Tag Archives: innovation

Review: 1 jaar social investeren via eToro


Verslag van een fintech rollercoaster rit die begon in 2015. Mijn ervaring na 1 jaar gebruik van het online sociaal beleggingsplatform, eToro.

Welkom eToro

Tijdens een inspiratiedag op werk werd de eToro app voorgesteld. Via eToro is het mogelijk om online te beleggen op een manier waarop Facebook werkt: door personen te volgen. In plaats dat je een persoon enkel volgt, ga je hem nu ook een budget geven dat hij gaat investeren. Je kan natuurlijk ook gewoon investeren in markten, effecten, FX enz.

eToro is sociaal en gamified: ze hebben van investeren echt een spelletje gemaakt. Het gebruik voelt aan als Football Manager maar er staat echte centen op het spel. Op verschillende manieren wordt handelen gestimuleerd en je kan virtueel geld, eToro credits, verdienen om je slagkracht groter te maken.

Na aarzelen toch aan de slag

Op zondag 28 juni registreer ik als klant na veel aarzelen. Ik heb de website bekeken, het demo filmpje gevolgd en de app geïnstalleerd. Het kost me toch een extra inspanning om de stap te wagen. De kleine lettertjes leken nog nooit zo klein als op een smartphone en staat daar nu dat hun zetel in Cyprus ligt? Om mijn account te activeren, stort ik 1000 USD via Visa die afgerekend wordt als 905,2 EUR. Ik ben bewust van het wisselkoersrisico dat ik neem. Een extra risico naast de risico’s van het beleggen op zich en mijn geld toe te vertrouwen aan een mij onbekende financiële instelling uit Spanje, opgericht naar het Cypriotisch recht.

Maandag 28 juni word ik gebeld door eToro om me welkom te heten. Het is een enthousiaste jongeman die zich in Engels met een Spaans-achtig accent goed uitdrukt. Op het einde checkt hij of ik nog vragen heb en we ronden af. Op dit punt loopt het zweet nog over mijn rug: is dit zaakje wel allemaal te vertrouwen? Ben ik mijn centen kwijt?

Na het uploaden van mijn paspoort en het aanvullen van mijn persoonlijke gegevens besluit ik mijn bedrag te investeren. Op zondag 13 juli verspreid ik 900 USD in schijven van 150 USD naar 6 leden die ik van haar nog pluim ken en vooral selecteer op eerder gemaakte rendementen en populariteit (aantal volgers). Op de geïnvesteerde bedragen stel ik een ‘Copy Stop Loss’ in. Om een of andere psychologische reden hou ik nog 100 USD cash op rekening bij eToro.

De crisis in China en geld om te rapen

Midden de zomer voel ik de Chinese crisis in mijn portefeuille en het totale rendement is negatief. Er blijft zo’n 940 USD van de 1000 USD over.

Eind augustus krijg ik een bericht “Markets are acting crazy”. Als ik een extra storting doe, krijg ik een bonus om te investeren. De bonus is gekoppeld aan het bedrag en is onrealistisch hoog: 25% voor een bedrag tussen 500 en 1999 USD, 40% voor een bedrag tussen 2000 en 9999 USD, enz. De link in het bericht naar de details werkt niet. Via Twitter stel ik een vraag en verwijs naar een piramidespel. Dit kan toch niet? eToro antwoordt dat ze cash flow voor deze promoties en campagnes hebben, samen met een link naar de regulations met die kleine lettertjes.

Als ik verder zoek op de website kom ik bij ‘eToro Credits’ uit die behoren tot een ‘Non-Withdrawable Amount’ (NWA). Je kan het bedrag dus niet zomaar innen en dan afhalen. Het NWA daalt wel hoe meer je handelt via het platform. De credits geven je de mogelijkheid om online grotere deals te sluiten.

Nieuw als kernmedewerker

Ondertussen word ik als kernmedewerker opgelijst en moet al mijn beurstransacties melden. Bij een vraag wat ik met eToro moet doen, is er wat aarzeling. Via eToro kan je immers zelf handelen of anderen volgen. Bij de eerste is het duidelijk dat je in controle bent over je beslissingen, als je volgt niet. Je selecteert enkel leden en zij handelen uit eigen naam. Natuurlijk mag je interne informatie enz niet doorgeven aan hun, maar dat is in real life ook zo. Uiteindelijk geraken we er wel uit: alles moet gerapporteerd worden.

Omdat ik niet genoeg bezig ben met de beurs en alles wat erop noteert (en ook geen zin heb om telkens transacties te melden), besluit ik om enkel andere leden te volgen en niet zelf in FX of aandelen te doen.

