How can we create the capabilities and capacity to have innovation everywhere in our organisation, to give us a competitive advantage and help us grow our business?
Since 2008 think has been the strategic innovation management consultant supporting Groupama to develop an effective approach to company-wide, sustainable innovation. After design, trial and development the system is now mature enough to be used as a tool, focused on adding millions of £ to their bottom line through a series of innovation challenges posed to the organisation.
In line with their vision and values Groupama were looking at innovation across the organisation and recognised the need for a strategic approach. Lynn Harris identified that innovation in Groupama was ‘clumpy’ and lacking in strategic focus, she was asked by Laurant Matras –Groupama Managing Director and the executive team to head up a project to consider their approach to innovation. Lynn began with researching best practice in strategic innovation management globally.
What were the challenges and opportunities? Who was doing what and where? What was best practice?
As part of this research Groupama contacted think, who worked with Groupama to create a proposal for the Board. The approach was pragmatic looking at the 10 steps of successful innovation management and how those could be applied. The presentation was well received, and approval was given to proceed with the plan. It was critical that the plan aligned with the vision and values ofGroupama and that it was delivered to leverage the skills and resources of their internal teams where possible.
In line with think’s people first approach the key areas identified were:
Given the go ahead by the Board, the first task was to recruit a team to put together the 18 month plan, with an allocated budget to bring the plan to life. The team was headed up by Liz Kuhler who had the experience of the company and training in psychology so she was able to look holistically at innovation throughout the organisation, from innovation management systems to training and internal communications.
Armed with the knowledge that poor practice for innovation management would be to simply ask the whole organisation for their ideas, without giving any structure or guidance, the strategic challenges the organisation were facing were identified.
It was important to get active engagement as soon as possible so an interim solution would be for small teams to work on innovation on a project basis. This worked effectively with over 20 business improvement solutions put in place. However this tactical short term approach did not address the need to develop a sustainable innovation culture for the future.
It was agreed that the most effective approach would be a people/process solution. People would be trained, taught how to be creative and how to use the system to post their ideas and share. The Process solution would be the installation of an innovation system, and processes and procedures would be built around this system. People would be trained not only to use the system, but also how to think in new and energising ways. The structure and guidance came in the form of a number of innovation challenges, identified by the Board, which encompassed the people/process solution. These challenges would be measurable and would be tackled through a number of events throughout the year.
Idea champions were engaged, chosen because of their perceived skill in championing innovation, regardless of management level or job function. The champions were trained as experts in idea creation and support – they were tasked to embed creativity and innovation capabilities across the organisation. They were pre-briefed on the strategic challenges and were responsible for encouraging others to organise events. Innovation champions were given a toolkit to set up workshops, enabling them to replicate think events.
The think innovation model was used to underpin all of the innovation management planning:
Absorption > Explosion > Consolidation >
Action > Capitalisation – See the diagram on
The challenges were brought forward by the board and presented in the absorption phase.
Idea Champions were to work on the Explosion phase of the think process: idea generation. Idea Experts were tasked to support the Consolidation phase: bring the ideas to life. Each role has its own unique skill set and as such had specific training and development opportunities.
The internal communications campaign that was developed internally at Groupama dovetailed into their intranet called – genie – adding a ‘US’ suffix made it GENIEUS and this was also what the innovation system was named. The Groupama Ant – Anton was transformed into ANTSTEIN to convey engagement messages.
Once the capabilities building had begun in the teams then the process would be fully supported. The process was to be challenged based. A new challenge every couple of months would be sent out to the teams and using the innovation model below colleagues would develop ideas to put onto the idea management system.
To create ideas around the challenges a series of innovation events were managed by the Innovation Champions and the results fed into the idea management system (ims ) – Genius. Initially Groupama considered buying an innovation management system (ims), but decided to build their own, and with consultancy from think have built Genius. The Genius system is now live acrossGroupama and will be subject to a programme of continual improvement as the strategy progresses. As challenges are posted on the system the results are being tracked and closely monitored to ensure support is offered where needed to ensure success.
Over the past three years think has successfully worked with the Board of Directors, senior Leadership team, andGroupama colleagues working in IT and HR and in offices across the UK. The whole process has followed the 10 step strategic plan originally pitched to the board; it has been supported across the management levels and departments and all over the UK.
Internal communication such as the use of posters, The Buzz – the Groupama newsletter and the intranet GENIE are used to ensure that innovation is built into the DNA of Groupama. The use of the existing character of Anton, who has become Antstein in relation to the innovation programme has been well received.
Phase one of this innovation programme has seen a lot of success but mainly in the embedding of the infrastructure required to support a culture of innovation. Now we are beginning to see the success of this approach in terms of output.
Phase two of the approach is concerned with celebrating the success to date, continual improvement on the infrastructure, ongoing board support and keeping the programme fresh, vibrant and relevant. This embedding phase encourages acceptance and engagement to have more traction.
Innovation is constant and never ending and as such continual improvement is critical so we will always be asking:
A process of continual improvement for the people and the process is now planned and of course continual celebration of success.
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