Open innovation isn’t just for large private-sector groups: in September 2014, Pôle emploi, France’s national employment agency, opened a lab, a dedicated co-innovation space. Since then, a number of projects have been launched, such as the Emploi Store, a dedicated digital job-seeking platform.
On Thursday 5th November 2015, the Pôle emploi Lab held the final of its “mobility challenge,” a hackathon started in June 2015 which had creative directors, developers and data scientists developing digital projects to facilitate career mobility for job seekers. The winner gets €5,000 and a three-week incubation session with the Lab. We took this opportunity to check out this unique digital venue.
>>> Also on our blog: Pole emploi: working hard to digitalise job searching <<<
Located along the lively Ourcq Canal in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, the Pôle emploi Lab looks more like a space such as NUMA than a branch of Pôle emploi, with its bright colours and contemporary decor. Everything is designed to foster exchanges and creativity: this “accelerator of solutions” was set up precisely with the aim of turning conventional ways of thinking upside down. During the Lab sessions, participants – including Pôle emploi advisors, recruiters, startups, jobseekers, even sociologists – are encouraged to collaborate on a range of different subjects.
“ANY IDEAS ARE GOOD”
“No one comes here to do their everyday job”, explains Loïc Remaud, Head of the Lab. “We’re here to share our ideas, experiences and beliefs.” During the sessions, anyone can take the floor without people necessarily knowing who is who: as far as these innovation specialists are concerned, it’s the combination of everyone’s input on a subject that makes collaboration so rewarding.
Basically, the Lab offers three types of services. The first is “flash co-design”, an ideation experience consisting of a series of workshops with up to 60 people and lasting between half a day to three days.
Another service provided is project acceleration. For 8 to 10 weeks, the Lab focuses on a particular project, involving all the stakeholders. That’s how the Emploi Store came about: the Lab team got a comprehensive view of the needs of future users, employees and recruiters, and then passed them on to IT. Without this flexibility and agility, the same project would have taken several months.
The Lab is also an incubator. In March 2014, Pôle emploi set up a collaborative platform for 53,000 employees. Since then, 3,300 ideas have been submitted and over 1,000 practices shared. Challenges are also regularly launched via the platform, nationally, regionally and locally. One such challenge in February 2015 was “Would you like to be an intrapreneur? A jury then selected two Pôle emploi agents and gave them the opportunity to develop in the Lab the ideas they’d submitted to the platform.
THE AIM: STIMULATING collective intelligence
The Lab is also used to think about the Pôle emploi 2020 strategic plan, “Innovating for employment, together.” Employees and users work on understanding and deploying the project and defining what Pôle emploi will be in a few years, in terms of organisation and user experience. To improve the everyday job of its advisors, “irritants” have been identified, or certain points that need to be improved in order for them to provide a better service. Participants also build models to illustrate what the agency might be like in the future.
Proof that you can initiate innovation with few resources and a lot of creativity!
In 10 minutes, WE CAN COME UP WITH OVER A HUNDRED IDEAS!
Two of the five members of the Lab team have been trained to manage the groups of participants and help them co-create in a fun, intensive atmosphere. Thanks to an effective method, everything is geared towards boosting creativity: the background music, the layout of the workspace, etc. The Lab also occasionally invites a “graphic facilitator” who does illustrations of what is discussed during the sessions.
Illustrations by Nicolas Caruso
And it works! During the final of the #Challenge PE, the demonstration was extremely convincing. During the finalists’ pitches, a wealth of good ideas were submitted, but the winning one was Nsight. To support their application concept based on candidates’ knowledge and skills, the two innovators who came up with the idea were given a cheque for €5,000 and three weeks’ incubation at the Lab.
With its Lab, Pôle emploi has updated its image and boosted collective intelligence – an essential element in a fast-changing world in which organisations constantly have to reinvent themselves. Businesses have grasped this, and more and more of them are opening up to the ecosystem and implementing new practices: read our other interviews with CDOs and Innovation managers and find out how companies like BCPE, Renault, Pernod Ricard and SEB are managing their transformation.