  • Every single member of the 30 person cohort has spoken up at least once in the large group (if you're curious how, send us an email and I'll share.)
  • From this group of 30, we’ve formed eight teams of three to four, and each has built a team charter. The charters include each person’s strengths, needs, and the norms the team has elected to uphold in their work together this week (see some examples below).
  • Every team has conducted three empathy interviews with key stakeholders in the firm to gain insight into the challenge they are exploring. These stakeholders are the humans we are centering when we call what we’re doing human-centered design!

And... That Was Just Day One!

Check out the Ei blog or my LinkedIn in the coming days to follow along on the week-long journey. I try not to play favorites, but let’s face it, this project is my favorite thing I get to do at work!

I think it’s because innovation is both a science and an art. As curators and facilitators, we set up an environment and a series of exercises designed to generate good ideas.

But the quality and nature of those ideas depends also on the unique group of people that shows up. Even on Day 1, I could tell this group had two of my favorite qualities - focus and positivity. Big kudos to all of them and to our partners at Baker Tilly.

Partnering Together for Results

The other reason it’s my favorite kind of work is the RESULTS we get to see for our partners. After this year’s two cohorts of Ignite, Baker Tilly reported these post-program stats:

  • 100% of participants, when they have an idea, will seek feedback from colleagues to gain different perspectives (up 9.3% from pre-survey)
  • 100% are more likely to leverage design thinking to solve for challenges and add value (23.8% increase)
  • 100% can articulate how innovation plays a role in their industry, service line, and business (27.8% increase)
  • 100% will encourage their peers to seek opportunities to engage in firm innovation efforts (24.1% increase)

Stay tuned for more Telegrams from Ignite on our blog and at my LinkedIn.

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