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From desire to discipline – creating a culture of innovation in our workplaces | T.J. Cook | TEDxABQ


Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Denise RQ Each of us has an incredible capacity for problem solving, for creating new things, for building. And, when we combine that energy
that we naturally have with those around us, it can multiply. I’ve always thought
it’s interesting, though, that the moment so many of us
step into the workplace or log on, that will to innovate,
the desire to innovate, is actually suppressed more often
than it’s inspired. I think the biggest question about that was 70%, by some measures,
being disengaged in the workplace. The big question is:
what do we do about it? How can we actually go from the desire that we all have intrinsically to innovate to a discipline of innovation
in our workplaces, in our organizations? Well, four years ago, my company was feeling that suppression, was feeling the grind of project work. We do great work,
we’ve done great work for ten years, but still, even in an open,
transparent culture, it became very present that we weren’t unlocking
the full potential of our team. That’s when Zack, one
of my right-hand teammates at the time, came to us and said: “Hey guys, what if we just set aside
project work for a day? Just set it aside, don’t answer emails, just do projects of your own choosing, form small teams, and see what we can build in a day? What do you say?” Well, we said yes, and it took some guts
because that costs money when you don’t build
to the clients, right? Some of you are thinking right now:
“Innovation is great, but what about the hard work of getting projects done
and keeping the business running? ” But we said yes,
and I’m so glad that we did, because, four years later, that process we now call our “lab program” has led to 100 prototypes, some of which have become products that are on the market now, and some of which have led
to amazing partnerships otherwise not possible, like the work we’re doing
with Lego right now. So, how did that happen? And what have we learned
in the past four years that any organization can take to turn innovation
from a desire into a discipline? I believe there’s actually
three things you can do. Number one: drawing board. Drawing board is something we do, once a week, 30 minutes, on a Skype call or in person, where we leave the dust of the day behind, set aside project work, clear some time just to talk about ideas under our broad umbrella
of using technology for good. We keep it really positive,
we keep it really informal, and it’s a very energizing time. Any idea goes. That’s drawing board. The only thing
you can’t talk about is projects that you’re doing outside that. Number two: lab day itself. So, on lab day, all that ideation that happened each Thursday
on drawing boards culminates: teams form, a scope for something you could try
to tackle on that day forms, and teams get to building. And it’s so very fun. Some teams have a working prototype
at the end of the day. Some teams work on process improvement for what we do every day. Whatever happens, by the end of the day, they have something tangible, visual, that gets their idea
out of their heads into reality. It’s a kick-start. And number three is show-and-tell. That’s right,
just like in elementary school. We take all the projects done, and, within an hour, we divide
by the number of projects we did, and each team gets
to demo what they did, show it off to the rest of the team. We give positive feedback.
Again, pretty informal. We give them a little bit
of a structure for how to pitch it, and maybe they get some ideas
for how to extend that in the next lab day,
or through the next drawing boards. Drawing board, lab day, show-and-tell. And one of the coolest stories
to come out of our program is a little iPad app that occurred, called My Story. My Story began as Brian Vanaski,
one of our designers, [came up] with an idea
to use an iPad for kids. That’s it. I wonder if there’s some way
we could use the iPad to help kids. Then, he notices his eight-year-old sister had trouble with a story one day. She was trying to tell a story — really intelligent and innovative thinker. But she’s frustrated,
she came into the room and couldn’t get the story
together and organized. The light bulb came on and that became a lab day project that became the app My Story, which you could download today. It’s been around the world.
Over 250,000 downloads. And it has been used in education
scenarios all around the world. One of the most poignant stories we have coming out of this innovation is a special education teacher, who twitted us and said
that a young girl, in her class, who hadn’t spoken
for the entire year so far, pressed the recording button in My Story and found her voice for the first time. (Applause) And that right there
is what brought her home for me, because you can’t dictate innovation. You can’t think of it as a program
for the bottom line. What you can do is provide a space for it, turn the desire into a discipline, and watch the “My Stories” that happen. You might be thinking,
and I’ll forgive you for thinking it — (Laughter) you’re forgiven, pre-forgiven — that, you know, “That’s all well and good
for a creative team like yours, TJ, but I’m in a corporation, organization, big non-profit, big bureaucracy.
What can we do?” Well, I think it’s about a choice. Even Pixar, one of my
most beloved organizations, did what I would call a lab day. Last year, in March, they were facing a problem. They needed to cut
production costs by 10%, because of lower DVD sales and a variety of other costs rising
in the production scene. But they wanted to keep the Pixar quality that we all know and love very high. So, rather than kind of meet
in the boardroom and figure out a way to cut the costs and then usher that message
down to the ranks, they said, “We’re going to take a day, we’re going to break into small teams, we’re going to let the people
of this beautiful company figure out the solutions
and bubble them up from the bottom. They called it “notes day”. Thank you, Pixar. Thank you. (Applause) They called it notes day and they had pretty much a series
of drawing boards to plan it out; organization goes into it. And the ideas, as Ed Catmull
writes in his book “Creativity Inc.”, which I urge you all to read, the ideas were able to be implemented
within weeks or months, some of them hugely disruptive. They came up with apps that changed the way they did some of their
post-production work, but some of them —
and this is what I love the most, about discipline and innovation — is a resurgence of energy within Pixar that he said was unparalleled
and sorely needed. Raise your hand if energy
and rejuvenation in your company is sorely needed. I’m reminded of a quote often attributed to Gandhi, that says, “Be the change you wish
to see in the world.” I think if Albuquerque and all the organizations we all serve and spend our lives with every day embrace a discipline of innovation through some structure
like what I’ve talked about, if we embrace that, I believe we can build the change we want to see in the world. (Applause)

Reynold King

3 Replies to “From desire to discipline – creating a culture of innovation in our workplaces | T.J. Cook | TEDxABQ”

  1. TJ ….100 tools to address million problems TJ Cook -Amazing effort -Lot to think from your approach —Innovative thinking originates out of your effort ..Great .and great

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