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Posts from the ‘Innovation’ Category

FJ Rutjes | Business NOT as usual

Action is reaction. Or perhaps in the case of InnoTown, the other way around. Because most attendees react the same after listening to those that make up a carefully curated InnoTown program: I am going to do that!

I dare you to sit through two days of inspirational, curious, serious and personal stories of business not as usual and not feel energised to act.

In the spontaneous community that InnoTown creates for like-minded entrepreneurs, feeling a desire to change comes standard, really. But as with anything, once you step outside of such a positive, through-provoking & vital time-out experience like InnoTown, everyday work can take the wind out of your sails.

For some it is that overflowing inbox, for others those deadline responsibilities, cynical colleagues or no true clarity on where to start. But the net result is the same: it is easy to run out of steam. And it doesn’t matter whether you attend conferences or in participate in internal innovation or inspiration sessions, actually turning what inspires you into food for thought & fuel for action, is hard. Really hard.

But fear not: we can all take practical steps to prevent ourselves from losing momentum and wasting the energising effect of events like InnoTown.

The fuel for good innovation & change is inspiration. This means that whatever you will bring back from an event like InnoTown 2014, needs to be inspirational. And with that we do not just mean not your personal enthusiasm. It is wise to remember that it is you, not your colleagues or business partners, that will have the pleasure of experiencing InnoTown 2014. And however energetic your retelling, however visual your presentation, however compelling your personal belief on the need for action, it will never compensate for the fact that it was you – not them – attending.

To deliver true Return on Innovation you will need to arm yourself with the skills to properly capture inspiration, land your learnings in clear & actionable ways and create an energising take-home message for your own audience. These three ingredients will create a spark that can help to set change in motion back in your own organisation.

Expertly capturing what inspired you, rather than just taking casual notes will stop you having to try to reinterpret what you heard. Landing your learnings in a constructive way will give you solid arguments, not just textbook reasons to start doing business not as usual. Building an energising take-home message instead of personal anecdotes will help to turn your colleagues into advocates for real action.

In our everyday work with clients, we see first hand how hard it can be to do this. But … we also know that doing it well creates the ability to generate competitive momentum that makes a real difference to customers.

InnoTown knows how important this momentum – and acting on fresh inspiration – is. Doing something new & different is not just one of the core beliefs on which InnoTown is founded. It is also the one thing that runs deep in the personal experiences of InnoTown speakers. Everything that makes them compelling to listen to and watch on stage comes from them taking action.

Remember: the biggest compliment you can pay to those that inspire you – at InnoTown or elsewhere – is to make sure that you act on how their view of the world is changing yours.

If you want to attend InnoTown and get the most out of your experience, then start smart: join us for the InnoTown Kickstart workshop. Start putting in place some smart techniques that help you maximise your ability to capture and use inspiration effectively.

This way, from the moment the lights go out in the InnoTown auditorium for the first speaker, you are ready. Ready to turn insider know-how & the unique business lessons of world-class speakers into tangible action.

For more information – and to join us – click here.


René Carayol: Why attitude is so much more valuable than skill in a downturn

Archie Norman, the former CFO of Kingfisher, and Allan Leighton, former marketing executive at Mars, were the dream team to tackle a billion pounds of debt at Asda when they took over in the early 90s – in the face of an unrelenting recession.

With chairman Norman as the careful financial engineer and strategist, Leighton as the flamboyant and entrepreneurial chief executive, they somehow managed risk and stimulated growth simultaneously.

They left when Asda was sold to Walmart for £6.7bn and well on the way to becoming the UK’s second largest supermarket.

Managing companies has always meant managing risk, but we have seen this challenge change fundamentally from the fairly predictable times prior to 2007. Managing risk has become more complex and more difficult over recent years. Many business leaders had no experience of leading businesses through a global recession. Many of these leaders are losing their jobs and far too many are being replaced by a chief financial officer (CFO).

CFOs are not known or built to be entrepreneurial or risk embracing. Therefore many businesses are no longer “risk ready”. In fact, while they might be better risk managed, their current strategies tend not to lend themselves to growth. The riskier the world becomes the more fearful people become, this is further fuelled by a media that thrives on negative news.

The dilemma of today is to remain well risk-managed, but somewhat perversely, not at the cost of the necessary risk appetite for growth. This can be done. Many of the greatest businesses of our time were born in and thrived during recessions; GE, IBM, Disney, Microsoft and, of course, Apple. They continue to enhance their reputations during economic downturns.

