I’m an innovation coach at Bayer and as such, part of the coach network Innovation@E&T (E&T means Engineering and Technology – the department, not the field) as well as the overall Bayer innovation coach network. It means that I’m trained in systematic inventive thinking (SIT). I can coach WeSolve challenges. I’ve dabbled in Design Thinking, especially interview techniques. Via the innovation network, I can propose your ideas for funds to help transform them into projects to make them reality. Basically, if you are in E&T, I can help you make innovation happen (or solve your problems). And if you’re from another department, I can at least connect you to someone who can help.
It’s truly amazing how much energy Bayer invests into setting up the innovation coach network. The training is excellent and the amount of support we get from corporate helps a lot in getting started as a coach. Most of all, it shows that yes, we truly mean it: innovation is important to us as a company. Many new coaches are all fired up when they leave the training to apply their newly acquired knowledge of systematic innovation towards the business challenges in their area. I know I was.
But what do I actually do most of the time? Outreach, and Communication, and Events (for outreach and communication). It’s harder than we initially thought to get people’s attention towards the new, shiny, cool tools and toys that we bring in as coaches. It’s disheartening sometimes: we’re here to help, please let us help! But as experience from other change management projects has taught me, change takes time – even if it’s change towards something cool. And people are mostly not actually disinterested or even critical, they just have a lot of other things competing for their attention. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of people at the forefront of innovative thinking – but they are still in the minority.
In my conversations with the fabulous people from SIT, I’ve learned that other companies face similar problems. They are paragons of undying optimism that it can and will change if we just keep at it, and I believe them. Most of the time, anyway. So I talk with people and plan events and try to make the information as bite-sized as possible, all in order to ease everyone into the idea that hey, innovation can be easier if you know the right tools. In a way, it still is a lot of experimentation, just different than I imagined in the beginning. We are iterating around the question “how can we make innovation accessible”? In the end, we will have a broader toolbox to implement cultural change, which will be invaluable for other tasks and jobs to come. Creating the framework for people to have that awesome new idea or to solve a long-standing problem is rewarding in its own way. It’s not exactly what I expected to focus on when I started in this role, but in the end it’s something I’m personally more excited about than any single innovative idea.