Creating and nurturing an ethos where employee ideas are not only welcome but transformed into reality requires time, management support and resources.
Today, an organization can’t rely on heritage and reputation to maintain its success. While the win of cultivating a company hive mind helps to keep a competitive edge it also boosts employee empowerment.
Some thoughts from Davide Benvenuti, Electrolux Professional’s Innovation Hub Manager, who we asked to shed more light on how we continue to build our innovation culture.
How do we work with growing innovation culture at Electrolux Professional today?
We set up the Innovation Hub two years ago, with the launch of a new innovation strategy and an understanding of how we had to act as an innovation team. Part of that includes making employees feel part of the process and more proficient in using innovation tools.
We have had a solid innovation culture thanks to our heritage of products and services. Nevertheless, we also know that we must continuously challenge ourselves to improve, especially nowadays, when the speed of change is even more accelerated than in the past. If the Covid pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we must always be ready and reactive in adapting to change. For, example, an ideation event we ran at the height of the pandemic resulted in the launch of a new product – the SafeBox Hold. We need to have the right mindset and culture to be always ready to embrace new challenges and constantly rethink ourselves.
Why does Professional place importance on growing intrapreneurship – ideas from everyday employees?
Because innovation is no longer just a series of siloed, one-off initiatives driven by a specific team or limited to a specific department. If only a few people are entitled to innovate, the outcomes will be limited to their knowledge and creativity. That is why we need to be open and continuously expose ourselves to new intuitions and ideas, because if we want to see what others did not before we need new perspectives.
What’s more, the workforce are the combined brains of the company and by encouraging them to be more proactive they feel more empowered. When you feel you have a voice, you are more willing to contribute and empowered employees have another gear, making a company faster and more reactive when it comes to innovation.
Professional’s OnE Innovation platform was launched to foster the company’s innovation culture – how does it work?
We can define OnE Innovation as a shared space – a virtual agora – where innovation is the central topic and every voice matters. It’s a software platform developed by the company Planbox who tailor-made the tool based on our defined needs.
Everybody in the company can submit an idea at any time or participate in specific innovation challenges. The great thing is that the system enables peer-to-peer interaction within the community and a democratic evaluation process, so that the best ideas can be transformed into projects.
The system enables many other functions, as an area dedicated to trends and start-ups for inspiration and a repository for selected ideas belonging to each product category and much more. There’s a function that centers around suggested articles that align with the idea you are submitting – the system suggests relevant information based on that particular topic. It’s a super innovative feature based on artificial intelligence that we would like to launch soon.
Tell us more about the company’s most recent global ideation challenge?
Our aim is to run a global ideation challenge annually as well as smaller team challenges. Our first ideation event using the platform was the Sustainability Challenge and there was a lot of interest in the topic from across the company.
We finished with over 100 ideas, which we narrowed down to ten finalists. Part of the work of the innovation team is guiding employees in how to run a compelling pitch presentation to key stakeholders. In our case, this was member of the Group Management who were equally enthusiastic in their participation and support to put resources behind the winning idea so that we can take it on as an innovation project.
What is your advice to cultivate an innovation culture in a company?
Don’t take innovation for granted. It doesn’t happen overnight and you need to design a process and create the right team to nurture innovation as well as the backing and support from management.
We know it’s not so easy to share your ideas especially if that’s not your job. Say you work in Finance – no one will ever ask you about a product idea. So, it’s about keeping the conversation going; ensuring employees are active and sensitive to changes happening in the world and that they feel empowered and have a safe space to share ideas.
Finally, change the perception of failure. It’s too often associated with a negative outcome but in innovation you want to fail as soon as possible in order to find the right direction, learn and improve.