Building an Innovation Community


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Building an Innovation Community

  1. 1. BUILDING AN INNOVATION COMMUNITY Pitney Bowes’s employee innovation community demonstrates the types of results managers can expect from a thoughtfully designed and implemented innovation community and illustrates design principles and key success factors. Allison Dahl, Jill Lawrence, and Jeff PierceOVERVIEW: Companies are increasingly using social well as providing intangible benefits such as employeemedia and other technologies to broaden the approach to engagement, improved internal processes, and increasedidea generation and innovation both within and outside customer satisfaction. The outcomes illustrate thethe walls of the organization. However, managers can types of results managers can expect from a thought-tend to focus on installing the technology, rather than on fully designed and implemented innovation community,designing a socio-technical system that can meet the orga- and the design principles and key success factors pro-nization’s goals and foster authentic participation. In 2008, vide guidance to managers looking to initiate a similarPitney Bowes, a $5.4 billion provider of technology and for mail and digital communications, initiatedan effort to build an employee innovation community aimed KEY CONCEPTS: Innovation, Participatory design, Userat driving organic growth and fostering a culture of in- research, Action research, Social medianovation among its 30,000 employees around the globe.The Pitney Bowes Employee Innovation Program team Companies are increasingly using social media to opentook a human-centered approach and used primary re- participation in innovation to nontraditional actors, bothsearch and co-creation with individuals across all levels inside and outside the organization. Recently, as theof the organizational hierarchy to design a program that flattening of organizations and rapidly changing com-both met company objectives and satisfied a value propo- petitive environments increase the need for companiessition for managers and employees. The resulting pro- to innovate at an accelerated pace, many companiesgram delivered measurable value inside of two years, as have begun exploring the use of online communities toAllison Dahl was the community and communications employees and drive collaboration across business units.manager for IdeaNet and the Employee Innovation Pro- She started her career as a workplace anthropologistgram at Pitney Bowes. In that role, she worked with teams and has 10 years of experience working with multidisci-across the company to track, measure, and promote in- plinary teams in design and innovation. She studied an-novation results and leveraged her design background to thropology at New York University and Smith College,create an engaging and sustainable employee experience. where she received her BA. Jill.Lawrence@gmail.comAllison also executed large-scale events such as Innova- Jeff Pierce is the IdeaNet challenge architect for Pitneytion Idol to showcase employee ideas and build momentum Bowes’s Employee Innovation Program. Jeff’s role is toaround innovation. Allison has a BFA in Communication guide senior leaders in engaging and collaborating withDesign from Syracuse University and is pursuing an employees, applying the “wisdom of the crowds” to meetMBA at Boston College. critical business objectives. Jeff has diverse experienceJill Lawrence is principal of J Lawrence & Associates, a in marketing, strategy, service design, and software devel-consulting practice with the mission to help companies opment. His customer-centered research includes theuse participation to spark innovation (from employees, marketing needs of small businesses and an ethnographiccustomers, and suppliers) and to accelerate decisions study of some of the world’s largest law firms. His systemand results. Previously, Jill was the director of acceler- and software experience ranges from development of aated innovation at Pitney Bowes, where she led a CEO- highly secure Internet application to an interactive mul-sponsored global innovation program to source ideas from timedia exhibit in the Smithsonian. He has a BS in Infor- mation Systems from Marymount-Fordham UniversityDOI: 10.5437/08956308X5405006 and holds over 20 U.S. patents. September—October 2011 190895-6308/11/$5.00 © 2011 Pitney Bowes, Inc.
