At Citrix we are passionate about innovation. Over the course of the past few years, we have developed a series of workshops and initiatives to solicit raw ideas from employees and help turn them into validated business concepts. Deeply rooted in data rather than opinions, these concepts are presented to the executive team to make further investment decisions.

The most popular workshop we developed as part of that program is called the Lean Innovation Bootcamp. It takes two days and is an action-packed workshop that teaches any employee how to apply the Lean Startup framework to test any idea fast, building on customer empathy and applying techniques, such as Design Thinking.

This year, we decided to take this workshop on the road and make an impact in our community by teaching the same principles in local education or non-profit organizations. Every Citrix employee may spend 2 days annually on any volunteering activity of their choice, so our first stop was at the local high school’s Entrepreneurship class. Jeff Noble and Geeta Vemuri are avid innovators, and they joined me to co-facilitate this workshop.

At the beginning of day one, the students were given a theme: “Star Lunch”. Star Lunch is a program common to high schools, but may be called differently. It’s a time during lunch where students can get help from teachers on topics students might be struggling with. During the interactive workshops, students interviewed peers and faculty to identify problems, brainstormed ideas, and validated their assumptions by running experiments.

By the end of day two, we had 4 teams of students, each with a uniquely different solution that was tested with fellow students and teachers. All teams presented to other students and teachers — even the principal came in to listen to the pitches.

At its core, innovation makes lives better, whether it is a small improvement for one person or a breakthrough for society. Innovation is much more than inventing new gadgets and services, it’s about changing the way we think. Our most impactful action is to educate students to be wise future leaders to create a more empathetic and recognize that anyone can have an opinion, but what really matters is data rooted in customer empathy.

Our next stop is Lean Innovation Bootcamp with the local Girl Scouts organization. Stay tuned!