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Live from FEI 2013: Delony Langer-Anderson and Cristin Moran on Finding the Next Big Idea in the Corporate Jungle

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As Delony Langer-Anderson & Cristin Moran of 3M talked about how their company went looking for big ideas in a large firm, there were a slew of interesting ideas and suggestions for instituting an innovation program in a company.  But the most important theme that kept arising was putting the personal touch on innovation endeavors.

Delony and Cristin headed a small team that started inviting prototypes in attempt to address a particular problem.  The innovation blitz that followed was structured typically, but once the prototypes were submitted, it was a whole new program.

While the originating team planned to go through and evaluate the prototypes in a few days, they realized that it was critical to give each prototype its due diligence.  To do this, "We took that whackadoodle prototype...and we dug down layer by layer to find the nugget the [inventors] were trying to show us."  The team employed four key principles to guide the judging:

-Respect -- treat every submission as a solid attempt to provide a solution
-Open mind -- be open to anything
-Benefit of the doubt -- trust that every submission is valuable and has potential
-Dig until you find it -- the value of the prototyped product may not be immediately obvious

Ultimately, every single entry was acknowledged with a hand-written note, which is incredibly encouraging and respectful of the time that everyone invested.  While many corporations root innovation endeavors in competition, and acknowledge only the winners, this falls short of recognizing the role of failure, the efforts of those whose prototypes were not chosen, and the valuable insights that come from each and every prototype.  By giving personal recognition to each participant, Delony and Cristin built engagement, and kept innovators primed to recognize that their insights are valuable to the firm.  In doing so, they finished with a bang and had, not just successes and solutions, but a path to future innovation.

Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

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