Accelerating innovation at an already innovative company

INNOVATIVE ELECTROLUX PART 1: Making your company more innovative is not really about increasing the number of resources or introducing new processes. The key to genuine innovation is the company culture.

A few years ago, Joachim Rask and Anton Lundberg, both working within Innovation Operation, received a challenge from Electrolux Group management: ensure that Electrolux accelerates innovation and stays at the forefront.

At the time, Electrolux was already one of the most innovative companies in its industry. So, how does a highly innovative company become even more
innovative?

Q: First of all, why is innovation important to Electrolux?

Joachim Rask, Vice President, Innovation Operation, Electrolux Group

Rask: Electrolux was grounded on innovation. Our founder Axel Wenner-Gren always used to tell the story of when back in 1908 he had an aha moment – a vision of how to make the vacuum cleaner lighter, more user-friendly and something that every household could afford.

He embodied a culture of innovation, design and consumer focus when he was active in the company. Nothing was impossible.

Being innovative is a necessity for a company such as Electrolux, but simply being innovative is not enough. We are working in a competitive market, and we need to be innovative to stay ahead of the pack. The innovations we focus on need to be ones that consumers are willing to pay for, and they need to be on the market as quickly as possible.

Q: So, how does an already innovative company accelerate innovation?

Rask: The answer, we came to find out, was a holistic innovation agenda focused on three key perspectives, all centered around the consumer:

  • Focus the strategy (Strategy development): Ensuring new products and services are developed around specific focal areas, which will strengthen the Group’s brands and help achieve profitable growth.
  • Exploit the opportunities (Opportunity activation): Taking projects from idea to reality, and doing this often, again and again, to ensure all opportunities are harnessed. Keeping the innovation pipeline full.
  • Build an innovative culture (Organizational engagement): Encouraging a culture of innovation and collaboration. Capturing and utilizing the tribal knowledge of the company.

Electrolux Innovation in numbers

  • Increase in number of planned innovations within focus areas: on average 75% year-on-year
  • Employees collaborating in this year’s Electrolux iJam: >7200
  • Ideas from employees generated in this year’s Electrolux iJam: >1100

Q: What sets Electrolux apart in terms of innovation?

Rask: Our innovation agenda is unique. What others want to do in theory, we’ve put into action.

We involve a large number of employees in our innovation work and make certain innovation takes center stage in a number of different ways.

One particularly successful example is an annual event called iJam. Over a 72-hour period, employees get together in an online forum to brainstorm around a particular theme and vote on and discuss each other’s ideas.

This year’s theme was the future of fabric care, and together more than 7200 employees generated over 1100 ideas.

It’s a fun way to ensure that our innovation pipeline is always full, being fueled by the company’s tribal knowledge.

Most importantly, the winning ideas from iJam get funding for further development. A number of these ideas are now in our product pipeline.

Q: How else do you involve employees?

Rask: Another way we foster a spirit of innovation is with iLab, a space for creative meetings at Group headquarters. Some of the most recent innovative products are featured on a wall, which we have dubbed the “Innovation Wonderwall.”

The iLab space is also home of our iChats, which is an internal version of TED talks, held every other Friday.

We also recently launched a new iLab concept: weTalk. It’s also where employees get acquainted with the Group’s products by tearing them apart – literally.

The location of the iLab was selected carefully – it’s in the entrance of our headquarters. All visitors and employees pass by it every day and can see what’s going on inside through the glass. Innovation transparency in action!

Q: Which new products have been released since implementing the new agenda?

Rask: Too many to name! Our business sectors are doing a great job of developing innovative products.

A few of Joachim Rask’s recent favorites

AEG ProCombi Plus Smart

Electrolux/AEG connected steam oven: The first ever oven with integrated camera, giving consumers the tool to master cooking through their mobile devices.

Electrolux Wave Touch dishwasher

Electrolux Wave-Touch dishwasher: The SatelliteSpray arm offers four times more water coverage, so all your dishes come out squeaky clean. The dishwasher also has three racks instead of the usual two.