Leden kiezen en rendement

Eén van de personen die ik volg heeft ondertussen 6% verlies gemaakt. Wanneer ik op haar profiel vraag naar haar performance en wat ze er aan gaat doen, krijg ik felle reacties via de sociale media. Vreemd dat ik de beheerder van mijn centen niet mag vragen naar resultaten…
Ik stop met haar te volgen en bekijk mijn hele portfolio opnieuw. Deze keer neem ik naast de rendementen ook de investeringsstrategie van de leden mee. Die selectie kan ik eenvoudig maken dankzij een uitgebreide zoekfunctionaliteit. Er zitten nu leden bij die investeren in groene en (sociaal) duurzame bedrijven. Omdat er een paar niet renderen, neem ik verlies en stuur ik later deze strategie opnieuw bij. Deze keer kijk ik naar een lange trend in positief rendement versus korte termijn hoge rendementen. Ik ben er bewust van dat een goed rendement in het verleden immers geen garantie is voor een goed rendement in de toekomst.

100 USD extra voor administratie, een ongewenste login en een software fout

20 november, de helpdesk van eToro belt me op. Ze identificeren zichzelf niet en vragen in gebrekkig Engels meteen naar mijn account en de achterkant van mijn identiteitskaart. De naam eToro wordt nooit vermeld en ik vermoed dat het gewoon een oplichter is die iets probeert via de telefoon. Pas na enkele vragen via de telefoon wordt me duidelijk dat er iemand van eToro aan de lijn hangt! Na 5 maanden (!) gebruik is mijn account nog steeds niet in orde. Als ik de achterkant van mijn identiteitskaart upload, krijg ik 100 USD gestort. Als ik vraag hoe het komt dat ze dit geld gratis weg geven, is er geen duidelijk antwoord. De zelfgenomen foto’s van mijn paspoort moet ik doorsturen via een (onbeveiligde) email naar een emailadres van de support desk.

Bij het antwoord van de ontvangst van mijn paspoort op 24 november vermelden ze terloops dat er op 13/8/2015 in de VS ingelogd is met mijn account en vragen me wat de verklaring hiervoor is. Ik vraag hun om op te volgen en actie te nemen als nodig. Een dag later wordt mijn support ticket gewoon gesloten. Ik stuur de vraag om die login in de VS toch uit te zoeken. Uit nader bericht blijkt het eToro haar services zelf waren.
Op 3 december staat mijn 100 USD extra nog steeds niet op rekening. Ik stuur een mailtje en het komt in orde. Later blijkt dat dit ‘eToro credits’ zijn en het geen “echte” 100 USD is. Ik kan het wel gebruiken om te investeren.

Op 10 februari krijg ik een email dat er door een fout in hun programmatie voor 3 traders te veel ‘copy dividend’ uitbetaald is. Ze vragen dat ik het corrigeer en er staat een hele uitleg bij, maar geen idee wat ze nu écht bedoelen. Ik besluit de mail te negeren en tot op heden heb ik er niets meer van gehoord.

Winsten incasseren

Omdat ik niet actief bezig ben met beleggen, investeer ik normaal vooral in fondsen via Bolero. eToro heeft duidelijk wat meer beheer nodig. De rendementen van de beleggers variëren nogal en een ‘copy stop loss’ vangt de bodem op. Om je winsten te incasseren, moet je wel actief beheren.

Stoppen met het volgen van een investeerder via smartphone lukt precies niet goed. Samen met collega Koen kijk ik er naar: de swipe werkt niet op Android en de afrekening van een positief rendement eindigt in een negatief totaal? In de browser werkt het dan weer wel. Ik stop met het volgen van 2 investeerders waar ik meer dan 15% winst gemaakt heb. Bij het stop zetten van het volgen, passeer je langs de eToro kassa. Als je later effectief geld terug van de rekening wilt halen, mag je er nog eens langs.

Besluit

Investeren, investeren, wie zijn best doet zal het leren? eToro biedt een mogelijkheid om op een andere manier te investeren via sociale netwerken. Ga je er rijk mee worden? Waarschijnlijk niet. Net zoals op de traditionele beurs zijn de koersen afhankelijk van emotie. Er zijn een aantal investeerders die het beter doen dan de rest. Maar hun volgen is op basis van het verleden en dat is reeds gepasseerd, dus geen garantie voor toekomstig succes.

Rond het hele eToro gebeuren blijft er een geurtje hangen. Er is vanalles al mis gegaan en de contacten met hun waren niet om over te stoefen. Uiteindelijk gaat het allemaal ook over vertrouwen, en dat is nu net niet dat extra wat de traditionele financiële instellingen aanbieden?

