It takes a village to make innovations fly

It takes a village to make innovations fly

What open innovation has taught Finnair.


Like many organisations, Finnair is taking baby steps towards finding the smartest way to funnel creative ideas into actual products and services. As part of our collaboration with Slush, the Nordic’s biggest startup event, Finnair introduced its Pitch for Future initiative to employees and partners in late 2017. What did we learn? Here are four key takeaways:

1. Speak to internal and external players

We used one platform to source ideas from Finnair employees (internal) as well as from startups and creative types (external). Both Pitch for Future activities were a success, in terms of quality and number of ideas received. We were in awe! We have already moved forward with the winning idea and if the results look promising, we will then implement a proof of concept with customers at the end of this year.

2. Bring innovation closer to everyday operations

Within any organisation, it’s good to have a team to scout and filter down open innovation, who then take the ideas forward to the business teams in a structured manner. Many times, open innovations fall prey to existing strategies and roadmaps, which are sometimes full. How can an organisation secure room for new, perhaps even distant solutions that maybe are not so refined or have no clear revenue potential? It’s worth considering an 80/20 rule.

I believe that digital transformation success is about user-centricity – the user being our employee or our customer.

3. Understand what you are looking for

At Finnair, we decided to filter open innovation towards more “ready to implement” ideas and solutions. This way we can focus our resources on developing an appealing offering to our end-users together with the potential partner, tweak the solution to fit the needs, and get fast results through quick end-user validation.

4. People, people, people

Acting as a catalyst for innovation within a larger organisation requires good networking, knowledge of the current strategy, existing roadmaps, and first and foremost, people. Buy-in and commitment from business teams is a result of people believing in innovation and its long-term value for the company. The same applies to your innovation partners. Be open and honest and align objectives for innovation. Leading innovation into implementation is not always easy. To be honest, it’s difficult and you’ll for sure encounter hiccups down the road. But then again, that’s the beauty of it when you’re advancing towards something new. Make sure to always enjoy the path less travelled and don’t be afraid to fail either.

So how can we do better? Finnair is eager to bring in more agile, dedicated, and engaged people, and we are equipped to learn fast. With all this in place, we are ready for the next round of innovation challenges.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject! Connect with me on Twitter @ntasviir

P.S.: We are proud to be the host airline for @IATA The AIR Hackathon Lapland Nov 30–Dec 2! Now is the time to plan your trip to #Levi!


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