Find ways to harness and share  great ideas from across the business in a fun and engaging way


A series of "innovation" events across different locations open to all employees


Through an enhanced culture of innovation, new ideas have been identified and implemented

Empowering our workforce: Learn how to foster a culture of innovation that encourages employees to think outside the box and generate new ideas. This article delves into the key drivers behind Ventia's successful initiative, the Pizza & Pitch series. 

Innovation forms a key pillar in our strategy to Redefine Service Excellence, so when Gary Dring took the role of Group Manager Innovation, his first aim was to spark a new era of innovation culture across Ventia.

"We know our people have lots of great ideas around our contracts and functions, and we wanted to find a way to harness and share them with the whole business,” Gary said. “We just had to find the right way.”

Gary set up a group of select Ventia employees from across the business to form the ‘Innovation Founders’, a group of people full of original ideas and ready to lean in to generate a culture of bright ideas that would spread across the organisation.

The inaugural Pizza & Pitch was held in our Melbourne office in March 2023.

Launching Ventia's innovation series 'Pizza & Pitch'

One of these ideas was the ‘Pizza & Pitch’, an informal event inviting our people to pitch their most innovative ideas to a friendly cohort of colleagues whilst eating pizza and mingling. At the end of the event, the pizza-eating audience applauds each of the pitching teams, and the team that receives the loudest applause of the evening, wins a trophy.

“It started out as something that just sounded like a simple fun competition, where you hang out with your colleagues and eat pizza, Gary said. “But it has really taken off and become so much more.”

Following the inaugural Pizza & Pitch held at our Melbourne office in March through to Brisbane in July, Sydney in August and with the latest held in Auckland during October, the events have been a huge success, with each raising the bar for the next.

The pitching team that receives the loudest applause of the evening, wins. Image from the VIC-TAS event in Melbourne.

Finding successful ingredients

The ingredients for their success have been courageous pitchers, smart ideas, an enthusiastic audience and a genuine excitement from hosts, pitchers, and audience alike. Oh, and don’t forget the free pizza! A relaxed atmosphere paired with plenty of humour has added to the flavour too. Not least, getting people to physically come together provides fertile ground for collaborating in a company as big as Ventia. With 40% of our workforce based in our regional communities, Pizza & Pitch offers an excellent opportunity to come together and meet colleagues you’ve never met before from all areas of the business. The events encourage frontline engagement and ideas have come from field workers and office workers alike.

Each event is organised by one of our regional steering committees with the help of some of our Innovation Founders. While the format is similar, the organisers are fresh, adding to the genuine excitement from the hosts and the audience. It also helps in igniting friendly competition between regions as well.

Our Executive Leadership Team and some of our Board members have also been part of the audience at every event, flagging ideas to pursue within their sector or function, and adding to the overall engagement of the event. 

Genuine excitement and enthusiasm are key ingredients to the success of Pizza & Pitch. Image from the NSW-ACT event in Sydney.

Spotting room for improvement

Although many of the pitchers have never presented in front of an audience before, every one of them has identified an opportunity in our business and has been curious and brave enough to get up on stage to propose a possible solution. It may be still at idea level with imagined application examples, or it may be something that one team has already developed but sees potential to apply at scale.

Our people have shared ideas for making our operations safer or more efficient, new ways to utilise our systems  or make them smarter and provide insights into areas we don't yet have insight into. There have also been ideas for better ways to help our clients and communities and weave the Ventia values deeper into the fabric of our day-to-day work experience.

All the pitchers have identified an opportunity to redefine service excellence. Image from the New Zealand – Aotearoa event in Auckland.

Building a culture of innovative confidence

The program is more than just the fun and excitement of a single event and hoping to win by getting the loudest applause from the now infamous ‘clap-o-meter’. Although each event has one winner, many ideas have progressed to business cases, pilot programs or even full implementation stage.

“Pizza & Pitch is a vehicle to spread ideas across Ventia,” Gary said.

The events inspire collaboration across sectors and opportunities to elevate the work we do every day and to upgrade our operational solutions.

“These events also help foster confidence in our people,” Gary reflected. “They inspire everyone to feel they can get up on stage and share an idea, and they will receive a roaring applause just for the courage to get up there and pitch.”

The events help create a culture of innovative confidence within Ventia. Pictured is the ‘clap-o-meter' in action – a decibel reader app on a mobile phone. Image from the New Zealand – Aotearoa event in Auckland.

How to keep the momentum going

Exciting plans are on the horizon for 2024.

“Pizza & Pitch will continue, albeit in a slightly different format,” Gary said. “We will keep inviting the regional steering committees across Australia and New Zealand to host and drive the events, but we may alter them slightly, or add more challenges to the mix, to keep evolving the basic idea.”

There is no doubt that the program is offering a host of ingredients for innovation at Ventia. Tapping into the collective intelligence of our 15,000 employees, in addition to 20,000 subcontractors, is a forward-thinking approach. Who knows better how to improve the work we do every day than the people doing it?

By celebrating the ideas across the business and recognising individuals, we are not only empowering our employees to think differently and harnessing internal talent – we are sourcing cost-effective solutions from within, boosting morale and strengthening our company fabric. With Pizza & Pitch, we are driving a new era of innovation together and creating a culture of tomorrow’s problem solvers to Redefine Service Excellence.

The organising teams are key to the success of the events. Here from the QLD event along with the winners of the event, Shelley and Alex Folkard, and Ventia CEO, Dean Banks.

Highlights from Pizza & Pitch in 2023

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