Rethinking innovation from the ground up.

Enterprises around the world have been challenged with becoming genuinely innovative, trying to elevate their effort from improvement to innovation. With over 90% of groundbreaking innovation coming from startups, enterprises are trying to understand what startups do differently. Turning an enterprise into a truly innovative business has been globally one of the biggest challenges across all industries. It is time to completely rethink the act of innovation from the ground up – starting at the very top. Innovation is a CEO mandate because only CEOs together with their board can make the important decisions about TIME, CAPITAL, and STRUCTURE.


The time it takes to get to new innovation. This is a paradigm shift we all need to be aware of. With the new data and processes, we know that in five years from now, you will need to completely start from scratch again, referred to as the innovation continuum. Think of discovering the next innovation opportunity, and find again new ways to satisfy customers. It is a continuum for building one innovation after the other and becoming a Generation Project that is set forward for the next leadership generation. Each time it takes five years to achieve broad market acceptance. That means you have a maximum of five years to innovate and compete or be out. The new mantra: innovate fast or get out. Once that innovation hits the market, there is a five to ten-year timespan, from idea to recognized market leadership. Important long-term decisions to continue investing in those innovations and the innovation continuum require the CEO and their board.


The capital market has radically changed in the past ten years. Companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Tesla, and Uber were considered overhyped but then achieved global market domination. Competitors could not compete because they did not know why those companies took over their market share. It is becoming more and more difficult to catch up with the market. Conventional companies are trying to fight their competitors with legal attacks, just because they don’t know how to compete with their innovation. The old game was competing with new improvements, which no longer works. Capital markets, its savvy investors, analysts, and fund managers have long understood that fighting innovation, when not even knowing how innovation works and how much is required to invest, is a very bad position to be in. Hundreds of millions of investments are necessary to get an innovation from early concepts to success in a global market. Successful innovations consumed more than $100 Million in funding. Unicorns, per definition, consumed roughly a billion dollars, some reached into two-digit billion-dollar investments. Only the CEO together with the CFO and the board can make financial commitments of that magnitude.


The pressure to innovate has risen dramatically in the past 10 years. Managers look at startups and think they can learn how innovation works. Innovation centers ended up becoming kindergarten-like playgrounds, an esoteric group of “thinkers and tinkers’’, hunting for the inspiration they hoped would come their way. Random experimentation and hoping to find a great idea never leads to groundbreaking innovation. Innovation is an outcome – not a desire. Without exception, the most innovative solutions were created to solve a specific and very present problem. Innovation success is not about an idea creation team and taking it to market by the existing organization. It is about creating an innovation center independent of the corporate organization that is responsible for identifying a viable innovation opportunity and bringing it successfully to market. This independent innovation center requires a highly diverse team of exceptional innovation talents that will get the job done. The team and a decision to create a separate innovation center independent of the corporate organization can only be made by the C-Level.


In conclusion, the innovation mandate is the strategic decision from the CEO to become innovative with certain guidelines regarding the long-term goals and designated audience for the innovation. The mandate is typically addressing innovation management and other corporate management functions with time, capital, and structure all taken into consideration.


For more information and how to set innovation in motion, download the latest whitepaper, “Innovation is a CEO Mandate.”

Enterprises around the world are struggling to create groundbreaking innovations, watch the latest Innovative Minds Event from Thurs. Oct. 21 “Innovation is a CEO Mandate” and hear from leading organizations about their struggles and why they feel it requires a top-down approach to be successful. Available to watch here.

Most innovation centers failed to genuinely innovate – Now let’s fix it

What worked for startups can now also work for enterprises. While the innovation process, purpose, and reasoning should be the same, the leadership structure is very different. Over the past four years, we learned so much about the difference between innovation in corporations and in startups that today realize: Enterprises had no realistic chance to be innovative – even when acquiring a startup. That difference requires an understanding of how innovative ideas are created, getting your c-level involved in crafting an innovation mandate, and redefining your innovation process to focus on your customer’s true needs and dreams. It’s time to rethink the act of innovation and pursue genuine groundbreaking innovation. 

