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Innovation: speed boats and oil tankers

By InnovationNo Comments

A faltering economy leaves little room for innovation within a large, established company. More than ever, employees with good ideas who want to innovate are met with critical scrutiny and demands for a well fleshed-out investment proposal: before an innovation gets the green light, it needs to be proved that this innovation will be successful. Successful and lucrative. And that’s exactly what you can’t ever know in advance for a true innovation.

That’s why more and more creative and innovative people are leaving large organisations, to start an enterprise of their own or go abroad. There are currently 30,000 Dutch people in Silicon Valley, and they certainly aren’t filling in Excel spreadsheets or begging for innovation budgets there. In fact, there is a large money surplus in the Valley at this moment. If you have a compelling idea, have good presentation skills and are willing to put in a few years of hard work, investors will be glad to have a talk with you.
But that won’t solve the ever growing problem we have with innovation within large, established companies in the Netherlands. Of the 100 largest companies here, at least 50 are bulky, lumbering oil tankers following the same heading they have been for years. How do we abandon this stagnated approach to innovation, without having to spend a fortune, and maybe lure a few great Dutch innovators back from the Valley as well?

It’s simple: have the oil tanker deploy some speedboats. Set out small teams of innovative people, let them work on their own with their own budget, and let them collaborate on an innovation with students and scientists. A speedboat can do that at a fraction of the cost. And another advantage of a speedboat is that it can move freely across the water without getting stuck on the shoals of the vested interests of the company’s internal politics.

(source: Radio 1 Column by NewTeam-partner Danny Mekic’)

Innovation Harbour

By InnovationNo Comments

A brick, you can buy in a store. A special kind of brick has to be custom-made. But if you need a thousand bricks, you contact a wholesaler to buy them in bulk, and if you need a million bricks it might be a better idea to place an order directly with the factory. But you’ll still only have bricks.

What kind of building those bricks will assemble into, depends — among other things — of the building’s purpose and the level of expertise you have at your disposal. You can try stacking your bricks yourself, but if there’s a lot of bricks to be stacked and you’re building a complicated construction, it’s probably a better idea to find yourself an architect, one or more construction engineers and a number of construction workers. So much hassle.

Fortunately, it’s becoming increasingly common for factories to offer prefab houses and offices, making things a lot easier for you. Organisations are like buildings — except they’re made of building blocks, not bricks. Organisations want to innovate and adapt in order to continue to prosper, but the world changes more and more rapidly, which means organisations need to build and rebuild more and more rapidly as well.

Since there’s often no time for this and organisations are often too late to start adapting, there is now a blooming market for the acquisition and takeover of small startups. But this is a difficult market: failed takeovers are common and integrating a newly bought company into the older company turns out to be no simple task either. And valuation is still a difficult issue. Moreover: how do you find a startup that suits the current and future needs and problems of a large company? Meanwhile, a common complaint among entrepreneurs with innovative startups is: I’d like to contribute to the development of the business world, but how can a small entrepreneur like me know which of my innovations are suitable for their market?

The solution is simple: an innovation harbour where large oil tankers and small speedboats can find one another. An organisation-wide or industry-transcending platform to ask for prefab startups. Where large companies can offer up their biggest challenges and their greatest wishes. A kind of marketplace. A job board with problems and challenges on the one side and with solutions and startups on the other. And a predetermined sum of money for whatever individual or company can offer a prefab solution. In other words, public outsourcing of problems, and let whoever has a solution present themselves.

That way innovation would be somewhat less risky, there would be more meaningful innovation and the startup market would better match the demand from the large, unwieldy oil tankers.

(column by NewTeam-partner Danny Mekic’)