Innovation Box: Think inside the box Egmont International has made innovation systematic. A special “Innovation Box” on Insight is the key to the system. Niels Almer / Corporate Communications / firstname.lastname@example.org/ Photo: Steen Brogaard and others
Egmont International, which covers Egmont’s com panies outside the Nordic region, is a leading Euro pean publisher of books and magazines for children and young people. The division is financially fit, generating annual revenue of approximately EUR 300 million, or about 20% of Egmont’s total revenue. However, Executive Vice President Frank Knau explains that the division has set its sights high, aiming to generate revenue of EUR 500 million in 2010. Attaining this goal will take more than geographic expansion and acquisitions alone – innovation will also be needed. In Frank Knau’s view, successful innovation comprises multiple elements. First, an innovation structure needs to be in place. This structure can only be created with the support of the division’s top management. By the same token, innovation is a cornerstone of Egmont International’s business strategy. However, structure alone is not enough. A successful innovation process depends on having employees who can contribute ideas as well as the resources to support and follow up on these good ideas.
A suggestion box A page on Insight makes the innovation concept tangible for all Egmont International employees. This is where they can upload their ideas for products or processes, and the page has space for all sorts of input. Called an “Innovation Box”, the page was launched last October. An “Idea Manager” has been appointed in each country to help employees develop ideas. At last count, the box contained almost 200 ideas.
Executive Vice President Frank Knau believes management back-up is crucial to the innovation process.
Frank Knau explains that once an idea has been developed and assessed to have value-creating po tential for consumers, the next step in the process is the evaluation phase, where the idea is presented to an innovation board. During this phase, the innovation board provides feedback: Should a business plan based on the idea be developed? Is more research needed? Can the idea be used locally? To date, at least 20 ideas have reached the evaluation phase.
Great ideas are rewarded To support the innovation process, Egmont Inter national has an incentive system that encourages would-be contributors to pass on their ideas. An idea is easier said than done so ideas that become a real ity are up for a cash reward. The division is also planning “The Egmont International Awards” for winners in five categories: best company of the year, best idea of the year, best innovator of the year, best communicator of the year and best employee of the year. As Frank Knau explains, the award is intended as a mark of recogni tion of both good results and hard work. The innovation box has existed for almost six months and enjoyed resounding success at Egmont International. The future challenges for the innovation process are primarily how to stimulate and strengthen consumer and customer focus and how to bring external partners into the innovation process. Innovation is not only about how to get new ideas, but also about how to take different action in developing existing processes. From this perspec tive, it becomes clear that countless initiatives can be added to the innovation process to maintain momentum. Frank Knau concludes by citing Costas Markides, an external speaker at the recent manage ment conference in Vilnius: “Innovation is not ideas, innovation is making ideas happen!” And Egmont International has a clear focus: Implement some of the ideas generated by the innovation process as fast as possible.
Mom&Me – two magazines in one “A magazine for me and my mom” is the working title of a product that combines two magazines in one publication: A section for children and another for their mothers. The idea is the brainwave of Viktoria Ivanova, editor of the youth magazine BRAVO in Bulgaria. Targeting both groups increases the chances of attracting potential readers and thus of gener ating higher advertising revenue.
The magazine will be free and financed by advertising income. Unlike traditional editions of these publications, found at cafés and movie theaters, this magazine could be distributed primarily through such channels as kindergar tens or children’s play centers. The Innovation Board has evaluated the suggestion, and an Idea Manager is currently researching the relevant marketing data for a magazine of this type.
Innovation Box on Insight
Knowledge exchange Foreign Rights Manager Sabine Arenz from Egmont Verlagsgesellschaften, Cologne, has suggested that the division promote knowledge exchange by rotating employees, for example. The Innovation Board has given the go-ahead for the idea, which primarily has internal value for Egmont. The purpose of Sabine’s idea is to exchange knowledge and best practice
What happens to your ideas?
throughout Egmont International. By exchanging knowledge, employees can learn about each other’s specific projects and develop new skills. Having received feedback from all the division’s managing directors, the Innovation Board is now evaluating Sabine’s idea. The aim is to launch some sort of exchange program later this year. Sabine Arenz
1. An employee uploads an idea to the Innovation Box 2. An idea manager passes on promising ideas. 3. The Innovation Board evaluates all submit ted ideas and returns feedback to the idea managers. 4. Together with the idea’s originator, an idea manager develops a business plan to support the idea. 5. The Innovation Board rejects or accepts the proposal and allocates funds to the project.
