Failure Narratives Lead to Innovative Solutions with Scott Collick and Lindsey Karpowich

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Failure Narratives Lead to Innovative Solutions - Untold Stories of Innovation

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“I have a saying for people that work in research and development: it's called research for a reason. If we always knew what we were doing and wouldn't fail, we would just call it ‘search.’ Failure narratives Lead to Innovative Solutions.” -Scott Collick

From today’s episode you’ll learn:

We speak with Scott Collick and Lindsey Karpowich from DuPont. Scott is Vice President of Global R&D for Transportation and Industrial and Lindsey is New Product Development Agile Coach. We delve into DuPont’s Dead Projects Day, a day where they specifically share and work through Dead Projects with failure narratives. DuPont knows that failure narratives lead to innovative solutions and making sure others can learn and pivot their innovative project because of known mistakes is so helpful. But there must be a culture where brilliant failures are celebrated or learned from, not swept under the rug and ridiculed. Innovation, trying new ideas, is a fail game; it is natural, helpful, and company’s ought to create a safe space for sharing innovation struggles and failures so that people can brilliantly fail as well as brilliantly succeed, because they actually go hand in hand.

Make sure to check out their movement, #TyvekTogether, to create both new material and new garment solutions for our frontline workers and be on the lookout for the “Brilliant Failures” article from IRI that is in review! Failure narratives lead to innovative solutions.

Today's Guest:
failure narratives scott collick

Scott Collick is an R&D executive with a Fortune 100 company covering all aspects of technology management including innovation & portfolio management, new product introduction, change management, technical marketing, customer relations, strategic resource allocation and organizational development. He is focused on delivering new innovation into the market while growing strong people-first leaders who have fun making a positive difference in the world.

failure narratives Lindsay Karpowich

Lindsey Karpowich is the New Product Development Agile Coach at DuPont. A materials scientist and servant leader with over 10 years of experience in developing functional material solutions from ideation through new product introduction. She is passionate about building effective teams while driving commercial and strategic goals.

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Podcast Transcript

This episode is powered by Untold Content’s Innovation Storytelling Training – Failure narratives lead to innovative solutions. Increase buy in for your best ideas in this immersive and interactive, story-driven experience. Where your teams refine storytelling techniques for their latest projects, prototypes and pitches—and get inspired by 25 epic examples of impactful innovation stories.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:00:04]  Failure narratives lead to innovative solutions –  Welcome to Untold Stories of Innovation, where we amplify untold stories of insight, impact and innovation powered by Untold Content. I’m your host, Katie Trauth Taylor.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:00:19] Failure narratives lead to innovative solutions – Our guests today are Scott Collick and Lindsey Karpowich, Scott is Vice President of Global R&D for Transportation and Industrial at DuPont, and Lindsey is New Product Development Agile Coach at Dupont. And they’re here to share with us their agile methodologies for innovation, as well as their experiences embracing and learning rapidly from failures through Dead Projects Day. Thank you so much to you both for being on the podcast.

Scott Collick: [00:00:44] Thank you, Katie.

Lindsey Karpowich: [00:00:45] Yeah, thanks for having us. Excited to be here.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:00:48] You know, I like to start getting to know each guest a little bit deeper and knowing your journey and innovation. So could you both share your personal story of innovation and where it began?

Scott Collick: [00:00:58] Failure narratives lead to innovative solutions – Sure. So I’ll tell you, I’m a chemical engineer and I joined Dow Chemical thirty one years ago, and I did a variety of different roles and process R&D. I was like hardcore chemical engineer. I wore a blue coat, I say, which was somebody that got their hands dirty. And I traveled the world launching new environmental innovations. But then I had this passion to be at the business technical interface. So I went to night school and got an MBA. That was really exciting. That was a different time when executive MBAs weren’t a thing. So I went to night school for five straight years, 12 years into the career I took a major jump. I went from process R&D and I jumped into marketing and holy cow, I was out of my element. But I went from distillation and separating materials to pricing products and then I ended up, after that, into technical service. But I will tell you, that was super critical in my growth and development. So then I spent a few years launching and developing new plastic products and then Dow and DuPont merged in the largest, most complicated corporate transaction that ever happened. And now I have responsibility for leading R&D and TS&D in DuPont’s transportation industrial division, which makes up engineering, plastics, adhesives, parts for auto, parts for airplanes. Really amazing stuff, really complex stuff that really makes the world run.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:02:14] Failure narratives lead to innovative solutions –  Thank you so much for sharing that journey. It is unique for someone with a scientific background to step into marketing and then step back onto the technical side again. So I can’t wait to dig more into your perspectives on storytelling and how they were first crystallized in those moments. What about you, Lindsey? What’s your personal story of innovation? What led you to Agile?

