Interview with Mario Botina Tovar Vice President of Technology at Davivienda.
The definition of a great idea is that it should feel novel and obvious at the same time. When you hear it you should go “Wow!” and “Of course!” simultaneously.
And “wow!” and “of course!” is what I said when I heard about “Retornar” for the first time a few days ago.
Retornar is Spanish for “to return” and it is a concept, a practice, and a mindset, of Banco Davivienda, a Colombian bank with about 20 million customers across the region.
The person who told me about “Retornar” was Mario Botina Tovar Vice President of Technology at Davivienda.
So what does “Retornar” mean? It is the practice of returning knowledge and understanding of new technologies that you have collected for your own R&D – to be used by others in the community.
Mario gave me some examples of how Banco Davivienda is practicing “Retornar”.
1) As a bank Banco Davivienda of course has been studying blockchain as it has a big chance of disrupting the finance sector. But Banco Davivienda also took their knowledge of blockchain and collaborated with growers by developing solutions to track their sales.
2) When the pandemic hit Banco Davivienda realized that Colombia did not have a national vaccination tracking system, so the bank, together with health researchers, developed a blockchain-based system and donated it (! ) to the country. (Colombia was severely hit by the pandemic and the health system was just unable to cope on its own.)
3) The bank also had its AI department put aside time to develop, in conjunction with a health sector alliance, an AI application to detect covid from x-rays, a solution they again donated to the country. Of course, the bank’s Artificial Intelligence people were primarily hired to develop AI solutions for the bank, but when there was a chance to help the local community they switched to developing an AI health app.
Three brilliant examples of “Retornar” – of returning knowledge back to the community in order to help. A way of helping that has huge benefits with rather small investments, as you take your key competence and share it.
And here is the thing: Every company has some unique expertise and knowledge that could be invaluable for other community organizations to get access to – imagine if more organizations put more energy into actually doing that.
To transfer this knowledge back to the community is “Retornar”.
When I asked Mario Botina Tovar why the bank was doing this, he replied: “We are purpose-driven organization. We are driven by the idea of simplify, being friendly and being useful. It’s natural for us to ask ‘How can we use (this internal knowledge that we have) in other places?’.”
If benchmarking is to look at what others are doing and apply it in your own organization, then “Retornar” is to look at the expertise in your own organization and ask how you can apply it to others who might be in need of it.
Mario again: “It’s part of our purpose, to give back and return (to the community) the benefits that we have gained. Giving back by returning knowledge is a way to help build meaning and satisfaction within the organization. It helps us demonstrate our sincerity to our customers and helps communicate, internally and externally, that we are not working for just the financial benefit of our shareholders but also to provide meaningful value for our community.”
When I hear Mario talk about their Retornar projects with pride in his voice, it becomes clear to me that many more companies should do much more Retornar.
What knowledge and expertise lie within your organization that you could return to the community by sharing it? What is your potential for Retornar?
Fredrik Haren – The Creativity Explorer.
(The Creativity Suite is a series where I interview innovators in leading organizations around the world. I publish some of these episodes under my Linkedin newsletter “The Creativity Explorer”. Subscribe to “The Creativity Explorer Newsletter” to get more insights on how you can discover your full creative potential, as a person and as a leader.)
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