Agility? It starts with our mindset

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Meeting in casual

An app that shows you all your accounts and credits cards among various banks, together in one overview, using smart APIs. With integrated block chain technology, making payments cheaper, faster, and safer. This future is not as remote as it may sound. Swiftly responding to new developments requires us to work and organise things in a different way.

I believe that people make the difference, and that's why attracting the right talent is vital. Lidewij de Ridder Lidewij de Ridder Team Lead, Innovation Centre

We must innovate, because our clients want it

We are continuously exploring new ways to play into shifting customer desires and to keep up with tomorrow's technological developments. And with us, many other big and small businesses are, too. For example by remodelling their organisations and applying new methods.

Methods like Agile, Lean Startup and Design Thinking are garnering interest and become increasingly widely applied. It all starts with a solid understanding of customer needs. From there, you develop prototypes in short cycles that you check with customers over and over again until there is certainty that the product is actually something the customer will embrace – something which adds value.

ABN AMRO's own procedures are based on elements of these methods. But there is no one formula for success. It's much more important to be operating within the right mindset: taking decisions rooted in facts rather than assumptions.

The Innovation Centre's mindset

When I started off as a Teamlead with the Innovation Centre last year, I was lucky to be in a position to pick my own team. I believe that people make the difference, and that's why attracting the right talent is vital. Because I selected people with diverse backgrounds and fields of expertise, the final team was multidisciplinary: design, UX and IT experts, entrepreneurs and others now form a united force. We utilise the expertise of experienced Lean-coaches from outside the bank to ensure we keep learning and developing.

Context-based approach

At the Innovation Centre, we use the Three Horizons model. As the horizon extends further away from the here and now, uncertainty and risks increase. That also determines how much we have yet to learn about both the customer and the technology. To decide on the best approach, we first explore how much exactly we have yet to discover. What do we already know about the customers? And how well do we understand their needs? What is the market situation? And how do things look technologically?

Horizon 1 governs existing services, such as the mortgage process and the Mobile Banking App, and how we can fine-tune them. The approach is geared to improving customer experience with swift execution and implementation by means of rapid prototyping.

Horizon 2 is all about new opportunities: products and services that customers are not directly expecting from us, but which would make for great additions. For instance, think about the possibilities of the API Economy/Bank as a Platform.

Horizon 3 involves developments in the distant future. We cannot yet say how these new influences will impact our revenue model – but we do know that it's going to happen and that we have to anticipate. Block chain technology is a good example of a Horizon 3 development.

When dealing with Horizon 2 and 3  topics, our approach focuses on learning: about the customer (by consulting them) and about the technology. Uncertainty and risks are higher, which is why we keep going back to our customer to validate our insights and possible solutions.

Innovation succes factors - which include you

The purpose of the Innovation Centre is to speed up innovation. We accomplish this by effectively highlighting the right topics within the organisation. Although there is no cookie-cutter innovation formula, I believe the following four conditions increase the odds of success.

  1. Validate assumptions by gathering facts
    By entering a dialogue with customers from day one and gaining a really solid understanding of their obstacles or needs, you avoid developing a product or service that the customer has no real interest in. That saves a lot of money. 

  2. Start small, with the right focus
    Make sure your vision and objectives are crystal clear. What do you want to accomplish in five years? And in one year? And three months from now?

  3. Create margins to fail, learn, and improve
    You know what you are working towards, but the path can be unclear. Innovation means trial and error, over and over again.

  4. Work in dedicated and multidisciplinary teams
    Attract people with the right background, personality, and mindset: like-minded doers who are willing and able to fully dive into the project. Ideally this takes place in a dedicated space where your team members can work at any desired time.

Experimenting our way to better risk models

We have just launched a typical Horizon 1 project: in weekly bursts we will be exploring whether we can improve the bank’s risk model – and if so, how, and with what data. Quite the challenge, but the drive and energy that our people are showing is inspiring and infectious. It sets a great example for the Innovation Centre and the rest of the organisation.

Will it work? We can make whatever we want, but creating things that the customer will truly embrace – that starts with the right mindset.

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