Innovation Coach at Bromford Lab
Paul shares how Bromford Lab are innovating digitally in the housing sector to solve the right problems at the right time.
Futr’s UK Housing Lead, Kitty Hadaway, recently sat down with Bromford Lab founder, Paul Taylor, to hear about the Lab’s founding, quirky trials, empowering colleagues and advancing the whole company’s business strategy.
Here, we give you an overview of their conversation.
“There is an opportunity here to pause and reflect on the past year and think about what this means for the future. Maybe be a bit more ambitious than we have been in the past.”Paul Taylor, Innovation Coach, Bromford Lab
Founding Bromford Lab
Paul explained to Futr the founding of Bromford Lab was born out of a desire to change the approach to innovation within Bromford.
As the innovation branch of Bromford Housing Association, the Lab aims to grow bright ideas within the budget of a social landlord and utilising the different skills of those already working in the business.
The Lab’s approach to problems was to move away from the traditional housing association default of writing reports and seeking board approval to focus on developing solutions to problems.
Using small groups to trial new ideas, the Lab, enabled by the freedom to fail, soon became a bed of learning.
Remembering the Lab’s early days, Paul recounts “quirky trials” such as trailing Google Glass in property inspections to understand the customer’s view more deeply.
As Paul remembers, it was a test that cost very little money and uncovered key learnings, such as how much time a new tenant would spend considering things like the size of the garden, if they could maintain it and whether there was enough space for their kids
Developing their service
However, the most significant innovation born out of the Lab was developing the neighbourhood coach role.
With a hunch that housing managers were weighed down by too much bureaucracy, Paul and his team created the neighbourhood coach role by stripping out bureaucracy to enable the neighbourhood coach to devote more time to residents.
Today, Bromford has over 200 neighbourhood coaches across the organisation.
Bromford Lab in its third phase
As Paul sees it, Bromford Lab is now in its third phase. Having started at the edge of the organisation, carrying out “things that were different and quirky,” today they’ve now moved away from these fringe experiments.
While the Lab is still refining the neighbourhood coach role, their work aims to inform more strategic developments, helping the business think about its strategy and the next incarnation of that.
A broad pipeline of opportunities, including exploring the IoT, enables Paul and his team to support the wider business.
Beyond this, the Lab is focused on giving colleagues the support and confidence to try new solutions to solve problems they encounter themselves.
As Paul describes, permitting colleagues to explore new solutions with the psychological safety to fail – in a way that won’t be damaging to the business – is vital.