Emory Report
November 12, 2007
Volume 60, Number 11

Excellence Through Leadership bears
bright ideas

The Bright Ideas initiative was conceived by the first graduates of Excellence Through Leadership, an intensive program designed to strengthen the performance of senior leaders from across the University.

As part of the program, participants are required to complete a complex team project designed to address a specific need or issue at the University. “Bright Ideas is an example of how a group of very talented leaders tackled a problem, and it is going to have direct benefit to Emory,” said Associate Vice President for Administration David Hanson, who helped develop Excellence Through Leadership and serves as a member of the ETL selection committee.

The ETL graduates who worked on the Bright Ideas initiative agree that the team project — the practical component that follows the theoretical portion of the curriculum — was a powerful learning experience.
“Anytime you work with a group of people you get to know them better,” said David Thurston, associate vice president for financial operations and a member of the ETL group charged with creating Bright Ideas. “It really solidifies the fact that a team can accomplish so much more than individuals on their own.”

The Bright Ideas program is not the only concept that the University has implemented from ETL projects. Conservation efforts such as the freshman energy awareness competition and the Lights Out Emory initiative during the Dalai Lama’s visit are an outgrowth of ideas from the initial ETL class, as are advances in emergency operations and employee development. The second class took a different approach, tackling one issue — creative transportation solutions to growth — as a large group. The project focus and framework for this year’s class is still being determined, Hanson said.

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November 12, 2007
Bright Ideas fosters innovative thinking

By kim urquhart

A new initiative is challenging Emory employees to think about ways to save time or money and improve the quality of their workplace. To encourage, support and reward innovation, the University has launched Bright Ideas at Emory to engage faculty and staff to propose creative solutions to workplace problems.

“The goal is to get people thinking not only about doing their jobs, but how to make their job better,” said David Thurston, associate vice president of financial operations. Thurston was a member of the Excellence Through Leadership team that in 2006 was tasked with creating a new initiative to promote and recognize innovation.

“The charge for the ETL team was how do we get people thinking, every day, of things they can do to improve the quality of life, or save time or save money, at Emory,” explained Deborah Moyers, associate vice president for campus services administration and a member of the ETL Bright Ideas team.

The Bright Ideas program, which launched last week, offers an avenue for transforming an idea into action. Employees can submit strategies that will make Emory more efficient or effective via the Bright Ideas Web site. Ideas will be reviewed by the Bright Ideas Committee, who will then send the most promising ideas forward for further review and possible implementation.

According to Thurston, Bright Ideas sets up a process to get those ideas in front of the right people. “It’s the internal version of technology transfer,” he said.

The problem-solving ideas generated by the collective imaginations of Emory employees — even small scale changes in business and administrative practices — have a potential to equal big savings.

“We have a lot of great critical thinkers across the University. This is a way to tap into that knowledge we have out there and apply it to our work life at Emory,” said Karen Jenkins of University Technology Services.

Jenkins helped develop the Bright Ideas Web site to make it easy for faculty and staff to submit ideas and review other ideas posted by their colleagues. The site also provides answers to frequently asked questions.
All submissions will be seriously considered through a review process. Ideas can be reviewed and — those that are feasible — implemented fairly quickly. “That’s one of the benefits of having an experienced operational group of people come to the table to review,” said Thurston. The Bright Ideas Committee includes representatives from major units of the University who have a broad understanding of how Emory operates.

Award winners will be invited to participate in the implementation of their idea. “We hope that people will really feel like they can make a difference,” said Thurston.

Contributions to the Bright Ideas program will be recognized through various award categories, including recognition at Staff Fest in May. Bright Ideas will be awarded quarterly with cash awards, plaques or other gifts. A more significant cash award will go to the grand prize winner, selected annually.

Regardless of whether an idea is ultimately implemented, every one counts. “There is no idea too small,” said Moyers. Submissions that do not receive awards will be entered into a drawing for a prize at Staff Fest. “We want to make sure that everybody who submits an idea has the potential to win an award," Thurston said. "We want to encourage the thinking.”

Ideas can be submitted by individuals or teams. While all ideas are welcome, only faculty, staff or student employees are eligible for an award.

To submit your "bright idea," visit www.bright ideas.emory.edu. The last opportunity to submit ideas for this fiscal year is March 2008. The program does not end there, however. “We are hoping it will generate enough excitement that it will be ongoing,” said Moyers.