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Summary of Team Journey:

Team Innovation is beyond proud, and we all feel incredibly accomplished after our successful program day on March 20th, 2024. Our theme, “Innovative Leaders Empower Our Community,” couldn’t have been more spot on. The day was a testament to our hard work, creativity, and collaboration.

Our lead advisor, Aaron, had asked us to come to our first meeting (dinner at 419 West) with our definitions of “innovation.” That dinner left us more confused than the retreat, but it also brought out diverse yet similar definitions: doing things better. Our team worked incredibly well together right from the start. We had so many ideas that it took a while to nail down our direction. There was never any real tension (except for when Shannon thought we had maybe fundraised more than we did) (jk! jk!) 😉

We researched various innovative topics, from the helmet lab at Virginia Tech to NASCAR technology at Martinsville. Ultimately, we decided to focus on how leadership ties into an innovative mindset while highlighting the Roanoke Valley’s incredible innovative community.

One of the highlights of our day was the “toolbox of innovation” we gave to participants. This idea emerged naturally in one of our meetings when Greg exclaimed, “AI is just one of the many tools in THE TOOLBOX OF INNOVATION!” Things went silent for a second, and then our group freaked out with excitement. We knew we had a winner. Incorporating AI into our program day was initially met with some hesitation. However, after Shannon gave an awesome presentation on AI, it became a no-brainer.

The actual toolbox was a laminated, paper cut-out with a QR code that led to the day’s agenda, sponsors, and speaker bios. Attached to it were laminated paper cut-outs of tools, each symbolizing a key aspect of innovation:

Wrench = Embrace Challenges
Screwdriver = Try New Things
Saw = Collaborate with Others
Nuts & Bolts = Be Open to Change
Hammer = Lean Into Fear

Our program day started with science projects from Governor’s School students, followed by a sticky note activity asking the crowd what comes to mind when they hear “innovation.” The answers ranged from the air fryer to Elon’s new cybertruck. Then Roanoke College President Frank Shushok gave an incredibly inspiring talk on “viewing from the balcony” as part of leadership. This led into an engaging panel discussion on how to cultivate an innovative mindset, panelists including Kim Blair from Carilion Clinic, Jess Edwards from VERGE, John Gardner from The Branch Group, and Maureen (Mo) McGonagle from LEAP. After a delicious lunch, Andrew Hooper showed participants a deep dive into AI and how tools like ChatGPT can make our work lives easier.

Finishing out the day at the Red Sox for a small happy hour was the cherry on top. The energy in that room was buzzing with inspiration and people were already sharing their thoughts on how much they enjoyed the day.

A big part of why we think our day was as successful as it was is because we put in the time. After the retreat, we made a point to meet about every other week. Then our team met twice a week starting in mid-January: Mondays at 8:15 am via Zoom, and Thursdays in person at the Grandin Co-Lab at 8:00 am. Those early mornings were worth it. Everyone played their part:

Lauren: Smart and sharp as a TACK. Kept us on the straight and narrow in planning, financials, logistics, timing, and every small detail.

Shannon: Made things happen and helped our team become comfortable with AI. Her knowledge was crucial in planning our day.

Morgan: Our go-to person with a can-do attitude, willing to jump in anywhere. We couldn’t have pulled off the day without her.

Stephanie: The quiet voice of reason who kept track of our finances. The smartest woman on our team.

Blair: Our gift bag and laminating queen. She also provided the Red Sox VIP experience. Always quick with solutions, she made trips from Christiansburg twice a week!

Marlee: Our community guru/somehow knows everyone and if she didn’t, she was the first to reach out and connect with them.

Jeff: Our hype guy and viber. He secured the construction hats and always knew what to say. His positive attitude was infectious.

Greg: THE GUY. Our venue host, fundraiser, and caterer. Greg took on many roles and always did it with a smile.

Shout out to our awesome advisors. We especially couldn’t have done it without “Dad”, aka Aaron. He showed up for us, kept it real, and helped out in every way possible. Our other three advisors, Lacey, Megan, and Anna, were also fantastic and we appreciate their time in helping us plan our day.

We plan to keep in touch and continue to hang out post-LRV. We’re proud of planning a successful program day, but we’re most proud of the friendships we’ve made.

Thank you, Leadership Roanoke Valley, for an unforgettable experience!

Program Objectives:

1. Cultivate an Innovative Mindset: Learn what it means to be an innovative leader and how to foster an innovative mindset within teams and organizations.

2. Spotlight Local Innovation Initiatives: Be inspired by stories of innovations happening in our community across sectors.

3. Explore Innovation Opportunities: Interact with emerging technologies and discuss how innovation might enhance efficiency and create more creative pursuits.

4. Bridge Innovation and Community: Use the toolbox of innovation to find efficient solutions to local needs and opportunities.

Calls to Action:

1. Engage with Innovation: Identify one innovative solution you could implement in real-world scenarios in the next 3 months.

2. AI as a Tool: Leverage AI as a tool that can enhance efficiency and effectiveness rather than replace human ingenuity in everyday life.

3. Foster AI Conversations: Advocate for including AI topics in workplace discussions, promoting a culture open to exploring and understanding new technologies.

4. Use the Innovation Toolbox: Review and implement the tools obtained during today’s program day while finding new innovative tools to add to your toolbox.

Team Members:

Lauren Browning
Shannon Dominguez
Greg Hanlon
Blair Hoke
Marlee Richardson
Stephanie Smoot
Morgan White
Jeff Williamson

Team Advisors:

Anna Fierro
Lacey Levy
Aaron Shearer (Lead Advisor)
Megan Wade

URL to Team Photos: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1dPlMxCQmpBvr3Loa_-uChrcSwvLGQn57?usp=sharing