47 case interview examples (from McKinsey, BCG, Bain, etc.)

Case interview examples - McKinsey, BCG, Bain, etc.

One of the best ways to prepare for   case interviews  at firms like McKinsey, BCG, or Bain, is by studying case interview examples. 

There are a lot of free sample cases out there, but it's really hard to know where to start. So in this article, we have listed all the best free case examples available, in one place.

The below list of resources includes interactive case interview samples provided by consulting firms, video case interview demonstrations, case books, and materials developed by the team here at IGotAnOffer. Let's continue to the list.

  • McKinsey examples
  • BCG examples
  • Bain examples
  • Deloitte examples
  • Other firms' examples
  • Case books from consulting clubs
  • Case interview preparation

Click here to practise 1-on-1 with MBB ex-interviewers

1. mckinsey case interview examples.

  • Beautify case interview (McKinsey website)
  • Diconsa case interview (McKinsey website)
  • Electro-light case interview (McKinsey website)
  • GlobaPharm case interview (McKinsey website)
  • National Education case interview (McKinsey website)
  • Talbot Trucks case interview (McKinsey website)
  • Shops Corporation case interview (McKinsey website)
  • Conservation Forever case interview (McKinsey website)
  • McKinsey case interview guide (by IGotAnOffer)
  • McKinsey live case interview extract (by IGotAnOffer) - See below

2. BCG case interview examples

  • Foods Inc and GenCo case samples  (BCG website)
  • Chateau Boomerang written case interview  (BCG website)
  • BCG case interview guide (by IGotAnOffer)
  • Written cases guide (by IGotAnOffer)
  • BCG live case interview with notes (by IGotAnOffer)
  • BCG mock case interview with ex-BCG associate director - Public sector case (by IGotAnOffer)
  • BCG mock case interview: Revenue problem case (by IGotAnOffer) - See below

3. Bain case interview examples

  • CoffeeCo practice case (Bain website)
  • FashionCo practice case (Bain website)
  • Associate Consultant mock interview video (Bain website)
  • Consultant mock interview video (Bain website)
  • Written case interview tips (Bain website)
  • Bain case interview guide   (by IGotAnOffer)
  • Digital transformation case with ex-Bain consultant
  • Bain case mock interview with ex-Bain manager (below)

4. Deloitte case interview examples

  • Engagement Strategy practice case (Deloitte website)
  • Recreation Unlimited practice case (Deloitte website)
  • Strategic Vision practice case (Deloitte website)
  • Retail Strategy practice case  (Deloitte website)
  • Finance Strategy practice case  (Deloitte website)
  • Talent Management practice case (Deloitte website)
  • Enterprise Resource Management practice case (Deloitte website)
  • Footloose written case  (by Deloitte)
  • Deloitte case interview guide (by IGotAnOffer)

5. Accenture case interview examples

  • Case interview workbook (by Accenture)
  • Accenture case interview guide (by IGotAnOffer)

6. OC&C case interview examples

  • Leisure Club case example (by OC&C)
  • Imported Spirits case example (by OC&C)

7. Oliver Wyman case interview examples

  • Wumbleworld case sample (Oliver Wyman website)
  • Aqualine case sample (Oliver Wyman website)
  • Oliver Wyman case interview guide (by IGotAnOffer)

8. A.T. Kearney case interview examples

  • Promotion planning case question (A.T. Kearney website)
  • Consulting case book and examples (by A.T. Kearney)
  • AT Kearney case interview guide (by IGotAnOffer)

9. Strategy& / PWC case interview examples

  • Presentation overview with sample questions (by Strategy& / PWC)
  • Strategy& / PWC case interview guide (by IGotAnOffer)

10. L.E.K. Consulting case interview examples

  • Case interview example video walkthrough   (L.E.K. website)
  • Market sizing case example video walkthrough  (L.E.K. website)

11. Roland Berger case interview examples

  • Transit oriented development case webinar part 1  (Roland Berger website)
  • Transit oriented development case webinar part 2   (Roland Berger website)
  • 3D printed hip implants case webinar part 1   (Roland Berger website)
  • 3D printed hip implants case webinar part 2   (Roland Berger website)
  • Roland Berger case interview guide   (by IGotAnOffer)

12. Capital One case interview examples

  • Case interview example video walkthrough  (Capital One website)
  • Capital One case interview guide (by IGotAnOffer)

13. Consulting clubs case interview examples

  • Berkeley case book (2006)
  • Columbia case book (2006)
  • Darden case book (2012)
  • Darden case book (2018)
  • Duke case book (2010)
  • Duke case book (2014)
  • ESADE case book (2011)
  • Goizueta case book (2006)
  • Illinois case book (2015)
  • LBS case book (2006)
  • MIT case book (2001)
  • Notre Dame case book (2017)
  • Ross case book (2010)
  • Wharton case book (2010)

Practice with experts

Using case interview examples is a key part of your interview preparation, but it isn’t enough.

At some point you’ll want to practise with friends or family who can give some useful feedback. However, if you really want the best possible preparation for your case interview, you'll also want to work with ex-consultants who have experience running interviews at McKinsey, Bain, BCG, etc.

If you know anyone who fits that description, fantastic! But for most of us, it's tough to find the right connections to make this happen. And it might also be difficult to practice multiple hours with that person unless you know them really well.

Here's the good news. We've already made the connections for you. We’ve created a coaching service where you can do mock case interviews 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from MBB firms . Start scheduling sessions today!

The IGotAnOffer team

Interview coach and candidate conduct a video call

Practice a case

Case interviews represent real client engagements giving you insight into our approach and the work we do. It also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate clear thinking, practical judgment, and a professional demeanor, while helping us assess your thought process, creativity, and comfort with ambiguity.

How to use this tool:.

You will be presented with an example of a real-life business situation, along with a series of questions.

Answer each question to the best of your ability, then check your work.

At any time, you can access the business situation in the upper right corner.

Please note: This is not an assessment and we do not track your responses or results. You can practice as often as you'd like.

Completion time: 15/20 min

Practice a case interview

Please note that cases may differ in format and level of detail depending on the duration of the interview, but remember in the actual interview, we will be looking at your ability to think through a problem versus any specific technical skill or subject matter knowledge.

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Ten Types of Innovation: 30 new case studies for 2019

Ten Types of Innovation 30 new examples for 2019

If you’ve followed my work for a while, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the Ten Types of Innovation, a framework developed by Doblin (now a part of Deloitte).

I previously listed it as the #2 innovation framework you should be using.

And with good reason. I have used it frequently with clients to get them to think beyond innovating their product , which becomes harder, more expensive and less differentiating over time.

However, what I have found in recent workshops is that since it was originally published in 2013, some of the case studies and examples in the book already come across as out of date. That’s how rapidly the world is changing.

So here, I present three new more recent case studies for each of the Ten Types of Innovation, along with an outline on what each of them represents. Try and see which of these examples you would also suggest touch on more than one of the Ten Types, and let me know in the comments below:

1) Profit Model: How you make money

Innovative profit models find a fresh way to convert a firm’s offerings and other sources of value into cash. Great ones reflect a deep understanding of what customers and users actually cherish and where new revenue or pricing opportunities might lie.

Innovative profit models often challenge an industry’s tired old assumptions about what to offer, what to charge, or how to collect revenues. This is a big part of their power: in most industries, the dominant profit model often goes unquestioned for decades.

Recent examples:

  • Fortnite – Pay to customise: This Free-to-Play video game by Epic Game Studios is currently one of the most popular and profitable games in the world. Unlike other “freemium” games which incentivise people to spend money to speed up progression, Fortnite is completely free to progress and people only need pay if they want to unlock cosmetic items which don’t affect gameplay but act to personalise their characters.
  • Deloitte – Value sharing: Professional Services firm Deloitte is the world’s largest Management Consulting firm and still growing. They noticed a desire from their clients for assurance that the advice they were being given and transformation projects which Deloitte was running would actually succeed. As a result, Deloitte has begun trialling projects where instead of their fee being based just on Time and Materials, they will also share in value delivery, where additional bonus payments are only activated if previously-agreed performance metrics are successfully met.
  • Supreme – Limiting supply: While most companies want to get their products in to the hands of as many people as possible, Supreme has built a cult following through deliberately forcing scarcity of its products. The streetwear clothing retailer announces limited items which will only be available from a specific day when they “drop”, and once they are sold out, that’s it, unless you want to pay huge markups for a second-hand item on eBay. Their red box logo is now so collectible and desirable that the company is able to sell almost anything by putting the logo on it for a limited time only. Case in point: you can find official Supreme Bricks (yes, like the ones used to build houses) which are still selling on eBay for $500.

Supreme's limited quantity releases often lead to people queuing overnight

Supreme’s limited quantity releases often lead to people queuing overnight

2) Network: How you connect with others to create value

In today’s hyper-connected world, no company can or should do everything alone. Network innovations provide a way for firms to take advantage of other companies’ processes, technologies, offerings, channels, and brands—pretty much any and every component of a business.

These innovations mean a firm can capitalize on its own strengths while harnessing the capabilities and assets of others. Network innovations also help executives to share risk in developing new offers and ventures. These collaborations can be brief or enduring, and they can be formed between close allies or even staunch competitors.

Recent Examples:

  • Ford & Volkswagen – Developing Self-driving cars: As two of the world’s largest car-makers, Ford and Volkswagen are competitors on the road. However, in 2019 they announced a partnership to work together to develop technology for self-driving cars and electric vehicles which would be used in both company’s fleets of the future. While Ford brings more advanced automated driving technology, Volkswagen was leading in electric vehicles. Through the combined venture called ARGO, both firms can spread their R&D spending across more cars, while both developing competing products.
  • Microsoft – launching on competitors platforms: Since new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has taken over, he has changed the innovation ethos of the company. Whereas previously Microsoft was a product-first company who tried to eliminate competing products and customers should stay within the company’s ecosystem, Nadella has shifted the mindset to a service company where their products should be accessible to customers should be able to access the products in whichever way they prefer. As a result, products such as Office 365 are now available in any web browser, as well as on the mobile marketplaces of Google’s Android and Apple’s IOS, previously seen as competitors.
  • Huawei – Leveraging celebrity endorsement: Until recently, “high-quality smartphone” made people think of companies like Apple (USA), Samsung and LG (South Korea). Brands from China were often seen as competing on price but suffering from lower build quality and a lack of innovation. So in order to raise their profile in Western markets, Huawei has invested heavily in celebrities to endorse their flagship phones, such as Scarlett Johanssen, Lionel Messi, Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot. This initial investment raised brand name recognition, to the stage where it is now focusing marketing more towards features and functionality.

Huawei has paid Lionel Messi millions to endorse their brand

Huawei has paid Lionel Messi millions to endorse their brand

3) Structure: How you organize and align your talent and assets

Structure innovations are focused on organizing company assets—hard, human, or intangible—in unique ways that create value. They can include everything from superior talent management systems to ingenious configurations of heavy capital equipment.

An enterprise’s fixed costs and corporate functions can also be improved through Structure innovations, including departments such as Human Resources, R&D, and IT. Ideally, such innovations also help attract talent to the organization by creating supremely productive working environments or fostering a level of performance that competitors can’t match.

  • Perpetual Guardian – Four-day working week: This small financial advisory firm in New Zealand trialed moving to a four-day working week, giving their staff an additional free day each week as long as they got their outputs done. As a result, they found people adjusted their working rhythm to achieve the same outcomes in 20% less time , while also resulting in more satisfied employees.
  • Netflix – Unlimited Vacations: In order to drive their breakneck growth, Netflix reviewed their formal HR policies to see what processes were getting in the way of people doing their best work. They discovered that most bureaucratic processes which slowed down high performing individuals were in place to only handle situations where a low-performance individual would do something wrong. As a result, they scrapped most formal HR policies to free people to work in their own ways to benefit the company, summarised in their “Freedom and Responsibility” culture document, including allowing staff to take as many vacation days as they felt they needed to produce their best work.
  • WeWork – Leveraging other companies’ hard assets: WeWork’s business model revolves around providing affordable office rentals for entrepreneurs and companies, fitting a lot of tenants into the same space by offering co-working areas. In order to rapidly deploy new working spaces and attract customers, WeWork started using a system called rental arbitrage, where they would rent commercial space, create a ready-to-use coworking setup, and then rent this space to customers. By not having to spend CAPEX on purchasing the buildings themselves, they were able to rapidly expand with lower overhead.

Netflix allows staff to take unlimited vacation days

Netflix allows staff to take unlimited vacation days

4) Process: How you use signature or superior methods to do your work

Process innovations involve the activities and operations that produce an enterprise’s primary offerings. Innovating here requires a dramatic change from “business as usual” that enables the company to use unique capabilities, function efficiently, adapt quickly, and build market–leading margins.

Process innovations often form the core competency of an enterprise, and may include patented or proprietary approaches that yield advantage for years or even decades. Ideally, they are the “special sauce” you use that competitors simply can’t replicate.

  • Tesla – Vertically integrated supply chain: Tesla’s electric cars require huge packs of EV batteries, made of thousands of lithium-ion cells. Until recently, the lack of demand for electric vehicles meant that companies had not invested in battery technology development, resulting in prices remaining high and making the cost of cars prohibitively more expensive than their gasoline counterparts. Tesla invested in a massive gigafactory to produce the newest battery packs themselves, and the economies of scale, as well as not paying markups to manufacturers, are estimated to save them 30% of the cost of the batteries.
  • Amazon Web Services – opening internal technology to third parties: When Amazon Web Services initially launched in 2006 , it effectively launched the cloud computing market, allowing external companies to not just host webpages but run code and calculations at a fraction of the cost of building their own server network. Since then, Amazon has continued to develop new technology it would use for its own services, such as artificial intelligence, image recognition, machine learning, and natural-language processing, and later make this technology available to their customers.
  • AliExpress – Making everyone a Shop Owner: AliExpress is one of the world’s largest eCommerce sites, and serves as a commercial storefront for thousands of Chinese companies, allowing you to purchase everything to phone cases to forklifts. However, AliExpress also allows the platform to handle purchases as listed on external storefronts using a system called drop-shipping, where anyone can set up their own store, sell someone else’s products (but to customers it looks like they are coming from the seller) and then have those manufacturers send the product directly to the customer.

Tesla's Gigafactory is the world's largest building

Tesla’s Gigafactory is the world’s largest building

5) Product Performance: How you develop distinguishing features and functionality

Product Performance innovations address the value, features, and quality of a company’s offering. This type of innovation involves both entirely new products as well as updates and line extensions that add substantial value. Too often, people mistake Product Performance for the sum of innovation. It’s certainly important, but it’s always worth remembering that it is only one of the Ten Types of Innovation, and it’s often the easiest for competitors to copy.

Think about any product or feature war you’ve witnessed—whether torque and toughness in trucks, toothbrushes that are easier to hold and use, even with baby strollers. Too quickly, it all devolves into an expensive mad dash to parity. Product Performance innovations that deliver long-term competitive advantage are the exception rather than the rule.

  • Gorilla Glass – Changing chemistry to improve smartphone durability: Gorilla Glass by Corning was listed as one of the original Ten Types by becoming scratch resistant. I have included it again for how it has changed the properties of its glass based on customer feedback each year. In 2016, version 5 of the glass was designed to resist shattering when dropped from 5+ feet, dubbed “selfie height” drops. However, after discussing what properties their customers wanted, by 2018 version 6 was no longer trying to resist shattering when dropped from a height once, instead the chemistry and manufacturing process had been changed to make it resistant to cracking after 15 drops from a lower height (1 meter, or a “fumble drop from your pocket”). I love this example of innovation as the product performance doesn’t just try to become “ better ” by resisting one drop from a higher height than last year, instead figuring out what really matters to customers and delivering that.
  • Raspberry Pi – full PC for $35: The original Rasperbby Pi was developed by a UK charity to make a simple yet expandable computer which was affordable enough for everyone. Their credit-card sized PC may look bare-bones (it comes without a case and is effectively an exposed circuit board), yet it contains everything which someone needs to run a Linux operating system, learn to program and even connect it with external sensors and peripherals to make all manner of machines. The latest version 4 is now powerful enough to serve as a dedicated PC, all for a price so low you can give it to a child to tinker with without fear of it being broken.
  • Lush Cosmetics – Removing what people don’t want anymore: As people become more aware of their impact on the environment, customers are demanding that customers do more to reduce the amount of plastic packaging their products use which could end up in landfill or the ocean. Lush Cosmetics was an early pioneer in bringing packaging-free cosmetics to scale, offering some of their packaging-free products like shampoo bars and soaps in dedicated packaging-free stores .

Giving children a cheap PC like the Raspberry Pi to learn and experiment on

Giving children a cheap PC like the Raspberry Pi to learn and experiment on

6) Product System: How you create complementary products and services

Product System innovations are rooted in how individual products and services connect or bundle together to create a robust and scalable system. This is fostered through interoperability, modularity, integration, and other ways of creating valuable connections between otherwise distinct and disparate offerings. Product System innovations help you build ecosystems that captivate and delight customers and defend against competitors.

  • Ryobi – One battery to rule them all: While handheld tools have had rechargeable batteries for decades now, Ryobi’s innovation was designing the modular One+ battery which could be used with over 80 different tools. Not only was this convenient for customers who needed fewer batteries overall for multiple uses, it also encouraged someone to buy into the Ryobi tool ecosystem once they had previously purchased one tool and battery set.
  • Zapier – making APIs easy: Many web-based applications nowadays have an Application Programming Interface (API) which allows them to share data with other services. However, this often requires complex coding from the developers, and repeated effort to integrate with multiple different APIs. Zapier acts as a middleman for data, providing ready-made actions and API integrations between popular web services, allowing customers to automate certain activities every time a specific event happens.
  • Airbnb – Expanding into experiences: Airbnb built their business on allowing everyday people to sell accommodation in their homes to strangers. Now the company has begun offering complementary services to people visiting new places through Experiences . These experiences are also sold by local guides, and allow guests to try things they would otherwise not have known about in addition to staying somewhere new.

Ryobi One+ battery powers multiple different tools

Ryobi One+ battery powers multiple different tools

7) Service: How you support and amplify the value of your offerings

Service innovations ensure and enhance the utility, performance, and apparent value of an offering. They make a product easier to try, use, and enjoy; they reveal features and functionality customers might otherwise overlook, and they fix problems and smooth rough patches in the customer journey. Done well, they elevate even bland and average products into compelling experiences that customers come back for again and again.

  • Kroger – Smartphone grocery scanning: US retail giant Kroger has been trialing a new smartphone app which allows shoppers to scan items as they shop, and then skip checking out altogether. Using the Scan, Bag, Go app, a customer will scan each item as they pick them up and place them into whatever bag they want, and once they are done, they can simply pay using the app and leave. This prevents shoppers having to wait in checkout lines and gives them an overview of their running total as they go, and also allows the supermarket to entice shoppers by sending coupons and offers directly to them.
  • PurpleBricks – bringing real estate online: Estate Agents have a poor reputation for treating both sellers and buyers, especially for the amount they charge relative to the service they provide. PurpleBricks was one of the first online-only estate agents , where they could charge a significantly lower fee if the seller chose to complete some of the service processes themselves, such as showing the home to potential buyers. The firm can provide additional services for additional charges.
  • Meituan Dianping – providing one app for all the services you want: As Fast Company’s 2019 Most Innovative company , Meituan Dianping provides a platform for Chinese consumers to purchase a variety of services. Known as a transactional super-app, you can use the app to book and pay for food delivery, travel, movie tickets and more from over 5 million Chinese small and large merchants.

Scan your own groceries with the Scan-Bag-Go app

Scan your own groceries with the Scan-Bag-Go app

8) Channel: How you deliver your offerings to customers and users

Channel innovations encompass all the ways that you connect your company’s offerings with your customers and users. While e-commerce has emerged as a dominant force in recent years, traditional channels such as physical stores are still important — particularly when it comes to creating immersive experiences.

Skilled innovators in this type often find multiple but complementary ways to bring their products and services to customers. Their goal is to ensure that users can buy what they want, when and how they want it, with minimal friction and cost and maximum delight.

  • Dollar Shave Club – Direct to your door: Razor Blades have always been high-margin products, and Gillette was one of the original innovators by giving away the razor handle to make money on the subsequent razor blade sales. Dollar Shave Club has taken a different approach, by reducing the cost of each set of blades, but having people join a subscription service where blades are delivered to them automatically. While the margin on each set of blades is lower than retail, the subscription model has provided steady, predictable revenue for the company, to the extend that subscription boxes can now be found for almost any consumable product.
  • Zipline – Blood Delivery for remote areas: In hospital settings, getting fresh blood can a matter of life and death. Unfortunately, many Sub-Sharan African countries don’t have road infrastructure suitable for quickly delivering blood between hospitals or storage locations. This is why Zipline has developed a simple, reliable drone network where hospitals in Rwanda and Ghana can order fresh blood from a central processing area and receive it within an average of 15 minutes, rather than the hours or days it would take using conventional transportation.
  • 3D Printers – produce whatever you need at home: Instead of a single company, the industry of 3D printers is slowly beginning to change the way in which consumers get simple tools and parts. By downloading schematics from the internet (or designing their own), people owning a 3D printer now no longer to go to a retail location or order the parts they need. In commercial settings, this is also speeding up how quickly companies are able to prototype new ideas and designs, waiting hours rather than days or weeks.

zipline blood drone innovation

zipline blood drone innovation

9) Brand: How you represent your offerings and business

Brand innovations help to ensure that customers and users recognize, remember, and prefer your offerings to those of competitors or substitutes. Great ones distill a “promise” that attracts buyers and conveys a distinct identity.

They are typically the result of carefully crafted strategies that are implemented across many touchpoints between your company and your customers, including communications, advertising, service interactions, channel environments, and employee and business partner conduct. Brand innovations can transform commodities into prized products, and confer meaning, intent, and value to your offerings and your enterprise.