Failure Narratives Lead to Innovative Solutions: the Beginning of Dead Projects Day

Lindsey Karpowich: [00:02:34] So by training I am a material scientist, so my background is in research and development. And I worked many, many years in the lab creating new materials and new products from additive manufacturing to cell phone components to solar cells. And I really, really love the lab work and the technical problem solving that comes along with it. Right. And it’s very exciting. But there are a few things that started to bother me about innovation. So as any scientist can tell you for any good experiment there are 10 bad experiments that happen beforehand. Right. But I would only ever get an email that had the sort of home run experiment with a really good result. And I wasn’t hearing about all the other work that went into it. And I thought, why aren’t we learning from mistakes that we keep making? Right. And our leadership team is always asking us for the big picture plans and timelines and [unclear wording] charts. But oftentimes we didn’t even know what we were going to do tomorrow until we saw the results of today’s experiment. So why are we asked to make a prediction about something that’s inherently unpredictable? So these sort of disconnects between our need to be right versus the inherent empirical nature of our work and the need to find some sort of stability or predictability in a very complex and uncertain scenario was a big challenge for all of us. And I thought it was … There’s got to be a better way to do this. Right. So I started researching different ways of working and I sort of stumbled upon the world of Agile. And the more I learned about it, the more it sounded a whole lot like what we were already doing. So I thought, why not try this in the context of research and development? I mean, at its heart, Scrum is really a framework for the scientific method. So I read a bunch of books and took some training and certification and rolled out this great Scrum framework for our research and development organization, and it was an epic failure. But I learned a lot. Right. And that’s the point. I learned what works and what doesn’t work. And slowly we were able to adapt it into something that really helped the R&D team collaborate, connect with customers and accelerate our work. And I joined DuPont in 2019 with the goal of helping to leverage Agile principles, practices, frameworks for innovation and growth. And I’ve been in that role within safety and construction since then.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:05:09] So let’s lean in a little bit more to this idea of failures, because this is gaining more traction, of course, and visibility and comfort among people in the innovation community to say, “yes, failure is an integral part of innovation.” And so my fascination, of course, with my team at Untold is unpacking the storytelling aspects of innovation and failure – and talking about failure is so painful. So I’d love for you to share with us, before we dive into Dead Projects Day and get an introduction to what it is you’re doing about failure – first, can you just share why on earth is it so hard to talk about failure? Why was it that you only saw the glorious emails in your inbox, Lindsey?

Failure Narratives - Dupont Quote

Lindsey Karpowich: [00:05:56] From my perspective, the concept of failure being bad or something that you get blamed for is kind of baked into us at a very early stage. Right. Did you spill the milk? Right. Mom is going to blame you for that. But even if the reason you spilled the milk wasn’t because of some malicious intent, right? I mean, maybe for some kids it is, but it could have just been an honest mistake. Right. Or maybe you weren’t sure how much milk would fill the glass or maybe you were experimenting with the concept of gravity. Right. A lot of these failures aren’t blameworthy, but they get associated with blame and we connect the two. And so then we try to avoid it at all costs the older we get and then that kind of translates itself into the workplace of avoiding those scenarios where we are afraid we might get blamed for something.