How ideas get created

Neuroscience had the single biggest impact on our modern understanding of innovation. One key aspect is the realization that ideas don’t come randomly and there are no “magic ideas out of the blue”. The brain composes ideas from past experiences and those compositions represent the power and the limit of our creativity. We cannot have ideas about situations that we have never experienced. Every successful innovation started by observing and understanding an existing problem. If there is no problem to solve, there is no success to be gained. When we know how innovation is created, we can request certain results, we can request insights, and measure and manage the effort. Most importantly executives, now know what they can expect or request from an innovation effort. This understanding drives an entirely different ideation process and calls for a very different innovation process in general: it requires CEO and customers involvement.

Innovation is a CEO mandate

Genuine Innovation is a long-term engagement. It usually takes less than six months to create an innovative solution, but on average 5 to 10 years to be recognized as an innovation in the market. Innovation is the duality of brilliant ideation and relentless execution. Even the fastest startups took 7 to 10 years to become market leaders. Moreover, most of today’s innovations of significance consumed more than a billion dollars to become successful. Capital requirements of that size cannot be decided by an innovation department. With today’s knowledge of how innovative ideas can be stimulated and how those ideas could be brought to market, repeatability, the act of innovation is changing profoundly – even for startups. With that, another key consideration needs to be made: An innovation team that comes up with a new idea must also bring it successfully to market. The existing sales, marketing, production, and logistics departments do not offer any leverage – it’s the opposite; they cannot bring a highly innovative solution to market and sell conventional products to conventional buyers. It’s about Time, Capital, and Structure decisions that CEOs together with their boards can only make.

For more information and additional insights download the “Innovation is a CEO mandate” Whitepaper.

It’s all about the customer

By working with thousands of startups, we learned that innovation success stemmed from a deep understanding of the customer’s problems. This knowledge, combined with our understanding of how innovative ideas are composed, made us realize there was a need for completely rethinking innovation. While corporate innovation labs either spend lots of time finding ideas, experimenting or randomly ideating, the top unicorns developed brilliant ideas based on their research and moved on to relentless execution. Corporate innovation labs try to solve problems they believe exist. They follow the model of “wouldn’t it be cool if we could…” and they love to play all kinds of “thinking games”. They heard about “fail and fail fast”, “pivoting” and “experimenting” without ever questioning if that is actually delivering results.  They copy the 90% of startups that fail without even knowing. 

Successful entrepreneurs look intensely into what their designated audience is doing, what they like and dislike, what they think, and how they see their future. They may not build what their customers asked for, but develop and deliver a solution that is in their dreams. 

Stop looking at what others do

find out what your customers are dreaming about.

Solve the problems they have that others could not solve yet.


You can catch up with the market to survive by following what others do. But the financial market will recognize it accordingly. A follower won’t beat the innovator. Rethink the act of innovation – define the innovation culture at the top, listen to your customers and stop being a follower.

Authored by: Alyssa Wengi

The business world has gone through a drastic change in the past few years, boosted by the Covid-19 pandemic – a whole new world full of opportunities, changes, and challenges, especially innovation challenges. To be able to reach or to stay on top of the market one thing is key – groundbreaking and genuine innovation. The pressure to innovate has risen dramatically in the past 10 years. The term innovation itself is used in many ways, as a mantra, as working style, or simply as a marketing campaign. Bringing disruptive innovation to life has always been a challenge, but what exactly are the main hurdles you and your team must overcome to successfully innovate?

During the past 6 months, we were able to chat and interview influential innovation leaders from companies such as ROCHE, DB Schenker, Sony, LG Electronics, Siemens, Coca Cola, and many more. Obviously, every innovation team has different subjects and issues they are facing, but comparing the general conflict, each company has similar problems in the innovation space.