  2. 2. tap the intellectual capital of their employees. These The community is called IdeaNet, and activity is struc-changes have prompted organizations to try different tured around online brainstorms, or “idea challenges,”technologies for collaboration, including blogs and which take place over a 3–4 week period and engagemicroblogging tools, wikis, virtual project rooms, and anywhere from 600 to 30,000 employees. Challenge topicsidea management systems. Sometimes these technologies are framed around real business issues and sponsored bysurvive and add value. Frequently, they fall into disuse. the business leader accountable for developing and im- plementing the solution. While challenges often target spe-Whether a technology persists or not depends on how cific employee groups, a fundamental principle of thewell it supports the work to be done and fits the corporate community is its emphasis on openness; therefore, mostculture. All too often, work is designed around technol- challenges are accessible to and visible by all employeesogy rather than the other way around. To build sustain- who visit the site. The expectation is that contributions willable communities, managers need to view technology as come from all employees, from frontline workers to middlean enabler and focus the effort on taking a participatory managers to senior leadership, including the CEO. Thisand iterative approach to build a system that reflects the participation model creates situations where a managerneeds and values of stakeholders at all levels in the orga- may act in the community as an idea contributor one day,nization. The key to success is a human-centered ap- and as a challenge sponsor on another day.proach. Methods from anthropology, design, and actionresearch can help managers to design systems that take In its first two years post-pilot, IdeaNet received close tointo account the way people actually work. 3,000 ideas posted to 52 idea challenges and generated a portfolio of 874 ideas adopted by the business units, rang-The Pitney Bowes Employee Innovation Community ing from quick-win process improvements to concepts nowrepresents an example of how managers can take advan- in longer-term development (Figure 1). While participa-tage of these new forms of collaboration and implement tion remained steady across both years, the second yeartechnology in a way that sticks. To create community saw fewer ideas adopted by project teams, a healthy resultat Pitney Bowes, the program team took deliberate steps to of a more refined focus in selecting ideas and a moreengage the participation of stakeholder groups across the realistic evaluation of the resources available to implementorganizational hierarchy. This involvement meant that ideas. As of December 2010, approximately 35 percentthe resulting community not only reflected the perspec- of those employees with daily access to the intranet hadtives of these very diverse groups, but also had shared participated in IdeaNet idea challenges, about 6,500 in-ownership. These factors enhanced the results and sustain- dividuals. In 2011, the community’s third year, 10 chal-ability of the program. lenges have been launched as of June; with just over 600The Employee Innovation Program ideas posted in response to these challenges, 2011 is ex- pected to match last year’s activity.Like many companies, Pitney Bowes realizes the bestthinking can come from anywhere in the organization, Designing an Innovation Communityand in 2008 the CEO set out a vision to engage employeesin innovation, specifically using an innovation community. From the start, the program team charged with the designThe idea surfaced in response to an internal audit of inno- and execution of the innovation community took a socio-vation and product-management practices that revealed technical systems perspective (Bansler 1989). This per-barriers to innovation across the enterprise. The mission spective acknowledges that technical systems do not standof the new Employee Innovation Program was to engage apart from human systems and that technology shouldall employees in innovation, to facilitate organic growth support work rather than work accommodating the tech-and process improvements, and to foster a culture of in- nology. Applied to the creation of the innovation com-novation through changes in behavior. munity, this stance meant that technology would make Figure 1.—Participation and idea uptake for IdeaNet idea challenges, 2009 and 2010 20 Research • Technology Management
  3. 3. up an important enabler of the community (via the webplatform), but that the most fundamental driver for sus-tainability was a design that combined an understanding The team aimed for aof the organizational culture with the dynamics of thehuman work system. In other words, the team aimed fora design driven by the organization’s needs and not the design driven bytechnology’s features or functions. In addition, the ap-proach was underpinned by the belief that workers are the organization’sexperts in what they do and should therefore be involvedin the design of their work. The team viewed workerparticipation as key to employee engagement because needs and not theparticipation enables people to find and create meaningin their work (Weisbord 2004). technology’sTo get broad participation in the design process, theteam used methods from the practice of participatory de-sign (PD). This approach elevates the importance of user features orparticipation in the design process, positioning the de-signer as a facilitator of a user-centered design process,rather than as a master architect of the solution. Tradi- functions.tionally, PD is concerned with the politics of design andwith the distribution of power in the workplace; PDapproaches to worker participation have been able toboth improve systems design (by accounting for the re- First, 25 