Building the dream
Bringing Damen together & reaping the benefits of global collaboration with Project Morpheus
In 2017, the Damen Shipyards Group launched an ideation challenge as a catalyst for innovation. Project Morpheus – named for the Ancient Greek God of Dreams – exploded into inboxes and onto office walls group-wide with a dramatic and emotive appeal to latent creativity.
A logical enough call to action from a company that has demonstrated its R&D and innovation credentials time and again, Morpheus nonetheless represented a whole new approach. It distinguished itself from the status quo with a fresh, distinctive appearance. It was as if Morpheus was itself the sort of start-ups it hoped to inspire. In this vein, the project reached out to the whole of Damen.
Damen Shipyards – Project Morpheus – Turn Dreams into Reality
Lone inventors, serendipity & positive vibes
“The lone inventor is a very rare creature,” opines Solco Reijnders, Program Leader Innovation at Damen. “There’s often a lot of serendipity involved in innovation. For the really disruptive ideas, you just need to raise the chances, give people positive energy.”
To encourage the process we need people with a different point of view, asking different questions. We need to involve the whole company.
A breeding ground for creativity
And thus Project Morpheus brought people with ideas together with other people with ideas. More than that, it provided a dedicated environment – the Project Morpheus Lab – away from the distraction of day to day working, where ideas would receive the nurturing support that would help propel them to reality.
Almost immediately, the project overreached itself; as well as stimulating new ideas it also served to provide creative impetus for projects already underway.
“A number of participants independently came up with ideas that we were already working on,” explains Solco. “Far from being a waste of time, this gave us the chance to inject fresh energy into existing projects.”
A group-wide harvest of ideas
That said, the project did excel in the generation of new ideas. Solco:
What we reaped was 250 new ideas from 20 different locations throughout the group – some of which went on to become actual projects.
Three of these became research projects – the next step in the development of 3D printing structural components, AI in ship design and the installation of a robotic welding arm at Damen Shipyards Galati, Romania.
The innovation proving ground
The remainder, in order to stand a chance of realisation, had to undergo the Project Morpheus Boot Camp. Solco explains the route through this nerve-testing proving ground.
“Here, the participants had to introduce their vision to Damen’s senior management – similar to a Dragon’s Den. Each idea then had to successfully navigate three phases. The first was the market/problem fit. This is where we made sure that the perceived problem is one actually experienced in the market.
“The second phase was the problem/solution fit. At this stage we involved stakeholders, such as clients, to ascertain whether the proposed solution was potentially an answer to the challenge they faced.
The final stage is the solution/market fit, where we present the solution to the market to check its desirability.
Contenders at the ready
Amongst the hopeful candidates was the so-called Paperless Yard – an idea whose name, indicating what it removes, rather than what it introduces, belies its innovative nature. The Paperless Yard uses augmented and virtual reality to take measurements of, for example, piping. These, highly accurate, measurements are then relayed to those making the pipes via an app on smart phone or tablet. In addition to removing the chances of human error, the communication of information is both environmentally conscious and fast.
Another contender is RiPL. RiPL is the combination of the ideas “My First Damen” and “Damen NewCo”. Both ideas envisioned a shipbuilder/maritime solutions provider based on a more digital core. Trying to answer the question on how we can create a competitive shipbuilder without the need for a large organization. The first experiment in this was to leverage the knowledge of the maritime ecosystem to develop innovative new products. The idea here was for Damen, acting in concert with its suppliers, to develop a multi-purpose harbour workboat – capable of crew transportation, harbour survey, line-handling, towage, buoy-laying and patrol – in just four days. RiPL encapsulated the thinking behind Project Morpheus perfectly, says Solco:
The knowledge we were missing was available from our suppliers. With everybody investing in a project and collaborating it happens faster and with better results.
The concept is further elaborated on in the following video:
RiPL – Movement by Disruption
Building on success: keep on dreaming
Project Morpheus was inspired by an understanding that, to stay on top of the game, you need to keep on dreaming. True to its nature, and following the success of phase one, Morpheus will continue to provide a platform for Damen creativity.
Solco: “Project Morpheus was a great success, but there is always room for improvement. The next phase will be an evolved project, building on lessons learned from the first time around.”
One of the lessons learned that the inventors didn’t know which criteria were used to judge their ideas. This time a self-assessment stage will be included, based on the same criteria that Project Morpheus judges use during their selection process.
In addition to bringing clarity to the idea delivery stage, this will help pinpoint where participants see the strength in their ideas.
And, whereas previously the bulk of the marketing was done online or by posters, next time around Damen is adding a personal touch, appointing local ambassadors and conducting a road show.
At the same time, the second phase will see Damen improve the team forming process.
Judging returns, increasing investment & going global
“The first time around we managed to provide the teams with sufficient time to get their plans together – but only just. This is a constant challenge in innovation – it’s hard to judge the returns, which makes time investment difficult,” says Solco. “Now though, we’ve had chance to experiment with this, and to experience some of the potential the process brings.”
“With the next campaign, our goal is to launch in Q4 this year with a new platform.
Morpheus will not be another short campaign, but is to become the platform for all creative and innovative ideas. Periodically themed challenges will be put online.
“As we understand that about 99.999% of the world does NOT work for Damen, we are well aware that we only have a fraction of the world’s knowledge. We are also aware that our challenges increasingly will require knowledge that we ourselves lack. Hence while we currently are experimenting with this format internally, the next step will be to open up the Morpheus platform to the world.”