6:35 PM, September 23, 2023

How to truly harness innovation

| The European | 16 October 2018

Zinnovate International is an IT and management consultancy firm that specialises in delivering unique or “unfair” competitive advantages to the global logistics industry.

We caught up with founder and CEO Håkan Nilsson to learn more about the company and discover the secret behind its phenomenal global growth.

What are the most important points readers leveraging your insight in the logistics and management consultancy space should focus on?

Håkan Nilsson: First and foremost, I believe that innovation should not be the responsibility of a single individual, team or department. Nor is innovation a project. It is a collective responsibility, and the omnipresent force that underpins all key business activities aimed at delivering accelerated customer value in combination with improved levels of productivity and quality. Without innovation, this equation becomes an impossible dilemma: you must either compromise on customer value or on quality and productivity.

Only with a combination of continuous improvement through small day-to-day innovations, and radical transformation through disruptive innovation, can you win the game both on the side of customer value and in internal production efficiency.

Despite Zinnovate being labelled a “disruptor” and a “game changer”, I think our main competitive advantage is our constant focus on the power of “the little step”. Making things slightly better each day means we will soon be operating at unprecedented levels. It may not sound as sexy as disrupting an industry in one genius move, but let’s admit it, very few of us are Einstein and if our business success is dependent upon reaching his level, then the odds are stacked against us!

On the other hand, if we really make innovation a daily priority and the quest for continuous improvement becomes part of our culture, then the power from various synergies starts to kick in. A network of innovative team players is far more than the sum of its parts. When you encourage cross-fertilisation of expertise between people from different geographies, backgrounds, experiences, and cultures then you will turn diversity into a real competitive advantage. This is by no means an easy journey, bridging distances in time and culture, but the rewards once you get there are abundant.

This magazine not only recognised Zinnovate International as the “Most Innovative Logistics Technology Company in Scandinavia” but also “Best Managed Information Technology Company”. To what extent are your commercial achievements the result of a unique leadership philosophy?

HK: The day I started Zinnovate I had already articulated our mission as being “a new breed of IT and management consultancy firm”. Prior to Zinnovate I spent decades working with leadership teams where we articulated inspirational vision, mission and value statements but then had to work incredibly hard to make thousands of employees embrace these statements. The outcomes were often less than impressive. With Zinnovate I feel extremely privileged, as I designed the vision, mission, and values, and then recruited a team that were passionate about embodying the philosophy of continuous improvement and extremely focused on innovation.

We now call our leadership philosophy “Return On Competence” (ROC). This is because our guiding light is not top- or bottom-line financial targets and KPIs, but rather to bring value to our customers through the unique competence of passionate team players across the globe. ROC is what guides our business priorities. It is also the guiding light when we recruit new people or team up with new partners. It is our key focus when building lasting customer relationships. It is our key HR strategy to ensure that our employees thrive on achievements and find joy, passion, and inner fulfilment on the job. ROC, in a nutshell, is what Zinnovate stands for and why we have been able to build a successful business globally in just a few years.

Zinnovate seeks to position itself as the world-leading consultancy in helping clients to “future-proof” their companies. What do you mean by that?

HK: It may indeed sound like a bold claim to be the world leader in future-proofing. Allow me first to explain what I mean with the term. Company owners and business leaders not only want to ensure peak performance in the immediate future but also long-term. But how do we go about that when the pace of change is overwhelming, and the exponential growth of new technologies is constantly rewriting the business landscape?

Everybody wants to be leading-edge but fears they will get left behind when the consultancy industry moves in with their troupes of hype prophets. I hope that we at Zinnovate provide a different alternative as our razor-focus on the logistics industry gives us the industry domain expertise to determine what is relevant and value-generating in this business. We then couple this narrow industry focus with a holistic view that embraces both the technical aspects of change across systems and processes, and the softer elements of organisational change, including human behavioural drivers. The latter aspect is generally neglected as intangible but often is the make-or-break factor when seeking to transform into a high-performance organisation in a sustainable way i.e. future-proofing your business.

We dare to claim that we can help forward-thinking leaders to dramatically improve the odds for successful future-proofing and to chase away the spectre of disruption. We can do this partly from our “been there done that” experience, as ultimately, we have developed our company to become a disruptor within our own niche industry.

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