X Labs - The forefront of innovation
Future of Growth
As Posti’s arm for breakthrough innovation, X Labs strives to match new business ideas with intrapreneurial people to drive them forward. With every success it also accelerates the company’s digital and cultural transformation.
What are the best words to describe Posti? If you ask that question from a random Finn, innovative and agile might not receive a lot of votes. But this is about to change. Posti is actually doing quite a lot to promote innovation and new ways of working.
Business strategist Eeva Tiainen is at the forefront of this change. The main focus of her job is on driving open innovation within Posti’s Parcel and eCommerce (PeC) Business Group. She is responsible for X Labs, PeC’s arm for breakthrough innovation. In addition to driving forward co-creation partnerships together with start-ups and other partner companies and stakeholders, an important part of X Labs is to build an entrepreneurial mindset and capabilities from within.
“X Labs strives to bring together people from across the Posti organization to work together, cultivate innovations and learn new skills. We are looking for both great ideas and passionate people to drive them forward. For such intrapreneurs, X Labs gives the needed tools and support for exploring and validating new business opportunities with customers,” Tiainen says.
Pulling new growth ideas into the pipeline
According to Eeva Tiainen, the X Labs process offers an accelerated route to market for new business ideas, using a disciplined approach for testing and validating the opportunity’s desirability, viability and feasibility. But what kind of actions does X Labs include in practice? One fine – and currently very active – example of X Labs in action is the X-celerator 2020 programme.
“X-celerator 2020 pulls new ideas into the X Labs innovation pipeline. It is a programme that searches and cultivates growth ideas as well as people who are curious to level up their skills in innovation. We are strongly driving business ideas from bottom-up, as a voluntary effort, and including a wider crowd in the innovation work. Basically, everyone has been offered the opportunity to jump aboard,” Tiainen points out.
The applications period for the first-ever X-celerator programme closed on February 7th, and the participants and teams are now refining and pitching their ideas. The real acceleration for the chosen teams includes an intensive 6-week programme. During the programme, the participants will be coached and supported by specialists in innovation and entrepreneurship.
One of these specialists is Mahesh Kumar, experienced entrepreneur and CEO of Result. He works as an advisory and partner to large corporates creating programs to unleash intrapreneurs, find partners, run pilots and scale them. His job is to help both corporate leaders and innovators test and scale innovations faster.
“Our role is going to be a combination of coaching, inspiring, providing toolkits for the teams and making sure that the right ideas get support from the organization. The 6-week program will demand a lot of work from the teams – but the effort is also very much up to the participants: how much are they willing to challenge themselves. You can’t force people to become successful entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs. They themselves need to feel that this is something I really want to do. Then it is much easier to put in some extra hours,” Kumar says.
Riikka Jakovuori is Kumar’s partner in coaching the X-celerator teams. She is also the country manager of Epicenter, a community of digital scale-ups, corporates, intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs. During the program, certain meetings will be held in Epicenter’s quarters in central Helsinki, and the participants also have the opportunity to work there.
In the early stages of the program Jakovuori has already been impressed by the excitement and potential oozing from the X-celerator participants.
“Posti is in the middle of a business transformation, and there is a lot of potential for new business models and spin-offs that can be built on the existing knowledge, data and skills. People just need opportunities to unleash the potential. In order to drive change and build new culture, employees need the right mindset, an improved skill set, and structures that encourage and support the change. The last one is more on the leadership side, but the X-celerator program can help with the first two,” Jakovuori emphasizes.
Innovation is everyone’s privilege
The growth ideas injected in X-celerator also go through a process of validation. For starters, the growth idea has to meet the definition of a venture: it is a new business activity that involves an element of risk or uncertainty.
However, Tiainen points out that X Labs is not about quick wins. It is more interested in new sources of revenue in the long run.
“Of course, X Labs eventually targets creating new revenue for the company but our perspective is long, 3–5 years. Meanwhile we can measure the learning effects, and the amount and quality of new ideas – how many of them reach the first stages of validation and how many go through the whole X Labs process. Even the misses can teach us a lot as a company."
Tiainen accentuates that even in a big organization innovation and intrapreneurship is not something just for the chosen elite – it is actually everyone’s privilege and responsibility.
“You lose a lot of opportunities if you think that there’s only those selected few who can innovate and drive successful projects. If you engage more people in this work, they are left with better skills to excel even in their everyday jobs. In addition, they also gain a new mindset: they see a world that is filled with opportunities instead of restrictions and challenges. That’s what cultural change is all about. And that’s why we are not just looking for ideas – we are also looking for people to make those ideas real. It’s the idea and the people together who make the difference.”
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