Embracing Failure Narratives as Part of the Innovation Process

Scott Collick: [00:06:46] Yeah, failure is super hard to talk about in a culture and a company that values success and people are just afraid to look bad. But I have a saying for people that work in research and development: it’s called research for a reason. If we knew… Always knew what we were doing and wouldn’t fail, we would just call it “search.” “Re-” stands for redoing going back to the drawing board. So it’s research, not search. And so I talk a lot about failure. And I think it’s important to embrace it because, you know, it takes three thousand ideas to make a commercial success. So innovation is a failing game. Three thousand ideas are raw ideas that you have in your head, and then you’ve got to really encourage people to get those raw ideas out of their head. And we call those submitted ideas where you wrote it down, you sent an email, you put a Post-it note, but even at three hundred ideas. Maybe of the three hundred, you screen them and you get about one hundred projects and then you start going there are one hundred projects, you get ten, nine, ten significant developments. But research is a failing game. So I don’t like when people talk about, well, we need to fail fast. Alright, well I can fail fast all day. I like you need to fail fast so you can pivot your resources on successful projects. Super critical. And I really think that we have to embrace failure and talking about failure. So one last example. You know, it took 40 attempts to make WD-40. WD-40 was invented back in the 50s. And it stands for water displacement, fortieth attempt. What an amazing product. And it was really designed to displace moisture on nuts and bolts. And now it has ubiquitous uses. But it, actually, they embraced failure by even calling it “water displacement, 40 attempt.” I loved that example.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:08:31] I do, too. Yes. That’s such a good example. And so I would love to hear, I think so many at this point, there’s a cultural acceptance that we should be vulnerable and talk about failures, not in a blaming way, but in a way that enables rapid learning. I think that’s becoming more culturally acceptable. But it sounds as though, my perspective from a storytelling and communications perspective, most innovation teams still lack resources and strategies for doing that well. So I’m really excited for you to tell us a little bit more about Dead Projects Day.

Scott Collick: [00:09:08] Yeah, so, Dead Projects Day was actually an idea conceived by Alexa Dembek, our Chief Technology & Sustainability Officer, and we’re working to change the culture at DuPont as we come out of this big merger. And I love how she states it: “fall in love with growth, not projects.” And that’s actually what we’re trying to embrace, because too often researchers fall in love with their idea, especially if it’s one of their baby ideas. Right. And they fall in love with the technical challenges. So we’re really trying to embrace that maybe it’s an ugly baby and really embrace and reward teams. Maybe the technical challenges are too hard and get them to say, hey, can I move on to the next thing? Oftentimes from a technology area, we’re so focused on the technical challenges. Many times our technical teams at all companies haven’t looked at the commercial issues of adoption and those are just as important to launch a new technology. It’s not just technical, but it’s also commercial challenges. So we thought for Dead Projects Day we would have a culture where it was OK to talk about projects that are killed, celebrate project teams that even recommended killing projects because the critical issues, commercial or technical issues, were too much to overcome. So we held the first one last year on Halloween. We decorated the room, we had Halloween treats, lots of skeletons, really leaned into the concept of Dead Projects Day. Now, the fun part was you had to dress up in costume to present. Now, I will tell you, presenting is really scary for most people. It’s never fun to present, it’s never fun to present in a silly costume, and it’s super hard to present in a… On a project that failed. But that combination of three: presenting on a failed project in a silly costume was really cool. And we really leaned into that and really embraced people talking about their failed projects. And I thought it created a culture where people were willing to open up.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:11:02] That’s incredible, and so the impetus behind it then was, could you share a little bit more? That explains it beautifully that how you enacted it, but how did this idea get traction and how did this idea not fail in and of itself? It actually happened. So, yeah. Why did you do it?

Failure Narratives: The Creation of Dead Projects Day

Scott Collick: [00:11:22] Well, you have to find some brave souls, right, so Lindsey, you were responsible for finding some brave souls to get up in front and you actually got up in front.

Lindsey Karpowich: [00:11:33] Yeah, I think one of the most important things that we did when we developed this event was we made sure that the intent was not to have it be the blame game. Right. We didn’t want any Monday morning project quarterbacking. Right. We didn’t want people pointing fingers and saying, well, why didn’t you try this? And why did you use Formula X instead of Formula Y? So we made it very clear that the intent wasn’t to take a look at what you did or why you did it, but how you did it. Right. How did you make the tough decisions? How did you navigate this challenging situation? And more importantly, how did it make you feel? That was a really important aspect. And that’s another Agile concept. The retrospective, the ability to take a step back and think about what went well, what didn’t go so well and how did it make us feel? What is our emotional response? And I think by making sure we had that safe space, people were really able to open up and connect with their peers and feel safe to share these stories that are challenging and can be uncomfortable.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:12:45] I’m grateful you brought up that point, because something that we hear a lot with the innovation teams that we’re supporting, whether through training or consulting and helping them craft innovation stories, is there’s often times misalignment between the innovation team and what the ideas that they’re building and that they feel momentum toward and then other entities in the organization who need to collaborate or sign off or champion in order for that idea to move beyond the innovation team. And it’s such… What we hear from an emotional level is, like you said, you’re going to get to three thousand failures before you have one commercial success. Innovation is a failing game, and that is terribly demoralizing for the innovation team. And it can be so hard to stand there and shelve one idea after another and keep your faith and keep productivity and motivation high. So I would love to hear: could you share some stories of the emotional aspects of Dead Projects Day? How did that help sort of reframe? I’m just curious how this can reframe a culture of innovation to not be so demoralized by red lights.

