“I have failed again and again in my career. That is why I have succeeded.” The quote is attributed to basketball star Michael Jordan, who was aware of the value of continuing to try without being afraid of failing. The same approach has characterized the working method of Innovation Lab at Følsgaard, where the goal has not been to score goals on the basketball court or to develop advanced, fully finished, and functional solutions.
“At Innovation Lab, we have worked to visualize problems and solutions in new ways to be able to evaluate concepts in a short period and for little money,” says Kristian Førby Pedersen, Product Manager, and supervisor of Innovation Lab. “In other words, we need to be able to fail quickly and cheaply, over and over again, to be able to see the challenge from all angles and truly understand the problem. That way, we ultimately arrive faster at the best results because we get to try as many potential solutions as possible in the process.”
If instead – as it often happens – you use all your resources to develop a realistic and almost production-ready prototype early in the process, you will all too often be bound by that prototype, according to Førby. It has been expensive to develop, and therefore it risks locking the process in a certain track, even though there may be better solutions: “With a more flexible and often practical approach, wecan test different approaches and spend time understanding the problem. Then come the good solutions. “
Collaboration with the Danish Institute of Technology
In collaboration with the Danish Institute of Technology, eight skilled employees have participated in a 12-month program, where they have been trained to identify and validate market needs, how to create systematic and measurable progress in innovation, collect and apply relevant information about technologies, markets, and end-users and how to perform ongoing market tests and experiments.
“This has formed the basis for the first version of our Innovation Lab, which we will be expanding further in the future,” explains Kristian Førby. “As we see it, with this competence boost we have established a corps of ambassadors who will both inspire and help colleagues, be aware of new opportunities and be available to customers when we need to get to the very heart of a particular problem to find the right solution among countless possibilities.”
The search for the perfect concept for the task Innovation Lab has paved the way for working with development and asking questions in new ways. If suppose we are to create results and assign options as cheaply as possible. In that case, it may also be relevant to work with new presentations of the possibilities – perhaps it should be built with cardboard, sketched on paper or in other ways take shape to get evaluated. Is our approach right? Is there anything we have overlooked? Should we involve specialists from other departments or maybe the supplier?
“With the Innovation Lab mindset, we further open our organization to customers and suppliers. We are available as a bridgebuilder and have been given some useful tools to ‘power up’ the development process,” says Product Manager Kristian Førby from Følsgaard. “To dive a bit deeper, we work withthe concept of MVIS as an approach, and this can help strengthen the organization and our customer partnerships.”
MVIS stands for Minimum Viable Innovation System, and in short, it is a functional solution with exactly the functions, features and benefits that create value for Følsgaard and the customer. The solution or concept must not necessarily be able to ‘solve everything’, but be adapted to the task, solve the specific problem and do it in the best way possible. Part of MVIS is also to gather feedback to constantly become more knowledgeable about customers’ challenges and build on the accumulated experience and insights.
How will customers benefit from it
Kristian Førby: “Our customers are typically highly specialized companies, which are often the best in their field. It can be within technology, energy, transport, and similar sectors, where they often belong to the leading and agenda-setting companies. But this does not mean that they are ready to develop and test all the subcomponents they need. Even large manufacturers and skilled service providers may need development assistance and a direct line to subcontractors.”
Customers will therefore feel the effect of the internal Innovation Lab at Følsgaard by giving them access to development resources, problem solvers and sparring partners who can help make things happen. The approach to problem-solving makes it possible to fail quickly, cheaply, and often in the concept phase instead of when the product is nearly finished so that everyone ultimately has the experience of having developed the right solution for the task.
A natural path for Følsgaard
A large part of deliveries from Følsgaard are products and solutions that are customized or further developments of the customers’ own brands. Therefore the establishment of HF Innovation Lab and the work with principles such as MVIS is a natural step forward and part of the core business although many still perceive Følsgaard as primarily a trading company.
“We do not know what will happen in five years. We do not know exactly what solutions will be needed and where product development is going. Therefore, we need to be a step ahead all the time and be a qualified partner and counterpart that can strengthen our customers’ position in the market. At the same time, we qualify as the best choice for manufacturers and suppliers, and this adds value to our partnerships,” concludes Kristian Førby Pedersen, Product Manager at Følsgaard.