Have you ever wondered what live in a beehive is like? Pretty busy I would like to think. If you happen to be in the hub, go see HYVE Innovation Austria, “Europe’s first one-stop-shop for innovation” as managing director Michael Maier puts it. The Austrian affiliate consists currently of 4 people and works closely together with the headquarter in Munich. HYVE has been tenant in the hub from the very beginning. Earlier this year they moved in their own space. And their place of work is just as busy and buzzing as a beehive, at least that is what I learned from Michael and his colleague Laura Lunzer, Junior Innovation Consultant, in the interview.
weX: Laura, Michael, thanks for meeting me. With what kind of problems can customers turn to HYVE?
Michael: With all kinds of innovation-related topics. At the beginning of every cooperation with customers we analyze the situation or the problem. After a thorough understanding of customers and their needs, we start developing ideas. In doing so, we work customer-centric and, thus, bring products and solutions to the market that people really need. Unfortunately, many companies still tend to innovate within their company borders, using a so-called closed innovation process. They come up with a new idea, develop it and bring the product to the market. The success might be great, but most of the time it is not. These companies seem to forget that their product is for people, but they forgot to ask them what they want and just produce a good/service they assume people want. We use the so-called open innovation process, which means that we use external knowledge, for example from customers, experts, or our HYVE crowd, to innovate. From the very beginning we work closely together with the customers and end-users and together iteratively develop the new concept – all the way from the first idea to the final product.
weX: What else is important to consider in the innovation process?
Laura: We try to be very specific and hands-on from an early stage on. Innovation is not just a creative process, small results should be visible quickly. It is important that you follow structures, such as first focusing on the problem and then the solution, and work in a disciplined way sticking to deadlines, however, still reacting to changes in an agile manner.
weX: In what way does it help your business to be in the hub?
Laura: The weXelerate hub is a location where one can actually feel openness. Our customers almost always comment on the open and innovative vibes when they come to the hub.
weX: How can one picture the coming about of a project?
Michael: There are two projects that show perfectly well how we work. One project is the RBI Intrapreneurship Program called Innovation Garden that we have developed together with Raiffeisen Bank International. The setup is the following: At the beginning there is an idea-contest that lasts for 6 weeks followed by a two-day innovation jam. The intrapreneurship program lasts for three months, where we offer mentoring and coaching. In doing so, we guide teams through the innovation process until the development of a prototype and final pitch, where the board decides which concepts are further pursued in the MVP phase. These training sessions and workshops were held at weXelerate in the 2018 program.
And the other project was with Nivea. Could you tell me more about it?
Laura: Yes, certainly. Initially, we were faced with the fact that at this time many companies were promoting deodorants and competing by selling deodorants with the longest-lasting effect. With the aim of developing a radical innovation in the field, we did some research, and it showed that some people were concerned with the stains that deodorants leave on t-shirts. When we first introduced the idea, we weren’t sure whether the problem of deodorant-stained shirts was big enough for the mass market, so we started a little experiment: Employees of Nivea were asked to send in their deodorant-stained t-shirts and in return they would receive a new one. The outcome of the experiment couldn’t have been more revealing: Within a few days we received piles of stained shirts. So, the idea was taken up and together with lead users and experts we developed the Nivea black-and-white deodorant, one of Nivea’s most successful products.
weX: That sound like really cool projects. Thanks so much for the insights.
Laura, Michael: Thanks, it was a pleasure to give some insight into our daily business.