How Does Nordnet Encourage And Harness Innovation?

We speak to Dennis Hettema about the challenge of managing a creative team


Ahead of his presentation at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit in London, we spoke to Dennis Hettema, Chief Innovation Officer at Nordnet about the culture of innovation at the company and the challenges that lie ahead in keeping that creativity aligned.

As Chief Innovation Officer at Nordnet - who have operations in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland - Dennis is responsible for all of the company’s digital products, their performance and innovation. Currently, Dennis’ focus is on revamping Nordnet’s processes so that they optimize flow and allow for innovation to flourish. Together with his colleagues, they are well on their way to becoming the first fully agile bank and Dennis is one of the ones to help lead that charge.

IE - What do you see as the key challenge you’re addressing this year?

Dennis - Alignment. Innovation is a great field because it is so creative yet, as I’m sure you know, it is also a double edged sword. As the Law of Accelerating Returns is unleashing its power on our globally connected information systems, opportunities become more plentiful and the prevalence of 24 hour fads increases at a steady pace (“YO”, “Meerkat" or “peach" anyone?). Keeping a steady and aligned approach will become more and more challenging as innovation without alignment generally just descents into chaos.

How would you describe the culture at your company, and how is it changing?

Hungry. And it is getting more hungry. This doesn’t mean we aren’t eating, it means that aligned innovation is a highly addictive meal.

What does ‘innovation’ look like specifically in your role?

In my role it has 425 faces. Everyone within the company needs to innovate. Not just on products but processes, their working environments and anything else that requires improvement. Kaizen is a crucial ingredient in our innovation diet. For me this means my role is about education and guidance. Sure I’ve got some pretty ace ideas myself but I don’t believe they automatically outrank anybody else in the organization just because I’m an executive member. Making the best ideas flourish is my primary role.

How do you accelerate your initiatives?

We are heavy on validation and outcome driven innovation. Jobs to be done, design sprints and risky assumptions are a few of the vehicles we use. We minimize risk and as such accelerate on initiatives that have the highest chance of success.

How do you think your role will change in the next 2-3 years?

My industry will see dramatic change over the coming couple of years. This will put increased pressure on “the need to innovate” which will probably put increase pressure on me to hold the line. Recently I had a heated debate with our CEO. I told him we had a huge opportunity in fixing something on our platform. He told me that everybody is asking for that, however, the reality is that nobody is asking for it. The thing I proposed to fix is an old pain point, something the org has “learned to live with”. Because of this it is easily forgotten and the thing that everyone is asking me for is whatever is trendy right now. As resources are limited I think my role as Innovation Officer will become increasingly about educating the org on how to handle this limitation. 

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