Wazoku founder Simon Hill speaks about the meaning of idea management and working with Waitrose and the Ministry of Defence

Simon Hill, Wazoku CEO

Idea management company Wazoku was founded by Simon Hill in 2011 with the aim of helping businesses to innovate from the bottom-up.

The award-winning firm provides software that allows companies to evaluate, improve and implement cost-saving ideas shared by their employees.

Simon, 40, claims his firm allows clients to unlock ideas from within their organisation and has worked with HSBC, Aviva, Waitrose and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Wazoku employs 43 people in its London, Bristol and Copenhagen offices, while its revenue is now in the millions with growth in excess of 50% every year.

Simon Hill, Wazoku CEO
Simon Hill, Wazoku CEO


Q&A with Wazoku founder Simon Hill

What does idea management mean?

Idea management is essentially crowdsourcing ideas, both from within an organisation and externally.

I used to describe it as an old-fashioned suggestion box, made digital, collaborative and social, and that’s still reasonably close.

It’s a platform to gather ideas, making it easy to capture, refine and realise those ideas.


Where did the idea for Wazoku come from and when was it founded?

It was a combination of thinking about my experiences inside large companies such as Deloitte and PwC, and then seeing the agility and dynamism I found in a start-up such as Huddle.

Simon Hill Wazoku
The Wazoku web and app platforms

Every company in the world wants good ideas to improve efficiencies and delight their customers, and I saw a huge opportunity to deliver something that would do exactly that.

There wasn’t really anything in the market at the time that could do this, certainly in Europe, so we launched in 2011 and haven’t looked back since.


Why is it so important for businesses to continually innovate?

With the increased pace of change and rise of new technologies, businesses must invest in innovation or risk extinction.

Investing in innovation is about improving your business through new ideas or methodologies across all facets, to future-proof your organisation against disruptive change.

This comes in many forms – from small operational changes, to wide scale adoption of new technology.


What innovation techniques have you used at your own company?

Internally we have our own idea management platform within Wazoku, called Balbu.

We use it to run internal competitions, test and develop product features and improve operational and business processes to name just a few.

We also use a co-creation community with our customers, called Connect.

It’s a forum dedicated to our customers and partners to discuss best practices, share use cases, adopt new product functionality and, most importantly, share valuable knowledge between one another.


What makes working at Wazoku different to working for other companies?

At Wazoku, we’re passionate about changing the world one idea at a time and this resonates with each of our employees and the way we do business.

This means that we practice what we preach, and every employee has a voice and role in our own innovation process.

We seek ideas from employees to improve the product, enhance our culture and engage with our customers.

We ensure each of our employees embody our core values: we are passionate, collaborative, accountable and customer-focused.


What work did Wazoku do with Waitrose, the Ministry of Defence and HSBC?

We’ve done some great work with all three.

Idea Spotlight has been rolled out in every Waitrose store in the UK, and the ideas submitted by around 60,000 employees have realised more than £3.5m in total savings.

Wazoku’s Idea Spotlight is now used in over 350 Waitrose stores in the UK (Wikipedia/Edward Hands)

It’s still early days with the MoD, but we won that contract partly as a result of a successful pilot project with the Royal Air Force that engaged 5,000 people, so are confident of greater things with the organisation.

With HSBC, we enabled a global initiative for bottom-up business improvement and waste reduction, engaging more than 50,000 employees.


How did working with the MoD differ from working with corporate clients?

Not as much as you might think.

The MoD is progressive in its approach to innovation, having already had an idea management platform in place before starting work with us, and a strong idea of what it wanted to achieve.

We have also worked with many other public sector organisations in the past, so are used to the slight differences compared to the private sector.


How did it feel to be announced as the Guardian Small Business Leader of the year in 2014?

It’s not why I started Wazoku and nor how I measure success, but that said it still felt pretty amazing.

It was relatively early in the Wazoku journey and to be recognised in that way was certainly a confidence boost and made me feel like I was on the right path.