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Event highlights: Connecting the dots in Innovation – Amsterdam Round Table Event


Here are some insights from our first Round Table Event;

‘In my experience, successful innovators are 3 things: curious, good connectors, and approach innovation with an intellectual rigour…‘ says Marlon Plazo, Global Consumer Insight and Brand Executive @ Heineken. “what do we call this person? A Unicorn.”

Effectively connecting all the dots in the Front End of Innovation is a challenge. Last night with upper management from companies like Stork, Ahrend, Atag, Danone, Flex(tronics), and Fontem we debated:

  • How to manage the speed of innovation in a world of constant disruption (…and when marketing analysis is paralysis),
  • Achieving success by ignoring market feedback (when you believe in the key success factors),
  • And how structuring and codifying trend themes and past innovations helps decision-making.

Marlon showed Heineken’s approach to codifying trends and library of past innovations. Yes all the whacky beer combinations you can imagine are there. But using these tools, innovators can make faster and better decisions while fostering a learning culture. Because conditions change so quickly, having structured the opportunity landscape in this fashion makes it easier to jump in when conditions are right. This echoes Jeroen Nas’s opinion that the only way to deal with constant disruption is to stop with the big innovation processes, roadmaps, visions, meetings, annual plans – and simply live in the now. “Managing innovation won’t work, you need to work in the core. “

It’s not to say the Front End is just for cowboys. Erik Spelt showed us that in the Front End, innovation processes need to be structured flexibly to achieve both a creative ‘garage setting’ simultaneously with a ‘gate approach’. Teams must focus on finding the key success factors of an innovation. For example, with the very successful hot water solution Quooker, founders ignored initial market feedback that said ‘we will not pay 1000 Guilders (450 Euro) for a hot water kettle’ and has since pushed forward with double digit growth for 25 years. Even the current explosion of Radler beers did not pass initial concept tests. But Heineken persevered. It was only when taste-tests proved the success factor was in the taste that Heineken could confirm the potential and ignore the early indicators of failure.

To conclude, it was a fun evening of debate and comparing how different firms deal with these challenges. We look forward to the next Round Table in October around the Dutch Design Week and until then, keep our eye out for those Unicorns.

Interested in attending our next event? Please sign up below.

Round Table Events are cozy and very interactive evenings with a few speakers and a limited number of participants in upper management.

For more information, please contact Reinier Halbertsma

Innovation Roundtable Amsterdam
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