  • Gillette / Nike – being willing to lose customers who don’t align with purpose: I have combined both Gillette and Nike into this example of brand innovation since they have both recently aligned their brands to a purpose (social and political), which has been positively welcomed by some people but has resulted in hatred from other groups. Nike began by making former NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick the face and voice of one of their advertising campaigns. Kaepernick rose in prominence when he refused to stand during the national anthem before his games, his way of protesting the police brutality and inequality towards his African American community. This led to some people claiming he was disrespecting the American Flag, and therefore what the flag stands for. When his advert launched, a vocal minority took to social media to upload videos of themselves saying that Nike no longer aligned with their values, and they burned their shoes, vowing to never buy Nike again. Similarily, Gillette came out with a commercial urging all men to be “The best a man can be”, by pushing aside previously ‘masculine’ traits like bullying, chauvinism or fighting, and showing children how a modern man should behave. As soon as the ad was released online, many media outlets praised its message, but it brought the wrath of angry men who claimed that the razor manufacturer shouldn’t tell them what to think or how to behave, how they would never buy the products again, and how the world was becoming too politically correct, with women and minorities getting preferential treatment over white men. The advert quickly became one of the most disliked videos on Youtube, and even my commentary about the innovative message (seen in the video below) had the comments section covered by hate-filled messages. What both Nike and Gillette realised was that if they wanted to align with positive, progressive messages and values (which align with their target demographic of the future), then they would risk upsetting and alienating the proportion of their current customer base who didn’t share those views. In both cases, these were decisions that would have been signed off by all levels in the company, through marketing, sales, legal and the board, and the brands will be stronger in the future because of it.
  • Burberry – modernising a classic brand: Burberry had built its luxury fashion reputation by aligning itself with the British Aristocracy, and its famous chequer patterned fabric was iconic. However, when trying to modernise and make the brand “sexy” in the early 2000s, a misstep happened when the luxury house began to license the chequered fabric, resulting in it becoming a status symbol and desired motif for a different social group: the British “Chavs” (rough, lower class and sometimes aggressive). This poisoned the once iconic brand in the eyes of their intended luxury clientele. In order to survive, the company and brand embraced innovation , by becoming one of the first fashion houses to redesign their website to be mobile-optimised, aligning their store layout to mirror the website, highlighting young British talent and livestreaming content and fashion shows. Most importantly, they moved away from the iconic chequer pattern in their fashion designs, where it is now limited to less than 10% of products.

10) Customer Engagement: How you foster compelling interactions

Customer Engagement innovations are all about understanding the deep-seated aspirations of customers and users, and using those insights to develop meaningful connections between them and your company.

Great Customer Engagement innovations provide broad avenues for exploration and help people find ways to make parts of their lives more memorable, fulfilling, delightful — even magical.

  • REI – closing their stores on the busiest shopping day: Outdoor equipment retailer REI had begun closing its doors on Black Friday , traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year. They claim they are doing this to Eddie their customers to actually get outdoors and use their equipment, rather than queuing for discounted material goods.
  • Peloton – bringing the gym into the home: Many people benefit from going to joint gym classes because the sense of a group working toward is goals together with a coach is more powerful than trying to exercise by yourself. Peloton makes exercise equipment with built-in screens, powered by a subscription to live and on-demand classes. It’s like being part of a workout group with the benefits of being at home.
  • NBA – bringing the fans into the action: The NBA had invested heavily in innovation to make their sport more immersive. From live analytics and player statistics, new ways to watch like VR video, and official video game players for each team, they are finding new ways to bring basketball to the next generation, while making it even more exciting for existing fans.

Peloton brings exercise classes into the home

Peloton brings exercise classes into the home

There we go, a new set of 30 examples of the Ten Types of Innovation.

If you found some of these examples interesting, please share the article.

Can you think of any more good examples? Let me know in the comments below.

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Endowment effect: why people value what they currently have.

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great examples! I now feel inspired to innovate in my entrepreneurial project. Thank you ?

Greetings from Mexico

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Excellent work!

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They’s very interesting. Do you have the solutions of some of recent examples?

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My university has taken pretty much everything from here, poorly rephrased a few things and have delivered it to us, the student, as an entire weeks worth of content. Maybe i should be paying my fees here…

Bachelor of business student Australia

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Very interesting. Which course was it being used for?

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Inside IKEA’s Digital Transformation

  • Thomas Stackpole

case study interview innovation

A Q&A with Barbara Martin Coppola, IKEA Retail’s chief digital officer.

How does going digital change a legacy retail brand? According to Barbara Martin Coppola, CDO at IKEA Retail, it’s a challenge of remaining fundamentally the same company while doing almost everything differently. In this Q&A, Martin Coppola talks about how working in tech for 20 years prepared her for this challenge, why giving customers control over their data is good business, and how to stay focused on the core mission when you’re changing everything else.

What does it mean for one of the world’s most recognizable retail brands to go digital? For almost 80 years, IKEA has been in the very analogue business of selling its distinct brand of home goods to people. Three years ago, IKEA Retail (Ingka Group) hired Barbara Martin Coppola — a veteran of Google, Samsung, and Texas Instruments — to guide the company through a digital transformation and help it enter the next era of its history. HBR spoke with Martin Coppola about the particular challenge of transformation at a legacy company, how to sustain your culture when you’re changing almost everything, and how her 20 years in the tech industry prepared her for this task.

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To Compete or Cooperate? A Case Study of Innovation and Creativity Labs in Berlin

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  • Published: 26 September 2022
  • Volume 14 , pages 4367–4392, ( 2023 )

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case study interview innovation

  • Daniel Feser   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-2591-4488 1  

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Innovation intermediaries provide support during innovation processes and contribute to clients’ innovativeness. In a growing body of literature, innovation intermediaries are considered as knowledge brokers and boundary spanners in regional innovation systems. While previous studies have highlighted insights into intermediaries’ impact on clients, observations of their internal policies and working mechanisms remain scarce. Based on a case study of Berlin-based innovation and creativity labs, this paper sheds light on the innovation strategies chosen by intermediaries. I find that a distinct dualism of cooperation and competition shapes the innovation strategies of innovation intermediaries. The growing number of competitors and a lack of transparency shape the role of regional policy that offers information and market coordination. I present policy recommendations based on the results.

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Innovation intermediaries serve as change agents to foster knowledge exchange (Howells, 2006 ). Key concepts like competitiveness and resilience have contributed to a research focus on the role of innovation intermediaries within regions (Bristow, 2010 ; Budd & Hirmis, 2004 ). In particular, considering the growing importance of open innovation platforms for local knowledge ecosystems, intermediation is key to understanding current changes in the knowledge economy (Agogué et al., 2013 ; Hossain & Lassen, 2017 ; Randhawa et al., 2017 ). Based on place-based approaches, such as clusters (Porter, 1990 , 1998 ) and regional innovation systems (Cooke, 1992 , 2001 ), studies have presented evidence of varying regional innovation caused by path dependencies like historical characteristics and lock-in effects (Martin & Sunley, 2006 ). Recently, studies on specialization policies have reinforced the need to analyze region-specific configurations (Balland et al., 2019 ; McCann & Ortega-Argiles, 2013 ). The role of intermediaries in regional innovation systems is central to understanding innovation-induced interaction at the regional level (Carayannis & Campbell, 2009 ; Etzkowitz, 2018 ).

Ranging from conceptual to empirical studies, intermediaries’ effect on the diffusion of innovative products, services, and business models has been thoroughly discussed. From a systemic perspective, intermediaries perform boundary-spanning and knowledge-brokering activities during the innovation process (Huyghe et al., 2014 ; Parjanen et al., 2011 ). In regional innovation systems, intermediaries are part of the interplay between academic research, businesses, and administration (Hsieh et al., 2015 ; Smedlund, 2006 ), and thus, they contribute to firms’ innovativeness directly and indirectly (Lichtenthaler, 2013 ; Russo et al., 2019 ).

The internal value creation of intermediaries has recently been discussed to broaden the understanding of intermediaries’ role during knowledge-sharing processes (Kant & Kanda, 2019 ; Sieg et al., 2010 ; de Silva et al., 2018 ; Tran et al., 2011 ). The perspective on internal processes allows the identification of the contribution of intermediaries to regional innovation and the hampering and promotion of factors stemming from internal value creation to understand how the mechanisms through which intermediaries maintain value for themselves help them renew their internal capabilities and keep pace with new knowledge. Despite acknowledging openness as a key strategic element for fostering innovative capacity (Agogué et al., 2013 ; Aquilani et al., 2017 ; Randhawa et al., 2017 ), only a few papers have presented empirical evidence considering the internal perspectives of intermediaries (Krenz et al., 2014 ; de Silva et al., 2018 ). The observed “lack of the interaction between value generation for both the clients of intermediaries and intermediaries” (de Silva et al., 2018 , p. 80) highlights the need for further research. Moreover, “little insight on the contribution of intermediaries to the broader innovation system” (Kanda et al., 2019 , p. 1137) exists to date to comprehensively understand how intermediaries influence the innovation process.

Compared with direct interaction between industry and universities (Benneworth et al., 2017 ; Ranga et al., 2008 ), the strategic dimension of intermediaries has been neglected thus far, meaning their long-term orientation toward goals and underlying activities impact their role in regional innovation. By default, the openness of intermediaries is assumed to be a standard mode that accelerates knowledge sharing in regional innovation systems (Kerry & Danson, 2016 ), while this assumption has not yet been intensively analyzed. Thus, despite previous research having concentrated on general implications regarding the role of intermediaries, analyzing intermediaries’ strategies is fruitful with regard to deepening the understanding of regional innovation systems. Furthermore, regional innovation policy-makers rely on knowledge about such structures to improve regional support and the regional capability to innovate. Innovation strategy as a channel for the effectiveness of intermediaries in regional settings has been under-explored to date. In this paper, I analyze how innovation intermediaries implement innovation strategies and explore their potential impact on regional innovation systems and the latter’s performance. This paper contributes to the discussion on how intermediaries can serve to spark co-creation innovation processes and be positioned as open innovation platforms.

For this purpose, I conducted an exploratory case study on a sub-group of innovation intermediaries (Yin, 2003 ), Berlin-based innovation and creativity labs, which are defined as “physical spaces for testing innovative ideas, alternative business models, new economic practices or flexible cooperation structures” (Schmidt et al., 2014 , p. 232). This study builds upon a project about identifying challenges and growth-induced changes in the regional innovation system for Berlin-based innovation and creativity labs. Using a qualitative case study design, I analyze semi-structured interviews with lab managers and CEOs to explain their specific innovation strategies and infer implications for regional innovation activities .

Overall, I find that labs focus their innovation strategies on connecting different owners and participants of innovation projects to improve clients’ innovative capacity and source external knowledge. The increased number of innovation and creativity labs in Berlin has led to the challenge for intermediaries of maintaining a comprehensive market overview and advancing their competitive advantage. Innovation and creativity labs use coopetition elements to collaborate with competing market participants to improve their capacity to serve during the innovation process. Specifically, long-term cooperation with competitors is used for specialization and learning. In particular, for digital innovation knowledge, exploration is used as an explanation for cooperating with competitors. Regional policy-makers and administrators play a crucial role in improving the quality of information and supporting increased transparency in the innovation intermediation market.

This paper adds to the existing literature with regard to two dimensions. First, to date, intermediaries have been seen as a central actor in fostering innovation processes, although the strategic behavior of intermediaries has been neglected, especially regarding its implications for intermediaries’ role in regional innovation systems. This paper demonstrates that intermediaries react by implementing a coopetition mode to appropriate innovation and search for niches to generate value. Second, this paper highlights the need for coordinating intermediaries in environments with a high density of such organizations. The regional innovation perspective can integrate these aspects to understand and support structural embedding in regional networks.

The remainder of this paper is structured as follows. In the “ Literature Review ” section, I review the relevant literature on innovation intermediaries’ impact on regional innovation systems and intermediaries’ internal perspectives, specifically regarding strategic decision-making. Subsequently, in the “ Data and Methods ” section, the method and data collection are described. The “Results: Strategic Perspective of Innovation Intermediaries” section presents insights from the case study interviews in Berlin. In the “ Discussion ” section, I discuss the findings from the perspective of the relevant coopetition literature. Finally, I conclude with policy implications and outline further research recommendations.

Literature Review

Innovation intermediaries and regional innovation systems.

Howells ( 2006 ) functionally defined an innovation intermediary as “an organization or body that acts as an agent or broker in any aspect of the innovation process between two or more parties” (p. 720). Innovation intermediaries represent a heterogeneous group of private, public–private, and public actors in the innovation process, ranging from independent organizations to sub-units of larger organizations like universities and large enterprises (LEs) (Bocquet et al., 2016 ; Huyghe et al., 2014 ; Schmidt et al., 2014 ). Based on Howells’s seminal paper, a large strand of literature has discussed the role of innovation intermediaries in regional innovation systems (Kanda et al., 2019 ; Lichtenthaler, 2013 ; de Silva et al., 2018 ; Tran et al., 2011 ). Research has focused, in particular, on the positive effects when clients benefit from the transfer of innovative knowledge by the intermediaries (Abbate et al., 2013 ; Johnston & Huggins, 2016 ; Shearmur & Doloreux, 2013 ). Due to their role as key actors, it is crucial to analyze the regional embeddedness of intermediaries (Nilsson & Sia-Ljungström, 2013 ). Intermediaries can support innovation by improving interactions with stakeholders in regional innovation systems (Agogué et al., 2013 ; Howells, 2006 ; de Silva et al., 2018 ). Innovation intermediaries provide support for firms through networking, integrating new knowledge, and improving their absorptive capacity (Garengo, 2019 ). During new knowledge creation, knowledge transfer and knowledge recombination intermediaries are involved in the interplay between universities, the government (Lee et al., 2017 ), industry (Johnston & Huggins, 2016 ), and societal actors (MacGregor et al., 2010 ). Specifically, the interaction of regional actors in quadruple (MacGregor et al., 2010 ; Stier & Smit, 2021 ) and quintuple (Carayannis & Rakhmatullin, 2014 ; Carayannis et al., 2012 ; Grundel & Dahlström, 2016 ) helix structures play a magnificent role in understanding collaborative innovation processes.

Furthermore, research has focused on innovation intermediaries’ influence on client firms’ innovativeness with regard to understanding the role and effectiveness of intermediaries. Conceptually, intermediaries can reduce size-related impediments, such as a scarcity of staff and financial resources, resulting from small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) innovation activities (Betz et al., 2016 ; Fukugawa, 2018 ; Garengo, 2019 ; Laperche & Liu, 2013 ). In addition to business-university cooperation, companies benefit from intermediaries via extra knowledge transfer capabilities (Tether & Tajar, 2008 ). More specifically, intermediaries offer to support clients’ innovativeness by improving the network, interaction, and absorptive capacity (Garengo, 2019 ). Empirical studies provide insights into how companies benefit from cost reductions while cooperating with intermediaries during the innovation process. They improve their productivity regarding cooperating with innovation intermediaries (Fukugawa, 2018 ; Jarmin, 1999 ; Knockaert & Spithoven, 2014 ). Moreover, intermediaries increase the probability of client firms implementing production innovation (Rocio Vasquez-Urriago et al., 2014 ) and fostering collaborative research and development (R&D) (Fukugawa, 2018 ) and eco-innovation (Kanda et al., 2018 ). Furthermore, engaging with intermediaries reduces innovation-related transaction costs for manufacturing enterprises (Lichtenthaler, 2013 ), improves their absorptive capacity (Knockaert & Spithoven, 2014 ; Lin et al., 2016 ), and increases their possibility of benefiting from knowledge spillover (Ponds et al., 2010 ).

As intermediaries have been described as key players with regard to fulfilling innovation policy goals, public policy has consistently concentrated on supporting intermediary structures to sustain and enhance regional competitiveness (Agogué et al., 2013 ; Arenas & González, 2018 ; Papamichail et al., 2022 ). The growing number of intermediaries demands an in-depth systemic analysis of networks and intermediaries supporting new services, products, and business models (Russo et al., 2019 ). For innovation intermediaries to remain effective over the long term, clarification of the internal value creation for public and private innovation intermediaries is also required to understand the need to support intermediary development in regions with a growing number of intermediaries.

Internal Perspective of Innovation Intermediaries

The key idea behind examining intermediaries’ internal value creation is motivated by the need to better understand intermediaries’ contribution to innovation processes and the development of innovation systems (de Silva et al., 2018 ). In particular, given that it is difficult to capture the performance of intermediaries, the literature sheds light on the internal perspective of intermediaries (Dalziel, 2010 ; Russo et al., 2019 ). A large share of previous research into the internal perspective has focused on intermediaries’ activities and the services offered by them (Alexander & Martin, 2013 ; Garengo, 2019 ; Howells, 2006 ). Overall, intermediaries often specialize in the complementary needs of clients regarding value creation (Landry et al., 2013 ).

Studies on the role of intermediaries’ internal value creation have analyzed their survival over time (Kant & Kanda, 2019 ), evaluation capacities (Winch & Courtney, 2007 ), and collaboration with universities (Lee & Miozzo, 2019 ). Furthermore, the configuration of knowledge bases (Pina & Tether, 2016 ), intermediaries’ absorptive capacity (Bocquet et al., 2016 ), and non-financial and financial returns from collaborative innovation projects (Boon et al., 2011 ; Polzin et al., 2016 ; de Silva et al., 2018 ) support the knowledge-building capacity of intermediaries and their ability to satisfy clients’ demands.

While I can build on results regarding the internal perspective of intermediaries, the role of innovation strategies regarding innovation intermediaries has been under-explored. Implicitly, the literature has discussed elements with relevance for the long-term orientation of intermediaries. Belso-Martinez et al. ( 2018 ) offer first insights into highlighting the relevance of analyzing the institutional framework for intermediaries offering knowledge-brokering services. Moreover, Sengupta and Ray ( 2017 ) indicate that the characteristics of universities influence the choice of strategy in the case of knowledge transfer offices. A comprehensive analysis of innovation strategy is still missing. The growing number of intermediaries requires further exploration of how strategy affects their role and activities.

Innovation Intermediaries’ Choice of Innovation Strategy

Innovation intermediaries have been conceptually linked to the open innovation framework to enable their function in regional innovation systems (Chesbrough, 2003 ; Leydesdorff & Ivanova, 2016 ). In order to benefit from the knowledge sharing and boundary spanning of intermediaries, openness has been highlighted as a strategic factor for regions fostering knowledge exchange (Alexander & Martin, 2013 ; Kerry & Danson, 2016 ). The term “open innovation intermediaries” (Porto Gomez et al., 2016 ) emphasizes the conceptual idea of following this paradigm. However, empirical insights into intermediaries dealing with the requirements to implement systematically open innovation strategies are missing to date.

The open innovation literature describes the implementation of open innovation strategies as challenging. Originating from examples such as the open source community, the application of open innovation strategies has been discussed in various sectors and organizations (Remneland Wikhamn, 2020 ; de Oliveira et al., 2019 ; Schmidt & Brinks, 2017 ). In particular, organizational capacities and the management of change processes are predominant for the successful application of open innovation perspectives (Chesbrough & Appleyard, 2007 ). As a strategic approach, open innovation relies on the idea of benefiting from external knowledge sources stemming from other sub-systems (Bayat et al., 2022 ; Leydesdorff & Ivanova, 2016 ). Organizational capacities play a critical role for organizations looking to benefit from open innovation strategies, while their success largely depends upon internal resources and staff that follow the strategic approach.

Another strand of literature investigating innovation strategies focuses on the value captured by commercialization strategies that protect the innovative advantage (Levie, 2014 ; Vivas, 2016 ). This strategy seeks to benefit from innovations by overcoming problems of knowledge spillover to competitors. Traditionally, intellectual property rights – particularly patents – have been used to protect technological innovation and give patent actors monopoly rights for a limited time (Blind et al., 2006 ). Additionally, informal mechanisms have been used to protect businesses’ innovations (Agostini et al., 2015 ; Thomä & Bizer, 2013 ). These studies mostly survey firms, and transferring the findings to intermediaries’ strategies is challenging. Nevertheless, for intermediaries, the choice of innovation strategy in terms of open and closed approaches is not straightforward.

The internal perspective of intermediaries and behavioral aspects influencing innovative capabilities remain unclear. This paper investigates the role of innovation strategies for innovation intermediaries and its effect on regional innovation. Therefore, the following research questions were chosen to gain a comprehensive picture of the role of intermediaries:

How do the strategic behaviors of intermediaries influence the selection of cooperation partners, especially clients, during innovation processes?

How do choices concerning closed and open innovation strategies influence efficacies concerning regional innovation?

Data and Methods

In order to answer the research questions, this paper builds upon a comparative case study design (Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007 ; Yin, 2003 ). Since I address an under-explored research topic, and due to the lack of reflexive and qualitative research, this method is suitable for exploring the internal perspective of intermediaries. To understand “how” intermediaries implement innovation strategies, this inductive approach can create new insight based on case study research (Yin, 2003 ). I consequently embed the results in the existing literature and discuss the new findings.

Thus, while large-scale data sets are common in innovation research to analyze innovation processes, a broad mix of methods has been established in recent years. Qualitative, mixed-method, and ethnographic research approaches are used in innovation studies (Ametowobla et al., 2015 ). A multiple case study was chosen to conduct research into three dimensions: First, case study research can account for heterogeneous actors and the dynamic development of regional innovation in SMEs (Ceci & Iubatti, 2012 ), network analysis (Almodovar & Teixeira, 2014 ), and process analyses (Batterink et al., 2010 ; Huyghe et al., 2014 ). Second, the analysis of innovation strategies requires a deeper understanding of activities like knowledge brokering and boundary spanning (Kanda et al., 2018 ; Kant & Kanda, 2019 ; Pina & Tether, 2016 ). Third, a multiple case study in a defined geographical area allows the identification of heterogeneity among intermediaries operating in a common regional innovation system (Bank et al., 2017 ; Gao & Hu, 2017 ).

I conducted a case study in Berlin since several researchers have presented insights into its favorable conditions for innovation intermediaries (Bank et al., 2017 ; Schmidt & Brinks, 2017 ; Schmidt et al., 2014 ). Moreover, Berlin was chosen as the area for study due to its high density and heterogeneity of intermediaries, which allows the systematic analysis of intermediaries’ innovation strategies. In the case study, I focus on innovation and creativity labs in the Berlin innovation system as part of a Berlin City Council project. The project aimed to screen activities, identify challenges, and formulate policy recommendations for innovation and creativity labs.Interviews and a feedback workshop were included in the project activities.

The interviews were selected following the idea of purposeful theoretical sampling (Eisenhardt, 1989 ). While large-scale studies use random sampling as a means to present representative arguments, purposeful selection enables the choosing of a limited number of cases from a sample that reflects the most information about the research question. For the case study, I selected interviewees, assuring heterogeneity among the innovation labs represented based on their categories, foci, and locations (Table 1 ). To assure a broad variety of cases, I consulted and discussed the selection process and structure of the questionnaire with regional innovation experts from the Berlin City Council. Footnote 1

The semi-structured questionnaire mostly comprised open guiding questions to receive the unbiased perspective of interviewees on the research topic. The questionnaire was structured in three parts (Table 2 ). Footnote 2 The first part focused on the analysis of labs’ activities. In particular, innovation process and performance-guided measures were guiding questions. In the second part, the analysis and evaluation of the current market situation were discussed. This included specific impediments for the lab and general barriers for the region. The third part concluded with recommendations for addressing specific challenges and the need for support from administrative and political actors in Berlin. To ensure the quality of the results, I used follow-up questions to clarify the respondents’ answers.

