Human Farm, or H-Farm as it is mostly known, sounds like something that came out of a George Orwell novel. Instead, it’s an organization dedicated to helping people generate creative ideas and giving them the tips and tricks to turn those ideas into a reality. Set up as a retreat, H-Farm is a villa located in the Italian countryside near Venice, limiting distractions from the outside world. Recently, three groups of Henkel employees, representing each of the business units, took the short trip to H-Farm and discovered new ways to tap into their entrepreneurial abilities, approach problem-solving and collaborate with others.
The journey to H-Farm began in the fall of 2018, when Henkel colleagues submitted their solutions to the Henkel X Innovation Challenge. The contests included how to support Adhesive Technologies consumers in deciding which products to buy; what could be Value Added Services for Beauty Care; and how to free the world from plastic waste from Laundry & Home Care. Over 300 submitted ideas were put up to a vote and the participants were then selected as teams to take part in this Henkel X-periment and needed to collaborate without ever having worked as a team before. The goal: to think outside of the corporate box and teach people how to collaborate creatively with each other.
“We were on a journey to discover that we can develop a great idea we would all follow and within one week actually bet money on because we were so convinced that it would succeed.”
The collaboration with H-Farm is a means to enrich Henkel and therefore it gives employees the opportunity to realize their innovative ideas. Within one week, they were taught how to go through the process and all aspects of a pitch, such as who it impacts, how it impacts them, how it would fit within the rest of the market and if there is even a market for the innovative idea. The team members took a 360-degree approach to the project and tackled any potential problems or issues that could occur. It allowed participants the ability to create, test, revise, and then retest their ideas. At the end of the week, the teams submitted their projects to a jury to receive more feedback and further advance their projects, which they would then present to a jury at Henkel, consisting of representatives from the business units, corporate functions and the Henkel X team.
Learning by doing
At the beginning of the week, the Adhesives Technologies and Laundry & Home Care teams constructed entirely new pitches, whereas the Beauty Care team transformed and refined an existing pilot program. With mentors for each team that guided and challenged the participants at each step of the way, it became easier to align their design ideas with functionalities that would better suit the market and consumers – and ultimately result in a successful pitch.
Supporting customers in-store and online
“We were on a journey to discover that we can develop a great idea we would all follow and within one week actually bet money on because we were so convinced that it would succeed,” says Stefan Picker, one of the participants in the Adhesive Technologies team.
In the first few days, the team learned quickly that working together was what helped them progress further and faster with their project. This is because every person on the team was fully involved in generating ideas, taking notes and gathering qualitative data through interviews with other Henkel employees outside the consumer areas.
After their week at H-Farm, the Adhesives team submitted their final idea to the jury comprising of senior partners from H-Farm, the H-Farm founder and Henkel X organizers. Their mobile website would allow people to answer their home renovations questions or simple repair queries directly through videos, but also provide tips and hints needed to carry-out the repair.
“We decided to focus our efforts on home renovations and repairs because this is something that everyone has experienced, yet many people are not necessarily skilled in doing those repairs,” says Stefan Picker.
Their next steps include developing a working website and continuing to complete further market research needed to launch their platform.
Bundling services with beauty
“On my way to Venice, I could not stop thinking about the words of one of our senior management from a few months ago. He said that I should not fear my simplistic idea for the innovation challenge because all big projects started with an idea on a piece of paper,” says Isabela Pereira, who worked on the Beauty Care team at H-Farm.
So began the most intense learning week of Isabela’s life with the goal of taking the mobile hair program Choicify, which provides consultation to potential consumers in store, to the next level. The challenge: to improve add-on services for Beauty related products. Within a week, the team worked on fast prototyping which included improving the augmented reality hair application to show changes in real time and would not only let consumers “see” their new color, but also have a guided consultation on hair coloration, styling and care.
“In a nutshell, H-Farm taught me how to bring a small idea into big plans, backed by a strong pitch by deconstructing the business model and immediately testing, adapting and retesting new possibilities in an agile and lean way.”
New ways to reduce plastic waste
For many, creativity is considered a process, but at H-Farm, it is a cycle – and the mentors smooth the path between the different points in the cycle. The main phases the Laundry & Home Care team needed to go through during this week included conducting customer interviews; fast prototyping; and business model finalization after narrowing down the main focus of their project based on feedback from potential customers.
“Every day was very intense, full of discussions, brainstorming, argumentation, agreements and disagreements, but what makes me the proudest, is the fact that our week in H-Farm has contributed to developing a new idea which might be in shops soon.”
The crucial twist came on a Wednesday evening when a senior partner from H-Farm brought valuable feedback to the team’s idea on reducing product packaging and inspired them to pivot their go-to market strategy. While his advice helped make the outcome even more successful, it led to more intense discussions and brainstorms. The following day was spent redoing all analyses, developing a prototype with H-Farm's designer and preparing an attractive presentation for Friday's presentation. Even though the project itself is not yet ready to go public, the team members look forward to seeing their efforts come to fruition.
“In only 5 days, we elaborated the idea and prepared and delivered a catchy pitch that received positive feedback from senior managers of H-Farm,” Laundry & Home Care team member, Lucia Scarsbrook says. “Every day was very intense, full of discussions, brainstorming, argumentation, agreements and disagreements, but what makes me the proudest, is the fact that our week in H-Farm has contributed to developing a new idea which might be in shops soon.”