Changing Culture at BNP Paribas Cardif

By Scott Kirsner |  January 6, 2015

“We’re totally focused on the culture side of innovation,” says Héloïse Lauret, Head of Innovation at BNP Paribas Cardif, the insurance subsidiary of the €38 billion French bank. Departments such as marketing, technology, and digital are all responsible for innovating within their own domains, so the mission of Lauret’s four-person team is to promote “new ways of working that are more agile, more collaborative, more creative.”

These are the three major culture-change initiatives she has launched since taking on the role in 2011.

1. Innovation Awards

“Every year, we collect all the innovative and creative projects that have been led by all of our teams throughout the world. That is almost 10,000 employees in 37 countries. It’s the one time of the year when our employees everywhere can discuss what they’ve been doing that they’re proud of, and where they can learn about what has been done in fields other of their own. It’s not just marketers talking to other marketers. Someone working in the legal field might not know what people in corporate social responsibility are doing.”

“At first, it was very hard to convince people to share their projects, or find interest in what the others were doing. We started with 30 projects submitted. Last year, we received 283 projects from 21 countries. It has really been a success, but it entails a lot of communication and convincing people to participate.”

“At the end of each edition of the awards, we create the Innovation Book, a recap of the 42 pre-selected projects which are sent to the Grand Jury. The projects are written about in a way that anyone can understand. We put the pictures of the innovators, their contact information, and their country. It’s a way to encourage people to look at what has been done and contact the people. We print about 300 copies for people at the awards ceremony, and everyone else can access it digitally.”

“Collecting the projects is important but on the long run it will work only if you know how to celebrate your people: if you win an award, you come to Paris. There is a ceremony in our auditorium, but we organize it as a conference. We have speakers coming in to talk about innovation, and the CEO hands out trophies. (Pictured above.) Then, there is a two-day learning expedition in Paris, visiting startups and innovative companies.”

2. Creative Facilitation

“We are all trained on creative facilitation, and we have a creative room in our building, with a fun-style design. People come to see us as internal consultants. They need to solve a problem, generate new ideas or think on a prospective issue. We prepare and facilitate a workshop for them. I’ve been trained and certified on Lean Startup, Business Model Canvas, Lego Serious Play, and other approaches.”

“We encourage co-creation within the company — inviting people from marketing, legal, compliance, operations — having everyone in the value chain around the table. We organize around 60 workshops a year. They can last between two hours and three days, depending on the subject. It has been a success and it adds value to our internal processes, but the problem is we have to wait for people to come to us, and afterward, we rarely know what comes out of it.”

3. Innovation Jams

“To address that issue, we proposed something new: Innovation Jams, which are like hackathons. We do a lot of interviews with business managers or executive committee members, asking, ‘What are the important and strategic things we should be doing and don’t know how to get done, or don’t have time to get done?’ We pick a subject, and organize a two-day event where we put together four or five multi-disciplinary teams that develop a prototype. The teams are a mix people from BNP Paribas Cardif Cardif and some from the outside — people with brand new vision of the subject we’re trying to tackle. We’ve had people from Airbus, Carrefour, Orange, the French postal office and energy company, from startups. A team is typically four people from the outside, and four from BNP Paribas Cardif. Each team has only 48 hours to imagine, conceive, and develop a prototype which will be presented at the end to our sponsors and employees.”

“We did the first in June 2013, and have done two since then. For the first one, three teams worked on developing a mobile app, and three months later the very first mobile app for BNP Paribas Cardif France was on the Apple and Android Stores. Another team worked on imagining what we could imagine and do with humanoid robots on health issues; following that we bought the robot to continue developing our prototypes. For instance, in France, we have several hundred thousand people dying every year from not taking medications. If you had a robot in the home, perhaps you can help people to take their medicine in a better way, and improve life expectancy. So we have been prototyping different things since that first Jam. Once people have tried this approach, it’s very hard to go back to the old way, because so much happens in 48 hours.”

Trust Matters

“If I were to talk to somebody who is just starting out in this kind of role, I am totally convinced of the ‘step-by-step’ policy. We started the awards, then we got trained on creative facilitation, then we started doing the Jams. People started to trust us. You can do this only when people trust you already. You don’t want to seem like a crazy person who is not considering difficulties of security, legal, IT. We have a lot of fun with what we do, but we’re very aware of the challenges, and the legal regulations for the insurance industry.”

“My aim as Head of Innovation is to prove — that word is important — that there are things we can do in a different way, with different methods, which will considerably accelerate our transformation and enable people from our company to show their talent and engagement.”