Following the definition of Schmidt et al. ( 2014 ), I selected the interviewees from a public list of Berlin-based innovation and creativity labs that Berlin City Council ( 2018 ) initiated and administered. Being listed ensured that the interviewees had a higher possibility of possessing knowledge about their labs’ involvement in regional innovation processes since the labs had publicly committed to innovation activities and had engaged in regional development. I selected the interviewees according to labs that were publicly known for their innovation activities. The interviews were conducted via phone and in person. The respondents were CEOs and senior lab managers who all worked for Berlin-based labs. One case included the founder of a lab who was no longer working for said organization. The interviews lasted, on average, 45 min and took place between September and November 2018. In a seminar with more than 40 participants, to which the interviewees and regional innovation experts were invited to, I presented and discussed the preliminary results. I used this discussion as input and as a complementary source for this paper.

To guarantee the anonymity of the participants and to allow them to express their opinions openly and to receive an unbiased perspective on internal strategic behavior, the interviews were not recorded. To minimize the information loss, detailed memos were written, and the data were enriched by public information, such as research articles, web pages, and social media content. Based on Mayring ( 2000 , 2014 ), I conducted a qualitative content analysis, which structures content according to the distinct research questions. Qualitative content analysis aims to describe the content provided by actors and is useful for presenting the “whole picture.” This offered the advantage of benefiting from reflexivity by using a combination of inductive and deductive categories. These deductive categories stem from the literature review, as depicted in Fig.  1 . To ensure the reliability of the data collected, the memos and coded content were discussed with other researchers.

figure 1

Data collection and analysis plan

Results: Strategic Perspective of Innovation Intermediaries

In the following section, based on cross-case analysis, I present insights into the strategies of innovation and creativity labs in Berlin. The interviewed experts operate within the interplay of research, businesses, administration, and societal groups, formulating a broad spectrum of perspectives on the role of intermediaries and their innovation strategies in the regional innovation system.

The interviewees substantiated our reason behind the choice of location by pointing out the favorable conditions for innovation activities in Berlin. First, the Berlin innovation system has noticeably improved its innovative capacity in the last decade. Historic events, such as the reunification of the Eastern and Western parts of the city as well as the relocation of the seat of government, have shaped Berlin’s economic development. A growing scientific community with various universities and research organizations (Belitz & Schiersch, 2018 ), highly innovative SMEs (Feser, 2019 ), internationally recognized entrepreneurship activities (Startup Genome, 2019 ), and a large creative and cultural sector (Schmidt et al., 2014 ) has increased the awareness of the innovation system. Additionally, the growth of venture capital with regard to the digital technologies of Berlin-based companies has contributed to the city’s growing visibility (Scheuplein & Kahl, 2016 ). Second, advantageous economic conditions, such as low living costs and infrastructure, are supportive of those looking to found or invest in innovation and creativity labs in Berlin. Third, an ecosystem of innovation and creativity labs has developed in the last decade, with Berlin City Council counting 150 innovation and creativity labs in Berlin in 2018. In a non-representative German-wide survey, 28% of innovation and creativity labs were found to be situated in Berlin (Capital & Infront Consulting,  2019 ). In particular, larger companies have founded labs in Berlin. In addition to labs of international LEs, more than half of the German DAX-listed companies have established or plan to establish innovation and creativity labs in Berlin (Berlin City Council, 2018 ).

Intra-lab Cooperation and Labs’ Brokering Activities

This section addresses the role of intra-lab cooperation in innovation strategy, which includes not only bilateral cooperation between a lab organizer and participants but also further multilateral interaction between participants. Labs rarely launch innovative products by themselves, but instead provide services and infrastructure for clients to commercialize new services, products, and business models, serving as brokers of knowledge. By definition, innovation and creativity labs rely on a network and the cooperative behavior of external stakeholders. The initiation of innovative cooperation and the enhancement of clients’ innovative capacity are central to creating value. In the interviews, the respondents emphasized facilitating broker activities for cooperation as their standard mode during the innovation process. Labs target the fostering of client cooperation between two or more parties, including startup-LE or investor-entrepreneur cooperation, to support the diffusion of innovative products and services and to identify new business models.

This intra-lab cooperation has two dimensions: First, labs offer spaces and infrastructure to enable cooperation in a creative environment for their target groups. Such cooperation comprises heterogeneous lab participants, ranging from students and freelancers to startups and teams from SMEs and LEs. Additionally, grassroots labs cooperate with societal groups and artists for social innovation. Labs often select participants from heterogeneous groups to enable interactions between clients from different backgrounds. In particular, the labs’ broker function is important for recursive learning processes, which aim to improve organizational capacity. Teams from LEs and established SMEs ideally offer insights into structuring innovation processes and provide market knowledge, while startups and freelancers share their experiences of innovating flexibly and adaptively.

Second, labs cooperate with experts, such as consultants, researchers, and experienced employees from companies of the parental organizations, to offer lab users knowledge to create added value and foster benefits from internal cooperation. Labs cooperate with external partners to source knowledge about entrepreneurial education and company development, financing, and networking with LEs for their clients. Furthermore, knowledge concerning legal advice, developing prototypes, services, and product testing, as well as market information, are integrated into the labs’ services. Berlin lab managers publicly appreciate the favorable innovation system due to the high density of cooperative stakeholders (Reintjes, 2019 ). Furthermore, labs seek to source knowledge to add value to their own services, including that directly emerging from their external partners.

Following open innovation approaches, mutual experience exchange in labs has been considered as important for intra-lab cooperation. CEOs and lab managers aim to design lab spaces that foster innovative cooperation. Co-working spaces, showrooms, and workshop rooms are planned and operated to support learning processes and intensify the role of labs as brokers of learning opportunities. Events are essential for networking and engaging lab participants and stakeholders from the Berlin innovation system. Respondents evaluate engagement within the innovation system as essential to establish a lab’s role as a knowledge node. The offer of networking events varies between the different labs. It ranges from short-term events to multi-day training and intensive guidance programs that can last for several months.

Overall, intra-lab cooperation with clients or knowledge suppliers and labs as networking spaces are methods to help sustain the labs’ innovativeness, and they are therefore relevant factors in and a major focus of labs’ innovation strategies. Accordingly, the first proposition is as follows.

Proposition 1

Intra-lab cooperation is a key part of the business models of innovation and creativity labs, and the labs’ strategic orientation focuses on clients’ satisfaction regarding the cooperation opportunities and brokering activities available to stimulate learning.

Competition in the Berlin Regional Innovation System

In the interviews, competition among the labs emerged as an important topic for managing innovation and creativity labs and implementing their respective innovation strategies. While interviewees recognized the screening of the relevant competitors in the region in the past as a feasible benchmarking task, currently, the large number of market participants impedes a holistic overview of labs’ activities. Furthermore, the heterogeneity of private, public–private, and public stakeholders has caused a lack of transparency about the incentives and innovation strategies of other operating labs. Consequently, interviewees perceived difficulties in evaluating information about the current market situation at a reasonable cost. Recently founded labs, in particular, have to deal with high costs in terms of information acquisition due to the dynamic changes in innovation activities and the lack of regional networks.

When asked about measuring a lab’s performance according to the organization’s purpose, most of the participants referred to capturing competition with business-related indicators and management tools, such as key performance indicators (KPIs). The interviewees concentrated on enabling the best possible utilization of the labs’ resources and maximizing revenue through products, service contracts, network services, participation fees, and shares of firms. Scaling up revenues is a central task for lab managers and CEOs when developing a lab’s innovation strategy. Only a small number of respondents reported surveying innovation-related indicators, such as the number of new firms and knowledge transfer projects, due to requirements regarding public funding. Despite innovation being at the core of the labs’ activities, it is evaluated as a by-product. The interviewees pointed out innovation in the form of anecdotal evidence about successful products, services, and entrepreneurs. Systematic evidence concerning innovative outcomes and regional impact is seldom available.

The dynamic changes in the innovation system have created challenges for labs in terms of adjusting their position in the innovation process. The perception of growing competition has enforced the necessity to adapt the business models of labs. Additionally, not only changes induced by regional competition but also external demands, such as technological processes in specific sectors, increase the dynamics in the innovation system. In the case of academic-driven labs, the changing requirements of public funds have resulted in the need to adapt their services. Firm-driven labs have often changed their innovation strategies in the past when their parent organizations demanded general organizational restructuring and strategic realignment. Consequently, CEOs and lab managers devote a noteworthy share of their resources to searching for market niches and identifying specific target clients in the innovation system.

The increased national and international awareness of the Berlin innovation system has affected the labs both positively and negatively. Entrepreneurs, students, and specialists appreciate Berlin’s reputation and are willing to cooperate in innovation and creativity labs. On the one hand, they recognize the dynamic innovation system, but on the other hand, investment prices have become more expensive, services need to be more specialized, and promising entrepreneurs have become scarce.

Overall, competition with other labs and other organizations with similar service offerings is central to the evaluation of CEOs’ and lab managers’ performance. High information costs, business indicators directed at competition, and the increasing number of market entrants require labs to include the role of intensified competition in their innovation strategies. While the location of Berlin has benefited from a regional competitive advantage due to its favorable conditions, competitive pressure currently influences the need to adapt innovation strategies. Therefore, the second proposition is as follows.

Proposition 2

The growing number of intermediaries has prompted strategies more focused on benchmarking, adopting best practices, and niche searching to renew their business models.

Inter-lab Cooperation

The assessment of inter-lab cooperation in innovation strategy differed among the interviewees. I found groups of labs that choose to cooperate with other labs, while others purposely prefer not to cooperate with competitors. Labs founded by larger entities like universities and LEs often strategically pursue the goal of initiating and sustaining innovation cooperation between labs. Here, boundary spanning is a strategic goal for labs to acquire knowledge from other stakeholders in the innovation system. Additionally, academic-driven labs seek to commercialize academic knowledge via project cooperation. The lack of resources and specific knowledge is mentioned by interviewees as a reason to cooperate with other labs. In the case of firm-driven labs, risk sharing when testing prototypes and trying new methods is the aim of inter-lab cooperation. In cooperation with competitors, the respondents expect to collectively learn during projects, apply the new knowledge, and prospectively integrate it into their parent organizations. Independent grassroots labs as well as accelerators and incubators often evaluate horizontal cooperation as challenging due to unintended knowledge spillover and an increasingly competitive market. Inter-lab cooperation can be found in informal cooperation. Apart from these more established forms, I found one lab with a specialized business model to assist in the setting up of new labs in Berlin.

Three different motives can be found for inter-lab cooperation. First, motives to cooperate to explore new knowledge can be explained by a parent organization’s open innovation strategy. Labs choose to cooperate with competitors to explore new knowledge. Firm-driven labs use coopetition as a component of their strategies to benefit from open innovation. Companies tend not to outsource their core R&D activities to firm-driven labs but rather to find and operate labs for experimenting and testing purposes. In particular, companies with little or no experience in specific fields of expertise use inter-lab cooperation to gain a basic understanding, identify challenges, and obtain experience before the companies proceed with upscaling in their parent organizations. Often, labs are intermediaries for starting innovation projects that are difficult to implement in parent organizations. Therefore, labs set up cooperative projects for collaborative learning in time-limited projects to absorb knowledge and compensate for their lack of experience. During the very preliminary stage of the product, service, or process development, knowledge spillovers are not considered as particularly problematic by the interviewees.

Second, another motive for inter-lab cooperation is collaborative learning. It has the advantage of accelerating learning processes and improving the industry’s competitive position in international markets. In particular, LEs operate firm-driven labs to conduct projects with competitors. These labs implement coopetitive projects, which do not affect their core business models or competitive positions. The density of labs demonstrates an advantage obtained through parent units setting up cooperative work with other labs. Labs stemming from different sectors and technological foci cooperate, while their parent organizations normally do not cooperate. For instance, an alliance of firm-driven innovation labs developed a cooperation project with the broader societal purpose of supporting integration into the labor market. This project established a web-based training tool for disadvantaged groups, offering firm visits, language education, and job training, as well as more activities to enable up-skilling processes. LEs sent employees to train the participants. Although it was established as a non-profit social innovation project, the labs involved benefited from gaining insights into the other cooperating labs, which accordingly enlarged their innovative capacities.

Third, learning about digital technologies is a motive for cooperation with other labs. The majority of labs’ activities focus on the use, development, and application of digital innovation. Digital technologies serve as a justification for implementing labs and initiating coopetitive projects. Companies perceive upcoming digital technologies as challenging to adapt to the German innovation system. Recognizing the relevance of digital technologies, the labs operate with the perception of accelerating innovation processes and the increased need for knowledge-intensive sourcing from various sectors and fields. Respondents emphasized the distinctive role of Berlin in coopetitive projects. This can be explained by the perception of Berlin as a favorable location for developing and diffusing digital technologies. Labs often operate as platforms to establish contact for interdisciplinary cooperation. Cross-sectoral cooperation with labs, also stemming from grassroots, academic-driven labs, as well as incubators and accelerators, has led to various events and networks to exchange knowledge about digital tools, methods, and trends in the innovation system. Learning about best practices plays an important role in improving labs’ performance.

While the interviewees largely support inter-lab cooperation, barriers hamper the use of it as an innovation strategy. The growing number of actors in the Berlin innovation system has fostered the specialization of labs’ services, which has increased the willingness to participate in inter-lab cooperation. As smaller labs search for niches to offer their services, such as specialization in specific developmental stages of young enterprises, their successful performance depends on matching their offers to demands occurring in the innovation system. Some academic-driven labs cooperate with accelerators and incubators, offering complementary services. These labs teach entrepreneurship classes and guide entrepreneurs at the beginning of their careers. They have direct access to advanced students and researchers interested in becoming entrepreneurs. Due to restricted infrastructure and resources, academic-driven labs concentrate on supporting participants in gaining their first experience. For incubators and accelerators, this service is often not within the scope of their business activities because it is evaluated as too risky due to the lack of experience of academic-driven lab users. When enterprises grow and entrepreneurs become more experienced, the subsequent development stage requires enterprises to receive more specialized knowledge. Incubators and accelerators offer additional services and access to more specialized knowledge sources concerning product upscaling and financial and market information. The transition between different labs is organized by the lab managers and CEOs. The respondents describe the organization as a value chain that is organized based on lab employees’ informal networks.

The fear of knowledge spillovers and benefits emerging from innovative cooperation also influence the role of inter-lab cooperation. The tension inherent in coopetition, cooperating strategically with competitors, was brought up in the interviews. Only a few lab managers – mainly from firm-driven labs – explicitly referred to coopetition as a strategy. Most of the interviewees expressed an implicit coopetitive strategy by mentioning both cooperative and competitive aspects while describing their innovation strategies. Both elements have been evaluated as important for inter-lab cooperation. The cooperative environment is identified as an advantage with regard to offering a stimulating learning environment inside the labs, while the competitive pressure requires CEOs and managers to adapt their innovation strategies and to specialize to develop their labs’ business models and find sustainable market positions. Accordingly, the third proposition is as follows.

Proposition 3

Labs use coopetition to decide to cooperate selectively to achieve long-term goals and improve their innovative capabilities.

Regional Innovation Perspective

Coopetitive innovation strategies and the growing number of labs influence the innovation system in Berlin. Sustaining the network structure is a leitmotif for labs, and it concerns the regional innovation system in terms of three different dimensions. First, non-separable elements of cooperative and competitive behavior often challenge market participants when positioning their services. In particular, the lack of transparency has led to the perception of lower openness in the Berlin innovation system. Second, publicly funded labs fulfill an essential function in the innovation system. To support the diffusion of knowledge at the beginning of the value chain, labs are often publicly funded. The differentiation of labs has resulted in a functional organization aligning labs’ business models at different developmental stages of companies. Interviewees emphasize the importance of sustaining funding for the labs concerning their services. Phasing out and restructuring public support programs have been considered as impediments to the network structure. Third, interaction with policy-makers is seen as the key to expanding lab activities to stricter regulated markets. The adaptation of a regulatory framework to enable innovation in regulated branches, such as the medical and pharmaceutical sector, requires discussions between relevant stakeholders to enable entrepreneurial activities in these fields.

The change in innovation strategies shapes labs’ roles in the regional innovation system. Labs search for new alternative cooperation partners and opportunities to exploit new network resources in the region. For instance, cooperation with policy-makers and administrators offers opportunities for labs to potentially expand their networking activities. Moreover, with a higher degree of specialization, labs develop their knowledge networks to offer services fulfilling clients’ needs. Thus, the search for specialized knowledge, such as sector- and technology-specific expertise, demonstrates an impediment to labs’ development. Moreover, the internationalization of knowledge drives labs to develop new business models. Competitive advantages, such as linking regional knowledge with internationally available knowledge sources, play an important role in exploiting new market niches.

The role of regional policy with regard to supporting and sustaining the network structure, as well as supporting dynamics in the innovation system, was emphasized in the interviews. Concerning the network structure, Berlin City Council is perceived as a neutral actor, supporting the function of labs in the innovation system. Public policy has been seen as an essential part of the innovation system that influences the innovation activities of labs. Besides indirectly influencing labs’ strategies through state funding for entrepreneurial activities, educational offers, and support events, interviewees point out two important functions of the regional policy:

First, public information about the innovation system is crucial for improving its transparency. The existing offers by the city council with regularly updated information about the funding scheme, research activities, and mapping of the existing labs demonstrate a first step to reducing information costs and lowering access-related impediments for labs. Market participants perceive information from neutral sources as helpful when validating their own information and adding new sources to adapt their strategies. Smaller and newer labs that cannot benefit from an extensive network especially acknowledge the value of such information. Besides labs benefiting from information, more actors, such as prospective clients and experts, serve as knowledge sources. They may also profit from higher information availability and transparency in an increasingly differentiated innovation system.

Second, market coordination becomes increasingly relevant. In the interviews as well as at the stakeholder event, lab managers and CEOs confirmed the need for a common innovation framework for the labs in Berlin. The city council could potentially support the first steps toward this since the heterogeneity of the actors has complicated the coordination to date. To support the business models of labs, the definition of sectoral rules and the establishment of a formal network are demanded to foster institutional development. The sectoral development of established sectors, such as the automotive or manufacturing sector, in Germany is a role model for establishing markets with a common framework and with a set of defined rules to enable coopetitive conditions for innovation activities. This can foster the cooperation of labs for innovation while still encouraging them to compete in the same market. As a first step, a formal network of labs as an integrative organization could establish a framework to discuss challenges, regulatory frameworks, and the innovation system’s perspective with regard to sustaining the regional advantage of the openness of the Berlin innovation system. Nevertheless, the tension between cooperative and competitive behavior hampers coordination. Therefore, the fourth proposition is as follows.

Proposition 4

Without a set of common operational rules, coopetitive innovation strategies of intermediaries can negatively affect regional innovation.

The results provide insights into how coopetition is implemented into intermediaries’ innovation strategies. Since the literature strands on innovation intermediaries and coopetition are only loosely connected, I discuss how innovation intermediaries relate to the coopetition literature, which mostly discusses inter-firm coopetition. This case study shows the relevance of the simultaneous appearance of competitive and cooperative elements in intermediaries’ strategic orientation to fulfill organizations’ goals. I contribute to the literature on coopetition by offering exploratory evidence of the role of coopetition for innovation intermediaries. The large body of coopetition literature has specifically addressed the role of coopetition in the innovation process (Quintana-García & Benavides-Velasco, 2004 ). Companies choose coopetition as a strategy to overcome technological complexity in knowledge-intensive innovation (Gnyawali & Park, 2011 ). I specifically connect three strands through which intermediaries influence coopetition.

First, firm-driven labs are an organizational form that integrates new knowledge sources into a parent organization. LEs search for ways to explore knowledge and implement radical changes (Bouncken et al., 2018 ). Collaborating with competitors to recombine knowledge for innovation and implement collaborative learning processes is a strategic choice. The literature on coopetition has discussed challenges for collaborating partners with a focus on the tensions between protecting their business models and sharing knowledge to improve innovativeness (Bouncken & Kraus, 2013 ; Bouncken et al., 2015 ). It has been demonstrated in case studies that the complexities involved in collaboratively developing technological innovation require sufficient resources to successfully coordinate (Chiambaretto et al., 2019 ; Gnyawali & Park, 2011 ). In the case study, the creation of firm-driven labs describes making a choice to deal with the coordination problem. The reorganization of coopetitive resources in labs helps to develop capacities, test cooperative models, and later upscale for complex innovation regarding, for example, digital technologies. LEs organize risk-minimizing coopetitive innovation projects in labs to reduce the risks related to failure for the parent organization. Specifically, intra-lab innovation is a way of cooperating with smaller companies and obtaining knowledge about the flexible structures and development of open innovation projects.

Second, the literature on coopetition focuses on entrepreneurial ecosystems. The first results show that a coopetitive environment can lead to a competitive advantage for innovation systems. Few studies include a regional perspective on the coopetition mode (Crick et al., 2020 ; Felzensztein et al., 2018 ; Ooms & Ebbekink, 2018 ). The knowledge-broker and boundary-spanner role of regional innovation systems determine coopetition and capabilities with regard to benefiting from cooperating with competitors (Bacon et al., 2019 ; Bouncken et al., 2015 , 2018 ). The results confirm the relevance of intermediaries for regional innovation systems benefiting from better competitiveness enhanced by intermediary activities. Nevertheless, the increased competition between intermediaries also influences their position in the regional innovation system. Inter-intermediary cooperation has been evaluated as ambiguous. In particular, intermediaries that strongly rely on innovative outcomes see inter-lab collaboration as critical.

Third, one role of intermediaries has been proposed to overcome the tensions between firms at a conceptual level. The hope is that intermediaries can serve as boundary spanners, helping in coopetitive settings to improve knowledge transfer and improve the conditions for innovation capacity building. A case study on intermediaries at Ubi Soft shows that they can help to reduce sharing costs via a standard setting in the innovation process and supporting diffusion processes as knowledge brokers due to credibility and trust cooperation (Chiambaretto et al., 2019 ). The results indicate that the business models of intermediaries in coopetitive settings have been widely acknowledged. Nevertheless, coopetitive tension also influences intermediaries’ role in the innovation process. In the future, further studies are needed to shed more light on the role of coopetition for intermediaries that are not firm-driven labs as, in my case study, an impact on innovation strategy was detectable for all labs, but the literature is still lacking.

