How can organizations foster community in a way that helps innovation succeed? Megan Henshall, Google’s global events account manager, took the stage June 6 at PCMA EduCon to tackle the topic of innovation through the lens of her involvement with Google Xi (short for Experience Institute), a community initiative to help redesign audience experiences at Google, in the events industry, and beyond.
DIGITAL ATTENDEES: This Session will replay at 3:30 p.m. CT Tuesday on the JUNO site.
“It’s really about doing events as optimally and as thoughtfully and as intentionally as we can using whatever we have at our disposal,” Henshall told the audience during the session “Creating Communities to Enhance and Drive Innovation with Google Xi,” moderated by experience design agency Storycraft Lab’s founder and CEO Naomi Clare Crellin. “Google builds their own event spaces. My team manages that portfolio of about 700 spaces globally. So, what can we do with our space assets to create the best human experience possible?”
That’s where Global Xi comes in. The initiative is what Henshall calls an “ideation lab” of about 50 core members — a “50/50 split [of] internal Googlers who have a skin in the events game, and a lot of external partners who we’ve crowdsourced or who I’ve reached out to and said, ‘Hey, you have good ideas. You seem smart. Want to hang out?’”
But innovation doesn’t just happen when smart people enter the room, Henshall said. There are certain conditions required for important initiatives to thrive.
“We’ve been on this journey for about a year now, and my opinion is that in order for innovation to occur, the following things need to be in place. They need to be true,” Henshall said. First, a “healthy disregard for the impossible” is necessary. “There are no crazy ideas, right? Pie in the sky, shoot as big as you can.”
Henshall also said there must be a lot of “intellectual and emotional curiosity” and “a lot of courage,” as well as a healthy disregard of fear.
“I think there is no place for ego in innovation,” Henshall said. “You have to be okay with making mistakes. Mistakes and failure are part of the process, which we learned very early on in Xi. That is, initially, you cannot have innovation without falling flat on your face or making mistakes. … Some of the coolest innovations have come out of ‘uh-oh’ moments,” Henshall said, listing inventions like microwaves and fireworks that were created from accidents while experimenting.
The final piece of creating innovation through community is allyship, Henshall said. “We’ve learned through Xi that diversity of thought and having a lot of different types of people in the room leading and driving the conversation just expedites the journey to awesome stuff.”
Casey Gale is managing editor of Convene.