By being able to speak to these different innovation team members we concluded that the overall main “innovation blocker” is the so-called innovation culture, better said, the missing innovation culture.

Innovation Culture

When talking about innovation culture, we are talking about norms, values, ​​and attitudes, shaping the behavior of all employees, especially those who are involved in the innovation process. Since the innovation process is not limited to the core innovation team and this process is cross-sectional, the innovation culture as such can be described as a cross-dimensional culture.

Describing the key points of the culture is easier than establishing this value system. So,  when talking about innovation culture – what are the main challenges why innovation gets stuck? We defined four challenges:

(1) Top-down approach

Successful, groundbreaking innovation is determined by the ability of the team and their culture. To bring out the best you have to push and give room for these norms, values, and attitudes to grow and to become the standard. Therefore, Innovation is a CEO mandate. Only the CEO and their board can take the much-needed decision in time, capital, and structure.

“Innovation success is not about an idea creation team and taking it to market by the existing organization. Creating an innovation center independent of the corporate organization that is responsible for identifying a viable innovation opportunity and bringing it successfully to market can only be made by the C-Level.”

– Axel Schultze

(2) There is no time to innovate

In many cases, the cross-dimensional innovation team, from the CEO to the working student, is fully stuffed with finding new ways of improving current products or services. They are too busy to think of innovation in a way where opportunities are discovered, reviewed, developed, and validated. Unfortunately, innovation has even been outsourced quite a lot to universities or startups.

(3) Fail and fail fast

Obviously, the pressure to innovate and stay relevant in the market has risen in the past years. Managers tried different techniques, took closer looks at the startup world and how their management is innovative. This led to experimenting with playgrounds, where innovation team members are hunting for inspirations and the next big thing; pivoting, brainstorming, and massive prototyping. These newfound Innovation Hubs, which tend to go back and forth with ideas – prototyping, idea – prototyping, and so forth with every little long-term success. By changing the process into a more structured way, combining research and customer feedback before prototyping, the team is able to save a lot of time, money and is not limited to just “experiment”.

(4) The initial value of an idea is zero

Your idea or my idea?  We are living in a world where recognition for something is key. With this value in the back of your mind, people tend to keep ideas secret because they are scared that somebody is stealing their intellectual property. BUT in a successful and inspiring innovation culture, it should not matter who had the idea first.

“The innovation team must know that all ideas come from past experiences and are composed of millions of impressions, often co-produced by other people. […] Teammates should be rewarded for ideas but also equally rewarded for building new ideas based on previous ideas from other teammates or anybody else for that matter.”

– Axel Schultze

Groundbreaking innovation is not only about the original idea, it’s about what you and your team do with this idea. The value of the idea is created through relentless execution and open innovation by taking into consideration what your customer wants.

Despite these main challenges, genuine innovation can still be created with the right innovation culture and innovation mandate. Rethink innovation from the ground up and discover why innovation is a CEO mandate in our latest whitepaper, “Innovation is a CEO Mandate.”

Authored by: Anna Ranke

You have a new business idea. You are so excited that it quickly becomes your best-kept secret. You get almost paranoid about somebody stealing this great concept that apparently nobody else figured out yet. Now – one day you have to share the secret, when you hire somebody helping you to build the product or when you ask somebody what they think or when you want the first customers to try it out.
Most of those ideas will never see the day of light – the fear that somebody steals it is greater than the ambition to make it happen. OR – you may not even want to realize it yourself but have somebody else do the work and you want to sell it. You will find out that there is no customer for it. And here is the first clue: The average human generates about 10,000+ up to 30,000 ideas during their lifecycle. Times 7.5 Billion people, that is 140 Trillion ideas!!! We are drowning in ideas. Hence – the initial value of your idea is exactly ZERO. To make a long story short: all its value is created when an idea is turned into reality. And that is the ENTIRE value, not most of it or half of it.

