How do you get innovation out of people whose job is not innovation thereby generating the most meaningful innovation. Most of us think how do we inspire our design team, our coders, or even our consultants. These groups all are expected to innovate and I’ll admit to mixed results. It seems to be bell shaped curve on these teams where a few are always innovative, most are sometimes innovative, and a few that seem to be allergic to innovation and think mobile phones are a fad.
I met my friend, eBay‘s Innovation Leader, Bala (http://linkd.in/1welbjf) before I flew out of San Jose, CA and we had a wonderful discussion on innovation. Even if I didn’t care about innovation, and I do strongly, watching Bala talk about innovation is a delight because he lights up with energy. His idea is not to make innovative teams innovative, but to make the whole world innovative. The only requirement is you have an idea and he will even help you find that!
He holds a series of workshops to help groups or companies innovate. He has a multi-step process that draws the potential innovators and resources along a flowing stream until the idea becomes real. He makes it easier for non-techies to join the process. I’ll point out a few steps, but I’m including a link to his non-profit company’s web, Innovationbala, site so you can dig in further.
Play-a-thon: In this step, Bala and team, bring in lots of the latest gadets, gizmos, and software where everyone is invited to play with all the “stuff”. People, even non-techies, can play and try all the cool stuff in the market ranging from robots, to designer computer boards, to software development tools in a non-threatening environment..
Date-a-thon: In this step, idea holders are paired with many developers in speed dating model to find their ideal team. Not sure speed dating works for finding true love, but it does seem to work for finding your true team and again gives non-technical people an opportunity to get in on innovating Silicon Valley style.
Shark-a-thon: This is more of corporate commitment step, but each team pitches its idea to a team of SVP’s who can elect to sponsor the idea. What is cool about eBay is that if you are on team that gets sponsored, you are now given 4 months off your current job, no questions asked, and put on the team to deliver the idea.
There is lots more at innovationbala (http://www.innovationbala.com/) if you’d like to see the whole process.
Overall, I’m impressed by the commitment of eBay–PayPal, and hopefully to both companies post split up, to their culture of innovation. I suspect a lot has to do with Bala’s commitment and vitality he brings to the topic. Now I have to challenge myself, what am I going to do to make my company more innovative?