How Bupa has been sparking breakthrough innovation
The best way to learn how to do new things is to talk to people who have already done them. At our Forum network events, we give our members and partners the chance to learn from companies that have taken the plunge and have used new processes and new initiatives to try to produce the kind of “breakthrough” innovations that we need to create a brighter future. At our recent “Mini Revolutions” event we invited Bupa, IDEO, Sony and Unilever to share their experiences - good and bad - of different innovation techniques. If you couldn’t make it to the event, never fear, Beth Worrall from Bupa has written this blog to share how they have managed to harness their staff’s interest in environmental issues to come up with some really innovative ideas.
At Bupa, we are committed to keeping people well and supporting a healthy planet. To help us do this, we recently announced our “Well World” goals. One of these is to reduce our global carbon footprint by 20% by 2015. Like many companies, cutting carbon in a growing business requires some “out of the box” thinking. To help us kick-start action toward this goal, we worked with Forum for the Future to create the global Spark! Carbon Innovation Challenge.
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The first step was to run an internal communications campaign to let people know what we were doing and to encourage people to sign up to the challenge. This led to 10 teams being formed around the world with employees from Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, Denmark and the UK getting involved.
The next step was to come up with the innovative ideas. Forum for the Future held a mix of in-person and tele-presence workshops over five months to help teams to come up with the ideas and to develop them so they were ready for the judging panel. Ideas were submitted for judging in April and each idea was illustrated, helping to bring the concept to life.
We brought together an eminent judging panel comprising of senior Bupa leaders and experts from Forum for the Future, Usable Buildings Trust, British Institute of Facilities Management and design agencies. The panel reviewed the ideas and picked the winners.
All teams received constructive written feedback on their ideas and there were five winning ideas who received a share of £250,000 funding to implement their ideas, which was locally matched. Winning ideas varied from employee behaviour change programmes to green IT and to state of the art lighting pilots in our Bupa Care Homes.
A Bupa team in New Zealand get 'stuck in' to innovation
So what did we learn? Key reflections
- Bupa employees have passion for environmental issues, and see Bupa’s carbon commitment as a very positive thing. Spark! was a successful way of empowering them to consider practical action and to feel a sense of ownership on this global goal.
- Working with external experts like Forum for the Future gave this process an added credibility that made participation in the programme more desirable.
- In addition to the “prize pool”, a significant investment in time and money was needed to make the idea development stage a success. For example, whilst it was tempting to consider virtual options for the workshops, those that were delivered in person were more successful in securing buy-in from our employees.
Feedback from participants is being gathered in the next few weeks, and that will help us decide whether and how we might run Spark! again.
As a central coordinating team, we have learnt a lot from managing this initiative and I think if we do go ahead with another carbon innovation challenge, we will be looking to make the experience bigger, bolder and more impactful!
This is a guest blog. The views expressed are those of the author, and are not necessarily endorsed by Forum for the Future.