Last month, Molly Tierney and I kicked off a blog series about 10 things we have learned about innovation while developing groundbreaking Child Welfare solutions. The first post previewed the 10 lessons we learned through our ongoing experiences and reflections. In this post, I’m going to expand on two – “Grow from grassroots” and “Drop the anchor” – by sharing some stories of how the Accenture Virtual Experience Solution (AVEnueS) was born.

Grow from grassroots

Wouldn’t it be great if innovations sprang forward fully formed? In reality, they’re more likely to start with the spark of a single idea. That’s what happened to me. I kept encountering news stories about using virtual reality to help caregivers truly understand what it’s like to live without sight or with impaired balance. That combination of “VR” and “empathy” piqued my curiosity: “How could we apply VR in Child Services?”

I wasn’t sure how or when or why, but I felt strongly that putting VR and Child Services together was an idea worth pursuing. Rather than second-guessing that impulse, I decided to pitch my morsel of an idea to a member of the leadership team whom I know to be a thoughtful decision maker. In my case, this was Ryan Oakes, who leads Accenture’s North America Public Sector team and excels at creating the right conditions for innovation. I simply sent him an email describing my idea and asking, specifically, what he thought of it and if he could get behind it.

Supportive of the initial idea, Ryan started to connect me with others who could provide input and guidance. It was a slow process – with multiple emails, calls and discussions spanning several months. Some of these contacts advanced the effort; others proved to be dead ends. In time, though, we assembled a team of subject-matter and technical experts, and together we moved forward with what had become a vision for using VR to support caseworker training and development. (It wasn’t smooth sailing from there, but I’ll save those details for future posts.)

Lesson: Find one or two people who believe in the idea and move it forward one person at a time until there is momentum.

Drop the anchor

Accenture was slated to deliver a Platinum session at the IT Solutions Management for Human Services (ISM) conference in Seattle in September 2018. Much earlier in the year, I saw this as an opportunity to commit to having a proof of concept of our innovative caseworker training solution.

The idea that I would commit to showing something in September – when we had nothing ready in March – invited some understandable doubt and naysaying. But I knew that when push came to shove, Accenture would come through, and that a Platinum Session commitment would ensure that we moved this idea forward in a very tangible way.

Was I breaking the rules by proposing something we couldn’t yet deliver? No. But I was pushing the status quo in a bold way – taking a calculated risk in the name of real innovation.

The risk paid off. That fall, I stood in front of a room of Human Services leaders and showed them how virtual reality could revolutionize the way caseworkers are recruited, trained and continually developed to support better outcomes for families and their children.

Lesson: Think about the people whose support you need. Find an event or important milestone they believe in or support, and then drop an anchor to that for the new idea.

In the next post, Molly Tierney will share why we’ve learned to “Keep everything in the sunshine” when nurturing an innovation. In the meantime, learn more about AVEnueS here and follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Read the next post in this series, ”Lessons on Innovation: Keep Everything in the Sunshine.”

Valerie Armbrust

Managing Director – Consulting, Public Service

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