Meer lezen

New eToro op YouTube

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A chatbot as live representation of my resume


How to differentiate yourself when sending a resume to a recruiter? I trained a chatbot to respond to the most common questions a recruiter is asking.

To get attention from recruiters nowadays is not easy. Making a decent resume in a 2-page PDF is no longer a skill, nor you can differentiate yourself with it. A complete and neat LinkedIn profile is a must. And online you can find beautiful designed ‘designer resumes’ which makes you wonder why you skipped arts class. Adding ‘creative’ to your skills is not creative any more. Who would hire somebody who says he isn’t creative?

My first attempt to differentiate was via a graphic recording of my resume. It was a technique I learned from Martine of VisualHarvesting.com. You can view the visual representation here. While it is kinda original, it represents the technique and my skills of applying it, but not the skills I want to exhibit to recruiters.

I have experience with digital transformation and facilitating change & innovation in a large international organization, so my resume should reflect that. A bit more ‘innovative’, instead of ‘original’. That’s when the idea of implementing a chatbot came. A chatbot to represent my personal resume. A chatbot that could be a first contact to interview me about my career, strengths, skills, improvement points, etc. I’m sure I’m not the first one to have this idea, but I would like to put it into practice.

Finding a chatbot service

I have a Master in Computer Science and a post-graduate in Software Development, but during my career I grew to more an organizational and policy function. So my Master in IT is a good base to start with, but my developing skills are aged and out of date. So I had to find a chatbot I could deploy without having a server and having to code.

After a quick search, I found Botsify.com. The site promises an AI chatbot without coding and easy integration with Facebook Messenger. If you’re creating a chatbot for your resume, it should be publicly accessible and almost everyone should be on Messenger by now, so that was a no-brainer.

Charlie with Botsify

Botsify was easy to start with and I created a chatbot named Charlie (a nickname my first department head gave me) to represent myself. The first version of Charlie was made to respond to keywords.

Eg. “What are Karel’s strengths?” gave the reply “Karel’s strengths are starting up (change) initiatives, creative and innovative communication, entrepreneurship, public speaking, visualization and his passion & enthusiasm.”

This seemed too easy to be true! And than the first feedback of the testers came in: the chatbot couldn’t understand the intent of the user chatting with it.

Eg. “What does Karel like?” gave the reply “Karel likes making the digital transformation tangible for the employees. He like working with his project team and all the different profiles. He likes to develop training programs. Coming into contact with many different people. He likes the international character of his job too.”.

“What does Karel not like?” gave the same reply, because Charlie still reacted on the keyword ‘like’. Using the keyword ‘not like’ didn’t work on Botsify.

From keywords to phrases

To make the chatbot more human alike, it had to be able to understand intents. Instead of reacting on keywords, I learned Charlie to recognize phrases. To be sure the chatbot would be able to understand the user’s intent, I added multiple formulations.

Eg. “what does Karel want?”, “what is he looking for?”, “what function does he want?”, etc. 

Eg. “What does Karel want?” gave the reply “Karel would like to advise and support organizations in achieving the full benefits of the new technology through change management. He would like to lead a team working on the different components of change activities: an innovative campaign, a talent development program, etc.”

Botsify chatbot

The move from keywords to phrases made the chatbot less responsive. I learned that every user has his own way to formulate a question, some write full sentences, some write with(out) spelling errors, etc. While the chatbot was tested by more and more users, it came clear to me that the AI of Botsify was not ready for it. The slightest difference in formulation or spelling mistake, made the chatbot reply the default “sorry, I don’t understand your message…”.

Enhance user experience

When working with keywords, the intent was not recognized and some answers were not correct, but with phrase recognition a very simple look-a-like question couldn’t be answered. I saw users leaving after a few attempts. To enhance user experience, I created multiple default messages which also contained suggestions for asking the right questions. Also I created a help function and added some buttons with default questions.

If you want to give it a try, go to http://m.me/Norulesjustwords

Note: there’s a limit set at 100 users (all time), so if the chatbot is offline, we reached the limit 🙂

Move to IBM Watson Conversation

When many users use Botsify at the same time, the chatbot was also lagging and responding incorrect, for me this was the final blow. A representation of my resume that wasn’t responding to simple questions doesn’t deliver what it’s made for.

In my search for a new chatbot, I found IBM Watson. With the Watsom Conversation service I was able to create a chatbot in a very short term, and a better one too. The Watson chatbot also works with AI and is rather easy to configure. The big advantage is that Watson’s AI is working and Watson has NLP, Natural Language processing. NLP was the one solution for dealing with different formulations and spelling errors.

Eg. “what are you doing?” is interpreted in the same way as “what is your job”, “what do you do for a living”, etc.