interviews were conducted with managers andalities of work) and address issues of managerial control directors across the company, all the way up to the se-and workplace democracy (Kensing and Blomberg nior team. The purpose of this “innovation audit” was to1998). As the innovation community launched, Pitney explore interviewees’ experiences with starting and build-Bowes was in a time of transition. Having made a num- ing new products and services within the company, inber of business acquisitions in the recent past, the order to identify both impediments to innovation andcompany had a dynamic mix of corporate cultures. Fur- opportunities to improve the approach to innovationthermore, the CEO’s intention to reshape the company’s companywide. The data was analyzed using a frame-culture of innovation helped to get broad participation in work (Hansen and Birkinshaw 2007) that broke downthe design process. the innovation process from idea to implementation. The interviews revealed major organizational barriers to in-The methods used in the program design process— novation; for example, authority for taking an idea tocollaborative workshops, ethnographic interviews, and implementation was fragmented across individuals andinteractive activities—are drawn from multiple disci- functions, and the sharing of ideas and customer knowl-plines, particularly anthropology and design (Brown 2009). edge was limited by organizational silos. The audit alsoThe iterative nature of the design approach was inspired highlighted mechanisms that could better support inno-by PD as well as by the action research paradigm, in vation efforts within the company. The resulting conclu-which the researcher makes real-world interventions, sions underscored the urgency of the CEO’s mission toevaluates the results, and then repeats the process, taking engage employees and planted the seed for the innova-into account the information from previous iterations tion community.(O’Brien 1998). To achieve employee and managementcommitment along with program sustainability, the re- In the wake of the interviews, the program team ran asearch and design processes solicited participation from co-creation workshop with the company’s CEO Councilthree levels in the organization: senior management, em- (top 40 executives) to identify and address discontinui-ployees, and middle management. ties in vision and tactics for building an innovation com- munity. CEO Council members completed a survey priorInvolving Senior Management to the workshop, providing their views on the basic ele- ments of the proposed community. This feedback wasThe management perspective had the potential to inform incorporated into a mock-up description of the futurethe design in two important ways: (1) senior managers program. At their annual meeting, the members spent thehad a point of view about what would succeed within the afternoon in groups and worked through the mock-up inorganization and what barriers would need to be over- 90-minute breakout sessions, followed by a plenary dis-come, and (2) the commitment (or lack thereof) of se- cussion. The intent was not to reach consensus, but in-nior managers could make or break the community, so it stead to surface key assumptions and potential pitfallswas critical to understand their priorities. and to provide a forum for these leaders to contribute to September—October 2011 21
  4. 4. the design. With all units and functions represented, the A unique approach to oversight, prioritization of quicksession yielded important insight on what was needed to wins, and sponsorship of idea challenges all helped se-make innovation successful in the company. nior managers build a sense of ownership in the program. Senior managers actively shared in the process of de-The co-creation with managers surfaced a paradox: the signing a human system that would work with technol-management discipline traditionally emphasizes control, ogy to create the community.while open innovation requires managers to relinquishsome level of control. As part of their design recommen- Engaging Employeesdations, the CEO Council established the Enabling In-novation Group (EIG) as a unique oversight group to With the goal of incorporating into the community de-resolve this tension. This executive working team sign the motivations and needs of employees, we con-provided oversight but also served to champion the pro- ducted nearly 50 interactive interviews with individualsgram and encourage open participation from managers representing over 20 job functions and multiple businessthroughout the community. The work with managers re- units. Interviewees were asked about how innovationvealed a paradox: the management discipline tradition- occurs in their organizations. These ethnographic in-ally emphasizes control, while open innovation requires terviews also included a participatory activity in whichmanagers to relinquish some level of control. As part of employees used small cards on a board to design a ficti-their design recommendations, the CEO Council estab- tious community website. This tangible activity pro-lished the Enabling Innovation Group (EIG) as a unique vided employees with the ability to envision possibleoversight group to resolve this tension. This executive futures and provided the researchers with a richer dataworking team provided oversight but also served to set than interviews alone would have.champion the program and encourage open participation Insight from the employee research was codified in anfrom managers throughout the community. More than 30 “employee value proposition” that described the benefitsindividuals were nominated for membership in the EIG; that would motivate and sustain employee participation.10 directors and vice presidents were selected based on Employees were looking for a community that wouldspecific qualities, including