How do you tackle employee retention, customer engagement, industry-wide threats of disruptive innovation and regulatory pressure all in one go - in a highly competitive risk averse industry with 190 years of company success to safeguard?
If you see Stephen Ingledew, Marketing Director of Standard Life on your travels, he will tell you how it can be done. Stephen has worked with the Chief Technology Officer at Standard Life to marry the best of IT with the best of marketing. This is a collaborative victory that means big data is now being used to deliver personalised marketing on a mass scale. But the headline facts of this partnership hide the depth of what has been achieved.
Lots of people ‘talk’ about creating a culture of innovation.
A great deal has been said about the importance of introducing a culture of innovation if companies are to fend off the threat of disruptive innovation. Building flexible thinking in to well-established but risk-averse industries like financial services, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing is of vital important in times of constant change. But to be clear, I am not talking here about launching a never-ending stream of new products, in the hope that some of them stick. This is about putting in place root and branch innovation to build sustainable competitive edge.
If you follow the example set by Stephen and his team, you will see this is as much about letting go of total control as it is about creating the right circumstances for new ideas to flourish. Less zen-filled bean-bag creativity, more giving people the confidence to try.
What principles created a culture of innovation at Standard Life?
These sound deceptively simple. But they are working, because there is real commitment to them:
- Ship out the HiPPOs – ‘highest paid person’s opinion’ has to defer to the views of people closest to customers.
- Get people sitting in different seats – physically and metaphorically.
- Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
- Delegate responsibility and let people live up to the challenge.
- Accept that failure is part of learning - help people ‘fail fast’ and move on.
- Above all, get everyone working to one simple common purpose.
- In this case ‘solving customer problems better’ was the focus of everything.
Supportive board members are a must. Building an innovative culture is a long-term play, not one that is focused on short-term returns.
So back to those results.
The threat of disruptive innovation still exists, but by increasing the strength of end customer relationships, Standard Life is building up brand trust to sit alongside technological agility. While outsiders may match the latter, the former is tough to replicate for an unknown fintech.
What Standard Life have avoided in the battle against disruptive innovation, is the people policy of ‘out with the old, in with the new’ to generate new thinking. Core skill sets have instead been cross-pollinated with pockets of entrepreneurial stardust, so that accepted wisdom is challenged but not dismantled out of hand. Talent and enthusiasm are clearly nurtured here– rarely have I heard so many people rave about their day job, at all levels of an organisation.
And as for industry regulation, Standard Life teams now work in close collaboration with regulators in just the same way as they work with internal compliance teams. This means that they are no longer on the back foot, reacting to new legislation, but are stood at the forefront helping regulation keep up with consumer need and technological advance.
If it makes you feel any better, I hear Stephen’s baking skills need a bit of a polish.
This is a snapshot of what Standard Life have achieved over the past three years. A fuller case study will be available in August that looks at each of the strategic goals in more detail:
- Embedding a culture of innovation;
- Employee retention & talent management;
- The ‘56 Degrees’ model of customer engagement;
- Managing multi-channel innovation in an era of disruptive thinking.
To reserve a copy email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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