Defiance – dynamic driving force Producer Louise Vesth from Zentropa is the invisible woman behind the Danish TV success “Clown” (a Danish version of the US comedy series “Curb Your Enthusiasm”). Louise sees innovation as the ability to create a matrix within which talent can flourish, openly admitting that innovation, like much else at Nordisk Film film studios, is not systematic. Louise considers this a strength. Christian Bjerregaard / Nordisk Film / email@example.com / Photo: Steen Brogaard
How do you define innovation? For me innovation is about the ability to create a matrix that gives the talented individuals who work with what we term “artistic necessity” the latitude to defy rules, norms and authorities.
Are creativity and innovation the same? Hmm …..creativity means filling out a given structure, but innovation is about breaking molds and creating new ones. In the film milieu, creativity is often about content, while innovation typically has to do with processes.
Is Zentropa an innovative place? A place can’t be innovative but people can. We are only as good as our managers and employees. As I see it, Peter Aalbæk Jensen has created the conditions for every producer, editor and any other professional to shed con ventions and norms. This development has been crucial to Zentropa. We are defiant, we express ourselves without restraint, we have attitude – qualities that generate dynamism but also difficulties. Defiance, confrontation and catalysis are often pivotal forces for art in movies. Defiance is a dynamic driving force. Things often only happen when you shout “Shut your face!” at your boss, and he barks “Ditto!” back.
Do you work systematically with innovation? Zentropa doesn’t have overall strategies for anything much – maybe because Peter Aalbæk Jensen hates PowerPoint! We simply don’t own the equipment to create a presentation. We take things as they come. Our corporate culture governs decisions. And I have to admit that I’m not sure whether a systematic approach can even generate renewal or innovation.
What conditions have to be in place for people to be innovative? Great determination to make what you believe in happen, whatever the cost. We’re hyper-sensitive, always on the edge, always on the side of the film, film above all. People who make movies and TV fight for their art, sometimes even with Zentropa as the adversary. Always keeping in mind, of course, that we can only spend money that we actually have. We have to be prepared to go all the way, to put ourselves on the line to make a difference. At Zentropa we’re willing to draw attention to ourselves and be de liberately provocative in the name of creativity. Maybe that’s why Peter Aalbæk and Lars von Trier so enjoy baring themselves.
Producer Louise Vesth: “At Zentropa we’re willing to draw attention to ourselves and be deliberately provocative in the name of creativity.”
Why do you think many people consider Zentropa innovative? In an industry where conditions are often volatile, and in genuity is needed, we have successfully hired people who are provocative. And provocative people create headlines and awareness.
When are you personally innovative?
I do occasionally challenge the matrix: Our movie “Life Hits” didn’t qualify for public support because no one believed in the movie or the script. But I insisted on finishing the job, and we made the movie with a ludicrously small budget. If I’d done as everyone else said, “Life Hits” would never have been produced. I got lucky because it sold 110,000 tickets and did well on DVD too.
I’m not really innovative in the traditional sense, but I create the conditions that allow others to be. However,
Louise Vesth – in brief n
34 years old
Hired by Zentropa in 2001.
In February 2008, Nordisk Film acquired 50% of the company Zentropa Folket
at the National Film School of Denmark.
“Clown”, “Life Hits”, “Kick’n’Rush”
and “How to Get Rid of the Others”. n
Zentropa in brief
Zentropa board member.
Zentropa was established in 1992 as the result of Lars von Trier and Peter Aalbæk Jensen’s collabora tion on the movie “Europa”. The company differs from its main competitors in having a decentralized and autonomous organizational structure that cre ates space for new ideas and alternative produc tion methods. This company culture has attracted some of the best directors to Zentropa and been the cornerstone of groundbreaking projects such as the “Dogma concept” – an idea that has inspired countless directors the world over. Over the years Zentropa has expanded its activities beyond the Scandinavian borders, success
fully establishing several production units in Europe. The company also works with many other European production companies and is always interested in new partnerships Zentropa movies enjoy worldwide critical ac claim and have garnered the most prestigious film festival prizes, including The Golden Palm and The Silver Bear. Zentropa has furthermore represented Denmark at the Oscar Academy Awards on three occasions. In February 2008 Nordisk Film became co-owner of Zentropa when it acquired a 50% stakeholding in Zentropa Folket Aps.
Innovation stop press:
Zentropa establishes the Brille abefond foundation Louise Vesth recently became the admin istrator of Zentropa’s new Brilleabefond, a fund intended to secure the existence of elite movie-making in a world of increasingly revenue-fixated TV stations and film com panies. The fund makes an annual award of DKK 6 million in contributed capital to Danish filmmakers. Awards are made at the sole discretion of film director Lars von Trier and go to films that explore the idiom and/ or content of the film medium. The first project to receive support from the fund is Anders Klarlund’s feature film “Memories”, a violent, erotic and chilling movie about a woman’s recollection of the events that led to her waking up, completely battered, in hospital. Shooting is slated to start in summer 2008, and the movie is expected to premiere in 2009.
