As a new recruit to Potential Squared I’ve been hitting the ground running. We have a strong set of guiding principles as a company so I’ve been lucky to find out more about them through seeing them in action. Recently, I was excited to catch the final presentation at the end of the Greenhouse project at an organisation that Potential Squared has been working with for several years. In fact, the day I went coincided with a fond farewell to one of the judges, a senior member of the company who is retiring and has contributed to the Greenhouse initiative as a judge for over ten years.
The project takes place over six months, with the aim of promoting creativity and innovation by bringing together departments from across a large organisation. Each competing team represents a diverse mix of departments, mostly comprising fairly junior staff whose roles are fairly task-based. This is an opportunity for them to identify a real problem that the business faces and propose a solution, which they develop and prototype alongside their day to day work and finally present to the judges.
Each team also has two mentors who are more senior in the business. Potential Squared coaches the mentors in giving useful support and feedback, so that everyone, from junior to senior, is able to treat the task as a learning process. Potential Squared places emphasis on being ‘refreshingly direct’, meaning that feedback is honest, constructive and reliable. By promoting this to teams through other members of the organisation, we help embed it in the organisation’s practice.
The aim of the task is not just to produce a great solution to a business challenge, but also to hone the skills associated with presenting it and inspiring others with the idea. Much of the work we and the mentors did with each team was work on their confidence and delivery, which for many was a daunting challenge in itself.
On the day itself, I could see that tension was running high for the teams. This was the culmination of six months of hard work and they were all keen to win. And I was really impressed by the results, as clearly were the judges.
A project that stood out particularly for me came from a team who had found that clients were saying the company could be ‘hard to do business with’. They drilled down into the reasons why, and discovered that a key problem within in this was difficulties in the contract writing process. So, they developed a piece of software that simplified this process in order to speed it up, and prototyped it to check it worked.
Their solution clearly hit home with the judges, who were strongly impressed. It was a close call, but the award finally went to a team who’d managed to secure investment in advance of the presentation for their solution, by going round and selling it into the relevant departments in the organisation.
After the presentations, the judges gave feedback on both the solutions that each team presented, and also on the presentation itself. They were keen to note the many people who’d surprised them since the beginning of the process by really coming out of their shells during the process and who were now much more confident in front of an audience.
I was inspired by the ingenuity and confidence of all the teams. Each participant had clearly gained a lot from the combination of mentorship and the freedom to explore an idea themselves. Refreshingly Direct in action was seeing the feedback they gained from the judges, mentors and finally the Potential Squared associates themselves, who were all keen to encourage them to be rigorous in their process and to recognise their achievements. It was an exciting day to attend and I can’t wait for next year.