Innovation Nation
Innovation Nation

Episode · 1 year ago

Essential Elements for Company-Wide Innovation w/ Dr. Marion Damm


Innovation is about continuous learning, having the curiosity to make the next step, to analyze what you learned and how to improve. If you have this intrinsic motivation, then innovation is for you.

This wisdom comes straight from today’s guest on Innovation Nation, Dr. Marion Damm, Global Innovation Manager at TÜV SÜD.

What we talked about:

  • Fueling the innovation spirit at work
  • Programs & awards to encourage innovation among employees
  • Tangible and intangible elements that foster and reward innovation

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Innovation is all around us. In fact, everyone innovates, often unbeknowns to themselves. Many mistakenly assumed the innovation is either a big capital project, a figurative bolt of lightning that brings inspiration, or the province of some exceptionally gifted person. This is the myth of innovation. But you can innovate as well. You are listening to innovation nation, the podcast where top executives and industry experts are sharing their insights on harnessing the power of innovation. We're here to help you stay ahead of the curve by driving your own innovation. Here's your host, Jasmine Martyr Rosen. Welcome to the to suit innovation nation podcast. This is your host, Jasmine mark to Rosson, and I'm joined today by Marion dumb from Germany. She's the global innovation manager for to Zood. Welcome Allia. Hi, Jasmine, it's a pleasure to be here today. Well, it's great to have you on our podcast and since the core of your work deals with innovation, I'd like to get your insights on what you think, what your approaches are to innovation, where what your thoughts are in that area. Yeah, of course, so, yeah, I joined to stood, actually two two years ago to be the global innovation manager and since them I'm working, yeah, on I would say professionalizing invasion management and to suit because, you yeah, innovation, of course, for every company, is a very important topic and I'm very glad that I'm part of this journey. Of course, when I joined to suit, what I found here at this company was already, I would say, many people highly interested in the topic of innovation and strategy very much focused on innovation, on big innovation projects, and many people working on the topic. Yeah, specific and specifically our innovation experts from to suit, but also very experts from the different businesses we have, from the different regions. So very much involved, very happy to walk up to work on that topic. But what I also found here was, I would say, innovation a little bit done on a green field. So what I'm working on for the last two years to systemizing innovation management, to bring in a process, to bring in a strategy and innovation and yet to help people on their innovation journey in the company. That's actually fascinating. As you're talking about it, I'm thinking the company has been around for well over one hundred fifty years, so you have to be innovating as you go along to create such longevity. How do you keep the innovation spirit going? I think it's not really a problem to keep up the spirit because people are very highly interested in innovading, our people from business. Just to give you an ...

...example, we have a lot of a lot of people out there who are doing or working in our lift business, meaning they're in inspecting our lists. Everything is working well, quality is highly maintained. They see things during their I would say daily work, but that they would like to improve. They have ideas and they they bring them back to business, to our colleagues. They bring back ideas, proposal what they would like to make better, and this is brought back, yeah, to our innovation managers and then we come up with a plan what we can do to continuously improve. So I think the spirit of improving, continuously improving is within the company DNA. So keeping up the spirit is not really a problem at all. I would say it's to making in that to implement the ideas, to making them work in a fast and efficient way. This is something that we are constantly also working on, because for us it's very important that the people are not disappointed that an idea is maybe they're not implemented. Yeah, we want to help them, we want to encourage them, we want to provide the right environment for our people to also implement the ideas and make them work and for for the best of two suit. So my understanding is that one of the roles you have is to create those processes to scale innovation. Is that correct? Yes, that's correct. And how do you do that? Global we this has, of course, a lot to do with the collaboration work. So very often we have ideas yet from our experts, brought up into of person teams, but they might keep within the country or maybe in their organization, and you have to know or that to suit of Couris is a very big organization, a global organization, Matrix Organization. So when we scale up our ideas, our products or new services, this has this is only going to happen when we collaborate, when we have a lot of communication going and this is also something where we from the invasion management can can of course support so because, yeah, especially now in times of Corona, when virtual also, collaboration becomes more and more important, we have to come up with new ideas. How do we facilitate the conversation, that the conversation is going on, that the communication is going on, that people can work together also in a pure virtual form. So we are constantly trying out new tools, also new methods how we can have this collaboration ongoing, because they are collaboration, I think, is one important key for scaling up our businesses. And then collaboration we has always heavily connected to communication, because when we want to bridge together one to bring one product maybe to another country or to another region, then a lot of, yeah, communication has to go on, if it's with sales,...

