Editor’s Note: Jennifer Monnig spent the past three years, from 2014-2017, leading an innovation team within the human resources organization at Intel Corp. that sought to create a healthier and more collaborative culture, focused on getting things done in new ways. In 2017, that team has moved on to other projects, but much of its output has become integrated into the way that Intel operates today. Of course, Monnig explains, “some experiments lasted no longer than the experiment itself… but we’ve learned from everything.” She wrote this piece for InnoLead to capture some of those learnings, and also shared a “manifesto” that the team created.

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At nearly 50 years old, Intel has accomplished a lot. We hire thousands of people every year, and then integrate them, grow their knowledge, capabilities, and productivity. Nearly 100,000 of us interact every day – like most of you, we spend more time with our coworkers on any given day than we do with our families. There is a tremendous amount of goodness in our history and how we’ve impacted the world, but as you can imagine, over 50 years we’ve also created standards and processes that can at times feel bureaucratic to some.

In 2014, we kicked off a three-year innovation effort. The focus of our new Work Practice Innovations team was on transforming the ways we interact and get work done. We wanted to increase the perceived importance of a culture that valued how things were done, just as much as that they were done. The team launched more than 15 pilots, and nurtured, grew and evolved dozens of new approaches to hiring, integration, work, and interaction. The work generated external recognitions from companies including JobTrain and the Anita Borg Institute; contributed to impressive rankings in the candidate and interview experience space from LinkedIn and Glassdoor; earned numerous internal awards, including Intel’s highest honor, the Intel Achievement Award; and showcased the power of possibility.

Though unintentional, our most successful innovations wound up following Intel’s product methodology. Our “products” started as ideas, with code names, and were treated as experiments. We tested, refined, gathered feedback, learned, measured, implemented, and adjusted. Some gained momentum and ultimately had a significant impact on the ways we interact and get work done here.

Three lessons stand out as we look back over 39 months, more than 15 pilots, a network of more than 900 internal and external fellow travelers, dozens of partners, two key leaders, and 10 amazing team members.

Do ‘It’ Differently

Whatever your ‘it’ – product, service, practice, process – you’re being asked to innovate, so start by thinking about how your innovation team operates. Our work was focused on changing the ways we interact and get work done. Which meant we needed to “do work” differently.

We hired differently – no job descriptions, no grade level requirements, no behavioral interviews, no requisitions. We cast a wide net, shared what we were hoping to accomplish (and how we planned to work), and asked who was interested. We created a team whose diversity was perhaps its greatest strength. The team ultimately encompassed a social scientist, an electrical engineer, a 20-year Intel veteran manager, a UX expert, the leader of Intel’s global Great Place to Work team, a content strategist, a manufacturing expert, and a not-quite-HR HR person. (We hired only internally, but we did bring in two summer interns over the course of the project.)

We also worked differently. We spent hours on end locked in a room with pictures, quotes, magazine stories, and about 12,000 Post-it notes tacked to the walls. We defined our work blocks, and then re-defined them and re-defined them again. We offered tours in lieu of PowerPoint. We decided to never hold meetings. We sat on yoga balls and stood on balance boards. We stormed (over and over and over again) and we normed. We argued. We created. We tried things, and encouraged others to try new things as well. The combination of expertise, opinions, discussion, brainstorm, and experience meant we landed on better, more robust, and less insular ideas and solutions than we might have with a more traditional team.

The way we hired for Work Practice Innovations and for another business group around the same time influenced an innovative approach to attracting and hiring external talent. What started out as a project dubbed “Project Champagne” turned into Intel’s Red Carpet events, which have driven a significant increase in technical female hires over the last two years, and contributed to a #1 ranking by Glassdoor in 2015 for interview experience, and a 2015 top 10 ranking by LinkedIn for candidate experience. The Intel women involved in the Red Carpet events were excited by and impressed with the approach, and started asking for a similar internal experience, which led to the creation of what we call Blue Carpet events – networking and development opportunities for Intel’s mid-career technical women. To date, we’ve served over one thousand women, and the event itself has continued to grow and evolve.

