An eye on RHPi | Swimming with dolphins: Reflections from RHP’s art of innovation

21st October 2016

Earlier this month we were joined by around 70 leaders, innovators and influencers from the sector to share, disrupt and discover at ‘RHP’s art of innovation’ event.

Our aim was for people not just to talk theoretically about innovation but to leave with practical tips they could take away to their organisation to make a tangible difference.

We pulled together a diverse range of speakers from the likes of Facebook, Microsoft and disrupters of the travel world Mr and Mrs Smith. Useful insights also came via the Dolphin Index to reflect on how innovative a sector we are compared to others and L marks and Housemark encouraged us to ‘think like a start-up’.

And we had our own story to tell too, sharing how we’ve transformed ourselves into the most innovative organisation in the sector, recognised by us topping Inside Housing’s Innovation Index for the last two years. Lots of people were really interested in RHPi – our new service offer and our thoughts on how we can disrupt the sector and deliver better, faster, lower cost services.

A number of themes came out of the day that transcended the industry they came from.  A few of my ‘standouts’ were:

Address the right problem

From the start of the morning where we watched case studies of game changers Airbnb and Uber the idea of pin-pointing the right problem to solve kept coming up. Tamara Lohan echoed this as she discussed what drove her to set up Mr and Mrs Smith – a need to fill a gap in providing ‘aspirational yet accessible’ breaks for couples after her and her husband were fed up of going on low quality getaways.

I shared the problem as I see it: How can we significantly cut the cost of housing management and maintenance and still deliver a better customer experience?

And RHP’s response? Our digital only housing service RHPi – the efficiencies made from which will help us to invest £250M in building more affordable homes over the next eight years.

As Richard Zaltzman from Microsoft said, for innovation to truly happen you have to make sure you’re making substantial changes not just ‘tweaking’ and have a systematic process in place to deliver this change

RHPi definitely hasn’t just been a ‘tweak’!

Think like a start-up

Tom Somers from L Marks discussed their experience of working with start-ups and what we can learn from them. This included the notion that innovation isn’t just for programmes, the need to build the right team and the best ideas don’t always come from experts or incubation hubs that are separate to business as usual activity (more on this in my next point).

At RHP we believe a lot can be learned from start-ups and we’re excited to be one of the first hosts of Housemark’s start-up accelerator programme ‘Evolve’. The idea is that we’ll learn from them and they’ll learn from us. I can’t wait.

Create the right environment for innovation

Mark Brown MD of the Dolphin Index, described that for ‘Wtopia’ (work utopia with a climate for innovation) to happen the ‘5 C’s’ needed to be present: Crazy, creative, can-do, caring and conscious. I agree – we’ve worked hard at RHP to build a culture where people feel empowered to make decisions, trusted to problem solve, brave to share ideas and really importantly have fun!

As well as embedding into day to day work, it could also mean providing structures or frameworks just like the ‘explore-experiment-execute’ model that Richard Zaltzman talked about them using at Microsoft, or our very ‘4 in 4’ programme that encourages employees to pitch an idea that they believe will lead to business transformation

At RHP we say ‘an idea doesn’t mind who has it’.

I spoke about Sue one of our brave dolphins. Not your stereotype ‘disrupter’ coding in a beanie but one of our fantastic Retirement Housing Managers who had an idea for business improvement, was brave enough to pitch it at ‘4 in 4’ and ran with it.

Chatting over lunch a few of us discussed whether we were really there yet as a sector in terms of taking risks and daring to fail. The consensus was that ‘no’ we probably weren’t quite Silicon Valley status just yet! But the good news is there’s definitely a willingness to find ways to build this culture in our individual organisations – a fact reflected in the promising data from the Dolphin Index which shows the housing sector ahead of the curve in terms of a climate for innovation.

‘When you’re part of history and don’t realise you are’

This is something that Elizabeth Linder expressed about her time spent at Facebook in its early days – sometimes you’re in the midst of something big and don’t realise it at the time.

She reflected that’s what it felt like in the room that day. I felt it too.

I left with hope after seeing the sector’s appetite for innovation first hand. There may’ve only been 70 people there but I’d say they were pretty representative of the sector as a whole.

Our challenge now is to see how we can keep these conversations going – harnessing the energy of #AOI16 to work together to share, disrupt, discover and ultimately build more homes.

To see what people said about the day search #AOI16 on twitter and to get a taste into innovation at RHP watch this short film.

Look out for news of our next event – we’d love to see you there!

David Done

Chief Executive

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