Craig Bardenheuer is the VP of Worldwide Business Innovation and Growth at Juniper Networks. Part of his responsibilities include creating a connectivity that allows the global company to communicate in a way that boosts the culture and engagement of employees.
That engagement is not a simple thing to achieve in an organization that has 9000 plus employees spread throughout 100 countries. In fact, it might even seem like an insurmountable challenge to some leaders.
Craig knew that within Juniper there was a goldmine of insight and ideation already existing in the workforce. He found Waggl and began to implement it as a tool in the company’s innovative idea incubation program.
“This program is like an internal venture capital on a very small scale. Before we had Waggl we’d ask people to give us their ideas, and then it was rigorous to maintain the program because you were going through proposals by hand and thoughtfully organizing responses and it took quite a while even for just a few proposals.
So the next round we decided to have everyone submit through Waggl their proposals, with a 600 word synopsis of their ideas. Those proposals were put to 4000 people, and they cast more than 10,000 votes on the submitted proposals. That voting gave us our top 10 ideas, which were then presented to a panel of judges who awarded incubation funding.
Now we have employees who have a vested stake in the innovation at the company because they’ve voted to express their opinions. It starts creating a lot more energy, and every time we do one of these more and more people are participating.”
The use of Waggl has not been contained to any one department at Juniper. One of it’s most profoundly actionable applications has been to promote risk-taking in the organization.
Using Waggl as a follow-up to a climate survey, Juniper asked employees: “If you know taking a smart risk could lead to great results, what stops you from doing it?”
Craig explained, “We got such honest responses . First: ‘You are keeping us from doing this! Leadership tells us to take risks but then they fail to support ideas that don’t fit what they are already doing. They make it very difficult.’ That leads to the second problem they told us, which is that ‘it’s just too hard. It seems like it takes 10 yeses to get things done and only 1 no to kill it.’ So, it can be really difficult to make progress. This is no different from most companies, but that doesn’t obviate the need to fix it.”
“So, I went to the leadership team and said, ‘sorry, this is what everyone told us. What we need you to do is be very explicit in your support, make your move and support your people. Save some money for the things that are unpredictable that have incredible possibilities.’ They were surprised because, to a person, they believed that they DO support smart risk taking. So we then asked our people, ‘If leaders are in the way, what would you have to see from them before you recognized that they really are supporting you?’
They came back and told us ‘we have to see leaders taking risks themselves, we have to see risks promoted within the organization. We have to see them funding risks, talking about risks whether they succeed or fail. We have to see people that fail at risks still succeeding in their careers.’
I’m happy to say our last climate survey was in October and we went up 10 points on a 100 point scale on risk taking in that year. Of course, there’s more to do, but now we’re on a good trajectory simply because we’ve included our people in the conversation and can focus on the things they’ve told us matter.”
Craig has been the driver that implemented Waggl into Juniper, but he’s thrilled to see the use of the platform expand to become the primary gage of culture within the organization.
“Right now at Juniper we have something I didn’t drive: Waggl Wednesdays we we take biweekly pulses on things of interest inside the company from culture to what we include in a company meeting. It’s becoming part of mainstream speak in the company, and what we’re seeing is that the participation rate is higher than anyone thought it would be and is growing from pulse to pulse.”
Looking to the future, Craig has big plans for an exciting new way to connect the global workforce. His concept, which he calls “distributed brainstorming,” will allow his global company to engage people, despite geographic and departmental barriers, rapidly and transparently on creative problem solving.
Craig explained Juniper’s first use of distributed brainstorming. “The problem we were trying to solve was figuring out what was going to happen with our sales kickoff on the main stage. Let’s talk about what’s important. Let’s get a team together that has a really rich and broad perspective and first get a sense of ‘what’s the context for the sales kickoff meetings.’ In other words, ‘what does 2017 look like, how are people feeling, what are they thinking. And ultimately the first thing we wanted to figure out was how did we want the meeting to land? What did we want people to feel like when they walked away so that they understand and they are ready to go out and take on the world to create success.
So we brought a worldwide team of 10 people together, we Waggl brainstormed around it, and ultimately what it came down to was two things were really important. The speakers and content had to be authentic. Second thing is that the content that was presented had to be pithy and not seen as overly polished. It shouldn’t be just a bunch of cheerleading. That was what we used going into content creation with common thinking from around Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Americas.
At the sales conferences the leaders shifted the way they did things to correspond with the content the workforce had put forward. We changed the format so that there would be a lot less presenting, and a lot more conversation, and that landed very well. So, it was more real. The people that participated in it loved it, and I have since had people come back and say I want to do something like that myself.”
At Waggl we celebrate Progressive Leaders like Craig who have the courage to let the people within his organization be heard. We understand that these voices, the collective wisdom of the group, hold the insights that spur innovation and create a truly engaged culture.
We also think Craig and Juniper offer valuable inspiration to companies looking to engage and grow their organizations. Sometimes it just takes one push in a different direction to create a sea-change that can transform your organization.
“If you want to succeed, the first thing you have to do to be truly innovative is to break out of your usual mold when approaching problems. The usual mold is what allows you to have a usual answer and it prevents you from doing anything new and truly extraordinary if you’re not careful,” Craig said.
Would you like to find out how Waggl can help your organization become more innovative and aligned? Watch Craig’s recent Waggl Webinar, or contact us for a demo to learn more.