Cases on employee-driven innovation
Extracts from my own worklife – 2009-2013

Kickstarting a cultural change (Financial industry, IT)

This department (~90 people) wanted to ignite and organize a more innovative culture in their organisation. Through coaching and an inspirational talk I helped them to become clear on their expectations and to set clear directions for their innovation effort. They have now taken their first steps to get it into their everyday life.

Innovation in a highly operational environment (public sector, administration)

Thanks for a very inspiring and constructive day. I was positively surprised by how you made theory and discussions concrete and relevant” (head of division)

It was really great and everyone went from campus inspired and happy. It was amazing how many good ideas you conjured” (employee)

I helped one of the most central units in the City of Copenhagen to create space and establish their own practices of employee-driven innovation. The work was kickstarted by a very practical workshop – where everyone was introduced to a framework + examples on how to succeed with EDI. In the coming months I hosted followup checkpoints to ensure focus and to guide the group in dealing with the obstacles they meet.

Management coaching (Private sector, knowledge industry)

Based on a backlog of learning items I conducted a number of coaching sessions with a newly assigned managing director (~30 employees).

Implementing EDI as an innovation strategy (public sector, business consulting) 

For this organisation I (over a ½ year period) helped the top management group to establish a innovative strategy – and to implement it in a way so it revitalized the unit and created many high potential ideas. Few of these ideas are now being implemented.

Involving employees in the roll out of a new vision and business model (IT/telecom industry)

In this case I helped the top management team in a global service company to build a new vision and a supporting business model. The vision will be the anchor for an upcoming innovation workshop for employees.

Involving employees in creating a nation-wide vision (public sector)

The libraries from the 7 Danish University Colleges wanted to create a vision for the future – and in a way that it involved and engaged their employees. The work was driven by Lime Guild – and I helped with facilitating the scenario creation for the top management group and a full-day conference where 70 librians formulated their perspective on the future.

One of the participants have described the conference here (sorry it’s in Danish)

Stimulating employee-driven innovation (retail business)

This multi-national company with over 2000 local shops were characterized by a lot of local ideas and a entrepreneurial spirit on the individual level. But had a challenge to get ideas to float across the organisation. So the challenge was to find ways to stimulate “an innovation process that thrives by making smaller bets, by building the future from what’s already at hand” (qoute from Hargadon). In this case I helped a global network of employees to understand this issue and to brainstorm and mature solutions to the challenge.

Benchmark and empower innovation practices on a global scale (private sector)
This study identified well the areas, both competences as well as ways of working, where we could improve against external benchmarks.” (Director of Portfolio Management)

Peter Drucker’s quote, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, reminds us of the difference between theory and practice. Especially when talking about innovation, there is a big difference how it’s perceived from the outside versus the inside of an organisation.

In this case, I conducted a qualitative survey on innovation practices among a larger, international group of product managers. The outcome was benchmarked with practices from similar companies, and resulted in recommendations for how the organisation could improve conditions to enable more empowered, employee-driven innovation.
The survey itself was conducted through group and individual interviews, practical exercises, and shadowing. It was designed so participants could draw knowledge by reflecting on the group’s practice, as well as their own. These were the research questions:

  • How is your product defined, and with what background?
  • What consistencies have you experienced between strategy and actual work?
  • What is the level of bureaucracy?
  • Where are the pockets of highly innovative teams/intrapreneurs?
  • To what extent do employees contribute to new developments?
  • How does cross-discipline collaboration work?
  • To what degree does market demand influence product definition and development?
  • What innovation methods are used, and what works?

Growing employee engagement in Nokia, Copenhagen.

“This piece of work inspired visible leadership and action within our unit in a new way, and it also created results. Within three months our site rated it’s spirit as the second best in our company’s strategic sites, and voted it’s local leadership into the top three global teams, results that would not have been even conceivable without this insight”. (More). (Head of HR, Scandinavia & Mediterranean)

The power of employee engagement can overcome obstacles for renewal and create better solutions. It’s the force that can move your organisation from “good enough” to “best in class” and it might be the only force to bring you through challenging times.
This fact is well-known by many organisations which conduct regular satisfaction surveys among their employees. However, it’s hard to identify deeper cause-effect relationships from such data.

In this case, we chose a different approach and offered a more offensive, yet supportive, process at the managerial level. They understood how they as role models affected their employees, how they actually could improve collegial well-being and utilise their talent more effectively. Employees themselves felt understood and recognised, but frustrations and misunderstandings were also uncovered. In this case we delivered:

  • A report – concluding on themes that surfaced
  • Personas – exemplifying the results in 6 fictitious persons
  • A short video – presenting the discovery insights and challenges
  • Workshops for all levels of the organisation – using the materials

Establishing a common language for innovation through innovation camps (Nokia)

This training workshop was developed at Nokia DK in 2009 for all levels of the organisation, and has spread like ripples on the water. It has now been conducted for more than 800 people in Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, China and India.

The workshop, a 10-hour intensive implementation of an innovation process, provided the organisation a common language, understanding and license to innovate.

Participants began the day with discussions of business-relevant challenges. The training was a mixture of short theory sections, testing practices, presentations and feedback rounds. People worked in cross-disciplinary teams, interviewing clients, making prototypes and meeting investors. Through these activities, they got a sense of how challenging, rewarding, destructive and frustrating innovation can be. They also experienced the opportunities of “open innovation” and how it works in a competitive environment.

The day was very intense and participants were often challenged to the edge of their abilities – yet everything was tightly supported by a well-defined process, group coaching and facilitation. It was a highly effective way to give people good
“innovation habits”.

Participant feedback:
“I enjoyed and liked the training – it was very playfull and active. It inspired me to work on an idea to late at night, even after a long day” (India)
“It was very good an engaging to actually listen to the ‘actual users’, their needs and problems” (India)
“The structure of the workshop with the intense emphasis on hands-on learning was very effective”. (India)
“Consumer feedback was an ‘eye opener’. This we need on regular base. Maybe not on a workshop level, but maybe in 1-to-1 sessions” (China)
“Good session. We’ve learned some ways of getting & structuring ideas. And, most important, that it’s extremely important to stop thinking in technical solutions but rather in what user really needs and what benefits the user from what we produce” (China).
“Great, but a bit tired now” (China)
“Training methodology and approach is excellent” (India)
“very good preparation and arrangement in general, thanks for an inspiring day” (Denmark)
“Excellent study in group dynamics” (Denmark)
“I got plenty of new contacts from the workshop. Actually, we could have spent more time for networking after or during the workshop” (Denmark)
“Certainly relevant for people in concepting and early SW developement” (Denmark)