Innovating Out Loud: The Art of Diverse Collaboration

Greg Ratcliff •

In this blog series, “Innovating Out Loud,” I discuss Vertiv’s culture of innovation through the lens of five behaviors that help spark curiosity, bring new and exciting ideas into the fold, and strengthen a company’s innovation muscles. These behaviors are described in one of my favorite books on the topic of innovation, “Eat, Sleep, Innovate: How to Make Creativity an Everyday Habit Inside Your Organization.” In this post, we’ll recap Vertiv’s recent Innovation Summit and discuss the value of diverse collaboration.

At one point or another, we’ve all been guilty of information hoarding. We attend a webinar about an emerging technology but forget to send notes to our colleagues, or travel to an industry conference but come home too tired to send back anything but an expense report. It’s easy to let these situations pass us by, but in doing so, we are depriving team members of gaining valuable information that can lead to new ideas. If you attended a conference and found the information useful, the chances are high that members from your team would also love to have access to that information. Even information that may not be inspiring to you could spark an innovative thought in a colleague, which can benefit the team as a whole.

Active and diverse collaboration is crucial to building a culture of innovation at any organization. That’s why it’s the crux of our annual Innovation Summit. Every year, the Innovation Summit brings together Vertiv’s idea creators, inventors and developers and gives everyone a platform for sharing ideas, learning best practices from innovators outside the company and recognizing individuals for their contributions to innovation at Vertiv.

Making Innovation and Sustainability a Mindset

More than 300 team members attended this year’s summit either in person or virtually. While the event had plenty of interesting keynotes, Q&As and innovation reports, my favorite part of the summit was the ideation surrounding this year’s topic: innovation and sustainability. Throughout the event, we focused on how Vertiv can make sustainability a mindset and a habit within our own operations and those of our customers. You can read about some of the actions Vertiv is taking in our inaugural environmental, social and governance (ESG) report.

We discussed larger steps organizations are taking to further their sustainability initiatives, such as constructing sustainable walls, running facilities on hydrogen, or building micro grids with rooftop solar energy. We also shared the smaller, more immediate actions that can positively contribute to sustainability over time. These steps include automating lights in a facility, switching to LED lighting, and thinking about how to reduce the carbon footprint of manufacturing facilities, fleet trucks and other operational necessities. As we discussed during the summit, taking these small steps makes it easier for an organization to weave sustainability into more of what they do and turn sustainable habits into a broader mindset.

Voices of Innovation

It would seem rather counterintuitive for me to write a blog on diverse collaboration and not share the perspective of my colleagues. I was able to catch up with several at this year’s Innovation Summit, and I took the opportunity to ask them to recap their experiences. Below are some of their responses:

Stephen Liang, Chief Technology Officer, Vertiv:

“We’re always doing research on behalf of our customers, and it’s sometimes hard for everybody see all the good work that other groups are working on. So, the Innovation Summit is a great opportunity for sharing. I have conversations with colleagues from all over the world, and some of the ideas I learned about from attendees at the Summit were even new to me. There were topics discussed that I think are very important to Vertiv long-term, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and nanofluids, and it was very encouraging to see members from our own teams already moving ahead in these areas.”

Sarah Farou, Strategic Planner for the Chief Technology Office, Vertiv:

“Our main focus with the Innovation Summit was getting attendees excited and passionate about not only the work they’re doing on our current products, but also the products and solutions we could be making three-to-five years from now that have potential to completely disrupt our industry.”

TJ Faze, Head of ESG Strategy and Engagement, Vertiv:

“This event was all about collaboration, and I enjoyed seeing our different teams, from legal and IP to engineering and product management, all talking about topics related to sustainability. The mixing of different perspectives at events like this summit is what sets Vertiv apart, and it’s going to be something that spurs the next set of innovative ideas to take our business and industry into the future.”

Dan Ling, Director of Technology Process, Vertiv:

“My biggest takeaway was learning about all the different projects, technologies and ideas the company is working on across all lines of the business all over the globe. Having colleagues present this information to everyone and collaborate on it ensures everyone is aware of things they may not have known that they can use to drive their line of business, move products forward and help customers solve problems.”

Dan Rapp, Environmental Health and Safety Director, Vertiv Americas Manufacturing:

“What I really liked from the Innovation Summit was how in addition to the scheduled discussions, there was this continuous chatter both in-person and via the live chat of attendees asking questions, sharing ideas and sharing links. I think part of the evolution of these types of conferences and seminars is that communication doesn’t have to be one-way. With today’s technology, the presentation environment can be much more dynamic and you can get more involvement from the participants.”

In the next blog post, we will discuss adeptness in ambiguity and how companies can respond to industry changes and disruptions. If you have any thoughts or comments on the topic of innovation, please get in touch. I’d love to hear your ideas.

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