Scott Collick: [00:14:01] Yes, so I will tell you a summary from Dead Projects Day, one we found a lot really what people shared fell into three buckets. And I think that just sharing those buckets were helpful for other teams so that when as they build their project plans, they’re like, oh, Project Team X ran into that. Maybe I should address that early. So one of the first things, so they really fall into three buckets. The first one is it real? Is the opportunity you’re going after, is it real? Do you have a hypothesis that makes sense from the customer? Does… So one thing: What the customer asks for does not always translate into what they need. We learned that in some of the products presented, what they’re asking for is not what they need. So maybe you need to learn how to ask questions in a different way to get at the unmet issue. So that was one of the things that we learned as we looked at this. Is that project real? Next one is can we win? So again, you have to provide a solution that customer will pay for. Is it can we produce it at an appropriate cost? Understand the market. Is our product – what we’re proposing in a project – is it a me too or is it something truly differentiated? So that was the second bucket as people shared why this Project X failed and why Project Y failed. And then the last one is the view worth the climb? So sometimes there’s regulatory pressure, sometimes you’re developing technology for regulators and you have to monitor the external environment. So we really found that all the stories presented on Dead Projects Day really fell into those three buckets: is it real? Can we win? And is the view – the amount that you have to invest – worth the climb?

Lindsey Karpowich: [00:15:40] I think another thing, too, that can help keep that morale up, like you said, and give folks the confidence and the motivation to keep going is that we have a million great ideas, we have a million cool things we want to try. Right. If one thing doesn’t work, don’t worry, you’re going to have another project to work on. And so helping teams understand and have a vision of the future beyond today’s projects, right? Can give them the sort of safety net that they need to make that decision to maybe kill or pivot a project. Right. So there’s always something next in the pipeline that will be really cool to work on and provide value to our customers and our business.

Reframing Failure Narratives

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:16:24] And I think reframing, as you mentioned, your CTO Alexa saying it’s not about falling in love with the project, it’s about falling in love with growth. That’s very helpful to hear that kind of strategic communication coming from leadership as well, to sort of reframe how we attach ourselves to our ideas. Gosh, it’s hard to detach ourselves from what we think are our best ideas.

Scott Collick: [00:16:46] Yeah, I will tell you, I love it, we have queues of projects, and I want to fail fast so we can succeed quicker. And that’s something that it really is important about this is so that people realize that they can give up project A because Project B and C are coming and making that pivot. And maybe there are some things that you can learn from project A and naturally apply to Project B and C. Moving on to… I’m a big believer in pivoting quickly.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:17:13] Absolutely. And that being a key strategy for avoiding catastrophic or epic failures, trying to make failures more brilliant. I – we’re just publishing an article in Research Technology Management. We collaborated with a working group out of IRI and it’s called “Brilliant Failures.” So I’ll have to share it with you guys and try to link it in this episode, too, because we did several thought leader interviews and that pivoting was a key strategy for avoiding epic failures. OK, again, I’m obsessed with storytelling. So I’m also… Another pattern and data point that we’ve discovered at Untold is that quite a few innovation projects can fail because they weren’t effectively communicated by the technologist or the engineer who first conceived of it, or they presented it in a way that maybe lacked some key storytelling strategies in a way that operations or sales could get behind. Could you share with us – is that something that came up at all? I’m just curious if storytelling or ineffective alignment, if that came up at all in the Dead Projects Days?

Scott Collick: [00:18:21] It came up a lot. I think storytelling has a lot to do with failed projects, especially not talking to customers and being able to clearly articulate why your project is good. Oftentimes you’ll talk to a technical person and they’ll say, “Yeah, it solves this.” It solves this very specific… It’s making the modulus of this plastic 33 percent stronger. And you say and then you have to almost act like a kindergartener: and so what? Well, that will make you make parts that are stronger. And so what? Well, that will make cars safer, airplanes safe, OK. And I think that that’s really important to be able to tell a story linking technology to the ultimate solution or whatever the customer need that it solves. And then from a company’s perspective, how can the company make money by fulfilling that? And that storytelling really drives you to make the connection between a technical innovation and a commercial innovation and linking those together.