This study analyzes innovation intermediaries’ innovation strategies and their effect on regional innovation systems. I have provided comprehensive insights and formulated propositions about innovation intermediaries’ innovation strategies, building upon a case study of Berlin-based innovation and creativity labs, a sub-group of innovation intermediaries. While the literature has concentrated on the impact on clients and regions, this study contributes to the recently growing strand of literature on the internal perspective of innovation intermediaries (Kant & Kanda, 2019 ; de Silva et al., 2018 ).

Innovation and creativity labs choose innovation strategies that mix cooperative and competitive elements. Intra-lab cooperation is the core of such labs’ innovation strategies. The added value of labs’ services depends on the interaction of clients and external experts and the functioning of networking activities. In addition, the perception of higher competitive pressure due to the increased number of labs is relevant to their positioning in the market. In particular, information costs regarding the regional market have increased due to the growing number of labs. Orientation is offered by indicators screening the direct environment. In a dynamic innovation system with incoming intermediaries, the intermediaries’ management uses niche searching as a means to sustain their business models. Inter-lab cooperation plays an ambiguous role for labs. On the one hand, cooperation with labs to explore new knowledge sources – often for digital innovation – has been valued. On the other hand, cooperation with competitors can threaten the labs’ business models due to the increasingly relevant competition intensity in recent years. While labs with a parent organization explicitly choose coopetition strategies for specialization, independent labs only implicitly use elements of coopetition. Regionally, the choice of innovation strategy influences the systemic configuration due to the need to sustain the network structures’ and intermediaries’ growing differentiation. Consequently, regional policy is needed to grant neutral information and support the foundation of a coordination framework.

The results contribute to the discussion of intermediaries’ role in regional innovation systems in terms of three dimensions. First, this article sheds light on the role of the heterogeneity of intermediaries. This has often been evaluated critically due to disparate roles in the innovation process, which makes comparison difficult. This analysis shows, despite the large heterogeneity of intermediaries in this case study, that labs are adopting coopetitive strategies, which is a response to the emerging competitive market of offering innovation intermediation. Second, this case study enlarges the literature strand on the internal perspective of innovation intermediaries, focusing on their role in regional innovation systems. I demonstrate that while internal cooperation between different participants is performed, the interaction with competing labs is characterized by coopetition. This contributes to understanding the changing role of the open innovation paradigm with increased competition between intermediaries. Third, the discussion on the role of coopetition in innovation processes has almost exclusively focused on firms. Nevertheless, I show that coopetition is also important for non-traditional actors, such as innovation intermediaries. In particular, the discussion on the differences between intermediaries’ role in regional economies might be influenced by each intermediary’s choice of innovation strategies and, consequently, can contribute to explaining differences in innovative outcomes.

This study points to a relevant topic for innovation policy. The financial and non-financial support of intermediaries is often argued as being part of an open innovation strategy to support regional knowledge spillovers and improve regional innovation capacity. Based on the results, I can carefully formulate two policy recommendations. First, establishing interaction between intermediaries in regional networks is key for the success of the former. Due to heterogeneity, supporting open networks might help to establish inter-sectoral and boundary-spanning knowledge exchange and support regional knowledge spillovers. Especially for intermediaries with limited resources, public policy as a “neutral” actor can help to lower the costs of networking. Second, public policy requires strategies concerning funding intermediaries. A large share of intermediaries benefits from public funding. The knowledge transfer from research to business requires public funding since these activities are often not profitable. For networks including knowledge providers and clients, sustainable funding mechanisms need to be considered as innovation systems grow.

The exploratory design of the study has limitations. First, I only offer insights from one innovation system, and the generalizability of the results is only limited. Historic development paths and increased international perceptions also influenced the emergence of innovation and creativity labs. Nevertheless, as a case study in an environment with a growing intermediary market, this study offers insights into a growing number of market participants regarding their function in the innovation process. Additional case studies in regions with a lower density of intermediaries can help to better understand the coopetition mode during the innovation process. Second, large-scale data sets would be desirable to learn more about intermediaries. Despite its limitations, the study design certainly adds to the literature with purposeful sampling to demonstrate the width and heterogeneity of intermediaries. At present, only a few quantitative studies exist since standardized innovation indicators for innovation intermediaries are still missing. In the future, studies are needed to develop measuring instruments and to test them in order to gain more knowledge about their role in regional innovation systems. Third, comparative qualitative studies are needed to understand the role of metropolitan areas and the contexts within which innovation strategies vary in different surroundings. Inter-regional and international comparative approaches will help to identify characteristic elements of the strategic behavior of innovation intermediaries.

The interviews followed the definition of Schmidt et al. ( 2014 ), with four categories of innovation and creativity labs: (1) academic-driven innovation labs: initiated by research organizations, boundary spanners between research and market participants; (2) accelerator/incubator: set up to support and develop startups, selection of potentially fast-growing successful entrepreneurs; (3) firm-driven labs: founded by domestic and international LEs, access restricted by LEs depending on the innovation strategy; and (4) grassroots labs: established by private stakeholders, spaces for creative collaborative work, low participation restrictions. Co-working spaces were not included since their active role in the innovation process is not clear.

The basic structure of the semi-structured questionnaire was based on peer-reviewed case studies in similar survey situations with expert interviews and used a three-part framework composed of analysis, evaluation, and recommendations, like in Feser and Runst ( 2016 ) and Muench et al. ( 2014 ).

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Financial support for conducting the interviews from the Projekt Zukunft funded by the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research with funding code 16IFI110 is gratefully acknowledged.

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Feser, D. To Compete or Cooperate? A Case Study of Innovation and Creativity Labs in Berlin. J Knowl Econ 14 , 4367–4392 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13132-022-01039-1

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Kessler I, Spilsbury K, Heron P. Developing a high-performance support workforce in acute care: innovation, evaluation and engagement. Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; 2014 Aug. (Health Services and Delivery Research, No. 2.25.)

Cover of Developing a high-performance support workforce in acute care: innovation, evaluation and engagement

Developing a high-performance support workforce in acute care: innovation, evaluation and engagement.

Chapter 3 innovation: case studies.

  • Focus and methods

The primary aim of the IC studies was to develop an understanding of the development of a new role or practice in a given trust, examining the details of how and why it emerged and evolved within a specific organisational context. If the scoping and survey phases were designed to map the form taken by, and the distribution of, innovation, the case study phase sought to explain innovative management and the use of nurse support workers in particular trusts. More specifically, why were some trusts able to innovate in these respects, while others, providing similar health-care services, were not?

Table 10 sets out the six IC studies. The cases were purposefully selected to fall within three dimensions of innovation. Two cases focused on new approaches to management: values-based recruitment and the introduction of a HCA development nurse. Three cases examined new roles: a C-SW; a surgical assistant practitioner; and a band 4 educator role with responsibility for training CSWs. Finally, one case study looked at new ways of working: APs in specialist clinical areas. In all cases, the role or practice was new to the trust, although not necessarily unique to the NHS. The six trusts explicitly agreed to attach their names to the presentation of the material in this report. The cases were, after all, examples of ‘good practice’, and in general the trusts were proud of their achievement in ‘successfully’ introducing them.


Innovation case study interviews

Carried out between the winter of 2011 and the early summer of 2013, the cases were mainly based upon interviews with a vertical slice of trust actors who had a stake in the innovation under consideration. Table 10 sets out those interviewed in the respective cases. In total, there were 79 interviews carried out. These interviews were typically supplemented by relevant documentary material, for example trust policies, job descriptions and training programmes.

In general, the interviewees were asked fairly open questions about:

  • the context for the innovation, including trust structure, culture and history
  • the nature and aims of the innovation
  • the design and implementation of the innovation
  • the impact of the innovation on various stakeholders and outcomes
  • the broader lessons.

All interviews were recorded and transcribed. The transcriptions were read through on a number of occasions with a view to establishing whether or not there was an agreed narrative from the stakeholders on the development of the innovation, its aims, design features and consequences, and, if not, where differences of view lay. A draft case report was fed back to the respective trusts, providing the opportunity for inaccuracies and misinterpretation to be picked up.

This section presents an overview of the findings from the respective cases. A final section provides a summary and discussion. To protect the identity of those we interviewed, and to provide consistency between the case study reports, the quotes within the text use the identifier IC plus attributions related to three broad job areas: trust manager , which may include senior and executive managers, personnel within HR, the education and learning teams and external managers; service manager, which can include matrons, divisional managers and senior nurses not working on wards; and ward staff, which can include ward or clinic managers, medical staff, nurses, HCAs and APs. Where an interviewee could be easily identified owing to their specific role, they were contacted to give their approval prior to the case study report being made public. Approval was given in all instances.

  • Values-based recruitment

This case study deals with a new values-based approach to the recruitment and retention of HCAs introduced by York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in 2010. The innovative character of this initiative was reflected in the fact that it had won the 2011 HPMA award for innovation in HR and a similar Health Service Journal (HSJ) award in 2012. The trust’s interest in such an approach was underpinned by two broad considerations. The first related to a high turnover among its 500-or-so HCAs, particularly in the first 6 months of employment, which the trust found to be associated with recruits not being fully aware of the nature of the HCA job:

So many people just came and didn’t have a clue really what they were going to be doing . . . They come and think, ‘oh I thought I was only making tea’. And you think, ‘gosh no, there’s a whole host of things, and tea isn’t one of them’. IC1_ward staff_1

The second consideration was values based, and reflected York’s interest in aligning its values, revolving around ‘caring and ‘compassion’, with those of new HCAs:

We wanted to be able create the opportunity for the individual to demonstrate their caring disposition. IC1_trust manager_1

The new recruitment model

York’s new approach to HCA recruitment comprised a number of elements:

  • A new band 2 HCA job description placed emphasis on personal disposition rather than formal qualification. The person specification was modified to reduce the need for ‘relevant work experience’ and the need for a NVQ level 2 qualification. There was a sharper focus on an understanding of the HCA role and an ability to demonstrate a caring orientation.
  • A new application process sought to address the high turnover of HCAs, stemming from the failure of candidates to fully appreciate the HCA role. The centrepiece of the change was a mandatory open day: ‘On the open day, they come and talk to other healthcare assistants, and they get a view of what the job actually entails. They can look around at the stands, and it’s a really good push into what the role is’ (IC1_trust manager_2). Only those attending were provided with a unique identification number which allowed them access to the application form. As a means of providing more detailed information about the role, the trust also produced a 10-minute film made available on DVD and online, involving HCAs talking about their role.
  • A new selection process sought to ensure a better fit between applicant and clinical area, with shortlisted candidates having the opportunity to list their order of preferred wards. Moreover, the old standard list of interview questions was replaced by an open, scenarios approach, better able to assess whether or not candidates had a caring disposition.
  • A new 2-week HCA induction programme was introduced, with new recruits only taking up their post on the ward on its completion. Replacing an often deferred corporate induction of a couple of days, the new programme ensured that HCAs were better prepared for their role, and so more able to deliver compassionate care and become more appreciative of what the role involved before ‘hitting the ward’.

Key processes and actors

The emergence of York’s new recruitment model rested on a number of processes and actors.

Identifying health-care assistant recruitment as a legitimate issue of concern

Informally, HCA turnover had been a concern for some time, particularly among the trust’s matrons:

We were a very sort of tight knit group of matrons and the problem with retention in terms of health-care assistants was not something strange that had escaped our attention. IC1_service manager_1

However, defining high HCA turnover as an issue worthy of further action had to be sanctioned by senior trust managers:

The assistant chief nurse and [recruitment manager] along with their line managers, the chief nurse and HR director had initial meetings to say we’re getting feedback from matrons and ward sisters that the health-care assistants . . . don’t understand what the role’s about. IC1_trust manager_2

Devising the means to address concerns about health-care assistant recruitment

The trust’s attempts to deal with the recruitment of HCAs rested on close working relationships between different trust functions, particularly the nursing directorate and the HR directorate. The latter was crucial in presenting substantive ideas; thus, the notion of values-based recruitment came from HR. However, the former was essential in carrying these forward and ensuring ‘buy-in’ from nurses and ward sisters to any changes in recruitment procedures.

A third partner in the design process was the trust’s applied learning and research directorate. This was a standalone directorate at York, rather than more typically a part of the HR function, and it acted as a useful resource in designing and delivering a new, credible induction programme.

In the initial stages, there was some informal working between these partners, especially the assistant chief nurse and the recruitment manager, testing ideas and establishing a ‘direction of travel’. These relations were, however, formalised and extended by the establishment of a small working group comprising matrons and ward sisters, which allowed ideas to be sharpened.


The implementation of the new recruitment model was an iterative process, with trust managers regularly seeking the views of nursing staff, and ‘tweaking’ in response to staff views:

We had focus groups, we went to matron meetings to get their feedback. We tried to pull from a whole kind of range of nursing staff, so we didn’t just talk to the health-care assistants, we spoke to some of the staff nurses that dealt with them, we spoke to ward sisters, we spoke to matrons . . . And the feedback we got was really beneficial in terms of how we shaped the process. IC1_trust manager_3

Equally crucial was formal sanctioning and buy-in from the trust’s senior management, which lent legitimacy and credibility to the initiative, and, more prosaically, helped to address certain obstacles:

We needed that board level sign up because there was an issue when we needed the freedom to really change things, not just tweak things . . . I think it was helpful because you know that you did have the ability to change things and actually just to have, if you’re wanting to do it quickly you need that kind of senior sign up. IC1_trust manager_3

There was strong ongoing support from the chief nurse for the initiative:

It is important that you’ve got the support of your chief nurse and your director of HR who can help overcome some of those obstacles . . . because there are resource implications. IC1_trust manager_3

There were some organisational concerns raised about the introduction of values-based recruitment at York. For example, it was suggested that setting up the model was time consuming:

. . . probably just the time to set it up. Because there was a lot of work in, you know, producing the DVD, getting people to come and feel confident enough as a HCA to stand up and talk to a room of what can be a 100 people. IC1_trust manager_4

More generally, however, responses to the new model were positive, with a number of benefits being highlighted.

In providing applicants with a fuller appreciation of the HCA role, the new process walked a fine line between realism and deterrence: more information about the HCA role might as easily have discouraged as encouraged applicants. However, the trust produced data that revealed the effectiveness of open days in attracting those interested in the HCA role: between May 2010 and April 2011, the average attendance was around 100. The average number submitting a formal application had fallen from some 100 to 67, suggesting some ‘deselection’ among those attending the open days. The enthusiasm of those who did apply was reflected in the fact that the numbers of those not attending interviews when called fell by over two-thirds.


The new induction was seen to better prepare HCAs for their role, particularly in terms of competence. As well as contributing to high-quality care, better preparation was viewed as lowering HCA turnover by reducing initial difficulties and stress. The value of the new induction programme was certainly not uncontested. There was, for example, a 2-week lag between the appointment of a HCA and their taking-up of the role on the ward, which caused some ward manager concern. In general, however, HCAs were seen as more equipped for their role following the new extended induction:

They seem to fit in the team quickly, they pick things up much faster, they have an understanding of what is expected of them, their documentation is pretty quick really, they know what they should be doing and what they shouldn’t be doing. IC1_ward staff_2

The new recruitment process, with its open day and extended induction, also signalled the greater support or value placed by the trust on the HCA:

It’s nice that they’re actually thinking about us [HCAs] now; that they’re thinking, ‘oh yes well they’re doing this role so we need to put some training in’. IC1_ward staff_1

There was circumstantial evidence to suggest that HCA retention had improved under values-based recruitment. The trust’s need for fewer rounds of HCA recruitment suggested that HCAs were more inclined to stay. Figures backed this up: turnover reduced from 17% to 12% in the immediate aftermath of the changes and this lower figure has been sustained for 3 years. Indeed, given the costs invested in HCAs who had previously left, this high HCA retention rate was seen to render the initiative highly cost-efficient.

There was similarly anecdotal evidence to suggest that the new interview process was effectively seeking to probe the dispositions of prospective HCAs. As a HCA who had been through the process noted:

They were definitely trying to find out sort of about your personality as well rather than what you are on paper . . . There was quite a lot of that and there was lots of kind of smiling and laughing and it did feel quite relaxed and I did feel that I could bring my personality across and I wasn’t just kind of reciting the notes in my head and answering sort of regimented questions. IC1_ward staff_3

Figure 2 provides an overview of York’s new approach to HCA recruitment. It can be seen that the initiative was embedded in two closely related but analytically distinct streams of development based on retention and on values, which fed into the design of the new recruitment model in various ways.

Tracking the initiative.

  • Developing assistant practitioners as a flexible resource

This case study explored the development of the AP role at South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (henceforth referred to as Torbay). The AP role was first introduced at Torbay in 2006 and, with the foundation degree (FD) taking 2 years to complete, the first cohort of APs qualified in 2008. Two further cohorts have since completed their training. With three cohorts active, in the summer of 2012 there were around 30 APs in the trust, with another 14 trainees in either the first or the second year of their FD. The emergence of the AP role at Torbay some 7 or 8 years ago placed the trust at the vanguard of developments in the south-west.

This leading position was indicative of an organisational culture, which, in a more general sense, displayed a capacity to innovate. Torbay had won the HSJ Acute Healthcare Organisation of the Year Award in November 2011, with the judges commenting that ‘the trust works as a team in an integrated way to deliver best outcomes and innovations in care with high levels of clinical engagement’.

Inevitably, questions arise as to how Torbay was able to develop such an innovative culture, with suggestions that the trust’s structure played a part. As a medium-sized district general hospital, with its acute services located on a single site, Torbay was a relatively compact organisation. The workforce was relatively stable, with low turnover. These characteristics fostered an open and friendly organisational culture, encouraging the kind of direct personal interaction needed to raise, share and develop new ideas.

The culture and working environment provided the backdrop to, and fostered, Torbay’s lead role in developing APs. Initially, this lead role assumed a somewhat opportunistic form. There was money available from the Strategic Health Authority (SHA) for a pilot to develop an educational programme to support band 4 APs. In 2006, Torbay worked with a trust in Cornwall on such a programme, with an initial intake of around 20 trainee APs covering community and mental health as well as acute health care. The opportunistic nature of this involvement was further reflected in the absence of clearly articulated objectives underpinning Torbay’s development of the AP role:

It was a gamble. But we made it work and that was the impetus to do more. There were pound signs and, ‘oh we’ve got some money coming in, let’s take it, let’s see if we can do something that would actually benefit the patients’, without really understanding what the [AP] role would be. IC2_trust manager_1

However, this initial opportunism was quickly transformed into a more strategic approach to the AP role, characterised by a number of features, each discussed below.

Clarifying the assistant practitioner role

The trust felt that the AP role needed to be sensitive to the particular needs of the clinical areas:

The trust didn’t use a one model fits all. So like if every ward needs a band 4, I don’t think they’ve ever seen it that way, but they also recognised that there are some things that band 4s will never do and you need a registration for. IC2_trust manager_2

Narrow and deep

The trust acknowledged that the AP role was most likely to become established where a ‘critical mass’ of post-holders could develop within a given clinical area. This would allow APs to support one another and to become a ‘fixture’ within the ward team:

We needed to go deep rather than wide . . . and it really did work, because it was sort of safety in numbers because there was at least two in, or two wards, they would work closely together, would have one on each ward, so there was a presence being seen. IC2_trust manager_1

An emergent approach

Torbay’s approach was based on learning through practice. By taking the lead in the region, the trust was often the first to confront the difficult issues, such as clarifying the contribution to be made by APs and the design and management of a viable FD programme, and, in so doing, learned from the experience and sharpened their approach going forward:

Torbay has done this with their band 4s over the past five years and they’ve had really a lot of quite I suppose difficult discussions and challenging problems in order for them to do that. IC2_trust manager_2

A variety of aims came to inform Torbay’s interests in the AP role, some formally stated by senior management and others more informally articulated in the organisation.

Career opportunities

Senior managers at Torbay viewed the AP role as a means of developing career opportunities for HCAs at bands 2 and 3, particularly as pathways into registered nursing became limited and problematic. Nurse training represented a significant leap for HCAs, with progression to a band 4 AP role seen as more manageable. The use of the AP role to develop such career opportunities for bands 2 and 3 HCAs was not, however, an end in itself. It was viewed as a means of retaining and making the most of the unregistered part of the workforce, which had considerable skill, experience and potential:

What we said is it’s not a stepping-stone to become a nurse; it’s a different type of role and it’s valued and it’s better paid, and it gives you opportunities to think about a different future career if you want to, but at the same time you know you could stay there as well. IC2_trust manager_3

Flexibility: crossing boundaries

The AP role was seen as much more flexible than the RN role, with scope to develop ‘bolt-on’ competencies to undertake particular tasks. One manager described this flexibility as ‘The ability to have a modular content backed up by the academic theory, [with] assessment in clinical practice to do “strange jobs” that really nobody thought of doing before’ (IC2_trust manager_1).


Torbay saw the potential for the AP role to fill service gaps, and, in so doing, establishing a new area of expertise within the nursing workforce:

If you’re just going to use them like a member of the workforce, that for me is well why bother to even train people at band 4; band 2s and 3s are doing that. If you’ve got somewhere, for example, the stroke clinic where you’ve got a band 4 that does some occupational therapy, physiotherapy and some nursing care as well, that person is valuable in terms of care plans, patient journey, discharge planning liaison, a whole slew of things that are very specific around stroke care. IC2_trust manager_2

Nurse shortages

The AP role was seen to address future shortages of RNs:

We know that we’re going to see less RNs coming through and I think we have to proactively try and work with the [AP] role to make it a role that we want and it works for us. IC2_service manager_1

Cost reductions

Among staff within clinical areas, cost control was seen as informing the trust’s use and development of the AP role, particularly at ward level:

I feel it’s [the use of APs] a cheaper option. We run on four trained at the moment, and then they’re saying we can have three trained plus an AP and I think that’s the way it is. I think they’re saving money, truthfully. IC2_ward staff_1

Nurse relief

The AP was viewed as a means of taking away certain tasks from a nurse, and so allowing them to concentrate on ‘more pressing’ activities:

[The development of the AP] was taking out some of the more basic standard levels of perhaps dressings and chaperoning to allow us to use our specialist, clinical nurse skills. IC2_ward staff_2

Torbay’s AP initiative had the following design features:

  • trainee assistant practitioners (TAPs) recruited from HCAs within the trust
  • a 2-year FD delivered by South Devon College (SDC), but with significant input from Torbay’s education department (ED) and other staff members
  • TAPs mainly employed as band 3s
  • two study days, although one of these was taken from their own time
  • band 4 on qualification
  • a preceptorship programme, also involving RNs.

