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Like a lot of companies, Atlantic Lottery’s business started to shift as more millennials entered the 19- to 34-year-old customer demographic.
They’ve spent the last several years striving to build their capacity for innovation and increase their relevance with young consumers.
There has been a lot of trial and error, a few false starts and eventually, a few successes. As their transformation continues, Atlantic Lottery has reached the point where innovation is no longer an isolated job that one team is responsible for — it’s a way of working that is at the heart of the company.
I sat down with Jean Marc Landry, vice president of innovation and renewal, to talk about sharing ownership of innovation and what advice he has for others who are trying to do the same.
Q: What’s the difference between having a token “fresh thinker” or entrepreneur in an organization and having innovation at the heart of it?
A: There is a huge and important difference here. We believe we need to be an innovative company, not just a company with an innovation team. The risk of the latter is that your innovation team will see most of their great ideas die on the vine. And that’s not really innovation, is it? The idea of innovation is the great execution of great ideas. Otherwise, you have an ideas department — and ideas alone don’t drive results.
Q: Is there a time and a place for both? Or perhaps, does a company need to start with a small focused effort before innovation can become more fully integrated?
A: I think so. At the start of our journey, we were more of an innovation department. The value here is that we had a small team acting as early adopters of the approach and building a wave of energy throughout the building. This was probably a good thing in the first year or two, but not the optimal model at scale. We have learned that to move from innovation theatre to innovation impact, we need to work in collaboration with others throughout the development process. When you do this, other departments have skin in the game because they’ve participated in the development of the initiative. Therefore, they are way more likely to act as ambassadors.
Q: Innovation can be a lonely, uphill road. How do you and your team keep your morale up?
A: First of all, we try to have a lot of fun and not take ourselves seriously. Second, we hire co-op students, who add so much energy and freshen up the mood in the room. Third, we have our innovation coordinator, Zoe the Cockapoo. She comes to work a couple of times a week and not only does she help us keep things light, people from all over the building come to visit us when Zoe’s in the office.
Q: What are your thoughts on how early adopters of innovation and resistors of innovation can find common ground?
A: If we’ve done anything well as it relates to that, it’s been that we have gone out of our way to celebrate the people who’ve participated in our work and to over communicate the great things they’ve done. That’s caught on a little bit. It helps resistors to see tangible things and understand that we don’t own ideas, we make a point to share them.
Another thing that’s been key is when we bring ideas or initiatives to others in the company and their reaction is along the lines of “you can’t do that,” we’ve trained ourselves to respond with “let’s think about it for a couple of days.” Often, after giving it two sleeps, both parties are more open.
Q: How do you stay sane when you get really frustrated?
A: We have a gym in the office and I go at lunch, as often as I possibly can, to expend energy. In 45 minutes I can sweat, shower, be back at my desk and start a new day. Resilience is critical for innovators and I think you need to refill your bucket a few times a day. You need to change the ions in your surroundings, in whatever way you can.
About Atlantic Lottery
Atlantic Lottery offers everything from dare-to-dream draw games to online bingo; break-open tickets to sports wagering; and games in social settings and on the internet.
We are owned by the four regional provincial governments — not private shareholders. After all of our business costs and bills are paid, everything that’s left goes back to these governments for hospitals, schools, roads, arenas, social programs and other services.
Here are a few of Jean Marc’s favourite sources of innovation and inspiration:
- Podcast: Killer Innovations with
- Phil McKinney
- Book: Innovator’s DNA by
- Clay Christensen
- Event: Innov8rs