The initial value of an idea is zero

No one can actually ‘steal’ an idea. All people can do is to make it much better right from the get-go. If it is an outstanding and truly new invention, file a patent if that makes you feel better. But consider yourself warned. More often than not are patents the reason for failure. Customers want choice and not yet another technology dictator. They want options and not a monopoly. If Tim Berners-Lee would have received a patent for his HTTP and HTML protocol we simply would either not have an Internet as we know it, or none at all. Because the days where somebody pays royalty fees are pretty much gone.

The entire value is created through relentless execution

Meaning only when you turn your idea into reality, work with smart and engaging people, as well as working with your potential customers, you will win. And if somebody executes better than you, they will win – no matter what. Even with a patent, competitors will try everything to find an alternative. And they will find one, which makes them even stronger.

Stop worrying start doing

Cowards will never bring an idea to life because they are more fearful their idea will be stolen than they fear to fail. If you feel you are too weak to execute – go back to square one and rationalize that it is all about execution, and look for a partner who can execute while you craft the concept for your idea. If you have nobody you can trust, work on your network. If you have no network, build it.
Every outstanding idea is usually created multiple times at the same time. Did you ever wonder why most breakthrough concepts happen around the same time in different places? Some may be a blunt copy, but most just happen because the time is right, the base to build a new step in the evolution of something is perfectly prepared and a need from a market is pushing it to reality. It doesn’t matter whether it was copied or the same idea was created multiple times by chance – getting it done is the real value – not having a brain fart ;)

Why Espionage?

You may think, why is espionage such a big deal on a global scale? Keep thinking: This is the worst way to get to leadership. It is well known that many of the largest enterprises and governments try to find out what their competitors do – so they can do it too and hope to be better. That particular behavior obviously results in “follower-ship”. And follower-ship is by definition not leadership. Every leader welcomes followers – why? Because only with followers they can become a leader. As a result companies or governments with huge engagement in espionage are doomed to fail in the long run – and history can prove it over and over again.

Putting it all together

Share your idea with great people who can help you make it happen. Involve potential customers before you even build a prototype. Then build an initial version of your idea matching what the market will need now or later. The more innovative you are the smaller is the initial customer base. Groundbreaking innovation is only taken by early adopters. As soon as you can show your first results, be as bold as you can get and invite others to follow your ideas. Never “hide” your ideas from competitors. You can only become a market leader if you have followers. And while the followers copy your idea, you already have a new version, a next-generation solution that gets you closer to your ultimate product vision. A great example is currently in the Automobile industry. Tesla challenged the market leader Mercedes Benz with groundbreaking innovation. ten years later Mercedes Benz accepted the challenge but not by innovating but by following Tesla’s lead. Despite the fact that Mercedes has a superior display over Teslas – the augmented reality head-up display that theoretically would replace all the old dashboards – but they felt forced by the new leader to follow and introduced a massive, old-style display across the entire front.

Please share your thoughts and ideas with other innovative people on BlueCallom’s Deep Innovation Design, Innovation Management System, and Neuroideation LinkedIn Group.

In this post, we want to go beyond the typical aspects of innovation culture-building. We simply assume you know that innovation is one of the most demanding jobs, and it needs extraordinary talents to make innovation happen. Many aspects of Motivation, Empowerment, Inspiration, Failure as a way of learning, and a clear innovation mandate are prerequisites to get results and have been discussed countless times. On the contrary, all the many playful ways to inspire people with internal hackathons, innovation days, creativity workshops, pitching contests, and many other activities have not brought a single genuine innovation forward.

Who is an innovation culture for?
Brilliant talents are not interested in playtime; they are interested in making a difference, achieving something nobody else has achieved yet, and making the impossible a reality. The goal to “make the impossible a reality” is not only a goal of intelligent innovators, it is also the dream of the CEO, the hope of early adopters in the market, and even expectation from investors. When those people say innovation, they mean it. They don’t even think of conventional improvements.

It’s all about making the impossible a reality

To make that dream a reality, you should start with a culture that can make it happen.

