Interview 01/18

Rhevo Rekindles the Spirit of Innovation

From ideas to new products

Bright colours, multi-coloured stickers and plenty of speculation. The company-wide employee initiative known as Rhevo was launched in January 2017 with guerrilla marketing. This resulted in more than 170 ideas being submitted from 28 different countries. The most promising teams battled their way through several rounds. The took their cue from the start-up world. Astrid Unverricht spoke to the Rhenus organiser, Henning Wagner, and the jury members, Tobias Bartz and Petra Finke.

Tobias BartzPetra FinkeHenning Wagner
Tobias Bratz                                               Petra Finke                                           Henning Wagner

Mr Wagner, how many projects are still in the hunt?
Wagner: Following the kick-off, pitches and several rounds of funding, we currently have 16 teams working on their projects.

And how mature are the ideas now?
Finke: The fundamental principle of Rhevo is to test a product in the market place at an early stage. Some teams have already generated orders for their ideas, others are still developing marketing strategies. They’re all at different stages.
Wagner: Our financing periods are each scheduled for three months. However, the speed of implementation by the teams is now more individual than at the outset. The teams present their current status through feedback mechanisms and receive resources and support to reach the next stage, if they continue to persuade us about the potential viability of their idea.

Why did Rhenus launch the Rhevo project at all?
Finke: We knew that our employees had huge potential in terms of innovative ideas. In the end, they have a direct link to our customers and are clearly familiar with their needs and the markets. Our employees not only have ideas to introduce improvements, but have also developed new business models.
Bartz: We wanted to give the participants the opportunity of developing their concepts freely and communicate the notion that their ideas are valuable to us. We’ve created a structured playing field.

Let’s take a look back again. What has happened to the 170 initial ideas?
Wagner: The best ideas, more than 50 of them, received a kind of toolbox, the Rhevo kickbox. It contains everything that people need for innovations: a network of mentors from the start-up scene, who coached the participants, plenty of information materials, a pencil and paper – and a chocolate bar – but also a credit card topped up in advance and instructions on how you can validate an idea in three months.
Finke: We also set up an online learning platform with many best practice examples from the start-up scene. There were intensive workshops that provided training in different skills too.
Bartz: The financial support played a secondary role. Training and coaching were really much more important. Rhevo has become a very important element for us in our personnel development work.

“You can plan your time without any restrictions and allow your thoughts to run freely – supported and motivated by outstanding people“

(Rhenus kickbox user) 



A chocolate bar, pencil and paper or even a credit card with a set budget: the Rhenus kickbox contains instructions for checking in six stages whether an idea has business potential or not. To prevent any unnecessary investments, the basic approach with the kickbox is to obtain customer feedback after a short time.


What were the criteria used by the jury during the next rounds to decide on whether funding should be provided or not?
Bartz: There were several factors. In addition to potential, the ability to implement the idea and its quality, for example.
Finke: But a global orientation was important for us too – that is to say, not just having a local perspective.

How international is Rhevo?
Wagner: Very much so. Our kick-off events took place in Germanyand Thailand. This meant that it was possible to exchange ideas in an international arena right from the start. Mixed teams from Germany and Spain or from Japan and the Netherlands, for example, discovered each other.

Be honest: did the jury always agree on its decisions?
Finke (laughs): We voted for projects secretly via an online platform during the pitch stage, but later we discussed our ideas and selected the winners. As a result, different points of view prevailed.

Will you tell us which one is your favourite project?
Bartz: We can’t say that at all, partly because the projects are continuing to be developed. However, what’s strongly impressed us is the personal commitment of those participating. You sense that they’re passionate about their ideas.

What advantages are there for any employee who is involved in Rhevo?
Finke: It’s an opportunity to fulfil a dream. Even if the idea has not been one of the winners, the participants have experienced what it means to have put something to the test. Then there’s the high regard shown, the opportunity to use new methods and, last but not least, the right to learn – from mistakes too.
Wagner: The employees can naturally use the expertise that they’ve acquired in their everyday jobs in order to validate an idea quickly, for example.
Finke: Exactly! The international network that the participants have been able to establish through Rhevo benefits them in their daily work. The employees would perhaps never have met each other otherwise!

What skills does Rhevo require and promote?
Finke: Definitely determination, an ability to communicate, imagination and creativity, but also a strong sense of self-discipline, individual responsibility and entrepreneurial thinking. Then there’s also the feeling for how digital tools can be used. It’s possible to really sense your enthusiasm.

When will the Rhevo project finish?
Bartz: Probably at no time. It’s even possible that we’ll separately spin off an idea to set up an independent company. Otherwise, a project may finish when we’ve integrated it into our processes.

You’ve certainly motivated many employees now to become involved in Rhevo. Will there be a rerun?
Finke: Yes. We’re first focusing on helping the existing teams to make progress. Then we’re naturally looking forward to some new ideas too!

RHEVO - Fair


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