Like so many corporate leaders, Anne Price wanted more innovation, but wasn’t sure how to get it. As Director of Global Marketing Capabilities at UPS, Price wanted a way to help UPS marketers live up to their new corporate strategy: “Innovation driven.” Her solution came in the form of a training course, inspired by Shark Tank, called “Innovate Like an Entrepreneur.”
Robyn Wetzel, president of In Focus Connects, hatched the idea for the course when she saw a growing trend: corporations were actively looking outside the boundaries of R&D for innovation. “Today, teams across the organization are being asked to innovate,” she said. “The trouble is, most organizations don’t give teams the two things they need: Skills in creative problem solving and time to apply them.”
When Wetzel first piloted “Innovate Like an Entrepreneur”, she gave participants time to work on a corporate challenge, but no training on creative problem solving skills. “I thought case studies of entrepreneurs would be enough,” she said. Corporate participants were definitely dazzled by the entrepreneurs, but without tools and process to apply to the challenge, they really struggled to come up with creative solutions. “Creative thinking is the hallmark of entrepreneurs,” said Wetzel. “Without creativity, there’s no innovation.”
“The trouble is, organizations don’t give teams the two things they need to innovate: Skills in creative problem solving and time to apply them.”
Her solution? Build FourSight into her course. Designed by two PhDs in Creative Leadership, the FourSight Creative Problem Solving System combines a simple assessment, with tools and training to give people a practical, research-based framework for creative thinking and collaboration. Wetzel said, “I realized, if we want people to produce new thinking, we need to give them new tools to do it.”
For UPS, Price commissioned the new-and-improved version of Wetzel’s “Innovate Like an Entrepreneur” course, the one with FourSight baked into it.
“People loved it. It scored higher than any other training in my 8 years at UPS.”
They ran the first course in January, and participants gave it rave reviews:
“The best course I’ve been through in 35 years.”
“Excellent class that all UPS-ers should take.”
“Absolutely key to our continued growth & success.”
“People loved it,” said Price. “It scored higher than any other training in my eight years at UPS.” After January’s pilot success, Price added several more “Innovate Like An Entrepreneur” courses to the 2020 calendar. Then COVID hit. In-person training was cancelled.
It was FourSight facilitator and course trainer, Russ Schoen, who proposed navigating a path to a virtual format. Price had her reservations. “I didn’t see how this kind of creative thinking and collaboration could actually work in a virtual training environment,” she said. “But if ever we needed creative thinking, we needed it now.” Schoen and Wetzel redesigned the course, hosting it on Zoom and facilitating the brainstorming with an online facilitation platform called Stormz.
In July, they ran the course again. This time it was all virtual. One participant admitted, “I was looking forward to the class, but dreading a 6 hour Zoom meeting. I was very surprised how well it worked and how quickly the time flew by. The seamless transitions between the Zoom general session, Zoom breakout rooms and Stormz was terrific. The virtual class may have held my attention better than in person.”
The course earned a 100% promoter score, meaning every participant would recommend it.
Aside from being popular and giving UPS employees a chance to reconnect and collaborate virtually with coworkers, the course was developing a new cognitive muscle at UPS. “Our company has always leaned toward incremental improvements over radical ones,” said Price. “This course is helping people get out of their comfort zone and think bigger.”
Course participant Joe Rayburn said, “I am that guy that wants to walk into a room, see the problem, crush it, and move on. That creativity piece is not a strength of mine.” As Senior Manager in Customer Technology Marketing, Rayburn said, “My biggest takeaway from this course was a framework for creativity. Walking away with a set of tools to help me drive toward a creative solution more effectively is really great.”
For another participant, Jake Hearron, Senior Director of Finance at UPS, the big takeaway was a tool called “POINt.” It taught him to respond to new ideas by first looking for their merits. He immediately recognized the value of the tool for senior leaders, who are quick to point out flaws and weaknesses of new ideas. “In hindsight I realize that there were so many ideas with potential that we may have shut down because of our approach,” he said. “I wish I could go back in time and handle things differently. Moving forward I will definitely employ the tools I learned in this workshop.”
FourSight facilitator Schoen finds it gratifying to see changes like this take place in people during the training. “It’s funny,” he said. “We teach people reading, writing and every other skill, but not creative thinking. Somehow we expect them to figure that out on their own. It’s a shame, when we have proven tools to help people think more creatively.”
Wetzel said, “It’s exciting to watch what happens when people are given a framework and tools to do creative problem solving. One group told us they got more ideas in six hours than they got in the past six months.”
“This is a great way to challenge teams to think differently,” said Price. “Innovation and creativity can come from anywhere and any team. At UPS, this program is helping us embrace that.”
“In hindsight, I realize there were so many ideas with potential that we may have shut down." -- Jake Hearron
How the course works
“Innovate Like An Entrepreneur” is an experiential workshop, focused on developing innovative solutions to real business challenges. Part skill-building and part Shark Tank, the program equips teams with the capabilities and mindset they need to jump-start contributions in an innovation-driven organization.
The workshop begins with a focus on entrepreneurial thinking and training in FourSight’s creative problem solving system. Then, small teams transition from learning to doing. They get a real corporate challenge and then apply the new processes and tools they learned. They clarify the challenge, ideate possible solutions, develop a leading solution and create plans for implementation— all within the 3-day session. At the end of the third day, they share their recommendations with a team of judges—the corporate Shark Tank.
To date, participants rate “Innovate Like an Entrepreneur” among the best courses at UPS. To find out more, contact Robyn Wetzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or Russ Schoen at email@example.com.