1) C-Level Involvement

Discussing innovation culture, innovation success, motivation, results-orientation, job satisfaction, and alike topics with innovation managers and executives, it turned out that the most ambitious and most creative people request a clear mandate from the CEO. Most people’s experience has been, that if the C-Level is not actively engaged and sees innovation as a strategic effort, nothing will get done and the career as an innovation manager is in jeopardy in those companies. The CEO does not necessarily need to be a visionary person but needs to ensure that groundbreaking innovation is happening. Highly innovative people look for companies and teams that have a high probability of creating extraordinary outcomes. Grass-roots efforts to build more innovation in a business have so far failed as far as we could see. Highly talented innovation team members, rather join insecure startups than companies that see innovation just as a marketing message and not as an effort to make a difference. And therefore, the innovation culture starts at the top with a clear mandate for groundbreaking innovation, backed by its board.

We see best results when both the innovation culture and innovation purpose comes from the top management and flows down into the relevant teams. Many executives have the hope that every employee becomes innovative. Whether this is a good idea or not is no longer important as top-down culture development automatically reaches the entire organization.

2) Team Composition

Already when assembling an innovation dream team, the innovation culture plays a strategic role. One aspect of the culture is the definition of the team composition. While conventional R&D centers were primarily experts, the ideal innovation team is a highly diverse team from diverse backgrounds. The innovation culture should include that diversity as part of the model. You will want an innovation team that comes from customer-oriented backgrounds such as sales, from a broader market background such as marketing, from an operational or administrative background, definitely from a financial background, and also subject matter experts from your industry field. If you have all engineers, you not only are limited by having more of the same but, most importantly, limited background. Understanding how ideas get created in our brain, a diverse background of experiences (not business experience) is of great importance.

Another aspect of an innovation culture and its team development concerns traits or talents; some call it soft skills. There are a few traits that all team members should share: For instance curiosity, fearlessness, abstract thinking, team spirit, competitiveness as a team, openness, and positive thinking. One mismatch can ruin the whole team. Candidates should know upfront what you are looking for and how you assemble the team. Never try to “re-wire” people’s minds that will either fail immediately or have long-term negative effects on the mindset of the respective individuals.

3) Co-Ideation Culture

Your idea or my idea? In a successful and inspiring innovation culture, it should not matter who’s ideas any given concept was from. The co-ideation culture is an essential part of the innovation culture. The innovation team must know that all ideas come from past experiences and are composed of millions of impressions, often co-produced by other people. Meetings, exchanges, and joint ideation are the sum of all brains, and the confluence of content sparks ideas. There cannot be individual ownership, and it would distract the ideation process to an unbearable degree. Teammates should be rewarded for ideas but also equally rewarded for building new ideas based on previous ideas from other teammates or anybody else for that matter. Groundbreaking innovation rarely comes from one genius individual – but in almost all cases in the past century from a group of people. Co-Ideation as a cultural element can be stimulated when the innovation software has integrated gamification and reward equally the ideation and idea confluence based on other people’s ideas.

4) Information Culture

Groundbreaking innovation is a tough but absolutely doable goal. Working in isolation, i.e., only inside an innovation lab, is a terrible mistake. Groundbreaking innovation means change. When those changes, coming out of the blue, 99% of homo sapiens will reject it as a natural process. If the innovation team is not keeping adjacent teams in the loop, success moves far away. First and foremost, the C-Level needs to be in the loop. If they don’t care, all innovation efforts are a waste of time and resources. Have a jour fix meeting with the CFO or CEO once a week or every other week for only and exactly 3 minutes. Don’t dare to make it a 4-minute presentation. You will need internal supporters, those from sales who help you work with selected customers, or from marketing who provide you with research or finance, which help you get some key insights. Keep them in the loop. Provide an update once a month for 5 minutes, for instance, the first Monday at 11:50 am sharp. Include selected customers and business partners into the process and if necessary ask for a non-disclosure agreement. An even better way to ensure success is an open innovation project where you include others from your market and even those not from your market.

