Business Center

Sustaining A Culture of Innovation

#LeanEverydayIdeas #Innovation #Innovation Culture

June 11, 2021

Written By: Kelly Hanson, Process Improvement & Change Management Intern 

Edited By: Victoria Farberov, Process Improvement & Change Management Intern

Lean Everyday Ideas

An essential question for any organization is, “What do we want our organization to look like?” Often the answer will include wanting an organization that is innovative, creative, adaptable, and a trendsetter. These answers are describing an organization’s culture. As many organizations know, it’s hard work to build a strong culture. Organizations often overlook the fact that it also is hard work to sustain their culture. This article examines how the Office of Process Improvement (OPI) detected and addressed low employee engagement in its culture of innovation.

Why is building a culture of innovation important? A culture of innovation allows an organization and its employees to adapt quickly and efficiently to internal and external factors that impact their work environment. This type of culture recognizes its most important resource; its employees and puts them at the forefront of all decisions. 

Over the years, CDOT has strived to build a culture of innovation. CDOT has developed programs like Lean Everyday Ideas (LEI) to promote innovations and improvements throughout the agency. LEI allows employees to submit innovations they have either implemented in their office or think could be an innovation that would benefit other employees. CDOT’s Office of Process Improvement (OPI) then works with the innovator to promote the innovation throughout the agency. To check out some of the past innovations click here

Since its inception in 2013, there have been 356 innovative ideas that have been shared across CDOT. There has been engagement from every region and division in CDOT, from maintenance to environmental. The ideas are posted on OPI’s external website for anyone to borrow. OPI has also held in-person events to promote the ideas and encourage engagement in LEI. 

In previous years, five to six ideas per month were submitted to LEI. This number has decreased to about one to two submissions a month over the past year. Because the backbone of LEI is employee engagement, increasing engagement in LEI has become a top priority. 

With doing this, a new challenge presented itself. At the time of this decision, roughly 60 percent of CDOT’s workforce was working remotely. Previous engagement methods, such as in-person events, were not possible with CDC COVID-19 guidelines. This predicament caused the OPI team to explore new engagement options. One promising option was producing a video series highlighting LEI. 

Last summer the OPI team launched its first video series, “The Summer of Spreading Innovation Success”. This series focused on highlighting LEI maintenance innovations. It consisted of 5-7 minute videos in which an OPI intern would take on the role of lead interviewer and a regional director would be in the second chair position. They would then interview an innovator about their maintenance innovation. By having a casual interview format, the interviewers could explore the innovation in more depth with the innovator. It also provided a space for the innovator and regional director to discuss how the innovation would be beneficial for all of CDOT. The series consists of nine interviews in total. Click here to view the series on OPI's external website.  

After the first series received positive feedback, the OPI team decided to launch another series, “Sharing Innovation Success in Engineering and Construction” this past spring highlighting engineering and construction innovations. Overall, the series had the same interview format. The OPI team began promoting this series in CDOT’s daily broadcast email to reach a broader audience. They also started uploading the videos to CDOT’s YouTube channel to make it easy to find and view the videos. The team began utilizing the free editing software Canva to enhance the video quality. The series highlighted seven engineering innovations in total. Click here to view the series on OPI’s external website. 

Overall, the OPI team has considered the two video series a success because of the increase in engagement that followed. The videos are receiving 100 plus views on YouTube, and the OPI team has received several direct messages from employees saying they are planning on implementing the highlighted innovations. As with any success, there’s still room for improvement. Although LEI employee engagement has increased, LEI hasn’t seen an increase in the number of innovations submitted to LEI. The OPI team is in the process of creating another video series targeted at showing employees how to use LEI to submit ideas. 

Sustaining an organization’s culture is an ongoing process. It involves regularly assessing the culture to identify areas of improvement. In this case, it involved finding new ways to re-engage employees with some video series. But, as it is the backbone of any organization it will always require work and reinforcement.