Fostering innovation: a day at Accenture's Future Camp is a start

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in an innovation workshop at Accenture's Future Camp in Kronberg. I experienced first hand how a group of people, from entirely different backgrounds in terms of industry, job role, age etc., enthusiastically engaged in jointly developing innovative ideas. Those ideas would have been around the deployment of digital technologies to enable better services for customers. Underlying has been the design thinking methodology.

The Future Camp is part of the Accenture Innovation Architecture and is set to enable collaboration to develop innovative ideas for new services and business models. The core idea, and one of the key benefits, is to provide an attractive, open, modern space (unlike most typical office locations today) that is conducive to letting creative spirits flow. Design thinking coaches provide the framework to ensure a structured, targeted approach – and timekeeping.

It’s clearly not rocket science, and most other IT and professional services companies offer similar innovation workshops, but it illustrates one important point: Organizations often overlook the probably most important prerequisite for successful innovation and development of new ideas and business models: providing the time, space, autonomy and a favorable climate for creativity. Further important aspects are a positive, supportive attitude ('defer judgment') and the acceptance, or even welcoming, of failures ('fail early and often') – at least in the early stages of new idea creation.

Organizations can certainly conduct their innovation approaches internally as well, however, there are advantages to using an external facility: an innovation workshop is organized more easily and quickly, but, more importantly, it holds the advantage for other participants or ecosystem partners to be involved, who bring in external, multi-disciplinary viewpoints. Using the facilities, skills and ecosystems of professional service providers therefore is a valuable and efficient way to foster innovation and co-creation in a collaborative environment. And not to forget: such offsite events provide variety – and fun!

Key to longer-term success is, however, to follow up on the innovation ideas, develop prototypes and, eventually, scalable solutions. Also, it is important not to see an innovation workshop (or a range of those) as isolated, one-off initiatives. They should rather be incorporated into an overall innovation strategy, which also has to be underpinned by an innovation culture. The latter is probably the most difficult to build within an organization as it involves fundamental cultural change.