What is innovation?
Innovation is a very broad term, especially common in the world of new technologies. Every computer or smartphone enthusiast eagerly waits to see what innovations will appear in a new version of hardware or an upgraded system. Some people think that creating innovations is reserved only for scientists and must always involve the invention of a device of the calibre of a tablet or Walkman and patenting it. Well, absolutely not!
Road to innovation
If we want to develop innovations in a company, we can approach the topic in two ways.
The first one (now believed to be rather outdated) is to set up an innovation department and to employ and train people who should, by definition, provide ideas or even implement changes to improve processes.
In my opinion, this approach is not effective. People with innovation-related tasks have a perspective limited by their educational background, interests or environment. Even if they come up with some improvements at the beginning, later – due to the above limitations – their ideas may become repetitive or they may even run out of ideas.
The other one, is a more comprehensive approach in which we try to create an organisation with a culture of innovation. I once heard that you need three things to innovate: time, space and more time. In my opinion, this is a bit too simple a statement, but in general it is right.
I believe that in order to think about innovation, you have to stop acting passively, i.e. you cannot only react to what is happening in your environment, and so, for example, in IT, you cannot only focus on the number of incidents and errors and try tom resolve them more efficiently. Instead, you should eliminate such obstacles and focus on a proactive approach. It is necessary to start valuing not only effective work related to fixing incidents, but first of all focus on eliminating them, implementing improvements and start thinking proactively.
Unfortunately, there is no single proven way to do this. Every organisation is different and it is impossible to copy 100% of the implemented solutions. It is up to employees, supported by their leaders, to decide how to integrate this approach into the organisation.
Another very important factor related to culture and mindset is the approach to development and self-learning. It is necessary to build a culture of development in the organisation, among leaders and all employees, which should become one of the goals of the organisation. Development must not be blocked, but rather promoted by setting development goals and clear rules for promotion, encouraging participation in training and conferences and ensuring subsequent sharing of knowledge. Importantly, everyone needs to understand that development is up to the individual and it is not the responsibility of the company or manager to develop us, but to create the right conditions for this.
Only on the basis of the above principles and way of thinking, one can build a process and then a platform for ideas, implementations and innovations. The aim of such a platform is to motivate each other, but what is also very important, to identify and record ideas which may lead to a new idea.
[source: Piramida innowacji A.T.Kearney een.wmarr.olsztyn.pl]
At Arvato Supply Chain Solutions in Poland, we started this process several years ago. We began with the IT department which we called the „co-creator of value in the company”, so its role was not only to be an internal service provider driven by KPI parameters.
This is how our IT Business Value Creator strategy came about and with it our new brand and list of preferred behaviours. At the same time, we worked out clear rules for appraisal, development planning, training and career paths, thus promoting the desire for development among employees. We were then able to take the second step and organise the „IT Strong” innovation competition, giving our employees the opportunity to submit their ideas and implementations. Every quarter a committee evaluated them and selected the best ones and once a year a gala was held with the participation of the management during which employees could present their submissions competing for the title of „IT Strong of the Year”.
This formula worked very well in the IT area so 3 years ago we decided to extend the programme to everyone in the company who had access to a company account, so that they could register personal submissions. This is how the IT Strong 2.0 platform was created, which was later renamed to Innovato, in which we expanded the scope possible entries to six categories:
By adding new categories we wanted to stimulate mutual inspiration by organising interesting meetings on certain technologies, recommending events and sharing knowledge.
Innovato has also changed its formula for selecting quarterly and annual winners. Employees, by leaving their „likes”, have a 50 percent impact on the evaluation of each application. In addition, the annual gala is held with the participation of the management of Arvato SCS in Poland where score is awarded for the remaining 50 percent of the total rating.
From 2020, in order to enhance the programme, we started publishing a monthly internal vlog „Coffee with Inspiration”. Its idea is to share interesting implementations or solutions with other employees . „Coffee” is broadcast live every last Friday of the month and lasts 30 minutes.
It is divided into three main sections:
- Espresso with business – where the abovementioned implementations are presented in the form of an interview with the author/s;
- Latte with passion – where employees share their interesting passions;
- Crazy coffee – where we present a short, usually unconventional technological inspiration from the world
Currently, we already have several dozen episodes of „Coffee with Inspiration” and soon we plan to share them outside the company as well.
In the meantime, we were wondering how to reach our production employees with innovation. Our Quality Department came up with an idea by announcing the Profit programme, whose main objective is to build operational excellence based on LEAN methodology. One of its modules is the „Pack an Idea” programme, where employees can submit their optimisation ideas. These proposals are then evaluated and implemented throughout the organisation.
[an example of an application to the „Pack an Idea program” = Pakuj Pomysł (PL)]
What happens to all these ideas?
During quarterly meetings, these are analysed for suitability and selected ideas are passed on to the R&D department for further research.
Our programmes have already resulted in several solutions and products that directly optimise our logistics processes as well as business support areas.
One of the implemented solutions was an idea put forward by Jakub Lewandowski.
„Application was a great opportunity for me to turn the idea into action. Thanks to IT Mocny, it was not only noticed, but also echoed widely and gained the support of several powerful allies 😉 The result is a solution operating in warehouse, which, apart from affecting the efficiency of the picking, shortens the time of full implementation of the employee in the process from 14 to 5 days . This is especially important during big sales, when we recruit a large number of employees for a short period of time.” – Jakub Lewandowski
Advantages of the program
The main vision in Arvato’s Strategy is to be the most customer-oriented company based on people and technology. This is the ideal basis for the Innovato program. One of the goals of the program is to support and appreciate employees who see new opportunities for our company. By submitting inspirations and ideas, they show us new directions that the company can follow, and by reporting their implementations, they show that they can lead Arvato with the times.
It is very important to give employees the opportunity to inspire each other in times of such rapidly developing technology. – Marcel Zabłocki – Innovato program coordinator