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18 May 2018

Blog post: Building a culture around innovation and creativity

In the first of our blog posts, Nick Burton, Drive Mentor and Belron’s Chief Information and Digital Officer discusses how our startup accelerator programme is helping to encourage inquisitive thinking in Belron’s people and, as a result, is shifting the business to value curiosity as a behaviour.

When we set out to create the Drive programme, one of our key objectives was to use the opportunities it gave us to work with startups as a way to kick start a different way of thinking about changing our culture and mindset, particularly in relation to innovation and creativity. There was a sense that ‘just being close to people who think different’ would rub off onto our own people and we would be more innovative as a result. The reality was clearly a bit different to that…

What actually seems to have happened, is that Drive has given people permission to be more curious about what other organisations are doing, how they approach things, how they think and this is helping us to become more innovative and more creative.

Curiosity is the key word here though – because it’s by being curious that we get thinking about things – how they work, why ‘Y’ happens when ‘X’ is done, how something small can have an outsized impact. Drive provided the permission to spend time being curious, and people have started doing it more often, for more time, and in more places, and it’s this curiosity that leads to innovations ‘happening’.

How have I seen this happening? In lots of ways, but here are a few key ones:

  • We are generally more open to working with startups, and I see many people researching what is happening within these smaller companies and using their insights to drive different thinking about how to solve a problem or opportunity we have.
  • Our people are starting to experiment more. We’re becoming more comfortable with the idea that we can do some work on an idea, and it might not succeed, but that there was value in doing to work to find that out because of what we learned along the way.
  • We have started to value curiosity as a behaviour – perhaps it will soon be one that we are all measured on through our 360 feedback from colleagues!

It’s very hard to change culture. Belron is at heart a very operationally focused business – it’s by striving for perfect operational execution that we have been successful in the past, and this is clearly something that we don’t want to lose. By making it clear that we encourage curiosity through programmes like Drive, we are signalling that the activity is valued, and that helps the seeds of innovation to germinate. I’m very intrigued to see what they turn into.