The design of this initiative was based on a ‘virtuous triangle’, set out in Figure 3 .

A virtuous triangle at Torbay.

This ‘triangle’ rests on two key relationships. The first was between the trust’s ED and SDC as the provider of the FD taken by the TAPs. This relationship was strengthened by idiosyncratic features, particularly the fact that the key point of contact at SDC had formerly worked at Torbay, and indeed had been involved in the initial AP pilot.

The quality of the Torbay–SDC relationship ensured that the delivered FD was sensitive to the needs of discrete clinical areas:

Working with SDC was a revelation really because they were hungry for doing something that actually would link them in to us, but also it was actually sort of saying we’ve got enough people locally, we’ve got a local workforce, we need to tap in to it. IC2_trust manager_5

This relationship also allowed Torbay to develop a cross-subsidising funding model. SDC had agreed to expand its AP programme to include self-funders, alongside those on the programme employed by and supported by the trust. These funders needed placements and, in providing them, Torbay generated an income stream which supported its internal candidates.

The second key relationship was between the trust’s ED and clinical areas interested in introducing an AP role. The most important aspect of this relationship was establishing a clear role for the AP. This was ‘hammered out’ in intense discussions between ward managers and the ED. The clinical areas brought to these discussions a full appreciation of clinical requirements, work routines and what a distinctive AP role might be able to bring to care delivery. The ED brought a capacity to clarify issues and sort out any ‘blockages’. For example, with a need to amend trust policy and develop protocols, allowing APs to undertake certain clinical procedures, the ED engaged the pharmacist in the development the AP role:

Over the years pharmacy started to teach on the AP programme, so they’re setting learning standards with me as to what they’re teaching. So they’re knowing the education they’ve given and feeling more comfortable because they know the standard of teaching. IC2_trust manager_1

The impact of the AP role at Torbay can be considered from the perspective of different stakeholders, each discussed below.

Assistant practitioner post-holders

While some APs saw the role as a stepping-stone into nursing, many regarded it as an end in its own right, allowing considerable scope for personal development:

I really enjoyed my job as a HCA but I wanted to progress a little bit further, I wanted some promotion, I also kind of felt I deserved some promotion; that I’d been in the trust a long time and had given a long service to the trust. But having children at home and a husband that worked away, I didn’t want to go and do my training, I didn’t want the responsibility of having to take three years out unpaid, as it would have been if I’d gone on to do my nurse training. IC2_ward staff_3

A few concerns were raised about the impact of the AP role on post-holders. For example, it was suggested that, having taken up an extended role, APs might be somewhat frustrated at not being able to push the boundaries further:

They’re [APs] getting frustrated with their job descriptions and they want to do more, and I’m having to say to them ‘look, I’m really sorry but you aren’t registered and you can’t do more’. IC2_trust manager_4

For some nurses, the AP represented a general challenge to the nurse status and role:

Some trained nurses do feel threatened because they’ve got this cheaper nurse coming up who they definitely are replacing trained nurses. IC2_ward staff_1

More specifically, APs with more specialist or practiced skills were sometimes seen to erode nurse capability:

They’re [APs] actually better cannulators than a lot of the RNs. So they’ll end up putting canullas in here, there and everywhere around the ward for patients, for their treatment . . . because they’re handing it over to the APs to do, they’re losing that skill. IC2_ward staff_4

At the same time, nurses often viewed APs as relieving them of certain tasks, allowing them to concentrate on core activities, with positive consequences for patient care:

That shows very well in breast care, that they [APs] will do stuff that’s seen as mundane but they’ll love it because they’ll give more time to the patient in clinics with sort of smaller breast operations, which relieves the RNs to do psychosexual counselling, the more advanced dressings. IC2_trust manager_1

Interviewees suggested that the APs contributed to patient care by taking on technical tasks and not, therefore, having to seek the RNs to carry out certain clinical procedures. This often improved the capacity of a service or clinic, speeding up the flow of patients, reducing service pressures and allowing patients to be dealt with in a more timely manner.

  • The colorectal support worker

This case study focuses on the development of a role designed to provide support for the delivery of stoma care at Hillingdon NHS Foundation Trust (henceforth referred to as Hillingdon). Developed under the job title ‘colorectal support worker’, the role was based within a team of specialist coloproctology nurses. This specialist nursing team had four members: a colorectal nurse and a senior colorectal nurse, working alongside the one C-SW, and headed by a nurse consultant. Most of the patients undergoing colorectal surgery at Hillingdon were located on a single ward, although the team were responsible for patients needing stoma care help throughout the hospital.

The specialist nursing team was involved in three broad areas of activity:

  • consultant- and nurse-led clinics
  • on-ward work, immediately prior to and following the surgery
  • community, typically post-operative, outreach work, involving home visits.

Within this set-up, the C-SW was seen as an innovative role, not only within the trust but also across the NHS:

We think it is the only one in the UK, because I haven’t come across any more. IC3_service manager_1

The C-SW role was designed principally to engage in on-ward work dealing with those patients in need of stoma care. The number of stoma patients in the trust at any given time varied. During the research fieldwork, there were 13 patients in need of stoma care at Hillingdon. Over the year, it was estimated the trust would deal with between 80 and 100 stomas, with the C-SW likely to be involved in most of these cases.

The role had emerged 3 years ago but then developed organically, rather than in response to any clear-cut strategic initiative. More specifically, the role was a response to the confluence of two broad sets of factors: institutional and personal.


At an institutional level, various developments had impacted on ways of working within the specialist nursing team, creating the space for a new support role:

  • General pressure. Partly in response to public health campaigns, awareness of cancer and the number of cases picked up had increased.
  • More acute patients. The increasing scale of care needs had been accompanied by the growing acuity of patients treated in a hospital setting. The requirement for more intense care from RNs had, in turn, generated a need for more support, whether in providing such care or in undertaking more routine tasks.
  • New models of care. The trust’s enhanced recovery programme (ERP) had placed new demands on specialist nurses, for example in running enhanced recovery clinics. It also generated a specific need for patients more quickly to become comfortable with, and capable of, dealing with their stomas.
  • Staffing. These developments placed pressure on the specialist team’s staffing capacity: ‘It’s very easy for the stoma care nurses to get pulled in to other areas with their consultants and things like that at MDT [multidisciplinary team] meetings and all of the sort of upper echelons of patient care’ (IC3_trust manager_1).

The institutional factors combined with the availability of a worker already present within colorectal surgery particularly well suited to take up a specialist support role. As a consequence, the development of the role became inextricably linked to the personal circumstances of this individual. A number of characteristics of the post-holder are worth noting:

  • Experience in care work prior to joining the trust, combined with a personal disposition displaying enthusiasm for taking on an expanded and specialist technical role: ‘Initially she [the post-holder] was quite despondent about what healthcare assistants could do. She is quite an assertive person and kind of felt that she wanted more, she wanted to be a bit more autonomous, whereas on the wards it was kind of quite limited’ (IC3_trust manager 2).
  • Experience of working in the trust. The post-holder had worked at Hillingdon for 8 years in a HCA post, before taking on the new specialist support role.
  • Experience as a HCA working with colorectal patients on the ward before moving into the specialist nursing team. This was reinforced by a 6-month period working on a temporary basis with the specialist colorectal nursing team, which then became a permanent post.

Design and implementation

This confluence of institutional need, and the availability of a person with the background and skills to meet it, was appreciated by the nurse consultant leading the team of specialist colorectal nurses, and taken forward by her, with the support of others, through various processes.

Shaping the role

The C-SW role was initially formalised with the development of a job description by the HR department. Initially, the role was graded at band 2, although at the time of the fieldwork, the C-SW had moved onto pay band 3 and it was envisaged that she would move onto band 4 on completing the FD. The job description listed no fewer than 26 main duties. Exactly half of these were patient-centred, including teaching patients to look after their stomas and ensuring that patients were given appropriate food and nutritional information.

The C-SW role, along with the two specialist colorectal specialist nurses, was funded by a firm producing stoma care products. Given the scale of stoma care at Hillingdon, it was unlikely that the trust would attract sponsorship for a third specialist nurse. However, a C-SW role (particularly one working 25 hours per week) represented a viable, lower-cost sponsorship option.

The post-holder had already achieved a NVQ level 3 in her capacity as a HCA. As a C-SW, this was supplemented by a 1-week dedicated training course on stoma care. Less formally, the post-holder had, over the years, acquired relevant tacit skills and knowledge:

Working on the colorectal ward, you had to have a certain amount of knowledge and training anyway. IC3_ward staff_1

The acquisition of experience, knowledge and skills allowed the post-holder gradually to push the role’s boundaries, affecting how others viewed and engaged with it. As nursing and clinical staff became more aware of and confident in the post-holder, increasingly they drew upon her:

Over the last year or so things have evolved and the job itself has matured in a way that she’s taken on more and more responsibility as she’s got on . . . Overall she has been fairly well supervised and trained to fulfil this role and she’s not just been let go on her own, but she’s sort of coming to a stage where she could do it independently or with advice. IC3_ward staff_2

In terms of general functioning, the C-SW role largely involved on-ward pre- and post-operative patient-centred work. The nature of the C-SW engagement with patients was intense and sustained, reflected in the following description of her role by the post-holder:

I always see them first day post-op. I like to see them before they have their surgery, just to introduce myself so that they know a familiar face when I see them on the first day post-op and basically review the stoma and everything because at that time they don’t want to do anything. Then they gradually get a little bit better and a little bit more mobile, and I start educating them about it; start teaching them about their diet and giving tips. Then I discharge them as well back into the community. IC3_ward staff_3

More specifically, the C-SW’s impact assumed a number of forms, each discussed below.

Patient teacher

The core of the C-SW role revolved around preparing and providing support for patients in the future management of their stoma:

The nurses are always busy; there is always something to do, but when the girls are in clinic or doing ERP clinics she will be on the ward; if there’s teaching for the stomas to be done, she will do the teaching of the stomas. IC3_service manager_2

Emotion manager

This sustained and close contact with the patient allowed the C-SW to manage patient emotions in invariably difficult circumstances:

[Patients] come in confused and worried and depressed, and the stoma care nurse can only give them five or 10 minutes a day and they might see them twice and that’s it. The [C-SW] will see them nearly every day on the ward; she becomes a constant to them and so is much more supportive to their actual needs. She is the most important psychological support for that patient and their subsequent recovery, because the aim is to get them back and living a normal life and doing everything they ever did before. IC3_trust manager_1

Another ‘pair of eyes’

The C-SW came to represent another ‘pair of eyes’ with the capacity to feed insights on the patient into broader clinical deliberation and decision-making. For example, discharge decisions were often informed by the C-SW’s perception of the patient’s readiness to leave hospital based on whether or not they could manage their stoma care.

In acting as another ‘pair of eyes’, the C-SW was often able to connect to, and articulate, the patient’s perspective, a capacity drawn upon by other carers. As a consultant noted:

If I’ve got a patient with a stoma, I usually take [the C-SW] along with me on the ward round, and I find it very useful to get her side of the story. She always has a different angle on how the patient should be managed. She’s been trained over the years as a HCA on the ward, so she has a more holistic view rather than the stoma nurses who will be looking at stomas and the technical problems with it. IC3_ward staff_2

The C-SW role was designed to relieve specialist colorectal and ward nurses of the main responsibilities for stoma care, allowing them to concentrate on other tasks. The C-SW appeared to be fulfilling this relief role:

So it takes the workload off them as well for them to do other things like clinics and work in the community and all that. So in that sense it does help. IC3_ward staff_2

Expert and mentor

Dedicated to specialist tasks, the C-SW had clearly become an expert in stoma care:

[The C-SW role] is a useful resource because the stoma nurses obviously have got other things on their plate. They’re working at the clinic, which [the C-SW] doesn’t, and so she’s purely dedicated to the ward as such. And, you know, the first port of call would be her if there was any problem on the ward in terms of primary management of stomas. IC3_ward staff_2

This expertise allowed the C-SW to act as a mentor to others, including registered ward nurses, specialist colorectal nurses, HCAs and student nurses. Each is illustrated by a quote below.

When we have newly qualified nurses joining the team, [the C-SW] is there to teach them, to help them. IC3_service manager_3
[The C-SW] is able to tell [name of colorectal nurse] quite a lot of things. [The latter] has not got a lot of back knowledge, whereas [the C-SW] has built up her knowledge over time from first of all being on the ward, enjoying looking at stoma patients, which not many people do, and then doing the temporary post and then moving into it as a full-time job. IC3_service manager_1
As the time’s gone on she’s [the C-SW] very much more been a link to the other health-care assistants on the ward in terms of getting them more involved in learning stoma care and engaging them in teaching patients as well. IC3_ward staff_4
Most of the students that we have on placement will work with [the C-SW] who will show them about the stoma care. IC3_service manager_1

The C-SW role had a largely positive impact on a range of stakeholders. However, a few qualifications are worth noting. First, the C-SW’s capacity to impact in these ways was closely tied to the personal characteristics of the post-holder, someone known and trusted by these various actors. It was, therefore, not a contribution easily replicated by another taking on this role.

Second, there was some resistance to the C-SW role. As an expert, the C-SW might challenge the registered and higher-graded professional:

Registered practitioners maybe feel a bit intimidated because she’s [the C-SW] doing teaching on the ward and obviously teaching patients and seeing patients on her own without that direct supervision and that has caused a bit of a problem. IC3_trust manager_2

Third, the specialist nature of the C-SW role might encourage ward staff to ‘dump on’ her all those tasks associated with the stoma care, with detrimental consequences for the quality of the C-SW’s working life and perhaps for patient care more widely:

Most ward staff, because there’s a stoma care nurse, it’s not their job to change bags, so some would be happy to leave a patient with a leaking bag until they found a stoma care nurse to come and do it. IC3_service manager_1

Figure 4 summarises the C-SW’s various contributions.

The C-SW’s contribution to stoma care.

  • The health-care assistant development nurse

This case study explores the introduction of a dedicated corporate role, the HCA development nurse (HCA-DN), to support the management of HCAs at UCLH. One of the first trusts to acquire foundation status in 2004, UCLH is a large organisation comprising seven hospitals, some specialist and some general, located on different sites in central London and employing around 7000 staff in total.

The emergence of the HCA-DN role reflected an increasing focus on the unregistered component of the trust’s nursing workforce in the delivery of patient care:

The heads of nursing, corporate nursing and the trust itself has a commitment to training and development and to healthcare assistants and to that support. Otherwise we wouldn’t have I suppose the [HCA-DN] post we have. IC4_trust manager_1

Driven by financial pressures, this focus was integral to an attempt to review the trust’s traditionally rich skill mix. Indeed, there was a growing interest not only in the balance between unregistered and registered staff, but in the distribution between HCAs at band 2 and band 3 in the trust. UCLH had a relatively high proportion of its HCA workforce at band 3: the trust’s 428 HCAs were spilt roughly half and half between band 2s and band 3s.

From a financial perspective they [HCAs] save the trust money and if we can bolster them as much as possible, then it’s fantastic not just for their self-esteem and their educational purposes but also from the trust’s financial perspective, and I think you’re foolish if you don’t utilise them to their fullest potential. IC4_ward staff_1

The trust’s greater interest in the nurse support workforce was also influenced by perceived challenges to the future supply of RNs with implications for the nature of the nurse role:

We looked at the demographics of the nursing workforce . . . and thought that first of all we might be limited in the numbers of registered nurses and it was thought that the assistant practitioner would be assistants to some of the day to day delivery of care, the sort of routine stuff that didn’t need a more advanced assessment of the patient’s needs. IC4_trust manager_2

The health-care assistant development nurse role

The HCA-DN post was initially supported by SHA funding. It was filled on secondment by a clinical practice facilitator (CPF) from within the trust (initially for 3 months), who had since remained in the role. In a large and complex organisation, these background characteristics were not without significance: the post-holder understood the trust’s systems and routines and had credibility in the role.

In terms of purpose and focus, the HCA-DN role was principally seen by senior nurse managers as a way of developing training standards on entry to the trust, and supporting the establishment of clearer career pathways for HCAs:

What was very frightening to us when we were first expanding the numbers was that for band 2s these are people who could be working in Woolies one day and here tomorrow. There’s not a lot of training in between and what we wanted to try and do is make sure that at least there were very clear induction standards, very clear development programmes associated with these roles, and hence the development of [the HCA-DN] role. IC4_trust manager_2

In practice, the role’s remit was broader, covering nurse support workers at bands 2 to 4, and concentrating on a number of aspects of HCA training and development:

  • assessing the capabilities (numeracy and literacy) of candidates for HCA posts
  • developing and delivering corporate HCA induction
  • developing and delivering in-house HCA training
  • managing accredited training/education programmes, including the apprenticeships and the FD
  • supporting HCA career development
  • liaising with and supporting wards in the development of their more bespoke training.

Working with wards to address their particular HCA training and development needs involved the HCA-DN connecting to another key role within the trust, the CPF. Graded at band 6, typically performed by a RN and found in many of the trust’s wards, the CPF’s main purpose, according to the job description, was ‘. . . to support and develop band 5 and band 6 nursing staff and healthcare assistants through facilitation in clinical practice and promotion/implementation of relevant education and development pathways’ [emphasis added]. 50

The training and development of health-care assistants

The HCA-DN role had been responsible for developing a number of initiatives related to HCA training and development. These are set out in Figure 5 .

Training and development initiatives.

Health-care assistant induction

The HCA-DN was heavily involved with HCAs as they entered the trust. This involvement was reflected in some work around recruitment practices, such as establishing whether or not applicants had basic numeracy and literacy skills. It was also aimed at establishing whether or not HCA applicants had appropriate values and capabilities:

One of the things that the [HCA-DN’s] been trying is scenario-based assessment so that we understand the values around individuals that we appoint, but we’ve got much more clarity around, you know, basic life skills like numeracy, literacy and communication. IC4_trust manager_2

At the outset, the HCA-DN role was seen to be particularly concerned with establishing an acceptable level of basic competence in newly recruited HCAs:

The priority was getting the induction programme right, getting the right competencies. IC4_trust manager_3

Consulting with a range of staff, the HCA-DN developed, piloted and implemented a new induction programme. The corporate element of the new induction (including infection control, moving and handling) was held before HCAs began on the ward. The HCA training element was usually held within 5 to 6 weeks of their being in post. This part of the induction covered 4 days of HCA skills, including communication and washing. Each recruit was given a competency pack for their first 6 months that formed their probationary period and had to be achieved to attain a permanent contract.

A more recent initiative, designed to underpin the induction process, was the development by the HCA-DN of an e-learning package to support competencies and development online. This e-learning focused on mandatory training and the development of certain basics, such as vital signs, and, given the scattered nature of the trust across central London, provided an efficient means of dealing with such training.

Still a work in progress, this e-resource, in a more general sense, enabled the HCA-DN to track that HCAs were getting the support they needed:

I’ll be able to monitor who logs on, when they log on, if they complete a whole module or whether they do the whole package in one go, and if they haven’t passed, do they go back and log on again, how many times they’ve actually completed a module, how many tries they’ve had and not completed. IC4_trust manager_3

Domino training

A more specific initiative centred on a half-day study day preparing HCAs to recognise the signs of deteriorating patients. This programme, run monthly under the title ‘Domino’, extended the delivery of a programme from medical and registered nursing staff to HCAs. Domino was based on the critical care Patient Emergency Response Team training given to nurses and junior doctors. Domino was piloted for HCAs in 2009 and ‘went live’ in 2010.

Pressure ulcer workshop

The HCA-DN instituted additional study days on other topics of relevance to HCAs. In identifying such topics, the HCA-DN was again sensitive to the views of others, with pressure ulcers emerging as an issue worthy of a study day:

We’re sort of having very preliminary discussions about having a mandatory study day to cover some of the things that maybe are required . . . so around pressure ulcers, for example, maybe patient falls. IC4_trust manager_3

Accredited programmes

The HCA-DN was responsible for various aspects of accredited programmes available to nurse support workers: their design, publicising and recruiting to them and dealing with the HEIs. In the case of band 2 and 3 HCAs at UCLH, the main available programme was the apprenticeship. The trust’s apprenticeship programme began in 2010 and focused on existing staff. At the time of the research fieldwork, a proposal was pending on a new approach to recruitment, with all future recruitment to the HCA role via a 1-year apprenticeship contract at band 2 level, supported by all new job descriptions, and promotion to the band 3 level restricted to internal candidates only.

In the case of APs, the main programme was the FD. In 2010, UCLH had its first large cohort of APs passing through the London South Bank University FD. Originally, the cohort was for 10 trainee clinical APs at band 3 level but this was extended to 20. The original 10 were guaranteed a band 4 role on completion. There was a forum for APs held quarterly by the HCA-DN to facilitate networking and support. Each session had an external speaker. A band 4 booklet of competencies and expectations was being piloted at the time.

Road show and website

The HCA-DN communicated with HCAs on various types of issues, with two main systems developed to support this activity. Established by the HCA-DN in 2009, the HCA road show was a monthly event open to nurse support workers from across the trust and held on a rotating basis between the different UCLH sites. The road show had evolved to serve a number of purposes: connecting with HCAs and other staff groups from across the trust for the HCA-DN to find out about their concerns and issues; an opportunity for HCAs to raise queries, not least in relation to their current training; and an information and learning space for HCAs, with speakers coming along to make formal presentations.

The second communication initiative was the establishment of a dedicated HCA website. This website played an important role in informing HCAs about the availability of different study days and programmes, along with details about how courses might be accessed:

[The HCA-DN] has written loads of stuff online which are all around processes of applying, when they have workshops, you know, what’s entailed. IC4_trust manager_1

The role in practice

As a single post-holder working in a large and multi-site organisation, the HCA-DN needed considerable skill in taking these initiatives forward and in establishing wider commitment to them across the trust. A consideration of process issues suggests the importance of three organisational characteristics ( Figure 6 ): institutions, actors and systems.

Elements of process in developing HCA initiatives. N&M, Nursing and Midwifery.


