Developing an innovation culture

March 18, 2024

''Spark gives our teams the confidence to innovate''

How can you become even better, when research shows you're already the 'best urban transporter'? That was the question Peter Smit, innovation manager at HTM, struggled with. He took on this task together with Camillo Spratt, a disruptive change agent. They decided to enlist the help of Spark and set up a HTM-wide Design Thinking program (accessible to all employees interested in innovation).


Developing an innovation culture

Peter: "We have now reached the fifth edition of this HTM-wide program. We collaborate well and employees still enthusiastically sign up to participate and develop ideas. Camillo, as a business consultant and cultural change expert, guides HTM in terms of collaboration and methodology. Spark's role is to guide HTM employees according to that methodology, from idea generation, to prototyping, to testing, to a presentation for the management and stakeholders at an 'innovation festival'.

These programs remain a wonderful way to develop a new culture of innovation. We teach our employees to collaborate with colleagues from other disciplines, whom they never encounter in their daily work. And that experiments don't necessarily have to succeed. It's okay to 'fail' as long as you have structured the process of failure. I find gaining insights from trying much cooler than having a very successful concept.

The mobile shelter (Mabri)

Several innovative ideas have already been implemented. A concrete example that emerged from the Design Thinking program is the mobile shelter (Mabri). At HTM, we face temporary diversions, which sometimes last for months. The temporary stops during these diversions offered very limited shelter to passengers. The Mabri can be quickly deployed, is accessible, provides shelter from weather elements, and is lighted at night.

During the prototype evening, which is part of the program, the HTM innovation team created the first model of the Mabri using cardboard and Playmobil. This made the idea immediately clear. Throughout further development, we tested and learned a lot together, resulting in continuous improvement of the design. Subsequently, a comprehensive set of requirements was developed in collaboration with specialists from the relevant HTM departments (including Infrastructure, Passengers, Procurement). Together with Spark and Armada Mobility (manufacturer), the concept was further developed, and two demo systems were fully built. This project is funded by the MRDH program 'the Innovation Route', in collaboration with two other public transport organizations, RET and EBS, due to their interest in this innovative solution. A pilot with the Mabri started in 2023. If we can demonstrate a positive business case, we will scale up. So far, the experiences have been very promising!

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Innovative partner

From my perspective, Spark is powerful in two ways. Firstly, in visualizing the idea. Through good visualization, we can tell the story better and get many people excited to join and help.

Secondly, Spark is a powerful partner in terms of product development expertise. Sparkers can professionally explain to our teams what Design Thinking is and emphasize the importance of interacting with your customer. They then provide the tools to get started and help engage in conversations with the end customer. In this process, Spark doesn't take over, but they give confidence to our teams. A very pleasant agency to work with.

In the realization phase of the Mabri, Spark is also involved because of their product development expertise. This provides valuable interaction and a nice balance with the substantive specialists from HTM. Spark challenges us and is well informed in terms of content. Overall, a professional sparring partner."

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