So what exactly IS innovation? Why does it matter? And how can we see into the future? We chatted with the head of our Innovation Hub Tove Chevalley who explains all.
Hi Tove! For people who don’t know you, what is your background and what brought you to your current role at Electrolux?
Tove: I’m from a mid-sized town in Sweden called Eskilstuna. As a kid I dreamed of becoming a professional basketball player but had to one day face the hard reality that I did not have the height to do it. Before Electrolux, I had many fun and challenging roles, first as a digital marketing consultant and then working with running for Adidas – the best innovation school you can have! I have also run my own company, supporting clients within brand and innovation and that’s how I ended up here at Electrolux as they as a client asked me to come on board.
People have different views on what innovation is. What is your definition of innovation?
Tove: When I think of innovation, I see the process of uncovering recognized and unrecognized needs, exploring possible answers to them, to then define a solution (be it a product, service, technology, communication, business idea or process) that in an effective and desirable way solves that need in a completely new way.
Anyone can come up with great ideas – it’s the hard work of putting them into action that matters; finding new solutions that actually makes a difference in people’s lives that also provides a return to the company.
Why is innovation important to Electrolux?
Tove: At Electrolux, innovation is crucial. We’ve set really challenging sustainability targets for 2030 around sustainable eating, better clothing care and wellbeing in the home and we know the solutions we have today are not enough. What brought us here will not take us into the future. So using the power of innovation to see new solutions to complex problems, improving the lives of people while helping the planet is a must for us.
So tell us more about the Innovation Hub that you Tove launched in October 2019.
Tove: The Innovation Hub is a tool for Electrolux to create a space, both physically and mentally, where we allow ourselves to go beyond our current portfolio of products, solutions and business models and step in to the future to explore, learn and define new solutions to these complex challenges that we and the world are facing today.
It’s worth saying we as a company have tried different accelerators and incubators before, as all companies have, but the key with the Innovation Hub is having one foot in the present and one foot in the future. By doing that we can go beyond our boundaries while also shaping important landing spots for new solutions. But, important to remember, all companies are different and in constant transformation. What works today for us might not work for someone else or tomorrow. We constantly adapt how to strive towards our objectives.
When you talk about the future, how do you know what the future looks like?
Tove: You can’t predict the future. Nobody can. But what you can do is look at the different signals that are happening in the world and all around us right now. By connecting those different signals with what we as a company believe in, we can define where we see the future going, who we want to be in that future and how can we use innovation to take us there. It’s about creating a North Star to steer towards and jointly explore different paths to get there.
Is it even possible to take an (almost) 102 year old global company such as Electrolux and make it think and act like a start-up?
Tove: Yes! If you look back at our history, we’ve been entrepreneurial and innovative from the very start. And we’ve kept evolving and responding to new needs. Look at the 1950s when we created the modern kitchen and tools that liberated housewives and enabled them to go back to work. Then today, we continue helping people live better lives while also working to help the planet. We’re on a constant journey where we always need to adapt as a startup to stay competitive but utilize our size to scale fast. To help keep the company evolving, I see my job very much to constantly inspire people with the question “where are we going?”, and removing roadblocks to allow them to be innovative and creative in whatever role they’re in.
What does your team look like?
Tove: We have found a very interesting model that allows us to utilize amazing capabilities to steer our innovation initiatives while strengthening our overall innovation muscles. In my team are Nick Sakellariou and Camila Serpa Soares who will lead Taste and Wellbeing initiatives respectively and we will also appoint a new lead to oversee Care. Then we have a very strong collaboration with design, R&D, technology, marketing and so on to source competences. By doing this, we grow people not only within the Innovation Hub but actually in the whole company.
You work with colleagues internationally across Electrolux. How does innovation work differently across various cultures and markets?
Tove: Often we think we’re so different but we’re actually not. We all have the urge to push the company forward. We have fantastic people with great knowledge and ideas around the world. My job is to help them unlock it. It’s not just about listening to people, but giving them the tools to be as creative and innovative as possible.
Can you give us some examples of innovative solutions that help in the kitchen, with laundry care and with wellbeing in the home?
Tove: The Steam oven is the most used product I have in my home. I love it! It offers an exciting cooking technique while also helping me prevent food waste by making me re-heat leftovers.
Within laundry, our innovations have amazing benefits. For instance the concentrated wash that enables a more caring wash cycle than any other thanks to the way it activates the chemistry in detergents. And then there’s the Heat Pump Tumble Dryer that dries with half the energy and at more or less half the temperature, a huge care and sustainability case.
Within Wellbeing, an example of an innovative, sustainable business model is the subscription service we offer customers in Sweden so they can rent rather than purchase our Pure i9 robotic vacuum cleaner. And last year, we launched a prototype vacuum cleaner made from 100 per cent recycled and reused materials which we’ve now taken and developed into a 90 per cent recyclable vacuum cleaner that we hope to launch on the market soon.
Electrolux recently launched the Better Living 2030 initiative, looking for young minds between 15-20 years to explore solutions to create a better, more sustainable future. What role will you and your team play?
Tove: I’m so excited about this initiative. We normally focus on the customers we serve today. But it’s crucial that we listen to the change makers of tomorrow. I can’t wait to explore together with them. Our team will work closely with them and other experts as part of a ‘Team of Change-Makers’ to push ourselves to define completely new clothing care solutions that help people care for their garments in a more sustainable way.
As well as new clothing care solutions, can you give us a teaser into any other projects you’re working on?
Tove: Later this year, we’ll also do the same work to define new solutions for health and wellbeing in the home. And there’s a lot cooking in the kitchen right now. We’ve defined what we believe is the future kitchen. We’re also looking in to plant-focused preparation tools. Watch this space…
You say your role is ‘fun, challenging, hard, exciting and very rewarding’. What’s the fun part and what’s the hard part?
Tove: What’s fun is getting to work with great people internally and externally who want to make a difference and help us reach our 2030 targets. What’s hard is making it a reality. But fun and hard are not the opposite – they can be the same thing. It’s hard to change the status quo and keep on pushing people in a new direction but that’s also what makes it the most fun as when you do make that change the reward is fantastic. You just have to be stubborn, positively challenge and have a lot of grit to make it happen. You don’t work in innovation to take the easy path.
Lives: Stockholm, Sweden.
Hobbies: Running and baking
Top tip to thinking creatively: Be around kids and ask a lot of “what ifs”