INNOVATIVE ELECTROLUX, PART 2: Part of staying at the forefront of innovation is making certain that you seize all opportunities. How does a company like Electrolux take its projects from idea to reality?
Joachim Rask, Vice President Innovation Operations for Electrolux Group, facilitates the innovation agenda to make it happen. We asked him how a company like Electrolux seizes the opportunities.
Q: Opportunity activation is one of the main parts of the innovation agenda at Electrolux. What exactly is opportunity activation, and why is it important?
Rask: Opportunity activation is all about getting our ideas out of the door. Having a process around opportunity activation is crucial as it helps us ensure that we are getting our products to market more quickly. We can’t sit on an idea too long. We need to move fast.
Two things are important here:
- Walk the talk: Show that it can actually be done. There’s no point in introducing a new way of working unless it works in real life. Find projects where you have taken an insight to an innovation, and highlight these projects as best practices and leverage the learnings.
- Outline the process: What is it that needs to be done in terms of product development and commercial launch? Do we have a solid consumer insight as starting point? Do we have the technical capabilities? How can we incorporate what we learned in previous projects? We need a process that encompasses all the important items to consider and ensures we can do it repeatedly.
We also spend more time in the beginning of a project (“frontloading”) so that it goes quicker in the end. This is a shift in how products are developed at Electrolux. Just five years ago, projects were taking a lot longer to come to completion.
Q: How is Electrolux able to transform ideas into products, over and over again?
Rask: Our process for innovation activation helps us. The process defines everything to be considered. It’s also important to work cross-functionally in order to move quickly.
Sometimes we have almost all the information we need to start a project. Other times, we just have a vague idea. If we’re missing information, we use an exploration process called Insight2Innovation, which defines a number of different steps to consider. What do we have? What are the gaps? Then we fill the gaps with customer and market research to generate insights. We craft a value proposition and outline a rough solution.
A few of Joachim Rask’s recent favorites
Electrolux Masterpiece blender and food processor with our own PowerTilt technology: The blender is tilted 10 degrees so that ingredients are perfectly blended and chopped. The innovative feature is visible through the design.
Electrolux GourmetHeat Lamp: These beautiful lamps above the kitchen countertop keep food at the right serving temperature by using infrared heating.
Q: How do you know that you’re focusing on the innovations that will deliver?
Rask: The innovation agenda uses consumer insight to identify spoken and unspoken needs. When we find an unspoken, unmet need and translate it into an innovation, that’s when magic happens.
But it’s hard to open totally new categories. Often it’s more a case of identifying smaller innovations related to existing products. An example is the Custom-Flex refrigerator, where we give consumers the opportunity to organize both the door and the interior however they want. It’s not a new market, but it changes the way you look at fridges.
The innovation agenda takes the stellar ideas and transforms them into concrete products that deliver. Coming up with ideas is not hard. Bringing them to life is. The innovation agenda, including opportunity activation, ensures that we do this and we do so as quickly as possible, so no time is wasted.