By: Rob Hoehn
COVID reshaped every department—including your innovation department. Find out how some organizations adapted to the remote work age by creating the virtual innovation lab, and how you can create your own by downloading this complimentary infographic.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is responsible for building, maintaining, and operating the state’s roads, bridges, and tunnels. They have the third-highest maintained highway system in the US, they employ nearly eight thousand people, and they are facing some of the most challenging transportation disruptions in history: aging infrastructure, smart cities, cybersecurity challenges, and more.
VDOT (like many government systems) knows that it has to change, and has created a dedicated innovation discipline to find new opportunities and overcome obstacles. Their Office of Strategic Innovation created a framework for innovation that allows them to source internal improvements, as well as improvements to the citizen experience. To facilitate that work, they created a customized innovation process and an innovation lab to share, develop, and launch new ideas. Their plan was to launch a digital component alongside their in-person work in April of 2020, but (like many other things) COVID changed their approach.
VDOT had to move all of their in-person events to online. What was once a live event over the course of three days with up to 60 participants became a two-day event where groups collaborated on MS Teams and submitted proposals on their innovation management platform with the ability to build and collaborate on proposals 4–6 weeks prior to the event, as well.
This became VDOT’s virtual innovation lab: a digital space in which an entire online crowd can remotely collaborate to experiment with new ideas and test new solutions to create new value. Many organizations are beginning to launch these systems in order to foster growth and promote new ideas—especially now in the era of remote collaboration, when this kind of work cannot always take place in person. In a virtual innovation lab, participants can generate ideas, review ideas, develop ideas, pilot and report on ideas, and promote the launch of new projects—all without having to come into a brick and mortar location.
VDOT isn’t alone. Research shows that more and more organizations are accelerating their adoption of digital tools so that they can keep pace with research. It’s important for innovation leaders to think about how they can keep their implementation rate up while also embracing the new age of remote work and social distancing.
About the Author
Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.