their skills as coaches, influ- allow them toencers, and leaders who could create energy around in-novation. This visible and desirable assignment helped to • Connect with individuals across the organization, tocombat the perception of the community as another “pro- find employees with specific expertise and to buildgram du jour,” and the personal capital of these individu- groups around shared topics of interest;als lent the program credibility from the start. This teamcontributed to the program design, helped navigate inter- • Learn about innovative projects across the company;nal systems, and acted as spokespersons to leadership • Have a voice, be part of change, and exercise an abil-teams across the organization during the first year. By ity to influence things; andyear two, IdeaNet saw widespread adoption; this allowedthe EIG’s oversight role to be phased out and the group • Gain personal recognition for their be replaced by Innovation Champions who worked to Using the employee value proposition as a guide, theembed the community in the organizational culture. IdeaNet platform made accessible a wide variety of toolsAnother critical learning from the workshop was the im- to enhance access to information and provide opportuni-portance of demonstrating quick wins. Idea challenges ties to contribute. This included such social networkingwere designed with this criteria in mind. In late 2008, a tools as profiles and the capability for users to collabo-three-month pilot with 2,000 employees quickly demon- rate on ideas through commenting. The IdeaNet home pagestrated that idea challenges can serve as a call to action, established a sense of community by including space forsparking participation. Results of idea challenges func- such content as success stories, innovation event announce-tion as a fast and visible way to demonstrate quick wins. ments, challenge results, and recently posted ideas. This allowed employees to consume and contribute contentIdea challenges also serve as a way to foster senior lead- in brief, productive interactions. A daily digest e-mail toership engagement by giving managers ownership of interested subscribers compiled the previous day’s ideathe challenges. The CEO required each one of his direct submissions to make activity on IdeaNet visible and ac-reports to sponsor at least one idea challenge during the tionable even outside of the site, so that participants didyear, making participation by senior leaders mandatory. not have to navigate to the site to follow recent changes.Importantly, this charge established a metric that mea-sured behavior—idea challenges required leaders to be Further interviews after the three-month pilot revealedtransparent about their business challenges and to open that while employees are invested in their own ideas,discussion of possible solutions to a broader group of they cared less about getting personal feedback than theypotential contributors. These leadership behaviors are a did about knowing the overall challenge results. Partici-critical piece to help foster a culture of innovation. pants expected to see that the challenge had created 22 Research • Technology Management
  5. 5. value for the unit. This learning led the program team toestablish a challenge closing process to ensure that a deci-sion was made on every idea and communicated to the Participantsoriginal submitter. For ideas adopted by the sponsoringunit, a time frame, owner, and next steps were summa-rized in a multipage “Results Memo,” which was pub- expected to see thatlished on IdeaNet and via the corporate intranet.Post-pilot interviews also revealed that the majority of the challenge hademployees did not feel connected to the activity of in-novation, because they viewed innovation as a creative created value formoment of identifying a large, disruptive idea. To buildparticipation in the community, it was vital to broadenthe definition of innovation and to enable each employee the see him or herself as a potential contributor. Site con-tent was added to describe the roles employees could playin innovation—as submitters, commenters, or connectors—and additional communication reinforced this message. also initiated challenges or advocated to senior manage-Emphasis was placed on the broad scope of ideas that ment for the launch of a particular challenge. During theare valuable to the company, including everything from early idea challenges, the program team worked along-basic process improvements to new growth areas. side middle managers to actively guide business-unit chal- lenge teams in running effective challenges. WorkingOnce the community was active, the program team con- with these middle managers also provided a front-rowtinued to use participatory approaches with employees to seat to the realities of running the process and allowed theguide activities to fulfill the community’s mission. For program team to adjust the design based on work realities.example, midway through the first year the team hosted This flexibility proved hugely effective in ensuring aa day-long “Open Space” meeting focused on direction quality process that produced the kind of outcomes man-for the program’s second year. Open Space is an approach agers were driving for. It also enabled the program teamto conducting large meetings in which participants de- to make quick interventions if anything went off track.sign their own agenda by nominating and leading topics of To accomplish this ongoing collaboration, a role was es-their choice, within a predetermined overarching theme tablished for a “challenge architect” to work with spon-for the meeting (Bunker and Alban 1997). Over 50 of sors to translate their objectives into idea challenges andIdeaNet’s stakeholders and most-active users attended, shepherd challenge teams to get the most out of em-representing every business unit. The