Fostering innovative ideas is Kristina Haars’ passion. As an innovation manager, she is the right contact for her colleagues when it comes to presenting and developing ideas and establishing new working methods.
Which business unit do you work for as an innovation manager at Lufthansa Industry Solutions?
My position was created to make it possible to coordinate innovations at Lufthansa Industry Solutions across the divisions, because we carry out a lot of innovative projects for our customers in our different business units. We wanted to create a suitable framework to make all of these innovative ideas visible. I pave the way for innovations, so to speak, and it’s my goal to improve our level of “innovation fitness.”
What’s important is that I’m not the one responsible for innovations – all employees are. I just give them the right tools to act innovatively and apply themselves. For example, a few months ago we launched the innovation management platform Mydea and created the appropriate organizational and methodological framework. What’s special about it is that we foster ideas and take them through our innovation process using the crowdfunding principle – although I have a hard time using the word “process” within the context of innovation management. Instead, I would describe it as a method or methodology, which is adapted as needed.
Management provides us with a budget, and we start by distributing it among our employees as virtual money. They are then allowed to use the platform to allocate their budget to the ideas that they think are important or promising, and they can discuss the suggestions among themselves. An idea has to collect EUR 1,000 through the platform to reach the next level. If an idea hits or exceeds the EUR 1,000 mark, the money is used to hold a real workshop and further develop the idea. It’s only after the workshop that the ideas are presented to our management in a pitch.
This means that everybody can take part in the innovation process – be it as an ideas person, a supporter or a workshop participant. Ideas grow when you cultivate them together in interdisciplinary teams. So, the first step is for colleagues to decide as a group which ideas will progress. We utilize the power of the crowd to ensure that the employees’ ideas are visible and appreciated. Moreover, the workshops allow colleagues to improve their networks with each other. The workshops are often carried out using the “design thinking” method of innovation. My job as an innovation manager also means ensuring that employees embrace innovative methods. When they come to the workshops, they learn about this method and can then apply its first elements during their work with customers. So, the Mydea platform allows us to leverage our culture of innovation.
What does your working day as an innovation manager look like?
A large part of my day-to-day work is spent promoting, moderating and further entrenching the Mydea platform within the organization. I see which ideas are being put forward on the platform and think about how and where they could be applied. Moreover, I spend a lot of time talking to employees who have submitted ideas, and we plan the workshops together. Some colleagues also come to me before they publish their idea on the platform, and ask whether it has potential. We then discuss the best way to present the idea on the platform. It’s important to me that my colleagues know that my door is always open to them and that they can always approach me.
I also engage in regular discussion with the other innovation managers in the Lufthansa Group about how we can establish innovation methods together. But I also network with external parties from other companies. For this reason, the innovation contact office in Hamburg, my colleague Moritz Schellenberg and I have set up a regular meeting for innovation managers in Hamburg. It’s crucial to innovation management that the company is open to the outside world. At Lufthansa Industry Solutions as a consulting company in particular, it’s also about finding innovative solutions for problems together with external partners and customers.
My colleague Moritz Schellenberger and I are currently thinking about how to go about working together with start-ups. We have already had a few start-ups visit and have had interesting discussions with them about how we could benefit and learn from each other. There are many different, exciting things that I can set in motion and supervise in my role as an innovation manager.
“I have always been fascinated by the question of how to use processes and methods in a company with the help of platforms and tools.”Kristina Haars, innovation manager
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I am currently organizing what is referred to as a “fuck-up night” for Lufthansa in Hamburg, which actually comes from the start-up scene: during events held at universities, start-ups talk about their failures and, above all, what they learned from those failures. Some time ago, a cross-divisional group was founded that has set itself the task of continuing to foster the company’s internal culture of dealing with mistakes.
At Lufthansa’s “fuck-up night” for example, project managers take to the stage to report on their projects’ failings. The focus is on the learning effect. For example, our colleagues sitting in the audience can take something away for their own projects. With time, the goal at Lufthansa is that they’ll be able to speak more freely about their mistakes and discuss them. We plan to organize “fuck-up nights” twice a year at different locations. The first one took place in Frankfurt in November 2017 which went down well. The next "fuck-up night" is planned in Hamburg.
What does it take to work as an innovation manager?
It’s really important to be passionate, to want to set something in motion. And you can’t be put off by obstacles – you have to stay on the ball. Moreover, it’s essential that you have an extensive understanding of market trends and that you can use innovative methods confidently. You should be appreciative of your colleagues and always be open to new things. But, first and foremost, it’s crucial in this job to enjoy developing innovations and to be really passionate.
What characterizes Lufthansa Industry Solutions as an employer?
A lot of different colleagues work here and they’ve all had very different experiences, which means that you’re always getting to know different perspectives and that it’s never boring. Lufthansa Industry Solutions also does a lot for its employees. For example, employee meetings are organized frequently where you can swap experiences and find out which topics the company is currently focusing on, which I find really exciting. I also like the flat hierarchies here; you can speak openly with management. This means that every single employee is appreciated.
About Kristina Haars
Kristina Haars has been working as an Innovation Manager for Lufthansa Industry Solutions at its Norderstedt location since late 2016. It is her job to foster innovations and to coordinate them cross-divisionally. Before that, she spent several years working as an IT consultant. She has a master’s degree in business informatics.