Innovation through co-creation – good ideas don’t fall from the sky

According to the UN, 5.2 billion people will live in cities in 2030. This requires more taller houses that are also greener, because 38 percent of the CO2 emissions caused by energy consumption still occur during the construction and operation of buildings.

One solution: Smart Building, Smart Neighborhood, Smart City. The intelligent control of energy-saving systems via the cloud-edge architectures and with the integration of robots would be a major step toward ecological sustainability, economic efficiency, and passenger and freight transportation oriented to customer wishes. This is the goal of the Kone Group, whose elevators and escalators move one billion people every day. To realize its vision, Kone is focusing on sustainable innovation. The future lies not only in the product, but also in combining it with services that are created around it as an end-to-end solution. But to do that, you need to know: What do customers expect in terms of sustainability, design, functionality or technical features, and what experiences can inspire them?

Traditional idea management with a product-centric approach often leaves such questions about the future unanswered. As a result, there is a risk of acting too slowly, missing out on the integration of new technology into products, or overlooking customer wishes. Kone therefore uses the newly defined 4E approach (Enable, Enhance, Expand, Explore) in research and development for well thought-out end-to-end solutions that are created through agile co-creation in close cooperation with customers. To ensure that this is clearly structured and that the philosophy spreads throughout the Group, a Chief Innovation Officer was installed to establish modern innovation processes.


Enable means creating the conditions for more innovation at a higher speed as well as its rapid scaling. Central to adapting the innovation architecture to the requirements of agile, open, customer-centric research and development is the platform principle – for reduced complexity through fewer variants and more modularity. For example, instead of 100 individual sensors, 15 sensors inserted into an integrated architecture are used, which run via a standard control unit – and the system is individually adaptable. Architectures, processes and thought patterns must be changed in this direction so that the organization can find better solutions more quickly with less effort and become open to impulses from outside.


Enhance means improving existing products and solutions within the framework of the new innovation architecture on the basis of the platform created for this purpose. In-house specialists are organized in tribes in such a way that complementary skills complement each other. They use agile working methods to quickly test optimization approaches through co-creation with customer experts – focused on scalable solutions instead of individual products. A new generation of the JumpLift, for example, was developed at the request of construction companies that wanted to move materials immediately by elevator and thus increase efficiency – waiting for construction materials or their transport consumes up to 70 percent of working time. Together, they modified it so that it could go into production as a new variant and greatly increase productivity – an interesting proposition worldwide, since this problem exists around the globe.


Expand means using agile ways of working to expand existing business and not just integrating services or solutions but thinking beyond the product. It is about inspiring user experience, convincing end-to-end solutions, the integration of the entire building technology and services that can be created around it. The MonoSpace DX passenger elevator, for example, offers an impressive digital experience, can be maintained in advance, and services can be added via open interfaces. This enables robots to operate autonomously in buildings across floors. For example, hospital staff can be relieved of cleaning and distributing meals, leaving more time for patients. With the right hardware, the DX can even be controlled by the mind. The approach to directing the flow of people also goes beyond the installation of elevators. In workshops, Kone researches the wishes of tenants, guests and shoppers and develops concepts for getting them to their destinations quickly and comfortably. This enables sustainable movement with the best user experience as well as economical capacity management via cloud-based data collection and analysis.


Explore ultimately means exploring ideas for venturing into new technologies, markets or business models. The maxim: don’t stick to existing offerings, think beyond escalators and elevators. Evaluation follows a defined funnel with two main criteria. Innovation at Kone means taking every idea to the pilot phase via co-creation with the customer. But this close development partnership does not produce a single solution, but rather potentially interesting offerings for many customers – be it material, service or software. The pilot is shown to other interested parties and adapted to their needs. Just as creative digitization requires open technical interfaces (APIs), modern innovation management needs exchange across departmental and company boundaries. Innovations are created between developers, salespeople, users, and customers, who provide important suggestions – for this purpose, Kone exchanges ideas in a global network. Interdisciplinary, agile Kone teams made up of experts in software, design, materials and technology, as well as customer consultants, study customers’ problems. They participate in the brainstorming process, as do any partner companies or universities. The goal is a joint search for the best solution. The not-invented-here syndrome is passé. Co-creation in an ecosystem of creative and diverse partners who find the right result through their customer-centric approach – that’s what the future of innovation looks like. However, this only works hand in hand with three other success factors: The composition of the ecosystem must constantly adapt to changes in technologies, markets and partners, the focus of joint developments must be on end-to-end solutions – and the technical competence of the own company must be continuously expanded by new skills and abilities, for example in the areas of AI, design or user experience, despite the ecosystem, in order not to lose the connection and thus the ability to cooperate.

The author:

Maciej Kranz brings 30 years of experience to his role as EVP & CTO at KONE, responsible for the physical+digital R&D, IT, Innovation, and Strategic Partnership teams in their mission to improve the flow of urban life. Previously, he built Cisco’s IoT business unit and pioneered dozens of IoT projects across industries. He wrote the New York Times Best Seller, Building the Internet of Things.