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Author's profile photo Sherif Elmaghraby

EMEA South Innovation Task Forces ’23 Case Study

Blended learning to maximize employee engagement and value creation

Have you ever participated in the dreaded ‘death by PowerPoint’ ritual? You all know the one I’m referring to, when a ‘teacher’ or ‘expert’ reads off the slides word-by-word without looking once at the audience, pausing to gauge for understanding, or even attempting to break the boredom with an activity or two. Perhaps this is not the best way to retain the attention of the audience.

Have you ever attended a team-building exercise where you spent the day playing mini-golf, building a racecar from cardboard, or solving the code of an escape room? Sure, it was loads of fun and great to get out of the office. But you may have wondered how it was relevant to your day-to-day role. Perhaps it would have been more effective to link the activity’s outcomes to the team’s objectives.

Have you ever been invited to a design thinking workshop and enjoyed the experience of scribbling on post-its, designing personas, mapping customer journeys, and building prototypes – only to be informed that there were no resources (people, technology and finances) to bring your idea to life. Some industry experts refer to this as ‘innovation theatre’ – where an enterprise just ticks off the boxes that they ‘did’ innovation, but there was no real value creation or real-world execution. Perhaps it would have been more impactful to ensure alignment, support and buy-in from key stakeholders in the organization.

When we designed and pitched the idea for a regional innovation task forces program in Q1 ’22, we aspired to develop a structured program that utilized multiple tools, frameworks, and modalities to maximize impact for the participants and value for the enterprise. We had several objectives in mind:

  • To provide an opportunity for employees from across Southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA South) to directly support and co-create value around the three strategic pillars identified by our President.
  • To design a blended learning experience that enabled co-creation and leveraged proven tools from learning, design thinking, coaching, remote facilitation, and project management,
  • To align our team efforts with the organization’s goals and secure a commitment to see these ideas through to execution (if they met the selection criteria.)

When we kicked off phase one of the program, more than 100+ participants from across our region expressed their interest in participating. Their engagement led to the creation of fourteen innovative value propositions that resulted in five high-fidelity validated solutions being brought to life to bring value to the organization, our customers, and our partners.

The program was designed to complement and enhance the participant’s learning outcomes whilst ensuring a constant focus on value creation. We leveraged several distinct approaches to achieve this outcome:

Personalized Video Content: it was essential to build interest in the program and link to the three strategic pillars identified by our President. We used customized video messages from our three executive sponsors. This strengthened the campaign and allowed potential participants to understand the challenge space further.

Informative calls: these calls were designed for the whole group of participants. They were used to communicate details about key milestones, share messages from sponsors, align on OKRs and introduce essential mindsets/tools required for success.

Masterclasses: these interactive engagements were co-created in advance with the participants and allowed them to suggest topics they wished to learn more about. In response, we invited subject matter experts to share their insights on the topic and answer questions from the participants related to their specific challenges. It was no longer a one-size-fits-all approach like in the informative calls but had a level of personalization that supported the task forces with their particular challenges.

Design thinking workshops: we designed a standardized MURAL template based on best practices from our experience working with customers, partners, and internal stakeholders. We identified and enabled a community of twelve design thinking coaches who facilitated expert workshops over six weeks, leading the participants from discovery to ideation, to value proposition design. In these remote workshops, the role of the coach/facilitator was to support the task force to achieve their desired outcome without contributing to the content.

Pitch calls: at the end of the ideation phase of our program, the fourteen task forces pitched their final value propositions to a steering committee comprised of members from our regional leadership team. Their pitches were reviewed, and an anonymous scoring system was devised to enable us to consolidate the results to move to the execution phase.

In addition to the blended learning approach explained above, we also focused on core ‘team’ skills that were essential to the success of the program:

Execution team: the execution phase required essential ‘skills’ to be present in the task force to successfully deliver a functional prototype. We ensured that there was a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, which included tasks like attending weekly SCRUM calls with the project manager (which was also a new role created for the execution phase), preparing weekly status and RACI reports, conducting research & testing, building prototypes, and most importantly aligning their value proposition with existing SAP initiatives.

Experts and specialists: we also brought in several experts and specialists (e.g., BTP expert, data scientist, and creative designer) to support the task forces in developing their final solutions and ensure a level of fidelity that demonstrated the functionality of the solution.

Project managers: we also identified and recruited a project manager for each task force that made it to the execution phase. This was essential for the program’s success because we now had a single point of contact for each team who could communicate key milestones core deliverables and ‘rally the troops’ when needed. It was also very valuable to have the PMs in our weekly SCRUMs (one representing each of the finalists) and have a holistic view of the status of the teams, share updates and learn from each other.

When we first designed the program, we were adamant about bringing these solutions to life and ensuring they can grow and thrive within the enterprise. The program was designed to have two main convergence points. The first was at the end of Phase One, where we consolidated the ideas, agreed on which ones to take forward, re-formulated the teams based on their expertise and consolidated the value propositions based on desirability, feasibility, and viability. The second was at the end of Phase Two, where we aligned with internal stakeholders to develop execution plans to bring the solutions to fruition.

As an outcome of our leadership’s trust and belief and as a testament to the team’s great teamwork and disruptive thinking, we are happy to report that all five solutions are either being piloted, have received support from our global teams, or have been partially integrated into existing solutions that are in our ’24 roadmap.

Through this combination of stakeholder-centric design, blended learning, and program management, we have increased employee engagement and maximizing learning outcomes while creating value for the organization.

“Knowledge is not power, but it is the understanding, and the application, of knowledge that truly unleashes our potential as individuals, teams and organizations.”

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