We’re Not Alone

We’re Not Alone : There’s No Recipe for Innovation

By Laura Stephan

Sometimes working in innovation can feel lonely. By nature, innovation is about being ahead of the curve, pushing forward, and experimenting in ways that often aren’t typically done. It can feel like you’re the only one fostering these new ways of working.

In the Region of Durham Social Services Department, we’ve been facilitating Innovation Labs for the past four years. Through multiple iterations and an ever-evolving lab process, we offer staff, irrespective of title or position, a safe space to co-create solutions to challenges across all six divisions of our Social Services Department. Our lab is grounded in Human Centered Design mindsets and utilizes a variety of tools such as Co-Production, visual thinking, and behavioural insights to bring new possibilities to our workplace.

Our Innovation Lab journey has connected us with many organizations, both globally and locally, who are also working through similar processes and challenges in their organizations. Throughout this global innovation network, I received an invitation to attend Converge by Radius SFU, a conference targeted towards those working in innovation labs across Canada.

At Converge, I experienced the true value, inspiration and motivation that comes out of connecting with others working in the same type of spaces. Upon arriving at the conference, the energy in the room was alive from the start, it felt like within a room filled with people, that we all already knew one another. Innovation Lab practitioners from across Canada were together sharing their struggles, their successes, and visions for the future. It truly felt open, honest and comfortable being able to ask questions about lab sustainability, to share and learn tools for problem solving and collaboration, and to open up to one another, creating a sense of safety and human connection.

Throughout the two day event, it seemed to emerge that there really is no one size fits all for innovation. What works in particular contexts, may not in another. There are so many approaches, tools and frameworks available that guide innovative practice, but it’s important not to get stuck on a particular tool. There is value in being fluid and iterative, and to stay open minded to learning from one another and experimentation. The very concepts we’re trying to foster within our organizations, we need to live ourselves. At the end of the day, it isn’t the tool that’s going to connect with those our organizations serve, it’s the impact that our new ideas have on lives. We need to harness the impact and value we as lab practitioners create, and use that to fuel our pathways moving forward.

These opportunities to come together with other innovators, from across Canada make working in this type of space feel so much bigger. Being connected with a nation-wide network of individuals, who embrace these concepts and mindsets leaves me with the feeling that we’re not alone. That we’re all doing really exciting and impactful work that’s making a difference in our organizations and the lives of those who need it most.

Laura Stephan

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