On Generating and Maintaining an Innovative Organizational Culture

How do successful organizations cultivate creativity? And what is it that makes generating and maintaining an outstanding organizational culture so challenging?

The organization’s capacity to innovate, as well as its creativity and connectivity are increasingly highlighted as essential for success. The concepts of “innovation environment” or “innovation ecosystem” are referred to very often in this context.

When describing a creative organizational culture in more detail, case-examples of start-ups and influential Silicon Valley enterprises pop up in various publications, and it seems Richard Florida’s theory of the “creative class” is still dominating many discussions.

I believe that given a chance, any individual or a group of people can adopt a creative mindset and participate in generating original innovations.

And I think the best innovations are created by breaking the silos and getting a multi-disciplinary team of experts from different departments collaborating on a shared project, and by introducing and applying service design methodology at the workplace.

This view is based on my own experiences with co-design so far.

But I think many professionals that have experience of working in similar teams might agree.

Service design processes and methods can be of assistance in generating new, innovative concepts and in streamlining existing services — as well as generating and maintaining a culture of co-creation.

I think organizing co-design workshops based on recent analytics and research can help an organization to boost and foster a creative culture at the workplace and to refine the personnel’s capability to innovate.

Obviously, there are costs involved in gathering analytics, conducting initial research and organizing any co-design process, in terms of human resources, time and money.

However, co-creation and co-design may yield significant benefits, both internally and externally.

As I’m a planner, I have only so much to do with strategy implementation in my current organization. But I think reflecting on and aligning one’s own tasks with shared strategic objectives is important.

And similar thought should be given to the team’s role in the organization, and to one’s role in a team.

An important notion here is that each team as well as each individual is equally responsible of committing to the organization’s common goals and values as well as mutual respect.

One of the core values of my current organization is “together”.

I find that my co-workers in the FNG are an enthusiastic and inspiring group of professionals.

A creative environment is often described as “dynamic” and “open” — it supports fresh ideas, it is emotionally safe and compassionate, and its atmosphere promotes the freedom to brainstorm. In such an environment, debates are considered positive, conflicts constructive, and moderate risk taking is allowed.

As a result of this kind of atmosphere in the organization, new ideas emerge and flourish, and they have enough time and space to take shape. And even more importantly, the people enjoy working together.

Service design methods and intrapreneurship combined can yield the very best of results, when they are applied in a way unique to the organization’s culture.

Soren Kaplan, the author of the best-seller “Leapfrogging”, says that when we are “cultivating innovation”, we are, essentially, “cultivating a unique system”.

Kaplan’s notion is echoed in the recent book “Strategy That Works: How Winning Companies Close the Strategy-to-Execution Gap” by Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi. According to the authors, what makes the distinctive internal practices and capabilities of successful organizations so special is the fact that they cannot be easily replicated by others in the same field. In that sense, creating a unique organizational culture and supporting an innovative ecosystem pays off.

In the aforementioned book, Leinwand and Mainardi emphasize, that the most successful organizations:

  • Commit to what they do best instead of chasing multiple opportunities
  • Build their own unique winning capabilities instead of copying others
  • Put their culture to work instead of struggling to change it
  • Invest where it matters instead of going lean across the board
  • Shape the future instead of reacting to it

According to the authors, these are the five essential practices for connecting strategy and its execution.

Having given various issues quite a lot of thought last year in the middle of facilitating a series of workshops on our digital strategy implementation and other tasks, I eventually decided to document some of my thoughts on different topics related to my work and some of my other interests in this blog, now also found via the domain name http://lifeofaplanner.fi.

I have been surprised by the amount of unique visitors and visits here, as well as the amount of positive feedback from colleagues and other friends.

Thank you for reading and all the comments!

About the Future of Online Shopping

I had a sudden urge to write about the future of online retail and shopping online. What kind of trends will shape the future of online buying?

According to Google, most online customer journeys now span at least five different channels. Furthermore, most people shopping online view and compare the items they wish to purchase multiple times before making the final decision.

Around 50% of the Finnish people are using the mobile internet on a daily basis. During the last 10 years, the overall time an average Finnish person spends online has doubled, and is now over 10 hours per week. And 80% of all Finns are also shopping online.

My latest online purchase was made in Zalando yesterday.

This company was founded in Berlin in 2008, and in Europe’s scale, Zalando has been a success story beyond comparison in fashion retail. And it all started with the idea of a convenient and simple way to purchase shoes online — and with an extensive research carried out on the needs of the customers shopping for footwear.

In the Zalando corporate website, it is stated that shopping fashion is, “above all, an emotional event – it is the emotional experience that turns clothes into your new favourite outfit, with the first impression being just as important as a detailed presentation. — That’s why it was clear from the start that the Zalando store would focus on a high-quality, professional and consistent product presentation.”

Still headquartered in Berlin, Zalando now has a creative tech hub location here in Helsinki. The buying office is located in Paris, the fashion capital of the world.

But what is most important regarding the company’s success is the Zalando website infrastructure, which really makes shopping very convenient and effortless. High-quality photos of each product are found with multiple sorting options, and there are detailed descriptions for more than 150 000 products available.

Another factor that makes Zalando one of the most attractive fashion retail stores online is the amount of effort put in offering personalized content to each customer.

I firmly believe this kind of personalization is a major aspect of the future of online shopping. As privacy issues are still of no consequence for many people online, the websites they visit receive a steady flow of information on the customer’s preferences via the browser software.

Last week, this blog turned 9 months old. I decided to buy a domain for the site, so you can also find this blog directly via the URL http://lifeofaplanner.fi. The blog currently features 30 posts, including this one. I attempt to publish around 3 posts each month.