For most corporations, Open Innovation is a no-go. However, it is more than worth considering it and take the necessary actions that public companies need to make in order t communicate with the outside and ensure equal information to their shareholders. The extra effort is negligible compared to the value it adds to the process and the shareholder relationship. The open information strategy represents the most visible aspect of the innovation culture and helps the innovation process band prevents copying ideas. Who will say “we too have this idea” when the idea has no proof yet? Who will want to be a follower of something that does not even exist yet? But you, with your genuine idea, can and prove the concept over time, very much like Microsoft, Tesla, Ikea, and in the past Carl Benz, Robert Bosch, Alfred Escher, and hundreds of others.

5) Performance Culture

Assuming you understand how the brain creates ideas, you will not want to wait for the magical idea or wonder if the prototype even works. You know how to compile groundbreaking ideas, how to develop a vision, how to get approval and funding, how to build your first minimum viable product (MVP), and how you get it to market. You know that any groundbreaking idea gives you a headstart of approximately 3 to 5 years. Yes, you will not want to lose a single day. Every successful startup or Unicorn is executing with relentless speed, working for recognition and growth every single day like there is no tomorrow.

In most conventional innovation centers, however, teams meditate, play games, follow all kinds of stimulation efforts, try to find random ideas, experiment, not know if an idea is working or not, and finally come out with an improvement at best. They are no competition to even mediocre startups.

The performance culture is a strategic part of the innovation culture. You and your team are in it for extraordinary results. The performance to do so and the achievement of the respective milestones are as important to that team as it is for any top-class athlete at the Olympics. Performance culture is mainly for highly intelligent people who compete against the best and brightest around the world for a solution that is thought to be impossible – they are hardly motivated by money. Competitiveness is a trait every innovation team member has to have. This culture is stimulated by serious goals and rewards that reflect the extraordinary outcome, a groundbreaking innovation. To maintain a performance culture as part of the innovation culture, team members are wired to go for a long-term effect on society, building something that nobody believed is possible. Some will try to do it on their own, others prefer to make it in a team that has already some profound resources. Innovation is the ultimate competition of the mind.  Those individuals want to be a part of the organization they bring forward. Getting recognized for their outstanding achievement, become a shareholder, have a chance to make the impossible a reality is the main motive and key to performance.


During the BlueCallom implementation, we provide an innovation team development program involving HR/HT Management that includes the development of an innovation culture model that will need to be accepted by the CEO.


On Aug. 12th, 2021, BlueCallom will host a “Creating an internal innovation culture” event, part of the Innovative Minds Series. In this Innovative Minds event, gain insights into how to stimulate innovation culture-building from the middle up so it can flow down and how Innovation Leaders can best support it. Please visit to see more details and registration:

In the last week of June, BlueCallom hosted its third Innovation Thought Leader Roundtable. The topic gravitates around the question: “how to become more innovative and how to inspire employees to support the innovation process.”

As you may know by now, BlueCallom’s Roundtable is a virtual gathering of selected innovation managers. Many of them work in well-known companies such as Coca-Cola, BASF, Bayer, Dormakaba, DPD, FujiFilm, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, NGK Japan, Nissan Motors, Novartis, Philip Morris, Porsche, Roche, SAP, and Sony. The purpose of this gathering is to share insights, perspectives, experiences, and potential solutions to new innovation challenges.


Innovation Culture

Right after opening the discussion, “Innovation Culture” within enterprises became a dominant challenge. Kevin Minier, an expert in the UK Health and Social Care Sector, explained this by saying that “cultural change is needed especially if we want to avoid the big barrier in communication between employees”. Now, it’s clear that when it comes to innovation, employee satisfaction plays a big role.

