How do you help customers gain more value from the products and services you sell them? At Novozymes North America, this question preoccupies Poul Lindegaard and the 50-odd people in his customer solutions group who help its customers use the company’s enzyme products more effectively.
“We have lots of scientists with deep technical knowledge of the many different industries for which we make and sell enzymes,” says Lindegaard (PLIN@novozymes.com). “But we need to continuously innovate in how we add value for our customers by, for example, helping them optimize the production of ethanol from our enzymes. We help them develop the tools to do this faster, cheaper and more reliably.”
Over the years, this work has typically involved incremental innovations where Novozymes asks its customers, in effect, “This is what you have from us today, how can we make it better?” Now, however, Lindegaard’s group is exploring new, broader areas with his customers, and that’s where CIMS comes in.
Lindegaard points, first, to the value he gains from the semi-annual CIMS sponsor meetings. “By talking with companies in totally different areas you realize that when it comes to innovation it doesn’t matter whether you are a biotech company like ours, or a BP or an IBM — the challenges are very similar and it’s been very helpful to listen to other people’s ideas and experiences.”
He recalls that when he led the Novozymes R&D organization, he would ask the sales people how they might innovate their processes better, only to have them respond by suggesting how R&D could innovate better. “ From that I learned that innovation was something every function had to be good at, not just R&D.” Subsequent discussions with CIMS sponsors and researchers have helped Lindegaard and his associates develop a strategy for being innovative in all of Novozymes’ processes rather than only product development.
Encouraging More Interaction
Lindegaard is also looking to CIMS for help in getting his engineers to talk more with one another. “Innovation is less about finding one brilliant idea and more about connecting existing information in non-obvious ways. We asked ourselves whether we were doing enough to encourage people to be interested in their colleagues’ work and talk among themselves more.”
To answer that question, Lynda-Aiman Smith, associate professor in NC State’s College of Management, visited the Novozymes facilities to assess how everything from the physical layout to the art on the walls influences the effect of its culture on innovation. “Have we places where people want to meet and exchange thoughts, or do we make them cold and isolated?” asks Lindegaard. “How do we as managers encourage people to gather and talk rather than just do their homework?”As a result of Prof. Aiman-Smith’s assessment, the company is building new labs and office areas where people can spend more time sharing information. It is also adding game rooms where they can play with the Wii, and bringing artists in to change what’s on the walls. “We observed there were places where people would stop to converse and other places where they would not. Prof. Aiman-Smith has helped us to understand why people were comfortable in one and not the other, how features like lighting and coffee machines could make a difference.”
The Millennium Generation
Finally, Aiman-Smith has helped Novozymes to examine its value package in terms of the concerns of the younger people it is hiring, the so-called Millennium Generation. “She has helped us recognize that what we have been proudly telling people who come to Novozymes — that they can have plenty of empowerment in how they choose to do their jobs, long careers, etc.— may not actually be so relevant for some of the new employees. This has been relatively eye-opening, and she has helped us realize that we need to make some adjustments in order to align ourselves better with the concerns of tomorrow’s employees,” Lindegaard concludes.