Introducing Innovation in a Box...

We practice what we preach at Freestyle so we’re keen advocates of ‘finding the problem worth solving’. We typically do this to find the unmet needs for our clients customers but recently we used the same tools to develop our own product for our customers. We thought it might be interesting to share what happened and what we learnt...

We’ve been speaking to an amazing technology company for some time, it was set up by three ambitious founders and is now multi-award winning and operating globally. Following a period of rapid growth which involved significant increase in headcount and a need to improve both processes and relationships, the Exec team were keen to introduce new approaches to innovation that went beyond the traditional innovation ‘roles’. Alongside the need for a different approach, one of the main challenges facing the business was building cross functional teams from across the globe who could collaborate and work together efficiently and effectively.

It can be difficult to deliver real impact with a traditional ‘teach & preach’ learning approach so following a conversation with Moira Nangle, an Organisational Development Consultant, we saw the opportunity to trial a more creative solution.

So fusing design thinking best practice, frameworks for developing effective teams and a sprinkle of viral learning, the concept of ‘Innovation in a Box’ was born…..

Innovation Live Lab

First we held a one-day Live Lab session for a diverse mix of high performing individuals from across the whole business. The purpose was to bring together people who had not worked together before, to upskill them in design thinking and introduce them to frameworks for building effective teams.

Despite the worse snow the country had seen for many years, meaning even short journeys became somewhat epic adventures; never mind challenges with international flights, we had a great first session. The CEO kicked off the Live Lab by clearly articulating the product challenge he wanted the teams to solve, using the new tools and techniques they would experience.

At the close of the Live Lab we had five new teams, each was given a box containing everything they needed for the next part of the programme. From reading material and design thinking frameworks, through to Post-its and coffee vouchers, for when the going got really tough. Their first job was to use their new knowledge, on building effective teams, to recruit three additional team members. This quickly multiplied the learning across the business and ensured effective knowledge transfer as newbies were brought up to speed.

Innovation Clinics

Armed with their new learnings and their innovation boxes, the teams had just eight weeks to run through the design thinking process to identify investable ideas to solve the product challenge set by the CEO.

During the eight weeks the teams could spend 20% of their time working on their ideas. They had three formal clinic sessions with Freestyle and Moira , which were an opportunity to check in with the process and seek clarity on any issues, but also an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of team working. We had at least one team working across three different time zones and although the team worked in English, this was not anybody’s first language. Despite this, they were one of our highest performing teams! We might write another blog post on communications tools for international teams but for now let’s just say Skype for Business and Slack had an important role to play.

Pitch Battle

After the eight weeks the teams were invited back to pitch their ideas to an Executive Panel chaired by the CEO and supported by Freestyle. The teams were allocated a thirty-minute slot, broken down into ten minutes for the pitch presentation, and ten to fifteen minutes for questions from the panel. All the pitches were a very high standard and clearly lots of practicing had gone on. It was great to see working prototypes and lots of customer anecdotes which really helped bring the ideas to life. The amazing ideas were incredibly diverse, such as completely new product lines with complimentary accessory ecosystems, ideas for enhanced services, and even brand-new business models.

What did we deliver ?

We ran Innovation in a Box as an experiment and set ourselves some KPI’s to ensure we could determine if the project had delivered.

· By using viral learning techniques we more than doubled the number of individuals exposed to the new tools and techniques.

· All participants thought the innovation in a box scheme should continue and would recommend the experience to a colleague.

· The majority of participants thought that their leadership and teaming skills had been significantly enhanced.

· Fresh and actionable insight was delivered fundamentally resulting in two projects being escalated to Stage 2 of the business NPD process.

What did we learn ?

We learnt the process could deliver new investable ideas, and that it was also possible to pull together cross functional global teams to work efficiently and effectively on discrete projects. But there are definitely some improvements we’ll make next time. For example; we didn’t build in enough time for pitch coaching for the teams and particularly the panel (Follow this link for our previous blog post on tips for pitching to an innovation panel . Also; the initial Innovation Live Lab could have been spread over two days, so the teams could have had more time to practice customer interviews. Hearing feedback from the teams, the bit that scared them the most was getting out of the building and talking to real people, but in practice it was the area they found most useful and the framework they are most likely to use going forward.

What did people say ?

Here’s some of the feedback…

“We’re confident now we can come up with an idea or research and make things happen? I can’t believe it!”

“It was great to work with people I wouldn’t normally work with!”

“I enjoyed the pitch battle much more than I thought I would and felt really confident in our idea.”

So, if you fancy a chat about our ‘Innovation in a Box’ programme then please get in touch at Or if you would like to learn more about the role of viral learning in building highly effective teams then please contact

#innovation #designthinking


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