Almost every company wants to innovate (or at least says they want to innovate), but too many make the mistake of expecting innovation to just happen on its own. If you want innovation, you have to drive it.
The good news is you can start driving innovation in just three days. At PCDworks, we have developed a tried-and-true process we call Immersive InnovationTM. The process itself is simple:
- Day 1: Brainstorming the what—the problems to be solved and what you want to achieve (i.e., “I wish we could …”)
- Day 2: Brainstorming the how—potential solutions and their strengths and weaknesses
- Day 3: Funneling the ideas down to the three most promising options
Here’s the catch. The special sauce is not the process, but the execution. One Fortune 500 company came to the PCDworks campus to learn our process and then tried to replicate it back in their offices. Though they used the same timeline and the same exercises, it just didn’t work.
Here’s what makes Immersive Innovation so special.
No More Distractions and Interruptions
In a typical innovation session, a company will stick everybody in a room with a whiteboard. Twenty minutes in, someone knocks on the door to ask a question. Then someone has to step out to take a phone call. Someone else gets an urgent email requiring immediate response. Before you know it, it’s lunchtime, and little progress has been made.
Innovation doesn’t happen with surface-level thinking. It requires deep, focused attention, which requires stillness. Constant interruptions and distractions make it impossible to build momentum and dig deep into the problems to be solved.
At an Immersive Innovation session on the PCDworks campus, there are no interruptions. You don’t have people coming into your office and bugging you, and we don’t use cell phones or computers outside of designated break times. Outside of group sessions, we assign short homework exercises to keep participants immersed.
For three days, we eat, sleep, and breathe innovation. By eliminating interruptions and distractions, we get the ball rolling and ensure it keeps rolling.
Getting Out of the Office
Have you ever walked into a room and immediately forgotten why you’re there? This is an example of the doorway effect. We have episodic memory, which means we link memories to a particular time and place. So when you have a thought in one room and then leave to another room, poof—the thought can disappear.
The point is that location has an effect on how we think. We suspect this is one of the reasons innovation can be so challenging in an office environment. Certain ways of static, routine thinking get linked to our office building. Usually that thinking serves us well, but it can stifle innovation.
A change in environment can open up new ways of thinking and encourage creativity. Studies have found that natural environments in particular boost creativity. According to UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, time in nature reduces stress and relieves attention fatigue, which allows for greater concentration and curiosity: the building blocks to innovation.
Our campus sits on 80 acres in the quiet hills of the Piney Woods region in East Texas. Between sessions, participants are invited to walk and enjoy the nature to recharge and be inspired. Sometimes, the only way to think outside the box is to physically go outside of the box that is your usual office.
Collaboration from a Place of Trust
Each Immersive Innovation begins the night before with a team dinner. We eat delicious food, have engaging conversations, and blow off steam before diving into work. It’s a lot of fun, but it also serves an important purpose: collaboration.
An international study by Google and the Future Foundation found an 81 percent correlation between collaboration and innovation. The easiest way to get people to collaborate is to stick them in a room together. That’s still not a guarantee, though. Ego often comes into play. People don’t want to be humiliated, especially among their peers and in professional situations. If they feel like they will be judged, they won’t share their ideas as freely, afraid of ridicule and dismissal.
Real innovation is risky. It requires trust, and trust is built and solidified through connection. During Immersive Innovation, the group stays on the PCDworks campus the entire time. There’s not only a shared dining room, but a gym and a game room to go along with eight guest rooms with private bathrooms. The close proximity allows for spontaneous social interactions and greater connection, and with connection comes a reduction of risk of humiliation and an opening of the parts of the mind that allows for innovative thoughts.
By creating an environment of psychological safety, we can all leave our egos at the door and start innovating, with humility and curiosity.
A Quiet Place for People to Come Think
The idea for the PCDworks campus was first planted in a Dodge minivan. As founders Mike and Donna commuted from Toledo to Detroit, they talked: about innovation and their plans for the future. They knew if you wanted to innovate, you needed to get people out of their glass towers to someplace that allowed focus, creativity, and connection.
The dream was simple: a quiet place for people to come to think. Today that dream is a reality. PCDworks’ peaceful, remote 80-acre campus is a place for focus, creativity, and connection. Welcome to innovation.
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