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The ABC’s of Innovation

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Stories Inc. is pleased to announce that Stories Inc. Partner Jill Shabelman is launching Green Room Labs, Stories’ in-house innovation lab delivering the next big trends in employer brand storytelling. In this post, Jill shares the ‘ABC’s of Innovation’ that will guide Green Room Lab storytelling experiments.

I love taking personality tests. I usually hate the results. 

In college, I learned that I’m just one of two percent of the population who identify as an INTJ in Myers-Briggs (an INTJ looks at the big picture and likes to focus on abstract information rather than concrete details. They also tend to be perfectionists.) 

Then I found out I was a “Questioner” in Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies assessment. Whose motto is, “I’ll comply if you convince me why.” 

And then the Enneagram. I winced when reading my report on being a Type One—also known as “The Perfectionist.” 

But, according to Deloitte’s Business Chemistry, I’m a “Pioneer.” This means that I value possibilities and spark energy and imagination. I’m outgoing (maybe), spontaneous (sometimes), and adaptable (usually). Pioneers are creative thinkers who believe big risks can bring great things.

So I’m now considering myself a Pioneering Perfectionist. And that feels right.

My happiest moments in life have been when someone has given me a giant piece of white paper and said, “go make something.” From art class when I was eight, to creating a new initiative from nothing when I was 38, I thrive where there are no rules. But I also bring my recovering perfectionism to create something great. 

Which is why I’m beyond excited to be launching Stories Inc.’s new innovation center: Green Room Labs. I’ll be taking what I’ve learned and combining it with the willingness to take risks—to help deliver the next big trends in employer brand storytelling. Companies partnering with the lab will be able to bring their own innovative ideas to test, or get on the ground floor of new employee storytelling trends we’re exploring.

Our approach will be fast-paced, action-oriented and focused on bringing new ideas to life. I promise to not let my perfectionism (or yours) get in the way.

To get started, I’ve created my own ABC’s of innovation to serve as our foundation for running thoughtful and impactful experiments.

A: Audience

As a culture communicator, you have a hard job. You are asked to communicate with a lot of different people, in many different ways to ultimately achieve a variety of objectives. 

But what potential candidates or current employees want to know completely depends on who they are, what they are interested in, and what matters to them. When trying something new, it’s important to get crystal clear on your audience. It’s probably not all candidates, or all employees. It’s more likely a subset of them. The more targeted you can be in your segmenting and messaging, the more creativity you can unlock and the easier it will be to know if your experiment works. 

Let’s say you want to test day-in-the-life videos that follow an employee from their alarm going off until dinner is made. The day-in-the-life of your manufacturing associate is going to look vastly different from the day-in-the-life of your finance team. To really figure out the right approach, you’re best served starting with one. Understand that audience at a granular level and talk only to them. Once you see what works and what doesn’t in the approach, you can adapt it to other segments. 

B: Beta testing

In the software development world, beta testing is the first step to a successful product launch. It puts a product out in the world to a small group of users so any bugs or issues can be fixed before the masses get access. 

Our industry is missing a bit of beta testing. A “pilot” program was initially our chance to try something in a contained way to see if it worked. But we often move away from true testing to launching something at almost full scale. You have a lot to prove with a small budget or limited bandwidth so it feels like the bigger you can test, the better off you’ll be. This usually means things get overthought from the beginning, too many people get involved, and the idea gets diluted. 

In Green Room Labs, we’re going to be quickly testing big ideas in small ways to see what works and doesn’t. Then doing it again—small, quick, what works, what doesn’t. Ultimately creating something more successful in the long run. 

C: Constraints

The most creative ideas often come from having constraints. You can’t boil the ocean when you’re trying to create something new. It can’t be the thing for all people. It usually needs to be for a certain segment, for a certain amount of time, and/or within a certain budget. 

In March of 2020 when the world shut down, our business was going to be heavily impacted. We hung our hat on traveling around the world to work environments to interview employees in-person. 

We had to innovate quickly to interview people virtually amongst many constraints: the filming gear we wanted to order was in short supply (everyone wanted a webcam now), we had never done this before, we couldn’t spend a ton of money knowing that we needed to be in a financial position to keep our team employed. 

We took the idea of remote interviewing and experimented with our own team. We failed a few times. It was occasionally frustrating and painful. But we knew we had to get it out in the market (see beta testing above). Luckily, we had a few client partners who also wanted to find a way to interview their employees who were now stuck at home.

Over time, this became our Virtual Story Sessions offering. And it’s still an experiment. We learn new things every day. Our constraints have changed, but the willingness to keep trying new things and adapting to an ever-changing environment has helped us grow our business and serve a need that didn’t exist before.

And a bonus C: Champion

I mentioned not including everyone in the process of innovating. You do need someone though, and that’s a champion. It doesn’t need to be your boss, or your boss’s boss (and it’s usually better if it isn’t these people.) It just needs to be someone close to the effort who can give feedback, collaborate, and eventually share the story of your success.

While slide decks of data and metrics may eventually greenlight a new program, it’s influence that often matters more. Having the right person saying the right things about what you created goes a long way to convincing a wider stakeholder group that something is worth expanding.

Our advice: be strategic and get someone involved who will be a great partner for you and has influence in the organization.

Bring on the innovation!

I can’t wait to bring new ideas to market through Green Room Labs using the ABC’s of Innovation. Helping you find the right audience to experiment with, beta testing to find the right approach, and doing it quickly with a few constraints in place. And Stories Inc. is always here to be your champion.

Let’s get innovating!

Schedule a free consultation with Jill Shabelman and Green Room Labs

Bring the storytelling idea that’s been tabled, parked, and “pushed to next quarter” one too many times. Or, get on the ground floor on the next storytelling trend being tested by our team.