The Need to Pivot After a Failure Narratives

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:19:19] Scott, is that something that… I just imagine going back to the beginning of our conversation here, your work, your pivot into marketing for a stint, I’m sure that helped reveal how critical that is in your technical work.

Scott Collick: [00:19:34] Yeah, and so I always am pressing our technical teams to talk in the language of business, and so just to illustrate what the language of business is, I said, “hey, I got this project, you give me twenty dollars, I will give you forty dollars.” And so I share this in meetings with a bunch of technical people and I say, who wants to do this? And they’re like, is there something, what’s going on. I said, OK, yes. And then finally somebody says, Oh, when are you going to give me the money? I said, yes, that’s the second language of business. The first language of business is what is the money? The second is when will the money come? So twenty dollars. I’ll give you forty dollars in one hundred years. Well, that’s not a good investment. But if I say I will give you forty dollars tomorrow. Wow, that’s a great investment. And then I say, who wants to do it. And then people are like, there must be a catch. I said, yeah there is a catch. The next element is probability. So now you have to ask me how I’m going to make this money. Well, I’m going to take your twenty dollars. I’m going to go to the casino and put it on a roulette wheel. If I win, which is thirty five to one, I win seven hundred dollars, I give you your forty dollars back. So that’s probability. So the language of business is money, timing, and probability. And so as researchers and technical people, we have to think about those three elements when we talk about our innovations and really think about them. So as we develop projects and things is addressing: one, is it speeding up the time, is it increasing the probability or decreasing the risk or is it increasing the amount of money that we potentially could make? And so researchers really [have] got to take their technical concepts, modulus of a piece of plastic, and then really translate it in how it would translate into one of those things: timing, money and risk. 

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:21:19] Interesting. Yes, definitely. And I’m thinking, too, and I’ve seen so many slide decks by technical folks where they’re talking through the technical features of a new idea. Right. And it’s lacking not just that business story that you’re sharing, which is critical, but also helping to bridge that gap with leadership or with sales or with operations that says here’s how it’s ultimately going to create impact for the business. Yes. But also for the end user and the customer consumer. So have you noticed this effort impacting the perspectives or attitudes, beliefs of your technology teams?

Lindsey Karpowich: [00:22:02] Yeah, I mean, I think that the act of telling these stories helps build a more fearless culture, if you will. Right. It helps us to normalize that transparency and vulnerability. Right. And that will enable us to really learn, learn from these failures or pivots or dead projects. Right. So that we can go better, faster like Scott said, right. So be able to admit your mistakes, take the risk and have open, honest, transparent communication. I think it’s really, really critical to that fearless organization.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:22:43] Have you noticed some of the momentum from the event extending outside of that one day? Have you found ways to capture and create ongoing openness around dead projects or failures, maybe a repository you’re collecting? Or is there another, more informal way that these stories live on and this approach to innovation lives on?

The Universality of Failure

Scott Collick: [00:23:06] Yeah, I’m personally seeing project teams and researchers ask better questions on their own projects because they heard about this project or that project, even in another business. What was really nice about Dead Project Day is it combined all of the different business units of DuPont so we could learn from each other and really extend our lanes and things that maybe our safety business were facing or something maybe our electronics business hadn’t seen. So I’m seeing that it’s really asking… Project teams to ask better questions at the start of the project. So I am actually seeing it have a ripple effect beyond just today.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:23:44] And so it is cross-disciplinary, too, then. There are people presenting from different units and departments. That’s fascinating as well, because so much… So many canceled projects kind of can happen because of miscommunication across those organizational silos. And so now people from the technical teams might be getting to know an operations team in a new way or hear their value system. And that’s a really critical time to be able to understand what gets a green light in operations and how that thought process is different than in some other department. Interesting. OK, so I’m dying to ask this question. Were there any projects that get actually resurrected as a result of this at all? Was there anything where we thought, well, it really shouldn’t have failed and let’s actually bring it back to life?

