I am very lucky. In my job, I sit at the door to the FUTURE. At the adidas FUTURE team, we work on those new innovations, creative concepts and exciting research projects, all to make athletes better and enrich peoples’ lives. And here’s where we are always on the lookout for exciting new partners who share our thirst for innovation and something new.
Within the adidas FUTURE team, we aim to have the optimum amount of knowledge and resource inside the group, providing the flexibility to manage a large number of diverse, technical projects with our Industrial and Academic partners. We consider this agility to be the foundation of our open-source mindset, collaborating with a diverse range of partners outside of our own industry with this synergy providing results that are significantly greater than the sum of the parts.
One such example is with our long term partners BASF, together with whom we brought in one of the most exciting innovation in sports industry – the Boost shoes. Our agreement with BASF allows us not only to have exclusive use of BOOST material, but unparalleled access to the future development of new materials and the processes that sit behind it.
SHARE – Partnerships are built on trust
To really trust your partner, you have to understand where they are coming from and upon which path they are headed. This enables both parties to open up to each other – perhaps there are mutually beneficial workstreams or projects to collaborate on? Sharing is not limited to technical knowledge but can encompass business practice, people strategy and much more.
COLLABORATE – Embrace the diversity to get those great ideas flowing
Similar to the way that musicians get together to “jam” and create a piece of music made of individual contributions, the participants exchanged ideas, developed concepts and built prototypes that contributed toward a pre-defined challenge statement. The sessions were intensively active, where “doing, not talking” is the mantra.
The events themselves were fantastic occasions, with the diverse, enthusiastic participants sourced from social media and via word of mouth providing incredibly high quality output. It also gave us the chance to explore a new network of interesting people and groups with whom we will reconnect with in the future for further collaboration and insights.
The tangible outcomes were plentiful and gave both, us and BASF a lot to think about. From 40 participants, we captured over 500 exploration notes that translated into over 30 initial raw ideas, with 7 chosen via a rating system to move further into the prototyping stages. After two rounds of prototyping, presentations and group feedback sessions, TEAM UNICORN emerged as victors with their “POWER SHARE NYC” where they addressed the challenge of modelling a government incentive scheme to encourage people to adopt active modes of transport. Their proposed solution of targeting bikers with small dynamo devices, which over the course of a number of journeys would collect energy that could be harvested to provide electricity to social impact projects, was for sure a fascinating one to look out for.
The best initiatives start as the dirtiest prototypes
For me, the overwhelmingly positive reaction that we received from the participants simply by opening our doors and inviting them in to work with us is my biggest learning. There was an appetite not only to understand what we are working on and why, but also how we as an innovative company approach large, complex topics such as the future of urban mobility.
More often than not, the best initiatives start as the dirtiest prototypes, developed through the application of service design thinking and held together by sticky tape and the belief of the team.
This experience of co-creation has given us the confidence to proceed deeper into the world of open innovation, where we can explore, analyse and shape long term scenarios, provide a platform to listen to what is not being said and ultimately build a deep, mutual and lasting relationship with our consumers. The end goal – delivery of broad, consumer-centred adidas innovations that fundamentally change the way product is considered, created, sourced, produced, delivered and experienced.