How Finaref managed to get both innovation and web 2.0 within the organization

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I never write anything about my projects and clients in my job at blueKiwi two reasons : first the company has it own site to communicate and, second, there’s always a suspicion about objectivity when you talk about your employer. But sometimes, I need to find examples to illustrate what I say and I don’t feel like searching elsewhere what I have under my eyes.

So, when a lot of companies are wondering how they could improve innovation or how to implement successfully web 2.0, perhaps you’d be interested in knowing how Finaref managed to do both.

For those who are interested in press releases, you can find it here. But if you’re interested in knowing what was behind, what follows may interest you.

• Starting point : Finaref knew innovation was key in future performance. They also realized that : innovation must be about everything in the company, that it’s not always a matter of  big things but also a small improvements, and that innovation wasn’t just a few people’s job but that everybody has to be involved in and feel concerned about it. They not only decided that was so important, they not also said it, they also repeated it again, again and again, in order their people feel it was something real and not only “words as usual”. Thus, they set innovation as a pillar of their strategic plan called “Ambition 2010”.

• The need : they needed everyone to be able to publish and share their ideas. They also needed that people could exchange to enrich what was published. They wanted all of that to be visible in order to make it possible to identify goof ideas and use them. Visibility had another interest : if people see there is an innovation process at work, they may want to be involved it. It shows innovation it’s really a part of the enterprise DNA and may change people’s opinion about the impact of their possible involvement.

• The means : blueKiwi of course. In fact there were others means, like incitating people, showing what was expecting by doing it… but to make it possible they needed tools and chose an enterprise social software solution. I really point that out : software was not the purpose but a mean that was necessary to achieve company’s goals.  Imagine, for example that the need was “help people to network”, it’s not enough to make things work.  Networking is good…but what for ? The what for question is key because it gives sense to any change, it makes people decide if it’s worth changing. If it’s directly connected to their day do day job they will come…and in this case innovation was clearly a part of their day to day job. It was what their company asked them to give a little time for.

• Tool’s adoption. Humm. Since people where asked to participate in the innovation process, since they were told it was now a part of their job, since the lack of appropriated tool made it difficult to do this part of this job, there was no use to make a lot of efforts. Tool was not compulsory but needed.

• With whom ? This is key in “participative” projects : you may suggest, not force. So we started with a small group of people highly interested in innovation. The purpose was to create effective dynamics without the potential inertia that may be caused by people who don’t feel involved in or are rather sceptical. If you show it works, even with a few people, it will be easier to make others people not only come in but also play the game. It’s easier to have “quick wins” to show. The second wave was made of people who asked to join the group and people who were “recruited” by the first users because they knew them and knew they’d like it (in fact managers can only identifiy the “first circle”, second circle people have to be found by the first….it’s more efficient). And, little by little, the group is growing.  In a few time, we expect the project to be company-wide.

• Business re-appropriation. As those who have the courage to read all my posts know, I’m convinced that only business and day to day needs drive efficiently web 2.0 tools adoption, and that formal and informal spheres have to be linked. The second point means that there’s no use having valuable informations and conversations into your informal networks if the organization can’t transform it into business. Finaref’s project would have been useless if people who can make things happen didn’t pay attention to what was is blueKiwi. But, since they were very interested in looking at what was emerging, they transformed ideas into action (Sutton would like that…). It’s also important for two reasons : it showed everybody that giving time to innovation was also making business, comforting people who played the game, and it’s the best way to convince sceptical people that it’s worth participating.

• I may say a few things about how to start the community, of to make it live at the beginning but it’s useless here : what has been done before by Finaref management was enough to make things work without significant efforts.

There’s no magic recipe but I have to admit most successful projets share a lot of common points, which are those I often talk about in this blog (I could mention Dassault Systems, BNP Paribas and many others blueKiwi projects…)

• A strategic need, identified and embodied.

• Identification of the practices, the behaviors, that will allow to fulfill the needs, to achieve the goals.

• Make those practices and behaviors possible by legitimating them, adapting rules and…provide people with the suitable tools. Everything must make sense.

• Managers have to show an exemplary nature. They must convince by dowing. They have to behave as leaders. To make it short : alignment must be a continuous concern : from the strategic need to the tools, including tools and day to day pratices, everything must be aligned.

• Choice of a leading group highly concerned by the need, then need-driven enlargment. One concern : avoid inertia and show quick wins.
• Connecting informal and formal : what’s in the informal network must be used for formal business.

As you guess, what was key was what happened before the 2.0 part of the project. Nothing we don’t know : from strategy to the ground, with two key word : sense and alignment. E2.0 projects has nothing special : if you’re logical, if you do things step by step, it you know why you’re doing this, if you remember your purpose is not to have tools adopted but to give tools for business needs, success will be yours.

Of course, you can make it differently, harder, with sweat and painful delivery. But the proof is there : when things are clear, if fundamentals are respected, it’s easier to be successful.

Innovation is possible. E2.0 is possible. You can even make both at the same time. Or perhaps we managed to make both because  because one needed the other, because E2.0 had a real purpose and everything was made in order to make it happen. Said like this E2.0 isn’t different from E1.0. Good news : we don’t have to reinvent things : just be logical, thing about organization, management and people before tools…and we won’t be affraid anymore about the “how to have it adopted” question.