Talking Innovation

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TME-MHammondPROGRESS in Lending is celebrating its 5th Annual Innovations Awards Event. The mortgage industry really needs innovation these days, but often technology vendors don’t know how to go about innovating because they’re too busy keeping up with regulatory change or with their competitors. It doesn’t have to be.

In an article called “The Innovation Game,” the author asked readers to imagine you show up to work one day and someone asks you if you are interested in running with an idea that you have, “sure” you say. You are then given a little red box, inside you find a pre-paid credit card for $1,000, some notebooks, and an innovation guide that walks you through a six-step process to go from idea to product. You are also able to reach out to people at Adobe for help, coaching, and mentorship through a two-day innovation workshop. That’s it. Just take the money and show the company what you were able to come up with.

This isn’t make believe, it’s real. This is the new KickStart innovation program launched by Mark Randall, the VP of Creativity at Adobe.

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Companies have long struggled with innovation, oftentimes relying on just a few people within the company to come up with the greatest ideas for products and services. The traditional innovation process also doesn’t allow for too much iteration and development. Mark echoes this quite well by stating:

“One of the challenges that large corporations have is trying to drive employee motivation to innovate. KickStart was an attempt to resolve that by looking at the history of what companies have done and then removing the obstacles that have stood in the way.

Once employees come up with a prototype for their idea the next step is to pitch it to executives at the company just like an entrepreneur would pitch venture capitalists. According to Mark only one executive needs to say “yes” to the idea which means you can pitch 10 of them, and if the 10th one says yes, then you’re in business and are given the much coveted “blue box.”

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What is the value of this type of innovation?

No obstacles

As Mark mentioned above, one of the goals of this new innovation process is to entirely remove obstacles that stand in the way of creativity and innovation. Thus making it much easier to go from idea to something tangible.

Create more innovations

If you think about it 100 employees can create 100 prototypes for $100,000, which is what many companies spend on a single prototype that oftentimes doesn’t make it to the next level. In this new scenario the company can invest the same amount of capital and get far more potentials for success.

Build new skills

Even if the employees who participate in the innovation program don’t get their ideas funded, think about the skills they learn that they can bring back to their team. Being able to think through the process of creation and innovation is a very powerful skill that every employee within the company can benefit from. So this is also a form of employee training.

Engage employees

Remember, this entire innovation program is opt-in, meaning employees volunteer to take part in this process. Many employees want to be given the opportunity to take on new challenges, to experiment with their ideas, and to be entrepreneurs. This creates a much more engaged and active workforce that literally shows up to work ready to bring their all.

Retain talent

Oftentimes employees leave their current roles to purse their new ideas, this means losing valuable talent and if there’s anything we know about today’s business landscape it’s that the war for talent has never been greater. This type of an innovation program allows employees to stay within Adobe while simultaneously giving them the opportunity they crave to become entrepreneurs.

Create an adaptive organization

When you have a network of people at your company who are constantly thinking of new ideas, your organization becomes more adaptable and relevant and can stay one step ahead of the competition.

Some of the ideas that Adobe has mentioned include:

>> Creating a real-world game in which users participate in creative challenges in locations they discover through global positioning systems (GPS).

>> Creating video stories that sync images and music with mood and emotion.

>> Bringing paper homework assignments into the digital world.

Every organization should have a look at their current innovation process and ask themselves if every employee is given the resources and the opportunity to innovate. When we think about the future of work it’s not hard to see why innovation should be the responsibility of everyone within the company.

Too often I hear buzzwords like end-to-end, dynamic documents, MISMO 3.3. What do these things really mean and are they innovative? As an industry we need to take valuable tools like MISMO and find a way to use it to recreate the process.

If we just stay on the topic of MISMO, there are so many innovative things that can be done with this robust data standard to innovate and improve the product, yet people treat it like something to be checked off as just another feature that they have instead of talking about its benefits and how they are using MISMO to comply with RESPA-TILA, for example.

Innovation should be fun, like the game I discussed. It should be creative. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are practical reasons why certain things can’t be done no matter how innovative they are but that shouldn’t stop us from dreaming and looking beyond the normal everyday industry acronyms to find deeper meaning and a truly better way to originate loans.

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