There were a number of formal institutions or bodies within UCLH that played an important part in both discussing and formally signing off a HCA-DN initiative. At the peak of the trust was the Nursing and Midwifery Advisory Board , comprising the chief and assistant chief nurses and the heads of nursing. This board introduced trust-wide initiatives with significant implications for the nursing workforce. The HCA-DN had sought sign-off from this board on the development of HCA competencies and on the design of a new approach to HCA recruitment based on the use of numeracy and literacy tests.

At the next level, divisional meetings involving the relevant head of nursing and her matrons were used as a means of developing or fine-tuning a proposal. For example, the HCA-DN used these meetings to develop specialist modules on certain HCA programmes, particularly the FD.

There were also a couple of bodies, specifically concerned with training and education, which played a role in the development of HCA initiatives. The education forum, convened by the assistant chief nurse, brought HEI providers to the trust for discussions on an accredited training programme. More important in this context was the CPF forum, a monthly meeting for CPFs across the trust. The extension of the Domino programme to HCAs, for example, was signed off at this forum.

At UCLH, a number of actors were crucial to the functioning of the HCA-DN role. The support of the chief nurse was important in setting the broad direction for the development of the trust’s unregistered workforce:

[The HCA-DN] needs the chief nurse’s support as well. It would be true to say that the chief nurse is essential; they’re going to drive the direction that this goes in. IC4_trust manager_2

If the chief nurse set the direction, the assistant chief nurse leading on education and research was needed to ‘make things happen’: pushing decisions to action and ensuring that the necessary resourcing was in place. The assistant chief was particularly accessible to the HCA-DN.

The HCA-DN’s line manager and, in particular, the corporate team of nurse educators and facilitators played an important part in actually delivering aspects of the HCA-DN’s programme. For example, the teaching on the study days would often come from this team.

Two systems were particularly important in allowing the HCA-DN to take forward initiatives in such a large and complex organisation. The first was the emphasis placed by the trust on guidance to divisions and clinical areas. Guidance was less prescriptive and more flexible than rules, and, in a large, complex and diverse organisation such as UCLH, played a role in giving effect to some of the HCA developments. The second was the HCA-DN’s use of networking to test, consult and build alliances in support of various initiatives:

[The HCA-DN] has done a lot of work around sort of networking with the ward sisters and trying to understand what it is that we want in terms of development. So therefore she’s got quite a lot of our buy-in for that. IC4_ward staff_2

The HCA-DN’s impact on the training and development of nurse support workers was seen as significant and beneficial. Views on the positive contribution made by the HCA-DN were often provided in an unprompted way, and suggested that the HCA-DN had made a tangible difference to improving these aspects of the HCAs’ working lives and changing the trust’s capacity in these respects:

The trust has put a lot of funds and effort into it recently, certainly the recruitment of [name of HCA-DN] . . . Giving someone of [name of HCA-DN’s] level and experience a whole-time equivalent job to spend putting together training for them, and to be fair pretty much every course that we run for qualified staff, [the HCA-DN] has adapted. So the work [HCA-DN’s name] done has been fantastic. So asking me the question now, I do think we have great learning and development opportunities for unqualified staff. IC4_ward staff_2

For some, the HCA-DN role had provided trust focus and direction on HCA training and development:

What [HCA-DN’s name] has done is given it a bit more focus. Everybody knows [HCA-DN’s name], she’s done a lot of good work for lots of other projects within the trust and I think that now she’s sort of taken this on-board, it’s got a bit more direction. IC4_ward staff_1

In the HCA focus group, the name of the HCA-DN was mentioned on no fewer than 18 separate occasions, providing some insight into how HCAs viewed and used the role. Thus, HCAs perceived the role and engaged with it as a channel for raising concerns, accessing opportunities and sorting out problems. Each of these areas is illustrated with a quote below.

[HCA-DN’s name] was one of the persons I said, ‘sorry, I’m not here just to do domestics, I’m here because I want to become a nurse; I give up my degree in biomedical because I want to be a nurse, I don’t want to be a domestic’. IC4_HCA_focus group
So you have, so you have regular e-mails from [HCA-DN’s name] letting you know about things. There’s the website to check things on. And so there’s the availability of study days, courses that you can do. IC4_HCA_focus group
I didn’t know what to do because I finished my nursing from [name of country], came here, was not able to work as a nurse because of the English exam. So then I approached [HCA-DN’s name] what to do, then she told me if you’re going to go back to nursing, do this course and then go. IC4_HCA_focus group

Data on the scale and coverage of many of the in-house initiatives developed by the HCA-DN are presented in Table 11 . Some noteworthy achievements stand out from these figures. Most striking, perhaps, is the significant number of HCAs completing the Domino and pressure care programmes. The number of HCAs who had been through the new induction programme, close to 100 over the last 2 years, was also striking.


Nursing assistant in-house training numbers

  • Consultant-driven innovation: the surgical assistant practitioner role

This case study focuses on a band 4 AP role developed in the dermatology department of OUH NHS Trust. Introduced in 2011 and to date held by one post-holder, the role was labelled surgical assistant practitioner (SAP). In examining the nature and consequences of this role, four actors were interviewed in March 2013: the post-holder herself, a consultant dermatologist, a specialist nurse and the trust’s AP lead. During the fieldwork, the SAP was observed working alongside a consultant during a procedure.

The SAP role generates interest within the context of this project as an innovative development both within the trust and more generally across the NHS. Pushing role or practice boundaries perhaps further than any other innovative development considered in the project, this unregistered support role was designed to perform relatively complex clinical tasks, including minor surgical procedures.

The development of the SAP role took various turns, emerging in an iterative rather than in a fully formed way. Asked if the nature of the AP role was clear from the outset, the post-holder noted:

No, it’s just evolved really. IC5_SAP_1

Indeed, despite clinical consultant interest in it, the role initially emerged through discussion between the AP lead in the ED and a specialist nurse in the dermatology department, within the broader context of the trust’s second cohort of APs around 2008–9. These discussions, which also involved the potential AP post-holder, considered service gaps in dermatology that might be filled by an AP role. This encouraged an initial focus on how such a role might contribute to service flows in the outpatient clinic, with the aim of relieving nurses of aspects of work in this area and allowing them to concentrate more on their specialist tasks. All patients were seen in the dermatology department on an outpatient basis, with any surgery being performed as day surgery.

Against the backdrop of these discussions, a person had been selected for the AP support role in dermatology and had begun the FD. However, around 1 year into the degree, the specialist nurse who had originally sponsored the role as a support for the department’s clinics left the trust. At around the same time, the value of a role supporting the department’s day surgery work became apparent, particularly to one of the department’s consultant dermatologists, resulting in a shift in the role’s focus from the general clinics to the operating theatres.

The emergence of a support role centred on the dermatology department’s surgical activities was related to the confluence of two sets of factors: institutional need and personal circumstance. Institutionally , the need for such a role to contribute to surgical work was linked to the nature of the service provided by the dermatology department, and by the performance management regime underpinning it. Physically, and indeed clinically, the department was divided into two main parts. The upstairs section, comprising consultant-led general clinics, dealt with the full range of conditions: ‘. . . leg ulcers, anything to do with your skin, so eczema, psoriasis’ (IC5_specialist nurse_1).

A tumour clinic was also run upstairs, a ‘one-stop’ service which provided those in need of skin surgery with a same-day service. This same-day surgery was provided downstairs in the department’s operating theatres, along with elective surgery. These operating theatres were staffed by a number of clinical consultants – the department had a team of four consultants working on tumours along with two band 6 specialist nurses and the band 4 SAP.

Within the context of this set-up, a SAP role, able to undertake a wide range of tasks, many overlapping with those performed by the specialist nurses, was seen as a means of addressing service capacity and workload pressure. Such a role could undertake and finish off work, freeing up consultants and specialist nurses to see more patients:

With the one-stop service we try and do as much as we can on the same day, and we have so many referrals it’s really hard to keep on top of all the skin cancers that we need to perform surgery on. So having that supportive role, somebody to stitch up a hole while you’re doing the paperwork, it means that we can get through everything so much faster. IC5_specialist nurse_1

More specifically, such a role provided a greater a range of options in terms of staff deployment, particularly important given variation in and uncertainty about the availability of staff on any given shift:

The way we’ve done that is that we have clinics which are designed to see, screen and recommend treatment for patients at the same time as the theatre is open downstairs, so that they can be seen and treated at a one-stop. The difficulty with that is staffing it really, and so the way we’ve staffed it is by having a consultant downstairs and a consultant upstairs and if one of the consultants is away on holiday, the other consultant comes up and then covers the clinic, and then supervises the nurses and junior doctors downstairs; which is why it’s essential that we have the flexibility we’ve got from the girls [the nursing staff in the operating theatres]. IC5_consultant_1

The personal circumstances contributing to the development of the SAP role were apparent in a potential post-holder with a profile particularly well suited to the role. In part, this profile was characterised by a work history which provided the post-holder with a firm platform to develop in an extended unregistered role. Prior to joining the trust, the post-holder had been involved in nursing work in the military. More significantly, the post-holder had some experience of the trust and the department prior to taking up the SAP role:

I worked with them beforehand anyway and they know that if I was never happy I’d always come and find them, and there is a massive amount of trust involved in this and I think that’s one thing that needs to be stressed, you know, that they have to trust me. IC5_SAP_1

In fact, the post-holder had taken up a band 2 HCA post around 7 years before commencing the FD. This allowed her to develop an appreciation of the department’s systems, team members and ways of working. Equally significantly, it provided an opportunity for the department’s clinical and nursing staff to get to know her and to build trust in her personality and skills.

The disposition to take on more complex tasks was the final feature of the personal profile underpinning the emergence of the SAP role:

I’ve known [post-holder’s name] for I don’t know, seven or eight years now, it was very obvious early on that she had the competence to do this. IC5_consultant_1

This approach to identifying development potential in an individual and then building upon it encouraged the view that an evolutionary, ‘grow-your-own’ process was the ‘best’ way to develop an extended support role within the department:

The problem is identifying those HCAs that will have the competence and confidence to be able to do those, it’s much more of a sort of an evolutionary ad hoc thing, it’s very difficult to find the individual right for the job, you know, we have to grow our own almost. IC5_consultant_1

The development of the role

If institutional need and personal circumstance provided the basis for the role, these drivers still needed to be converted into a process that provided for the development and emergence of the SAP role. As played out in the dermatology department of OUH, a number of features of this process are worth highlighting. The first was the emphasis placed on competence as a means of cutting through formalities and any apparent barriers to change. It was a view summed up by the consultant in noting the range of complex tasks undertaken by the unregistered band 4 SAP:

As long as the competencies are in place to demonstrate ability and safety, then to be honest that’s far more important than a name or a label. IC5_consultant_1

The second feature of the process was a willingness to push boundaries. Without in any way compromising patient safety, the role was developed to undertake the complex clinical tasks associated with skin surgery, and systems were found to facilitate this extension.

The third feature was the importance of the consultant’s authority and support in giving effect to the changes needed to establish the SAP role:

So long as they know that they’ve got the support of the consultant, then it gives them the confidence to proceed. IC5_consultant_1

The importance of the consultant’s support was particularly apparent in his engagement with the post-holder; indeed, this consultant–post-holder relationship was pivotal to the development of the role. The relationship provided the basis for a shaping of the role, and more tangibly drawing out the requisite competencies. It was also a supportive relationship, with the consultant acting not only as a mentor but more actively as a trainer, facilitating on-the-job learning for the post-holder:

I do like the surgical side, and because I’ve worked down here with him very closely, he said I’d like to develop you into doing anaesthetics. And because I’d given injections and done a little bit of minor surgery in the RAF [Royal Air Force], he said let’s have a go and see where you develop. So I started off doing a little bit of suturing, then some minor procedures, and then it’s just developed and snowballed from there really. IC5_SAP_1

The significance of the consultant–post-holder relationship should not, however, detract from the importance of other relationships to the development of the role, in particular that between the trust’s AP lead and the post-holder. The AP lead was another key support for the post-holder, particularly during the FD. More specifically, the AP lead was able to give effect to the consultant’s aspirations for the role by developing appropriate specialist competencies to be built into the second year of the FD. The development of the role also required an education provider able and willing to provide bespoke programmes sensitive to the needs of the trust and the role it was seeking to develop.

Issues of clinical governance needed to be addressed. They were dealt with by putting in place thorough systems, demonstrably ensuring that the post-holder had acquired the requisite competencies without any risk to patient safety. Certainly, staff trust in the post-holder’s sensitivity to these safety issues underpinned this approach. There was a confidence in the SAP’s awareness of her limits and boundaries.

However, formal and comprehensive guarantees of competence were in place, for example reflected in the number of times a procedure had to be practiced and witnessed before the competence was signed off:

We ensured that her competencies were such that they were kind of unassailable, they were better than had been done for the junior doctors, better than I’d had as a trainee. IC5_consultant_1

There were specific clinical governance issues to be addressed, in particular related to prescribing and the administration of local anaesthetic. These took time to sort out. Indeed, it was suggested that ‘. . . we worked around it rather than work through it. And then did it properly afterwards’ (IC5_consultant_1).

The final aspect of the process relates to the involvement of the nursing directorate or nurse management in the development of the role. This involvement was limited. As a consultant-driven initiative, the role had a particular credibility and legitimacy, with responsibility at the end of the day presented as lying with the consultant:

As long as they know that they’ve got the support of the consultant, then it gives them the confidence to proceed. I would always ultimately be responsible for what goes on surgically and if there are issues with the nurses. IC5_consultant_1

The post-holder formally took up the SAP role on the completion of the 2-year FD. During the period of the FD, the post-holder was working at band 3, with 2 days per week off for study (one of these in her own time). On completion, she moved on to pay band 4. The role developed during the period of the FD, with the support of the AP lead, the consultant and other colleagues. On completion of the FD, the SAP role was striking in terms both of the range and complexity of the tasks performed.

Unable to secure patient consent for a surgical procedure, the SAP was not in a position to run lists, and therefore concentrated on providing assistance to the specialist nurses and the consultants with their lists. However, with the exception of the issue of acquiring patient consent, there was very little to distinguish the SAP role from that of the specialist nurse. Thus, the SAP tasks included administering local anaesthetic; conducting shave and puncture biopsies; removing moles; undertaking suturing; applying dressing; and dealing with after-care.

The consequences of the SAP role can mainly be seen in terms of positive service outcomes. At the outset, it was suggested that, given staffing and workload pressures, particularly associated with a same-day surgical service, an extended support role contributed to departmental capacity and flexibility:

From an efficiency perspective, it just means that we can ride the peaks and troughs of a busy clinical service, you know, more or less able to deal with whatever comes at us. So it means that we’re pretty rock solid. IC5_consultant_1

A more detailed consideration of the role highlights how it contributed to these ends and, arguably, also to improvements in service quality. Thus, the impact of the role can be seen to lie in a number of areas, each discussed below.

Sequential working

The SAP worked sequentially with the consultant in two senses. First, she prepared patients, allowing the consultant to come in and begin his work with speed and confidence. As indicated, this preparation involved not only clinical tasks, such as the administration of the local anaesthetic, but the ‘softer’ tasks of relaxing and putting the patient at ease:

He [the consultant] knows that my local [anaesthetic] will have been done properly, that the patient’s completely nice and numb, comfortable, warm, reassured. I’ve been with that patient all the time, whereas he’ll have to go in and out to see other rooms, so I’ve very often escorted the patient all the way down and I’m there right until the very end, which he won’t be. IC5_SAP_1

Second, the SAP worked in sequence with the consultant by finishing off a surgical procedure and associated activities, allowing the consultant to move on to deal with another patient.

Partnership working

As well as working alone and in sequence, the SAP acted alongside the consultant and the specialist nurse, again allowing a patient to be dealt with in a timely and speedier fashion. A specialist nurse provided an example:

So we work together most days, so if I have a surgical list I might go in and consent the patient, while I’m doing that, she’s drawing up the local anaesthetic. And then she’ll numb the patient. I might remove the lesion and leave her to stitch up while I do the paperwork. So potentially that patient’s time on the bed is halved, the paperwork takes up, you know, as long as the surgery, so while I’m doing the paperwork she can be finishing off and stitching up. IC5_specialist nurse_1

As implied, the SAP appeared to have more time to engage with patients, relaxing them, dealing with anxieties and putting them at ease:

So once you’ve reduced somebody’s blood pressure by being relaxed with the anaesthetic, then usually the operation is a doddle. IC5_SAP_1


Accessibility to the SAP also contributed to a positive patient experience. To the patient, the SAP was far less intimidating than the consultant or indeed the nurse:

I’ve been able to chat to them and explain to them what’s going to happen in more detail, in layman’s terms. I’m not as intimidating as a doctor, who’s quite loud and I can relax them and say, ‘well this is what’s going to happen’. IC5_SAP_1

In focusing on the performance of particular support tasks, the SAP became expert in their performance: a degree of specialisation bred increased proficiency. This was seen to be the case in relation to the administration of local anaesthetic:

I’ve done so many [local anaesthetics] now, so on the sites that are very painful or if people have a needle phobia, I get given those patients because it doesn’t bother me. IC5_SAP_1

In a slightly less positive vein, the consequences of the SAP might also be seen in terms of certain tensions. These were apparent in how others in the department viewed the role. Pushing the boundaries of the nurse support role meant that there had been some resistance from RNs in the department:

There are some other nurses in the department who haven’t been so accepting and have made comments, but they’re in the minority, and actually there’s only one that I can really think of who’s really made a fuss of it. IC5_specialist nurse_1

A summary of the features and issues associated with the development of the SAP role is presented in Figure 7 .

The development of the SAP role.

  • The role of the clinical support worker trainer at band 4

This case study explores the development of a new educator role at OUH, specifically designed to help CSWs at pay bands 2 and 3 undertake training, particularly those on the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) diplomas and apprenticeships. The trust viewed the role as a means of strengthening its capacity to train CSWs, increasing both the scale of such training and the speed of completion. The fieldwork was undertaken in two phases. The first comprised interviews with key members of the trust’s CSW training team and with the CSW trainer herself, conducted at the end of 2012, soon after role had been introduced. The second phase involved repeat interviews with these actors, plus interviews with three CSWs engaging with the CSW trainer. These interviews were carried out in May 2013, some 6 months after the role had been introduced and been given time to ‘bed down’. The second-phase CSW interviewees were employed in different clinical areas: maternity, neuroscience and orthopaedics. In total, 11 interviews were completed.

Context and objectives

The CSW trainer was designed as a corporate role, working in a small team positioned in the nursing directorate and responsible for the training and development of the trust’s CSWs at bands 1 to 4. The emergence of the CSW trainer role was related to two sets of factors. The first was strategically driven, being tied to a broader initiative on the management and development of CSWs at the trust. OUH had decided to set up what it labelled as a CSW academy, with the CSW trainer role long envisaged as an integral part of it.

The rationale for the CSW trainer role within the CSW academy was associated with a perceived need to improve the trust’s approach to the training of CSWs, particularly at bands 2 and 3. Much of this training had been centred on the acquisition of NVQs (levels 2 and 3), although at the time the CSW trainer post took effect, the national training regime was underpinned by the QCF providing level 1 and 2 diplomas, and, when linked to functional skills, an apprenticeship. The trust was seen as ‘lagging’ in the number of CSWs seeking such accredited qualifications and in the pace and scale of completion.

The problem was seen to lie in the limited support available to CSWs undertaking this programme. In large part, this limited support derived from a lack of assessors in the trust. Indeed, it was the need for a dedicated corporate assessor for trainee CSWs across the trust that underpinned the introduction of the CSW role. The job description for the post noted one of the overall objectives: ‘[t]o effectively assess NVQ/QCF learners’ performance, knowledge and understanding against the national occupational standards’. 51

In more general terms, the CSW trainer role was a means of providing support to trainees during diploma and apprenticeship programmes. Formal training for CSWs was a far from straightforward process: not only had many trainees been away from formal learning for some time, but typically the requisite training involved juggling ongoing work and domestic responsibilities. In this context, support from a dedicated CSW trainer role was seen as assuming different forms. In part, it was related to ongoing advice, particularly on time management. Indeed, the CSW trainer’s contribution in this respect was reflected in another job description objective: ‘[t]o support a cohort of learners to achieve key performance targets relating to achievement and timely success rates’. 51

In addition, such support had a more personal dimension, with the CSW trainer available to deal with the stresses and strains likely to emerge during the training period. As the job description notes, the trainer role seeks ‘to provide pastoral support’ for trainees.

A significant dimension of this support was accessibility: the CSW trainer needed to be someone CSWs could relate to and readily approach in seeking support. The job description explicitly presented the CSW trainer’s post as a ‘role model’, and suggested the need to appoint an individual with a personal and professional background compatible with such a requirement. 51

The second set of factors driving the introduction of the trainer role was more opportunistic, reflecting immediate needs and pressures. Other initiatives associated with the CSW academy, particularly a new recruitment system and induction programme, were generating unexpected demands on other team members. The academy team was small, comprising only three other staff members, with the intensity of work exacerbated by the lack of replacement cover while the academy lead took 1 year’s sabbatical leave. In such circumstances, the CSW trainer role was perceived as crucial in relieving other team members of certain duties in relation to supporting CSW trainees, freeing the team up to concentrate on these other initiatives and activities:

[We] weren’t doing a good enough job really in supporting, there was just too much to do in terms of launching the academy, trying to support that initiative and also trying to run apprenticeships and trying to make them effective, trying to meet targets from [college name] who have the overall managerial responsibility for the apprenticeships. So really we felt that we needed someone dedicated to [QCF] assessment and to support apprenticeships. IC6_trust manager_1

Implementation and operation

The CSW trainer took up her post in September 2012. Graded at pay band 4, the post was internally funded and due to last until May 2013. This period of employment was subsequently extended until the end of 2013. The appointee came from outside the trust but had experience as a qualified nurse. As a new role to the trust, issues arose as to how it would establish itself and operate in practice. These processes unfolded iteratively: ‘I don’t think any of us really knew what was going to happen’ (IC6_CSW trainer_1).

In the event, the role developed along three activity tracks: assessor, champion and team. Each of these is discussed below.

An assessor track

The assessor track revolved around the range of tasks associated with managing a group of CSW trainees. At the outset, the post-holder took on six trainees but this rapidly increased to a steady-state number of 19, broken down into seven taking the apprenticeship and 12 taking the standalone QCF diploma. This aspect of the role centred on a one-to-one CSW trainer–trainee relationship. The trainer quickly established a routine of face-to-face meetings with each trainee every 2 weeks.

