The rise of e-commerce is forcing historical corporations to renew and innovate all over the world. This is also the case for Posti, the leading postal and logistics service company in Finland. Transforming from public service to e-commerce is not simple for a 400-year-old company employing 20 000 people. But renewal is essential, and Posti is taking resolute steps to transform together with Epicenter Helsinki and its partner company Result – by embracing experimental innovation culture and intrapreneurship.

To play in the same game with likes of Amazon, Posti has long recognized its need for renewal. There is a lot of work to be done with the company’s basic processes. At the same time, there is a constant need to explore new horizons with the power of innovation.

“In addition to renewing our core business, we must future proof Posti as a company. Innovation plays a very big role in that”, says Eeva Tiainen, a business strategist working at Posti. 

Tiainen has a key role in helping Posti look further into the future. Eeva, who has long worked on new businesses, strategy, and innovations, made an interesting career move in the fall of 2019. After almost eight years, she left Fazer, one of Finland’s most loved brands, to work for Posti, one of the least-loved brands. In her new role, Eeva’s task is to help Posti future proof its business from the bottom up by creating an innovative company culture. 

Today, Eeva works in the parcel and e-commerce business group, one of Posti’s growth engines of the future. In this role, she is responsible for leading the Posti X-Labs innovation corporate initiative that focuses on three strategic themes: growing the e-commerce market in Finland and internationally, creating a more seamless customer experience, and sustainability and circular economy. 

To take innovation activities to the next level, Posti needed concrete tools that transform good ideas into action, and eventually, into real business. In January 2020, Posti partnered with Epicenter Helsinki who provided a team of experts and a structured innovation process. Together, Posti and Epicenter co-created the X-Labs intrapreneur program that invites all Posti employees throughout the organization to innovate, makes intrapreneurs out of them, and helps develop good ideas into real business. 

During the program, innovation and entrepreneurship experts train and support participants. One of these experts in the program has been Mahesh Kumar, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Result.

”Our task is to coach, inspire, and provide tools for teams. At the same time, we ensure that the right ideas get the support of the organizsation. The six-week program requires hard work from the teams, but everything is largely dependent on the participants’ desire to challenge themselves. No one can be forced to be a successful entrepreneur or an entrepreneurial employee. People need to want that for themselves”, Kumar says.

Riikka Jakovuori, Country Manager at Epicenter Helsinki, has coached the teams selected for the program together with Kumar.

“There is so much untapped potential in many companies out there. Whether you’re a corporation with a long history or a newly established startup entering your field, there is always room for innovation and outside-the-box ideas. Promoting a more agile culture requires the right kind of mindset, hunger for growth, and having structures that encourage and support that change. Together with Result, we do our best to unleash intrapreneurs within all types of organizations”, says Jakovuori.

Innovation is not for the chosen few

The X-Labs program started in January with an internal campaign searching for ideas to build and innovate future business and interested people to take part in the 10-week innovation journey. Similar to the sales funnel way of thinking, the idea was to get enough ideas and people to apply to the program. This way, there would be enough micro ideas, and eventually, enough diamonds at the end of the funnel. Giving everyone in the organization a chance to take part was crucial for the process.

“Innovation is not meant for a chosen few. It should be everybody’s privilege and responsibility. With this initiative, anybody can scratch the surface and validate their idea, and possibly turn it into business”, Tiainen says.

In the end, the internal X-Labs campaign was a success, and out of 23 shortlisted ideas, a jury selected six to take forward in the program. Nearly half of them are focusing on sustainability and the circular economy. 

Shaping ideas into real business

During the spring of 2020, the chosen ideas were developed in the X-Labs program that consists of six modules. These modules give Posti employees the inspiration, learnings and tools to develop their ideas further in the company’s innovation process. 

According to Eeva, the feedback from staff participating has been heartwarming and extremely positive.

“It is really motivating to drive your own idea forward, and have a team to spar it with. The X-Labs program has encouraged Posti employees to embrace the unknown and develop their hidden innovation capabilities in a safe environment“.

Even the corona outbreak and switching to remote working did not bring the program to a halt. Tiainen even sees the new normal more as an opportunity. 

“Constraints are the best way to get innovation. In very special circumstances, you really need to hustle your way forward. It’s the best time to unleash your creativity and solve practical challenges”, continues Tiainen.

In May, the X-Labs program culminates as all participants give final pitches on their ideas. What kind of diamonds came out of the X-Labs program? How and when will they turn into actual business? What did this initiative give to the staff and to Posti as a company?

“At Posti, there is a tremendous amount of potential when it comes to harnessing existing knowledge, expertise and data to build new business models. It’s been thrilling to witness how an organization with a long history of working in a more traditional setting has begun to shift their way of working and focus towards a more agile approach. It has been inspiring to see so many unconventional ideas emerge during these weeks, and we can’t wait to see them actualize in Posti’s business”, says Jakovuori.

Stay tuned for our next blog on this topic, where we dive deeper into concrete results of X-Labs program.

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