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Creating a Culture of Innovation

Creating a culture of innovation is no easy task.  Truthfully, creating a culture of anything isn’t an easy task!  But some things are more critical than others for what they mean to your culture.  As we’ve unpacked before… innovation is far more a process than a skillset.  This is important, especially if your goal is to create a culture of innovation because you can scale a process (but it’s difficult to scale skillset with limited human resources).  


Before we talk specifically about innovation culture, it’s probably best to start with understanding and having some agreed upon idea about organizational culture in general.  Let’s give this some definition or at least some talking points.

  • Co-Owned - people in your organization feel ownership and it’s not centralized with a person or a team

  • Repetative - the action or manifestation of that cultural idea is being repeating and lived out in various forms in your organization

  • Catalyst - there are core catalytic events and moments for bringing/driving this culture to life

  • Stewardship - there are dedicated people to “own” this cultural mandate and help see if become part of the overall organization


So then we dive into innovation culture and what makes that unique.  Innovation culture is when an organization embraces a standard process approach to help solve organzational problems.  It’s what happens when there’s a discipline to allow an objective process to help flush out better ways to solve a problem (than one person carrying that weight on themself).  Let’s give this some more talking points as well.

  • Branding - give your process, space, and team a name - something that makes this unique to your organization

  • Dedicated Space - creation of a dedicated space to lead and facilitate innovation sessions

  • Defined Process - refining the innovation (or design thinking) processes to clarify your organization’s version and vernacular

  • Campaigns - starting with strong campaigns to get others on board, initiating early innovation sessions, and educating people

  • Facilitators - building a team of trained facilitators from across the organization


Lastly, it’s important to give people the opportunity to engage and leading them to how to make that step of engagement.  While there are many ways to engage, here are three recommendations.  

  • Participate - give people the opportunity to sign up and be a team member of an upcoming innovation 

  • Submit - give team leaders the ability to submit innovation concepts for their team to have an innovation facilitated

  • Facilitate - request to be trained as a facilitator to learn the skillset and be on your roster of facilitators


In short, creating a culture of innovation is a discipline of activity and steadiness over time to see your process well leveraged for the betterment of organization.  Add to our list here and get started creating your own culture of innovation!


Cause Machine Solutions

Here at Cause Machine, we help organizations solve complex community engagement problems/questions.  We use these disciplines of innovation ourselves in our own development process and have helped lead many organizations throught their own process of innovation discovery.  Leveraging the Cause Machine platform for engaging your community helps you be confident that the foundations of this platform are built on time-tested best practices of great processes like innovation and design thinking.  Schedule a demo today!

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The Four Keys to Unlocking Facilitation

Facilitation can seem like the daunting task of leading people through a meeting, discussion, or process.  Truth is… it was (and sometimes still is) very intimidating for me as well.  Some people are naturally gifted as facilitators but what I’ve learned in this over decades of facilitating countless sessions is that the best facilitators have a toolbox they leverage to help guide a group to a determined goal.  I would like to unpack a number of these tools with you to help you better engage groups that you might lead.


The Golden Rule of Facilitation

Before we dig into some of these tools, I do need to stop and address one thing… your single most important goal as a facilitator.  Stop for a moment and think about this principle.


Great facilitation leads to commitment, never consensus


I still remember the day my mentor in all of this explained to me this principle.  I also can point to every successful facilitation to an alignment with this principle and the many failures of misalignment.  Basically, you just can’t lead a group of people to a consensus, and truthfully, you don’t need to.  That’s a myth and it’s going to consume your time and energy.  But if you lead a group to commitment, then you can keep driving the overall plan and everyone has had a voice in that puzzle.  


Tips and Tricks to Facilitation

  • Set Expectations - give everyone the opportunity to pour out their personal expectations and what they hope to get from the session.  Come back to these expectations throughout your time together and check-in to see if the overall process is meeting their expectations.  Also, guide the expectations that aren’t in alignment with the overall session goals - explain to people how that’s a good expectation but not one you’ll tackle in this session.  And for expectations that didn’t feel fully met in the end, be sure to have a plan to follow up on those expectations after your time together.  

  • Have a Structure - I’ve heard that meetings with six or fewer people don’t need much structure but the minute you’re over six people, you need a structural plan.  I certainly agree with this idea… the larger the group the more structure is needed.  So as you enter a meeting, or leading a facilitated session, have a structure for what you hope to accomplish: the flow, how each piece works, time frame, expectations, interactive components, etc.  Your structure will set you up for success.  And for example, something like an innovation will flow like this: Discovery, Brainstorming, Clustering, Sketching, Prototyping, and Presentations.  This is just one structure model - the point is that you have one predefined.  

