According to Luiz Serafim, the Marketing Director of 3M do Brasil and author of the book The Power of Innovation – How to leverage innovation at your company, a company’s culture of innovation only strengthens when it is people-focused. “You need to prepare people, with a major focus on developing talents, because it’s not buildings, machines and software that does it [innovation] – it’s people”, he says.
If we consider culture to be the set of factors determining people’s desires and behaviour, as José Alberto Aranha wrote in “Interfaces – A chave para compreender pessoas e suas relações em um ambiente de inovação” (“Interfaces – The key to understanding people and their relationships in an environment of innovation”), we understand that a culture of innovation is also the product of relationships between a company and its workers. It cannot be imposed, but rather stimulated and nurtured.
But how can a culture of innovation be encouraged?
There are numerous ways of directing a team towards innovative thinking and promoting the development of a culture of innovation. Here we present three fun ways that any company of any size or sector can use: collaborative workshops and jams, which may be applied to all types of professionals; and hackathons, generally directly aimed at technology professionals.
Collaborative workshops may be held in many ways. The idea is to present a central theme through discussions everyone collaborates with. “The more people get involved during the event, the better. When everyone participates, it’s even better”, says Juliana Paolucci, an innovation consultant at MJV.
A short time ago, Paolucci held a lunch at which the whole Technology team helped to prepare the meal. “It was a surprise to them. We supplied all the ingredients and split people up into four groups: to lay the table; make the salad; make the fruit salad; and make the sandwiches. The members of these groups were selected by drawing lots in order to break up cliques”, she says. “They had a shared goal and they focused on it throughout the stipulated 30-minute period.”
At the end, the team sat down to discuss and evaluate the event. “They could perceive the importance of working as a group. Aspects considered essential to everyday teamwork were discussed, such as meeting deadlines, the effectiveness of tasks, trust in our colleagues’ work, and collaboration. To end up, we set up a clothesline and hung up the lessons learned during the workshop and some photos. In this way, the experience was recorded in the office and they could revisit it constantly”, says Paolucci.
In music, jamming means improvising, combining different people’s ideas to create something new. In a personal and professional context, an innovation jam is a way of learning new techniques and meeting people to improve our skills and create innovative solutions. In the business world, jamming techniques are used to bring together multidisciplinary teams to analyse challenges and/or opportunities from multiple perspectives in jamming events.
These events bring together flexible activities that may take place during an afternoon or extend for a few days. Participants from various areas and departments are grouped in line with their interests, knowledge and experience with regard to the subject to be debated. At first, they are guided by facilitators/specialists, who always take care not to interfere in the group’s creativity. Once this period has ended, the groups are blended together in order for the exchange of ideas and visions to start flowing.
At MJV, jams are held in our prototyping laboratory. This location is equipped with fun objects, a 3D printer and a brainstorming space. “It is essential for people not to remain only in the ‘world of words’, but to also bring their ideas into the ‘real world’”, says Eric Santana, an innovation consultant. “During a jam, it is much more important to construct a physical prototype than to discuss details”, he explains. “The results may surprise everyone. There’s that sensation of ‘how is it we didn’t know we have so many creative minds here?’”
A combination of the words hack and marathon, hackathons are programming marathons in which one or more teams of IT professionals spend a period analysing problems and opportunities, and developing respective technological solutions, ranging from software to websites and web apps. Initially they were aimed only at hackers – professionals dedicated to understanding systems, studying them and discovering faults, and not necessarily famous virtual criminals. Increasingly common, hackathons are now being used to develop hardware.
A hackathon may last a few days, a few days or even weeks. The shorter the time, the bigger the challenge.
“We recently held a hackathon in which we brought together students from the Celso Suckow da Fonseca – Federal Technological Education Centre (CEFET-RJ) with MJV professionals. We split them up into four teams to solve the following macro-problems: traffic and public transport, supermarket shopping, queues, and controlling the home remotely using Arduino technology”, says Eric Santana.