What is Innovation Week?
Perhaps you’ve heard the term ‘Innovation Week’ lately, and your interest was piqued. Perhaps you’ve noticed that some of your favorite brands value innovation; heck, perhaps you’ve even felt that through your interactions with those brands. Innovation is critical to the success of nearly any endeavor; from nonprofits looking to expand a donor base or make a greater impact, to businesses needing to access customers in a new way during wild times, to professional service providers who are looking to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Around the world independent companies like ours, educational campuses, cohorts looking to solve big world problems or ideate a new path forward in a traditional industry all have one thing in common: holding an Innovation Week.
In this post, we’ll define what Innovation Week means to us, and share the best practices that have worked for Siren during our now four years of creating an Innovation Week experience.
What is Innovation Week?
Innovation Week is a protected time and space for a group to focus on innovation for the future success of its mission. During an Innovation Week, the typical parts of a day are designed out to create a fresh canvas for creativity, reflection, and ideation. Often being in a different space and with an understanding that the days spent in Innovation Week won’t include the typical things you do – like run meetings, reply to emails right away, or take client calls – and will include a specific agenda designed to foster innovation and solve challenges, fine-tune processes, and create a stronger team.
Why is Innovation Week Important?
For the health of your company and the relationships of your people, Innovation Week can be a game-changer. Let’s begin with the team that participates in Innovation Week (hint: this should be your entire team!).
- For the team, your investment in their growth, your deep interest in their viewpoints and contributions, and your invitation for them to enjoy free time along with team building can create a stronger bond and a renewed sense of creativity.
- For the company, Innovation Week can bring space where solutions to challenges emerge, the path to profit is fine-tuned, systems are designed or even built, and alignment for what your customer experience needs to be is clarified and achieved.
According to Josh Linkner in his book ‘Road to Reinvention,’ “Reinventing your team and culture can deliver breakthrough results.” Linkner’s book, in part, inspired Siren’s Innovation Week four years ago. In it, he discusses the Australian-based software company Atlassian, which hosts Innovation Days multiple times a year.
A key takeaway should be that Innovation Week has to work for those involved- it doesn’t have to be 100% comfortable but it does have to work. Considering a day instead of a week? Ponder that for sure and don’t rule it out; but don’t settle there unless you’re sure it’s all you need and all your company can withstand. Considering what you’d even cover? Ask your customers and team members for honest feedback to see where there are bumps to smooth out and begin there. Considering how you’d pull it off? Creativity wins here, and luckily, Innovation Week doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive.
Innovation Week should challenge everyone – organizers and participants – and it should bring results that would have otherwise not come forth, or taken way longer to make their way to the surface. The acceleration of innovation during the protected time makes pushing through the concerns well worth your while.
3 Tips and Reminders for Innovation Week
Build the time and space, with plenty of advanced notice.
First things first, and that’s blocking out time and space on calendars to pull off your own Innovation Week. When is your industry in a down time? Is there a certain month or quarter that seems lighter than others? We suggest you narrow it down to two possible weeks and search for accommodations (if your Innovation Week will be fully off-site) and communicate the expectations around it to your team with as much notice as possible. Will they be invited to stay off-site? For how long? Will they be expected to arrive in a non-typical spot for non-typical hours? Communicate clearly and then start blocking calendars. Don’t forget to also communicate to your clients or others who’ll be impacted by your Innovation Week (this can happen with less notice than the team; ideally a month out).
Build the agenda, with plenty of insights and discipline on what to tackle.
What will your company benefit from most? A refined onboarding process for clients? A clearer path to profit? A stronger team culture? When building the agenda, it’s a great idea to look at recent feedback or to request fresh feedback from both your team and your clients. But beware, focusing on too many different things or areas can make for a hectic and nonproductive time, so stick to a number that’s reasonable for the time you’re taking (example: one big issue or two smaller issues per day).
Build the experience, with plenty of time for both innovation and down time.
Think back to the best conference ever. Did it include a bike tour of the city that hosted the event? An amazing keynote speaker you still get chills thinking about? A workshop that cemented a habit that enhanced your productivity? Pull inspiration from those experiences into the Innovation Week you’re designing. Consider your team’s preferences, too. Do they love to enjoy Happy Hour? Are they avid hikers? With the different muscles you’ll be asking them to flex contributing creativity to areas of your company that they don’t usually spend time on, remember to counter balance that with some fun and down time (however that may look for your team).
Hosting an Innovation Week can be an absolute game-changer for your company or nonprofit. It can strengthen your team and systems and bring alignment to your offerings. It can foster deeper relationships and new product ideation. Your company and your team will benefit from the protected time and space to be together and the contributing of the solving of challenges. In building your first Innovation Week, we suggest you start where you can, with what you have, and watch the magic unfold.
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