day included 23 ployee participants. This role is central to the iterativeparticipant-led discussions under the theme of “How can learning effort, as it serves as program eyes and ears onwe continue to enable employees to innovate at Pitney the business-unit challenge teams and supports theirBowes?” Each discussion produced clear recommenda- adoption of innovation practices. It also serves to main-tions for program improvements. In some cases the pro- tain process controls that have proven critical for elevat-gram team had to weigh employee preferences for new ing the probability of success for this new initiative.technical features against the ability of IdeaNet to sus-tain participation. In the first year, work with middle managers resulted in significant modifications to the program. The most im-Ensuring that the program was in tune with employee portant was building and refining the practice of framingmotivations and making employees co-creators were im- idea challenges around current business issues (VanGundyportant factors in sustaining engagement in the community 2005). At the outset of IdeaNet, sponsors tended to askand differentiating IdeaNet from other top-down initia- lightweight questions and to treat IdeaNet as an activitytives. This involvement, like that of senior management, separate from work they were doing to address theirdemonstrates that while the technology enabled parts of strategic objectives. Working closely with middle man-the design—such as publishing the results memos—the agers made it possible to move from this compartmen-importance of the technology was far second to the par- talized approach and position idea challenges as a toolticipatory design of the human system surrounding it. that could be used to address current business challenges and explore key strategic questions. The result of thisIncluding Middle Management shift was an evolution in the type of challenges that were issued. In the first year, the program team experimentedMiddle managers played a unique role in the community, to improve challenge outcomes and employee engage-since in addition to being participants, they reviewed, ment; year two saw fewer challenges, but these wereprioritized, and implemented ideas. In some cases they more closely linked with the business and more focused September—October 2011 23
  6. 6. on growth—reflecting the increasing comfort with using The make-up of the business-unit challenge teams haschallenges as a modality for approaching strategic innova- also evolved with experience. The process of running antion questions (Figure 2). effective challenge includes a team of four to five people from the sponsoring organization who post commentsOne excellent example of how challenges have come to on the site during the challenge and make decisionssupport innovation work is their use by one business about the ideas once the challenge closes. Early on, theseunit’s R&D organization. This team actively experi- teams were made up of stakeholders who represented themented with IdeaNet challenges and evolved them to perspectives of business functions relevant to the chal-function as the front end of their innovation pipeline. lenge. Over time, however, it became clear that theseEach challenge issued by the group addresses a strategic challenge teams also needed to include the individualsarea of opportunity, and all employees across the unit are who would have responsibility for acting on the ideas.invited to participate. Top ideas from these challenges are Frequently, employees post ideas that are not completelyreviewed by an executive committee within the unit, actionable; the ideas are not fully formed, may identifywhich makes decisions about further development. High only part of a solution, or are not well articulated. Theinvolvement—over 75 percent of all employees in the inclusion on the challenge team of individuals charged withunit participate—has contributed to the identification of implementing ideas gives these individuals the opportu-additional business opportunities for development. In ad- nity to comment on ideas, ask questions, or build outdition, the active engagement from this unit has informed ideas in collaboration with submitters.many of the companywide best practices for the program. In the third year, the challenge architect role itself has shifted, from working alongside individual middle man- agers to establishing a network of practitioners across the organization who shepherd challenge teams. The EIG, which provided strategic oversight and advocacy in year one, has now been replaced by these challenge practitio- ners, called “Innovation Champions,” who work to embed this innovation practice within the business units. Innova- tion champions have oversight of IdeaNet as a unit-level business tool; they facilitate challenges, track and report results, and build innovation practices within their units. Results The Pitney Bowes Employee Innovation Community was initiated to support organic growth and employee engagement as part of a renewed focus on the company’s culture of innovation. The program has demonstrated re- markable results on both fronts. The outcomes of idea challenges have increased the bottom line, contributed to strategy, impacted employee engagement, and created other intangible benefits. From an engagement perspective, employee participation has steadily increased over time, with particular success with customer-facing employees such as call center staff, service personnel, and salespeople. The annual employee engagement survey includes six questions on innovation and empowerment; scores on five of these questions in- creased 3–5 percent in the program’s first year, a statisti- cally significant movement. Employee engagement resulting from idea challenges is evidenced in very tangi- ble ways. For example, IdeaNet provided an opportunity for R&D personnel and technical fellows to engage in conversations across the organization and make connec- tions outside their own work groups. One idea posted by a developer in India related to an active project in the corpo- Figure 2.—Number and type of challenges, 2009 and 2010 rate R&D group. The R&D team was able to include this 24 Research • Technology Management
