Getting creative with new products and people

As R&D Manager for Product Development, Mads Jespersen is responsible for a 30-plus team who bring new products to market. But for Mads, it’s not just about developing new products, it’s very much about helping his people develop their skills, so that FLSmidth can deliver the best to its clients.

ON THE JOB


Known around the office and among friends as ‘Inspector Gadget’, Mads loves the creative process - and he loves seeing things develop, whether they are ideas, products or people. With 17 years on the FLSmidth clock, Mads knows the company and its products well - and he’s held six different positions, shifting between the research and development department and the technical division. He’s been a design engineer, a product specialist, and head of the research centre – and has experience from all aspects of product development, from creating, testing and launching products, to installing and optimising products onsite with customers.

A qualified engineer, Mads joined the product development department in 1993. It was reorganised in 1998, but was recently resurrected to drive innovation and development. Mads, who was managing Cooler Systems at the time, was selected to lead the product development department. And he’s enjoying every minute. 

People aren’t just their skills. To develop star performers you have to treat people unequally to treat them equal and yet as individuals! So it’s important to understand their mindsets and personalities – their behaviour.
— Mads Jespersen R&D Manager for Product Development

Understanding the team players

Mads compares his current role to a car steering wheel: he keeps the team on course to meet its goals. But to Mads, it’s not just the end results – the products – that are important, it’s the people who create them. Mads explains, “People aren’t just their skills. To develop star performers you have to treat people unequally to treat them equal and yet as individuals! So it’s important to understand their mindsets and personalities – their behaviour.”

To help him understand his staff, Mads uses various tools, including the Enneagram, a system that describes nine distinct personality types and their interrelationships. And he’s quick to point out that his staff gets something out of these tests as well.

Using cultural differences to inspire innovation

One of the aspects of the job that Mads enjoys most is meeting new people and creating new opportunities. Recently, his work took him to both the USA and India. In the US the collaboration was strengthened and at FLSmidth’s office in Chennai, India, Mads has been busy setting up a new R&D Product Development department. He was there interviewing candidates for the new Chennai R&D-Product Development team – and the team just started up mid September.

But when there are already R&D Product Development departments in Denmark and the US, why start one up in India? Mads explains, “We have to utilise the differences in culture, mindset and ways of thinking. The development groups all think differently. For example, in Denmark, we think about the environment and high-tech solutions when we design new products; in the US they generally focus on safety and client benefits; while in India the focus is on simplicity, ease of use and maintenance. It’s important to build this into all our products so we have one product for all markets and all users.”

New products for 2010

The future of R&D is looking good, despite the current financial crisis. At the moment, the Product Development team is working on high-end intelligent products for the cement and minerals industries which will come to market as early as 2010. And with environmental concerns and sustainability issues taking centre stage, his R&D team has plenty to think about.

And when Mads isn’t thinking people and product development, he’s broadening his horizons. Bike racing, tennis, skiing, hunting, psychology and art feature are high on his list of leisure activities. And with four children to raise, there’s never a dull moment at home either.