Innovation at ESO

  • Sync NI met with Russell Beggs, VP of Engineering, and Carole Callender, Senior People Experience Manager, to discuss the importance of innovation within ESO and how that translates into innovation throughout the entire ESO team.

    Russell begins by explaining how creativity is at the core of innovation, but creativity with constraints particularly as one of the challenges with innovation is ‘ideation without realisation’. So how does a company like ESO harness this creativity to generate great ideas and then make them happen? It all starts with design-led processes internally and extensive UX user research but there still comes a point in time where it's not just about the great ideas, it's about making those ideas happen and Russell and Carole have created an ideal environment across the business to enable this.

    For ESO, the process begins with thinking about the people and creating the constraints, but also creating the space for them to think. It’s about getting the balance absolutely right to avoid being too constrained with innovation while not being too free-flowing whereby too much creativity comes in.

    The offices and working environment were a product of careful design thinking and the UX team was instrumental in building out the space to stimulate creativity and deliver innovation. An enormous amount of thought has gone into the different spaces that exist throughout the building, how they work, and how people flow through them to create the desired employee experience from the second they walk in the door. There are breakout spaces, collaboration areas, multi-use rooms and even an outdoor green space deliberately installed to give the sense of being in nature to stimulate innovative thinking in a relaxed environment.

    The entire fabric of the building was purposely designed during the fit-out to spark creativity. Walls feature illustrations including Disney quotes as well as famous medical inventions that have been created in Ireland including the portable defibrillator, radiotherapy and the hypodermic syringe. While these may be less widely known than inventions like the Titanic, the DeLorean, ejector seats and VTOL aircraft, their impact on the world beyond our little island is clear to see.

    Russell points out that ultimately it was innovation that created ESO 19 years ago at a time when everything was being written down on paper by Paramedics and the simple transition of moving that to capturing data in a tablet was a quantum leap at that point in time. Fast forward to today and ESO are now generating millions of data records and the significant trends that can be found in that data.

    The positive outcomes that come about from that research being published are all because 19 years ago, something quite simple about how to capture that data came about. Paramedics fundamentally need to save lives and they will do that better when they're better informed and making sure that the documentation of what happened is as simple and seamless as possible. Those innovations have been critical to saving lives and improving the health and safety of communities through the power of data.

    Innovation at ESO is continuous, about removing barriers and questioning why something cannot happen. These are the drivers that will create the next quantum leap for ESO who are currently developing the next generation of services.

    For commercial reasons Russell obviously has to keep those cards close to his chest however in general terms he was happy to talk about the future of innovation in healthcare and comment on recent announcements, such as Apple's Vision Pro mixed-reality headset. He goes on to say ‘I think about what that would mean for a paramedic in the back of an ambulance, giving care to patients, what information and telemetrics would be useful for them to see without having to look at a cardiac monitor…. Then I think about other innovations around speech-to-text to overcome transcription and now we're seeing some agencies in the US innovating with the likes of ChatGPT to edit and produce narratives quicker than ever. We're always mindful of and constantly thinking about how and when new ideas and innovations can come into our particular sphere’

    ESO has a reputation for innovating technology and providing the ideal environment for creativity to flourish and their Senior People Experience Manager Carole is committed to ensuring that this also extends to the entire people experience within the business itself. The fundamental pillars for this are based on communication and shared goals with systems being in place to enable employees by removing any blockers in their day-to-day work and develop their careers within the business.

    ESO’s strategy for all the employees is straightforward: ‘Our ultimate goal is to make ESO the number one place for our people to grow their career, while living out their purpose’.

    This involves close collaboration with all the employees to deliver a consistent approach whereby individual and shared goals all roll back up into the company goals and how everybody can play a role in that. Communication and transparency through regular one-to-ones, quarterly check-ins and goal-setting sessions all contribute to creating an environment whereby everyone understands the company goals and can see how their own goals play into that. This all happens in real time and by capturing those conversations with people to see how they're feeling about their growth, their wellbeing, how their work is going and what blockers they are having so that the entire business moves forward together. Carole explained how this has already had a hugely positive effect on employees because now every single person, in every part of the organisation, can see and understand that what they are doing is impacting on the overall success of the business.

    Carole explains the importance of every individual’s involvement in goal setting. ‘It's absolutely crucial that everyone is involved in goal setting, there's absolutely no point in just rolling goals out without an employee being involved in their creation. If you involve someone in setting their goals, then they feel a sense of belonging, ownership and accountability. When you have those elements, there is more likely to be success in achieving those goals’

    While everybody in the company has the ability to set and own their goals, no one else can edit these goals and everybody in the company has access to view everyone else’s goals. This was done purposefully, to provide complete transparency and also the ability to help support each other to attain their goals.

    Russell and Carole both make the point that technology in itself is not innovation but rather it's all about the people and how their values are aligned with ESO’s engineering principles.

    As Russell explains ‘Done is better than perfect. We are not looking for perfection, it's about what we know now and how do we get this done so we can improve. Acumen and teamwork are really important to us so we are actively embracing a culture of learn-it-all’s not know-it-all’s’

    This approach leads to incremental improvement over time by taking hypotheses, testing them out and then responding to those hypotheses. So that's how you know that your innovation is moving in the right direction, as opposed to just trying lots of things and not knowing what sticks. For ESO, this translates simply into having the right type of people, in the right mindset and with the right culture, environment and support mechanisms in place to make it all happen.

    This article appears in the summer edition of Sync NI magazine. To receive a free copy click here

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