4 Key Take-Aways from the “Digital Explorer Programme” with DKV Mobility

Between February and May 2021, our facilitators Laura Krawietz and Tassilo Boßmann designed and facilitated the entirely virtual “Digital Explorer Program” as a core component of the six-month DKV Mobility Talent Program “Front Runners” with talents from four countries – and learned a lot in the process.

The Front Runners Talent Program at DKV Mobility

Over the course of six months, an international group of fourteen ambitious employees – the “Front Runners” – receive intensive support and encouragement for potentially taking on a more responsible role in the future. In collaboration with Sabine Zimmermann, Team Manager of Talent Management and Employer Branding Strategy at DKV Mobility, we asked ourselves: How might we support aspiring talents despite their geographical distance and provide them with the right tools to master an increasingly complex and dynamic (work) environment?

Our answer for the Digital Explorer Program: “We want to create an inspiring learning experience that shapes and strengthens the agile mind- and skillset of DKV Mobility emplyees to unleash their full potential as drivers of (digital) innovation.”

The result was a four-month hybrid model of training and project work with a central focus on a ten-week design sprint. During this phase, three interdisciplinary teams worked on three real DKV business challenges, provided and accompanied by Challenge Sponsors from top management. We gained a variety of valuable insights from this program. We would like to share four special features and insights with you in this article: 


1. Promoting diversity and initiative through a collective nomination process

In designing the Front Runners Talent Program, Sabine Zimmermann and her team opted for an innovative approach right from the talent nomination phase:

In addition to the traditional nomination by their own managers, employees have the opportunity to nominate colleagues – who might otherwise not be as visible to leadership – or themselves to participate in the Talent Program. This approach draws on the collective experience and resources of the organization and provides a space in which DKV Mobility employees can draw attention to themselves and others. Last but not least, it highlights individual achievements at different organizational levels.

This approach is not only a guarantee for identifying talent, but also a strong signal and an effective initiative for diversity and inclusion at DKV Mobility.


2. Challenge sponsorship by top management

One key success factor worth highlighting about the Digital Explorer Program is the active involvement and support of DKV Mobility executives.

In the Design Sprint, members of DKV Mobility top management act as so-called “Challenge Sponsors”. In collaboration with our launchlabs facilitators, relevant strategic and operational challenges are elaborated and turned into three user-centric challenge statements. The sponsors provide their teams with insights into existing projects and information and provide contacts to various (potential) users and stakeholders. In addition, they are involved throughout the project and invest time in collaborating with the teams. For example, they serve as interlocutors for expert interviews or as testers of prototypes. In this way, the talents learn about agile methods directly on the basis of relevant issues that are of great importance to the organization. 

The appreciation and trust that is shown to the employees in this way pays off: The Front Runners are highly motivated. They generate valuable insights from customer and stakeholder interviews and develop forward-looking approaches, prototypes and solutions under high pressure. In the process, they network within the organization, with each other and with the sponsors – and thus sustainably strengthen a culture of cross-collaboration and customer-centricity.


3. “Embrace Uncertainty” – Grow from Ambiguity

A strict separation of (method) training and (innovation) projects is initially sensible and necessary. When employees experiment with new ways of working for the first time and get to know and try out a variety of methods and techniques in a very short time, there needs to be enough space for this. The Digital Explorer Program begins with a Masterclass that focuses entirely on building methodological foundation and teaching agile basics. Only then are methods and agile ways of working applied to real issues (“challenges”) as part of the Design Sprint. And yet: The boundaries are fluid, since an intuitive approach to (agile) tools can only be put into practice in actual project work.

The need to meet the Challenge Sponsors’ requests – i.e., in terms of a successful completion of the Design Sprint with an innovative solution – is in some moments contradictory to the need to learn through “failure”. The iterative character of agile working methods understands the punctual failure as a gain in the design process, from which lessons and insights can be drawn. Especially when unexpected or unwelcome insights are revealed. This is where creative tension arises, which – in the best case – leads to a leap-frog learning experience in which the team places the long-term value of (user-centered!) insights above the short-term success of “finished” solutions.

Our learning: only with a lot of courage and openness from all parties involved can the ambiguity of innovation work become a source of motivation and innovation.


4. Innovation is (very) hard work

The last insight we would like to share with you at this point is: Innovation is (very) hard work.

The playful character of agile methodologies, such as Design Thinking, is by no means an expression of a lack of seriousness. On the contrary: The intensive engagement and exploration of complex challenges with a strong user focus in the form of direct contact with users and customers and their evaluation and transformation into sustainable solutions, require a lot of discipline and time.

The 14 Front Runners of the Digital Explorer- and Front Runners Programs have invested both over the entire period and achieved great results – for themselves, for the Challenge Sponsors and for DVK Mobility.


What are your experiences with identifying talents and supporting their growth in your organization? Do you want to learn more about our individualized projectlabs formats? Get in touch via hello@launchlabs.de

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