That’s the prologue, as Mette Munk, Head of Product Management & Marketing at the company, tells it. “We wanted to work our way towards improving control of our product development – to set up a better ‘front loading process’. At the same time, we were keen to generate more ‘organisational energy’ to allow us to come up with even better ideas – and even more of them. So we had actually planned to create a special room that wasn’t subject to the same culture as prevails in the office buildings; a place where the development and marketing departments could work together,” she says.
For this reason, OJ Electronics was more than happy to accept the offer of a design consultation with D2i when the opportunity presented itself via a staff member who, while attending an innovation course at Design School Kolding, had heard about the chance of setting up such a consultation. According to Mette Munk, expectations mainly had to do with “picking up some tools for the more playful side of idea generation”.
There was more in store from the designers, however. Innovation is not a single room OJ Electronics manufactures products for controlling heating and ventilation. A little more than half of the portfolio is made up of the company’s own standard products, while the rest comprises OEM products that the company sells on to other manufacturers. In both segments, OJ Electronics has recently recognised the importance of generating even more innovation in the very earliest phases of a project so that the company can become more proactive in relation to the needs of the market. And, it was agreed internally at the company, this would demand a very special place to work with innovation. This idea was challenged as soon as the designers stepped onto the field: “Innovation is not generated in a single room. Even the finest physical setting cannot help generate innovation and new ways of thinking unless the culture and overarching philosophy follow suit. The primary aim of the consultation was to help OJ Electronics start to ‘play seriously’ at all levels of the organisation. The best route to achieving this is to ensure that the opportunity and the desire to innovate are present at all times and in all departments. That is why we made sure to focus from the very start on ways to implement new approaches to thinking and working in the daily processes and activities, rather than focusing on how to decorate an actual room.
The emphasis was more on the way you work, the methods and tools you use, and how you make this visible and easy to share,” explains Kim Aagaard Holm, Design Consultant at D2i. For this reason, the focus of the design consultation was on presenting a range of creative tools and – in particular – on training the company in how to use them so as to make OJ Electronics a self-perpetuating organisation in relation to optimal innovation processes as quickly as possible. Really useful knowledge Just three months after the designers’ ‘flying visit’, staff at OJ Electronics are already beginning to see the first tangible signs that the new knowledge works – and can be applied. “We have subsequently developed a toolbox packed with some of the things we were trained to use at the consultation,” says Mette Munk, Head of Product Management & Marketing. “We have cherry-picked those tools that best match our culture: idea generation, personas and storyboards. We have printed them on large posters which we can hang in all our meeting rooms. At the same time, we have produced a little ‘cook book’ that provides an introduction to how to use the various tools, so that everyone can use them efficiently,” she adds. She goes on to explain that staff at the company have become a lot better at working with open and closed approaches, i.e. being able to say ‘we’re working with idea development now, everything’s possible’, and then, at some point in the process, saying ‘OK, it’s time to decide what, exactly, we’re going to do’.
Mette Munk relates that the entire new set-up has been extremely well received: “Even though you might think that our engineers would be a bit sceptical about a playful method like this, they’ve given a positive reception to everything. It’s as though they’ve been dying to have us turn the spotlight on this kind of innovation. In fact, we already have two tangible projects in the pipeline where we’re working with the designers’ methods.”