To truly foster innovation in your company, you must have a culture that invites – even challenges – team members to innovate. At Allegion, we have a core value that speaks to this. “Be curious beyond the obvious.” This is a statement we live by; one we believe encourages our employees to develop new ideas and take risks. 

But you can’t just make a statement and expect people to follow it. Support from the highest levels of leadership is crucial to the adoption of innovation. Crucial. And beyond support, executives must lead by example. 

Allegion CEO Dave Petratis was a major driving force in propelling digital transformation forward in our company. Because of his desire to go down this path, we intentionally evaluated new opportunities for innovation. After reading “Digital to the Core” and hosting a cross-functional workshop, the seed was planted, and our executive team realized a holistic digital transformation was our next step forward to innovate. 

To make improvements and lead by example, we committed to set aside resources, both time and money, to become students of digital transformation – and thus, the “learning journey” was born. 

Defining the journey

Initially, we had to define the purpose and goals of our learning journey. Our purpose was to focus time on innovation, technology and disruptive concepts, explore emerging trends and learn from digital disruptors. This would allow us to accelerate our digital transformation, move faster, drive global growth, evolve our culture and create a plan for change. 

It was also important to define how we wanted to learn. For us, two concepts came to mind: experiential and intentional learning. As an executive team, we set aside up to 40 percent of our time together during the year to deliberately learn. 

We arranged experiences that included partnering with a local start-up incubator and venture studio, touring tech companies in Silicon Valley, participating in a strategic innovation simulation and sprints, and meeting with a prominent scholar and national leader in entrepreneurship. We also discussed takeaways from books we were reading and watched tech-focused keynotes. We even downloaded and used popular apps and discussed how these companies monetize those, as well as the impact they have on influencing different audiences, some of whom may be our customers. 

Over the course of a year, we made a point to encounter a variety of experiences outside of our norm, and each member of the team left those experiences with different perspectives. 

Turning insight into action

The most important part of the journey is the application. (Again, lead by example.) Our journey led to a refresh of our company strategy, which included an updated vision: Seamless access and a safer world. This showcases Allegion’s commitment to developing forward-thinking solutions through our own growing digital capabilities and open standards that encourage strategic partnerships.

To be on the leading edge of discovery and build some of those strategic partnerships, we founded Allegion Ventures, our corporate venture capital fund. Allegion Ventures invests in companies with innovative technologies and products – specifically those that think outside of our “box” but have the potential to make security and access smarter, stronger, faster and less intrusive. We want to work with other companies that push our boundaries. 

In addition, our executives challenged themselves and their teams to grow new digital roots. While the IT function historically gave the push for digital initiatives, we were starting to experience a pull from the rest of the business as well. Since our journey, we have been excited to see other leaders across different functions in the organization incorporating digital technology in new ways. We have a new customer portal and other solutions that give 24/7 access to information and tools. Functions like human resources and finance are integrating digital platforms to improve efficiency and connectedness to the global organization. For example, human resources led a multi-day digital conference using Microsoft Teams, allowing team members from across the globe to connect and share ideas seamlessly, without the expense and coordination of travel.  

While no longer the primary driver of the conversation, the IT team is still finding unique ways to push the envelope and experiment. In fact, we have a group (innovators called “Team3”) dedicated to experimenting with emerging digital technology. We operate with the agility to react immediately to changing business needs and cultivate an innovative culture across Allegion. 

Continuing the evolution

As our CEO would say, we don’t want to be barbwire when we can be fiber optic. The thing is, the innovation of today could just as easily be considered barbwire tomorrow. Digital technology and, therefore, how we innovate, continues to evolve.

As a result of our learning journey, Allegion has become more agile and innovative. But, our digital transformation is ongoing. And to continue pushing a culture of innovation that makes our company and our people better, we will continue as students of the digital transformation.