...if it's with marketing, because every time there is a new product and launched and then scaled up and so many parties are involved, so many different organizations. I think this is what special about innovation projects or product development projects, that so many key stake orders have to be involved to make it happen, and that is where, yeah, I think is a big challenge for our innovation teams. This is where we try to heavily support them as well, and the dialog we have with all the different and key stakeholders interesting. What I'm hearing you say in a sins is that there is a lot of innovation spirit and people, but for organizations to harness the power of that innovation, they have to create structures. Is that correct? Yeah, that's exactly the case, and this is where we are working on a different areas. So at the moment we are also starting and enabling program or it's called enabling program for Innovation Teams, invasion practa practitioners, and we are looking at how, with which kind of structures can we support our innovation teams? How can we strengthen their capabilities, the capabilities of the people, but also of the organization, to make the innovation work yet faster and more efficient, because I think all of us know that speed nowadays is very important, is crucial when it comes to new products, new services and bring our innovations in the end, to the market. So yes, and this enablement program we are working, for example, on support structures, a support Cuttalog, where we make or give them immediate access, give them immediate access to contact, two capacities, to two people that can help out in this innovation journey. Because, yeah, our product developers also innovation practitioners. They, we are always saying, they need to conduct a lot of different kind of tasks and prototyping, like speaking with the customer, of first developing the products. There's so many tasks involved where they also need support from different people and stakeholders, and providing the contact, the excess, yeah, immediate contact and asset excess. That's very important. And the other very important component or element of this enabling program is developing also the competencies are continuously so that we are always in our innovation teams, in our weat the people involved in innovations, that they are always the right competencies and capabilities in place. Can you elaborate a little bit more about the competencies? What type type of competencies to people need to drive this innovation? A lot of competencies and bits also the talents. So we have, I would say, like fundamental competency is because them, yeah, or we...

...have fundamental like project management skills very important, because innovation managers or innovation practitioner is like are like spiders in a Web. They have to keep all the different threats together. So I think project management very important, and also communication, because in the end they have to sell their idea, their product to so many different stakeholders and, of course, to our external customers. So communication skills are crucial. But of course there are also the innovation related skills. Yeah, they need to understand how do I develop a business model, how do I develop business case, or more the financial and aspect of developer designing a new innovation and new product. They have to understand how can I pitch in the wide way the product to the customer? And also another of many other skills, I could go on and on, is, I would say, customer understanding, a customer empathy, yeah, which is more not so often a competent that you can learn, but it's more about a mindset and also how you can really listen to what the customer says, because, of course we do not want to develop anything that the customer doesn't want. It super important that we feel what are the pains, what are the challenges of the customer, so that we can figure out what the right solution for them could be. So, and it's a rise to innovation. Yeah, empathy, yeah, but empathy about what the customer really needs. Yeah, so that we can then figure out what the solution, the product that could help the customer would be the end. So you also approaching innovation then, is solution to customer pain points? Yes, that's exactly our understanding of innovative products and services that we are developing your it to suit. So first always comes the customer painting point. Or it's not always a pain, and we also say it's a game. COULD BE A game. Yeah, what could bring benefit and value to the customer doesn't always come from a pain and can also be from something positive that maybe the customer wasn't even aware of that would bring value to him. Yes, and from that we develop our ideas, from that, our solutions, from that, our products and services that we bring to the market. So one of the fundamentals, then, is listen to customers first, really understand their needs. Is that accurate? Yes, that's exactly how we have to start. and Are we have the big advantage that our experts, that our people in the operations on the field, I would say they are in close contact with the customer. So we ask them, please listen very well when you're up there, when you perform in your...

...audits, when you're speaking with the customer, because you're conducting audits or your inspections, is testing, please listen what the customer says. Yeah, because this could give us very good hints about what could be the next big thing? What could be a good idea? How to improve, yeah, with the customer or the customer service that we already delivered to our customer, or maybe come come up with a completely new idea or new service that we haven't sold yet. Maya maybe also completely new customer segment. But in the end it's about listening. Yeah, having a good ear. What is what is out there? What do the people what is the customer? What does the customer want? And from that we build. We built on so your inn a sence, also building awareness among your, say, auditors, for people who have immediate interaction with customers to know that they can be catalyst of innovation, that every conversation could lead to innovation. Yes, there is. Also I'm working together with our sales team on this topic, because very often the ideas are there, or so what our experts learn from the customers are in the or is in their brains, so to say, but sometimes not, we do not learn from it. So what we are doing now is working on sales initiatives, especially our says community is broaching. Our experts are also the sales experts that are speaking wicked with the customers. Yeah, we are working on an also here new processes and also ways of how to document the knowledge that is in our experts heads and the brains, but maybe not hasn't reached the invation managers yet. So very important bring that up. I remember interviewing Steve Kerr, who was the first person in the world to hold the title of Chief Learning Officer at Gee and the role was created a g and at the time. Jack Welch told him find out why people are holding knowledge and information and not sharing it with others and change that. Yeah, I mean that's key. Yeah, we have the same here in Germany. Sharing is carrying. Huh. That's the new way of working. If you want to to yeah, to come up with new ideas, if you really want to catalyze and and make it fast and more efficient, than you have to share. You have to dig with people, learn what other people think and do work together. Yeah, and share your thoughts, share what is in your brain. so so everything. Clee can help drive that innovation if they think of themselves as the innovator. To write. That's very important and that's what we are also trying to accomplish, to bring this mindset to our people. We have once a year also an innovation award which recognizes their work,...

