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Ekaterina Kharitonova
Global Media Manager, Consumer Health Division, Bayer

08 July 2020

Humanizing innovation

Fastuna partnered with Bayer in the face of Ekaterina Kharitonova, Global Media Manager, Consumer Health Division to help facilitate a 3-day inspirational hackathon called "iDays" showing everyone can be a creative person with correct guidance
In November 2019, which now seems like a long time ago, Bayer hosted its first global Innovation Days in Basel, opened to all employees from its three divisions.

We called it "I Days". "I" stands not so much for the Innovation or Inspiration, the words that already became corporate cliche. Our "I" stands for you. Or me. Every individual who joined the event. We wanted to land an idea that everyone can be innovative and creative, and everyone can come up with a brilliant new idea that brings value to the company. And Bayer is here to inspire, encourage, and help realise our creative potential.

Using the principles of being Fast, Iterative, and Focused, during only three "I" Days, Bayer ensured a huge curiosity boost with every third employee taking part in the event. Participants got a unique experience of working in multi-functional cross-divisional teams mingled with start-ups. They learned techniques to break "mindset fixedness", apply those to the real business challenges and validate all ideas by real consumers in under three hours.

Below is a short reflection on how the Fast — Iterative — Focused approach works in practice — 5 min read.
"I" Days lasted for only three days but was packed with happenings and quick learning bytes. We started with inspiration talks from external and internal guest speakers followed by a series of masterclasses on ideation and rapid prototyping. Then we moved on to a full day Hackathon with a unique opportunity to pitch back to the business and grab the attention of the whole company, including management team.
I’d like to give you a specific example of how we embraced agile mindset. Hackathon teams were made of Bayer employees mingled with Basel start-ups. After a formal briefing from business challenge owners, teams used systematic inventive thinking techniques to come up with initial ideas. To make those ideas very tangible, specific, and actionable, we used the so-called Marketplace, where teams were to do a series of very short pitches. They would pitch to the business, and also to illustrators who captured their concept, and to our star guest — Chris Dancy, known as the most connected man on the planet and a practitioner in applying technologies within the healthcare industry. Fastuna — our research partner — helped all teams to prepare and submit their ideas into their platform so that overnight each concept was validated by 100 real consumers in the UK.

You would imagine that pitching to illustrators, Chris, or Fastuna, requires to be very clear about the idea — how it works, what makes it unique, and how it solves the challenge. This was a great way to move from very broad and vague theories into smart innovation concepts in just one day.
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We always stayed focused both on understanding new ways of working and applying those within a real business environment — hence large business pitch event was used to infuse the organisation with the sparkle of innovation from Hackathon teams.

During the pitch, everyone got a right to put virtual money for the best concept. But business is surely always interested in using real consumers' feedback to review new ideas. In some cases, consumer feedback was different from the business pitch results. To stay truly focused on being consumer-centric in whatever we do, we always need this external view and we always have to walk a mile in consumer's shoes.

Any innovation is a journey that starts with a mindset change. Today we are all talking about how remote work proved to be very efficient, and rhetoric on the new rules and new ways of working is not a theory anymore to a much broader audience. It opens a lot of opportunities for innovation workouts. And we grabbed this opportunity.

I was honoured to partner up with Fastuna again in 2020 and also with the Agile Marketing Community from London (virtual world knows no limits) to run a series of online mini-hackathons. And we will be sharing this experience at the Quirk's conference on July 14th.

Bayer Consumer Health collaborated with Fastuna to use their platform and validate concepts (produced by their hackathon teams) with UK consumers. Fastuna proved a great partner to work with: quick and smart, proactively supporting all hackathon members to make their concepts user-friendly. Their platform allowed us to get a consumer perspective and detailed feedback just overnight! Everyone here in Bayer enjoyed working with the Fastuna team.
Ekaterina Kharitonova
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