  7. 7. developer in project discussions and move quickly to pilot opportunities is projected at two or more years in thethe idea by working with his network in India. future (Figure 3). Of the 38 value-producing challenges, thus far, near-term actions emerging from 7 constituteFrom the perspective of building a culture of innovation, the majority of the $10 million in revenue and $320,000behavior change has also been visible, most notably in cost savings realized to date. Yet to be measured areamong middle managers. For middle management, sup- results from six other challenges, which include newport for innovation and the innovation community took products in development, as well as process or serviceshape as leaders stepping forward to use idea challenges improvements still in progress. The remaining 25 chal-as a business tool. Their willingness to demonstrate a de- lenges have produced a variety of intangible values, includ-sire for open collaboration—to make their business chal- ing increased customer satisfaction, increased employeelenges public and consider varying solutions—was a engagement, greater efficiency, and new training andsignificant new behavior. Another important cultural im- recognition programs. Ideas from some challenges werepact was an increase in cross-organizational collaboration, also incorporated into product roadmaps and other long-evidenced by cosponsored challenges in which business term strategic initiatives and business strategy.units shared responsibility for implementing ideas. Challenges produced value in diverse ways. For exam-Of the 52 challenges launched in 2009 and 2010, 38 pro- ple, a sales challenge resulted in three major actions thatduced value, either tangible (in the form of bottom-line contributed to a 23 percent year-over-year increase inimpact as cost savings or revenue gains) or intangible (in revenue. As the result of another challenge, a simple newthe form, for instance, of strategic value). Some value was protocol was instituted for call center agents that in-realized within the first two years; the time horizon for creased customer satisfaction scores by 10 percent andrealizing the value of longer-term or more complex was still maintained at this level a year later. In another Figure 3.—Value of IdeaNet challenges, 2009–2010 September—October 2011 25
  8. 8. instance, two challenges sponsored by international orga-nizations that were active at the same time enabled a ser-endipitous connection that yielded new service contracts. One lesson wasNot all challenges produce value, in particular becausechallenges require a balance between asking questions central:with enough uncertainty to warrant a challenge andframing narrowly enough to produce actionable ideas. Asignificant number of the early challenges served to im- implementingprove innovation practices, like that of framing the chal-lenge question. The overall percentage of challenges technology forwith limited results was 27 percent (14 challenges), al-though the percentage decreased from 38 percent in2009 to just 10 percent in 2010. Even these apparent collaborativefailures, however, must be seen as learning opportuni-ties. “Failed” challenges offer a window for sponsorsand senior management to reflect on what can be innovation islearned—either about the business space or the deci-sions to be made, even if there are no specific actions principally aboutresulting from the challenge itself.These outcomes illustrate the complexity of measur-ing results from innovation and represent the diversity designing for aof results managers can expect. At Pitney Bowes, asignificant driver of the effort was the CEO’s inten- human system;tion to focus equally on growth and fostering a cultureof innovation culture change. The actual return oninvestment of IdeaNet includes both tangible and in- technology istangible value generated across a time horizon ex-tending years out. Many actions, like those thatincrease customer satisfaction, are of significant im- secondary.port to the company but are difficult to assign a dollarvalue to. In addition, current actions underway repre- 1. Start from your context. Best practices are helpful,sent a portfolio of ideas with estimated future value but it is critical to consider the context of the organi-that has yet to be calculated. Finally, the community zational culture. Another organization’s practice oritself is now an important component of the compa- technology platform can’t be forced to fit your par-ny’s innovation architecture, achieving the CEO’s ob- ticular culture. The key to sustainability is the upfrontjective of engaging employees and fostering a culture work to understand the needs and barriers that areof innovation. unique to the organization.Lessons Learned 2. Design first, consider technology second. Estab- lishing an innovation community is not about procur-A number of factors contributed to the success of the ing a technology platform, but about designing aPitney Bowes Employee Innovation Program (see “Key socio-technical system that takes into account realSuccess Factors,” p. 27.). However, one lesson was cen- organizational dynamics.tral: implementing technology for collaborative inno-vation is principally about designing for a human 3. Plan for change. Build in the practice to monitor,system; technology is secondary. In the case of the learn, and modify as the community evolves, ideallyPitney Bowes Employee Innovation Program, the pro- in collaboration with stakeholder groups.gram team used participation from stakeholders at all 4. Recognize and accept failures as learning oppor-levels of the organization to build a community that ac- tunities. Even with the best design practices and par-complished the CEO’s intention for engagement and ticipation, failure must be accepted as a natural partgrowth, while also serving the unique needs of each of an evolutionary human system. Set aside time toconstituent group. Based on this example, managers reflect on what has been learned—but don’t over-can draw on a few key design principles when creating think it. Keep innovation community—or any system that requiresthe commitment of groups across organizational silos This effort was well served by good planning; how-or management hierarchy. ever, the planning, like the program itself, was dynamic 26 Research • Technology Management