...and it's very important to us that we do not only approach our invasion teams, that are dedicated invasion teams, but the whole to suit company, all employees, into suit, and every year we ask the people to send us in their innovative projects or their ideas that they had and that they've also conducted and implemented the project in the last year, and we always receive a lot of feedback and a lot of applications, of course, because people are very proud of what they have done and of course, here the recognition part, acknowledging part, is very important, because people yeah to show that what they're doing is good, it's good for the company, and that the company is also proud of what they have done and they can be proud of what they have achieved. The award is actually a brilliant idea because last year, thankfully, our marketing team got the award and the recognition for innovation. But it also frames your thinking because you don't want to like lose the momentum and you want to continue that and you start thinking more okay, is this really contributing to innovating any processes approaches within the organization. So it's a good incentive, for sure. Yeah, and also that it's visible. I think it's very important to the people that what you have done, would you have achieved, is visible, that is has an impact. Yeah, but of course it has an impact in the close environment, but also that other people see it and maybe the idea that the the team's had can also be transferred to other areas, to other locations. It's what we award and that's why, I'm sure also youtube team has. One is when ideas or solutions again are scalable the topic from before, because that's very often the case. Why should an idea only work at one special location or when the special side? No, very often this idea can be transferred and applied also somewhere else. So it's so important that it's known, that the what has been done, the work that Steve Kerr was doing a g he used an example of how, once they started sharing innovation, something that had worked on a washing machine all of a sudden became applicable to a jet engine. Ever See, and normally you would not see an easy connection between a washing machine and a jet engine or submarine engine, but the way they took certain applications and it came only because of that knowledge, innovation sharing that they worked on institutionalizing. So, yeah, very important. I think all these exchange events that we are also organizing for our community, if it's through our social media channels or we have we...

...have lunchase, yet of course, only for the people here in our location or regular basis, no virtual meetings between people interested or involved in innovation. They're very important. People want to talk about what they have achieved, but also explain, of course, but how they done, what they've learned, what has maybe not worked out so well. Really try to promote these kind of exchanges in the company, so or not that everyone has to reinvent the wheel, but really learn from each other. I think you ask me just the very beginning what innovation means. From me, is it? What is it about? I think for me it's really about learning, trying outnown things, but it's about continuous learning. Yeah, having this curiosity to make the next step, to yeah, to what have you learned and how can you improve? If you have this intrinsic motivation, then then innovation is for you. When you're also interested innovation and and that's what I find so fascinating here to suit that we have these people here, the majority of our engineers and expert yet they're really intrinsically motivated because they are the love to learn, the love to trying out new things and and continuously learn. And that's, I think, the secret, the secret for other organizations to learn is to promote learning with them, their employees, make make sure that's a continuous mindset. Yeah, yeah, and having people on board that have also this curiosity and curiosity mindset. They want to try out new things and see what's happening if I try this or if I make it a little bit different. You just being curious about trying something out and seeing where it leads to. Curiosity is priceless. Is I really look for that curiosity quotion being hind people that were interviewing to bring on board, because without that, how do you experiment and find new things? Like, if you're not curious, you're not going to progress. Exactly excellent. Any other insight you'd like to share in closing? I think, Jasmine, that's it. Well, I have one last question because you mentioned communications so many times and in effect, even the award is part of the communication. Structure, the luncheons, the sharing and, you know, information in meetings among people. What other communications tactics would you recommend to other organizations to use to help their organization drive innovation? Yeah, that's a very good question. I think it's the end about trying to reach out to all different kind of communication channels. First, if it's because you want to promote something, of course, in big organizations it's not enough should just rely on your network or just rely on some kind of internet news, but...

...really to go through all channels, but also very important, of course, to use the ambassadors in each organization. I'm sure, maybe even if you do not have so many innovation manager or on board or people really interested innovation yet, but there are always people who want to drive this topic or who have good ideas. Will are the creative people on board, and I think the secret is to find the right people in the organizations and use also them as ambassadors, to really respect the world work. This really helps. I mean also the official communication channels, and you also maricommendation, use them all to make it known what you're doing, but also using the people who are motivated, yeah, who have this spirit, who really wants to bring a topic forward and yet to work together with them, to use them as the heroes and ambassadors to bring the messages across. Well, hail to the heroes and ambassadors empowering employees. Thank you very very much. This was Marian dawn joining us today from Germany for the podcast innovation nation. Thanks for joining us. You've been listening to innovation nation. For more subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast player or connect with this on linked in. Thanks for listening.

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