The setup of my new Charlie was started: intents can be added quite easy and with multiple variants. Adding dialogs and testing goes quick too. The chatbot was set up in less than a day!

IBM Watson Conversation

The integration with Facebook Messenger is another story though. While the Watson chatbot is easy to configure, learns better, has AI and NLP, it’s a whole different story offering this service to end users. Linking my Botsify chatbot to Messenger was done in seconds, for Watson I’ve been busy searching for hours, still without any result.

So at the moment of writing, I have a better chatbot, but still need to figure out how to get it online. But I’m not giving up 🙂

Give the first Charlie chatbot a go

In the meanwhile, you can test my first Charlie chatbot at: http://m.me/Norulesjustwords

My full resume can be found here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karelnijs82/

 

Special thanks to my friends, family and colleagues for testing Charlie! Special thanks to Bert De Sutter for his elaborate feedback!

 

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A digital transformation to prepare your organisation for the future


Digital Transformation - Jo CaudronAre you in the board of your organisation? Take a look to your left & right. Do you think there’s enough digital savviness to survive the coming years? Jo Caudron explains with seven metaphors why it’s important to join the digital transformation and gives five tips to get your started today. You can read more in his new book “Digital transformation – Bereid je organisatie voor op de toekomst”.

Digital pioneer, Jo Caudron, founder of DearMedia, explained in his keynote “Digital transformation” about how organizations can prepare themselves for the (digital) future.

Jo uses seven metaphors to explain why times are changing:

  1. The glass house – Everything nowadays is transparent due to social media. The cameras are always close, everything is recorded and can go viral very ast. There no room anymore for organizations that aren’t transparent.
  2. The package – Everything used to be bundled in one package, but now we see vertical bundles. For example the CoolBlue online shop has a shop for almost everything: PDA’s, laptops, cameras, …, pepper & salt devices. The limitations of the physical world do not exist in the digital world, so you need to think different. Your challengers are not attacking your business as a whole, but take small parts of your cookie each time. The challengers can do this because they specialize in one area and easily outperform the larger organisations. They also have the advantage that they don’t drag along their legacy and can scale very fast.
  3. The frog in the boiling water – Challengers can take the opportunity to bypass the well-established organizations which aren’t aware of the changing conditions or are not dealing with it. For example, Ikea started offering insurances. Another example is Google laying the foundation for its own Internet so it can bypass the established organizations in the telecom sector.
  4. The gatekeeper – In an organization, traditionally there were only a few important people who act as gatekeepers. Today this role is no longer important: there’s crowd sourcing and experts can decide to start on their own. For example, financial bloggers that leave their organization to give independent advice.
  5. The traveller – Today we have all techniques in the back of our pocket. The digital and physical world meet via the mobile device in our hand. Everything that used to be physical, can be done digital today.
  6. The participant – The sharing economy is growing in importance. We see initiatives as peer-to-peer lending clubs, car sharing, etc. Is your organization joining the sharing economy, or still in resistance to it (cfr. Uber and AirBnb)?
  7. The cyborgYou ain’t seen nothing yet: there’s more to come in our digital revolution. Think of the possibilities of the current Big Data hype and the unleashed potential of robotics.

To survive the digital transformation as organisation, Jo advises five steps:

  1. Create a clear transformational strategy – Understand, analyse, create a vision and a roadmap.
  2. Create digital leadership – Is your current management digital savvy? Create a “Digital CEO” position in your board.
  3. Innovate in the right places – There are different types of innovation: incremental, disruptive and sandbox. Know which to use when.
  4. Build the transformational fleet – Your organization might be a big tanker that’s very slow to change direction. Make it possible for little speedboats to discover new territory at their own pace.
  5. Change the culture – There’s a new customer with new demands, living in an ever-changing world of uncertainty. You need an agile and flexible organization to survive. Don’t be afraid to cannibalize your own business, if you don’t, some challenger will.

The session of Jo was inspiring and fits with the message his colleagues, Steven Van Belleghem and Peter Hinssen, are spreading. On the other hand, I do have to admit that sometimes I wonder if listening to them is the same as listing to a doomsday prophet a few hundred years ago. The message is quite negative: change or you won’t survive, but maybe this is the right message at the time?

Additional reading

Jo Caudron has published a new book on the subject “Digital transformation – Bereid je organisatie voor op de toekomst” which can be bought at Lannoo:

“Digital transformation – Bereid je organisatie voor op de toekomst”

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Crowdsourcing and co-creation elements applied to your project


crowdsourcing

You don’t have to be very innovative nowadays to be confronted with terms like ‘crowdsourcing’, ‘co-creation’, ‘hackathon’, etc. But how can you apply these techniques in practice for your next project? We compare a classic project approach with more innovative ones with elements of crowdsourcing and co-creation, to learn that there are many ways to engage the colleagues and tap into the wisdom of the crowd. 

