The reality of transformation: people always come first

"It's not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change" - Charles Darwin, 1809

This October representatives from Great State chaired, attended and spoke at the Innovation and Transformation Hub, a two day conference which brought business and brand leaders from across Europe together in London to share their strategies for successful business change and innovation.

Matt Boffey, our director of consulting, moderated an exciting agenda of fireside chats, presentations and panel discussions featuring senior leaders from a range of industry sectors including transport, FMCG, retail and engineering. In an adjoining room, our Business Director Tim Pitts also hosted a parallel track of discussion with SME leaders who shared their tips and methodologies for successful scalability and growth.

In a dedicated keynote, Nicola Hinds, our strategy director, gave delegates an exclusive preview of our forthcoming report: The reality of transformation, which is due to launch in early 2019.

Regardless of sector; from pharma to finance, transport to retail, all speakers shared a common goal: to help their organisations transform in an increasingly connected world. They also confessed to many common challenges – which focused predominantly on people rather than technology.

We’ve provided some key insights, tips and take outs from brands and attendees, for the benefit of those that couldn’t be there in person:

Key insights from brand speakers

Humans don’t change

Jennifer Watkins, Global Head of Customer Experience Innovation, Digital Transformation & Foresight at AXA asked, what has changed? Emerging AI, Voice, Robots, Blockchain, VR and AR may be altering the way we do business but humans themselves don’t change – their expectations and what they’re looking for is greater simplicity and convenience.

How to turn a supertanker into a jet ski

Mayank Prakash, Chief Digital and Information Officer, Department of Work and Pensions asked us to imagine his task over the past five years: to turn around a super tanker and remodel it as a jet ski. By unlocking talent and with the right capabilities in place, the DWP is now gaining competitive advantage. They encourage intrepreneurship, experimentation and risk-taking. Prakash confessed to learning from early mistakes; at first he didn’t get the balance right between external disruption and internal skill development but now sees that it’s crucial to bring people on the inside along on the journey. Contributing and adding value, he said, are now part of the department’s daily routine.

Remove friction, drive action

Maria Parpou, Chief Product Officer, Barclaycard said that transformation for Barclaycard means embracing the speed of a fintech’s agile model in partnership with the trust and distribution capabilities of the Barclaycard brand. How to win the innovation game? By solving the customer problem, not the new product opportunity, focusing on the user experience at the heart of the digital journey. Barclaycard have purposeful collaborations with fintechs, partners for capability that drive differentiation and value; and partners for connectivity, integrating the ecosystem to remove friction and drive action; along with a clear platform strategy. They break down the constraints of a large institution to product development by working from the outside in. And most importantly, they sit down with customers to understand their pain points and deliver the least disturbance possible in their digital journey. They focus on creating experiences that delight, not despair.

Focus on Speed Levers: Growth Levers

Mateja Panjan, Innovation Manager at Danfoss, said they have focused their transformation strategy on responding to a changing internal culture. 40% of Danfoss’s 26,000 employees are Generation Y – they like to network and change roles regularly. The innovation strategy focuses on Speed Levers and Growth Levers. HR provides 24-hour hacks to foster self-managing teams, accelerate leadership and challenge the current culture. Results, she revealed, have included 50% faster time to market, more motivated teams and a higher level of management satisfaction, leading to accelerated growth.

Focus your future business on YES people

Every part of a business needs an innovation mentality, stated Ben Lickfett, Head of Emerging Technologies & Digital Innovation at Diageo. He likened the drinks giant to an 800lb gorilla living in a unicorn world – with the unicorn solving the customer problem. It’s essential for organisations to identify and promote YES people, he said, those who have an attitude of test and learn after the day job is done, simply because they are fascinated by the challenge. Meanwhile, companies also need to partner with external disruptors; as it’s impossible to foster a founder mentality from the inside out. Diageo now has a Distill Ventures programme; investing in spirit intrapreneurs allowing them to grow until they know which ones to invest in, those that can scale, before they switch them on.

Find the opportunity in the routine

Arcadia’s global head of design, Guy Smith, said the retail giant focuses innovation on the routine moments that create empathy with the consumer, over and above looking for the exceptional, with the intention of reducing pain points rather than achieving delight. The fundamental question for every company, he added, has to be: what are we trying to achieve? Every company has its own legacy and needs to focus on key areas to evolve – but whatever that might be, customer experience must be central. Smith brought our thinking back to digital; consumer data is currency, he stated, people edit and enhance their digital profiles to focus not just on who they are but on who they may like to be. The future question will not only be who does that data represent, but also who will be the owner of that information?

Four key tips served up by brands

We have picked out four critical tips that were cited by speakers across sectors:

  1. Focus on a North Star which everyone in the business understands
  2. Develop internal capabilities alongside external expertise to empower your people
  3. Evolve a culture of innovation alongside a stable working practice and focus on the agile delivery of user-centred products and services
  4. Build a deep understanding of your customer’s experience

Four key take-aways from Great State

Reflecting on the experience, guests said it was a rare opportunity to find inspiration and receive reassurance that the innovation and transformation challenges businesses face are not unique or unsurpassable, with the right expertise and support.

In his concluding remarks, Matt shared his top four take-aways for businesses looking to implement innovation and transformation programmes in their organisation:

  1. Walk in your customer’s shoes and immerse yourself in their experiences to provide the solutions they need
  2. Focus your vision and create the right culture for your organisation
  3. Foster collaboration with the right people and partners to ensure you evolve a business based on ethical best practice for long-term success
  4. Data may be the new oil, but it still needs refining: understand the difference between being data driven and data informed.

Join us at the launch of our latest report: The reality of transformation at The Lighterman, King's Cross, London.