Become a Chief Innovation Officer to drive true innovation within your organization
At a special innovation event hosted at our new ConTech & PropTech Clubhouse, 40 innovators from corporate firms and technology companies came together to share their knowledge on technology, open innovation and digitisation within the construction and real estate sectors.
This event focused on two questions: “How do you ensure that innovation is top of mind of everyone from the most junior employee to senior executives? And How do you ensure that innovative ideas are broadly applied and successfully scaled across a company?”
First of all, it is important to define what we actually mean by innovation. To innovate is to renew a product, service or business model. It is much more than providing a simple improvement, according to Rob Adams, author of the book “Improve versus Renew” and Founder of innovation consultancy Six Fingers. If you decide to innovate, your current knowledge and resources are no longer adequate: you need a new mindset and structure for working.
Corporate improvement initiatives are the domain of a Chief Execution Officer, but innovation is better left to a Chief Expedition Officer. “Expedition” because many things are possible, you just have to discover how to overcome both the physical and mental obstacles that block your way. Once you understand what is hindering you, it is possible to begin to search for new, more helpful perspectives and solutions. In order to gain insights, we have to approach the world with the same intense curiosity as children. In such an expedition, we should not rely on Return On Investment (ROI), but instead on Return On Learning (ROL).
Our next speaker, Jeroen Meeuwsen, Senior Project Manager for Innovation & Change at Dutch insurer Nationale-Nederlanden (NN), explained how NN has undergone a successful transformation with the help of Rob and Six Fingers. As a result of all the technological innovations they have implemented, the chance of damage to their buildings is greatly reduced. This reduction in potential building damage prompted NN, as an insurance company, to decide to change from reactive to proactive building management.
Roy Scheerder, Co-Founder of innovation consultancy Faebric, explained what both employees and organizations, as a whole, need to realize the power of innovative change. Pain. And, vision, capacity, ambition, willingness, perseverance, flexibility, and the ability to act – and not react – to situations. And as if all that were not enough, employees also need plenty of mental space to think through the process and implications of what needs to be done. Not a piece of cake.
But where do you start along the route to innovation? With yourself! Are you able to give people the space to make good use of the resources they have? Yeah? Beautiful. Then you’re ready for the next step: to actually empower employees to search for and implement innovative business solutions. Companies can be too restrained when it comes to managing employee resourcefulness with solving challenging problems. Too often, there are too many restrictive, top-down requirements that kill off innovative pursuits before they get started.
The day ended with pizzas and a keynote on successful innovation within corporate firms by Roderick Martens, Co-Founder of digital agency MakerStreet. Roderick stressed how better self-knowledge will help innovators to overcome the inherent difficulty of changing an organization. Through self-reflection and critical feedback, you can become aware of your limiting thoughts and blind spots that may hinder innovation.
To develop a successful culture of innovation, a company must have the right organizational structure (governance, systems of implementation), market outlook to enter new paths with no pre-determined solution, money to learn (an innovation budget unhindered by immediate ROI constraints) and clarity of vision about the specific challenge that needs to be solved. And last but certainly not least: everyone from junior employee to the CEO must be aligned on the objective of the innovation initiative.
You can’t always tackle the problems of today with the skills of yesterday. Often, innovation requires a completely new set of skills and an open mindset to new possibilities.