He brings your ideas to life
From Innovation jams to Dragons’ Den, road shows and virtual companies: Jonas Thorngren creates channels for ideas that are outside the box.
It all began with frustration. Jonas had been working as a business developer in an area that was new to the Volvo Group.
“During the project, there were plenty of ideas we wanted to develop, but they didn’t fit into our structure,” explains Jonas Thorngren.
When his boss, Hans Persson, was subsequently tasked with reviewing the innovativeness of the then Volvo Technology and, in the longer term, the entire Volvo Group, he was keen to include Jonas.
“We have since worked together and successively built up a fantastic team and a network that focuses on challenges.”
The Volvo Group is good at running large development projects through what is known as incremental innovation. Then there are the ideas that are radical, lie some way in the future or fall between departments and units.
“By making use of ideas like this, we improve the way we handle disruptive change. How well prepared are we when the rules of the game are changed and we meet the equivalent of Ryanair or Apple in ‘our’ transport sector?”
The first step when it comes to improving the innovation process could be an Innovation jam related to a specific area. Experts on the subject and innovation coaches help to provide inspiration. The discussion then begins in a forum on the web that is open for 48 hours. Everyone in the organisation has the opportunity to present his/her ideas and comment on those of others. The attitude is positive and everyone who contributes ideas receives a response.
“People should participate because it’s fun but also because it’s important for the company’s future competitiveness. The jam method is currently being used in many parts of the Volvo Group.”
An Innovation jam results in many ideas. After a first round in which the best ideas are selected, the Dragons’ Den awaits.
Originally, Dragons’ Den was a Japanese TV programme, but it has now spread all over the world. Entrepreneurs present their business ideas to a panel made up of venture capitalists. If they succeed in convincing them, they leave the den with money and a new business partner. The same thing applies here.
“Last time, 40 teams each had 10 minutes to pitch their ideas. They presented what they wanted to do and how much money they needed.”
Jonas talks about the point at which ideas and people meet and often uses words like “passion”, “spark” and “engagement”. The teams that succeed in presenting persuasive arguments for their ideas are given the chance to continue developing them as innovation projects. This can involve anything from developing a prototype to conducting tests. Finally, the projects are presented to a wider audience at a road show. Some projects are then “discovered” and taken up by a part of the Group. For others, this is the end of the road. Some ideas, which are “just too good to die”, generate virtual companies. They are then developed into a business plan or a field test at a customer. In the end, this virtual company may well become “flesh and blood” in the form of a spin-off or it can be incorporated in the Volvo Group’s structure. There are no guarantees, however.
“We need a climate in which even the project manager can say, ‘I believed in this idea before, but I don’t any longer’. If we have 15 ideas and one of them takes off, we mustn’t regard the other 14 as failures. They have helped us to learn something.”
Jonas’ own driving force is helping other people to work on things that enable them to realise their full potential. He sees this as a way for the company to retain skills and expertise and at the same time attract new people with ideas. People who want a large company backing them but are also interested in developing their entrepreneurial spirit.
“This job is perfect for me. Sometimes eight hours feel like four. When I get home in the evening, I don’t go and lie down on the sofa. My job gives me so much and I have energy left for the family.”
Jonas Thorngren on…
“I studied Industrial Economics at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg. A broad-based engineering education ensured that I didn’t end up in a specific box at an early stage. I was just as interested in languages and nature as I was in technology. This job has brought me to a technology-intensive environment and yet it still gives me the chance to work with people”
… outdoor life
“I grew up in Lysekil on the west coast of Sweden, next to and on the sea. I like standing way out on the rocks, feeling the wind and having my batteries charged by Mother Nature. It has a huge influence on me”
… the very best idea
“Finding the optimal energy source. Or eternal life. In actual fact, I don’t want to live for ever, but I would like the chance to re-live my life or perhaps pause it for a while”
Occupation: Chief Project Manager Innovation, Group Trucks Technology
Joined the Volvo Group: in 2005
Family: wife and three children, Vera, 4, and the twins, Ester and Tilde, 2