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HCI Webinar: Fire Up Innovation: Sparking and Sustaining Innovation Teams, with Helene Cahen

Updated: Jun 11

In the latest HCI Webinar, Dr. Jonathan H. Westover talks with Helene Cahen about her book, Fire Up Innovation: Sparking and Sustaining Innovation Teams. Below is a summary of the main points from their conversation! Check out the full episode and let us know what you think!


Watch the episode here:


Quick Recap


Jonathan and Helene emphasized the importance of innovation in businesses and organizations, discussing the need for a psychologically safe environment for experimentation, the benefits of diverse teams, and the challenges of managing innovation within an organization's culture. They also highlighted the significance of having a clear process for innovation, promoting a culture of experimentation and learning, and managing innovation as a portfolio. Lastly, they invited Ellen to share her work and encouraged the audience to develop an innovative mindset.


Embracing Innovation for Business Success


Jonathan and Helene discussed the importance of innovation in businesses and organizations. Helene, the author of "Fire Up Innovation," emphasized that innovation is not a choice but a necessity to avoid stagnation and irrelevance. She also highlighted the significance of having good processes in place to support innovation, despite the fact that they may not always be perfect. Jonathan agreed, noting that failure is a natural part of the innovation process. Both agreed on the importance of understanding the principles of innovation and creativity to effectively use the tools available.


Psychological Safety, Rapid Iteration, and Diverse Teams


Jonathan and Helene discussed the importance of creating a psychologically safe environment for experimentation and rapid iteration in organizations. They highlighted how the Covid-19 pandemic presented an opportunity for many to launch new projects and businesses. They emphasized the value of prototyping and testing early, and the benefits of getting feedback from users as soon as possible. They also discussed the role of team diversity in innovation, with Helene sharing her passion for this area and her experience in advertising and new product development. They planned to delve deeper into why team diversity is a crucial factor in their book.


Diverse Teams, Innovation, and Organizational Culture


Jonathan and Helene discussed the challenges and benefits of creating diverse teams for innovation within organizations. They recognized that while diverse teams can lead to innovative solutions, they can also be challenging to manage. The conversation highlighted the importance of including various perspectives in the innovation process, as different aspects of a solution may be overlooked without a diverse team. They also discussed the need for training and understanding of the innovation process within organizations. Finally, they identified a significant roadblock to innovation: the organization's culture.


Team Champion Role and Innovation Balance


Helene emphasized the importance of having a team champion to protect and guide teams, especially during times of rapid change and uncertainty. She underscored the need to embrace innovation and adapt to new technologies like AI, while setting clear criteria for success and being comfortable with failure. She also highlighted the necessity of having a consistent approach to innovation projects, despite potential tensions between short-term ROI and long-term success. Jonathan seemed to agree with these points, indicating a need for a balanced approach to innovation and a clear understanding of what constitutes success in this context.


Process for Organic Innovation


Helene and Jonathan emphasized the importance of a clear process for innovation within an organization. They discussed the need for a culture that promotes experimentation, learning, and rapid prototyping, while also prioritizing strategic alignment. They highlighted the necessity for leaders to provide a clear vision and framework for their teams, while also allowing room for creative exploration. They agreed on the importance of having criteria to evaluate and select innovative ideas, and the necessity of managing this process as a portfolio, rather than as individual projects.


Listen to the webinar here:




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