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Getting our "Make On"

  • Posted on May 22, 2018
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
avanade-makeathon-2018
Just to set the record straight, I love blazing new trails and am constantly impressed with Avanade’s support of bold ideas and embracing change. A few months ago, a cross functional global team was gathered to address an exciting challenge. While our innovation architecture already has flagship learning and innovation events, what if we bring even more sizzle and excitement to our internal culture of innovation? How might we bring our innovation agenda to even more of our team members around the world?  

While client-centric innovation excites us, and is the core of what we do, it usually means that our time to innovate with utter abandon and endless creativity is limited. Adding to this equation, we know from our employee surveys that it’s what many of our technologists, strategists, and designers crave. But with busy schedules and demanding deadlines, we don’t often get to hack or come together across disciplines to make our ideas come to life. 

My team and I took to the challenge and put our heads together to consider how we could tap into the power of our people and infuse even more innovation into our culture with the added goal of better preparing for the Intelligent Enterprise—where our work and our skills become more value-driven. We knew we shouldn’t just hack or code, too. We have amazing advisory, design, change enablement and other non-engineering talent who could contribute their ideas to solving problems and learning from each other, and we wanted to capitalize on the diversity within Avanade (skills, expertise, background, level, etc.) in the same ways our clients do. 

This is where the “Regional Innovation Summits” and “Makeathons” were born. What if we brought these diverse teams together to learn from each other, from industry thought leaders, and through Makeathon challenges? What if we took them away from their day jobs and let them focus only on innovation and learning for one day? What if we focused on having FUN? And what if people would walk away with a growth mindset as well as friendships and knowledge that would make them better prepared for tomorrow? 

I’m happy to report that this seedling of an idea has taken hold and learning has taken root—plus some early stage idea ‘blossoms’ are catching the attention of our people and inspiring teams to think big. In a 6-week period Avanade will hold 35 Regional Innovation Summits in our 17 Regions around the world and ask everyone to learn something innovation-related from a new resource called Innovation Learning Boards. Going forward these boards will become an ongoing tool for our people to get the latest on new technology and trends (e.g., blockchain, cognitive services, data science, digital ethics, design thinking, etc.). Better yet, these Innovation Learning Boards prepare Regional Innovation Summit participants for the Makeathon challenges that will be worked on during the Summit.

To give you a sense of what the 2018 Makeathon challenges were, here’s the title of one that was inspired by our Digital leadership: Answering society’s questions and driving worldwide impact using Artificial Intelligence and Analytics.

In the first few weeks, I’ve seen some really inspiring outcomes which I believe are forming the foundation of a culture of innovation movement:
- Our Nordics team garnered local media attention for dedicating a day to their innovation challenge.
- Our Brazil team opened registration at 3am – only to fill up within hours. 
- Seattle and LA keynotes featured Accenture Labs’ Global Managing Director and Microsoft’s Chief Medical Officer who told amazing stories demonstrating the impact technology can have on lives.
- The winning team at our event in Vienna integrated new AI technology into a modern workplace O365 experience.
- Japan gathered 14 teams in Tokyo where the chatbot ideas took on a life of their own…and the food looked amazing!
- Our people are walking out of these events with more connections—with people in their regions who are on different projects, with our partners and with industry thought leaders. 

I personally saw connections made and lightbulbs illuminated. I attended the Seattle event which was held within the Seattle Microsoft Technology Center and enjoyed a broad spontaneous conversation about how everyone needs to become AI-savvy (people in design, user experience, change enablement, advisory, and technology). People walked away with a new commitment to learning and an appreciation of what it means to innovate with passion and purpose. 

I have a big smile on my face when I think about how all of these connections make us a better connected and mission-driven team, how people experienced the power of diversity and inclusion, while experiencing new ways of making our innovation agenda come to life. 

I love seeing how the events are translated slightly differently around the world but the excitement and openness of our people remains the common thread that binds our culture. I know this is the start of something bigger and I can’t wait to see where our Regional Summits of 2018 lead us and how we will connect them to our other large global innovation events.  

It’s Makeathon season; time to get our make on!
 

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