At the end of June Datavard was recognized among Top 100 Innovators in Germany. Datavard CEO Gregor Stoeckler reveals his strategy for innovation based on trust in employees’ skills and customer feedback. He also explains why he doesn’t go crazy about disruption, and why he loves Tupperware lunch boxes.
What does innovation mean to you personally?
I’ve learnt a lot about innovation by observing my kids – they keep surprising me with how quickly and easily they tackle problems using simple solutions. Their minds know few boundaries, thus I believe innovation is all about mindset. So if you want to manage innovation and challenge the status quo, my advice is to trust people in their skills to innovate, support them, and to get ready for a marathon of continuous iteration (for which we adopted LEAN and Lean Startup). I treat failure as an opportunity to learn rather than a problem, I try not to judge too quickly, and focus on enjoying the trip. A lot of hard work with an uncertain outcome can drain you quickly if you can’t enjoy the ride.
What do you think is unique about the way Datavard approaches innovation?
Many people perceive innovation as something groundbreaking and highly disruptive. The risk of disruption is that it often fails to deliver customer value due to wrong timing (launched too early), overrated value proposition, underrated costs and skill requirements. You can’t plan disruption, and it is often hindered by skill gaps, process deficiencies, adoption issues or internal politics. So I’d like to take off this pressure to disrupt. Innovation in Datavard is not aimed at developing disruptive technologies, but solving existing issues in a smart way. Eventually, our creativity brings innovative things to life, such as HeatMap which might not be a highly disruptive technology, but it’s a very smart idea that helps IT managers and technical experts to do a better job. They gather valuable insights into system usage and turn them into process improvements, cost reductions and better, more secure SAP systems.
How do customers benefit from the innovative power of Datavard?
We invite our customers to participate and form an innovation partnership. Either in the form of exclusive meetings called Customer Innovation Circles which are a great opportunity for networking and knowledge sharing or individual sessions where we hear them out about their pains and the benefits they are looking for. In this way, we include our customers into the whole innovation process, we listen to them, and establish a deep relationship which in the end helps us to determine the jobs that need to be done and hence delivering better and more effective solutions.
How do you plan to keep the momentum and stay among top innovators in 2020?
First and foremost, by investing time and money into innovation. The two biggest areas of investment, alongside people, are processes and customer innovation. Processes help us structure, classify and document ideas and creative input. We lend this from Agile management methods such as Scrum, Lean/Lean Startup and Design Thinking. With regards to customer innovation, we plan to extend our Customer Innovation Circles from 4 to 6 per year in 2017. This will allow us to cover more markets, especially in the US West Coast and Latin America.
Which business do you find inspiring when it comes to innovation?
One of the businesses I find extremely inspiring is Tupperware. Maybe it’s not a frontrunner that you would mention in one go next to 3M, Apple, Google or Tesla. But Tupperware does 3 things brilliantly and for a long time (since 1946). Firstly, they are a leading example of implementing customer feedback and designing every-day products that simply make sense. Secondly, they offer very good value for money. And thirdly, they foster holistic approach to innovation by introducing it not only into their products, but also to the business model, buying experience and ecosystem.
Next week we are running a Hackathon at Datavard. What are your expectations?
I’d like to see what people can do if you give them little boundaries and just let them come up with something. There are people who can really take advantage of such freedom and offer some fresh ideas, and there are people who are more of problem solvers working best when they have a clear task in front of them. We need both kinds, and I’m looking forward to seeing who in the company works which way.
Euro 2016 winner?
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