Guest Post: Susan Penfield on How to Build, Foster a ‘Culture of Innovation’

penfield_susan_small(Susan Penfield is an executive vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton)

Culture isn’t created by chance. It’s engineered, practiced, disciplined and starts with people. Creating collaborative spaces that foster collisions of ideas between smart people with diverse experiences and expertise produces better, faster, more relevant technologies and processes.

The idea of a culture of innovation is that it is supported across many dimensions such as spaces, places, special events, and infrastructure that promote collaboration. It’s about being bold, and doing things in a different way to advance this audacious era of innovation.

At Booz Allen, our clients are embracing the idea of an audacious and collaborative era of innovation, which enables them to gather and associate critical ideas and inputs from across their networks. They’re creating the time, space, and funding to foster that innovation.

Now and in the future, collaborative and reciprocal partnerships will supplement organizational processes and a strong, well-maintained network of external inputs will enable clients to fail, adapt, and learn faster.

Booz Allen has embraced a culture of innovation through our Strategic Innovation Group, which we started to help create new ways for employees to have close collaboration across time zones. Digital enablers — tools and processes to improve speed, collaboration and quality — make bureaucratic business more productive and more nimble.

This technology explosion has accelerated growth in functional areas like predictive intelligence, digital and next generation analytics — key areas for our SIG Group.

For example, the intelligence, defense, and healthcare markets in particular deal with immense amounts of data beyond the comprehension of any individual or technology. The insight – confirmation of suspected relationships and detection of new patterns in data – emerges from strategies rooted in exploration by purposely diverse teams.

The answers rarely surface from the same field but instead from orthogonal disciplines: the healthcare diagnosis informed by imagery analysis methods from the intelligence community and resilience campaigns sourced in consumer marketing methods.

The inherent value in the data is not unlocked through pure scientific methods but through careful orchestration of data science talent, computing machines and direction. These new technologies and cultural changes are creating new markets and new disciplines.

Booz Allen’s relentless commitment to culture permeates our approach to cultivating talent. The firm encourages inspired people to bring forward their ideas through numerous events and platforms. One of these, the Combustion Chamber, offers a forum for staff to seek investment and mentorship from executives in their market-ready business concepts.

This talent approach is a shared priority for federal agencies and other organizations driven to build value and introduce talent into the marketplace. The Combustion Chamber is one part of a larger cultural ecosystem within Booz Allen. And it represents an idea for federal agencies to explore as they seek to change how their organizations create value.

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