The Innovation Station with Kati Stutsman of Catamaran

At Birds of a Feather 2014, Brightidea discussed innovation management with Kati Stutsman, Business Analyst with Catamaran. Kati believes that communication is not only one of the most challenging elements of running a successful innovation program, but it’s also one of the most rewarding pieces of the process for both the innovation team and the employees. The program leverages social communication tools as well as lots of video to trigger energy and excitement within employees for their program.

Catamaran runs the Innovation Station, their corporate innovation program using the Brightidea platform. The objective of their program is to crowdsource ideas from employees across the organization and manage those ideas in the way that’s most effective. Catamaran operates their program from a relatively small dedicated team, like many innovation teams today, which includes a Director of Innovation Strategy responsible for ensuring that the team is focused on the right initiatives, and an Innovation Program Manager responsible for ensuring the Challenges are run on a timely basis. Collectively, the team focuses on ensuring that they’re building relationships across the organization with key stakeholders.

Kati’s team has quickly found that participation ultimately comes down to communication. Not only how they communicate to employees and to the executive teams — and this can include anything from new Challenges and opportunities to recognition, metrics and more — but then turning this into a two-way conversation, such that employees feel comfortable and safe innovating within the company. One of the big initiatives that The Innovation Station is focused on right now is recognition at the corporate level, integrating with HR recognition programs and ensuring that when people bring good ideas to the table, they’re recognized. Innovation doesn’t happen just within an innovation department, it happens companywide on the smallest level to the highest level.

Communication is not only one of the most challenging, but most rewarding pieces of the process. Not only for their innovation program management team, but also for the employees. The Catamaran team is finding that social media features within Brightidea as well as video are effective tools for communicating with employees. Kati finds that video pushes the energy and excitement for employees, and that they leverage the medium to drive inspiration and engagement to make something actionable.

Like many innovation teams, Catamaran’s innovation team is a small group of less than five members. As a small team, they’re starting with achieving quick wins. Kati notes that once you get the quick wins under your belt, the innovation team builds credibility in the organization, sustainability, and the ability to replicate and be actionable moving forward. The Innovation Station will continue to focus on turning quick wins into larger objectives and bigger results.

Stay tuned for more insightful innovation presentations from Birds of a Feather 2014.