I recently ran part one of a two day company-wide Innovation Day series at The Digital Picnic, and when I tell you I got home from work that night with my cup completely full? … it wasn’t just full, but overflowin’.
I loved seeing our quieter folk speak up, and take up space, and holding the “mic” a little more. I loved seeing our organisational leaders take a back seat [myself included] because the floor is generally ours in weekly management meetings … and so it was important to hear from others, and that’s exactly what happened. It was incredible to see the level of hunger within my team that I knew existed anyway, but hasn’t always had the forum to exist so visibly until it was made possible via our recent innovation day [with more to come].
When I posted snippets of the day online? … I received 72 DM’s asking if I could share how I brought the day together, and perhaps even include an agenda. And the answer is yes. Of course. I want you to bring together something similar for your business/respective teams [keep in mind that solopreneurs can absolutely run an innovation day for their solo selves, also].
I wanted to invite you to discover how I orchestrated an Innovation Day for my team, fostering creativity and collaboration while encouraging a culture of innovation. In this blog, I’ll share valuable insights and practical tips to help you plan and execute your own [incredibly impactful] Innovation Day.
First? I got honest with myself
… in that, this is the first [ever] company-wide innovation day TDP has ever had. And it’s also the first company-wide innovation day I’ve run. So from the beginning, I surrendered to the fact that it wouldn’t be perfect … and I expect to hear feedback from my team regarding where the day could have been better etc. [as per anything innovation day-related? Timing is so hard, and we ran out of time towards the end of the day at a point where it could have been really beneficial to have 30-45’ish minutes more. #lessons].
Then? I read the room
The irony of an Autistic woman lecturing y’all on the importance of “reading the room” is not lost on me [actually, I just about wheeze-larfed as I typed out the above title, “read the room”] … but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you how important is is to read a room on an innovation day: both before it kicks off, and during.
Before our Innovation Day kicked off, I ran a company-wide cultural pulse-check to see where we were doing well, as well as where there is significant room for improvement … and that “read of the room” was so beneficial for me before I rolled into the day. Actually, it helped me to really land on the x2 themes for the day: improving efficiencies and inefficiencies and future-proofing the business.
The second room I had to read was on the day, i.e it’s one thing to have an agenda [which I had, and it was tight and strict] … but the moment I realised we needed more time allocated to x, y and z on the day? I knew that I immediately had to drop x1 extra component I’d built into the day [and that’s ok].
From there? I set the stage
To kickstart your Innovation Day, you’ll want to clearly define the objectives, scope, and theme of your Innovation Day[s]. Communicate the purpose and benefits to your team, fostering excitement and participation. You’ll also want to create a dedicated planning committee to ensure diverse perspectives and a maximisation of engagement on the day.
Admittedly, I didn’t have a huge planning committee prior to day one [nor any committee at all] … and that’s only because I wanted to own day one, and open the floor to our management team/senior management team for day two [and they’re pumped, and so am I].
Having “read the room” before getting to the ‘setting the stage’ part? I knew we needed to connect as a team, and that was based off of what I’d read prior [and have been reading for a while now] around particular dysfunctions within my team relating to an absence of trust.
Spoiler alert? I could literally see trust building between my team [and in some parts? Rebuilding] on the day of this innovation day, however it goes without saying that we have a long way to go.
And then? We got into ideas generation mode
I prioritised idea generation activities to stimulate creativity [we had a “Shark Tank” activity where folx broke into their respective teams/departments and collaborated on x1 Shark Tank idea that they then had to pitch to senior management. The prize? The winning pitch would get up, with full budget allocated to it].
To help with the ideas generation component of your own innovation day[s], you’ll want to consider techniques like brainstorming sessions, mind mapping, or design thinking exercises. I also made sure that I encouraged team members to pair their big ideas with the themes of the day … but to also try not to put a lid on their creativity and strategy and go “all in” with their wildest ideas. Finally? I made sure we were providing a collaborative platform to capture and refine concepts.
P.S? If you have a really creative team, hold a safe space for them. Creative folk are renowned for perfectionism, so I made sure my team were made to feel like no idea would be unwelcome … and that they were sharing their ideas in a truly safe space.
After that? We selected the best ideas
Our senior leaders evaluated and selected the most promising ideas generated during the Innovation Day. We used criteria that aligned with TDP’s goals and objectives. We’re a really small business, so I would normally say that if you were at a point where you’re selecting “best ideas”? … you’d want to engage in a diverse group of stakeholders in the decision-making process, ensuring a well-rounded selection that represents different perspectives.
Admittedly, due to our small’ness, I don’t know that we’re quite there with a “diverse group of stakeholders” … but we did our absolute best with our small business small’ness.
Then? We prepare to develop action plans
This is day two of our Innovation Day series.
Why? Because our first Innovation Day this year was a big lesson in how important it is to dedicate one entire day to ideation, and another to action [if you can combine the x2 into x1 day? … my hat off to you. #lol].
We can’t, so we allocate one day to ideation … and another to action.
When our day two arrived, we’ll be transforming selected ideas into actionable plans. We’ll be assigning responsibilities, setting realistic timelines, and establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success. My tip? You’ll want to encourage cross-functional collaboration and empower team members to take ownership of their respective tasks to really feel like your ideas are actually becoming actions [and not remaining on $70 expensive, oversized notepads from Officeworks. #lol].
Then? The fun [and transformative] part: implementation and follow up
This is where you’ll want to be executing the action plans, leveraging resources effectively and monitoring progress closely. To do this? You’ll want to foster a supportive environment, as well as promoting knowledge sharing and open communication across your team. I’ll also be making sure we provide regular updates and recognise achievements in order to to maintain motivation and momentum, because I never want my team to think they’ve been pulled into innovation days with no tangible [and obvious] impacts off the back of their innovative efforts.
Soul destroying stuff, that.
Finally? You evaluate and iterate
After the Innovation Day projects are completed, you’ll want to evaluate their outcomes and impact. Collect feedback from your team members to identify areas of improvement, as well as celebrating successes. I know when I do this? I’ll be using the insights gained to refine future Innovation Day initiatives.
FYI? We plan to run our Innovation Day[s] on a quarterly basis, company-wide.
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More of a visual learner and want to visually see my Innovation Day agenda? Slide into my DM’s on IG, and I’ll flick you the PDF.