Twice a year, we dedicate a Friday afternoon to internal innovation and excellence at an event we call Science Fair.
No, not the one with dioramas and paper mache volcanos.
Innovatemap’s Science Fair adds immeasurable value to our company and organizational culture. It is a culmination of our talent and company values in action.
In the months prior to presentation day, teams begin to form. People from different areas of the business get together to brainstorm on what they could innovate and optimize. This year, we saw projects ranging from optimization of internal processes to book clubs, customized playlists, and everything in between.
How it started
The original concept for Science Fair dates back to 2014, the first year Innovatemap became an agency. Though today’s version looks a bit different from where we began.
“Clients come first to the point that they consume our calendar, always. The original inspiration for Science Fair was to simply carve out a day or two to say ‘no client work.’ We wanted to flip the attention to focus on Innovatemap,” Mike Reynolds said. In the early years, ideas were born and grown within the time constraint of Science Fair. The team took a few days to think and learn internally, and the last day was dedicated to sharing and reflecting with the team.
Quickly, it became obvious that the value of Science Fair was in the knowledge sharing of the team’s brilliant ideas.
So, we shifted the day’s focus to showcasing and absorbing. While the projects are developed months in advance and executed simultaneously with client work, Science Fair allows us to dedicate time to learning from the team and indulging in everyone’s excellence.
Fast forward to Friday, September 24, 2021. The team gathered at our Indy HQ to embrace innovation, talent, and creativity — together. For almost half of our team, this Science Fair was the first of many. It was my first Science Fair and I was quickly reminded of why I love what I do so much.
The personalities and strengths of the team are evident in the variety of work presented. Two of our brand designers, Tressa Janes and Parker McCullough, focused their efforts on optimizing our brand design workflows. Living in the design space and working diligently every day, they saw an opportunity to improve the brand design process using a tool we already had.
Kate Harrison, a product manager, went a different route. Seeking smiles and a heartwarming effect, Kate exercised her cross-stitching talents to produce branded fabric art centered around our tagline “dream, design, deliver.” In typical Innovatemap fashion, her excellent product was met with a memorable talk track.
If you’ve visited our Indy HQ, you know how important music is to create a welcoming client and guest experience. But after several months of being in person again, we quickly exhausted our playlist potential. Piyush Dawande, Ashlyn Maes, and I realized this challenge and incorporated our love for music with a desire to engage the team by creating custom playlists for each of our 36 team members. The playlists were met with individual stickers and keychains designed by Claire Kelley, TJ Nieset, and Tressa Janes. Want to listen with us? You can find all of our playlists here.
The value of this project, as with many other Science Fair projects, lies much more in the cultural impact than in the revenue potential — and we embrace that. Innovation in any form is welcomed, celebrated, and inspiring.
We are very intentional in the freedom we embrace during Science Fair. There are no guidelines, suggestions, or themes presented to guide them in any specific direction. We encourage the team to think outside of the “problem-solving” box.
“The innovation derived from science fair is cultural dynamite,” Mike explained. “We don’t limit innovation to solving problems directly facing the team in the moment. Our people see unmet needs. They see opportunities, enrichment moments, and our day-to-day culture. They know what will keep us ahead of the industry and at the top of our game. A third of the ideas could be strictly business, a third may be curveballs or product-focused, and the other third are just delightful and fun, which has a cultural value in and of itself.”
Science Fair is a day that helps us improve ourselves and our processes, but it also initiates reflection about our day-to-day joys. Science Fair gives us the opportunity to lean into relationships that strengthen our trust for years to come. It is a top-tier team bonding experience that exemplifies Innovatemap’s values. We are reminded, after a full afternoon of back-to-back talent and innovation, of how much fun our job is. We are inspired by each other’s drive and passion for our work. And we can’t wait until next Spring when we get to do it all over again.