Driving Innovation- The Flow of Ideas

In today’s world, while innovation has become the main topic of discussion in many company boardrooms, it is also one of the words facing most inflation of value. 

Also, the different ways we can innovate will differ in the different discussions.

On one hand we see innovation (sometimes as real breakthroughs, most of the time as incremental changes) all around us, leveraging the new possibilities brought to us through the internet, like crowd-funding.

Personally I have been waiting for months in anticipation of the Rocketbook, a notebook which will automatically send photographed notes to the application of choice, as well as being completely empty again after putting it in the microwave for 30 seconds.

The other innovations most companies struggle with are innovations in the business model.

Recently there was a nice discussion on the radio which blamed newspaper companies for not being able to deal with the innovations in the industry and then making the mistake of giving away their publications for free on the internet. The smart one in the discussion made the great remark that there are a lot of companies making money from providing free content, but that they created the supporting business models.  That’s where the newspapers went wrong, according to this person.

One of the main drivers for innovation, in my perspective is to create the right culture (as perfectly defined by Clayton Christensen in the Innovator’s dilemma) and flow of ideas. Culture is difficult to manage, but is something that can be influenced. The flow of ideas is also something one can manage.

This concept is well explained in the book “Social Physics: How good ideas spread- the lessons from a new science” by Alex Pentland, where he demonstrates that innovative environments flourish where the idea flow is in an optimal state. This is something that can be managed and is not dependent on individuals.

I recently stumbled on a great example of this within my own company. One of our units organized a TEDx event for which I was selected to be one of the speakers. My speech was about “connecting the bits with the beats”- in short, if you connect your heart and passion (the beats) to technology (the bits), we can use technology to make an awesome, positive impact on the world.

Before the start of the different presentations, the organization arranged a connection board where all visitors of the event were invited to find out what the hidden connection was with any random individual.  I started talking to a colleague I had never met to find the hidden connection. We tried politics, sports, books, schools, places we lived in, etc. But strangely enough we needed to come to the conclusion that there was no connection to be found.

However, after the presentation, the guy came to me saying we had more in common than we had previously thought of. Turns out, he had a defibrillator built into his body to activate his heart in case of heart failure. My speech on connecting your passion to technology to create a positive impact was exactly what had happened to him.

Literally connecting the bits to his own heartbeat!

If that was not already good enough, I replied to him that our connection was even more evident. My father (who unfortunately died a couple of years ago) was one of the first people in the Netherlands to have the defibrillator implanted in his body.

A great example of innovation; but even more an example of how the flow of ideas can help in innovating, organizing, and managing your business.

Perhaps even more importantly, creating new connections and great moments of memory and friendship!

This brings me to our efforts in creating an environment to foster innovation: Innovators Race- a global digital competition and a unique experience to foster the flow of ideas among business decision makers and young professionals.

The competition invites participants across 6 countries to pitch solutions to real business challenges around technology, business, and sustainability. The winning team will get a cash prize of $25,000 USD and an opportunity to spend a few weeks in San Francisco, engaging with experts, and experiencing the wider Bay area culture of innovation! Click here to know more about ‘Innovators Race – Where technology and business meet sustainability’.

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