Harnessing the Power of Purpose and People to Drive Innovation
February 16, 2022
Connecting people to each other and a common purpose can have an uplifting effect on innovation and engagement.
5 min read
Jim Lovell, an American Astronaut, once said, “There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened.”
At Trane Technologies, we pride ourselves in being part of the first group that Lovell describes – a community of 37,000 people with the courage to create the future we imagine. As 2021 unfolded, still in the grips of a global pandemic, we opted to build a better future by taking an elevating step in our innovation journey. We launched an employee-powered innovation program called Operation Possible – a program that harnesses the diverse experiences and spirit of optimism that our people bring to our shared purpose; to boldly challenge what’s possible for a sustainable world.
The model for Operation Possible is really very simple and has one leading principle; great things happen when people unite around a common purpose.
We started by asking our people what big global issues they wanted to confront – the types of social and environmental problems that make no sense in a modern and fair society. To collect their ideas, we built an online digital community and collaboration experience where any employee could submit a suggestion. That first call for ideas garnered over 400 problem submissions and more than 12,000 votes cast from across 17 countries. This high level of engagement was a validating signal that our people were ready to bring our purpose to life in a whole new way.
To channel our collective focus and energy, we narrowed down the submissions into 5 problem categories and selected our first challenge to tackle together: the co-existence of food loss and hunger.
Over the course of four months, we kept our people at the center of development – first crowd-sourcing solution ideas and then collectively crowd-solving on the concepts and solutions that gained the most traction among our employee community.
As a standard of design, we used platforms and interactive formats that were naturally inclusive and welcomed diversity. At each stage of ideation, our people were able to connect, collaborate and build on each other’s ideas on the digital platform - and live virtual Jam Sessions brought together people from a full range of roles, functions, seniority and geographies.
The high level of engagement was a validating signal that our people were ready to bring our purpose to life in a whole new way.
A four-step process for sourcing and developing ideas
Identifying the problem
Submit a problem idea, vote and comment to give feedback to others
Submit your solutions to the problem
Build out the ideas
Teams form and build out ideas
Prototyping and Piloting
Begin project execution on selected ideas
While the use of inclusive and collaborative technology has been an important part of making the wheels of innovation turn, so has inclusive storytelling to help people find a compelling connection to the problems we are trying to solve. Our communications, innovation and marketing teams developed a unique partnership with Not Impossible Labs to document the story of our people and progress throughout our journey.
Bringing these stories to life made the program relatable and meaningful, and helped educate and inspire - ultimately elevating the quality of engagement and innovation overall. Cross-functional teams with diverse skill sets devoted to the program’s success – the power of our people in action - is what gives a program like Operation Possible an extra edge.
In under six months, we went from broadly sourcing ideas about big problems to solve, to having four specific innovative concepts ready for prototyping and validation. We won’t stop here, because our ambition with Operation Possible is to make a real impact with the solutions that stem from this innovation program, by getting as many people involved. The feedback received from employees so far is giving us confidence that we’re on the right path to success.
A participant from our corporate legal team shared this experience, “During the Jam Sessions, the energy, the passion and the sense of community that I felt was like nothing I had ever felt before. I felt like it was a safe space to share my ideas, even though there were engineers in the room.”
We are only one cycle into this new innovation journey with many more problems to tackle, and already a major outcome is clear - including as many people as you can in the innovation process can be a great way to build up your innovation pipeline and drive employee engagement.
That’s why we are tackling big problems today, because we know we are the people who can make a more sustainable tomorrow happen.
If you think about how innovation, how new things get created it's a community of ideas. And we were inspired by the opportunity to do something great through operation possible. We hope all the work can contribute to our sustainability, to the company, and to the world.
Why can't we make a technology that will directly lead to the food wastage collection? We have to innovate we have to find a way to solve this problem. So it is all who together are contributing to this community and making this possible. We have the technology, we have the creativity. What we've accomplished as a team of 40,000 employees; let's find it, let's correct it, let's keep that food waste from occurring. I'm so excited about what we're doing around food loss. I didn't realize just how inclusive the innovation process could be.
The goal of this project is not only to reduce waste but improve lives of a lot of people across the world. If Operation Possible can save just one child then we will make a difference. I became a bit responsible towards the food I have. I’ve started to look at food in my home a little bit differently. We can have an impact on future generations that will walk on this earth. I'm hopeful that our contributions will be truly meaningful. I look forward to staying involved next year and years beyond. Thank you, everyone, take care.
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