  9. 9. Key Success Factors for an Enterprise Innovation Community Stakeholder involvement at all levels Participation should include senior managers as sponsors, mid-level managers as project leads and idea implementers, and all employees as contributors. The program should have a senior executive as sponsor. Pilot program before enterprise launch A pilot program provides the opportunity to test the approach by starting small and scaling. A good pilot program can help identify ways to overcome existing barriers to innovation and evolve the design prior to a formal launch. Value proposition for community members Understanding what will motivate participation in a specific organization is critical. Typical benefits include personal rec- ognition, networking across the organization, and contributing ideas that positively impact the company. Network of support To ensure long-term sustainability, the program should be owned by the entire organization (not a single unit) and include a network of champions to embed innovation practices in each unit of the organization. Transparency of results The practice of sharing results should mirror the open nature of the community and should include both quick wins and long-term work in development. Participants don’t expect that every idea will be implemented, but they do want to see the outcomes. Foundation in current business objectives Challenges should be focused on current business objectives, enabling them to become part of existing work supported by a ready-made team to execute ideas.and based on reflection-in-action (Schön 1983). The evolution. Also thanks to the engaged employees ofimperative for quick wins cannot supersede good plan- Pitney Bowes for continued participation and support ofning. In this case, the program team used visible action meet the need for quick wins at the same time thatthose actions created the space needed for deliberate Referencesplanning. Bansler, J. 1989. Systems development research in Scandinavia: Three theoretical schools. Scandinavian Journal of InformationConclusion Systems 1:3–20. Brown, T. 2009. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. New York:Innovation is inherently uncertain, and human systems are HarperCollins.dynamic. Building a sustainable innovation community Bunker, B. B., and Alban, B. T. 1997. Large Group Interventions:required the program team to gain authentic participation Engaging the Whole System for Rapid Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.from stakeholders and be open to evolving the program Hansen, M., and Birkinshaw, J. 2007. The innovation value to meet the unique needs of all groups. The team Harvard Business Review 85(6):121–130.did not approach the project as master architects, but Kensing, F., and Blomberg, J. 1998. Participatory design: Issues and concerns. Computer Supported Cooperative Work 7:167–rather followed the spirit of the participatory design notion 168.of the “designer-as-facilitator.” The result is a design that O’Brien, R. 1998. Um exame da abordagem metodológica da pesquisa açãouses technology as an enabler and is bounded but not con- [An Overview of the Methodological Approach of Action Research]. In Teoria e Prática da Pesquisa Ação [Theory and Practice of Actiontrolled. Striking this balance is not without its challenges, Research], ed. Roberto Richardson. João Pessoa, Brazil: Universidadeand the program team regularly considered where and Federal da Paraíba. (English version).∼robrien/how to intervene. The resulting community meets different papers/arfinal.html (accessed June 21, 2011). Schön, D. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionalsneeds at each level in the organization, but collectively it Think in Action. New York: Basic Books.clearly serves the interests of Pitney Bowes to drive VanGundy, A. B. 2005. The care and framing of strategic innovationgrowth and support a culture of innovation. challenges. The Wonderful World of Jeffrey Baumgartner, Innovation, September 29. authors would like to thank the teams, individuals and (accessed June 21, 2011). Weisbord, M. R. 2004. Productive Workplaces Revisited: Dignity,managers who supported the early research and contrib- Meaning, and Community in the 21st Century. San Franciso:uted to the program throughout pilot, launch, and ongoing Jossey-Bass. September—October 2011 27
  10. 10. In today’s business landscape, we consistently see that the best performing companies are the ones with a set of innovation capabilities. A key factor explaining why these organisations outperform their rivals is that they also ensure their innovation efforts are tightly aligned with their overall corporate strategy. INSEAD’s Strategic R&D Management programme will help you to view R&D from a strategic perspective and to build the tools to translate corporate strategy into innovation initiatives. 07 – 11 November 2011 in Fontainebleau, France Contact us: Tel: +33 (0)1 6072 9350 Email: Executive EducationIs your R&Daligned with yourcorporate strategy?