While companies have been aware of co-creation and collaborative innovation for a while now, knowing how to involve coworkers in generative processes is not always straightforward.
An opportunity to do just this presented itself when BPER Banca, currently the 3rd Italian banking group, a Bank from asked us to help its internal innovation team, guided by Giovanni Bursi, devise a new medium-term team strategy. To us, this meant innovating the team’s business model. This is a process that involves developing value propositions, skills, key resources, ways of liaising with internal customers, collaborating with new partners, and more.
Being the good designers we are and in view of recent mergers and acquisitions, we agreed that this challenge should have at its center an in-depth version of the new bank’s Business Model Canvas as a sensemaking project. Since Essential to this process is having detailed information on key resources, partners, channels, and processes. All “insider” knowledge, especially in the banking sector, where the rules of the game are dictated by central banks with their notoriously opaque, often unhelpful, jargon.
From the above considerations arose the idea of creating a group of contributors which represented a cross-section of the organization’s key roles and principle activities, from senior managers to the counter staff who interact with the bank’s customers daily.
How to select the right people in a short time?
As luck would have it, for many years BigName had been working with the soft skills area of BPER Banca’s training department, guided by Silvia Brandoli. Indeed, we had provided the bank with a selection of key training courses, including one on innovation which just happened to employ the Business Model Canvas from Strategyzer:
Our courses already formed part of the bank’s off-the-shelf training offering. Of note is that BPER Banca allows its staff to request individual training, not only to develop their work-related skills and knowledge but also to help them enhance their general level of culture. The idea of working with others in the organisation was welcomed enthusiastically by Silvia e Giovanni.
Thanks to this internal buy-in, in-house training was made available immediately and members of the Innovation Team also acted as mentors during the workshops. In fact, innovation team head Giovanni addressed participants directly during the classroom training sessions. Drawing upon his extensive experience and knowledge, Giovanni brought participants up to date on current strengths and trends in the financial sector.
Mapping, aligning, and gathering insights
This internal collaboration produced a two-pronged benefit.
- Mapping was more precise and comprehensive.
- It helped the participants gain a better understanding of how their organisation works while at the same time helping them perceive how to add tangible value to their organisation’s strategy.
“To Motivate Employees, Show Them How They’re Helping Customers” – Fonte: https://hbr.org/2017/03/to-motivate-employees-show-them-how-theyre-helping-customers
– Francesca Gino, Harvard Business School
The training and innovation program we devised for BPER Banca was designed to be carried out via face-to-face classroom training. Employing, of course, all the paper materials we all once used in the pre-Covid world (link to the Canvas).
Training took place in two cycles, one for each of the two involved groups.
During the first cycle of innovation training, the participants learned how to use the Business Model Canvas. To help them learn what they needed we used a number of examples plus exercises on innovation logic. By treating the work of the whole group as a kind of system, we were able to model the four main segments of the BPER bank to produce one Business Model Canvas for each business area: payments, loans, deposits, protection.
An additional activity involved comparing the models created for each business area with the 7 Best Practices for business modeling. This approach rendered the identification of development priorities and the spotting of gaps much easier and more effective. All precious information and insights for the Innovation Team!
This first Business Model Canvas prototype, once consolidated and condensed by the team, became the basis for a second refinement cycle with a separate group of participants from different areas of business. As often occurs, innovation is brought about by external and unforeseen events: the pandemic forced us to do everything we had to do entirely online. Fortunately, Google Workplace tools; in particular Meet for meetings and Drive for storing and sharing files, were already used by the Bank. These tools helped us to operate remotely and collaboratively.
Still under the guidance of BPER’s Training and Innovation teams, the participants were able to further improve the previously performed mapping, starting from the gaps identified and then challenging the Canvas entries using the Blue Ocean 4 actions model.
- Staff who took part in the project gained a much better understanding of how their organization works. They also developed a greater appreciation of the contributions made to their organisation by business areas with which they were previously unfamiliar. This increase in awareness helped improve interdepartmental integration and also led to more productive generative discourse. Such a situation – never easy to achieve within organisations – adds an unprecedented amount of value at all levels to all activities.
- The process also empowered staff giving them the sensation of being able to make genuine contributions to the organisation’s strategy.
- Additionally, having ever more detailed bottom-up mapping of the Business Model, intervention areas and priorities benefited the Innovation Team significantly.
- The potential involvement of future skilled and qualified participants in an internal project named B612, the Call for Ideas that Giovanni Bursi’s team has been promoting for months is now generating valuable innovation initiatives from within the bank.
The feedback we received from participants revealed their widespread satisfaction and appreciation in terms of both involvement and empowerment. Not only did the participants feel that they had been trained but they also felt they had made valuable contributions to their organisation:
- “Applying the concepts we learned helped me better understand a complex business model such as the one underlying our Bank.”
- “What that struck me most was how existing assets can be used to leverage innovation, thus helping us discover what can be improved and how to come up with ideas to achieve the desired change.”
- “I was also able to expand my knowledge: this course made me consider aspects like the evolution of Fintech and payment instruments; areas I hadn’t given too much thought to before”.