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“Innovation comes from doing things differently.”
That’s the philosophy that sits behind Datacom’s Innovation Sprint Series, a 15-week series of workshops designed to help organisations cultivate a culture of innovation and learn new design thinking and ideation skills.
Organisations can choose the theme or challenge they want to focus on during the Innovation Sprint and, at the end of the journey, participants are able to pitch back their ideas to their colleagues, drawing on the skills gained from the workshops.
“The Innovation Sprint provides the opportunity to come together, surface ideas from across the business and learn new skills in a rapid timeframe,” says Husain Al-Badry, Associate Director of Innovation & Growth in Datacom’s Transformational Engagement team.
“Teams work together to ideate, validate and prototype solutions that challenge current ways of working.”
Scion – the Crown Research Institute that carries out scientific R&D focused on forestry, wood product and related biomaterial sectors – recently enlisted the Datacom team to help unlock innovation and address one of the challenges highlighted by recent climate events.
After parts of New Zealand experienced severe flooding in 2023, the topic of slash (fine woody debris generated by logging and forestry activity) and its impact was being debated publicly in the media and was also the topic of many internal conversations at Scion.
Scion signed up for Datacom’s innovation series and put forward a variety of challenges to support staff to explore how New Zealand can overcome big challenges like slash all while enhancing the work of Scion’s existing impact areas to transform ecosystems and strengthen the foundations for a sustainable future.
Scion participants came from right across the organisation – from team leads, researchers and scientists, to finance and the CIO.
Datacom’s Director of Product Capability Mark Drysdale says organisations wanting to solve problems and unlock innovation need to engage their whole team.
“Innovation isn't going to come from an innovation department. It's going to come from being able to engage the whole workforce collectively and get the smarts of everyone top to bottom to solve the big business challenges. Very rarely is it solved by the executive team or an innovation arm of the business – it is solved by everyone coming together.”
“We understand that every organisation is different, and the challenges faced change and evolve. Creating a supportive environment where employees can step out of their comfort zones and explore something different enhances their professional skills while making them feel part of something special,” says Husain. “As an extra benefit of this engagement, employees from across the organisation meet others with different skillsets and collaborate on a shared problem, an opportunity that they may not have in their BAU roles.”
There are other longer term benefits too, that come from participants applying the skills they have learned in their day-to-day work and sharing these skills with their colleagues and wider organisation.
“Being able to apply design principles to form big ideas and understanding how to use design sprints to iterate and develop these ideas is a powerful tool to take back into your organisation. It changes innovation from an abstract concept into a process that people can use to develop their ideas into something tangible that can create value.”