G2E: Aristocrat encourages employees to thinkBIGGER

October 17, 2019 10:00 PM
  • Dave Newton
October 17, 2019 10:00 PM

How does a company maintain its leadership position in a world where technology changes at a dizzying pace?  For Aristocrat Technologies, a key strategy is igniting a passion for innovation throughout its workforce.

Story continues below

Roberto Coppola, Aristocrat’s VP of Advanced Products, explained Tuesday how his company is generating innovation internally in a presentation at G2E called “thinkBIGGER: Unleashing the Power of Collective Brilliance.”

“Plenty of companies rested on their laurels and didn’t think about the future,” Coppola said. “And now they have no future.”

The thinkBIGGER Initiative, now in its third year, is a mainly-internal program that has generated 3,318 ideas to date, Coppola said. The company issues challenges on specific topics and uses a crowdsourcing model to get feedback on the ideas employees propose using a custom-built online ideation platform.

“Riffing back and forth, sculpting an idea over time, that’s how innovation happens,” he said.

Some of the problems employees have tackled have been traffic in Delhi, India – where Aristocrat has about 1,000 employees – and the company’s performance review system.  The current challenge is to increase sustainability, a key priority for Aristocrat CEO Trevor Croker, according to Coppola.

The company’s new slot product, the Hyper Arc, was finally approved after being rejected by senior management several times.  A prototype was created in two months and can be seen on the show floor, he said.

The thinkBIGGER program’s original goals were to increase employee engagement, accelerate out-of-the-box and around-the-box innovation and generate meaningful long-term revenue opportunities. Coppola said that one of the impacts of the program has been identifying “rock stars” within the company.

Through the program, Aristocrat has been able to identify employees who will take on leadership positions in the company’s global sustainability efforts. Previously, their jobs had been unrelated to sustainability.

Coppola gave some insights into what it takes for this type of program to be successful, including being a fierce advocate for those participating.

“You’re asking people to take a step out of their lanes.  When people in the organization say no, you have to be in your entrepreneur’s corner,” he said.

Coppola indicated that communication style was another key to success.

“Positivity is important,” he said. “If communications aren’t light and fun, people will disengage.”

He shared the results of a study that showed 98% of five-year-olds were creative, but the numbers decreased to 38% at ten years old and 2% at 20 years of age.

“Five-year-olds don’t know what’s not realistic, so there’s no limits on their imagination,” he said.

Coppola told the story of an innovation expert in Delhi who went for a weekly walk in the city with one of his great-grandchildren to help him see the city with fresh eyes.

He finished by emphasizing the importance of getting started.  “If you’re not embarrassed by your prototype, you’ve probably waited too long,” he said.