How to build an innovation culture - The NORD/LB way of getting started

“We have many highly-skilled and clever people working at NORD/LB - the Design Thinking Academy could be a prototype to take a new point of view and unleash further innovation potential” explains Thomas Linnemann, Head of Transformation Management.

Empathy work? Prototyping? Exploring a challenge and new solution without having a predefined blueprint of the result in mind? At first sight, this approach sounds rather unusual for a traditional regional bank.

"Establishing an Innovation Lab, hiring innovation experts working on multiple innovation projects  - we did not want to follow this 'classical' innovation approach. With Design Thinking we are trying to achieve an organic step-by-step growth and a further evolution of our culture towards more innovation, collaboration and user-centric thinking”.

To use the current momentum and further work in this strategic direction, around 40 NORD/LB employees from different areas are joining the so called NORD/LB Design Thinking Academy, spending three days once a month between April and June to work in small multi-disciplinary teams on organizational challenges. Between those monthly workshops, the teams continue working on their action plan to identify, test and iterate fresh ideas adressing the user's specific needs.

“We set the dimensions of our strategic HR competence model as a starting point to identify the relevant challenges the teams are working on during the academy”, explains Anja Marzuillo, Head of Group Organizational Effectiveness & Human Resources. “The exploration and definition of the actual challenges in these dimensions is based on user needs and insights the teams discover in their empathy and research work.”

“Re-design the orientation experience in the professional development journey”, “How might we help talents to work more flexibly?” or “How to transfer the power of informal networks into formal structures and procedures?” These are some of the challenges specified by the teams. Also the setup of the internal Design Thinking Academy was defined and rolled-out by a small and heterogeneous team of internal and HPI coaches, young talents and supporters in a fast, efficient and professional way. The motivated organization team made sure that the whole workshop program is running smoothly and the mixed HPI-NORD/LB coaching team worked out a detailed plan and agenda, defining the customized learning milestones and deliverables.

“A professional organization and execution is essential for the good perception and high acceptance of the academy's content and principles by the participants and the wider bank. Besides this professional attitude, fun is a key driver and catalyst of creativity within the Design Thinking process. Last but not least, the direct and action-oriented approach with high usability in daily business are important to have a direct impact and relevance for the teams.” says Mike Galicija. “All attendees invest significant time to run the workshops and work in between – we want this to to be paid-off e.g. in tangible elements and practical tools that could be quite easily used and integrated in everyones daily business." The NORD/ LB has just published their annual report 2015, also celebrating  the bank's 250th anniversary. “The anniversary reminds us of our proven approach to evolutionary develop the banks strength while never stop questioning successful approaches to find a meaningful new path” says Gunter Dunkel, Executive Chairman NORD/LB in the foreword. With this great encouragement, the teams will continue to pioneer fresh ideas and explore the opportunities of the Design Thinking cosmos. We will keep on reporting about this innovative journey. 

We will keep you posted about this new Design Thinking pioneer case. For any information about the Design Thinking implementation program PROFESSIONAL TRACK, feel free to contact Charlotte at Charlotte.Dreyer@hpi.de and take a look at the HPI Academy website http://hpi-academy.de/en/design-thinking/formats-for-individuals/professional-track.html