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#CARBONCLASH / 27 Nov 2018

Fueling low carbon solutions: modern culture of innovation and intrapreneurship

On 14th November, Pöyry staged Europe’s first ever Carbon Clash event in Helsinki, Finland. Innovating low carbon solutions was a major theme in the dialogue that took place between 300+ industry leaders and world-class experts.

Many exciting solutions were discussed from Electric Vehicles (EVs) to substituting plastics in packaging using bio-based alternatives. Towards the end of the event, Martin à Porta, President and CEO of Pöyry, led a session titled ‘Innovation with Purpose’ – the highlights of the session are below.

Four simple facts

Kicking off the Innovation session, Martin put four facts on the table:

  1. Pace of change is rapidly accelerating

  2. Disruption throwing up new opportunities (and threats)

  3. New players emerging and shifts in market demand (ecosystem)

  4. People motivated by how they can make a difference

None of these facts will be of any great surprise to industry leaders. However, it’s more about how businesses choose to respond and how they can nurture a culture of innovation.

Traditional model of innovation no longer working

Martin outlined how the traditional model of innovation needs to change i.e. where you put a team of people in a room, give them a problem to solve plus a budget to result in a product.

“We know that this doesn’t work as well anymore and there are totally new ways of doing innovation today. It’s often small budget work and often it is much more purpose driven that it is money or governance driven. And governance is a big road block for innovation,” said Martin.

Pöyry Case: Driving Purposeful Innovation

Using Pöyry as a case study, Martin opened up how the company has successfully built a culture of intrapreneurship and empowerment, which enabled more purpose-driven innovation.

“If we look at social impact and purpose, I would say that if we would vote here today it would be rising in importance than compared to five or ten years ago,” said Martin.

He added, “If we look at the millennials it is even higher – doing something with purpose is really great. And I often say, in the company, that I don’t want to work in a company that is managed by one brain or one head. Or even if I take the 10 top brains of our smart management…”

Goal: stimulate ideas of 5500 experts

Martin continued, “I want to work in a company where 5500 people are engaging, developing and driving things – and that is so much more powerful.” Referencing the famous quote by Nobel Prize Winner, Bengt Holmström, Martin asserted, “The goal is to stimulate 5500 intrapreneurs – to think outside the box, you sometimes need a box.”

The ‘Box’: Pöyry Innovation Platform

Martin explained that Pöyry has recently introduced an Innovation Platform. He outlined how the company has used it as a catalyst to change the way innovation happens into a highly collaborative approach where everyone gets to contribute and make a difference.

“We have time-bound challenges and we create solutions by connecting unique expertise. Basically, reaching out to our people without the boundaries in a motivating and inspiring way and incorporates social media tools. And we have recently used it in the real case of Climate Change.”

First Pöyry Innovation Platform Challenge: Climate Change

Martin shared more on how the Pöyry employee Climate Change Challenge was started: “First there was an introductory video. We usually have a coach from the top management who introduces the topic, asking people to focus their input on what they can contribute to.”

Importantly, the innovation process at Pöyry is not run as a top down formal process by its leaders. Instead, it is a much more organic ‘ecosystem’ where ideas can come from anyone and can be built upon and developed further by peers. Martin continued, “From that moment on there was no senior management involvement. The people have been selecting and driving the topic themselves. The people have been voting and interacting on the ideas.”

Martin then asked the audience of experienced C-level business leaders the question:

Q. What level of contribution do you think we had from our employees – 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%...?

In a show of hands, very few of the audience voted beyond 15% to which Martin responded, “I can tell you now that we had 25% of our employees who contributed, because they thought it [climate change] was important. We received almost 60 new ideas and some of the ideas were later combined with other ideas. More than 1000 people voted and I think that’s a great result.”

Martin also made a point of saying that the management didn’t walk around and pressurize people to get involved. “The people did it on their own because they knew they can make a difference and make a contribution.”

Three big ideas for reducing climate change:

The Climate Change Challenge attracted many great ideas from Pöyry’s employees located across 42 countries. Martin opened up three of the ideas that were voted by employees into the Top 10:

  1. World’s first Renewable desalination plant – with the number of people forecast to be living under severe water stress currently (1.9 billion) forecast to grow to 3.9 billion by 2048, we have a big opportunity to meet a basic human need (clean water) using renewable energy sources and at the same time, we can reduce harmful CO2 emissions.

  2. Climate risk mitigation strategies for the forest industry - protecting and investing in the development of forests in an informed way, whist mitigating climate change risks.

  3. Planting trees into the desert – forests provide a valuable CO2 sink and by 2048, we expect to see a significant increase the global area of land covered by forest (from 31% to 39%). Through reforestation we can pay back our carbon deficit and applying our expert knowledge of forest and land management, we know it’s now possible to plant forests in dry arid land and it can be just as affordable as carbon capture storage technology.

Irene Mia (Carbon Clash moderator), Global Director of Thought Leadership at The Economist, asked Martin about the secret to the success, to which Martin replied: “There were no boundaries. People were interacting globally, immediately. There were no rules – so people made up their own rules.” Irene asserted “Pöyry is using a more start-up approach, which is the way forward.”

When asked by Irene what comes next, Martin replied: Bioeconomy Challenge. “And the ideas are already coming in. I am sure that we will have equal or even more people contributing. I think the excitement is there and it has very much to do with the topic [Bioeconomy] and how we set it up. If the topic has a huge meaning behind it then we have the opportunity to make it really big. We have free minds that can make a difference.”