September 10 2020
Crowdsourcing Ideas & Tapping Into Our High Caliber Talent
Blaine Jansen Talks Innovation at Entuitive
Recently we sat down with Blaine Jansen, Associate and Ennovation Committee Lead, to talk about the history of Ennovation at Entuitive, why we’re so committed to this process, and what the future holds.
Thanks so much for sitting down with us, Blaine. We love Ennovation at Entuitive. Can you tell us how it got started?
Blaine: Ennovation developed pretty organically out of our experiences trying new things at the firm and trying to replicate the successful ideas. We’re the firm that does things differently, so it’s always been important to us to test out new ideas and processes continually to be better tomorrow than we were today.
In the beginning, it was more informal, so we decided to take a step back and figure out how we could put a more formal framework around this idea of constant improvement. We asked ourselves what the process and framework might look like. And more importantly, how could we build resources around it?
During this period of reflection, we identified what was important to us and what eventually became the three pillars of Ennovation: identify, validate, implement. We would crowdsource ideas, identify those with high potential value, and test and iterate on them with the final goal to implement them firmwide.
Our first attempts at this firmwide crowdsourcing took place on an excel sheet, which was about as good as it sounds. So, two years ago we moved toward the first version of our internal ideas site, which is a platform through which anyone in the firm can submit an idea they think will be beneficial.
Now we have a two-pronged approach to idea generation. Anyone can submit their idea at any time on the ideas site, and we also hold specific, targeted challenges that seek solutions to specific problems, such as our firmwide Dragon’s Den-style challenge earlier this year.
That challenge resulted in a group of finalists pitching their ideas to the Board of Directors, who then chose a winning idea that would be given the resources to move forward with a plan to test and implement.
Why did we want to formalize this innovation process? Why do you think innovation is so important to Entuitive?
Blaine: We recognize that in order to make progress, we have to work quickly, and Ennovation allows us to do that. It’s a highly responsive process that enables speed to market – be it internal or external. We review all the ideas that have been submitted to the site and measure them against a few key criteria to determine if there is enough value to go ahead with an initial test or not.An idea champion is assigned, and then time and resources are allocated to quickly experiment with their hypothesis, whether it’s a new service, a better internal process, or something else. This way we can iterate quickly and see if an idea has legs before funding it to a greater extent and implementing it firmwide.
This is important because it allows us to be agile and nimble. The worst thing that can happen is for an organization to become ossified. The more you grow, the more important it becomes to keep agility and innovation at the forefront of company culture so that you don’t get stuck in a rigid bureaucracy.
We’ve looked at some of the things that make tech companies successful with new ideas, and many companies outside the engineering industry also have similar intrepreneurship programs, so we wanted to learn from them as well.
What are your future plans for Ennovation at Entuitive?
Blaine: We just launched our internal Ennovation Field Guide to the firm, a resource for our people that explains our Ennovation process and also provides tools to help them clarify some key information in their ideas, such as what the value proposition is, who will benefit, and how to test assumptions quickly.
Our next steps are to expand that education in value proposition design and thinking. We’ll also continue holding more idea challenges, especially after the success of this year’s large event.
Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
Blaine: Engineers are taught to be cautious. This can both serve us and hinder us in fostering and practicing creative and innovative thinking. Progress lies in not waiting until everything is solved before you start moving forward.We’ve already had so many great ideas come out of Entuitive. As we grow, it’s important to encourage our team to continue to think creatively about the various challenges we work on every day.
What it really comes down to is, what if we empowered everyone in the firm to think this way? That’s what Ennovation is all about.
Thanks so much for your time, Blaine. If you’d like to learn more about Ennovation, reach out to Blaine Jansen.