West Sweden has several strong manufacturing companies, many great creatives working at some of the finest agencies as well as creative engineers, inventors, software developers and entrepreneurs of world class. What happens if we put some of these people from different backgrounds in the same room? If everyone also has the ambition and the mandate to develop new products, services or companies together with other people? That’s what we wanted to find out with Boxen, a joint venture of ADA, association for design and advertising, and us at the content marketing agency Matter supported by West Sweden Chamber of Commerce.
This first time lab of Boxen was held on 20th and 21st of August 2013 and during 24 hours we put the vision to test, inspired by limited hour business camps with the focus on making ideas happen. The participants were chosen on three basic criteria, they can, wantand have done it before. In other words: able people with a knack for innovation.
Going there I didn’t know what to expect but with a sensation of anticipation. What can really happen if you put these competent people in a box and provide a context for them to work together? Last but not least, Matter’s own agenda, can we aid in building a better climate for innovation in West Sweden, creating side effects for our own organization? As well as our own interest in innovation and shaping frameworks for making ideas happen within Matter.
I sat down in the ring of chairs and immediately was approached by a curious soul with the name Sara Elebro. We started talking about her super powers because that was something you had to add to the presentation board. Creativity and tackling hard in roller derby were hers. Haris Kadic then joined us and they both discovered they work with service design in different ways.
Shortly after this discovery Martin Sande from Preera, hired to facilitate, began by introducing Boxen. Rasmus Heyman with ADA followed and off we rocketed into action. It was fascinating to see the curiosity with which the twenty participants introduced themselves in groups of four. Having only a couple of minutes before switching groups they didn’t notice the group sizes varied, people were so eager to talk to each other they didn’t care about the guidelines. I overheard an industrial designer say she wanted to keep production local, in Gothenburg. We didn’t know then but that thought actually made its way through the entire process.
Next phase was to write down the idea or problem you brought to Boxen. People then had to advocate for their idea and following what Martin Sande called “an exposing moment” you either had followers to your idea or you had to join others. Groups were formed. We ended up with about five constellations gathering around ideas or problems such as: how do we face the future of the newspaper? Is there a product or way to bridge the gap between children’s healthcare and the healthcare system for adults? How can we work with knowledge as a currency, adapting to new business models?
The following steps of Boxen allowed for discussion and refinement. Important to mention is The law of two feet. Every participant had the opportunity to – at any time – walk away and form new constellations. Some people found themselves incorporated quickly, injecting new ideas and competence, others experienced slowing down their new group, a small number eventually left the building. For us at Matter the consequences of the implementation of this law generated lots of thoughts. Can we offer tools for closing and opening your group? Perhaps ways to advertise for specific competencies?
Crossing borders, both physical and theoretical proved fruitful. We clearly saw what we had hoped for. People do work very well together being from different companies and occupations. Participants also found themselves bonding over having similar problems or as one person from a large corporation saying to a someone in another industry:
– Hi, we’re in the other end of your problem, let’s talk!
Subsequently the day progressed with intense discussion in groups with quick checkups. Early next morning we had experts and advisors of Business Sweden, MAQS, ZACCO and Business Region Göteborg to help the participants further into realisation of their ideas. This proved a good move but next time we might choose to invite additional experts. Throwing in jokers with new competencies to Boxen in later phases could also be an idea.
At noon on the second day of a total 24 hours parted by night, Boxen had ended. Out of twenty people we had gotten three letters of intent based on realistic and innovative ideas. It took merely 24 hours to produce these and with that we would like to say Boxen has been successful. Alas this is not entirely correct, because true innovation can only be seen in a longer run. Therefor we will follow up on these letters of intent with regular intervals and keep you posted.
The future of Boxen remains to be seen, but this first lab has given us a strong indication that with the right tools and the right people, innovation can happen faster and better. For Matter and ADA the next phase is to evaluate and plan for the future.
Julia is one of our recent recruitments. She works with digital tools, organizational development as well as internal and external innovation at Matter. Concept developer, producer and strategist with a diploma in project management, she has a great interest in information design and has previously made ideas happen such as a game puzzle in latin grammar for students.