Such meetings were supplemented by the CSW trainer’s engagement with relevant actors at ward level. This included witnessing and assessing the performance of competencies, as well as dealing with ward managers in facilitating the CSW’s training and development: ‘I always liaise with the managers and try and get them onside’ (IC6_CSW trainer_1).

Closely related, the assessor role involved various activities related to the local accrediting college. For example, the post-holder was involved with the college in carrying through a diagnostic process, which evaluated the capabilities of potential trainees. This determined the appropriate level of training and, where necessary, connected the trainee to a bridging programme allowing them to build up capabilities.

Clinical support worker champion track

Working across a large and dispersed trust, as well as ‘starting from scratch’, championing the CSW role was a challenging aspect of the job. It was initially taken forward by the post-holder developing regular ‘drop-in sessions’ on the various trust sites. At the outset, these sessions introduced interested parties to and informed them about the presence of the new CSW trainer role. As an appreciation of the role developed, these sessions provided advice and information to CSWs on available training and dealt directly with CSW queries and problems associated with ongoing training.

This champion track had other dimensions. For instance, the CSW trainer made an effort to make the trust’s libraries more accessible to CSWs, not least by ensuring that the libraries acquired publications and other sources of use and relevance to CSW trainees. Moreover, the CSW role was increasingly contacted by ward managers seeking to develop competencies for their CSWs, as a means of explaining and encouraging the process: ‘She’s now sort of helping go round, as I was saying we’re doing competency workshops’ (IC6_trust manager_1).

The final track involved the CSW trainer in tasks somewhat beyond the training needs of established CSWs and more supportive of the broader activities of the CSW academy. Most striking in this respect was the work undertaken by the post-holder in helping the team to deliver the trust’s CSW induction. In part, this support was organisational and administrative: ensuring that speakers were available, rooms were booked and the appropriate paperwork was available. More substantively, the CSW was also contributing some of the teaching on the induction, for instance on the communication sessions.

Responses to the CSW trainer role from various stakeholders were extremely positive. In general, the role was seen as having taken on more than envisaged:

She’s taken on a lot more than we’d first anticipated, she’s sort of taken on organising key skill sessions and booking rooms for that and liaising with the key skills tutor and liaising with the students, even [when] they’re not her students. IC6_trust manager_1

At corporate level and in terms of impact on the trust’s CSW academy, the consequences of the role included:

‘[It’s] freed them up to do other things. I’m always willing to put my hand to whatever’s happening if I can help’ (IC6_CSW trainer_1).
‘With our capacity we couldn’t have considered taking on another cohort of apprentices or people just wanting to do standalone QCF awards, but her [the CSW trainer] coming in that September time for when they started, she helped with their recruitment and the interviewing and taking them on, with their induction taking them through their programme’ (IC6_trust manager_1).
‘There was certainly a gap in the market: they all knew about NVQs, and they all wanted to do them, but up till now there’d never been any way of them accessing it, they didn’t know who to go to or where to go’ (IC6_CSW trainer_1).

At an interpersonal level, the role impacted by providing various forms of support to trainees, again with meaningful corporate consequences such as improved and quicker completion rates. The CSW trainer noted that 18 of her 19 trainees were on schedule with their training. Asked to reflect on the various ways in which the CSW trainer had impacted on their learning and helped to keep them on schedule, CSWs noted:

I see her as a mentor that helps me with . . . [as] a lot of stuff is written in such a way that you don’t understand it. She helps you break it down. IC6_CSW_1
If I’ve got some question I can always phone to her or e-mail to her that I’ve got problem, ‘can we just meet?’ And it’s not a problem at all. IC6_CSW_2

More generally, the CSW interviewees highlighted the trainer’s role in:

  • problem solving
  • clarifying.

The capacity of the CSW trainer to contribute in these different ways can be related to the structure of the role and to three associated factors: personality, background and skills. In terms of role structure, the post was designed as a dedicated trainer role with a core focus on the direct relationship with the CSWs, and as a consequence the post-holder had more time to devote to the CSWs:

I can give all my time to it now really, whereas they’re [other members of the CSW academy] constantly having to deal with the AP course, that takes a lot of time up. IC6_CSW trainer_1

It will also be recalled that, as a band 4 role, the post was designed to be more accessible to CSWs than the other, higher-graded members of the CSW academy. There were signs of such accessibility:

I suppose they just feel a bit more comfortable; sometimes I think they’re aware [that other members of the CSW academy] are quite high up nurses and, you know, a little bit wary of them. Whereas with me they’re, especially after they’ve known me for a few weeks, because we do have a little bit of a laugh and coffee together and so it’s quite informal. IC6_CSW trainer_1

Most of the CSWs were unaware of the CSW trainer’s work background, and placed greater weight on her personality and style:

She’s [the CSW trainer] just got really positive body language; she’s not in your face; she’s quite calm; she never raises her voice and if I was struggling to get words out like on a piece of paper, she’s like, ‘I can see like you’re struggling, let’s just look at it a different way’. Like she’s just more relaxed about it and I never walk out thinking that made no entire sense. IC6_CSW_1

In terms of skills, it was clear that the post-holder was extremely well organised: she was juggling a range of tasks, including meeting all 19 trainees at least every other week. For one CSW, the regular meetings provided a structure and regularity of contact which had been absent in her previous assessor relationship. Indeed, this CSW asserted that without the CSW trainer she would have given up her training:

[Without the CSW trainer] I’d probably be looking at stopping it, to be honest; because [before] I wasn’t doing much with it at all . . . The structure wasn’t there and I know she’s very busy, I wasn’t seeing her that often, to be honest, I’d have probably looked at giving up if, if I’m honest. IC6_CSW_1

Figure 8 summarises the form assumed, and objectives achieved, by the CSW trainer role.

Summarising the CSW trainer role.

  • Overview: discussion and lessons

The purpose of the innovation studies was to examine how and why trusts were able to introduce new nurse support roles and new management or working practices. These innovative interventions were defined as being new to the trust rather than unique to the NHS. There was an interest in why some trusts were able to take such steps while others were not, and what circumstances and organisational architectures permitted and supported them. In exploring various types of innovation, the cases have highlighted important differences in the conditions, processes and outcomes underpinning the introduction of new management practices, new support roles and new ways of working. These differences have included the following:

  • New management practices are likely to be less threatening to other groups of staff than new work roles and ways of working, which might well challenge job boundaries and status.
  • New work roles and ways of working represent more of a challenge to ward routines than new management practices, and therefore are more difficult to establish and sustain.
  • New management practices are less likely to generate clinical governance issues which draw in a distinctive range of actors and often involve more complex and extended procedures.
  • There is often a stronger training dimension associated with a new support role or way of working than with a new management practice.

Equally striking, however, are the similar lessons to be drawn from innovating in these various ways. These lessons relate to context, systems and actors:

  • Trusts seeking to innovate in the management and use of nurse support workers are often innovative in other aspects of care delivery.
  • Such innovative trust cultures are found within compact rather than large, sprawling trusts, with the personal interaction and networks needed to generate, share and develop ideas more likely in the former than in the latter.
  • Innovation associated with nurse support workers is often initially opportunistic, rather than planned or strategic. The rationale and objectives underpinning such innovation might well emerge and be sharpened once the initiative has been implemented and ‘bedded down’.
  • New nurse support roles and practices develop iteratively, as confidence, trust and understanding grow. Indeed, in doing so, innovation sometimes evolves in unexpected ways: for example, a new role might take on more than originally envisaged.
  • Innovations need to be resourced; various sources are available and can be used to ‘pump-prime’ an initiative.
  • Innovation in the use and management of nurse support roles needs to be seen as legitimate by key trust stakeholders: it has to address a ‘real’ issue or concern and be seen as an effective way of dealing with it.
  • Innovation rests upon effective communication with those involved in, and affected by, the innovation. Such communication serves various purposes: testing ideas, getting feedback and informing.
  • While formal structures might facilitate such communication, more informal contact and interaction often facilitates effective communication.
  • The bottom-up rather than top-down introduction of an innovation, sensitive to ward-based needs and circumstance, is often more likely to be accepted, particularly by those at ward level.
  • Actors from a range of functional areas within a trust – nursing, HR, education – often need to work in partnership in taking forward an innovation; they bring complementary capacities and insights to the process.
  • Access to, and the support of, senior management, particularly senior nurse management, is often crucial to those taking forward an innovation. Senior management commitment legitimises innovation, while also helping to identify and remove barriers to it.
  • Key individuals within the trust, ‘institutional entrepreneurs’, are often important in driving through and sustaining an innovation, becoming a hub for processing issues and maintaining essential relationships.
  • A powerful internal sponsor, for example a clinical consultant, is likely to add weight to calls for the introduction of an innovation related to nurse support workers.
  • Trust insiders – those with some knowledge and experience of a trust – are more likely to achieve traction in performing a new role and developing a new practice. They will be better known and trusted by others, and have a deeper understanding of trust routines and systems.
  • Actors external to the trust can be crucial players in innovation, suggesting the need to develop constructive relationships with them. This is particularly the case where accredited training is involved, requiring outside education providers.

Included under terms of UK Non-commercial Government License .

  • Cite this Page Kessler I, Spilsbury K, Heron P. Developing a high-performance support workforce in acute care: innovation, evaluation and engagement. Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; 2014 Aug. (Health Services and Delivery Research, No. 2.25.) Chapter 3, Innovation: case studies.
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Top 10 FinTech Case Studies [A Detailed Exploration] [2024]

In the dynamic realm of financial technology—often abbreviated as FinTech—groundbreaking innovations have revolutionized how we interact with money, democratizing access to myriad financial services. No longer confined to traditional banking and financial institutions, today’s consumers can easily invest, transact, and manage their finances at their fingertips. Through a deep dive into the top five FinTech case studies, this article seeks to illuminate the transformative power of financial technology. From trailblazing start-ups to industry disruptors, we will unravel how these companies have reshaped the financial landscape, offering invaluable lessons for consumers and future FinTech leaders.

Top 10 FinTech case studies [A Detailed Exploration] [2024]

Case study 1: square – democratizing payment processing.

Launched in 2009 by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Square sought to fill a gaping hole in the financial services market—accessible payment processing for small businesses. In an industry overshadowed by high costs and complexity, Square introduced a game-changing point-of-sale (POS) system, using a tiny card reader that could be plugged into a smartphone.

Key Challenges

1. High Costs: The financial burden of traditional payment systems made it difficult for small businesses to participate, affecting their growth and market reach.

2. Complexity: Legacy systems were cumbersome, requiring hefty upfront investments in specialized hardware and software, with a steep learning curve for users.

3. Limited Accessibility: Many small businesses had to resort to cash-only operations, losing potential customers who preferred card payments.

Related: Important FinTech KPIs Explained

Strategies Implemented

1. User-Friendly Hardware: Square’s portable card reader was revolutionary. Easy to use and set up, it integrated seamlessly with smartphones.

2. Transparent Pricing: A flat-rate fee structure eliminates hidden costs, making budgeting more predictable for businesses.

3. Integrated Business Solutions: Square went beyond payment processing to offer additional services such as inventory management, analytics, and loans.

Results Achieved

1. Market Penetration: As of 2023, Square boasted over 4 million sellers using its platform, solidifying its market position.

2. Revenue Growth: Square achieved significant financial gains, reporting $4.68 billion in revenue in Q2 2021—a 143% year-over-year increase.

3. Product Diversification: Expanding its ecosystem, Square now offers an array of services from payroll to cryptocurrency trading through its Cash App.

Key Learnings

1. Simplicity is Key: Square’s user-centric design proved that simplifying complex processes can open new markets and encourage adoption.

2. Holistic Ecosystems: Offering integrated services can foster customer loyalty and increase lifetime value.

3. Transparency Builds Trust: A clear, straightforward fee structure can differentiate a FinTech solution in a market known for its opaqueness.

4. Accessibility: Providing easy-to-use and affordable services can empower smaller businesses, contributing to broader economic inclusion.

Related: Benefits of Green FinTech for Businesses

Case Study 2: Robinhood – Democratizing Investment

Founded in 2013, Robinhood burst onto the financial scene with a disruptive promise—commission-free trading. Unlike traditional brokerage firms that charged a fee for every trade, Robinhood allowed users to buy and sell stocks at no direct cost. The platform’s user-friendly interface and sleek design made it particularly appealing to millennials and Gen Z, demographics often underrepresented in the investment world.

1. High Commissions: Traditional brokerages often had fee structures that discouraged individuals, especially younger investors, from participating in the stock market.

2. Complex User Interfaces: Many existing trading platforms featured clunky, complicated interfaces that were intimidating for novice investors.

3. Limited Access: Entry-level investors often felt the investment landscape was an exclusive club beyond their financial and technical reach.

1. Commission-Free Trading: Robinhood’s flagship offering eliminated the financial barriers that commissions presented, inviting a new cohort of individual investors into the market.

2. User-Friendly Design: A sleek, intuitive interface made stock trading less intimidating, broadening the platform’s appeal.

3. Educational Resources: Robinhood provides educational content to help novice investors understand market dynamics, equipping them for more informed trading.

1. Market Disruption: Robinhood’s model has pressured traditional brokerage firms to rethink their fee structures, with several following suit by offering commission-free trades.

2. User Growth: As of 2023, Robinhood has amassed over 23.2 million users, a testament to its market penetration.

3. Public Scrutiny: Despite its success, Robinhood has not been without controversy, especially regarding its revenue model and lack of transparency. These issues have sparked widespread debate about ethical practices in fintech.

1. User-Centricity Drives Adoption: Robinhood’s easy-to-use platform illustrates that reducing friction encourages higher user engagement and diversifies the investor base.

2. Transparency is Crucial: The controversies surrounding Robinhood serve as a cautionary tale about the importance of transparent business practices in building and maintaining consumer trust.

3. Disruption Spurs Industry Change: Robinhood’s entry forced a reevaluation of longstanding industry norms, underscoring the influence a disruptive FinTech company can wield.

Related: How to Get an Internship in the FinTech Sector?

Case Study 3: Stripe – Simplifying Online Payments

Founded in 2010 by Irish entrepreneurs Patrick and John Collison, Stripe set out to solve a significant problem—simplifying online payments. During that time, businesses looking to accept payments online had to navigate a complex labyrinth of banking relationships, security protocols, and regulatory compliance. Stripe introduced a straightforward solution—APIs that allow businesses to handle online payments, subscriptions, and various other financial transactions with ease.

1. Complex Setup: Traditional online payment methods often require cumbersome integration and extensive documentation.

2. Security Concerns: Handling financial transactions online raised issues about data safety and compliance with financial regulations.

3. Limited Flexibility: Most pre-existing payment solutions were not adaptable to specific business needs, particularly for start-ups and SMEs.

1. Simple APIs: Stripe’s suite of APIs allowed businesses to integrate payment gateways effortlessly, removing barriers to entry for online commerce.

2. Enhanced Security: Stripe implemented robust security measures, including tokenization and SSL encryption, to protect transaction data.

3. Customization: Stripe’s modular design gave businesses the freedom to tailor the payment experience according to their specific needs.

1. Broad Adoption: Stripe’s intuitive and secure payment solutions have attracted a diverse client base, from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies.

2. Global Reach: As of 2023, Stripe operates in over 46 countries, testifying its global appeal and functionality.

3. Financial Milestone: Stripe’s valuation skyrocketed to $50 billion in 2023, making it one of the most valuable FinTech companies globally.

1. Ease of Use: Stripe’s success proves that a user-friendly, straightforward approach can go a long way in attracting a wide range of customers.

2. Security is Paramount: Handling financial data requires stringent security measures, and Stripe’s focus on secure transactions sets an industry standard.

3. Scalability and Flexibility: Providing a modular, customizable solution allows businesses to scale and adapt, increasing customer satisfaction and retention.

Related: FinTech Skills to Add in Your Resume

Case Study 4: Coinbase – Mainstreaming Cryptocurrency

Founded in 2012, Coinbase set out to make cryptocurrency trading as simple and accessible as using an email account. At the time, the world of cryptocurrency was a wild west of complicated interfaces, murky regulations, and high-risk investments. Coinbase aimed to change this by offering a straightforward, user-friendly platform to buy, sell, and manage digital currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and many others.

1. User Complexity: Before Coinbase, cryptocurrency trading required high technical know-how, making it inaccessible to the average person.

2. Security Risks: The lack of centralized governance in the crypto world led to various security concerns, including hacking and fraud.

3. Regulatory Uncertainty: The absence of clear regulations concerning cryptocurrency created a hesitant environment for both users and investors.

1. User-Friendly Interface: Coinbase developed a sleek, easy-to-use platform with a beginner-friendly approach, which allowed users to start trading with just a few clicks.

2. Enhanced Security: The platform incorporated advanced security features such as two-factor authentication (2FA) and cold storage for digital assets to mitigate risks.

3. Educational Content: Coinbase offers guides, tutorials, and other educational resources to help demystify the complex world of cryptocurrency.

1. Mass Adoption: As of 2023, Coinbase had over 150 million verified users, contributing significantly to mainstreaming cryptocurrencies.

2. Initial Public Offering (IPO): Coinbase went public in April 2021 with a valuation of around $86 billion, highlighting its commercial success.

3. Regulatory Challenges: While Coinbase has succeeded in democratizing crypto trading, it continues to face scrutiny and regulatory hurdles, emphasizing the sector’s evolving nature.

1. Accessibility Drives Adoption: Coinbase’s user-friendly design has played a pivotal role in driving mass adoption of cryptocurrencies, illustrating the importance of making complex technologies accessible to everyday users.

2. Security is a Selling Point: In an ecosystem rife with security concerns, robust safety measures can set a platform apart and attract a broader user base.

3. Regulatory Adaptability: The ongoing regulatory challenges highlight the need for adaptability and proactive governance in the fast-evolving cryptocurrency market.

Related: Top FinTech Interview Questions and Answers

Case Study 5: Revolut – All-In-One Financial Platform

Founded in 2015, Revolut started as a foreign currency exchange service, primarily focusing on eliminating outrageous foreign exchange fees. With the broader vision of becoming a financial super-app, Revolut swiftly expanded its services to include digital banking, stock trading, cryptocurrency exchange, and other financial services. This rapid evolution aimed to provide users with an all-encompassing financial solution on a single platform.

1. Fragmented Services: Before Revolut, consumers had to use multiple platforms for various financial needs, leading to a fragmented user experience.

2. High Costs: Traditional financial services, particularly foreign exchange and cross-border payments, often have hefty fees.

3. Slow Adaptation: Conventional banking systems were slow to integrate new financial technologies, leaving a gap in the market for more agile solutions.

1. Unified Platform: Revolut combined various financial services into a single app, offering users a seamless experience and a one-stop solution for their financial needs.

2. Competitive Pricing: By leveraging FinTech efficiencies, Revolut offered competitive rates for services like currency exchange and stock trading.

3. Rapid Innovation: The platform continually rolled out new features, staying ahead of consumer demand and forcing traditional institutions to catch up.

1. User Growth: As of 2023, Revolut has amassed over 30 million retail customers, solidifying its reputation as a financial super-app.

2. Revenue Increase: In 2021, Revolut’s revenues climbed to approximately $765 million, indicating its business model’s viability.

3. Industry Influence: Revolut’s multi-functional capabilities have forced traditional financial institutions to reconsider their offerings, pushing the industry toward integrated, user-friendly solutions.

1. User-Centric Design: Revolut’s success stems from its focus on solving real-world consumer problems with an easy-to-use, integrated platform.

2. Agility Wins: In the fast-paced world of fintech, the ability to innovate and adapt quickly to market needs can be a significant differentiator.

3. Competitive Pricing is Crucial: Financial services have always been a cost-sensitive sector. Offering competitive pricing can draw users away from traditional platforms.

Related: Surprising FinTech Facts and Statistics

Case Study  6 : Chime – Revolutionizing Personal Banking

Essential term: digital banking.

Digital banking represents the digitization of all traditional banking activities, where financial services are delivered predominantly through the internet. This innovation caters to a growing demographic of tech-savvy users seeking efficient and accessible banking solutions.

Founded in 2013, Chime entered the financial market with a bold mission: to redefine personal banking through simplicity, transparency, and customer-centricity. At a time when traditional banks were mired in fee-heavy structures and complex service models, Chime introduced a revolutionary no-fee model complemented by a streamlined digital experience, challenging the status quo of personal banking.

1. Fee-Heavy Structure: Traditional banks heavily relied on various fees, including overdraft and maintenance charges, alienating a significant portion of potential customers, particularly those seeking straightforward banking solutions.

2. Complexity and Inaccessibility: Conventional banking systems were often marred by cumbersome procedures and lacked user-friendly interfaces, making them less appealing, especially to younger, more tech-savvy generations.

3. Customer Service: The traditional banking sector frequently struggled with providing proactive and responsive customer service, creating a gap in customer satisfaction and engagement.

1. No-Fee Model: By eliminating common banking fees such as overdraft fees, Chime positioned itself as a customer-friendly alternative, significantly attracting customers frustrated with traditional banking penalties.

2. User-Friendly App: Chime’s app was designed with user experience at its core, offering an intuitive and accessible platform for everyday banking operations, thereby enhancing overall customer experience.

3. Automatic Savings Tools: Chime innovated with features like automatic savings round-up and early paycheck access, designed to empower customers in their financial management.

1. Expansive Customer Base: Chime successfully captured a broad market segment, particularly resonating with millennials and Gen Z, evidenced by its rapid accumulation of millions of users.

2. Catalyst for Innovation: The company’s growth trajectory and model pressured traditional banks to reassess and innovate their fee structures and service offerings.

3. Valuation Surge: Reflecting its market impact and success, Chime’s valuation experienced a substantial increase, marking its significance in the banking sector.

1. Customer-Centric Approach: Chime’s journey underscores the importance of addressing customer pain points, such as fee structures, and offering a seamless digital banking experience, which can be instrumental in rapid user base growth.

2. Innovation in Features: The introduction of genuinely helpful financial management tools can significantly differentiate a FinTech company in a competitive market.

3. Disruptive Influence: Chime’s success story illustrates how a digital-first approach can disrupt and challenge traditional banking models, paving the way for new, innovative banking experiences.

Related: Is FinTech Overhyped?

Case Study  7 : LendingClub – Pioneering Peer-to-Peer Lending

Essential term: peer-to-peer (p2p) lending.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) lending is a method of debt financing that enables individuals to borrow and lend money without using an official financial institution as an intermediary. This model directly connects borrowers and lenders through online platforms.

LendingClub, founded in 2006, emerged as a trailblazer in the lending industry by introducing a novel P2P lending model. This innovative approach offered a substantial departure from the traditional credit system, typically dominated by banks and credit unions, aiming to democratize access to credit.

