Wind the clock back to November 2013. Nestlé asked themselves a simple question: 'Can employees be great innovators?"
Inspired by great creative collaborators of the past such as Disney's Imagineers and Apple's Intrapreneurs, could Nestlé become pioneers in the rapidly changing world of FMCG?
With 260,000 digitally-connected employees, the potential was huge, but the challenge was even greater. Could innovation happen at this vast scale?
An innovation team at Nestlé realised that the employees behind the ideas were just as important as the ideas themselves, and so their approach to internal innovation became people-focused from the very start.
Employees submit their ideas to innovation challenges, aiming for the opportunity to pitch to high-level management, Dragon's-Den-style. The InGenius team invests heavily in idea-submitters who reach this stage by coaching them, co-developing their concepts, and validating prototypes over a period of eight weeks.
The result: Idea-submitters become intrapreneurs – they learn how to research, ideate, prototype, test, and pitch, all with the aim of making the best business case for their ideas. The funded solutions are accelerated to pilot testing.
Nick De Blasio, Employee Innovation at Nestlé
No matter who you are or what you do, if you are passionate about solving a problem or creating an opportunity, you can submit an idea. InGenius is a way to allow our employees to find a voice and a platform for their ideas.
InGenius's goal was to encourage ideas when and where they happened naturally, and to ensure there was a process in place to nurture the intrapreneurial individuals who emerged from the process.
Strong sponsorship from critical figures within the business, e.g. the Head of IT, helped drive awareness, and one of the incredible aspects of the InGenius initiative is its longevity: 6 years later, it's still going strong!
Momentum was maintained in part by the stories and videos created as a result of successful idea submissions, with other employees able to see that time and money was invested in the campaign – their voices and their ideas were really being listened to. The InGenius microsite created a home for a real community to emerge around the initiative.
Kev D’Silva, Employee Innovation Nestlé
InGenius is a great example of bimodal thinking within an organization, combining both stability and agility.
How can a small innovation team support employee innovation in a huge organization at scale? Nestlé had recently launched Microsoft Teams and Workplace from Facebook for internal communications, which had quickly connected 120,000 employees. This offered great places to reach people and open up dialogues around innovation.
To leverage Workplace as a platform for employee ideas, InGenius partnered with Sideways 6, a platform to manage innovation campaigns which integrates with enterprise social networks like Workplace. The new way of collecting ideas from Workplace proved invaluable for a company as large as Nestlé to quickly and effectively engage as many employees as possible.
This integrated approach helped increase employee engagement by over 90%. A far greater number of employees are able to respond and comment on ideas, helping to build networks, refine the ideas, and create greater exposure for innovation campaigns. Everybody wins!
Anand Dass, Director, Platform Partnerships Workplace by FacebookCombining the power of Workplace and Sideways 6 has enabled Nestlé to tap into it's huge digital community and turn collaboration into innovation.
So far, 4,800 ideas have been shared, and 67 projects have been funded across the world. In one way or another, 63,000 employees have interacted with the initiative - enough to fill a football stadium!
For Nestlé, the main impact of the initiative has been on the individuals and teams who've been involved as intrapreneurs. This, of course, refers to the idea submitters who've been nurtured, mentored, and seen their visions come to life, but the inclusive nature of the initiative also educated all employees that they didn't have to submit ideas to make a difference. Collaboration and support for other ideas is just as important!
Beyond this, it has been estimated that multiple millions of dollars have been saved as a result of the projects that have been implemented.
The success of InGenius is evident in the stories and innovations that have evolved from the initiative.
While some address global challenges, such as consumer tracking of eco-friendly Nespresso deliveries and virtual reality for onboarding experiences, others are simply delightful, including our personal favourite – local Korean rice cake flavoured kit kat.
The world is at Nestlé's fingertips thanks to the InGenius initiative, and their commitment to innovation means they've only just scratched the surface.
The Nestlé Story