Moving towards an agile, customer-centric culture
Retail & Consumer Goods
Culture & Skill Development
Applied Methods

→ Qualitative user interviews
→ Best practice research
→ Creative brainstorming
→ Rapid prototyping
→ User testing
→ Strategy development
→ Skill training
→ Co-creation workshop

Digital tools

Over 2 years, ongoing

Multinational cigarette and tobacco manufacturing company, Philip Morris International (PMI), wanted to transform their innovation culture. They have the ambition to create in-house capabilities to lead their innovation efforts and face the fast changing environment that they have to confront with an agile and customer-centric approach.
Strategy development

Strategy development

PMI used to hire a large number of external consultants, coaches or facilitators to apply innovation principles, practices and mindset such as Design Thinking, Agile and Lean Startup. But external support is expensive, of variable quality and not sustainable in the long-term.

Following a series of feedback sessions and prototype iterations, we supported PMI to define and implement a strategy to build in-house innovation capabilities and create the right environment to foster an agile culture across different geographes. We have co-created an overall framework outlining the best way to implement a successful, sustainable way of learning the key skills to succeed when dealing with complex, unstructured innovation challenges.


We helped them understand the characteristics of an innovator’s profile and designed a sustainable process to identify such traits in a repeatable and scalable way. We identified the methodologies and knowledge needed by an internal agent of change and how to enable internal employees to learn these skills quickly and independently.


To guarantee the acquisition and practice of such skills, we have designed and implemented a comprehensive certification program to select, define and teach the skills required to become an internal Innovation Catalysts. The training is still running and it consists of three levels, from Core to Advanced and Master. It combines a blended mix of online learning modules and in person training. The approach also met a need for digital education since it enables remote learning, independently of the learners location. The setup not only allows to acquire new knowledge and concepts (the ‘what’), but also to assess participants’ ability to transfer the methods to real-life scenarios (the ‘why’ and the ‘how’).


After several months of feedback and iterations, we have launched the first pilot in 2018. Only two years after, we have certified nearly hundred PMI Innovation Catalysts all over the world. We continuously ask for participants’ feedback and have process in place to make sure we always integrate them into our program in order to guarantee the best learning digital experience for them and our client.

"Through its unique assessment approach, Spark Works’ Enablement program is equipping our company globally with highly qualified, human-centred experts who all contribute to anchoring our new "customer-centric and experimentation" culture and mindset into our employees' DNA."

Vincent Ducret, Head of Competency Center - Design Thinking and Lean Enterprise at PMI

$14.5 M

estimated total new revenues or costs savings




new innovation initiatives across the markets


certified Innovation Catalysts worldwide


Together with our client, we established a sound framework to build in-house innovation capabilities at scale. Internal Innovation Catalysts are now able to lead innovation projects, apply agile and user-centric methodologies and address unstructured challenges with a data-driven approach. The program is highly sustainable and creates and fosters an environment of innovation which contributes to establish a culture of change globally.

Project Lead
Alan Cabello
Senior Partner
Alan holds a PhD from EPFL focused on human-centred innovation processes, having been a Visiting Researcher at Stanford’s and a participant at Potsdam HPI’s He also holds a M.Sc. in Management and a Dip.Eng. in Mechatronics. He is a co-founder of Spark Works, CEO of Sparkademy, sits on the board of a couple of start-ups and lectures at ETHZ.
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