Post Danmark participates in the innovation consortium Community-Based Innovation with a desire to improve their employee-driven service innovation process. Based on a test case within the business area of welfare distribution, Post Danmark gained access to new insights into the knowledge their employees possess and to the services they provide.
|The process: Input – focus and conscious decisions:|
• Employee-driven innovation with a focus on the development of new or improved services
• Technology as an enabler
• Food Delivery Services for the elderly as a test case
Input – focus and conscious decisions
The market for postal services has changed dramatically parallel to the development of the internet and the increasing digitization of communication. Post Danmark has therefore launched a major restructuring and development of its business model. As part of this process the company management wants to build an employee community that holds a profound knowledge of work processes and customer experiences. At first, the aim of the innovation process was to find a way for the business developers in the organization to extract ideas and knowledge from frontline workers. Their considerations circled around the use of mobile technologies to collect situated input and transfer them to a digital forum for knowledge sharing.
|Throughput – activities and concepts:|
• Preliminary ethnographic field studies, where three researchers followed three postal employees in their daily work
• Discussion and brainstorming on the basis of insights from field studies
• Development of the app prototype for data collection
• The second round of field studies and further development of the concept
Throughput – activities and concepts
The concept development was based on observations and interviews with employees during their daily delivery of food to senior citizens. The intention was to uncover what kind of knowledge and what kind of ideas of relevance to Post Danmark the employees have. These characteristics are essential for the choice of technologies for data collection and design of the virtual platform. As postal employees behave in many different contexts throughout the day and also have to follow a strict plan, it was decided to develop an app for smartphones that can run continuously in the background or be activated with very little effort - a light squeeze on the wrist of their uniforms.
This early prototype was then tested in use and the data collected were analyzed in order to expand the concept in a meaningful way.
Postal staff navigate daily in a dilemma between the elderly's need for attention and care and the logistical planning with constant time pressure. This has given them a unique experience and expertise, which is interesting in a business development perspective. For instance, employees provide a substantial amount of work that is invisible to the organization when they are conversing with the elderly or help them with practical problems in their homes, where they generally also check that everything is ok with the elder citizen or request assistance and inform others if they do not open the door or have not touched the previous days' meals. Thus, care is an essential part of the service, but this is not clear from logs, schedules and statistics.
The ideas and the knowledge among the employees are tied to some of the many physical touch points on their route, and it can be difficult and costly to codify and verbalise so that it will become possible to share it in an online community.
The smartphone is mounted on the uniform of the postal employee and collects data all the time, or when desired. Based on sudden changes in sound level, intensity of movement and time spent at a location a reflective tag is created that may be printed out or accessed with a tablet. Representations of the specific situations are shown as triangles, each containing a pixelated image where the blur, in addition to respecting privacy, is meant to provoke interpretation and reflection on the events. The impression of light intensity and color, together with measurements of noise level and motion activity are causing an ambiguity about situations and experiences on the route, which may open up new observations and understandings that may give rise to ideas. The idea is therefore to make some of the employees' experiences tangible and subsequently make notes that may serve as the starting point for discussions with colleagues or business developers.
The online platform is divided into four levels, where you can post challenges on the basis of the collected "observations" and then engage in idea development and design of concepts that may become innovations.
It is crucial with some offline activities as a basis for or a supplement to the online dialogue. Partly because postal employees prefer physical interaction, partly because they need to know the company's agenda to provide relevant input for its business developers.
|Output – learning and results:|
As regards the service experience, postal staff possess a highly relevant knowledge of:
• How to make rigid plans work in practice by tweaking or twisting drafts, procedures or systems a bit
• Who the customers are and what characteristics, preferences, habits and routines they have, to which Post Danmark's service deliveries could usefully be adapted
• How to manage to provide care within the allocated time
• The relationship of trust that may occur between an employee and a citizen, which reassures the citizen
This knowledge is, however, characterized by being:
And the staff are often not aware that the small creative contrivances which they have made are innovative and worth sharing with others. Therefore, the design of the concept should have to take this into account, which resulted in:
Output – learning and results
Scanning is about identifying problems and possible solutions on the basis of anomalies in indistinct data, a process which people in certain specialized communities of practice are best able to perform. In this process aspects are identified that require further study, exploration and problem solving. For this to be possible selected insights must be codified, which is done through a technology-supported process of creating meaning and reinterpretation of experiences, so that they can be shared with others. In a collective reflection and discussion process the codifications are generalized so as to be applicable in other circumstances and contexts, whereby they become abstract and may form the basis for conceptualizations that can develop the business. For example, Post Danmark has identified a lot of "hidden" work that they do not emphasize in their pricing and sale of services.
Post Danmark has had the possibility of testing a concept for:
• Scanning of problems and opportunities
• Problem solving and codification
• Conceptualisation and service innovation
When Post Danmark expands business with new services in the welfare sector, they can use the experience of this process and the employees' trust relationship with the citizens as differentiation parameters in their efforts to cultivate a new market for welfare distribution.
By using technological tools the concept may potentially contribute to creating employee empowerment and a stronger community of practice where the individual may have the opportunity to share knowledge and contribute without disturbing the daily work.
The vision of the concept
The innovation consortium Community-Based Innovation focuses on the ways in which the connection between groups of people and technology may create value for businesses and organizations. Based on this and other cases we work to create a systematic approach for businesses that wish to enhance their approach to communities. If you wish to know more about CBI or have comments and inputs to the work of the innovation consortium, you are more than welcome to contact us.