Every change starts with an idea. At its inception, most of these changes are (or may seem) quite small changes. Did you know that Google started off as an academic experiment by two PhD students to understand how web pages link to each other? From little ideas great oak trees can grow!
In today’s rapidly changing world organisations need to be more change-able for tomorrow. Our capacity for big change is inhibited by the processes and mindsets of today. Only by innovating on these processes and mindsets can we ever realistically derive the bigger change impacts (or innovations) we would all love to deliver.
At Wazoku, we work with many organisations that have benefited greatly from such an approach to continuous improvement and the ideas generated by their employees. But it’s also true that other idea crowds can play a significant role and extending continuous improvement to include these idea crowds can be a smart move for any business.
What is continuous improvement?
When people think of good ideas, it is easy to imagine the game-changing lightbulb moments that are revolutionary and transformative. But such ideas are relatively rare, typically costly, often high risk and are impossible to do in any volume. Not only that, but as businesses, we are not set up, on the whole, to actually deliver these big ideas. There are examples throughout time of great ideas, that could have transformed a business, being killed by the corporate immune system that resists change (read this story about Kodak inventing and killing the first digital camera for just one of many examples).
Most innovation comes from incremental and continuous improvements. Digital Transformation is driving change across global organisations, and although these changes might sound quite complex and grand, research by McKinsey shows that 80 percent of the value of a digital transformation comes from transforming the existing core business of today, to improve existing processes, services or products. Combining this thinking with an open approach to co-created employee-led ideas and problem solving, can deliver significant benefit to organisations. Additional research by McKinsey also shows that “when employees generate their own ideas about where digitisation might support the business, [those businesses] are 1.4 times more likely to report success.”
Continuous improvement ideas typically offer smarter, faster or more efficient ways of approaching existing tasks, products or services. These ideas should be easier to implement for the organisation and typically derive more tangible value in a shorter timeframe. In only two years of working with a global Financial Services firm, Wazoku has helped them to drive over £50m in efficiency savings from such ideas. In one case a single idea drove over £7m of cost saving benefit.
Continuous improvement is a vital part of innovation management. It never really stops and ensures that organisations adapt, improve and ready themselves for the future. It is also a way of working that most typically involves the employees within an organisation.
Your employees know your organisation better than anyone else. They do the work, interact with customers, ensure the supply chain keeps moving, operating on the front-line and generally making the business tick. So, it stands to reason that they would also be the group that is best positioned to come up with new ideas to improve the way the business is run. While senior management might be able to say in theory what could be innovative, employees can say so with much more certainty borne out from their personal hands-on experiences (read frustrations).
A powerful example of this is our customer SSCL who undertook a significant business transformation project to embed continuous improvement throughout their organisation. The business underwent a period of immense change to combine numerous company cultures, systems and locations at once.
“Our employees are the heartbeat of SSCL. The Innovation Station supports inclusivity and decision-making across our Centres of Excellence, support our team in having input.”Jeannette Smith, SSCL Government, Managing Director
SSCL’s innovation programme is focussed on people-led improvements and built an award-winning employee engagement programme that puts their people at the centre of the organisation.
Taking continuous improvement beyond your organisation
Around the world there are people, right at this moment, interacting with your service, product or brand and wondering why their experience isn’t what they had hoped it would be. Don’t believe us? Are you 100% sure that there isn’t currently a customer sat on hold waiting for support or someone unable to find information on your website? There are pain points seeking a resolution or processes that could be improved, everywhere.
Open Innovation with your ecosystem of partners, suppliers, influencers, customers and beyond can also be used to drive incremental improvements with a continuous improvement mindset.
Coca-Cola is an organisation that has placed great emphasis on continuous innovation and has turned to customer-based big data to deliver innovation back to those customers. One example is “sip & scan, which lets consumers unlock experiences and prizes by scanning icons on Coke packages with their mobile phones.” Other noteworthy examples include a digital system which enables restaurants to make updates to menus based on real-time data.
The Lego Ideas scheme is another great example of an organisation powering continuous improvement with their customers, fans and really anyone who has an idea for a product or service. “If a project receives over 10,000 votes, it goes into a review phase where Lego set designers and marketing professionals decide if the product is viable for production.” Lego consistently seeks to build upon its offerings, giving customers more of what they want.
As part of The British Library’s transformation project, they reached out to the public to test they hypotheses of their internally generated ideas for improvement. They empowered their customers to engage and feel valued, whilst ensuring that the library remained a valuable service despite pressure from technological changes. As a result of this outreach they were able to identify and implement better methods for addressing accessibility issues and making the British Library a more welcoming environment for all their customers.
Zing Zing, one of the most exciting start-ups in the fast growing, food delivery industry, created two communities – one each for investors and customers – to leverage the expertise and knowledge of these crowds to make smarter business decisions and increase customer engagement. Through this process, they’ve identified new sites for future locations and tailored our menu to ensure our long-term success.
At Wazoku, a feedback loop to our customers is critical to the development of our product as well as our pipeline and roadmap for future features and functionality. We foster a customer community through our platform called Connect, which is used as a forum for our customers to engage with each other to discuss best practice, alternative use cases and offer feedback back to our organisation.
The very nature of continuous improvement means that it’s an on-going and evolving process. There’s a pressure on organisations to increase operational efficiencies, to be leaner and to deliver a better experience and it’s a pressure that isn’t going to go away.
That’s why broadening continuous improvement to include external idea crowds is such a good idea. Different groups have different approaches and different ways of thinking and there is value and benefit to be found in all.
Interested in how Wazoku can help extend your continuous improvement beyond your employees? Request a demo to find out how am idea management platform gives a voice and role to everyone in the innovation process.