Connect to Current Reality

As innovators, we enjoy the crazy ideas, the brainstorming, the possibility thinking. But we also want to deliver results; to influence, create an impact and a legacy; and to see the ideas turn into something real. When we connected one of our new ideas – a new approach or a new practice – to a current priority for the organization, that’s when we saw the biggest influence and impact. One of our earliest transformative ideas was what we called the Pilgrimage – the idea of bringing all new hires together at Intel headquarters to accelerate networking, integration, learning about this big thing called Intel, and how to get work done here. At the same time, Intel was accelerating its hiring, with a particular focus on diverse hiring in the United States. Thus ROAR (the Rapid Orientation for Accelerated Results program) was born. ROAR was designed from the original Pilgrimage concept, as a flexible platform to provide newly-hired women with mentoring and knowledge-sharing opportunities. The program provides instant community and connection for new-to-Intel women in senior grades, and it facilitates rapid integration into Intel culture. It has been a marvelous success, and incredibly meaningful for the women – and now men as well – who go through it.

Members of Intel’s Work Practice Innovations team, from left: Mark Eden, Jennifer Monnig, Mikel Bookwalter, and Cindy Chung.

Leverage Your Network

We intentionally built a network across the company and around the world by asking the people we knew to introduce us to others, by creating an internal blog accessible to anyone at Intel, and by attending various Intel events and starting conversations. We knew we weren’t the only innovators. The network is necessarily vast, and it takes curation and tending. These are the people who gave us the “real story,” the word on the street. They’re the ones who helped us identify the experiences people were having that weren’t so great, and the ones that were amazing. They vetted ideas, ran pilots, and helped influence others. We found at least equal – if not more – value in showcasing the work that others did as we did in showcasing our own team’s work. These people think differently and make a difference, and will continue to do so.

As important as the people on the ground are, senior leadership is equally important to have in the network. Senior leadership offers air cover, insights, and often, frankly, budget dollars. Our senior leadership offered us the space to experiment [both literally and figuratively], engaged in blue sky dialogue with us, and was a critical guide to the areas which were important to the company, helping us make the connections to reality and current priorities. That helped to drive the results we achieved, and helped us to both impact and influence how Intel operates.

Over the past 39 months, we influenced and then had a hand in building a completely new way of working inside a nearly 50-year-old company, Freelance Nation. We created a new way of integrating people that has only grown [ROAR]. We taught people how to think differently around the world. We threw a few yoga balls around the building. We created a higher-touch model of hiring that has fundamentally changed how we recruit in specific areas [Red Carpet]. We created opportunities for technical women to do technical things. We helped people connect with their deepest wishes about what their job should look like, and empowered them to make that happen [Blue Carpet]. We assessed the social network of one of our organizations and then used that data to make decisions and plans. We asked 100 people a question a week for 12 weeks to understand what the reality of their week-to-week experience looked like [real-time sensing with TinyPulse®]. We gave away airline tickets to recognize people for a job that was more than just “well done.” We drove deep and meaningful academic research, and partnered with extraordinary external academics for insights. We started down the path of redefining what qualified looks like here at Intel [Community College Intern pilot]. We ran a 24-hour hackathon-type event as an “interview” [Designovation]. And we started to introduce the Humans of Intel to the humans at Intel – reminding us all that we’re all just people, no matter what our job here is.

As I look back over three amazing years, it’s clear that changing the way work happens – and even feels – in a large company is an ambitious goal. Success requires a dedicated team willing to take risks, lots of experiments, continuous learning, leader support, and partners around the organization who are looking for change as well, and willing to help you achieve it.

Here’s the “manifesto” that the Work Practice Innovations team created:

Jennifer Monnig works as the Director of Strategy and Intelligence as well as the Chief of Staff at Intel. She previously served as the comapny’s Manager of Work Practice Innovations at the time of this article’s first publish.