The classic project approach

The process would probably like:

  • One team gets the assignment.
  • Interview with stakeholders and customers.
  • Make a proposal.
  • Present proposal at decision committee.
  • Rework proposal.

That’s great because:

  • We’re more in control.
  • The accountability is at the level of one team

But watch out for:

  • Thinking of & working out ideas by same people.
  • Limited amount of different solutions.
  • Iteration time can be long.

Crowd sourcing & co-creation

So, what’s crowd sourcing? It’s a collaborative technique of obtaining ideas by distributing tasks to a large group of people.

Yes! But …

  • + we’ll get many ideas.
  • – there will be much crowd noise.
  • – there will be more chaos.

And co-creation is:

  • Through a series of steps, people are invited to contribute, evaluate, and refine ideas and concepts.
  • The call is not put to an open forum or platform but to a smaller group of individuals with specialized skills and talents.
  • Companies can automate and track some processes while still getting creative ideas

Yes! But…

  • + there are more experts involved.
  • + it’s faster.
  • + we’ll get better ideas.
  • – people are not used to work with customers.
  • – the project team gets feeling of handing out responsibility.

Let’s look at some approaches in practice!

Approach 1 – crowd sourcing with 1 assignment

The process:

  • The project lead writes out an assignment.
  • All employees of the department can hand in a proposal.
  • The project lead select the best 3 (different) proposals that can be worked out.
  • The ideators can form a team and get time & resources for the assignment. Optional: one person of the project team is in the idea team.
  • The teams pitch their idea to the project team and steering committee.
  • One solution is selected to be worked out by the project team, the ideators are involved.

That’s great because:

  • More people are involved.
  • The colleagues feel involved.
  • The employees have the possibility to prove themselves.
  • Very different ideas can be harvested.
  • Different proposals are worked out in parallel by people with a fresh view (new people).

But watch out for:

  • The interest and participation rate can be low.
  • The project lead is not fully in control of worked out solutions.
  • Commitment of time & resources is needed from management.
  • The throughput time can be much longer.

Approach 2 – crowd sourcing with hackathon

A hackathon originates from the IT world where it’s an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development collaborate intensively on software projects. The efforts of all are focussed on a short time deliverable of tangible software. The principle can be applied for non-IT projects too.

The process:

  • We call for colleagues who want to think along.
  • We reserve an offsite location for 1 or 2 days.
  • The participants are divided into teams.
  • The project lead gives the context and the assignment.
  • The teams work out the assignment and during the day they can ask questions and receive help.
  • The ideas are pitched in front of a jury composed out of management and customers.
  • One solution is selected and will further be worked out by the project team.

That’s great because: (some repeated from the previous approach)

  • More people are involved.
  • The colleagues feel involved.
  • The employees have the possibility to prove themselves.
  • Very different ideas can be harvested.
  • Different proposals are worked out in parallel with a fresh view (new people).
  • Very concentrated effort in 1 or 2 days, which means a very short throughput time.
  • The project lead and management can steer the solutions during the day. (more in control)

But watch out for:

  • The interest and participation rate can be low.
  • Commitment of time & resources is needed from management.
  • Management participation is needed.
  • Additional costs for venue and food & drinks.

Approach 3 – crowd sourcing with multiple assignments

This approach is used in the marketing sector for coming to creative solutions. Eg. when asked for working out a campaign for a laundry softener, one team gets the actual assignment, the other team gets the assignment to sell really nice smelling and soft towels.

The process:

  • We call for employees who want to think along.
  • The project lead writes out multiple assignments and changes the description or terms per assignment. The teams don’t know this.
  • The participants form a team and get time & resources for the assignment. Optional: one person of the project team is in the idea team.
  • The teams pitch their idea to the project team and steering committee.
  • One solution is selected to be worked out by the project team, the ideators are involved.

That’s great because:

  • More people are involved.
  • The colleagues feel involved.
  • The employees have the possibility to prove themselves.
  • We are sure that the same challenge is looked at from different angles.
  • Different proposals are worked out in parallel with a fresh view (new people).

But watch out for:

  • Interest and participation rate can be low.
  • The PL is not fully in control of worked out solutions.
  • Commitment of time & resources is needed from management.
  • Experimental approach.

The leap to co-creation

By adding some co-creation elements you can involve other people to think along. A non-exclusive list of examples:

  • Internal customers (eg. leaders from other departments and business lines)
  • External partners
  • External experts
  • External community

This involvement can be integrated in:

  • Ideation & working out the ideas.
  • Evaluation, giving feedback.
  • Jury.

