La Compagnie Rotative, innovation through proximity

We are republishing this article, originally published on Méta-Media, as part of an editorial partnership between Méta-Media and WAN-IFRA. The article was written by Alexandre Bouniol, France Télévisions, MediaLab.

“La Compagnie Rotative is the media lab of proximities.” This phrase summarises well the philosophy behind the media lab of the group Centre France. Its approach to innovation is based on closeness between people, local economic actors, and citizens, as well as sharing and creating connections. Read on for an interview with Raphaël Poughon, cofounder of la Compagnie Rotative.

People before machines

Created five years ago in 2014, the media lab of Centre France changed its name last January to become La Compagnie Rotative. Since its conception, the vision for this new operation has been clear: promoting innovation within the group.

It was agreed from the outset that the lab should not only focus on new technologies, but rather be a part of a comprehensive transformation of the group overall.

“Digital transformation was one of the levers. We worked a lot on internal communications, workflows, and so on. Generally the approach was more cultural than digital”, explains Raphaël Poughon.

Several tools were developed within the group by Raphaël Poughon and Quentin Jaud, who lead la Compagnie Rotative:

  • Setting up an internal social network. Built together with the group’s collaborators, the tool serves as the cornerstone in the group’s transformation. The guiding idea of its development is based on design thinking; in other words, the goal is to design a tool that is most in line with its users’ needs and that allows for agile development over time. Raphaël Poughon even describes it as a “Troyan horse of transformation”, since the tool has resulted in “blowing up the silos between department”, “highlighting competencies” of the staff, and “discovering new management methods”.
  • Organising internal events, such as “Morning Labs”, which bring together several collaborators from various departments to discuss the logic of innovation around breakfast. Also meetings with managers are organised to discuss “digital trends”, and especially to share technological watch insights.

According to Raphaël Poughon, the user-centered approach is part of the aim to “integrate the collaborators in this dynamic, and not to impose strategies that are conceived in a very vertical manner”.

Opportunity to promote innovation through proximity

The initial purpose of the media lab was to resolutely turn towards internal problematics. But very soon, Raphaël Poughon saw that “to work on transformation and innovation, we needed to open to the outside”.

Consequently, the lab of Centre France has started to collaborate with external actors more and more. “Initially with other media, then with other industries”. That is the reason why the media lab changed its name to la Compagnie Rotative. What has remained is the vision of “creating links and bringing trust locally”.

These new types of collaborations take various forms:

  • Meetings with citizens. The Lab organises meetings called “Rendez-vous de la Montagne” (after one of the group’s titles), which are ateliers where citizens and journalists meet “at the same level” to recreate a connection between them.
  • Collaboration with journalists from other publishers. A “Journo Camp” was organised last year by the media lab to bring together data journalists from all over France. It resulted in the birth of the collective “data+local”, “which allows for exchange of best practices, capacities, tools, mistakes and databases”, and to “push for open data” among database owners.

  • Collaboration with local businesses to promote open innovation. La Compagnie Rotative organises several events, such as a hackathon last year on the topic of “new proximities”.
  • Startup incubation. This programme was launched last year to promote startups “in services, locality and utility”, and to “increase the competencies and skills” in an innovative setting. Since “the entrepreneurial ecosystem has a way of doing and seeing things that we don’t, and that don’t exist in our culture, it’s a good way for these two worlds to exchange and learn from each other.” Five startups were selected at the end of the programme. The goal is not necessarily to integrate these startups in the group, but to allow them to grow and exchange know-how and skills. A concrete example is the mentorship between the companies and (voluntary) mentors from the group Centre-France. This allows the mentors to put their competencies to work in a new setting, while the companies in turn benefit from their expertise.
  • Structuring a network of local startups. The Compagnie Rotative has launched a collective – Magma – that gathers together four incubators. The first event took place 1 April 2019, bringing together 40 startups.

Concerning the next steps, Raphaël Poughon plans to “promote openness in our ecosystem and especially the ability to mobilise even more the citizen side of the media lab”, and to open up more to “researchers and schools” to compliment their research.

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