Innovation Finalist Interview with Meghan Chapple, Director of Sustainability and Co-Chair of Innovation Task Force, The George Washington University
1. In your opinion, what makes a company innovative?
I’ve worked with a lot of different organizations either as an employee or a consultant. In addition to George Washington University, the most innovative organizations that I’ve worked with have been the World Resources Institute, Dow, and Nike. They have had employees and leadership who are creative and courageous, and they have systems that support and reward them for taking risks, adapting, and changing while remaining accountable to the mission of the organization. These innovative organizations have cultivated new ideas so that the ideas can either come to fruition, or the information from a failed idea can be composted into learning that serves as a resource for a stronger idea in the future. Most importantly, I believe innovative organizations create new solutions that solve larger societal problems – such as education issues or climate change - in a way that is aligned with the organization’s mission.
2. What makes your company innovative?
GW is a place with strong support of innovation coming from President Steve Knapp and the Board of Trustees, as well as Provost Steve Lerman and Executive Vice President Lou Katz. The three of them have been championing innovation at GW. I currently serve as the co-chair of the university’s Innovation Task Force, along with Paul Berman. GW’s leadership along with the Innovation Task Force provide the resources and system for innovators to step up at GW. The Innovation Task Force, along with GW’s commitment to sustainability and trusted partners at American University and the GW University Hospital, inspired and allowed the GW Office of Sustainability to launch the Capital Partners Solar Project.
Also, GW students are very creative and innovative. We have just launched a new Eco-Equity Challenge, which brings together student energy and ingenuity, university leadership, and community partners to create local solutions to climate change and environmental justice. Sponsored by Siemens Industry, Inc. Building Technologies Division the Eco-Equity Challenge is a call to GW’s students to submit their innovative ideas for addressing environmental and equity issues in Washington, D.C. both on and off campus. Student response to the program has been very enthusiastic. We are looking forward to seeing the first crop of project ideas this Earth Day. http://serve.gwu.edu/eco-equity-challenge
3. What or who are some innovative companies or people that inspire you and your team?
I am inspired by the projects coming out of Public Allies, Ashoka, the Social Innovation Summit, SustainAbility, World Resources Institute, IDEO, and Innosight,
4. What are some publications, print or digital, you read daily or have read that help you stay on top of your game? These could be books, magazine, blogs, e-newsletters, etc.
Cleantech, GreenBiz, ENSIA, and PlanetForward
5. What advice would you give to up-and-coming leaders striving to be innovative in today’s business environment?
Taking risks requires a culture of vulnerability and trust. It is important for leaders at all levels to provide a safe space for themselves and others to be vulnerable enough to offer a new idea, and to cultivate it over time.