Additional reading

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Digital trends in 2015


Digital trends in 2015Disruptive business models, IT as an essential part of the organization and flexible leadership play a role in the digital trends for 2015. Ron Tolido, Senior Vice President Capgemini CTO Office, shares insights on these topics and what to expect in 2015. This blog post will share some insights.

After “Big Data” in 2014, “disruptive” will be the new trend and buzz word of 2015. Disruptive is used when you radically change your business model to disrupt the market. We know that the goal of many start-ups is making a swing at the big organization with their disruptive business model. But you don’t have to be a (small) start-up to join the ride. Even bigger organizations can take the same approach by, for example, starting a spinoff. In the financial world we saw this happening with direct banking: bigger banks with a long heritage and according legacy are often too rigid to react to the flexible market. As a solution they start direct banks as spinoffs without the legacy slowing them down.

But it’s wise to start a spinoff and become a direct competitor of your own (big organization)? Well, Ron pointed out that it’s better to eat some of your own cookie, than when others would do it. Fair point.

Leadership plays a key role in digital innovation to make (increase) profits and gain market share. Conservative leadership will also still work, but the effect will decline as new opportunities are missed and market share declines.

Innovation without dedicated and involved top management will not work. A dedicated Chief Innovation Manager, a Strategy Manager or CIO alone is not sufficient: the whole top management must be convinced of the need to enter the digital age. Bottom-up initiatives contribute, but without a clear direction from top, they will come to a halt.

If you go for digital innovation, you have to go the full monty. Some organizations digitalize and freshen up the front office, but the back office remains the same. We’re not only talking about shop design and used technology, but also of a culture and mentality shift. You cannot be a client centric organization if this is only valid for your front office and not for your back office. Imagine the best hospitality and service in the shop, and waiting for ages from a response from the back office. I’m sure you can recall a few example organizations where this is valid.

The IT department of your organization matters. There used to be a time where the IT department was located in the cellar. The employees were considered as pariahs at work, Ron shared jokingly, “We had to sit at a different table in the cafeteria and still our colleagues were looking strange at us”. These days are over for sure as we enter the digital age. IT is changed from a supporting function for crunching numbers to an essential role in the future of the organization.

Before showing some technical innovations coming our way, Ron concludes that IT management needs to evolve from an infrastructure to an infostructure. It’s time to cut off old applications instead of keeping the alive. We need to learn to stop things instead of providing support forever.

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Create a start-up mentality in your big organization


Startup-ideas

Start-ups are the current hype, but according to Vlerick professor Miguel Meuleman there’s still a lot of potential in larger enterprises themselves. You have to overcome some obstacles to create a start-up mentality in a large organization though. An important one is finding the balance between management and entrepreneurship.  This blog shares some insights of the “Vlerick Feed your mind – Getting back to innovation” session.

Finding the balance between management and entrepreneurship

Many big organizations only have managers. Managers who are often too controlling and not allowing any room for innovation. Opposite are the entrepreneurs, who explore possibilities and discover new grounds. Entrepreneurs have an exploration mind-set that allows them to see opportunities and take risks.

Too much management will make your organization less flexible and projects are only realized after a long time, for example via the waterfall model. But with too much entrepreneurship and exploration you can loose the focus of your organization. The truth is: you need both management and entrepreneurs. To survive in an ever changing world, you need a search mind-set, but also an execution mind-set.  It’s the challenge for management to create an innovative climate where these entrepreneurs can thrive.

Critical ingredients to stimulate start-up culture in a big organization

So how do your create the necessary climate and start-up mentality in a big organization?

Management support

That you need management support is a no-brainer, but it’s key to have the right structures in place. It should be possible to take person out of their day-job to work on new idea. 

Who’s making currently making the decision about spending your budget? Is it based on realizing the best ideas? You can have the crowd decide where to invest in, for example with an investment market. Of course, budget needs to be made available for these investments.

Encourage small experiments and have a fast decision making process in place. If you fail, fail fast.

Work autonomy & time availability

Give people freedom to try their own methods of doing the job, which leads to new innovations.

Make time available to work on ideas. Do not give full freedom, but give direction. Clearly define the challenges that your organization is having and invite your colleagues to think along.

You can make it explicit by defining a clear challenge: “We want to find a solution for … and you have these days to work on it”.

Miguel Meuleman: "Intrapreneurship is fostered when individuals have the freedom and autonomy on their work, but this freedom must be balanced to make sure individuals' creative efforts stay aligned with company objectives."

Reinforcement

Just like external entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs need sponsorship and sponsor support. A sponsor from management can remove obstacles when needed.

