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Lotte Jensen
Lotte Jensen
Marketing Project Manager

The origins of Vikan’s approach to innovation

This blog post is part of a brief series that commemorates Vikan’s 125th birthday. We have reached back into the archives for stories that illuminate some of the major themes and waypoints that have marked our journey thus far. In doing so, we hope to also offer some insight into who we are as a company today.

A.P. Pedersen’s early visits to local dairies became a lasting legacy

In his memoir, Life and Works, Vikan founder A.P. Pedersen recounts a number of experiences from the company’s earliest days and reflects upon these as an older man looking back on his life. Some of the stories he tells seem to have a special resonance for us at Vikan. They have become a part of our culture.

In one such story, Mr Pedersen recalls pondering how to win new business for his newly started brushmaker’s shop. “All the new dairies that had been popping up in the 1880s and ’90s used a lot of brushes, and it occurred to me that if I could make some quality brushes that were particularly useful to these dairies, there could be a lot of business in it,” he writes.

Pedersen then goes on to explain how a novel idea came to him. “It occurred to me that I would need to go visit the dairies to learn what they were using their brushes for,” he writes – setting the stage, as we’ll explain below, for a customer-focused approach to innovation that remains at the core of what Vikan does today.

Before long, the Vikan founder was out visiting dairies, where he would have “a thorough look around” before returning to his shop and thinking hard about how to make brushes that would be of particular use at the dairies he visited.

Then he got busy innovating. “I started experimenting with designs I thought the dairy workers would be happy to use,” Pedersen relates, before adding one more interesting detail. “When I’d finished making some of them, I’d send them out to local dairies for testing,” he says, before noting that the dairies were indeed pleased, and that this formed the basis for a business built on trust.

Customer input, reflection, innovation, customer testing

One curious thing about this story from the early twentieth century is that it establishes a whole approach to innovation. An approach that, perhaps quite unusually for the time, both starts and ends with steps that get customers involved.

But what really fascinates us at Vikan is just how similar Mr Pedersen’s approach to innovation is to our own approach today – which you can read about here. Where our founder travelled by horse and carriage to learn about the cleaning needs of local dairies, we now solicit ideas for new products online, and our sales and R&D teams spend a lot of their time talking to customers to understand their needs and hear their ideas. And where Mr Pedersen sat down to think about and experiment with new brush designs, we have put innovating new solutions that feature game-changing design right at the core of our business. Finally, just like A.P. Pedersen himself, we send prototypes of our new products to customers for testing and solicit their feedback during subsequent use – all as part of our insistence on getting it right.

When we set out to formulate our current customer-focused innovation approach, the fact is, we didn’t refer back to A.P. Pedersens memoire and the reflections on innovation that it contains. Apparently, we didn’t have to. His approach was already a part of us.