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Let the people closest to the user build innovation

Michael, CEO of Plant Jammer, shared with us crucial insights on how to continuously innovate and how everyone is included in the innovation process.

At Plant Jammer, everyone is included in the innovation process and every single one of the 12 employees talks to their users in person to gain a better understanding of their needs. Their focus on user-centered innovation is so crucial that they even have a sociologist on the team who schedules meetings with users.

Three years ago Plant Jammer was founded based on the belief that individuals could do a lot better at reducing food waste. According to Michael, the food industry is going into the wrong direction. The established habit of easier and faster food has a negative impact on human health and signifies a depreciation of the meaning food has in society. 

Plant Jammer supports the customer in making use of what is still available in the kitchen instead of wasting it. This is enabled through an artificial intelligence that generates recipes and cooking instructions. 

 

How to stay innovative - Michael from Plant Jammer says:

Take a venture capital approach to innovation

Managers in successful corporations often get too overconfident in predicting, which of their innovations will be successful. Unsurprisingly, more often than not,they get it wrong. As Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahnemann states in his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”: “The illusion that we understand the past fosters overconfidence in our ability to predict the future”. Instead, take a venture capitalist approach to innovation: of 40 companies, it is impossible to know which one will be the most successful. So, instead of guessing, venture capitalists invest in all of them. Similarly, all employees can have great ideas and the CEO won’t be able to judge from the beginning which ones will be successful. Therefore, innovation should be a collaborative process giving everyone in the team the chance to contribute.

Main Takeaway: Don’t focus on one person’s ideas but be open to suggestions from anyone in the company. 

 

Include and encourage everyone in the team

Innovation happens spontaneously–the more structures there is, the more we sacrifice innovation. However, some structure is necessary. For instance, the creation of a safe and inclusive space. Employees need to feel encouraged when speaking up and sharing ideas. As a tool, Plant Jammer uses a Slack channel for everyone to share ideas and ideate on suggestions of team members. 

Main Takeaway: Use tools like Slack to collaborate on ideas but establish an inclusive culture first.

 

Make your team fully understand the customer

Plant Jammer uses Slack not only for internal collaboration. Instead, all the customer feedback is directly integrated into a Slack channel so that the whole team sees the feedback. Only if people in the team understand the customer, they can come up with relevant innovations. People in the team take turns to then personally address customers’ requests and feedback. The sociologist in the team schedules meetings with individual users. Another employee is invited to the meeting in order to interact with the user and gain new insights. 

Main Takeaway: Let every member of your team talk to the customer - also the developers.

 

Encourage personal interaction within the team

Last year, Plant Jammer went to Spain for one and a half months to work from there. This change of location not only helped to break out of everyday working life but lead to a much closer interaction of everyone on a personal level. Personally opening up to your team and spending time together will foster an innovative culture.

Main Takeaway: Switch your office location for some time to change perspectives.

 

Incentivize people to innovate

Setting up a system where employees can use 20 percent of their time on their own projects will motivate them much more to use their creativity and come up with ideas (e.g. Google uses this concept).This fosters intrapreneurship and might lead to disruptive business ideas. The company culture has to be supportive in evaluating and pursuing those ideas.

Main Takeaway: Let people work on their own ideas and projects as part of their working time.

 

Create a supportive culture

At Plant Jammer, there is very little hierarchy. Michael, the CEO takes all the final decisions, but the whole idea finding process is very collaborative. All employees are extremely close to the users and are encouraged to share ideas and give input for change. Creating a great work culture also helps in challenging times. In the everyday life of start-ups, funding often becomes a problem. Having the team on the same page to support each other is therefore crucial for success. Employees will be much more understanding if salaries can not be paid right on time.

Main Takeaway: In terms of crisis you need to have understanding and supportive employees.

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