Thursday, 09 November 2017 00:56

Driving the Innovation Agenda

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Can one learn innovation skills? At Bayer, the answer is a resounding YES!

Innovation is defined as the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay, according to the Business Dictionary. To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need.

The life science industry is surrounded by innovation. Digitalization is creating new business models that are increasingly driving value. Disruptive technologies with big data are transforming R&D and customer approaches. Societal changes are occurring, including aging and increasing populations. Plus, consumerism has customers taking a more active role in decision-making.

When Bayer needed to spark the imagination of employees, it embraced innovation, and embarked on a journey to do just that.

Bayer recognizes that the world is changing, and to remain competitive in the fields of pharmaceuticals, crop science and consumer health, it needs to become even faster and more agile. The company also believes it is not about “doing innovation," it's about innovating in what we do." This mindset is central to Bayer’s future success. Words such as these come easily, and putting it into action is where Bayer has excelled.

To be truly innovative requires the right culture, as revealed in Bayer’s Annual Report: “To further strengthen our innovation culture, we have identified four Focus Behaviors, namely Experimentation, Customer Focus, Collaboration — all underpinned by Trust.”

Innovation requires a shift in mindset. Instead of claiming, “I have no time,” its better to think, “Let’s make time and ask, ‘what if ’?” Rather than accept the “what has always been,” challenge the status quo.

INNOVATION ENABLERS

To help cultivate the right mindset, Bayer has established Innovation Enablers: Inspire, Learn, Collaborate, Connect.

Inspire - to explore and experiment through stories and events. Bayer chief information officer Johannes Schubmehl strongly believes in giving people freedom to innovate. “I love jamming,he shares. “You can never predict the outcome of an experimental session. Usually the result is completely new and cool.” Experiment, trust and empower your team. “Watch what happens when inspiration, aspiration and passion come together,” says Schubmehl.

Innovation Platform - All topics connected to the Innovation Agenda (Inspire, Learn, Collaborate, Connect) are conveniently hosted on the YOUniverse Web application, Bayer’s one-stop shop that enables employees to innovate. The YOUniverse application has had more than 25,000 registered users since its launch in September 2016. The site features more than 500 articles (including stories, learning documents and opportunities to collaborate).

For the Learn section, for example, Bayer staff can find:

>>  More than 40 guides on innovation methodologies and approaches, for self-study and reference.

>>  Webinars on innovation topics like customer-focused innovation, and innovation methodologies to overcome employee survey hotspots.

>>  Online courses in collaboration with IDEO U around elements of design thinking.

>>  Training on systematic inventive thinking with two-day courses to invite employees to learn and apply methodologies to innovate.

Innovation Applied - With recent advances in learning and development on the topic of innovation at Bayer, particularly the establishment of a business-focused Innovation Academy, the company believes it is now at the world’s helm when it comes to driving innovation by truly learning, doing and impacting.

To help unleash the full innovation potential of more than 100,000 employees, Bayer has designed an Innovation Agenda, of which learning is a critical component. Together with strong support from leaders and managers, the passionate and powerful Innovation Network (consisting of more than 80 Innovation Ambassadors and more than 600 dedicated Innovation Coaches) to promote, moderate and contribute toward driving innovation culture and activities from within the core of the company. Innovation Coaches have the passion to innovate and now the power to change.

INNOVATION COACH ON-BOARDING

This approach came from within the company based upon industry best practices. It was co-created with a great external partner company, Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT).

The challenge was to realize objectives in a sustainably successful manner by creating a powerful network of more than 600 fully-trained Innovation Coaches worldwide who had to be:

1. Promoters of innovation among their colleagues in an engaging way.

2. Moderators, by applying an innovation methodology in an innovation mini-session to unleash the creative power of their colleagues.

3. Contributors, by sharing tips and tools with their colleagues

Further, once the Coaches were on-boarded, their professional development needed to be supported so that they could become catalysts for the change that the company envisioned. It was a new network within Bayer. Challenges included: the wide geographical spread of coaches and different time zones; lack of space for Coaches to build new relationships; limited resource availability of Coaches (both time and access to budget); and lack of time for Coaches to reflect on what differentiates them from other existing communities. While inspiring Innovation Coaches about innovation can be easy, finding their relevance to innovation at Bayer can prove to be challenging.

The leaders of the countries and functions nominated Innovation Coaches (dedicating 10 percent of their time) who had a passion for innovation. From June 2016 to August 2017, more than 600 Coaches had been on-boarded via initial face-to-face training, supplemented by many other custom processes and tools. The initial training lasted three days and was held in all the major Bayer sites worldwide, with a general positive average of 4.8 out of 5.0 evaluation score — one of the highest scores in all Bayer learning and training. The Coaches not only learned more about their new role, they discovered an innovation methodology (called systematic inventive thinking) and applied it to real business challenges.

This training was then supplemented by:

>>  Online Coach Community calls to share successes and support coaches with their challenges.

>>  Interactive live webinars with the use of real-time video to learn new techniques such as visual thinking to express ideas.

>>  Advanced training for high-performing Coaches who moderated more than 10 innovation mini-sessions.

All of this was delivered via an online innovation platform called YOUniverse with an invitation from the Innovation Academy to the remaining 99,000 employees at Bayer to also learn and acquire innovation skills such as design thinking.

IMPACT OF ON-BOARDING PROGRAM

Through effective on-boarding and development of coaches, Bayer is now able to directly realize the return on investment. Coaches have been given guidance on how to measure the impact of their tasks:

i)  Promoter (to inspire one person a day on innovation)

ii)  Moderator (to facilitate one innovation mini-session a month)

iii) Contributor (to publish one story a year on YOUniverse or contribute to Community Calls and webinars)

The Coaches’ task of being a moderator who facilitates innovation mini-sessions on real business challenges is already leading to major benefits. Using the methodology that they learned, they are helping to break cognitive fixedness within the company around product, process, business model and service topics. Bayer is on track to exceed a thousand business challenges tackled by the end of 2017 — each one leading to a potential solution.

This role of a Coach is now part of an individual’s growth and career path, and is recognized and supported by management. In addition, the network is making waves internally, and new Coaches are being nominated daily. At Bayer, the saying “Innovation starts with you” is true. And who better to lead this than its Coaches.

Chara Balasubramaniam, Julia Hitzbleck, Melanie Heroult, Krysia Sommers and Henning Trill authored this article. But this has been driven by the entire Corporate Innovation and R&D team, and made possible by all the talented and committed people from the Bayer Innovation network, who all deserve recognition. Bayer is a 2017 Learning! 100 winner for Innovation. It is the company’s second Learning! 100 award.

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