From 'Coffees of Woe' to 'Toasts to the Future'

Less than 2 years ago, I met with Bernard Brussow the CEO of Backwell IXL for a coffee. I remember thinking that my coffee was particularly bitter that day, but perhaps in hindsight what Bernard was telling me has influenced this recollection. He told me about the impact the downturn in the Australian automotive industry was having on their 158 year-old manufacturing enterprise and what could happen if things weren't turned around soon. Unsurprisingly words like 'redundancies', 'closure' and 'cutbacks' all featured in the discussion, but what resonated far more clearly was Bernard's stoic determination to avoid this type of future. Before me was a man unwilling to give in. Like me, he believed that change was possible and he was going to go after it.

Soon afterwards Backwell IXL engaged G2 Innovation to deliver our innovation training program, Embed.

To achieve the change IXL needed, we set about embedding a Design Thinking based process of innovation within the team. This meant exploring consumer insight and getting to grips with their end users' unmet needs, using this knowledge to generate breakthrough ideas, teaching the team how to low-fidelity prototype and test, developing a strategic innovation portfolio and training the team to forecast trends and use them to spot opportunities. We explored collaboration as a means to innovate, the power of culture in innovation and we manipulated and tested a range of potential business models. Throughout the journey, G2 Innovation provided practical, implementable tools for every step.

The IXL team also underwent a major cultural shift moving from fearing failure, to understanding how it’s a testing process that can lead to the ‘right’ answer. 

For any company to achieve this level of comfort with failure, a number of changes need to take place. One of the biggest changes is often the shift away from doing things that a company ‘assumes’ the consumer wants, to developing solutions that are grounded in real knowledge and testing of what the end-users’ problems and unmet needs are. It’s not what you think they want, it’s what you genuinely know they need that is important. An idea that is grounded in knowledge is less likely to fail than one that is based on assumptions.

One of the less tangible but possibly the greatest achievements, was in changing the team’s mind-set. No longer does Backwell IXL think about what the business should do, but what it could do. This seemingly simple, yet powerful change, has resulted in a range of new opportunities being identified. In fact, so much so that they are now quoting new work valued in the millions.

Talking to Bernard now, it's hard to imagine the perilous position the company was in a couple of years ago. Next time we go for a drink, it will be a celebratory one. Our toast might be to user-centric innovation, or maybe to being determined. Either way, it'll be a good one.

You can learn more about IXL's Journey with G2 Innovation by watching this short video.


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