An eye on RHPi | Starting up

16th May 2016

Last week I was featured in an Inside Housing article discussing the potential role start-ups can play in the sector and in particularly Housemark’s new start-up accelerator programme. The initiative, will involve a number of housing providers sponsoring around ten start-up companies and I’m excited to say RHP will be one of the very first hosts.

For me, this is an amazing opportunity for us to learn from a start-up model to further improve our business and offer to our customers. And what’s in it for the start-up? Well it’s a two-way deal. Whilst we hope the start-up will bring innovation into our organisation, the new companies will benefit from our business knowledge, mentoring and support. The start-up we’re being partnered with will start working alongside us in our offices in the next couple of months so watch this space!

As well as drawing knowledge, creativity and inspiration from elsewhere I’m also passionate about using our own people to drive forward innovation. That’s why, this week we kicked off an internal initiative – a kind of innovation accelerator programme for our people. It’s called ‘4 in 4’ and the idea is really simple. Once a quarter four employees are given the chance to pitch an idea (they just have 4 minutes to do this) that they believe has the potential to lead to a business improvement. There’s been an analogy to Dragon’s Den however the difference is they’re not pitching to me and the Exec team but instead to an audience full of their peers who get a chance to vote. Yes, of course I go along too and have a vote but it has just the same weight as anyone else’s. Building on our current number one ranking in the dolphin innovation index, one of our employees has started the hashtag #Dolphins_not_dragons – I love that!

The winning idea then gets our backing, including a modest budget where appropriate, the chance to gather a small team, a senior manager of their choice to sponsor the project and three months to make it happen. They’ll then come back at the end of the period and let us know how it’s gone and as an organisation, we’ll decide whether to take it forward or not. And if it hasn’t worked? It doesn’t matter! We all know for innovation to work it’s about trying things out and experimenting and within that not everything sticks. The important thing is we’ll have learnt something as an organisation and the individuals involved will have developed personally.

I’ve been overwhelmed by how the organisation has got behind the inaugural 4 in 4 – our first four brave ‘intrepreneurs’ pitched to a full room of supportive peers and over 60% of our workforce cast their vote on the idea they wanted us to take forward. In fact, it was so hotly contested there was only 1% of the vote between the top two ideas and we’ve decided to back both!

One of the successful pitchers was Martin, a member of our Assets team who has come up with an idea around improved technology in our homes using a barcode system. He’s said of the experience: “I’m buzzing from being given the opportunity to turn my idea into reality! If I had another idea would I pitch it again? Definitely! I would encourage anyone to give it ago”.

The changing external landscape we’re all adapting to means that a need for fresh thinking is essential. And that thinking is equally valuable whether it’s coming from the potential next Uber, Facebook or Airbnb or from a bright spark sitting in our customer service centre or finance team.

We’re right at the start of experimenting with the start-up model and having an internal platform for innovation – I’m really excited about what we’ll learn along the way and most importantly how it’s going to lead to an even better and easier experience for our customers and the further development of RHPi. I’ll be sure to keep you updated in future blogs.

You can check out the full Inside Housing article I’ve referred to here.


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