Berlingske Media institutionalises innovation with annual “Innovation Day”

Editor’s note: This is one of 17 case studies featured in INMA’s strategic report “How Media Companies Embrace the Process of Innovation,” released in November.   

Since 2010, Berlingske Media has recognised innovation as the core of its business strategies. In fact, the news media company has institutionalised it: “It’s the driving force of our business,” says Lisbeth Knudsen, chief governing officer. 

The company defines innovation as “dedicated, creative, and successful implementation of new ideas that create value for the company, the employees and/or the customers.” It involves renewal, added value, realisation, and is an ongoing process. 

Creating and maintaining an active innovation environment demands constant attention, as well as communication and follow-up. Otherwise, reports Knudsen, it dies in a busy everyday work life with deadlines and many specific projects: “Therefore, we have, over the years, worked with a variety of actions to support the ongoing innovation process.” 

The process has full support of senior management, which encourages the organisation to “think big” and not just focus on “low-hanging fruit and small initiatives.”

To help employees understand the process, the company publishes an innovation guide and related articles on its Intranet. It provides rewards for good ideas, sets aside an annual Innovation Day, and integrates innovation into the budgeting process. There are also post-workday meetings and competitions — with employee voting, innovation coaches, and a “mind lab.” 

Innovation is also part of the “cultural project” in human resources, where tools and behaviour are supported and included in an ongoing educational programme for project manager/talent/leader training, as well as for new employees.

This is a way to develop both skills and culture around involving customers and collecting knowledge in the belief that this is the basis of good innovation.

The objective of the innovation programme has been to give the entire organisation a common understanding of the need for innovation and the curiosity to search for new possibilities. Berlingske Media wants to challenge and break down its silos, and to introduce and learn a joint set of innovation tools, which can be used on a day-to-day basis.

The process itself goes from idea, to screening, to next steps, which depend on the type of idea and its complexity. Then the process moves on to implementation and follow-up. The organisation has learned that “it is not the creative ideas we lack, but a deeper understanding of how we meet our customers’ needs.”

This applies particularly to its younger audience, and to this year’s focus on the customer, placing “customer experience management” at the top of the organisation’s agenda. 

Each November, the company rewards the best new business development initiative of the year. The winner could be an external product or an internal work — a smarter idea or a process optimisation.

The nomination process and awards are posted on the Intranet, and all employees are invited to take part in nomination, voting, and celebration. And while a winning idea is announced annually, many of the smaller ideas have helped move the company’s approach to both processes and products — and made it smarter.

“Our Innovation Day is the most visible manifestation of the way we work with innovation,” Knudsen says. “All the organisation’s 1,700 employees participate in devising new ideas. …It is a way to promote our products in a new way to our sales forces. Twenty new ways to address our touch points are just some of the results of our Innovation Day, but the innovative culture is the core result.”

Below is a snapshot of some of the ideas of the last five years that have been selected as the very best in the company. The process has evolved over the years, Knudsen explains.

“In the beginning, when we introduced innovation as a concept in the company, it was a very open process where we did not define topics for the (innovation) day. The employees were free to come up with suggestions and ideas. Gradually, we realised that a more controlled topic makes a better framework for creating ideas. …It creates FOCUS.” 

But there remains room for employees to suggest “everything under the sun” on the innovation forum on the company’s Intranet, she says. And while the quantity of ideas has dropped, the quality has gone up: 

• 2010: Open forum (451 ideas generated). Until that year, the company issued newspaper bills by postal service. The new idea was to make it possible to also send them electronically by e-mail and SMS.

• 2011: “Customer-centric” (208 ideas generated). The winning idea was a suggestion to take advantage of the many creative resources that were already in-house by offering graphic design to a greater extent. Examples include business cards, posters, brochures, and Web sites.

Other ideas that took root in 2011 were a travel programme called “Sweetdeal Travel,” a locally based discount app, and a children’s newspaper called “Kids News” for young children (that newspaper reached its yearly target after only six months). 

• 2012: “Tomorrow’s unique media experiences” (208 ideas generated). The winning idea was based on development plans on combined product sale of payment apps. The company decided that in the longer term, it would offer its subscribers the opportunity to build their own digital newspaper: Buy from all Berlingske Media’s newspapers and combine your own newspaper on your iPad. 

• 2013: No I-Day, but the Intranet was re-launched.

• 2014: “Ambition for more” (159 ideas generated). A total of 112 groups signed up to complete a three-hour workshop on the year’s theme, translated into: 

  1. Ambitions for more in its relationship with clients. 

  2. Ambitions for more in its day-to-day tasks. 

  3. Ambitions for more for its products. 

There were three winner ideas in each category. The big winner was a loyalty programme for customers, in which customers earn points every time they buy a deal, subscription, or other products from Berlingske Media. These points can be used to purchase merchandise in the customer club or to buy Sweetdeals. The goal of the idea is to retain existing customers and attract new.

• 2015: On the company’s Innovation Day this year, all employers worked to meet their customers — internal, external, or desired. The head of each department or group pre-selected the “customer” to work with, arranged a meeting on Innovation Day, and selected the type of meeting to be held: interviews in the street, a visit to a high school class, a panel of business leaders, core readers, etc. 

The focus was on improving the way the company works from the outside in. That meant increased focus on the sort of problems that must be solved for customers, involving the customers themselves in the innovation process and in testing the innovative projects such as a mobile service, BiTE, for people aged 15 to 30 years old that have seen enough interest to believe that the idea shows promise. 

For Innovation Day, the company front-loads an inspiration kit to all managers with various methods of “meeting” and examples. The methods have been collected from the Danish design environments and international innovation specialists like IDEO. All departments de-brief their most important finding from the customer meetings to a special Web page on the Intranet. De-briefing could be pictures, video, or text. As a follow up to I-Day, the best customer insights were posted as articles on the Intranet. 

“We have created a mindset within the organisation where innovation, revenue idea generation, product development, and audience reach is at the core of our way of working,” Knudsen says. “We have transformed the culture into a culture where all employees embrace new ideas and in teams across various departments engage in development of new projects.” 

About L. Carol Christopher

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