Flashback to 2015, when we tried something that has made an indelible impact on the culture of ExxonMobil.
At the time, Christopher Bailey and I were a two person team, focused on driving an innovation culture at ExxonMobil, helping the organization figure out what that would even look like at a Fortune 5 organization. It was then that we started podcasting to solve a problem – our calendars were literally full of requests from people across the corporation asking us the same types of questions. Everyone wanted to be more innovative, was looking to better understand basics like crowd sourcing or idea selection, or wanted to “instill an innovation mindset” into their teams. The level of popularity was a nice recognition that we were building a bit of an internal brand about ourselves, the two “outside the box” guys that ran a group called #innovation (“the connective thread to innovation across the corporation”).
In reality, the demand was completely unsustainable for our team of two to manage. We knew we couldn’t grow the team (in fact, by the time Christopher and I move on, we never really had the chance to grow the team due to a rolling wave of budgetary pressure) and saying “No!” felt like the wrong answer as we wanted to enable the innovators and early adopters (even though we are fans of ruthless prioritization). Looking at the whole picture, we felt like we were stuck.
Though we went through a full ideation process for how to solve our little challenge and came up with multiple solutions (several of which we deployed) , nothing has been as impactful as the our little podcast, the #innoCast.
It was a simple idea to test…what if we recorded what came up in all those calls? So we grabbed mics, posted an episode online…then measured whether people listened. Over 5 years later, we’re well over 100 episodes (and 22k listeners) & still releasing fortnightly. Our episodes talk about innovation from soup to nuts, whether that’s “falling in love with the problem”, educating on how to use a Lean Canvas, or sharing stories from across the corporation – the objective of inspiring and informing continues to this day.
Beyond our longevity, the next most surprising outcome has been the proliferation of content from people across the corporation. We now have all kinds of podcast content out there covering different topic areas such as HR policies, messages from senior leadership, and even a series on concrete by the subject matter expert as he was retiring. Who would have thought two guys pontificating on innovation would encourage that kind of response?!
With more and more content creators wanting to build content, we found the next problem to solve…how do we make this straight forward for people?
As a constraints, for “proprietary information” reasons we have kept all of our episodes internal to ExxonMobil, which meant we couldn’t rely on iTunes or Google Play to get podcast episodes into the hands of our employee population. Thankfully, we’re pretty technical and have talented friends, so we actually built an iOS app for company owned devices and a SaaS application (so listeners can stream while “at their desk”) that feeds off the same cloud-based backend. The app has all of the standard functionality you’d expect from a podcast player and the system includes both mobile and email notifications. Once you subscribe to a podcast, everything is tracked on your profile.
It’s humbling to think about the numerous email messages, phone calls, and hugs from ExxonMobil colleagues around the globe that are a result of some kind of inspiration (or perhaps laughter) that we’ve brought into their lives.