This year I had the incredible opportunity to intern as an innovation consultant at one of Queensland’s largest organisations, the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ). I worked at the BaseCamp, their innovation hub which helps foster collaboration and encouraged value creation for the members and stakeholders. Adding to a team of 4 members, my role was to help build a robust business process framework for innovation. Setting up an innovation framework that aims to bring down organisational silos and encourages transparency and collaboration is no simple task. Much more difficult is trying to create a change in corporate culture and asking people to step out of their comfort shoes.
What is the innovation hub?
A framework to help the business grow by involving the stakeholders using a lean approach, with a focus on rapid experimentation and fast failures. In simple words, fostering 100 ideas in a month rather than spending months on a single idea.
It involves strategic thinking and planning, managing business portfolios, analysing existing capabilities and future trends, identifying emerging technologies that help converge the knowledge gaps, set specific objectives and creating a management timeline plan.
What did I learn?
A team of four seems small but adept team members with diverse skill sets who are good at solving problems and communicating effectively help each other along the way. This brings me to the key learning from my experience here.
The 10 commandments from my experience:
1. Set specific goals and objectives
So you got into your dream company, now what? What do you wish to achieve through your experience? Have specific goals and objectives, not just in your mind, but write it down on paper. If possible, try to set SMART-Specific, Measurable Actionable, Relevant, Time-bound objectives for best results. When you know the direction of the path you wish to forge, all you need are the tools to sharpen your blade.
2. Be organised and structured in your work. Everyday!
As I write this post, I have 2 windows and 8 tabs open on my laptop, each window dedicated to a subject. Before my internship, when I started with Uni, I used to have at least 6 windows with 10 tabs on each.
Every morning of my internship would start with a 10-minute team huddle of what the day looks like and the tasks for the day. Slowly, I incorporated that into my daily life. Now, I get double the amount of work done in a week and the best part is that I remember everything that I need to be doing – right from the groceries to the assignments that are due.
3. Make mistakes
Aren’t we all afraid to make mistakes? I know I am. Not everything I write here is the things I did right. A lot of these are the things I did wrong. And that is what taught me the most out of my experience. Make mistakes and learn from them (or learn from others mistakes – hence this post!)
4. Embrace your weakness
I have been complimented for my critical thinking skills but on the same note, I have spent a whole day trying to create a simple design. The end result was not of good quality and I was ashamed and embarrassed. But did I let it dampen my spirit? Absolutely not! That day I decided to self-learn the basics of design. Embrace your weakness and turn it into something positive. Tomorrow is another day!
5. Do things that make you uncomfortable
A dear friend once told me, ‘If you had a good day, it means that you did not do anything that made you uncomfortable or think outside the box.’ In hindsight, this was one of the best advice I have received. Having been in Australia for 8 months now, I have 7 friends, most of whom I met at Uni. I am that socially awkward person who struggles to talk to people. But I’m trying – every day, I get out there and break free of my chains.
6. Take ownership
All that glitters is not gold. You will often be given the most mundane of tasks. Be so zealous and enthusiastic about doing these tasks proficiently that they give you more work. Take ownership of all tasks and build your credibility along the way.
7. Grow your network – Build ‘genuine’ relationships!
This is the golden opportunity for you to be working closely with industry experts – make the most of it. You could add them on LinkedIn but it is rather the depth of the relationship you build with a single person rather than the number of connections you have.
8. Make an impact
If you follow all the steps correctly, you are bound to leave a strong impact. 8 out of 10 people I know have secured a job offer at the company they interned at, out of sheer enthusiasm and dedication.
9. Add value – What’s in it for them?
Be selfish and learn everything you can lay your hands on. After all, you came to take something out of this experience that is more than a footnote on your resume. But what’s in it for them? Keep asking yourself this question in everything that you do and you will notice the value that you add to the team.
10. Be humble. Stay curious.
There is nothing more annoying than a proud or overbearing person. Stay curious and ask questions – but at the same time, be humble and grateful for the opportunity you have received. Thank everyone for their time and willingness to share their learning with you.
Keep hustling and never stop learning. All the best!