A culture of trying, failing and learning needs to be installed. You can do this by actual trying, sharing failures and also asking to sharem them and the lessons learned during an evaluation talk.

Encourage the expected behaviour by assigning awards for entrepreneurs.

Organizational boundaries

Open up the hierarchy in your business. There are some walls needed between the entities, but make them low so the colleagues can jump over them.

Do something different. Swap jobs within organizations. Don’t go the same conference every year, but join one in another area, eg. start-up conference. What are they doing there?

Get the outside in. Invite external entrepreneurs to give feedback on in-company ideas. Involve your customers in the journey for finding new ideas.

Additional reading

Session Miguel Meuleman

Eric Ries on The Lean Start-up (video)

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Is your innovation open, closed or maybe open-closed?


From in-house, closed innovation to open innovation. The story of a small electronic devices company ‘In Die Tate’ that learned from their past and took a swing at the future in a new market.

‘In Die Tate’ is a seasoned manufacturer of small electronic devices. In the 2000s they survived the dotcom bubble with a clear vision of the future and investors that kept their faith in them. Recently ‘In Die Tate’ launched a new corporate strategy that aimed at the tablet market. Together with this new strategy the organization reorganized and grouped their employees together in departments like amongst others ‘Input Devices’, ‘Graphics’, ‘Connectiviy’ and ‘Design’.

For years ‘In Die Tate’ has been innovating in-house. It all started a few years after the launch of their first product when they noticed they had to keep improving and investing. All in order to keep up with the ever faster changing electronics market.

Closed innovationThere was an innovation team for each department, but soon they discovered that this wasn’t sufficient. The innovation teams of the departments teamed up and fresh opinions lead to new insights. A reviewer of a popular IT magazine once called it ‘Closed Innovation’, as they still weren’t involving the outside world.

Time went by and when the calendar hit the new decennium, the innovative teams started to know each other very well, maybe too well. At every brainstorm they saw the same people again. Somebody started calling them ‘the pappenheimers’.
The Graphics department needed fresh insights and cooperated with external parties, trainers and keynote speakers. And so did the Connectivity and other departments. Some even involved their clients and competitors. They called it ‘Open Innovation’, but somehow they knew it was still limited to certain groups of people, the pappenheimers & friends. At the coffee machines, the general feeling was more ‘Open Closed Innovation’ as they experienced that they were missing opportunities.

open - closed innovationNews ideas and insights came and the first tablets were designed. The Graphics department heard of the successes of the Connectivity department and the latter was impressed by the awards the Design department received. But there was still something missing. The human capital at ‘In Die Tate’ was still not used at its full potential.

open innovationOne day the Graphics department decided to open up their sessions. Everybody in the organization was free to join the information sessions and if they wanted they could even participate in brainstorm sessions. And a success it was indeed! Little did the Graphics department know about the ideas the colleagues from Design had! The organisation learned from the success of the Graphics department and opened up for the rest of the organisation. All information sessions, external speakers, libraries and brainstorm sessions were open to the masses now. To keep it manageable they used limited available seats and the organizing department was in the lead. They were currently working at full potential and called it ‘Open Innovation’.

Soon they noticed the customers that were involved promoting the organization. Because they had the feeling they really contributed, the customers started to promote the product as one of their own.

The future looked bright and after a merger with an organization that develops apps, they renamed their organization to ‘Ahead of The Curve’. With their new inward-out innovation strategy, ‘Ahead of The Curve’ is ready for a surviving in a volatile, uncertain and ever-changing world.

You might wonder whether ‘In Die Tate’ would have survived and how ‘Ahead of The Curve’ is doing today. Well, that might be your challenge. There are ‘In Die Tate’ organizations everywhere and in every period of time. Some of them cease to exist, others join internal and external forces and become organizations that are ready for the future, like ‘Ahead of The Curve’ .

Special thanks to my colleague Koen for reviewing this business tale.

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My favourite quotes about innovation


Innovation quotesInnovation is hot at the moment. In this blog you can find my favourite quotes about innovation. Please use and distribute 🙂

‘When all think alike, then no one is thinking.’
Walter Lippman

‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.’
Rita Mae Brown

‘There ain’t no rules around here. We’re trying to accomplish something!’
Thomas Edison

‘The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.’
Edwin H. Land

‘If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got. ‘
Albert Einstein

‘We cannot solve a problem by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. ‘
Albert Einstein

‘They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. ‘
Andy Warhol

‘Minds are like parachutes; they work best when open. ‘
T. Dewar

‘The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible. ‘
A. Clarke

‘The best ideas lose their owners and take on lives of their own.’
N. Bushnell

‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it. ‘
Alan Kay

‘Throughout history, people with new ideas—who think differently and try to change things—have always been called troublemakers.’
Richelle Mead

‘If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old’
Peter F. Drucker

‘If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.’
Woody Allen

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Pitch your idea


Pitch your ideaEverybody has ideas, but how do you sell them?

