Last week, I went on a road trip to Warwick, not to see the Castle, but to meet the Innovation Team at Baxi and spend some time finding out more about their approach. You will know about Baxi, even if it’s not consciously. As the largest provider of heating and hot water solutions across the UK & Europe, chances are you have a product in your home that comes from the Baxi family. I was lucky enough to spend the morning with Oliver Moffat, Customer Insight Manager and Kate Ainscough, Director of Freestyle Innovation, two individuals instrumental in crafting the approach, as well as meeting David Willetts, UK Head of Innovation, the mastermind behind the original concept and along with Kate, the key driving force behind its acceptance across the entire business. If you happen to look at some of the companies they’ve worked with in the past, it’s a roster of some of the biggest companies within the UK, so to say I was in awe is an understatement! As always though, I was determined to learn as much as I could and share experiences.
Baxi, as we do in the Bromford Lab, uses the ‘Double Diamond’ methodology to produce fast paced sprints that result in a product or idea that can then be prototyped and tested. This was quite a shift for a company that has been manufacturing since it’s formation in 1866 and is something Oliver and Kate were sensitive to when rolling out the new approach. They knew that for people to understand and support the work they were striving toward, they would need to get tangible outputs out there amongst colleagues, as well as encourage new ideas.
Set up in 2017, their Innovation Team has gone from strength to strength, working across different departments to push thinking from purely incremental changes to existing product lines, to the creation of new ones within new markets. Similar to Bromford, Baxi understand the importance and strategic value of having a separate team to focus on design activities and facilitation - as Oliver and Kate both said, whilst it is part of Baxi’s colleague values to embrace innovation, it’s often impossible to find the space to think about how you might improve or change something day to day, and even harder to actually find the time to put this into a concrete vision. The team here are responsible for making that happen and use a variety of methods to curate and maintain colleague engagement, with my personal favourite being a kissing booth set up for colleagues to share their wildest ideas!
As much of what they do centres around products, colleagues are often invited to join design sprints within ‘The Bunker’, the team’s dedicated space. Oliver explained that sometimes these sprints are just a week long but there will be some form of prototype at the end of it. Pushing colleagues to explore creative solutions in a new, inspirational space with a time limit is a great way to not only eliminate the distractions of the day job, but also that nagging voice inside your head that might be putting you off something. It’s my biggest weakness as a Designer, one that I am actively trying to get rid of!
It was great to see another team that works very similarly to how we work here in the Bromford Lab and I took a lot away from this visit, most importantly their approach to colleague engagement. I personally felt they had this nailed, and as it is something we often struggle with within the Bromford Lab, it was great to take learning from their experiences so we can improve our own internal communications to inform people what we are working on and what is upcoming. We are hoping to reciprocate the visit ASAP, as Oliver was particularly keen to find out more about our data driven design approach and the work we are doing around IoT and Connected Homes!
(I’m not going to lie, I might have to steal a few of the interior styling tips to take back to the Lab as I thought it was pretty funky! I particularly loved their film based ‘rules’ and Innovation Awards.)
There is a huge amount of synergy between potentials we are looking at, not just as an individual business, but also for the sector as a whole. Design communities across the board are generally very open and as we in The Lab love to work out loud, we welcome relationships and connections with like-minded individuals, no matter what sector you may be in. There is much to gain from working together to improve customer lives, so I for one am very excited to see where this journey takes us and what we can achieve together!
In the meantime, we’re looking forward to attending the XPO event they are running in October to hear even more about their future plans and connect with new people in a different space. I mean, the show reel from the last one looks pretty cool and having seen a sneak peak of the space, I think this year’s will be even better!
Watch this space….
About The Author
Michelle Butler joined the Bromford Lab in 2017 as a Lab Designer and is no stranger to taking a risk in search of learning more about the best way to foster innovation and transformation - she left a full time permanent role to take up this position on a fixed term basis.
Michelle is incredibly passionate about design and customer experience, and is currently completing her Foundation Certificate in Design Thinking with IDEOU as a way of expanding her own knowledge and skills - connecting with a world renowned design community is a massive bonus too!