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How we learned to turn frustration into an innovation boost
The global Corona pandemic triggered an unprecedented level of disruption in our lives. The first lockdown of 2020 was like driving with the handbrake on. But that moment of deceleration led to an interesting opposite reaction at HellermannTyton. The company accelerated its efforts to answer the question: what can we set in motion now to do us all good beyond tomorrow?
“By the summer of 2020, the disruption of the pandemic was in full flow. But everyone was pulling together to keep things running as far as possible”, remembers Andrew Leyland, HellermannTyton Group President. “It was a frustrating time and a real struggle not to get depressed. But even so, many of our employees surprised us by reacting in ways we hadn’t anticipated.”
“Lots of people around us started trying out new ways of doing things. The positive effect was like an antidote to the frustration of the situation”, says Jean-Baptiste Humann, HellermannTyton Regional President in the EMEA region. “It was heartening to experience this everywhere throughout the international HellermannTyton community.”
“That encouraged us to step back and look beyond a coping strategy in answer to the new pressures, adds Andrew. “We realised that this exceptional situation presented us with an opportunity to consider our future from a fresh perspective – to answer the question, what can we set in motion now to do us all good beyond tomorrow?”
“Rather than relying on 8 decades of inventive heritage to show us the way forward, it was a golden opportunity to shape our business in new ways”, recalls Jean-Baptiste. “We had time on our hands that we hadn’t bargained with. And we recognised a need in our employees for new goals to work towards.”
“So we decided to set ourselves an innovative challenge (pun intended!)”, says Rob Conroy-Finn, Operations Director EMEA at HellermannTyton. “The purpose was threefold. Firstly, to make the most of the unplanned window of opportunity. Secondly, to encourage collaboration beyond the usual boundaries and contacts. And most importantly, to give our talents the freedom to develop fresh ideas for products and services.”
Antidote to frustration
“The Innovation Challenge in the EMEA region grew from the understanding that the best time to get creative is before your survival depends on it”, adds Thomas Tyll, Product Director EMEA at HellermannTyton. “We asked business unit leaders to nominate employees from different parts of the business to join an unconventional project.”
Agile teams from HellermannTyton in the UK, France, Germany, Scandinavia and South Africa competed throughout 2021 in HellermannTyton’s first Innovation Challenge. Their mandate was simple: pool, develop, test and present innovative ideas that create added value for our customers.
“Over 100 hundred people collaborated online and in person, where possible. Each of the 5 teams explored what innovation is and brainstormed. Then they incubated their best ideas, prototyped them and evaluated their market potential”, reports Rob.
“Are you familiar with the TV format The Dragon’s Den – where real-life candidates pitch their commercial ideas to a panel of business angels? That was the kind of nerve-wracking online presentation our 5 teams had to endure as part of the final round of judging”, explains Thomas. “And they certainly exceeded our expectations when it came to judging the entries at the end of 2021.”
“The dedication of the participants – especially the way they adapted their methods as the competition evolved – has been a real eye-opener”, says Rob. “Rome wasn’t built in a day. Yet I am amazed at how much a diverse range of people can build in a condensed space of time. All it takes is the right motivation, enough freedom to develop and a diverse range of skills and resources to call on.”
Everyone’s a winner
“The Innovation Challenge experience has been so encouraging”, enthuses Jean-Baptiste. “When we started on this journey, the world was still coming to terms with the global pandemic. In the meantime, the teams have certainly proven how well they seized the opportunity that comes with every change.”
“It has been inspiring to watch the teams brainstorm, then funnel, select and nurture ideas”, says Rob. “We thank everyone involved in this first Innovation Challenge. Their efforts are already shaping the future of HellermannTyton’s product and service offering.”
“Although we can’t reveal them yet, all the entries promise added value for our cable management customers”, reports Jean-Baptiste. “The participants enjoyed teaming up with colleagues they wouldn’t otherwise have exchanged with. Lots of other colleagues now see the joy of participating in innovation and want to get involved. We are already planning the next challenge to explore and refine all the great ideas on the table.”
Coming soon: Feedback from the Innovation Challenge participants
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