“Employees at Avedøre and Valby have always enjoyed good personal and professional relations and respect,” said Michael Ritto, managing director of Nordisk Film, commenting on Nordisk Film’s
Louise Vesth is the invisible woman behind the Danish TV success “Clown”.
recently attained status as co-owner of Zentropa. He is seen here with Zentropa’s Peter Aalbæk.
The next steps… In January Egmont held a management conference in Vilnius focusing on growth and innovation. The conference has kick-started several new initiatives and projects that have propelled the innovation theme to the top of the agenda throughout Egmont. We asked four managing directors about their approaches to innovation and about how innovation processes will unfold in their particular departments. Anne-Sofie Stampe / Corporate Communications / firstname.lastname@example.org
How has the Egmont conference in Vilnius inspired your work with innovation? We have regular Friday brainstorming meetings involving all office employees and have started using models from the Vilnius conference to evaluate new ideas. We try to challenge our preconceptions in all business fields and in every situation.
How has the Egmont conference in Vilnius inspired your work with innovation? Above all, by putting innovation on the agenda. Next, by incorporating our innovation work in the overall strategic plan that we are implementing. I believe working with innovation in a targeted way and understanding how it fits into the big picture are crucial. It’s the only way we can make sure that innovation creates concrete value relative to the primary challenges facing a given business unit. How will the innovation process unfold in your department? Specifically, by adopting the innovation model developed by Egmont International. Initially, we will implement a practical version of the model where employees can e-mail their innovation suggestions to idea managers. One manager concentrates on
Bruno Barbic, managing director, Egmont Croatia
How will the innovation process unfold in your department? Our upcoming teambuilding days will be fully devoted to innovation at Egmont Croatia. We will try to get the idea and spirit of innovation across to all employees. We will probably set up a local Innova tion Box (read more about this on pages 4 and 5, ed.) to which all staff can contribute ideas not suited to international use but that may benefit our local business. If an evaluation shows that an idea also has international potential, it will be added to the in ternational Innovation Box as well. Some colleagues have already been awarded the first prizes for new ideas. The awards were presented in front of all employees to show our satisfaction and to motivate others. All ideas generated at our weekly brainstorm ing meetings will be published on Egmont Croatia’s Insight pages, where everyone can get ideas when working with a related topic.
Rolf Bangsgaard, Director Creative and Development, Egmont Serieforlaget process-oriented innovation while the other focuses on product- and concept-related innovation. The two idea managers will assess and qualify all suggestions before sending the best ideas to a small decisionmaking group that will ultimately decide which proposals get the green light. A working focus on innovation is an entirely new approach for us, and that’s why we will be implementing ideas by using the “learning by doing” method – in other words, we will test the ground and adjust the model as we go.
“A working focus on innovation is an entirely new approach for us, and that’s why we will be implementing ideas by using the ‘learning by doing’ method,” explains Rolf Bangsgaard.
“We have regular Friday brainstorming meetings involving all office employees,” says Bruno Barbic.
Bernd Jürgens, Marketing Director, Egmont Horizont Verlag How has the Egmont conference in Vilnius inspired your work with innovation? Egmont International had already started the innovation process in 2007 when it held a kick-off meeting in London and published an innovation box on Insight. In my role as idea manager at Egmont Horizont Verlag, I try to manage the whole process in our department. The two wonderful presenta tions by Costas Markides and Herman Gyr, external speakers at the Vilnius conference, added impetus to the idea. Personally, I try to challenge processes and meetings based on the “we’ve always done it this way” approach.
“I believe recognition is the way to innovation and change,” says Carsten Kjelde.
Carsten Kjelde, CIO, Egmont IT How has the Egmont conference in Vilnius inspired your work with innovation? Since the Vilnius conference, over a few sessions, I’ve presented selected parts of the conference content to my organization. I believe recognition is the way to innovation and change, a theme echoed at the conference. The messages and examples were extremely well received and stimulated constructive discussions in the company.
How will the innovation process unfold in your department? I’ve started holding brief weekly creative meetings where I test a range of creative techniques on different groups of colleagues and invite employees from all departments. We use the meetings to understand how the various techniques work in specific contexts such as product development and advertising concepts. We are also installing a “blue room” in the company where employees can meet to exchange ideas or simply relax and take a step back from their work.
How will the innovation process unfold in your department? I intend to let myself be inspired by Egmont Inter national’s process and implement the routines and forums necessary to support the overall innovation process. Since we have an internal service function in the group, for our part the innovation process will have a dual-track: one track where we scruti nize our internal IT systems and another where we look at our relations and the services we deliver to the Egmont Group’s business units.
“I’ve started holding brief weekly creative meetings where I test a range of creative techniques on different groups of colleagues,” says Berndt Jürgens