It’s good to have ideas, but if you can’t sell them to your team or your leader, you only have ideas and no implementations. The process I describe below is for pitching your idea (and not for explaining the business plan behind it).

The rationale behind is that you will need to convince an investor, a sponsor, or maybe even a jury. And your time is limited, to be compared with an elevator pitch.  I always give following example: you enter a lift and your general manager is in it. He heard you had an offsite activity and asks you: “So please explain to me, what did you do that afternoon?”.

Your Pitch

Start with the ‘why‘ of your idea.

I know this will be hard, but if you start with the ‘how’ right away, you will lose your audience. They will be hearing a rather technical explanation and still can’t imagine what it’s for.

Explain the impact of your idea.

What will you reach with your idea? Will it be Steve-Jobs-world-changing-great or rather small?

Dive into the ‘how‘ of your idea.

If you explained the reason why and the expected impact, you explain the how of you idea. But keep it rather high level. Your time is limited and it would be a shame if you didn’t have it to explain the other parts.

Explain who is involved

Who is going to implement your idea? Is it a great idea, but the other department has to do it? Well, a lot people have great ideas about how other people need to work, need to improve. But what is in your area of influence?

Create an action list and assign names and dates.

How are you going to follow-up and measure success?

How will you avoid that this remains an idea? That the action list is classified in someone’s desk? How do you know if your idea is succesful? How do you know when to pull the plug?

Tips

Some tips for helping you sell your idea:

  • Avoid the word ‘actually’. It gives the impression that you are not sure about your idea.
  • Practice your pitch. While practicing you probably notice where the explanation is going a bit harder or discover your uncertainties (let a colleague help you and count the occurrences of ‘actually’.
  • Study your audience. Who are they? What is their background? How do you need to adapt your pitch to their ears?
  • Study the location where you’re going to pitch. How can you use this in your advantage?

Additional reading

We read for you: Presentation secrets by Steve Jobs

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How to keep up. Social apps that boost your creativity


In this ever-changing world you’ve got to keep up. How do you? Two app’s I recommend.

Our new world is shifting from careers by defined college degrees to talent management. While you used to be safe after spending x years at college and passing all the exams, you now have to prove yourself more than ever. Our organisations demand creative and innovative people. But are you keeping up?

One of the possible ways to boost your creativity is to see what people are doing in totally different sectors. For example, if you work in IT, check out insurances or architecture. So on new year’s eve I decided to read a totally new/different magazine than the ones that I’m used to. Instead of reading HBR, I took an issue of Psychologies. I vowed to do this at least every month: one new magazine each month.

While this originally sounded like a good idea, it was just another piece on my ‘to read’ pile. Next to all the blogs, articles and links that I discover or which are sent to me. Further, there is also a lot of garbage in those magazines: articles that do not interest me and lots and lots of commercials.

So I started looking for another way to keep up and thought: why am I doing all the work myself? Let the social networks help me to see what’s trending.

Below are two apps I use and recommend to keep good ideas coming in.

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon is an app that delivers you content from the various interests you select. While you used to go for targeted searches on the Internet, StumbleUpon uses its vast network of users to select content for you. For example, if you are interested in design, the app will deliver you websites about all kinds of design (typography, drawing, interior, etc) one by one. If you like the content, you press like, and if not… well, you know.

Finished with the website? Press “Stumble” and the app will find a new site for you. You really stumble from one discovery onto another. This gives you the opportunity to browse through different sites and different topics, without any obligation. You can use StumbleUpon where you want and nothing is pushed to you. If you like stuff, you can share it or save it for later.

The app also provides different common categories like “trending” and “social”, which are ideal to get new ideas and insights from what’s currently hot on the Internet.

Warning: this app can really be addictive!

More information: http://www.stumbleupon.com/

Pinterest

PinterestAs described in one of our previous blogs, “One week of street combing“, walking around with attention will give you many new ideas. Everywhere around us are inventions and innovative ideas, which we walk by every day … and do not notice because of our busy lives. If you really pay attention you will see great stuff from others. But how do you keep track?

Well, assuming that you own a smartphone, you can take a picture and upload it to Pinterest. The Pinterest app lets you “pin” that “interest” for later referral.

Want to see through other people’s eyes? Browse the Pinterest directory to find users who look at things from a different angle/experience and share it online.

More information: http://www.pinterest.com/

Wrap-up

I can really recommend these two apps. Even for leisure purposes 🙂

How do you keep up? Where do you get your ideas from? Please share!

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