  • Set Rules of Engagement (ROE) - there are so many ways we could engage in a meeting, we just need to know what the rules of engagement are for each type of session.  People will go where you lead them… you just need to lead them.  You need to set ROE for what to contribute, what not to contribute, how to engage, what happens if you get off course, etc.  For example, in a brainstorming session, you would instruct people to write one idea per sticky note, write with a Sharpie, say their ideas out loud, explain it’s okay to have repeated and instruct them that criticism isn’t allowed.  Simple ROE like this sets everything up for better success.  

  • Guide People - yeah, it’s simple, but people need guidance and they need you to lead them to the end goal.  The end goal isn’t what you’re going to produce… it’s what they produce and it’s following the process to help get you there.  But they need (and the process needs) a guide to lead people to that goal.  Facilitation could really be simplified into one word… guidance.  This is the privilege and responsibility you have as the facilitator.  


Well, there are many more, but there was a good start on some of those tips and tricks that make a world of difference in how you facilitate a session.  


Cause Machine Solutions

Here at Cause Machine, we help facilitate strategy and innovation sessions for many types of community engagement strategies - it’s part of what we do, believing that community engagement is a mix of strategy and technology.  We hope these articles will help you better build your community engagement plans.  Schedule a demo today!

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5 Reasons to Refine Your Community Engagement Strategy

So why do we innovate?

I believe we innovate because it’s part of our design and in some ways, why we were created.  Now, I don’t know where you land on the origin of man, but I believe there is an undeniable divine imprint on all of us.  And that divine imprint is from a Creator who has instilled the same characteristics in each of us.  That’s my reason for believing we should all create and innovate.  What’s yours?  We all need our reasons for why we exist and why we engage as we do.  


1. We innovate to make things better

There is nothing around us that couldn’t use to be bettered in some way.  Regardless if you see yourself as a creative or innovative person, we all believe and see that things have this mandate to get better as time moves along… health, healthcare, technology, mechanics, transportation, and so much more.  Innovation helps make things better and creates an intentional process and/or time to seek to make things better.


2. We innovate to try new things

Many times innovations fail… that’s okay.  It’s the trial and effort that count the most.  Innovation is a means to try new things, test them, adjust, and retest.  Have you seen any of the stories of SpaceX and how they built rockets?  While Boeing was spending multiple times the expense of SpaceX to run computer simulations, SpaceX was testing real rockets over and over… with many failures.  In the end, SpaceX created the rocket faster, spent less money, and sent people to space.  Innovation is all about trying new things.


3. We innovate because it’s a burn within us

There’s a burn within almost all of us to innovate, try new things, or at least, consume new things.  Yes, there’s that whole bell curve of product consumption, but for the most part, most people have a burn within them for “the new”.  That burn is just part of who we are and part of what sets humans apart… the sleepless nights spent thinking about what could be.  This is true of products, experiences, programs, and much more.


4. We innovate because things become stale

Let’s face it… things get old.  They always do.  It’s like gravity… as soon as something is created, it’s getting old.  I heard something say one time about technology if you wait to launch until it’s perfect you’ve launched too late.  It’s true… and we need to be focused well on how and when to cycle out the old and bring in the new.  Now, a caveat here, is that make sure that the foundational principles remain the same… it’s the methodologies that change.  Read more about this principle here.


5. We innovate because it allows us to work together

Innovation is a collective/collaborative process that allows us to work together to build better solutions.  Innovation brings us together and allows us giftings to sing in harmony with each other to see a solution created that no individual could create on their own.  It’s a magical way to see a group bond together around a common goal and challenge.  


There are countless reasons why we innovate.  What are your reasons?

Cause Machine Solutions

Innovation is in our DNA at Cause Machine.  We are continually refining our platform and working to design innovative solutions for you and your community engagement.  Schedule a demo today!

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The Six Stages of Innovation

Many times we think of innovation as a gifting that certain people have.  We think of Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Einstein, and others… which just leads most of us to think we don’t have that special “gene”.  While there are some people who are exceptionally gifted to innovate and think outside the box, there’s also a process that all of us can use to solve problems and innovate toward a better solution.  


In the past several decades, several pioneers have navigated a path to build processes that have helped countless people work through an innovation process.  This largely began with David Kelley, the founder of IDEO.  Since those early years, others have adopted the process, changed pieces, and renamed things (ex: Stanford University, Google, etc.), but all the while continued the legacy of leading innovation.


Key Principle: Innovation is far more a process than a personal gifting.


So what does that mean for me on a practical level?  Do you ever find yourself working on a project feeling stuck?  Do you ever feel like a project should have more input from others?  Do you have projects that just feel so epic that you’re intimidated by them?  If yes for any of those questions then there’s a good chance an innovation can help you.  Look at this process as a good friend who is going to help you navigate a path to a better solution.  And the amazing part of running an innovation… you’re basically guaranteed a better solution on the other side of the process.  So let’s take a moment to talk through the stages of the innovation process.



