In Part I of this blog I introduced the 4S framework and shared how at SAP we used a combination of gamification and guerilla marketing to ensure awareness of the framework. In this blog I would like to focus on details of the four steps towards instilling an Innovation DNA, and how we drove adoption of the respective behaviour, skills and accelerators.

So what’s worked, and more important, what hasn’t?

Step 1: SPARKS – Utilize exposure and environments that foster ideas, and tools to capture them

The first step towards Innovation was introduced with a cartoon, communicated as a teaser that showed only half the story, and a link to the community space for more information:

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So what’s the essence of SPARKS and what does it mean to the individual?

  • The more you’re exposed to the world, the more relevant ideas you will have, so: be interested and inquisitive, go talk to customers, partners, colleagues, researchers, competitors and hear their challenges and thoughts
  • The more you share your ideas, and collaborate with others, the richer your concepts will get and the faster they will reach maturity, so: team up, get feedback, allow other perspectives and don’t get old working one idea on your own
  • The best place to put your great ideas is NOT your drawer, but an Idea Mgmt System such as the newly launched SAP Innovation Management product, to drive their realization with expert support

Together with the communication for SPARKS, a DIY-toolkit for innovation was launched. Due to the de-centralized nature of the organization we were targeting it was essential to provide people with something hands-on they could get, no matter how small or remote their office. So the toolkit was developed in a way that allowed for it to be assembled using nothing more than a printer, one sheet of printing paper, a pen, a pad of sticky notes and the origami-instructions to fold a box:

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Apart from an introduction to the new framework and an innovation ABC, the toolkit contained links to Design Thinking e-trainings, essential reads, contact information to a global team of experts, as well as to the idea management system.

To raise interest and drive adoption, in some major offices local volunteers prepared toolkits and put them on people’s desks in an overnight campaign, including a pack on mints and a personal note to ‘be inspired and have some creative discussions’. This tactic proved to be quite successful, as the toolkit was subsequently downloaded by over 15% of the target organization.

Once the front end of coming up with ideas was established, it was time to introduce a dedicated process for funneling ideas: an Idea Contest was launched to raise interest and create healthy competition in submitting ideas. Not only did it generate three winning ideas that resulted in 1. significantly reduced workload of a simplified reporting process; 2. a wow-improved customer experience on a service platform, and 3. a cloud-based new solution offering with an entirely new target customer segment – as an added benefit to the contest people now knew where to enter their ideas, as well as the evaluation criteria and process for winning ideas. Also, the success of the contest winners was used to create a ‘me too’ effect when the second step in the framework was introduced.

Step 2: STRETCH – Tap extra resources  (time, money, facilities, people) that allow for creativity, enablement, experiments & collaboration

Stretch puts a specific focus on how to make sure innovation is not lost in the daily grind of work:

  • The busier your job, the more likely you are to avoid innovation. In an environment geared towards efficiency innovation is inconvenient, as it means taking a risk at failing (what % of  ideas actually end up a success?) BUT: no innovation = stagnation = no business.
  • So you need to stretch that little extra, make some time, find some resources, gain experience to turn sparks into valuable ideas.

STRETCH was introduced with a video that showed how one of the small local teams address innovation on top of their daily routine. Gaining insight to how others manage to go the extra mile for innovation, the slogan ‘Don’t wait – innovate’ was introduced. The video was not as successful as the previous comic and toolkit ,or later videos. In hindsight, in a diverse organization such as ours, it might have been favourable to focus on several locations and teams, consolidating their messages, or combining it with a poll or a community discussion, instead of having one team present their experience.

Furthermore, to gain traction, this step should ideally have been combined with a measure to introduce some slack for innovation, such as

  • ‘Free’ time for employees to spend on new ideas and innovation (e.g. Google’s 20%);
  • Arrangements to increase serendipitous encounters (e.g. Zappos’ Collisions)
  • Collaboration, friendly-competition & networking measures (e.g. Yahoo’s Hack Days)
  • Enablement camps to drive creativity and ideation skills
  • Coaches and mentors to support individuals and teams on idea to impact journeys

Interested in more details of the framework, the wows to copy and the flops to avoid? Stay tuned for Part III of this blog where I’ll share some more of my key learnings from the InnovationDNA program..

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About the Author: Tonja Erismann is an innovation and strategy expert and Head of Innovation DNA in SAP’s Global Services Innovation group, with over 15 years of emerging technology management and consulting experience with leading global businesses.

Follow me on Twitter @TonjaErismann

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