INNOVATION WEEK

I recently participated in my first Innovation Week at IGT. It was an amazing experience that took me out of my everyday content creation mindset in my studio and put me in a room with 11 other people from different disciplines from all over the company. I went in with an open mind, figuring that shaking things up to come up with new ideas might be a great opportunity. I was right.

The majority of the company was encouraged to participate. We were broken up into teams of around 12 people each. There were 41 teams and since IGT has offices around the world, there was a very diverse representation of talent. Reno has the most employees and the machines are actually manufactured here, so we had 21 teams.

The first thing that could go wrong with this concept is the fact that you are sitting in a room with 11 other people, most of whom you don’t know. Although I’ve never served on a jury, I imagined that it would be pretty similar. Everyone has their own personalities, opinions, experiences, expertise and abilities to speak up in a group. Some people are shy, while others tend to take over the room. Our moderator made sure to balance out these differences, so most of the awkward imbalances between our personalities were mitigated, if not totally eliminated.

The mission statement of Innovation Week was intentionally vague. Basically, we were all asked to get together and brainstorm on how to deliver new and better experiences for our customers and players. This could be anything from how to track parts on the assembly line, new technology that streamlines the infrastructure, or creating a totally different player experience on the casino floor.

After a brief period of feeling a bit of discomfort, I found myself opening up and just blurting out new ideas. Sometimes they were just crazy, and others would spur others in the group to morph the idea into something bigger and better. I found that the more I contributed, the more others would contribute. The more they would contribute, the more I could come up with, as well. None of us judged the ideas we came up with during our brainstorming sessions. Once someone says, “it can’t be done,” you kill the creative vibe. I was amazed that collectively, we came up with over 100 new ideas.

Around mid-week, we started to narrow down our ideas so that we could put together our presentation. It was then that one of the engineers asked a question about a certain technology that wasn’t possible 10 years ago. It turned out that he asked the right question. The other engineers became very passionate about how it could be done and devised a solution that could be a game changer for the company.

So we decided to present two ideas. One was a concept for games in the future, which I had been thinking about for a long time. The other was the game changing technology concept. We then put together the presentations that started with a short “advertisement” video, which encapsulated the idea in a very short and simple way. Then a speaker would talk about it in more detail with the aid of a Power Point presentation.

As Bob Moog told me once, “You can build anything you want, but can you sell it?” So it made sense that the first rounds of presentations were made to the sales force and the studio directors. All of them have great insight into what the customer wants and how feasible an idea is to actually implement.

Twenty single ideas (not teams) were selected to go on to the next round of presentations. Our technology idea made the cut and we presented again. This time, the audience was all of the top-level executives at IGT. Included were our CEO, Patti Hart, Chief Creative Officer, Darrell Rodriguez, various VPs and members of the Board Of Directors.

This was a pretty animated bunch. For some reason, I thought that the room would have been dead serious and everyone would have scowls on their faces. But it was quite the contrary. They seemed very happy and excited about the ideas they had heard from some of the other teams that presented before us and that continued throughout our presentation.

We started our presentation with an estimate of how much money could be generated as the result of our idea. At that point, one of them remarked, “You’ve got our attention now!” Everyone in the room started laughing and we proceeded. We were told to apply for a patent immediately, so I guess they thought the idea was pretty good.

In the end, our idea ended up winning second place in the Concept category. While I can’t divulge details, Innovation Week resulted in literally thousands of ideas that can help to move the company forward.

If you ever get the opportunity to participate in an event like this, don’t even give it a second thought — just do it. Any awkwardness or slight discomfort you might go through is far outweighed by the feeling of accomplishment. Even if your own ideas aren’t selected or implemented, you’ve contributed to many greater ideas. All of these diverse ideas will help to shape the future.

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