Innovation in Action

Best innovation practice across sectors can inspire organisations who are slower to adopt new models. Five brands clearly presented their successful approaches at the Digital Innovation Hub which we chaired in London in March.

1. Electrolux AB

The Swedish multinational home appliance manufacturer is consistently ranked the world's second largest appliance maker and has successfully made the move from selling appliances to selling experiences.

Beatrice Maestri, Open Innovation Manager, aligns innovation to business processes that enable the swift implementation of ‘the new’. She advises following these steps:

  1. Capture – promote and identify new trends and solutions
  2. Scout – support internal clients and address the challenges
  3. Empower – Internal function which turn opportunities into applicable/actionable solutions

For Electrolux, these work with three innovation pillars: network, to open new alliances; portfolio, to create and nurture the how of innovation; and mindset, to facilitate collaboration and energy.

Her advice for succes is to define your vision and stay focused but not shortsighted; to align on expectations and continuously engage; to design impact not output and be open to pivoting and last but not least, to give it a structured approach but leave room for flexibility.

2. Bupa

Bupa is an international healthcare group, with its origins and headquarters in the UK but serving 32 million customers in 190 countries worldwide.

John Moore, Head of Customer Labs, has created a ‘customer’ not an innovation lab – as a continuous catalyst for business change. Access to start ups is useful for Bupa – it helps them see what Venture Capitalists are investing in, and perhaps more interestingly, what they’re NOT backing.

Bupa always strives to work from a customer-centric view. Many organisations will claim to be customer-centric, but more often than not, their services are built around the organisational structure, not the customer need.

For Bupa, deep consumer insight is critical to understanding their motivations or problems – which often upends assumptions. A customer who has a broken hip for example, will receive a different treatment plan if they are in Poland, Brazil or Singapore – but their motivations/drivers for engagement are fundamentally the same – to become active again. That purpose, therefore, must be core to Bupa’s services and solutions.

His advice:

• Stay relevant – prove there is a problem, prove the solution solves the problem, prove they’ll pay for it, prove you can scale it

• Bring to life the customer journey – make it better for them, don’t be distracted by shiny objects if they aren’t right for your customer

• Make differences count – if you’re the cool kid that sits apart from everyone you’ll fail. You need to sit within the organisation where you’re trying to elicit change, bring them along for the ride

3. JustGiving

Since they were founded in 2001, JustGiving has helped people in 164 countries raise over $4.5 billion for good causes. Director of Growth, Danny Denhard, advises that before embarking on a new innovation, it is essential to understand:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. Are you better than the competition?
  3. Does it pass the mum test?(your harshest critic – would she use it, understand it?)
  4. Is there a priceless/happy moment – would you remember it?
  5. How are you going to build your brand?

The key considerations for the launch of a new innovation to market are also clearly defined. Do you have the right people (number, skills and culture) to deliver it? Do you have ther right product - will it actually work? Can you be the right partner? Will you be platform of choice? Is it ok to be the second choice? Does it translate okay?

You also have to go beyond what is ‘expected’ of you and head toward the surprise and delight whilst continuously auditing your products against your competitors:

• KEEP – if it works, does what it needs to do, keep it

• CURE – if it doesn’t do what you need it to do, cure it, to make sure it does

• COPY – if there is a product in market from the competitor that works, copy it, don’t reinvent the wheel

• KILL – if it doesn’t work, kill it and move on

4. Co-op

As a business, Co-op Funeralcare accounts for a third of UK customer spend on funerals. Carl Burton, head of digital products, has steered a digital transformation programme that better manages the complex and variable processes in this age-old business.

His product (not project) team has developed bespoke software to fit the contemporary needs of the business and to enable ongoing innovation to sit at the heart of the proposition. End users and the whole internal team are on the transformation journey with them e.g. embalming experts, funeral directors, UX designers, families and friends of the bereaved.

Carl has found that getting real users of the services to tell their stories gives stakeholders a reason to buy in to their ambitions for innovation and effective change. He advises the best way to innovate is to work agile, to fail fast and to learn quickly – and, most importantly, not to hide bad news – admit it, face up to it, make changes and prevent more problems further down the line. Test innovation early – before you invest more spend and recognise that the user journey is different depending on each person – not everyone is the same or will want the same services or support e.g. someone planning a funeral for a gardener will care more about flowers, someone who’s religious may care more about the priest or the church.

He shared his six tips:

  1. Seeing problems first hand is valuable – don’t just take at face value.
  2. Be open about progress – talk about it often, regularly – internal comms piece about sharing (show and tell, live streams, week notes)
  3. Be humble – admit when you’re wrong, don’t be afraid to stop
  4. Put yourself inside the user context to get the real story / real issues
  5. Combine qualitative and quantitative research to get new insights
  6. Early adoption means you can see data and success early too

5. Orange

At Orange there are 3,000+ people, 6,000 patents, a 700-million-euro investment and 12 international innovation centres. Nicolas Bry, COO Orange StartUp Studios, was tasked with bringing the programme together globally and engaging more people in the process. The Orange approach is quite systemic, driven by multiple initiatives, and is considered to be a company-wide learning expedition. Orange have introduced an intrapreneur programme – they want everyone to innovate. For Orange an ‘interpreneur’ follows certain principles:

• A tunnel of goodwill – don’t kill an idea prematurely

• A positive rebel – jumps barriers, is resilient

• Doesn’t have super powers, has super desire

• Hacks rules but does not break them – ideating on the next version or iteration

Once an idea gets to incubation, Orange commits 100% to its development so the innovator no longer does their normal day job and is given the tools, people and a coach to help make the project succeed. The results speak for themselves; programme growth (50-150), new international programmes including two African winners and four projects transitioning from the programme to become a business reality.

Orange view this programme both as an innovation and transformation journey – one that is distributed externally and internally to develop new thinking and fuel positive culture change. Since Orange’s inception it has widely been known as a ‘future brand’ and of all the businesses sharing best practice at the Digital Innovation Hub, their embrace both of a culture and practice of innovation shows an admirable ability to continue to flex, take calculated risks and think future-term.

Working to a clear transformation framework and defined innovation process that aligns to your business roadmap will help you gain that essential commitment from stakeholders for your innovation agenda. If you’d like to know more about our approach, please get in touch.