Scott Anthony on How DBS Uses “BEANs” to Encourage Innovation 


Interview Transcript

Let me tell you a story of one organization that consciously built BEANs. The organization is DBS. DBS is the largest bank in Southeast Asia. A few years ago they set up a new development center in Hyderabad in India. This was a place where they were going to purpose build a culture of innovation so they designed an office space that had all the things you’d imagined; their pool table slides and so on. They got the best talent they could find. The most innovative people they could find and they turned on the lights… something went wrong. The people weren’t following the behaviors that DBS wanted, instead they were going backwards to the behaviors that looked more like an old boring bank, not the bank of the future that DBS wanted to create. So: an intervention. Three steps were followed.

First, identify specifically the kinds of behavior you wanted people to follow. So you want people to experiment, you want people to try new things, you want them to feel like they can push boundaries. Second, understand what is stopping them from doing it. One big thing that came up as an example is people felt like they couldn’t be candid, they couldn’t share their perspective on topics and because of that they couldn’t have the kind of active disagreement that’s critical to innovation. Third come up with BEANs to encourage the behaviors and overcome the blockers.

The team came up with three specific BEANs. The first was called team temperature. This was a very simple app where at the beginning of the week people would rate how they feel on a one to ten scale and give one word describing why they gave the answer that they gave. A very quick way to bring candor into the discussion to enable people to have good honest conversations. The second bean was called 70-20-10. This was inspired by Google. The idea here is you give every person working in Hyderabad a portfolio of activities. 70% will be focused on normal business, 20% will be other things in their department and 10% will be time where they can experiment and push boundaries. It’s a very simple way to encourage people to question the status quo and be curious and do different things. The third BEAN was called a culture canvas. The idea here is one of the blockers inhibiting innovation is people just didn’t know what the rules of engagement were so we created a one-page poster that essentially said this is what our team is, this is what we’re trying to do, this is what’s allowed, this is what isn’t allowed. We had everyone go and co-create this culture campus; they filled it in together. We took pictures of everyone, we put it on the culture canvas, they sign their name to it as well to demonstrate their commitment to acting in different ways.

By clarifying what was allowed and what wasn’t it made people more empowered and allowed them to do different things when it came to innovation. All of this worked. When the story began, the Hyderabad Center had relatively low engagement compared to DBS norms. A year later the scores approached DBS norms. A year after that it was named as the most innovative workplace in India: a true transformation powered by BEANs.