Bring innovation and process improvements to life within your organisation through an Innovation Council

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    Happy Wednesday everyone!


    I'm back in blighty again now after spending some time with the Google teams in sunny Mountain View last week, and dare I say it I think that the weather here in the UK is *slowly* warming up... cross your fingers for me that this continues!


    Today's topic is 'Innovation Councils'.


    This is a subject that I've touched on briefly during previous posts, but I wanted to write a dedicated article on the topic.  I believe that every organisation can benefit from establishing some form of Innovation Council to help ensure that they are getting maximum value out of the Google Apps suite and to build a culture of innovation and improvement within the organisation.


    Innovative ideas exist everywhere within every organisation - the trick is being able to find those ideas and bring them to life to improve the functioning and performance of the business. The role of your Innovation Council is not to come up with the ideas themselves (although they might have some!) they are the people that help uncover the ideas from across the organisation.


    Let me explain in a bit more detail how we suggest you set the council up, who should be a part of it, and what activities the council should be responsible for.


    Setting up the council:

    The best mix of people for the council is a combination of business leaders - who have the authority to make decisions and resource projects, and employees from different roles and levels across the organisation who will often have greater insight into the needs of customers and what the challenges are ‘on the ground’. Often-times Google Guides from the deployment will go on to become members of an Innovation Council after their Google Guide duties have finished.


    When recruiting council members be sure to set expectations about their expected time commitment and also the length of the position (suggested minimum 6 months commitment). While the time commitment per month will vary by customer and the specific goals of the organisation, here is a rough estimate of what that time commitment might be.


    Estimated time commitment from Innovation Council Members:

    Innovation Council meetings 

    Transformation Lab facilitation/support

    Success story gathering and sharing

    Sharing tips and resources

    Identifying training needs

    __________________________________________

    Estimate =

    1.0 hour / month

    2.0 hours / month

    0.5 hours / month

    0.5 hours / month

    0.5 hours / month

    _____________________

    4.5 hours / month

     

    Attributes that you should look for in your Innovation Council members include:

    • Enthusiasm for Google Apps
    • An interest in process improvements or innovation
    • Knowledgeable about department roles and projects/processes
    • Good communication skills
    • An interest in working with a cross functional team on impactful projects


    Once you've identified your council members it is time to map out a plan of activities for them to complete.
    Per the above time allocation the main activities that the council will be involved in will be:

    • Helping to uncover innovative ideas through conversations and transformation labs - which are brainstorming sessions for teams or departments where ideas for improvements and innovations can be discovered
    • Helping to identify if any groups of employees have Google Apps related training needs and feeding those requests through to the relevant team or directing employees to online help resources such as Learn.GoogleApps.com or The Apps Show
    • Collecting and sharing success stories about how Google Apps has been used to improve a business process or the efficiency of a team, or helped uncover an innovative idea


    Because the goal of the council is to help uncover new more efficient ways of doing things and to uncover new ideas - make sure you capture the ‘before’ and ‘after’ situation and create a story to showcase the idea or improvement. Here is an example of a well captured success story from Travis Perkins:



    These stories can then be used to demonstrate the value of the Innovation Council to executives and also to inspire other parts of the organisation to try new ways of working through the use of Google Apps. You could run a competition to uncover the best stories from across the organisation to congratulate those teams that are being innovative and inspire other teams about what might be possible.


    If the idea of creating an organisation-wide Innovation Council is a bit daunting, how about setting one up for a specific team (for example Marketing or HR) and use it as an experiment. Hopefully the results that are gained through labs and stories will validate the concept and allow innovation councils to take off in other parts of the business.


    Although during this article I’ve been referring to an Innovation Council as something Google Apps specific - of course that doesn’t need to be the case in reality. The concept of a council can be used to identify innovations of all sorts - not just those that arise from the usage of Google tools.  My suggestion is to take this concept and framework and make it work for your given situation. Even call it something else! The important thing here is that there are people who are spending a bit of time and energy to help improve the way the organisation functions - and it is all the better for us here at Google if part of that story is tied to the use of our products!


    Establishing an Innovation Council is now something that we have baked into our deployment methodology as a best practice for success beyond go-live. But for those of you who have already been through your deployment and maybe are no longer working with a Google Apps partner, I hope that gives you some insight and maybe even some inspiration to consider establishing your own internal council.


    I’d love to hear feedback from this group on this topic. Do any of you have such a council set up within your organisations? What has worked well? What hasn’t worked? For those of you that don’t have such a group - do you think this is something you’d try to establish? If not - what would stop you? If yes - please tell us about it and share your results here!!


    Kim