Introduction to Innovation

When I was asked to be involved in shaping what an innovation lab would look like at the organisation I work for (Irwell Valley Housing) my initial thoughts went to robots and virtual reality (imagine somewhere in between Terminator, Wall-E and the Matrix)! But my next thought was ‘what does this actually mean for housing and Irwell Valley?!’

First I went to the internet to get a definition:

• To innovate is to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products

I then wanted to see what innovation means to colleagues at Irwell Valley….

Interview with Chief Executive, Sasha Deepwell
Interview with Irwell Valley Colleagues

Ah, so innovation doesn't just mean technology and futuristic ideas! It’s about coming up with new, improved ways of doing what we do from the way we do it to the actual product we offer. Innovation could be as small as changing the way our phone queue works all the way to robots answering the phone (well they do need to be included somewhere!).

So why does Irwell Valley need an innovation lab?

As Sasha highlights in the video above both our organisation and our customers are facing changes from welfare reform and the uncertainty of Brexit; to the opportunities provided by technology. An embedded approach to innovation will help us respond quickly and efficiently to these challenges and opportunities. The lab role will be to inspire and facilitate this approach with creative thinking, challenging us to really understand the problems we need to solve and testing ideas quickly to learn whether something would work for Irwell Valley without using lots of money and resources.

Next steps

  • You can find the very first draft of a process in my presentation to Directors and our Colleague Forum here. We expect this will grow and change as we progress but we need to start somewhere!
  • We need to do some work to build the profile of the lab across the organisation, this will include sharing learning, ideas and tools in interesting ways such as videos and blog posts. We will also look to maximise ways for colleagues to get involved in shaping the lab from choosing the name to forming an ideas board who will support and challenge the work of the lab.
  • We will be looking for solutions to provide a physical place for the lab and a virtual presence which helps remove barriers to access for colleagues not head office based.

More on our journey soon….

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