The real challenge is in the organization itself and as Jonathan Wiesman from PassCare USA, mentioned: “some companies are already providing the top-down and bottom-up meetings between the company’s employees to find out what real employees’ value and purpose is.” One thing must be clear – Innovation can’t be successful if there is a fear present and not knowing where you fit in the ecosystem. Another worrying fact is that today’s innovators are having few side jobs, which means they can not truly dedicate themselves to innovation.

Axel Schultze, CEO of the BlueCallom company, shared one example: “Tesla Inc. today is ten times more valued than Mercedes-Benz and the reason is Tesla has a stellar innovation team which makes innovation happen.”

Other interlocutors, Mikel Mangold Innovation Project Manager at Venture Lab NGK SPARK PLUG, Christian Weh Senior Director Innovation at Johnson & Johnson, and Robert Clougherty Founder at agreed that the most important thing should be creating opportunity and an environment where innovation can thrive! And again emphasis is on establishing an innovation culture that allows you to find the best talents in the organization. In big organizations, as Mikel Mangold said, there is a lack of flexibility to choose the people we want to work with and that’s why many ideas get discarded. Steffen Ohr, Vice President Innovation bei Sihl Group, added that an Organisation needs to get a clear mandate to innovate from the highest level. That’s true for all functions but particularly important in the area of innovation when you touch new and unknown areas.

If the company is not recognized as innovative, where will they get talented experts? This question was asked by Christian Weh who also pointed out that companies are losing opportunities to hire the best talents because they can’t provide them with the innovation culture. The winning combination is a passion for innovation and a clear purpose i.e. what is the role of the innovation process. As you see, all our innovation experts mentioned the team – the importance of having the right people who are willing to do the changes, to come up with new ideas and solutions.


Role of Employees in the Innovation Process

The second part of this gathering was devoted to employees and their role in the innovation process.

Christian Weh made a very clear point if a team has no well-understood innovation mandate. Just asking people to innovate and come up with ideas is not getting teams anywhere.  Having a mandate, Robert Clougherty pointed out “all employees have their strong sides/skills and the Innovation Manager should be able to recognize it and use it to make the solution they work on truly unique.” Open communication, building trust, prioritizing learning, and keeping humanity at the center of the work are something that is needed in every organization. Having feedback from the employees and clients gives a wider picture which will lead us to better innovative solutions. So instead of asking employees to be more creative, ask them to document problems they see in a company and problems they have with clients.

Tony Namulo, Customer Experience and Success Director at Tavale, mentioned the concept of hackathons where different people with different skills get together to work on the things they are passionate about. Hackathons are a fun way to push boundaries, encourage creativity, and in the end gain inspiration or unique ideas.

When it comes to employee efficiency, except networking and hackathons, we have to mention Think Tanks where a group of people is designated to create innovative solutions to problems. With the right mindset and sense of purpose, almost any group can operate as a think tank.

Talking about the employees’ role in the innovation, we also talked about how to boost internal innovation. Mikel Mangold once again mentioned how important communication is inside the company – colleagues have to work together, they have to organize meetings and sessions, exchange their thoughts and results will be visible.

Kevin Minier said something I was surprised with – leaders are often put on a pedestal, but in reality, none of us are perfect and it is totally ok to be vulnerable, even if you are a C-level manager. Vulnerable leaders are better able to engage with their staff and as a result, they gain trust which is crucial to forming stronger teams.

Steffen Ohr said that in the company he works for, they continuously ask for market feedback. In the beginning, to prove the value of a new product/service on the market they ask for small funding. Based on the feedback they either intensify their efforts to create a real prototype or stop the project immediately. They also prepare an opportunity sheet and demonstrate if it’s scalable. The full focus is on getting feedback from the market.


