Starting 2018 with a Big Bang and a Cold Splash: Lessons in innovation

Dr. Floortje Blindenbach-Driessen writes “I had the fortune to celebrate New Year’s Eve with my family in the Netherlands. Traditions make that the Dutch end the year with a big bang and start the new year with a cold splash.” This is a memorable story of a Dutch tradition which Floortje uses to convey a profound message about innovation. 

Big Bang

Courtesy of nu.nl

It is a Dutch tradition to celebrate the end of the year with fireworks. On average 48 Euros per person are spent to color the sky by midnight. While regulations are strict – age and time limits exist – the Dutch don’t seem to adhere to these restrictions. Fireworks just blast everywhere and anytime. In the eastern part of the country, fireworks aren’t even enough. Here, carbide is used to create ear deafening bangs.

The fireworks are for everyone to enjoy and everyone seems to be doing it. However, 91% of the population actually does not participate. The costs and the (environmental) damage (last year 16 people lost an eye due to fireworks on New Year’s Eve) make people more and more hesitant to participate.

Why share this story? Well, nowadays, a lot of innovation efforts seem like these fireworks to me. A lot of noise to make it look impactful and great from the outside, but with minimum content, if any true change behind the “innovation facade”. Most is so shallow, that it disappears in smoke. The result, after the initial wow, is that clients are just plainly disappointed.

In addition, in many organizations, few employees stand up to be innovation champions. Most watch in awe of what others do, stand on the  side, and complain about the spectacle because of the potential risks involved.

Don’t make your innovation efforts look like fireworks. Innovation takes effort and is costly. You want to make sure it has impact and delivers a return for the organization and those brave enough to champion these efforts. Assist your innovation champions in developing meaningful and truly valuable new services your clients want to pay for. Services that truly deliver a big bang.

Cold splash

Courtesy of DenHaag.com

Another Dutch tradition is taking a cold splash – the new years dive – in the North Sea. The North Sea is already cold in the summer (the average temperature is 15 degrees Celsius / 60 degrees Fahrenheit), In January it is bitter cold. The water temperature is about 5 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit). Unilever has used the new years dive as a great marketing tool for their Unox pea soup and sausages. The orange hats they give away do the rest. Again, why tell this story?

Innovation often seems like a mania. It attracts die-hards, who feel they have to take part, even if it does not make any sense for them personally or as an organization. Unprepared, they take a deep dive and invest time and money. The results, if any, are often limited.

If you want to be effective at innovation, don’t follow the crowd. Stand out in a positive way, listen to your clients and deliver a new service that they will truly value (and pay for).

Our challenge for you in 2018

At Organizing4Innovation we are always looking for novel and better ways to service our clients. We have bold plans for 2018 to start with a big bang and help others be successful in their splash.

Early February, we start with the launch of our “From Innovation Champion to Game Changer – Challenge”. I promise you, this challenge will be a better way to start 2018 than with any other bang or splash!

This challenge is for passionate professionals, with the ambition to serve their clients better, yet lacking the time to act upon their ideas.

If you recognize yourself in that statement, your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to make a start, outline the opportunity for a new service, and create momentum, so in 4-weeks, you get approval and obtain the support needed within your organization to bring your most promising new service idea to the next level.

Are you up for this challenge? More information will follow soon!

Author

Dr. Blindenbach-Driessen is passionate about innovation management and new service development in the professional services, which led her to start Organizing for Innovation LLC (www.organizing4innovation.com). She teaches courses related to innovation management and strategy implementation for executive education programs around the globe. Her research focuses on the innovation challenges and opportunities of professional service organizations. Her work has appeared in academic journals such as Research Policy, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, and the Journal of Product Innovation Management.

Starting 2018 with a Big Bang and a Cold Splash: Lessons in innovation was first published in Floortje’s Organizing4Innovation newsletter.

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