Staff at Three respond to call for employee innovation
Innovative ideas for telco pitched at ‘Dragons’ Den’-style internal competition
Nicola Stewart of the Letterkenny Three Store won the internal competition for her customer-care idea.
Last week, four employees of Three Ireland pitched innovative ideas for the business to a Dragons’ Den-style panel at the company’s headquarters on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin. It was the culmination of a company-wide employee innovation competition which had its origins in an offsite leadership meeting a year ago.
“We want to embed a culture of innovation in the company and this competition was one of the ideas that came up at that leadership day,” says Jackie Glynn, head of portfolio management with Three Ireland and current vice-president of the Irish chapter of the Project Management Institute. “It’s the first time we’ve done it. We wanted to empower our employees to come up with their own innovative ideas to improve the connected lives of our customers.”
A cross-functional pitch working team was assembled to run the competition and it was formally launched last September with a call for entries. “We put up a microsite explaining what the competition was all about,” says Glynn. “It also contains lots of resources about innovation and creativity with links to organisations like global innovation and design company Ideo. ”
A key element of the competition was the support given to employees to bring their ideas forward. “An employee working in one of our retail outlets might not have the same resources available to them in developing an idea as someone based at head office, so we ensured that everyone got the support they need to be able to compete on an equal basis. We wanted to level the playing field.”
The four finalists received additional one-to-one support to further develop their ideas. They also got assistance with presentation skills
Within three weeks of launch the competition had attracted 86 entries from 63 people working in every directorate within the company.
“The response was fantastic. The ideas weren’t just coming from the people at the tech end of the business. We whittled those entries down to 17 for a second round. We gave the employees more support and mentorship from head office. We also helped them with financial analysis so that they could develop the business case for their ideas. At the end of this process we shortlisted four finalists,” says Glynn.
The four finalists received additional one-to-one support to further develop their ideas. They also got assistance with presentation skills. “We didn’t want to have a situation where a finalist with an excellent idea lost out because they didn’t have the necessary presentation skills,” says Glynn.
“We offered them support through our learning and development department to help them with that. The finalists were given the option of either presenting themselves or having someone else make the pitch for them. We were really delighted when all four finalists decide to make the pitches themselves.”
The four shortlisted ideas were in the areas of customer care, the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality and customer assistance. Following pitches to a panel of five judges drawn from different areas of Three Ireland, Nicola Stewart of the Letterkenny Three Store won for her customer-care idea which involves a novel way of helping customers make the most of their Three service.
“The passion and enthusiasm of the finalists was really refreshing and the whole vibe on the night from everyone there was fabulous,” says Glynn. “We had Laurence Knell along has guest speaker. He is a director of Strategic Innovation Partners and co-founder of Brain for Business, an initiative bringing the lessons of neuroscience to organisations. He spoke about how growth is driven by innovation and set the scene for us.”
The Dragons’ Den format was not as tough as the television show. “We were not as ruthless as the dragons,” says Glynn. “We teased out the ideas with the finalists and helped them present them in the best light. Nicola had a great idea which she had then overlaid with great content and after that had got some very good data which helped her demonstrate what it could do for customers and for Three.”
She received a cash prize and award certificate acknowledging her achievement. The next steps will see a team working on her idea to bring it to life and implement it during the coming year. “The competition is unique in that Nicola will receive a further cash reward if her idea is implemented successfully in the company.”
The intention is to run the competition again in the coming year. “The experience this year was fantastic,” Glynn says. “Every finalist was taken out of their comfort zone and that was part of the challenge. We opened the doors for people to come forward with their ideas and they did. It was great to see so many people come forward with such great ideas and we hope to do it again this year.”