Backstage with Jason Lauritsen: Q&A with a 2018 Inclusive Diversity Conference Innovation Expert

February 13, 2018 | Randi Kenney | HCI
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Diversity and inclusion are more than trends—they are crucial drivers of innovation, the development of new ideas, and key factors in real time alignment to the market. Today’s polarizing political atmosphere only serves to underline the importance of building an inclusive and collaborative culture across the employee lifecycle.

On April 12-13 of this year, HCI will host its second annual Inclusive Diversity Conference in San Francisco. The event will feature keynote speakers from organizations like Amazon, Starbucks, Nielsen, and the Peace Corps. In addition to the main stage, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in Innovation Sprints, unique interactive sessions pioneered by HCI last year that facilitate creative thinking and practical application of concepts learned. Each Innovation Sprint will be led by Jason Lauritsen, keynote speaker, author, and consultant.  He is an employee engagement and workplace culture expert and former corporate HR executive. Jason has dedicated his career to helping leaders build organizations that are good for both people and profits. We had a chat with Jason to learn more about what to expect during an Innovation Sprint, and why these activities are critical to crafting new approaches to diversity and inclusion.

Innovation sprints are built around the concept of creative destruction. What is creative destruction, and how do you apply it to HR strategy?

JASON: Creative destruction is a very fancy way of describing the way we “hack” the work we do and the concepts we learn at events. It’s important that we take this hands-on approach to strike a balance with what I think what generally happens at conferences—we talk about big ideas and game-changing case studies or concepts, but oftentimes we overlook the fact that there are much smaller things that we can do immediately to make an impact. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. While we're thinking and planning for the big idea or the major initiative, we can also be starting small and hacking our work towards some improvement right away.

Creative destruction runs counter to how we do most of our work every day. When we think about solving problems, we tend to think about the whole system, and it gets very complicated very quickly. When we break things down into smaller pieces and identify actions or solutions that we can take on personally, there's accountability built into the process. During the Innovation Sprints I’ll be leading at HCI events this year, we'll come up with some ideas that people can walk away with and go back and implement immediately.

How could we use these ideas—“Hackathons” and Innovation Sprints—to drive innovation in our organizations?

JASON: As we’re engaging in creative destruction at these events, we’re actually teaching a process. As the participants in the room hack with us and come up with some solutions in real time, they don't just take back the solution. They also take back this process, and the process works at any level with any group. They can take it back to their management team, a front-line diversity department team or HR department or team, and you can work through it with different problems.

The other benefit of an Innovation Sprint it is that it's a high-speed approach to innovation. In the space of an hour or sometimes less, we can take a problem or a area within your work, break it down into smaller parts, hack on that either individually or in teams, and come up with a whole host of solutions.

For individuals who are considering attending the 2018 Inclusive Diversity event, what can they expect from participating in an Innovation Sprint?

JASON: At the event, we’ll bring together small groups of 20-25 people, who will then break into smaller teams. We’re going to talk about the different parts of or elements that influence inclusive diversity in our organizations. Each team will choose one of those things, such as communication, engagement, training, hiring, etc. We’ll learn a quick, simple process for breaking the problem down into smaller parts and brainstorming solutions or improvements to those smaller parts that will make the overall problem better.

At the end, each team will pitch their solution back to the group. It’s very high energy and very interactive. Each Sprint features a little bit of me facilitating and a lot of attendees working together, learning from each other, and creating together. In the space of less than an hour, not only has each team gone through the process of creative destruction, but they’ve also had the benefit of hearing other solutions from other teams. They’ll walk away with as many as five potential ideas or solutions that can be implemented back at work, in addition to an understanding of the process and how it can be used to accelerate innovation.

To learn more about Innovation Sprints and creative destruction from Jason, you can listen to the full podcast here.

To participate in an Innovation Sprint, register for the 2018 Inclusive Diversity Conference in April 12-13 in San Francisco. Learn more here.