“Experience economy” has been a recurring theme in this blog in relation to digital service design.

My most popular post so far has been “Designing for Happiness”, inspired by the IXDA 2016 event in Helsinki, and written a few months back (https://iiriskblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/designing-for-happiness/).

In that post, I briefly introduced Stephen Anderson’s “User Experience Hierarchy of Needs”, and stated that “the products and services that make people happy must be functional, reliable, and usable, but moreover, they must be convenient, pleasurable and meaningful.”

To recap the most important statement of that post, I think it is safe to say that the most meaningful things in life are, of course, the things we love – the things that make us happy.

And tapping into the potential for happiness is definitely worth the effort of creating personalized content for each customer segment, even for each customer online via an algorithm at the website.

Yet the online customers also expect an element of surprise and serendipitious discovery.

Adidas recently ventured to launch “Avenue A”, a box subscription service. Every Avenue A box is designed and curated by a celebrity fitness artist, such as Nicole Winhoffer. The subscriber receives 4 boxes per year, each featuring a mix of 3 to 5 Adidas items. The Summer 16 edition will ship with Adidas MiCoach Fit Smart watch. All for the price of $150 per box.

While some of us shop for more and more new clothes online, others are now purchasing little-worn clothes and accessories over the internet.

San Fransisco -based ThredUp is a website with the slogan “Secondhand clothes. Firsthand fun.” And a plethora of rare vintage items are still being sold through eBay. I recently also purchased my very first piece of clothing made solely of recycled textile fibres. Major brands, the Swedish Ikea perhaps as the most striking example of this trend, are now concerned about the reuse of their products.

According to the “JWT: The Future 100” Trend Report for this year, consumers are beginning to “join the dots” in multiple areas of their consumption patterns and lifestyles. “Across all sectors, consumers are differentiating between brands based on concern for the environment“, states the report. “Brands, once judged on their desirability and products, are now being judged on their value systems, on whether they are innovators, on whether they are promising to change the world”.

The Rituals brand, for example, recently launched its “30 Days of Good Karma” campaign online. The campaign highlights that the Rituals brand is there to help us “slow down, and to find happiness in the smallest of things”. And what better way to do so, than to stop shopping online or elsewhere for any unnecessary and non-environmental-friendly items. Rituals also offers a free app to aid meditation and mindfulness practice – and the same app will let you conveniently order more Rituals products.

Perhaps the future of online retail will be in the hands of whoever will be making it easy and memorable to make more conscious, healthy, environmental-friendly — and ultimately — more sustainable choices.

 

On Visiting Finland and the Contemporary Finnish Art Scene

As Finland is a remote destination at the outskirts of Europe, we currently only receive approximately 0,4% of all of the travellers worldwide. And most of these travellers only stay for a very short stopover.

However, Visit Finland currently attracts over half a million visitors to its website every month. This goes to show that a staggering figure of annual visitors to the organization’s website must be very interested in Finland as a holiday destination. How to make more of these visitors book a trip here?

I visited Berlin two weeks ago. The city is, of course, one of the most hip destinations in Europe. During my stay there, I visited various sites related to its history, as well as the most popular contemporary art exhibitions currently going on, and many excellent clubs. Perhaps it is the combination of these three types of attractions – historical and cultural, as well as the nightlife – that makes me return there every so often?

I think that Finland, as a holiday destination, caters for many tastes as well, and we can certainly add the spectacular nature to our list of attractions. Now, as the summer is just about to begin, I am looking forward to spending a few weekends at least outside of my hometown Helsinki. For the Midsummer night, there is no better place to be than one with a view on a still lake in the middle of a forest.

But the nightlife scene in Helsinki is hot as well. A few weeks back, we had yet again the Berghain resident Marcel Dettmann playing an excellent 6-hour set in a club in the vicinity of Kallio. And many local artists are a treat for any house or techno lover. Many outstanding festivals for all tastes in music are organized here, the most hip one being the Flow Festival of Suvilahti, and are featured in international travel publications.

For the history and culture lovers, there are many things to experience as well. But perhaps the country brand would benefit of emphasizing the original culture and the excellent contemporary art scene, for example, instead of merely highlighting Suomenlinna Island and other such sites that have more to do with distant events of the past? Helsinki currently has several exhibitions going on that feature contemporary art’s finest international figures, such as Neto and Weiwei.

While I mention that, the Finnish contemporary artist scene is well worth getting acquainted with! Anssi Kasitonni, one of my favourite Finnish artists, is curating this year’s Mänttä Art Festival, first organized in 1993. Being the most hip annual art event outside of Helsinki, this festival that has a history of over 20 years is a must-see. Certainly worth travelling all the way to Mänttä!

And if you should miss that, the contemporary art festival ARS 17 will be taking over Kiasma next year.

The ARS festivals, much like the Documenta in Kassel, have a history ranging back to the turbulent 1960s and 1970s.

While the Documenta will be open in Kassel again the same year, and will certainly yet again be an event beyond comparison most likely attracting over one million art tourists worldwide, I suggest visiting the ARS festival in Helsinki as well. Kiasma will also be the partner organization of Frame Finland during next year’s Venice Biennale.

In two weeks, Visit Finland will organize a seminar related to travel and the field of culture. I will be attending the seminar, and I am very much looking forward to it. The CEO of Creative Tourism Barcelona, Caroline Couret, will be giving a keynote talk, and there will be workshops on the topic, one of them being on contemporary art and country image and facilitated by the Museum Director of Kiasma, Leevi Haapala.