This blog is about thinking BIG. I hosted “The Summit” and you might ask, what is the Summit? The Summit was my BIG thought. Let me explain…
Last year I got involved in one of those “Corporate feel good” teams, tasked with the job of bringing innovation into our corporate culture. This is about the time when many of you will probably roll your eyes and laugh at the insanity of corporate America. Seriously, how do you bring innovation into a corporate culture?
The way I attempted to do it was by heading the workshops sub team and planning lunch & learn sessions with a focus on teaching innovation and creative thinking tools and panels to showcase our most innovative contributors. But I wanted to do more. I wanted to use these tools to actually solve a real problem that we were facing. That’s how the idea of the Summit came about.
Our organization has been trying to enter a space in drug development that has proven to be rather difficult. There is little precedent for it, and it is unlikely to be successful using our current drug development pathways. In order to be successful, we will need to change the paradigm. So far, we know what will not work, but we are yet to figure out what will work. We will have to be creative, take some risks, and make some mistakes in order to succeed. Yet, we are committed to enter this space.
This, I thought, is a perfect problem for an innovation workshop. The creativity doesn’t stop here. This is also a time of budget constraints thanks to our economy, and I work in a fairly conservative corporate culture (thus the need for an innovation team). How could I convince the leadership to invest in this effort?
At first, I was really excited about my idea. You know how that goes: “I can do this and then I can do that.” You start to think about all the different aspects on how to build an idea, you ask questions, you talk to others, they add ideas, and it gets bigger and better.
At some point, though, you have to go from thinking to actually planning. When I got to that point, the reality of the challenge dawned on me — I started to procrastinate. I would take longer to put ideas into paper, push meetings farther out, and really doubting whether I could pull it off.
One of the most intimidating pieces was knowing that I would have to go in front of the Senior Leadership with my proposal and be able to request approval, including funding. That required that I point out what was not working (telling them where they were failing) and why my solution would be better (I’m smarter than you).
Then, it happened. Another team presented a plan related to my idea and, while it was well received, the senior team acknowledged that there was no overall strategy. I felt the time had come to move forward with a proposal of developing that strategy through an Innovation Summit. I prepared my plan and, totally terrified, presented the proposal to the senior leadership. To my surprise, they loved it!
What has become apparent since that time is that the easy part, getting the approval, was done and the work is really starting now. After putting together a very successful event that was well received, we came out with some great ideas to move forward. I was asked to take the leadership on the entire effort of implementing that strategy.
The next steps will be to build on those ideas, ask questions, talk to others who will add their ideas, and the plan will get bigger and better. At some point, though, we will have to stop thinking and start implementing and the cycle will start all over again. Nonetheless, this time, I’ll know that it is OK to think BIG.