Interview insights from Isolde Schram

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Interview insights from Isolde Schram

From MediaDunes

In the Netherlands we love working in open offices, where we can share information with other entrepeneurs.   So if you were working in one of the free open workspace of Dutch seats2meet/ like de Bank van Noppes, a mere 45 minutes from Eindhoven Airport (and just a few minutes longer from Schiphol Amsterdam Airport) you could chance a meeting with one of Holland’s leading consultants and innovators.

MediaDunes staff did just that and we are now offering a brief insight on our meeting with Isolde Schram, Managing consultant at VODW and well known for her writings about strategy, innovation and sustainability.  Isolde manages a variety of business innovation projects for large international companies, both greenfield and within existing business across Europe, Latin America and Asia.  She is so well regarded that even TEDx Amsterdam asked her to offer her services as expert consultant in innovation and sustainability.

Managing innovation

Innovation management is a topic close to EVOKE PR members and in these challenging economic times is vital  as it allows an organisation to  respond to opportunities, using its creative efforts to introduce new ideas, processes or products.  Importantly, innovation management is not relegated to R&D; it involves workers at every level in contributing creatively to a company’s development, marketing and communication.

For Isolde innovation is about having a long term vision and a clear strategy, developing a sound approach to proposition development, and mastering the actual launch and marketing  of new products and services.

Innovation is about change. It is about doing something different than you did previously. It is about trying something that you have not done before. Innovation is influenced by technology and inventions, but in the end your customers decide if what you have delivered is real ‘innovation’ based on whether it offers added value or taps into an unmet need.

Well-designed and executed innovation strategies usually do a good job of meeting clients needs and expectations. To achieve this a client centric culture is a pre-requisite. Much has been written about customer centricity but it really demonstrates itself in the everyday interactions with a company. How are you received when visiting a company? Is customer service listening to your question or merely telling you what is on their screen? Is the company acting in your best interest? What is the tone of voice in the (e)mail you receive. It is about listening to your clients and understanding their needs. Which can in some cases be very different from doing what they ask you to do.

One of the developments in innovation processes is the increased involvement of external knowledge and input. Closed innovation (to profit from R&D, we must discover, develop and ship ourselves) has eroded and has changed to open innovation due to the increased mobility of skilled workers, new technologies, the increased access to information and the availability of highly-capable outsourcing partners.

Co-creating to achieve innovation

A method that is used in open innovation is co-creation.


is based on the premise that none of us is as smart as all of us, that a solution or product will be dramatically improved by involving makers, thinkers, authors and end-users in its design.

If you want to create together with employees, clients, experts or with other companies, your co-creation method has to have a sense of ownership, genuine working solutions and skilled building. Making things and solving problems together brings people together. Co-creation involves many people and shares important skills, but can never replace the complete innovation process.

Selecting the right ideas

Imagine you’re the CEO of a multinational with a centralized organization, you could be quite nervous about missing or throwing away the good ideas. The Beatles were rejected by recording companies saying “guitar groups are on the way out” and “The Beatles have no future in show business”. You do not want to be the company which rejects The Beatles. How do you find a good balance between space for initiatives undertaken by external companies or even accommodate individual experts? It is likely there are many potential Beatles rejected every day. But the difference is in the number of opportunities to launch your product or service. It is also much easier for a Beatle like company to find its way to the market. Companies like Facebook and Google have their own strong innovation teams but also look carefully around and buy new innovative companies. Research also shows that the way multinationals organize innovation has a major impact on the success. You need people who are scouting and look out for ideas. It is especially important that these people are well connected with the right colleagues to take an idea to the next level.

Getting inspired

How do you follow that noisy outside world where innovative creative individuals have the solutions for tomorrow? How do you scan, how do you filter? As an international organisation you want to know what happens outside and how to get it inside (while keeping the rubbish out of the door). The most externally oriented employees of a multinational are the idea scouts.

They come across new technologies or ideas that could be applied in new customer products or services. To get those ideas succesfully to market they have to travel along the innovation path, being enriched by many other skills and experts and pass several critical go/no go moments. From innovation strategy, collecting market, business and consumer insights, to developing and implementing the concept, the business case, and bringing it to the market through sound marketing, sales and communication.

There are several ways in which companies organize innovation. Sometimes in the form of projects, business development teams or innovation departments. Developing successful propositions for clients really calls for specific skills. If you analyze successful innovations you will discover that many of them have similar success factors in common.

The three success factors for innovation:

  • Always approach innovation from the perspective of the consumer or the client.

  • Combine creativity with business sense, thinking out of the box but also linking your ideas to the company strategy.

  • Balance creation and implementation. Making sure that what you create can also be delivered.

Finally, in many cases, much of the success can be contributed to the perseverance and belief, of a single person in the innovation team. Making it their personal mission to make it happen.

The Schiphol case study

In a co-creation challenge about the Schiphol business area, VODW wondered what attractive conditions (besides good rental conditions) Schiphol offered to ensure that retail entrepreneurs wanted to settle in their  business area. Schiphol wanted to offer companies, their employees and visitors attractive retail areas for food, convenience and inspirational purposes and was searching for innovative retail entrepreneurs that could fill the designated areas. The co-creation efforts of both internal and external experts resulted in some of the following ideas:

  • Shared spaces around the entrepreneurial hotspots.

  • Involve the crowd that surrounds them

  • Be creative in creating traffic (whether it is free wifi around the entrepreneurial hotspots or a ‘little Schiphol” daycare close to the entrepreneurial hotspot, or organising afternoon drinks and promotional activities)

Besides this, many ideas were posted for making Schiphol a more attractive area for working.

If with innovation, imagination and co-creation you can turn a mundane business space into  a thriving centre you know you are on to something.

You can read the full report here.

As part of the innovation roadmap several propositions were developed

One of the first implemented projects is “Schiphol Creating Preferred Locations”

(in Dutch Flexibel Huren). What’s in a name? With branded names like sure2stay, free2stay, shortstay and free2come you can hire office space according to your own preferences.

Media Dunes

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