Lomig Unger is an expert in collaborative innovation framework, with a 15 years experience in innovation and R&D, and 11 in the car industry. Creativity, open innovation, rapid prototyping, design and implementation of disruptive innovation framework, hold no secret for him. He shares his thoughts on his Blomig blog.
Deeply involved in Renault Creative People initiative, he draws some lessons from this ideas-sparkling entity.
N Bry: What is the origin of Renault Creative People in a long-running innovation company such as Renault? (long story of creative cars, new innovation approach such as project-based innovation, so called ‘creative units‘). Did you need to revisit innovation approach?
L Unger: Renault Creative People is part a whole set-up dedicated to innovative design inside the company. We’ve been working for a while now with the MinesParisTech School in Paris, precisely the Centre de Gestion Scientifique (CGS) leaded by Armand Hatchuel. For more than 10 years, we’ve used the C-K theory as a framework of our activities in the company. The team I worked in, headed by Dominique Levent, has 3 main missions:
- Strategic & technological intelligence;
- Boosting creativity inside the company;
- And being connected to actors outside of the company to share concepts, knowledge, links, thoughts and so on.
For 5 years now, the team has been running an Innovation Room, a small room dedicated to Innovation, which shows innovative objects from outside the automotive world. This room, situated in the Technocentre (main engineering & design center), can be seen by every collaborators, at lunch time.
Its goal is to inspire, and allow to think out of the box. Its target is to bring knowledge too, as every exhibition in this Innovation Room, focused on a wide theme (such as “Frugal innovation“, or “Biomimicry”), comes with external speakers coming to explain their views on the subject, either academics or companies.
Renault Creative People is dedicated to “internal creativity” mission : after every exhibition, we ask people – all over the company – to propose ideas related to the specific theme.
What are the core activities of Renault Creative People: online forum for ideas, incubator, ideas workshop, creative lab? How do they jigshaw together? How many people take part in the activity, how many ideas, and projects soar?
The first activity is call for ideas on the forum. A call for ideas is focused on a theme, and an email is sent to 68 000 collaborators. We just ask people, if inspired by the subject, to propose ideas on a forum.
The inspiration here was, and still is, the 20% projects at Google or Pixar dedicated to free exploration. Part of my job was to sort all these ideas, and link the “feasible ones” to the expert inside the company.
Another part of my job was to be an “innovative design coach” to help some of the original ideas to grow. Promise is simple : if you want to work on your ideas, join the “incubator”, and you will have some help, and a place to explore, try, draft, prototype : The Creative People Lab. This Lab has been created with Mickaël Desmoulins, my partner on the subject (both engineer and designer), and with the help of some of the Creative People, mainly one I want to mention : Ivan Ravelomanantsoa, a true maker, and coder.
For every email sent to 68 000 persons, we have about 3 000 visits on the forum, and between 100 and 200 ideas proposed. All this lead to a synthesis I made, showing all of the ideas in a graph (feasibility – originality), some illustrated to show what imaginaries people caught on that subject, and to 2 or 3 workshop dedicated to original ideas (new, or asking good questions).
Workshops are handled in the Lab, where we have every tool & methods to help people making ideas become a little more concrete : video, C-K method, drawing, storyboards, business model canevas, machine to make our own cards, 3D printers, laser cutter, and so on. Our creative Lab is inspired by the TechShop philosophy, and the FabLab concept. It’s both a creativity room, an internal coffee, and an internal FabLab.
Does Renault Creative People have an international span? What countries are active in the ideation process?
Yes, definitely ! Every collaborator who has an email is reached by our call for ideas. Romania, Brazil, a lot of people come on the forum to be part of the call for ideas. A lot of collaborators are willing to be part of the ideation process, and Google translate is commonly used on the forums. An Iranian colleague proposed lot of ideas, and came to France to visit us, visted the Lab, and we are trying these days to find ways to keep working with him. Our will is that such innovative set-up should essaim in other countries/sites.
What are the typical outputs of Renault Creative People ? Is there one that seems to you exemplary?
Outputs are on different level. First of all, it changes the company culture. We try to instigate a different way of working : more agility, more fun, more try & learn attitude !
Every workshop / worksession in the Creative Lab is a way to create that mood, and to create innovative dynamics between people. Almost every workshop also leads to new business models, and to interesting question challenging the company.
Every incubators / workshop generates knowledge and concepts sharing, and sometimes unearth new concepts. Every incubation is an opportunity to strengthen concepts. From the idea, to its application, a lot of design effort has to be done, and we’re cleary on the “front-end of innovation” part.
It’s very important to underline that, as innovative design team, our job is not to develop new ideas, but rather to explore and produces maps. Ideas that we build are always shared with the company, and we start a “seduction” process by showing the ideas value.
How do you bring creative ideas back to the mainstream? To what end does the incubation process go? (until new concept is well documented?) Do creative ideas follow a specfic development path, or are they reinjected in regular roadmaps? Are some ideas at the basis of a separate business line?
Standard deliverable of an incubation is simple : people connected to the idea, knowledge used as insight for the design work (mostly images), concept evolution from the beginning, and a draft of a concrete solution (if it exists). Most of the time, the guy in charge of the incubation has more than that (files, thoughts, plans, and so on), but we try to have at least those key elements.
We are working at that time to create a specific process for the incubated ideas, to give them more means to exists and grow. We try to learn as our Lab is growing.
Does Renault Creative People facilitate or handle Open Innovation initiatives for Renault?
We try to, of course. In fact, we think of it as an internal Open Innovation tool. We also try to invite external actors, partners to every workshop we organize in the Creative Lab. Never think alone in a corner, but always challenge our thoughts with others.
What results make Renault top management satisfied with the work achieved at Renault Creative People? What are their expectations?
I believe our direct managers were satisfied with the fact that we’re both on the ideas/concepts/prototypes, and also on the way of doing things, on the “making” process. Our Lab is a tool to produces drafts of products & services, but also a way for the company to be a learning company. This is consistent as we are committed to innovation : both to the process of innovating, and its fruit.
The expectations of the top management is yet to be defined. Of course, best ideas and concept are plugged to the existing processes, and shown to people able to buy it. But our goal is clearly to change the company’s culture, and to be part of the innovative effort.