Why Changing the Culture Helps Businesses Innovate

By David Quinlan

If there is one takeaway from my journey into the world of innovation, it’s that truly successful innovation requires courage and the willingness to let go of uncertainty. 

Welcome back to the Innovators Academy – a behind-the-scenes, unscripted backstory of what it means to be innovative and how an organization like Better Business Bureau can make it happen. For the past month our cohort had two jobs – ideate and identify waste. 

And by waste, I mean duplicated processes, inefficiencies and bottlenecks – the processes that plague instead of propel good intentions. For our team of innovators, waste was surprisingly not hard to find, and the solutions on how to correct them came pouring in. 

“We couldn’t write ideas down fast enough,” one innovator described.

Over the course of four full weeks, Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific collected more than 1,000 ideas and uncovered nearly a half-million dollars of waste; that’s more than an idea an hour and $10 for every minute that month.


Change the mind, change the game 

I mean, don’t get me wrong – generating a thousand ideas and uncovering areas of waste is a huge feat, but taking it to the next level will be even more challenging. 

It will require a change in mindset. 

“If we’re not willing to make a change – then nothing will get done,” explained Ron Price, a business advisor and executive coach.

Let’s face it – ideas are personal and exploring them without judgment is crucial. We faced this issue when the cohort went back into the organization to collaborate and collect ideas. At first some people were reluctant to participate – questioning the purpose and fearing rejection. 

But overtime people put aside the negativity and began to think creatively, understanding the fact that we can’t always solve problems with logic. 

By the end there was a paradigm shift, and the mindset began to change. Most notably – some of the best collaboration came from an unlikely person eventually spurring creativity and value.


Who’s got an idea?  

As noted in the Innovators Advantage, ideas are the cornerstone of innovation. The more ideas we generate, the more successful we will be. We fail when we run out of ideas. 

Plastered on the walls across our multiple offices you’ll find giant strips of paper with people’s ideas and suggestions on how to make BBB better. Everyone is encouraged to write down their thoughts without judgment. Some groups in our cohort even held lunches and bribed people with free pizza to get them to participate and ideate. 

I know, I know…. this all sounds a bit chaotic. Rapid-fire idea collecting that does not necessarily solve a specific problem or task. Well, that’s on purpose. During this stage of innovation, idea quantity matters just as much quality. It’s an important first step in changing the culture by letting everyone in the organization know that all ideas are welcome! 

It’s the next step when we really start to narrow in. 


Scamper anyone?

So here we are with all these ideas – including some really off the wall ones – wondering what in the world do we do now. Over the course of the next 30 days, our cohort is tasked to narrow down the idea pool of 1,000 and develop three challenge statements to bring back to the organization and our customers. 

The goal is to start asking the “right” questions around each challenge statement to help us come up with alternative ideas. Basically – come up with more ideas around solving a specific problem. That’s where Scamper comes in. 

And no, I’m not talking about adorable baby animals – instead I’m referencing a model developed in 1971 by a real smart guy named Bob Eberle. The SCAMPER Model is part of the design process that helps us ask different questions around the same problem. 

I’ll let you know how that goes after the innovators meet in person later this month; in the meantime check out the SCAMPER Model to learn more.


Let’s Recap

In summary – innovation starts with a change of mindset. Collect as many ideas as you can, build trust within your organization and then narrow your focus. 

  • Ideas are personal; push judgment aside
  • The more ideas generated, the more successful we will be as innovators
  • To generate ideas we need to ask the right questions
  • SCAMPER to your heart’s delight

The innovation journey has only just begun for those of us at BBB. With the goal of creating new value for our organization and customers, our team of innovators is passionate to make it happen. 

Where it takes us is anyone’s guess.

Until next time – keep innovating and keep disrupting.