Scott Collick: [00:24:36] Yeah, I think that leads into the…. Our second Dead Projects Day where we actually talked about projects that are still going, but that faced a critical juncture and we called it “Facing Your Fears: the tortuous path to success.” So projects always there are many projects that die and then come back. So that happens all the time. And there were some from Dead Projects that are being resurrected because the times change. But what I liked about Dead Projects Day Two, which we just completed, was talking about the fears on successful projects. Hey, we were on this project and we faced this fear. And Lindsey has a really great set of, as we interviewed the researchers, of fears that were preventing people from moving forward. And that was really the focus on Dead Projects Day Two: facing your fears.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:25:24] Wow. Fascinating. OK. Lindsey, can you tell us more about that?

Lindsey Karpowich: [00:25:28] Sure. So when we reflected on the first Dead Projects Day and what we learned from that and how we might want to use that in the context of the second event, we started thinking about the responses that we got when we asked people, how did it make you feel to kill this project? Right. And we aggregated all of those emotional responses. And it all boils down to the common element of fear, the fear of being wrong. The fear of speaking up or challenging the status quo. Right. This fear of getting it wrong or not knowing the right answer. It was a very common experience among everybody who was faced with this challenging situation. And so we turned the conversation and made it solutions focused. All right. What can we do when we’re faced with these fears? We all encounter these challenging situations. How do we overcome them? And so we had some great storytelling from teams who had done just that, who had faced fears and maybe they had to tell a project. Right. Maybe the project is still not sure where they’re going. And maybe the project success wasn’t in all the scenarios that were shared. Folks were able to demonstrate and share tips, techniques, strategies and how they faced those fears and made a smart decision, right, in a challenging situation. And we kind of crowdsourced too from all the attendees, there were over 400 people from the organization to join the event. And we had some cool virtual collaboration techniques and we crowdsourced. We said, how do you do it? How do you overcome your fears? And we got some really great themes, responses back about transparency and communication and teamwork and perseverance and resilience. And so we… That’s data for us. Those are resources we gave to everybody afterwards and the sort of toolkit to say, hey, the next time you’re in a tough situation, try this or here’s how to facilitate this kind of conversation with your team to, again, just really normalize the discussion about failure and what we can learn from it.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:27:39] Incredible. Thank you so much for sharing more about that. I want to go back too to Scott mentioning pivots, because I think that it sounds like Dead Projects Day Two was a really thorough look into the pivots that needed to happen in order to kind of prevent failure on projects. And so can you share with us a little bit more about the pivot process, what kind of storytelling is critical in supporting an organization and making a pivot decision? And then do you have any pivot stories that you’d like to share, especially in light of the pandemic and all of the change that’s been going on in our professional life and personal lives this year?

Post-COVID Ideation: Turning a Failure Narrative into an Innovation

Scott Collick: [00:28:24] So pivoting… hey, we’re in the world of 2020. The whole world of 20 20 is pivoting. We’re learning how to lean into virtual. And so actually a lot of the stories that came out of Dead Projects [Day] Two, were about teams pivoting, hey, I learned this and my assumptions were this. I might as well pivot here. And that’s really critical. I would tell you, we are working very much on pivoting the organization with the result of COVID. One, just learning how to work in a COVID environment. So I’ll give you an example of things that we’re doing differently. So in our business unit, we ran what was called a Post-COVID World Brainstorming Olympics. So the Olympics were canceled this year. Everybody’s working at home and in the very early stages of the pandemic, we had our heads down, looking down, just trying to navigate the new world. And I said, hey, why don’t we work on a virtual brainstorming where we can think of how are the trends that are happening in this post-COVID world? What new opportunities would it open up for us? So we took one hundred researchers talk about pivoting and we did it all virtual and we gave them teams of five to seven people. We then gave them forty possible trends that are infecting the world, more washing hands, not doing a lot of business travel. And then we asked them to study it a little bit. And then we did a fantasy football draft where they would pick the trends and then that they would pick it off the board and then they would have to go and say, all right, with this trend, how are we going to pivot the projects and activities and what new opportunities will it create for us? Now, we did it in a game-ified fashion so that we create a little bit of competition. And one of the ways that we encourage collaboration was if your idea that you wanted was picked by the team ahead of you, you could earn points for your team by sending… Spamming their inbox with all your ideas. So they would go and two weeks later, they would present, hey, here is our trend. Trend number one and they would name it and tell a little bit of story around it and then talk about what new opportunities it creates. So we’ve already begun to resource projects. And with this pivot as we pivot to think about what the post-COVID world look like? So that’s an example of pivoting your organization and also using storytelling in the middle of a pandemic.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:30:48] Incredible. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing that. I love it. What was the title of that again?

