The exciting day I started an innovation process for a learning tool

  • Isaline Mülhauser

We currently address the need for a modular framework for bite size learning, and we are now investing to create the next level micro-learning system. Innovation ‘for real' is nothing like you might expect. It does not happen like an apple falling off a tree: good ideas do not fall from nowhere. You have to be open to challenges, to be motivated to work with the team and in a ‘safe' place, an environnement where trying is allowed.

How to be open to innovation?

You have to be open to new challenges, which is difficult even close to impossible if you are stressed out or under tight deadlines for example. During my first year at Liip (2016), I undertook many projects that had started before I had arrived. As a result, I had little time for planning or strategies, I undertook what was already started. During this first year, everything was new, I was in the turmoil of an event, or in a middle of a project, my whole energy was focused on current tasks.

Before Christmas 2016, my knowledge of the enterprise and the field had exponentially expanded. It allowed me to grasp the necessary bigger picture of my enterprise's needs and challenges. Simultaneously, many projects came to an end, as a result, I was not under tight deadlines. In other words, I was open to new challenges and ideas. I had cognitive capacity to take on new challenges. When Kevin, a colleague I barely knew, approached me, I welcomed his project with an open mind.


Sorry, we have no time to innovate!

An idea that takes 30 minutes to explain but a clear call to action

I do not recall the exact situation of our first actual discussion. We were probably in the open space we call arena. He most probably caught me on my way to the cafeteria.

Note to self: grab people when on their way to the cafeteria, when they are neither in a hurry for a meeting, nor in deep concentration.

Sorry Kevin, the first time you explained I did not understand your idea. It took about 30 minutes of explanation for me to understand that it was about learning, innovation, banking and compliance. It probably did not help that I had no prior knowledge of these fields.

At this point, what Kevin expected was clear ‘come to a workshop'. As I had no urgent deadlines at the time, I accepted. I assumed that I would understand the idea at the some point.

The importance of the team and the setting

At Liip, we have the possibility to undertake innovation projects when we see a business opportunity. Nothing forces us to join or undertake one. I could have decided to perform other tasks that I saw more fitting

Why did I accept to join the workshop? Three important factors simultaneously played a role there:

  • Firstly, I had an open mind, I was cognitively open to something new.
  • The second thing that convinced me then was Kevin's enthusiasm: he had a vision and he convinced me. I saw potential in this project.
  • Thirdly, I felt valued and trusted that my competences were needed. Honestly, this is flattering and energizing. Who is not appealed to have the possibility to make an impact?

Additionnally, I also not only got along, but liked the other colleagues invited to the workshop. In such an innovation process, trust and kindness are necessary. The team is meant to go through uncertainties. Though the vision is clear, the way to reach it is not. The composition of the team is important and this fact should not be underestimated.

Note to self: notice the importance of a vision in the very first step of an innovation project. Someone has to have an idea, and has to be able to share this vision with others to onboard them.

The next steps: the initial workshop

As planned by Kevin, the next step was to organise a workshop, where we would meet and test the idea. I expect it was a vulnerable moment for him. As long as you think something for yourself and plan it in your head, it is all fine. The day you open your mouth, it is for the worse or the better. After this workshop we could have all backed off and turned to other projects. It was a turning point.

To conclude, you guessed already?

It turned out well for Kevin's idea, in the sense that we shared his enthusiasm and we saw business potential in his idea. In other words, the story was just starting. At this very early stage of the innovation process, my ability to be open-minded to something completely new and the fact that we saw business potential in the idea mattered most . The fact that Liip provides an environnement prone to innovation is also highly relevant. As a team, we know, we are supported to dedicate time to investigate new opportunities.

And yes, I take notes to myself about what a leader with a vision is, because I think everybody is someone's leader and someone's follower. It is neither good, nor bad, it is just a role, where you have to play your best part. I am learning good practices to be both.

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