The history of AARP Innovation Lab: Driving the snowplow
The history of AARP Innovation Lab started in 2015, when a new CEO at AARP declared she wanted every single one of her employees to be innovators, all 2200 of them. Andy Miller, our keynote speaker and the SVP of AARP Innovation and Product Development, set out to do just that.
He started by building a 10 thousand square foot innovation lab in Washington D.C., but Andy knew they had to do more, they had to change the culture surrounding innovation, as Andy put it, he had to drive the snow plow and clear the path for those who were passionate about innovation, “we had to empower those employees.”
Passion drives innovation
The main mission of AARP Innovation Lab is empowering people to choose how they want to live as they age and therefore Andy says they are an organization “filled with social do-gooders.” They are passionate about helping people.
Andy tapped into that passion by reminding those employees that they innovate to improve lives and that’s when the creativity started to flow.
Andy helped champion incremental innovation throughout the AARP organization by first creating an internal consultancy which helped those innovators gain clarity on their project roadmaps. They then created a product development team putting AARP at the forefront of innovation.
Why innovate ?
“As innovators we think about AI, cloud computing and we tend to chase these things but chasing these things is not the way to do it.”
Instead Andy says everyone needs to ask:
- Why innovate ?
- What’s your impact ?
- What are you trying to accomplish ?
- Who are you innovating for ?
AARP’s winning innovation model
Because AARP’s Innovation Lab has been a success they now hold pitch competitions across the country (think American Idol for innovators) and now resumes from innovators are coming to them in droves.
Andy says AARP’s success with innovation comes down to two things:
“first, top down leadership, they all have to be singing from the same song sheet and second at the end of the day your greatest asset is your people, really good people want to solve really big problems. What’s you mission? What’s your impact? How does that all come together to tell a story? Your story and your mission will propel you forward.”
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