Scott Collick: [00:30:53] The Post-COVID World Brainstorming Olympics. It’s a mouthful. I know.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:30:56] Excellent. We need this on a global scale. Absolutely. Wonderful. Are there any other innovation stories that you’d like to share? It could be around Dead Projects Day or just around the pandemic or other efforts that you’re working towards, that you’d like listeners to… You think would inspire our listeners?

Scott Collick: [00:31:17] Yeah, I think Lindsey has a tremendous story on what the safety business, speaking in the area of COVID, it’s wonderful how the teams and our safety business, they are pivoting.

Lindsey Karpowich: [00:31:30] Yeah, I’d love to share the story with you about how safety and construction has really embraced agility and pivoting in the post-COVID world, right? So Tyvek produces over two hundred million garments to protect people in various environments every single year. That sounds like a lot, but I’m sure you can imagine when COVID hit, the demand went through the roof for protective garments and apparel to protect our front line workers. Right. And so in the first few months, we were able to supply 50 percent more capacity of Tyvek garments by just really ramping up shifting priorities and seeing at every warehouse going to maximum capacity. Right. We made all these huge changes in just two weeks. Right. And we increased to six million garments per month or something. It was really incredible, the work that the team did. But by March and April, it wasn’t getting any better and we needed more capacity. And so we knew we had to do something dramatic and something courageous. And so we started the initiative #TyvekTogether to create both new material and new garment solutions for our frontline workers. And it was a really bold move. It was a really big challenge. But the team recognized that they had some untapped capacity and one of our customers, so convertors. And so it was a different type of equipment which required different parameters, would produce a different fabric. But we knew that it would provide the minimally viable protection that was necessary. Right. And so they quickly coordinated with supply chain manufacturing operations, marketing, right, to ramp up additional capacity at an asset that was a little bit underutilized, coordinate this massive new product launch that ended up supplying over one hundred million extra garments to our first responders and frontline workers throughout the course of the year. And they did it by, again, really embracing agility. They were bold. They knew that something big was necessary. They weren’t going to be incremental about it. Right. They didn’t let perfection be the goal. They knew that they could make something that might be just good enough. It might not have every single property to tick the boxes, but it had the most important ones. And they knew what they were and they knew what the customers really, really needed. And they were able to really align the entire organization to this common goal. And I think that’s where the storytelling comes in. Right. They had a call to arms. They had a mission to provide protection to people around the world, and they knew they had to do it quickly. And with that kind of vision and strategic alignment from champions across manufacturing, supply, product stewardship, research and development. Right. Coming together for this common goal was really, really critical in achieving success. And so I think the tie back together is a great example of how DuPont is really pivoting and embracing the new world that we live in and striving to deliver innovation for our essential needs. 

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:34:46] Thank you so much for sharing that story. Wow, that is incredible. And I can’t think of a better way to leave our listeners than with that story in their minds. I will link to that effort in the show notes so that everyone can check it out and you can explore how you can be part of that forward momentum as well. Thank you to you both. This has been an incredibly energizing, very helpful, full of practical tips, as well as higher-level methodologies that we can be embracing as we think about deeper cultural acceptance of a failure, learning how to pivot in times of need. And I’m so grateful for the time that you made with us today.

Scott Collick: [00:35:31] Well, thank you, yeah, it’s been a great time.

Lindsey Karpowich: [00:35:33] Thanks so much, Katie. We appreciate it.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:35:35] Where can listeners learn more about you both and your project teams?

Scott Collick: [00:35:40] Well, you can follow me @ScottCollick on Twitter. I’m very active on LinkedIn as well.

Lindsey Karpowich: [00:35:46] Yeah, I’d be happy to connect with anybody who’s interested via LinkedIn and happy to share other stories of innovation and agility and build our community.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:35:57] Thanks so much to you both.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:36:00] Thanks for listening to this week’s episode. Be sure to follow us on social media and add your voice to the conversation. You can find us at Untold Content.

You can listen to more episodes of Untold Stories of Innovation Podcast.

*Interviews are not endorsements of individuals or businesses.

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