What led you into working with Innovation?
I have a PhD in chemistry and started, like many others, by spending my time in a lab. I enjoyed it, but I wanted to do something else. I saw a job in corporate foresight in Bayer and was intrigued by the opportunity to get to know more about the market side of technology. My manager wanted a diverse team, and I fit that profile. I liked the intersection of market and technology and stuck to it, finally ending up in innovation.
Another challenge is to make sure innovation is in focus all year, not just during the periods of running innovation challenges. It is during the innovation challenges that people are trained and made aware of tools to apply, but we need to spread it out so that people work with the tools and methods continuously.
How does a typical day look like?
I spend some time scouting for new tools and methods, e.g. new ways of doing workshops which we have recently been working. Once we identify new things we want to try, we test these new methods and tools with an internal innovation community. We would typically run a pilot project with them, and then later engage HR to incorporate it into their training. If we deem it relevant, we build bigger training programs around it, as we have done with our recent scrum program.
What Innovation Challenges do you face at your company?
We are a global company which gives us some benefits but also poses some challenges. The cultural differences and different politics within the countries makes our job more complicated. Things take longer and require a lot of stakeholder management. As we cannot be present every time it is needed, we have designated “idea pilots” to help us locally.
Another challenge is to make sure innovation is in focus all year, not just during the periods of running innovation challenges. It is during the innovation challenges that people are trained and made aware of tools to apply, but we need to spread it out so that people work with the tools and methods continuously. That is why we created the Idea Box (our version of the Adobe KickBox) to make tools available also after a challenge.
This was a great success for us and our program: we put it together very fast, many people joined and the people we had trained actually passed on their knowledge.
Can you share a recent success story?
A very recent success story is from the month: we needed to train a specific target group in Scrum. Pre-Corona, we prepared training sessions that included both theory and practice like, e.g. building with Lego blocks. It was a challenge to convert this into a digital format. We did that very quickly, and it was a great success because it ended up not being our presentation, but a training driven a lot by the scrum masters from the organization that we had previously trained. It was a great success for us and our program: we put it together very fast, many people joined and the people we had trained passed on their knowledge.
What is one thing about Innovation that you think is important?
Intrinsic motivation is critical when you work with innovation: you need to be ready to fail and have the drive to realize your ideas. People can come from many different backgrounds, as long as they have the will to work with new ideas and the persistency needed to follow through. To identify these people internally, we do not hunt them and pin them out. Instead, we offer our services and try to get people to come back and build a relationship with them. We focus our energy on these, instead of focusing on converting the other 90%.
What makes us successful is that we stay around, we offer our services – that sends the signal that we mean it and are serious about innovation.
Also, we have a clear brand that is now well-established. That makes it recognizable for people. It helped us a lot to establish ourselves and make us stick with people.