This week, we are featuring Felix Koch, who is the CEO of C Space EMEA and APAC. C Space is a customer agency that champions co-creation methodologies, helping clients to put their consumers at the core of their offering. They have offices across North America, South America, in London, and will soon be opening a base in Tokyo.
First thing’s first - please can you give us an overview of your experience in Innovation?
I have been working in the Insight and Innovation space for over 10 years. I started off as a Planner in advertising in Germany, but I got frustrated by the elitist view that Planners seem to have about the world that said only creative people can be creative, so I left.
After that, I came to London. I joined a company called Promise, who in turn became C Space. C Space do co-creation and develop products and services together with consumers, rather than just for them. My experience in the industry has been around consumer-centric product development and insight development. Now, I’m in charge of C Space EMEA and APAC - I’m running the London office, which has 140 people - and we are just opening a new office in Tokyo, too. My job involves pretty much everything outside of the US - helping C Space to grow organically and potentially through acquisitions as well.
In your opinion, how has the service of innovation consulting changed and evolved over the last five years?
I would say our work has become more global and more international. Now, we do much more global work than we did five years ago. Most of our projects are international and we have a very diverse workforce.
As well as scale, there is also a big appetite for speed. Clients are much more demanding in terms of how fast you can deliver and the length of your timescales. I think it’ll become more important as we continue.
Finally, our clients expect our work to be method-agnostic. It is about data and about human perspective - qualitative and quantitative - so we need to offer both at the same time.
To be successful in innovation consulting today, what would you say are the key skills needed? And how have these changed?
In my mind, a good predictor of success is how self-aware someone is. Do they know themselves - their strengths and weaknesses? As well, are they willing to learn, to change and to be surprised? I think that the more someone has that growth mindset - the more they are open to learning and adapting - then the more successful they will be.
Of course, have to be able to do your job as well. You have to have certain skills - you need to be able to understand the client’s perspective and the commercial context - but this has changed in recent years. Skills-based hiring was much more prevalent five years ago than it is today..
Now, we are much more interested in the attitude and the mindset of a candidate. I’m not interested in degrees or where a person studied. We don’t even get that information anymore because it’s all blacked out. I think the idea that we hire for mindset and teach them everything else is much more prevailing. If someone were to come to me and say, ‘I’m the complete article’, then that would be a reason for me not to hire them.
Where do you think the world of innovation consulting is going? Who will succeed and who will fail?
The ones who will succeed are those that will use left and right brains together. We need people who are able not only to collect the dots, but can connect the dots as well.
As well, I think we need collaboration. It is wrong to think you can do everything in-house and our clients expect us now to work with other agencies in what we do. I think it will be the agencies who are willing to do that - to work with their competitors - who will succeed.
Finally, I think there is a need for a global perspective. Clients are looking for that scale and to be able to run programmes in a global way. You can’t look at markets in isolation anymore - you need to have a broader perspective.
What would you say makes C Space different?
From an employer point of view, we won the Best Place to Work at the Market Research Society (MRS) awards last year. We place a lot of focus on talent. We have a policies in place to make sure that people are supported in their jobs so that they can come to work if they are a parent or if they are an apprentice.
As well, we bring lots of different skill sets together and intentionally so. We are diverse and we believe that diversity breeds creativity - it means we have better ideas and better commercial solutions than our competitors.
Finally, we are good at teaching our people - and quickly, too. The personal and professional growth of our team is high on the agenda. You get good exposure both to development opportunities and to bigger projects earlier on in your career. I would say that one year here is one and a half years somewhere else. Many people say that they do that, but we really do. We walk the talk.