What is collaborative innovation? Why should you care?

Taken from Leading Change, Long Read – AAT Magazine, Nov/Dec 2018

For the past year, Christopher Argent, business intelligence (BI) and analytics programme lead at Vodafone, has been ensconced in the mobile phones company’s group finance BI and analytics projects, which meant implementing significant change across the finance teams globally.

He was brought in to create a new digital reporting operating model without compromising the departments reporting quality or user experience while embedding a new agile way of working for the teams.

“It means creating visualisations, new analytics data sets, and delivering them to finance teams (who are essentially the customers) as fast as possible, making sure they’re designed in a way that is easily understood without being dumbed down, and carries real insight rather than just a set of numbers,” Argent says.

But this meant making a significant change to how people worked, which Argent did through “collaborative innovation”. 

This method encourages team members to put forward their owns ideas on how their roles should change, alongside a review of internal problems to find better solutions.  This ensures everyone is everyone is included, instead of leaving people feeling unhappy or disenfranchised by having change thrust upon them.

“Implicit in our agile culture is failing fast, so, if this isn’t flying, you shout,” Argent explains. “Communication is critical”.

This can be challenging when you factor in cultural differences. When the method was rolled out across Vodafone’s teams abroad, some of the regional teams really struggled with the open approach. For example, the team in India felt that communicating concerns about the project meant something negative.

“They saw it as being outspoken, or causing trouble for their line manager,” Argent says. It was something the team had to work on with coaching and self-awareness discussions.

Argent says that it’s important to have input from significant voices outside of the immediate team, which is why his team employed non-finance data scientists to look at how they managed and reported financial data, and see how it was used, visualised and consumed.

“What we have now is an amazing suite of beautiful analytics applications and reporting that we would never have got if we just looked at it internally with group finance,” he says.

Now the team is able to use that data on its own to find growth opportunities within the business as a whole, from finance to the call centres and retail outlets.

 

Update – Here is a great article from HBS on a related subject, The Fearless Organisation.

 

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