By: Annu Dispenza
New approaches to innovation like open innovation and reverse innovation have little value if employees don’t develop their ability to work in innovative environments. Flavour Days is one small step along that route for Ericsson. Annu Dispenza descrbes how Falvour Days came about and what they mean to Ericsson.
Picture a young child, given the opportunity to spend a day in school prior to joining the Big Class. Imagine what they are thinking, feeling and seeing. Picture a successful person you admire. How different are they from you? You don’t know until you look, but how do you get the opportunity to see them working for a day, so you can learn?
We are all inspirational people. Successful people do well not by doing anything different, but because of their choices and decisions. If you get the opportunity to see this up close and personal than you also get to see real moments of inspiration.
These insights lay behind a project I proposed to the management at Ericsson – Flavour Days. So, how would I describe ‘Flavour Days’ to you?
Flavour Days is a shadowing initiative. This is an opportunity for someone to shadow a colleague for a day in order to get a taste of what they do and how they do it.
At Ericsson we set this up through a semi-formal contract which gives employees, shadower and shadowee, the scope of what they are going to do and when they are going to do it – and sometimes how! You can shadow over a whole day, two half days, or have the experience broken up further to suit the participants. It gives both parties the opportunity to experience something different to their usual role, and potentially to see the organization from a different angle. It is often reciprocated, so that the shadower becomes shadowee.
Another line of benefits of Flavour Days comes from the value in having ‘how you do things’ questioned and explored; it gives you fresh ideas and a new way of looking at things. It can be very exciting to see a wider vista than you usually experience and give context to the wider events taking place around you.
It can be very exciting to see a wider vista than you usually experience and give context to the wider events taking place around you.
By contrast it can also be a view of what life is like ‘at the coal face’, showing someone who is divorced from the day-to-day experience of a radio engineer, for example, an idea of the kinds of work that goes on in the field and dealing with the worst of the weather, or the customer! This can also engender a greater respect for the work that is done in other parts of the organization and a greater appreciation of that work.
More than anything else, it takes you out of your own world and exposes you to someone else’s, helping to build the relationships through the company that we sometimes lack and fail on. It can also be an inspirational experience, that gives you the opportunity to learn from someone else and perhaps be inspired to take on a similar kind of role or challenge.
But it’s not a significant commitment of time, from anybody; Flavour Days are ‘bite size learning’ at its best! Because Flavour Days offer a day of someone’s time to exploring something new, and you only get more than this if you choose to reciprocate. The only cost involved is the time of the individuals shadowing – which is a competence development cost with motivation thrown in for free!
The only cost involved is the time of the individuals shadowing – which is a competence development cost with motivation thrown in for free!
How can we influence the culture of the organization to support moments of inspiration?
Well, it’s simple; we at Ericsson are given the opportunity to put forward our ideas and best practice under innovation. Flavour Days was a successful proposal.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had many battles with regard to how I measure the benefit of such initiatives and especially in trying to get sponsorship to roll this out across a global company.
Cultural change programmes do have a direct positive influence on motivation, especially shadowing, coaching type initiatives. The statistics from a survey we conducted on Flavour Days proves this, as you can see below:
- 95% of participants found it beneficial and that they learned something
- All participants would recommend this scheme to a colleague and have spoken about their experience to family and friends
- 90% would be happy for this to be an annual opportunity, possibly as part of their IPM, and would do this again
- 99% learned something new about the organisation
- 100% felt that they have expanded their network, across the organisation
- 100% felt that they gained first hand visibility of senior managers
- 100% found the scheme easy and flexible
- Half of those ‘shadowed’ found that their motivation in their job had changed for the better
- Many ‘shadowers’ found that it helped with providing clarity of their future career plans and long term development plans
The extended pilot in the UK had over fifty five participants which included Sales, Managed Services, IT Development, Operations, Disaster Recovery, Programme & Project Management, Network Teams, Finance, HR, Head of Local Service Organisation, Key Account Managers and many more.
The process behind Flavour Days has been developed to be highly repeatable, and easy to implement in any organization. All you need to do is get a group of volunteers – some to shadow, some as shadowers – give them the rules of engagement, the guidelines and feedback forms, and let them loose! A local administrator is helpful to drive and co-ordinate your local efforts, but help is available to get this moving.
Flavour Days have been included in the UK’s graduate programme and will soon be incorporated as part of our on-line learning global tool, Everyday learning. This will be available throughout the entire organization at every level, and is already being piloted in thirteen other countries, from Bangladesh to Sweden.
A day can make a huge difference – is that so much of an investment?
To learn more, please contact [email protected]
About the author
Annu Dispenza is the innovator of the Flavour Days initiative. She has undertaken positions as a Non Executive Director for start up companies in the UK . Annu has over 15 years Project Programme and Consulting experience across industries from Media to Shipping, specialising in Telecom services. Annu has worked on many first’s in the telecommunications industry, delivering B2B Sales Ordering Systems to Business Models for start up companies. She currently works for Ericsson UK and is also initiating a women and leadership forum. Her area of specialisem is Project and Programme Management.