The Discovery Center: a new space for free thinking

Cecile_bray_-_blog

Dave Veale interviews Cecile Bray, Vice-President of People Development, Atlantic Lottery Corporation as part of the Leadership Unleashed series of interviews with leaders.

For those of us who love working with people and the community, Cecile Bray has the ultimate job. Imagine having a job description that includes being kind to the environment and getting really involved in community activities with a mandate to ensure these activities become core to all employees in your organization.

‘We have a program called the “idea factory” where a couple of times a year employees come into the Discovery Center and have fun for about 24 to 48 hours,’ says Cecile Bray, vice-president of people development at Atlantic Lottery Corp. in Moncton.

This is not just talk – this is for real. It’s an excerpt from Cecile’s intriguing job description. As vice-president of people development at Atlantic Lottery Corp., (ALC), Cecile is also responsible for providing strategic leadership for human resource strategies and has operational responsibility for the human resources, social responsibility and talent management teams.

Recently I had a chance to sit down and interview Cecile in ALC’s Discovery Center – an environment that is actually designed to encourage creativity and innovative thinking.

Q: How did the Discovery Center come into existence and how does this space, and you, encourage employees to think creatively?

A: Creating this environment was deliberate. We really transformed it in the last three years and we are proud of it. The experience that you have when you are here should be a reflection of the kind of business that we are in. And our business is light, and it’s fun, and it’s entertainment – it’s fun for a buck, or spending two dollars and dreaming of what you would do if you won the jackpot. We are not doing heart surgery.

We really need to foster innovation and change in our company from within – so we built this discovery center to be a place where you can escape from the day to day of the work day and walk down that hall where the innovative leaders are displayed on one side and the history of our company is on another.

This hallway provides the transition into a new space for free thinking, for free conversation, where you can write all over the walls and everything is technology enabled so if you want to record what happens you can. This is where we foster new ideas and new ways of thinking.

Q: Wow, sounds very cool. Do you have any other example of how you keep employees engaged and encourage innovative thinking?

A: We have a program called the “idea factory” where a couple of times a year employees come into the Discovery Center and have fun for about 24 to 48 hours. They dream up new kinds of products or services and different directions our business can take – we’re innovating from within. We also have outside facilitators come in and help us think of new ways of doing things. At first we thought that the Discovery Center would be used about half the time but it’s gone well beyond that.

Q: I understand that you integrate corporate social responsibility into how you are developing people can you give me some examples of how you accomplish this objective?

A: Well, one of the things that we are working on right now is developing an employee certification process for social responsibility and responsible gambling so that employees have different levels of subject matter expertise when it comes to responsible gambling.

Q: How has this been received by employees?

A: Well, it’s excellent actually – being green, being responsible and being active in the community are things the younger generation look for in companies. We are teaching that to the people who have worked here for generations and we are using it as an attraction tool for people who are new to the company.

Q: I understand that you are focused on finding and retaining people that would value self-development.

A: We are creating an environment where the employment experience is so rich that you will describe it as one the best of your career, no matter what you do afterwards and no matter how long you stay. But we also have to adapt to the times – people don’t work for companies for thirty years anymore. We want to make sure that for two or three or twenty years of employment here that you have the richest experience possible.

Q: How do you help ensure Atlantic Lottery employees stay connected to the business and to the clients?

A: I wish a lottery winner would come while you are here because it’s so fun. We had a $6.7 million winner this week from Dieppe – a young, really nice couple who were being really responsible about their win. They brought their lawyer and their financial advisor with them and they were taking their time seeing what they were going to do with the money. When a winner comes in the music goes off upstairs and all the employees come down and it’s a big celebration – it’s a really good milestone reminding us why we are in the business that we are in
 

Q: When you think of your own personal leadership, what are the biggest lessons you have learned as a leader?

A: I’m trying to not be too directive with people on my team. I work with some great people who are very talented and who come from different parts of the business and have thought about organizational development or social responsibility as a career step along the way. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being conscious of letting them do their thing. They have excellent ideas and they have great decision making ability.
Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at dave@visioncoachinginc.com. His column appears every other Thursday.

Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com. His column appears every other Thursday. To read past columns go to www.LeadershipUnleashed.ca

Photo: Adam Huras/Telegraph-Journal

Published Thursday November 4th, 2010