Continuing the conversation with CSC
Last week, Mark Neff of Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) walked us through an example of how to partner for success, offering helpful practices along the way that can forge a relationship beneficial to both sides.
Here’s a recap of what we learned, including some tips from Mark we couldn’t cover in the Q & A. Visit our website to watch a recording of the webinar.
Start at the beginning
As is the case with any engagement, you have to know who you’re working with. Mark says his company’s partnership with JPL NASA relied heavily on a pre-established relationship and an understanding of JPL NASA’s values and culture. For example, Mark says, they were already comfortable trying new things and did not need us to help them understand the importance of being willing to step out of their comfort zone.
If you do not have a pre-existing relationship with the company you are looking to run an ideation event with, it will take you more time getting them up to speed with what needs to be done and how. “JPL NASA felt comfortable with us taking the lead on the facilitation of the event but were joint owners of the activity and the recommendations,” Mark said.
Prime the pump
To get the most out of an ideation event, Mark suggests taking the time to define what a “successful” event would look like and then work backwards to design the event. You should ask the event managers and sponsors, “What action do you want to take coming out of this event? What are examples of recommendations that would allow you to take those actions? What ideas or projects would help you get the recommendations you need to move forward?” This helps generate some seed ideas to start your event.
Without seed ideas, Mark says it takes people longer to get engaged and contribute. This models the kinds of ideas the executives are looking for, and makes it easier for people to contribute sooner.
Mark says this is important in building and sustaining a relationship. It also needs to be well-balanced. You want the collaboration to yield actionable results and at the same time you have to be up front with the fact that the innovation effort may yield none at first.
“It is also important to keep in mind that this event is not to sell. It is an activity to continue and expand the conversation,” Mark said. “Specifically you want to address an immediate business need or opportunity. So be careful whom you choose to do this with and have as your goal a longer-term relationship. If they are willing to explore possibilities, then you have begun a very exciting journey.”
Make it relevant
A question came up regarding whether CSC offered an incentive to JPL NASA and CSC participants to engage in the event. Mark says that it is more important to design the event well (specifically address something that is important to both parties involved and relevant to their current or near future situation). That is usually enough motivation to get people interested in participating. It takes more time up front to design an event that is likely to engage the participants and produce better results.
In addition, you are creating collaborative behaviors that you want to sustain after this specific event. If you do incent them to participate, you may get short-term results that you can not sustain unless you are willing to continue upping the ante each time you run an event.