We need to look no further than the mercurial Steve Jobs in his final years at Apple. While many of his rivals decided to follow a more cautious and tightly managed strategy, he decided not just to meet customer needs, but boldly to anticipate them. In other words, he forgot all about complex risk management models to support narrow, cautious forecasting and decided instead to just make the future happen. From the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad, and the rest is history.

With the predilection of appointing chief executives with strong and proven financial acumen rated way above their ability to deliver growth, global markets will continue to stall.

The recent 2013 Aon Global Risk Management Survey bears out this significant decline in risk readiness among many of the survey respondents. The top three risks in 2013 are economic slowdown/slow recovery, regulatory/legislative changes and increasing competition. This ranking reflects the systemic nature of these risks. The much feared and talked about “business interruption” ranks only at seven, with computer crimes way down at 18, with loss of intellectual property/data down at 29.

While computer crimes, hacking and the loss of intellectual property/data appear constantly in the media headlines, the real “risk” appears to be the reduction in corporate risk appetite.

It is no wonder that businesses with a reputation for being entrepreneurial have become more cautious. It requires strong resolve in a world that’s moving faster, a stifling information overload, but most of all an unforgiving marketplace.

Far too many chief executives are putting off growth decisions because they are extremely tough. The role of the chief executive is to deliver hope, no matter how tough the times. For Steve Jobs, this contagious frigidity meant nothing but opportunity, as he bravely went where no ex-CFO would dare to tread.

Thoughtful Norman knew he needed a dynamic Leighton. Attitude is so much more valuable than skill – especially in a downturn.



Watch Blake Mycoskie from TOMS Shoes, Jeffrey Hayzlett from Kodak and over 20 other amazing InnoTown speakers


How Open Innovation drives Denmark’s LEGO

David Nikel from Arctic Startup reports from InnoTown 2013.

Embracing innovation and entrepreneurship not only saved LEGO, but rocketed yearly profit growth to 40% for five years running during the global recession.

But it was almost a very different story as innovation spiralled out of control in the 1990s. The complexity within the supply chain, due to new products such as the Mindstorms programmable robot, took the company to the brink of bankruptcy. However, the adult user community that sprung up around Mindstorms ultimately led to the company saving and reinventing itself.

After its first release in 1998, Mindstorms was hacked by hundreds of people around the world who wanted to customise and improve the product. Rather than lock down the product, LEGO embraced their adult user communities, putting in place a hierarchy of volunteers to help with research and testing. By the time the second Mindstorms product was released, LEGO had adopted a structured approach to innovation that quickly turned around the company’s fortunes. The approach slashed the number of individual pieces used across their products, encouraging its engineers to think creatively.

Around the same time, Adam Reed Tucker pitched an idea to release Lego sets of world landmarks such as the Empire State Building. Bosses at LEGO felt the market wasn’t big enough, but rather than file away the idea in a dusty cabinet, they supported the entrepreneur to develop the product through his own business, Brickstructures Inc. It was a win-win for LEGO with no added complexity to the supply chain and little risk if things went wrong.

As it turned out, Lego Architecture was a massive success.

To inspire more co-creations, LEGO has launched its Cuusoo platform in beta. Anyone can submit a project idea and those that reach 10,000 votes will be reviewed by LEGO and potentially turned into real products. If the project reaches production, the person who submitted the idea will receive 1% of the total net sales of the product.

It’s a fascinating approach to research and development, spearheaded by Erik Hansen, LEGO’s Senior Director for Technology & Open Innovation.

Erik Hansen
“We work with a broad spectrum of people, from talented individuals to “the crowd” and are constantly evolving our programs and platforms to enable co-creation and various forms of collaboration”, says Hansen.

“One of our programs, the LEGO Certified Professionals, is targeting talented individuals who are interested in running their own business based on the LEGO Brick as a creative medium. An experience like LEGO Cuusoo is both inviting talented individuals to propose new LEGO products and allowing the crowd to cast their votes at the ideas they prefer”.

Read the original article posted on

InnoTown | Ready for some Inspiration?

In less than one month more than 500 like-minded individuals, each with a curious, innovative & international outlook, will gather at InnoTown 2013. And once again – like every year since 2000 – InnoTown makes a simple but compelling promise: to inspire with knowledge, experience and opinions from the best and brightest from business & beyond.  Read more