1. High-Interest Rates: Traditional loans were often synonymous with high-interest rates, rendering them inaccessible or financially burdensome for many borrowers.

2. Limited Access to Credit: Conventional lending mechanisms frequently sidelined individuals with lower credit scores, creating a significant barrier to credit access.

3. Intermediary Costs: The traditional lending process involves numerous intermediaries, leading to additional costs and inefficiencies for borrowers and lenders.

1. Direct Platform: LendingClub’s platform revolutionized lending by directly connecting borrowers with investors, reducing the overall cost of obtaining loans.

2. Risk Assessment Tools: The company employed advanced algorithms for assessing the risk profiles of borrowers, which broadened the spectrum of loan accessibility to include individuals with diverse credit histories.

3. Streamlined Process: LendingClub’s online platform streamlined the loan application and disbursement processes, enhancing transparency and efficiency.

1. Expanded Credit Access: LendingClub significantly widened the avenue for credit, particularly benefiting those with less-than-perfect credit scores.

2. Influencing the Market: The P2P lending model introduced by LendingClub prompted traditional lenders to reconsider their rates and processes in favor of more streamlined, borrower-friendly approaches.

3. Navigating Regulatory Hurdles: The journey of LendingClub highlighted the intricate regulatory challenges of financial innovation, underscoring the importance of adaptive compliance strategies.

1. Efficiency of Direct Connections: Eliminating intermediaries in the lending process can lead to substantial cost reductions and process efficiency improvements.

2. Broadening Credit Accessibility: FinTech can play a pivotal role in democratizing access to financial services by implementing innovative risk assessment methodologies.

3. Importance of Regulatory Compliance: Sustainable innovation in the FinTech sector necessitates a keen awareness and adaptability to the evolving regulatory landscape.

Related: Who is a FinTech CTO?

Case Study  8 : Brex – Reinventing Business Credit for Startups

Essential term: corporate credit cards.

Corporate credit cards are specialized financial tools designed for business use. They offer features like higher credit limits, rewards tailored to business spending, and, often, additional tools for expense management.

Launched in 2017, Brex emerged with a bold vision to transform how startups access and manage credit. In a financial landscape where traditional corporate credit cards posed steep requirements and were often misaligned with the unique needs of burgeoning startups, Brex introduced an innovative solution. Their model focused on the company’s cash balance and spending patterns rather than relying on personal credit histories.

1. Inaccessibility for Startups: Traditional credit systems, with their reliance on extensive credit history, were largely inaccessible to new startups, which typically lacked this background.

2. Rigid Structures: Conventional corporate credit cards were not designed to accommodate rapidly evolving startups’ fluid and dynamic financial needs.

3. Personal Guarantee Requirement: A common stipulation in business credit involves personal guarantees, posing a significant risk for startup founders.

1. No Personal Guarantee: Brex innovated by offering credit cards without needing a personal guarantee, basing creditworthiness on business metrics.

2. Tailored Financial Solutions: Understanding the unique ecosystem of startups, Brex designed its services to be flexible and in tune with their evolving needs.

3. Technology-Driven Approach: Utilizing advanced algorithms and data analytics, Brex could assess the creditworthiness of startups in a more nuanced and comprehensive manner.

1. Breaking Barriers: Brex made corporate credit more accessible to startups, removing traditional barriers.

2. Market Disruption: By tailoring its product, Brex pressures traditional financial institutions to innovate and rethink its credit card offerings.

3. Rapid Growth: Brex’s unique approach led to rapid adoption within the startup community, significantly growing its customer base and market presence.

1. Adapting to Market Needs: Brex’s success underscores the importance of understanding and adapting to the specific needs of your target market.

2. Innovative Credit Assessment: Leveraging technology for credit assessment can open new avenues and democratize access to financial products.

3 Risk and Reward: The move to eliminate personal guarantees, while riskier, positioned Brex as a game-changer, highlighting the balance between risk and innovation in FinTech.

Related: Is FinTech a Dying Career Industry?

Case Study  9 : SoFi – Transforming Personal Finance

Essential term: financial services platform.

A financial services platform offers a range of financial products and services, such as loans, investment options, and banking services, through a unified digital interface.

SoFi, short for Social Finance, Inc., was founded in 2011 to revolutionize personal finance. Initially focused on student loan refinancing, SoFi quickly expanded its offerings to include a broad spectrum of financial services, including personal loans, mortgages, insurance, investment products, and a cash management account. This expansion was driven by a vision to provide a one-stop financial solution for consumers, particularly catering to the needs of early-career professionals.

1. Fragmented Financial Services: Consumers often had to navigate multiple platforms and institutions to manage their various financial needs, leading to a disjointed financial experience.

2. Student Loan Debt: Many graduates needed more flexible and affordable refinancing options with student debt escalating.

3. Accessibility and Education: A significant segment of the population lacked access to comprehensive financial services and the knowledge to navigate them effectively.

1. Diverse Financial Products: SoFi expanded its product range beyond student loan refinancing to include a suite of financial services, offering more holistic financial solutions.

2. Tech-Driven Approach: Utilizing technology, SoFi provided streamlined, user-friendly experiences across its platform, simplifying the process of managing personal finances.

3. Financial Education and Advice: SoFi offered educational resources and personalized financial advice, positioning itself as a partner in its customers’ financial journey.

1. Expanding Consumer Base: SoFi succeeded in attracting a broad customer base, especially among young professionals looking for integrated financial services.

2. Innovation in Personal Finance: The company’s expansion into various financial services positioned it as a leader in innovative personal finance solutions.

3. Brand Recognition and Trust: With its comprehensive approach and focus on customer education, SoFi built a strong brand reputation and trust among its users.

1. Integrated Services Appeal: Offering a broad array of financial services through a single platform can attract customers seeking a unified financial management experience.

2. Leveraging Technology for Ease: Using technology to simplify and streamline financial services is key to enhancing customer experience and satisfaction.

3. Empowering Through Education: Providing users with financial education and advice can foster long-term customer relationships and trust.

Related: FinTech vs Investment Banking

Case Study  10 : Apple Pay – Redefining Digital Payments

Essential term: mobile payment system.

A mobile payment system allows consumers to make payments for goods and services using mobile devices, typically through apps or integrated digital wallets.

Launched in 2014, Apple Pay marked Apple Inc.’s foray into the digital payment landscape. It was introduced with the aim of transforming how consumers perform transactions, focusing on enhancing the convenience, security, and speed of payments. Apple Pay allows users to make payments using their Apple devices, employing Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. This move was a strategic step in leveraging the widespread use of smartphones for financial transactions.

1. Security Concerns: The rising incidences of data breaches and fraud in digital payments made consumers skeptical about the security of mobile payment systems.

2. User Adoption: Convincing consumers to shift from traditional payment methods like cash and cards to a digital platform requires overcoming ingrained habits and perceptions.

3. Merchant Acceptance: For widespread adoption, a large number of merchants needed to accept and support Apple Pay.

1. Enhanced Security Features: Apple Pay uses a combination of device-specific numbers and unique transaction codes, ensuring that card numbers are not stored on devices or servers, thereby enhancing transaction security.

2. Seamless Integration: Apple Pay was designed to work seamlessly with existing Apple devices, offering an intuitive and convenient user experience.

3. Extensive Partnership with Banks and Retailers: Apple forged partnerships with numerous banks, credit card companies, and retailers to ensure widespread acceptance of Apple Pay.

1. Widespread Adoption: Apple Pay quickly gained a significant user base, with millions of transactions processed shortly after its launch.

2. Market Leadership: Apple Pay became one of the leading mobile payment solutions globally, setting a standard in the digital payment industry.

3. Influence on Payment Behaviors: The introduction of Apple Pay substantially accelerated the shift towards contactless payments and mobile wallets.

1. Trust Through Security: The emphasis on security can be a major driving force in user adoption of new financial technologies.

2. Integration and Convenience: A system that integrates seamlessly with users’ daily lives and provides tangible convenience can successfully change long-standing consumer habits.

3. Strategic Partnerships: Building a network of partnerships is key to the widespread acceptance and success of a new payment system.

These stories of globally renowned FinTech trailblazers offer invaluable insights, providing a must-read blueprint for anyone looking to make their mark in this rapidly evolving industry.

1. Square shows that focusing on user needs, especially in underserved markets, can drive innovation and market share.

2. Robinhood serves as both an inspiration and a cautionary tale, advocating for democratization while emphasizing the importance of ethical practices.

3. Stripe proves that simplifying complex processes through customizable, user-friendly solutions can redefine industries.

4. Coinbase highlights the transformative potential of making new financial instruments like cryptocurrency accessible while reminding us of regulatory challenges.

5. Revolut sets the bar high with its user-centric, all-in-one platform, emphasizing the need for agility and competitive pricing in the sector.

The key to FinTech success lies in simplicity, agility, user focus, and ethical considerations. These case studies serve as guiding lights for future innovation, emphasizing that technological superiority must be balanced with customer needs and ethical responsibilities.

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Arcus Consulting Group

Innovation case studies

View from the top: arcus innovation case studies, innovation workshops.

Worked on a white space product innovation session with Kraft to identify drivers of growth of emerging product categories. The session included an innovation audit (attached) that has been conducted with management teams of 40 leading consumer product companies. The session resulted in acquisition of two companies in a fast growing market segment. The Arcus Innovation Model benchmarks the company, marketing and product teams on over 30 variables against 200 other companies.

New white space product development

Managed sessions with the Febreze global product development team that identified in-home smells as the #3 unmet need of consumers. This insight was identified in focus groups and insight mining sessions in 18 countries worldwide. Developed brand extensions for multiple applications such as pet smells, cars etc.

Product experience

Managed white space innovation sessions for new product extensions for Pringles. Identified flavour preferences in different markets and aligned the product experience across a time line with the brand position of “once you pop, you can’t stop”.

Green business innovation session

Innovation session for a consumer product company to connect green concerns of consumers with emerging product categories. Analysed 30 green product categories and discussed emerging trends in each one and how these trends could translate into new business opportunities and product development strategies.

Product extensions

Developed product extensions for Mr. Clean with bath and glass spray products through exploratory research to identify new behavioural insights linked to cleaning of different surfaces. E.g. developed a hierarchy of over 25 desired benefits such as streak free shine and no residue for glass sprays.

White space brand concepts

Developed brand concepts for Knorr line of products tailored to new emerging needs based on demographic, culture and behavioural criteria.

Alignment of growth with product portfolio

Aligned 400 products across 8 business categories and 36 industries for AT&T with new top line growth products that were customised for a range of industries from food to pharma in the telecom sector. Restructured the sales organizations with knowledge management and sales strategies.

Emerging consumer needs

Developed concepts for technologies to address emerging healthcare needs for a Fortune 500 healthcare company to address needs for specific health conditions such as cardiac care, diabetes and cancer.

Canadian Marketing Association Innovation Council

Leader of the innovation council. Developed a paper (attached) based on 3 panel discussions with senior marketers on trends in product, brand, marketing and channel innovation. The paper is to be released this fall.

New vectors of growth for a brand with an aging customer base

The client is a $3Billion premier, global specialty Device Company that discovers, develops and commercializes innovative products for the ophthalmology, neurosciences, medical dermatology, medical aesthetics and other specialty markets. Innovation sessions with the client identified new strategies and vectors of growth in emerging consumer segments.

Contact Arcus to find out how to benchmark your innovation strategy:

  •  A presentation on best practices from 1500 companies
  •  A culture change audit
  •  An innovation workshop
  •  An innovation strategy

Innovation Leaders Interviews

Innovation in healthcare and the “bottom-up Reformation”: An interview with Mr. Neil Seeman, Director and Primary Investigator, Health Strategy Innovation Cell at Massey College, University of Toronto. Mr. Seeman says we need new out-of-the-box measurement tools that recognize “successful failures”. In healthcare, in particular, we talk a lot about our “success stories”. We don’t like talking about our failures. The challenge to admitting to failure has to do with our organizational culture in healthcare. There is a lack of understanding in healthcare that patients are leading what Steve Case calls a “bottom-up Reformation”.  Read the interview .

Corporate performance and governance: An interview with Mr. Jim Leech, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP). A message to CEOs on performance benchmarks, governance, risk consciousness and performance systems. First, risk consciousness needs to be built into all processes of the business. It needs to be integral to the compensation and investment process. At times, management has taken on significant levels of risk to produce superior results so that they could increase their compensation. Risk needs to be brought into the equation. Senior executives are starting to understand that. Read the interview.

Globalive’s view on the Innovation Imperative: An interview with Mr. Anthony Lacavera, CEO, Globalive Communications Corp. Mr. Lacavera says its critical for companies to be prepared to grow in a profitable and sustainable way. Globalive’s strength has been low management turnover and a strong, cohesive and consistent strategy. The company’s drivers of success have been the right team and a consistent and disciplined approach.  Read the interview.

Brand leadership and vision for innovation : An interview with Mr. Geoff Craig, VP & GM, Brand Building. Mr. Craig argues that leadership is about having a vision for innovation and creating a framework for action around the vision to allow partners and employees to pioneer new ways of working.  Read the interview.

Innovation and return on capital : An interview with Mr. Andrew Tremblay, Business Development Manager, Domtar EarthChoice, Corporate Markets Canada, Domtar Corp. Mr. Tremblay says that in capital intensive businesses, innovation needs to be seen as a way to get better return on the capital employed.  Read the interview.

A shared vision for innovation and change : An interview with Ms. Kathryn Fitzwilliam, Corporate Vice President, Marketing Resources. Ms. Fitzwilliam says first and foremost you need to make sure that people understand and support a shared objective. Read the interview.

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Adobe SaaS Interview Experience For An Business Analyst


Securing a position as a Business Analyst (BA) in the Software as an Adobe (SaaS) industry requires a blend of technical expertise, analytical prowess, and business acumen. The interview process for such roles often involves a series of steps designed to assess candidates’ abilities to understand complex software solutions, identify business requirements, and effectively communicate insights. In this article, we delve into the typical interview experience for a Business Analyst role in Adobe company, providing valuable insights for aspiring candidates.

Initial Screening:

The interview process usually kicks off with an initial screening, either conducted over the phone or via video conference. During this stage, recruiters assess candidates’ basic qualifications, relevant experience, and alignment with the company culture. Expect questions about your background, career goals, and familiarity with SaaS products and technologies.

Technical Assessment:

Candidates who pass the initial screening may be required to complete a technical assessment. This could involve analyzing case studies, solving hypothetical business problems, or demonstrating proficiency in data analysis tools and techniques. Be prepared to showcase your problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and ability to derive actionable insights from data.

Case Study Presentation:

Some SaaS companies incorporate case study presentations into their interview process. Candidates are given a real or hypothetical business scenario related to the company’s products or services and are asked to analyze the situation, identify key issues, and propose solutions. Effective communication, logical reasoning, and strategic thinking are essential for success in this stage.

Behavioural Interviews:

Behavioural interviews focus on assessing candidates’ soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, leadership, and adaptability. Expect questions about your past experiences, challenges you’ve overcome, and how you approach problem-solving in a collaborative environment. Be prepared to provide concrete examples that demonstrate your ability to drive results and navigate complex projects.

Domain Knowledge Assessment:

Given the specialized nature of the SaaS industry, candidates may be evaluated on their domain knowledge during the interview process. Expect questions about SaaS business models, subscription-based pricing strategies, customer retention techniques, and industry trends. Demonstrating a solid understanding of the SaaS landscape and its implications for business analysis can set you apart from other candidates.

Cultural Fit:

Cultural fit is a critical factor in SaaS companies, where collaboration, innovation, and agility are valued. Recruiters may assess candidates’ alignment with the company’s values, mission, and working style through informal conversations or behavioural questions. Be authentic and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the company’s culture and vision.

Final Round Interviews:

The final round of interviews typically involves meeting with senior leaders or key stakeholders within the organization. This is an opportunity for candidates to showcase their strategic thinking, leadership potential, and ability to influence decision-making. Prepare to discuss your long-term career goals, how you can contribute to the company’s growth, and why you’re the ideal candidate for the role.


Securing a Business Analyst position in an Adobe SaaS company requires a combination of technical expertise, analytical skills, and interpersonal abilities. By understanding the various stages of the interview process and preparing effectively, candidates can position themselves for success and demonstrate their value as strategic partners in driving business growth and innovation in the dynamic SaaS landscape.

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World Intellectual Property Report 2024: Making Innovation Policy Work for Growth and Development

Geneva, May 2, 2024 PR/2024/916

A new WIPO report probes the intersection of human innovation, economic diversification and industrial policy and finds that the key to sustainable growth for countries is to focus policy making on developing local innovation capabilities.

The biennial  World Intellectual Property Report (WIPR) “Making Innovation Policy Work for Development” documents a recent resurgence in industrial policy making, including in many developing and least developed countries, aimed at ensuring a wide and growing economic structure base - and the innovation, creativity and technology required to achieve it. 

Photos on Flickr

The WIPR establishes a novel methodology that maps 20 years of innovation capabilities across 150-plus WIPO member states, pinpointing how different countries have boosted their economic diversification in areas of technology, science and exports. Through this, the WIPR results help governments design their policies in a highly dynamic economic and political environment.

case study interview innovation

We hope this report will guide policymakers across the world on how to leverage innovation for improved productivity, competitiveness, and development amid global economic shifts, geopolitical tensions and digital acceleration.
Our report shows that countries that leverage on local strengths, build diverse innovation ecosystems and develop deep capabilities are in a better place to win the innovation race.

said WIPO Director General Daren Tang , adding

We hope that policymakers will find the data and insights in this report useful and interesting as they build durable innovation ecosystems that brings real growth over decades.

To help guide policymakers, the report documented:

  • Power of local capabilities: Countries often use their existing innovation capabilities as a springboard for diversification. Innovation capabilities based on scientific, technological and production know-how in a particular country or region can be measured by studying the data on scientific publications, patent applications and international trade respectively. For example:
  • Economic Specialization and Diversification: Analysis of nearly 40 million patent filings, over 70 million scientific papers and economic activity worth more than 300 trillion dollars in goods and services exports, reveals that innovative outcomes are highly concentrated. Over the past 20 years, for example, the top eight countries account for 50 percent of exports, 60 percent of scientific publications and 80 percent of international patenting. But change is occurring: China, India and the Republic of Korea saw big increases in their technological diversification over the period. China jumped from being specialized in only 16% to 94% of all technological capabilities, the Republic of Korea's technological capabilities went from 40% to 83%, and India saw its technological capabilities double from 9% to 21%.
  • Innovation Complexity: Innovation complexity is the knowledge in an economy as expressed in the diversity and sophistication of the science, technologies, and products it generates. Complex capabilities are rare and only diversified innovation ecosystems can make use of them. Of the three types of innovation capabilities, technological capabilities are the most complex and also more likely to generate higher growth.

Case Studies Spotlight

The WIPR focuses on three case studies across eight countries to reveal insights on how innovators and policymakers leveraged and enhanced existing industrial capabilities to create the advanced and sophisticated motorcycles, videogames and agricultural technologies of today.

Motorcycles Industry - full throttle on innovation

The documented evolution of the motorcycle industry is a key example of human innovation and economic diversification, which economists and policymakers can use to spur sustainable, long-term growth across the globe.

The experiences of Italy, Japan and India show how historical ties with closely related sectors - including bicycles, automobiles, and aviation – have allowed them to carve out their own unique specialized trajectories within the same innovative and complex industry.

For instance, Italian motorcycles excel in high-performance and groundbreaking design thanks to vibrant know-how in racing and top of the line craftsmanship; the big four Japanese motorcycles companies (Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki) dominate the global market by exploiting Japan’s complex innovation capabilities on advanced technologies, product reliability, and sophisticated supply-chain logistics ( keiretsu ) ; and Indian motorcycle companies have emerged as a key global industry player catapulted by India’s capabilities on cost efficient production, particularly prioritizing fuel-efficient engines.

The motorcycle case study provides evidence of strategic implementation of industrial policies, such as those that enhanced the rise of national champions in Japan or faster adoption of electric two- and three-wheelers in India. 

Today, the motorcycle industry is in a new and disruptive transformational journey driven by changing consumer preferences, a heightened focus on sustainability and technological shifts. Electrification, artificial intelligence, and enhanced connectivity technologies are revolutionizing the industry.

Agricultural Leveraging Technologies  

The agricultural sector is undergoing a spectacular technological transformation as shown by the 239% increase of patent protected agriculture inventions in the last decade. New scientific breakthroughs in genetic engineering and the adoption of frontier robotic and digital technologies are increasing the innovation sophistication of one of the oldest economic activities.

The increase in innovation complexity in the agricultural sector is happening around the world. For instance, scientists in Kenya have leveraged their plant breeding capabilities to create a pest-resistant maize variety successfully being used across the African continent. In Brazil, sugarcane and sugar production capabilities were the standpoint for Brazil's global leadership of ethanol related technologies helping consumers find sustainable fossil-fuel alternatives.

The Rise of the Global Videogame Industry

The videogame case study showcases how seemingly unrelated existing capabilities can be used to create an innovative and sophisticated new industry.

The video game industry is a breeding ground for new businesses, with around 45% of game developers being newly founded companies. This dynamic environment fosters competition and innovation, contributing to the industry's rapid growth.

In addition, the report finds that around 15% of new video games launched each year are based on existing intellectual property (excluding sequels).

The development of the global video game industry has seen regional hubs navigating unique challenges and capitalizing on local strengths. The four video game industry hubs discussed in the chapter demonstrate how local expertise, cultural capital and interconnected industries collectively have influenced the industry's evolution and offer strategic insights for policymakers.

World IP Report 2024: A Guide for Policy Makers

The report provides a new policy toolkit that can help countries replicate these success stories. By identifying over 600 technological, scientific and production capabilities spread around the world, the new framework allow decision takers to design smart policies based on empirical evidence.

Policy makers can see where, when and how to target their innovation policies, either by nurturing their strengths, or by leveraging them to attain new and exciting scientific, technological and production opportunities.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the United Nations agency that serves the world’s innovators and creators, ensuring that their ideas travel safely to the market and improve lives everywhere.

We do so by providing services that enable creators, innovators and entrepreneurs to protect and promote their intellectual property (IP) across borders and acting as a forum for addressing cutting-edge IP issues. Our IP data and information guide decisionmakers the world over. And our impact-driven projects and technical assistance ensure IP benefits everyone, everywhere.

  • Tel: (+41 22) 338 81 61 / 338 72 24


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