While people may traditionally think innovation only happens in a science lab or at the desk of an engineer, innovation has become ubiquitous. In today’s business environment, every employee is expected to innovate. Innovation isn’t just inventing or improving products—innovation is thinking beyond the expected to improve all aspects of business. In the words of Albert Einstein, “If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.” At Boston Scientific, we never settle for the status quo. Meaningful innovation is a core value, and we live it every day in many different ways.
A Unique Brainstorming Challenge
The Boston Scientific Women’s Network, which promotes the professional development of women to enable them to thrive and contribute to the success of the business, recently held an “Innovation Challenge” workshop that encouraged participants to think about applying meaningful innovation to solve business challenges. David Bee, vice president of development systems, kicked off the session with a discussion about the evolution of innovation—what it looked like yesterday, and what it may look like tomorrow. David emphasized, “You don’t have to be an engineer to be innovative, [because] innovation takes on many forms and exists everywhere.”
Participants were divided into teams and then led through a series of stations set up in the Marlborough Collaboratory (an unconventional, free-flowing meeting space), to brainstorm possible solutions to three actual business challenges: how to make meetings more effective, how to develop a best-in-class mentoring program and how to improve collaboration across functions, divisions, sites and countries. Facilitators helped guide the discussions. During report-out sessions, each team presented three to four innovative approaches to address each business challenge. The participants will come together again to discuss the proposed approaches and select those they expect can have the greatest impact if implemented.
Women’s Network executive sponsor Joanna Engelke, senior vice president of global quality, wrapped up the session with this thought: “We have a deep pool of talent right here in this room. We have the resources and passion to drive improvement and everyone can contribute.”
A Venture-Style Approach
The Innovation Challenge is just one example of how Boston Scientific actively engages its employees in innovation. Earlier this year, Boston Scientific announced the creation of the ImagineIF Innovation Fund, a venture-style approach to bringing breakthrough ideas to life. Since its launch, ImagineIF has received more than 350 unique employee-created ideas from across the company. These ideas are aimed at improving what we deliver, how we deliver, and how we operate. Thirteen of those ideas received funding and executive support.
Fostering Innovation for All
In the words of President and CEO Mike Mahoney: “We are on a cultural journey to inspire and expand meaningful innovation. Everyone can be an innovator, regardless of role.” Boston Scientific hires top talent and fosters a never-ending passion for innovation and new ideas across all of its business units. We’ve seen that to build a culture of innovation in the workplace, you need to follow these five steps:
#1 Encourage continuous learning to develop and improve skills in order to perform effectively and adapt to change.
#2 Empower decision-making at all levels to show that innovation is truly the responsibility of every employee.
#3 Support risk taking, within reason, and apply the lessons learned from both successes and failures.
#4 Enable global collaboration with physical and virtual workspaces conducive to the informal and spontaneous sharing of thoughts.
#5 Establish a value system that rewards innovative contributions and accomplishments.
You have heard the term “disruptive innovation,” those ideas that disrupt traditional methods of building and discovery. It is in the moment of breaking things where true innovation finds itself most comfortable. Whether you work for a law firm, small business, or large corporation—you too can innovate in your role, change the way you think, collaborate with colleagues and redefine your future. We encourage everyone to think about innovation as a journey for all, not an experience for a chosen few.