At HRW, we’re delighted that so many of our clients consider us innovative thought leaders. But innovation is not something that is done only once; it’s a constant quest for meaningful improvements.

Taking a critical eye to everything that we do (not just ‘going through the motions’), is a passion shared across the whole company, and as a result, many new ideas come out organically all year long! Yet, as innovation team member Jaz Gill said, “Some people don’t feel confident to approach senior leadership about an idea even when it’s better than what we’re doing.” We wanted to ensure we really collected ideas from across the team to make the most of our multidisciplinary experts and ideas from academia, other companies, and experience.

In December 2017, the first annual HRW innovation challenge was added to the innovation pipeline planning process: where individuals and teams created ideas for new approaches to project management, technology, deliverables, or methodologies.

An outstanding 16 teams representing 30 out of the 60 HRW employees from across the business entered the competition: ranging from research to business support and fieldwork departments. After a written submission, teams pitched ideas to a panel formed from the board of directors and innovation team in three rounds across the Wallingford, London, Switzerland and New York client service hubs.

Having spoken to participants, what struck us was how excited everyone was to be able to take a step back and contribute, and how inclusive the challenge was. It was wonderful to see how energised everyone seemed to be and really wanted to get involved in making a difference. It truly made everyone feel part of the innovation process and empowered to instil change, improve what we do and make our way of working more streamlined.

That being said, initially some team members thought, “How am I going to come up with an idea” and “Oh my god what exactly IS innovation?” But after some consideration and looking at the immediate environment as well as outside their department, all participants came up with a fantastic idea. Each team took a different journey to creating their original submission, but when teams won, they were genuinely surprised at how working together generated so many creative and unique ideas.

An extremely high calibre of submissions has resulted in several winners and remarkable improvements across the business including streamlined administrative processes, expedited database creation, apprenticeship creation, charity events, digital shortcuts for costly processing, learning and wellbeing initiatives, and faster turnaround deliverables.

The passion and ingenuity demonstrated have already established the innovation challenge as a recurring feature in the HRW calendar with the next instalment scheduled this summer. As one of our Research Directors said, “It was really enjoyable and great we could harness innovation from the whole business and focus on what matters to us and our clients.”

So, the Innovation Challenge proved – it doesn’t always have to be challenging or created elsewhere.

If you’re interested in how our team innovates, or how to use innovative approaches for your research, get in touch to find out more.

And if you like participating in meaningful innovation, why not consider joining us?


By Katy Irving and Esme Barrow-Williams


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