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Where does innovation come from?

In the first part of our International Innovation series spanning cards and payments, we explore how to find inspiration in our everyday lives

05 Jun 2019 04:00

Barclays has a strong history of innovation. In the UK, key business firsts have included the first credit card in 1966, the first ATM machine that opened in Enfield in 1967, introduction of contactless in the new millennium and in Germany, the launch of revolving credit cards was pioneered by Barclaycard Germany back in 1991. With such a rich heritage, innovation is a huge part of our identity as a business.

In our International Innovation series, we highlight the great work our teams across the cards and payments space are driving around the world. The three part series will focus on innovations our teams are delivering from London to Mumbai but first we join colleagues as they show us around their cities and reveal how they get their inspirations.

Nick Kerigan, MD, Future Payments explains, “Innovation is in our DNA. It has always been the way we have differentiated our business and is fundamental to our future growth. We are driven by the need to solve for our customers’ needs today and tomorrow and so we have designed this International Innovation Series to showcase our latest innovations and the people behind the incredible work we are doing around the world.”

Of course, it’s one thing to say “I want to be an innovator”; coming up with the goods is a different story. Innovation isn’t just about technology, it can take forms from a simple change in a process to an alternative business model and typically it happens when we look for solutions to everyday problems.

But how do we get there? Where can we find inspiration in our everyday lives?

Inspiring places

Never underestimate the impact your location can have on the work you do. Buzzing with energy, life, history, and technology, the cities we live and work in can go a long way in helping to inspire us.

We are proud to have offices in some wonderful places around the world. Describing what makes London such an inspiring place to live and work in our video, Nick Kerigan is particularly drawn to areas synonymous with London’s cutting-edge start-up scene: “Shoreditch is a really vibrant part of London. With a post-industrial feel to it, it’s where many start-ups and exciting activity is based. I also love the Living Wall on one side of the Athenaeum Hotel; for me it represents a new kind of innovation in an urban setting.”

With old newspaper factories being turned into nightclubs and old warehouses being reanimated as creative business districts, the old and new exist in harmony throughout the UK. It’s clear that innovative businesses are drawn to sites like these; places where a sense of history hangs heavy in the air.

Barclaycard Germany colleagues based in Hamburg are blessed with equally stimulating surroundings, from the iconic Elbphilharmonie concert hall and legendary club Molotov, to the world-famous warehouses at the Speicherstadt UNESCO World Heritage site; home to a wealth of agencies, publishing houses and tech firms.

Across the Atlantic, those innovating at Barclays US Consumer Bank in Wilmington, Delaware have a great balance of nature and culture, with spots like the city’s riverfront area and the Alapocas Run State providing a great creative backdrop.

Then there’s Mumbai. Rich, colourful and vibrant, it’s easy to see what makes the city so inspiring. Sharing the things she loves most about Mumbai, Lincy Therattil, Head of Rise Mumbai – Barclays Open Innovation Platform, notes symbols like the Gateway of India, the Bombay Stock Exchange and the Heritage Taj Mahal hotel, as well as the Rise offices themselves. Rise Mumbai is home to 42 fintech companies; a great place to be if you’re looking for big ideas.

Inspiring workplaces

The trend for more open and collaborative working spaces is changing office life. The early 2000s saw more workplaces ditching cubicle farms in favour of open floor plans. Next came the table football and ping pong tables. Now there is shared co-working, featuring brainstorming spaces, pods for working independently, workshops to get the creative juices flowing and good coffee on tap.

Creating a positive workplace culture has several obvious benefits. Research by Gensler suggests that a well-designed, comfortable environment can increase productivity by as much as 20 per cent, All signs point to a new working world where technology is helping give people more control over their working lives. A great workspace should reflect the culture and values of the organisation. Employers are starting to get more creative with their office design, promoting health and wellbeing and nurturing a more inspiring working culture among staff. And with good reason; according to the Fellows Workplace Wellness Trend report, 93% of workers in the tech industry said they would stay longer at a company with healthier workplace benefits like wellness rooms, company fitness benefits, sit-stand desks, healthy lunch options and ergonomic seating.

In Hamburg, Kat Haase, Chief Operating Officer, Barclaycard Germany, talks about how their offices are set up for generating ideas: “New last year, our Future Zone space invites colleagues to come together, collaborate and foster innovation. We also have out ‘co-lab’, a fantastic space where colleagues can literally write ideas on the wall and bring them to life with technology. All our spaces have video conferencing as well – it’s really important that we are connected all the time.”

With majestic views of the city, the Barclays Open Innovation offices in Mumbai feature plenty of informal spaces where employees can meet up, resolve issues, and just generally unwind. There’s even an auditorium, which plays host to a series of events and workshops for Barclays clients and the wider fintech community.

Inspiring people

External influences can provide a great setting, ultimately innovation comes down to people; their ideas, their determination, their history and their interests. Albert Einstein was fascinated by light. James Dyson was struck by cyclone technology. Some ideas bubble under the surface, sometimes they are the result of years of research and perseverance, and sometimes they hit like a thunderbolt. They can arrive in a dream, while meditating or while picking up groceries. When it comes to innovation, people are an organisation’s greatest asset. There’s no real trick to it; concentrate on developing unique and useful solutions to problems and good stuff will happen.

From London to Mumbai, our International Innovation series will be looking at the work carried out by our colleagues around the world and highlights some of the innovations they are driving – make sure you check it out.