Sandra Hovland, Director Advisory of Visma, and Svein Skovly, Head of Innovation at Fremtind Insurance, came together for a discussion of the role of innovation in the workplace, and how organizations can foster their growth.
Know the Innovation Basics
“Innovation is a big word,” said Sandra. “I would say it is the driving force of competitiveness, and it is the growth engine of your business.”
Svein built on the thought: “What is innovation is an important question you should always ask when you start a development project. We should save the term innovation for what is real change, the change where we solve a problem, not in a traditional way, but by something that is surprising, something that is really novel, and also in a way that creates value.”
Both agree that technology is a driving force for innovation. Sandra said that in a world where technology drives societal change, organizations need to factor that into their innovation equations. Digital innovations have the power to fuel transformation in a company. With a wide swath of emergent technologies like A.I., the cloud, sensor technology, and machine learning, as well as the greater availability of data, companies must take advantage of the assets available to them to promote greater innovation.
All of these new technologies, Svein said, “are creating an environment that makes it possible to innovate in completely new ways…In five years time we will see that the technologies that are here now will be industrialized and commonly available.”
Drive and Encourage Innovation
So what drives innovation, and how can companies encourage it?
“One of the most important things is always to look at the value you add, and look at the job that has to be done,” said Sandra. “You need to have multiple innovations to drive your organizational competitiveness.” Start with the customer, she suggested, and be experimental in your approach.
Svein added that it’s not just about asking the customers, but really digging deep to understand the job to be done. He said that an organization needs to have internal structures in place to support an innovative environment: “The most important is that you build an organization that is prepared to innovate and to develop, and also is prepared to create a radical change. It’s a lot about getting the right management principles in place.” He cited one of Fremtind’s best principles: “we are not afraid to fail, we are afraid to stagnate.”
“That’s a good example of the type of principals you need to have in order to allow the organization to work with innovation,” he said.
Create a Culture of Experimentation
Also important for Svein? “Allowing the people in the organization to use their creativity to create new solutions to new problems.”
Sandra agreed. “You need to allow experimentation, creating the mechanisms of this in your organization,” she said. “You have to take the time to create this innovation culture. You have to invest in a culture. You have to be patient. You have to put money on it.”
Sandra had a word of warning for her fellow innovators, warning them to be choosy in the kind of advice and consultants they follow. “There is a lot of noise,” she said, and added that it is important to consider which voices will be the strongest supporters of innovation.
Innovation starts from the top, according to Sandra. “Walk the talk,” she said. “You need to be stubborn on a vision to drive innovation. You create the culture. Use collaboration throughout the company and outside the company.”
Sketchnote by Monique van Rooyen