Interview with Dawn Philip - Head of Innovation at Rand Merchant Bank

What is your role at RMB?

Dawn heads up innovation for RMB. She is a facilitator, co-ordinator, orchestrator but not an owner of innovation.

What do you think of the concept of Idea Management?

Idea Management is a few things for me and RMB:

  1. It is the gathering of ideas and making sure you get the right ideas and getting them from as far and wide as possible. There needs to be a breadth and depth in the idea management process itself.

  2. Filtering the ideas so that you get the right calibre of ideas coming through. You need to filter out the ideas that are impossible to implement because of legislation or ideas that are strategically relevant.

  3. Ensuring that you focus on the ideas and look for opportunities to get those implemented within business and demonstrating verified business benefit.

What are the key elements of Idea Management?

Idea Management starts by asking the right questions, ensuring you have the right crowd, and getting the right engagement from that crowd. It is about getting people to trust the system enough to take the risk by putting their idea out there.

It is important that different types of users are accommodated. Dawn believes users fall into the following groups:

  • Active contributors of ideas (Ideators)

  • People that are better at connecting people (Connectors)

  • People Dawn calls maximisers which are people who look at ideas and immediately see how to build it and apply a future back approach and they know where to focus (Maximisers)

  • Then the people that implementer the ideas. (Implementers)

The right criteria needs to be used for an idea to graduate into a project. These criteria look at crowd engagement around the idea, and content of the idea.

What role does Idea Management have in Innovation?

Dawn sees innovation as a formula:

Innovation = Idea + Implementation + benefits

All three elements need to be present for innovation to be there. Idea Management is the first piece of the formula, and it is a critical piece, because you want to make sure you not only have the right idea, but the best solution to the problem.

Even if people put in terrible ideas into the Idea Management system she welcomes them because they can be a trigger or a catalyst for something else.

How does your company currently do Idea Management?

Our platform is called FUSE and is a cloud based,ideation, crowdsourcing platform that allows us to engage across all the FirstRand brands, RMB businesses and into Africa.. It allows a CEO to challenge a defined space ( business unit, an area within that business unit or a challenge that runs across a number of businesses) to work together to solve a specific problem.

The idea management process is divided into five time based phases:Imagine phase:

  1. Collection of as many ideas as possible – 3 weeks.

  2. Collaboration phase: People comment on the ideas submitted – 2 weeks.

  3. Luminary review phase: Asking the experts to assess the ideas that have come through. The expert are directly aligned to the area of the challenge. – 2 weeks.

  4. Pair-wise phase: Asking the crowd to rank the ideas selected through the luminary phase and identify which ideas will go through for judging. – 1 week.

  5. Executive evaluation: Choose which ideas to go through for judging. Normally between 10 and 15 ideas at this stage.

After judging the ideas are selected for implementation.

Have you had any successes?

It has been absolutely fantastic and what has surprised Dawn is the staff engagement. Feedback she has received is that it feels like the staff members finally have a voice and RMB can actually hear what they would like to say. This is very encouraging as this isn’t what RMB initially set out to do but is a wonderful success to have.

Something to watch out for is that some ideas selected for judging have already been implemented within the company and some ideas are not implementable for a variety of reasons (i.e. regulatory restrictions). Dawn has now made a decision that if an idea is not implementable it should be identified early and not sent through for judging. People get discouraged that their ideas can’t actually flourish. People really want to see their ideas come to life – it is not just about the money or the recognition which is very interesting.

As RMB gets more experienced running idea management iterations she is seeing better challenges coming through which results in better ideas.

Dawn believes that the executives are noticing employees who are actively participating in the ideation process and taking the time to apply their mind and positively contribute to the success of RMB.

What are your plans for Idea Management in the future?

They want to track ideas and see how they progress to the point of implementation. Really seeing them flourish and the benefits from them. They are going to invest more time into the implementation and benefit pieces of the innovation formula.

They plan to change the challenges themselves from being simple and easy, used to get the idea management process started, to being directly linked to strategy so that we are working as a collective to solve the critical business challenges.

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