The first stage is setting the foundations for your project.  You start by building your scope which includes things like your problem statement, defined WIN, the team to participate, how long of an innovation, what Discovery voices to invite, and general logistics.  Strong scope development helps set up the innovation event for success.  



The innovation session begins with what we call Discovery.  This is where you look outside the world of what’s common for you and your team.  Here you explore what others are doing that are outside your industry but who have enough crossover to make you scratch your head and consider ideas from outside.



Here we move to more internal thoughts and perspectives on how to address the core problem/project.  This stage walks a group through 12+ “buckets” of strategic thought that are helping to equip the working group to help solve the problem.  This interactive stage allows for mass contribution to specific points of your future plan.



Next we move into a phase where you allow each participant to sketch out a few models for how they would see solving this project.  We’re always working toward tangible models and visual representations of the strategy.  This stage allows individuals to express and share ideas and then presents an opportunity for group members to vote on which bring the most clarity and direction to the project.  



The final major stage is where the whole group is broken into two core teams to build prototype projects.  Think arts and crafts projects with supplies from Hobby Lobby and Office Depot… seriously.  The goal here is to create some solution to the core problem that’s a creative approach to the problem statement.  



Once prototypes are complete, the two teams give a short presentation of their prototype and field questions from the other team.  This phase helps flush out the two proposed solutions and gives the innovation owner two working models that could be used to solve their core problem (the owner leaves the innovation with the task to compile those two models and create the blended solution that meets their core problem).  


And that’s it… it’s really that simple!  Now there are all sorts of nuances to the process and how to facilitate these sessions well but this is the basic construct for what an innovation looks like.  These sessions are excellent to help you dig into those more complex problems, seek the council of others, and come up with solutions better than you probably could construct on your own… or at the least, put a lot more “meat on the bones” of what you’ve already created.


Cause Machine Solutions

Cause Machine is a platform created to help you better engage your audience.  We share blog posts like this to encourage community leaders to work through processes like an innovation to discover how better to engage community members.  One of our core principles at Cause Machine is that your strategy should always drive your technology.  Our hope is that you have great rhythms to better engage your audience, like hosting innovation sessions.  And then we would love to see you bring those engagement plans to life on Cause Machine.   Schedule a demo today!


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The Four Questions to Assess Technology Need

Ah, the great question of when, where, and how… or even why to use technology.  So obviously, we’re a technology company but I hope you can hear us loud and clear… the greatest desire in our technology is that it moves people AWAY from the community and INTO relationships with other people.  We really do believe that technology is a means to strengthen your community, it’s not the end goal.  So let’s tackle these one at a time.


Why should we leverage technology in our community?  For Scalability

The most significant reason is to allow technology to allow you to scale and grow your reach, impact, community, and engagement.  It’s a tool and when used properly, it can help accelerate the work you’re doing.  You know on Mario Kart where your car drives over those arrows on the group and it propels your vehicles faster ahead?  Well, that’s the picture you should have for what technology does for you.  


How should you leverage technology?  For Better Member Experience

There are so many ways to leverage technology but where I want to focus our attention is to challenge you to leverage technology in the space where it betters the experience for your community member.  There are all kinds of backend systems you could leverage and those are the ones your business will lean to adopt.  But your leadership must guide the ship to find tools that better the overall experience for your members. 


When should you leverage technology?  When You Have a Plan

There’s no great answer to this question other than “when the time is right” but here are some thoughts.  If you go too early then might tackle more than you can chew.  If you go too late then it’s difficult to infuse.  So I recommend that you have some beta testing done already with your community via Facebook groups, Google docs, events, discussions, etc. and most often, one of two things are going to happen.  First, you’re going to feel the pain of needing to be on a platform or second, you’re going to crest a critical mass of people (usually around 200) where you want to better organize their experience.  

The most important thing though is to have a plan.  Technology is designed to serve your strategy so be sure to have your strategy is place so the technology can serve you.  If you jump too quickly into technology without a plan, you are most certainly going to get frustrated.  Technology solves nothing without your plan… then it can be amazing.  


Where should you leverage technology?  Holistic Member Experience

The best way to answer this question is everywhere… well, everywhere that creates a great member experience.  Consider how all a community wants to engage - they want to attend events, have discussions, view resources, be educated, and make connections.  Dream for a moment on what makes your community a success and then explore how technology can bring that all to life in a more dynamic or scalable manner.  


Cause Machine Solutions

Cause Machine is packed full of tools to help you scale your community - tools like event management, member directories, organization directories, job boards, groups, discussion boards, e-courses, and stories.  The entire system is designed to help you maximize your community engagement strategy.  Plus we have countless resources to better educate and equip you to lead your community well.  Schedule a demo today!

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