Keys Aspects of Being More Innovative

To summarize this Innovation Thought Leader Roundtable, some of the key aspects of being more innovative include:

  1. Innovation teams have to be full time committed to innovation
  2. Having a clear directive to either innovate or continue to improve
  3. Executive-level leadership with a clear innovation mandate is required
  4. Building a culture of innovation in an organization

The team at BlueCallom will continue the Innovation Thought Leader Roundtable exchange. If you are interested in joining our next by-invitation-only event, please send us an email:

Enterprises don’t need to fear disrupters,
but the disruption in the capital market

A growing number of enterprises feel the headwind from capital markets. Up and coming businesses get valuations far above conventional businesses that may be more than ten times as big. Those warning signals all too often are simply ignored. But that could become a fatal mistake.

Innovation takes 7 to 10 years

Theoretically, enough time for any established market player to respond and fight back. But it isn’t quite that easy. If you look at the early years of the then, new automaker, Tesla, you notice that the established players sold more cars in some metropolitan cities in a month than Tesla sold globally in an entire year. Airbnb sold so few vacation rentals a year that established hotel chains didn’t even notice. Early freelancer platforms connect some inexpensive workers with businesses who had a short-term need in a way that the established recruiting firms didn’t even take the time to understand their business. Now, some people may say this is ignorance. But taking the sheer number of companies and enterprises that have tried something and failed into consideration, an enterprise cannot respond to any brain spark that may happen in this world. However, one group does take that time and effort for a very different reason.

Financial Market Analysts get Extremely Smart

In the past years, top investment firms completely disrupted the financial market. Yet it went almost unnoticed. With far more detailed insights, more intelligent tools, and evolving algorithms, they are able to predict the success probabilities of new market entrants/enterprises to a degree that was unimaginable just a few years ago. CEOs, Board Members, Unions, Investor representatives, and enterprises as a whole will need to shift gear when it comes to innovation. Future-oriented investment decisions drive market caps (value of a company) into new directions. It’s no longer only in the tech space but now also in all other industries like the auto industry, the tourist and hospitality industry, in the business services where a substantial shift is happening: The capital market favors innovation over profitability and size. One newcomer in that market is investment management company ARK-Invest who states on their website “We Invest Solely In Disruptive Innovation”. And the reason is obvious; in the next 10 years, it is more likely that those new and innovative businesses will win, than the established and slowly evolving companies.

Innovation is Entering all Industries

We randomly choose Hospitality, Automotive, and Business Services in our research. You can see how companies with rapid growth into a large industry segment, while there is no or no adequate response from the current market leaders are seen by the capital market today.
2007 first 3 guests – the company was founded
2009 21,000 guests
2018 300 Million guests
2021 market cap $93 Billion *
2021 Hilton market cap $36 Billion *
2012 2,000 or so cars
2015 35,000 cars
2020 1,000,000 cars
2021 market cap $570 Billion *
2021 Daimler market cap  $84 Billion *
2010 Some 1,000 jobs at $5 each
2012 estimated $6 Million
2018 estimated $100 Million in revenue
2021 market cap $7 Billion *
2021 Kern Ferry market cap $3.1 Billion *
at $2 Billion in revenue
* = June 15, 2021

Is the world insane? Then, what was with the market caps of Intel, Cisco, Microsoft, Google Facebook, and so forth. What happened to their competitors like DEC, Amdahl, Zilog, Alta Vista, AOL, or MySpace? Today the disrupters are identified much earlier and get evaluated much earlier to higher levels. Not to help them and not to kill others. The new behavior is only a logical consequence of the desire to be in a rising giant early. The advantage for established enterprises: They get a brand new early warning system. But even then, there is a potential for huge mistakes as you can see in our mini case study below.

Innovate or Get Disrupted

Trying to counter-attack a market intruder that has a disruptive business model or disruptive product, by trying to build something better is not leading to any success. A weak attempt to focus on “Gradual Innovation”, which is nothing but improvement, is definitely not an adequate response either. The only way to counter an innovation from a competitor, no matter what size or age, is by another groundbreaking innovation. Improvement is important – but it isn’t withstanding an innovation. Trying to be better than the new innovator is only an improvement and makes the former leader a follower of the new innovator.

The Daimler AG was an investor in Tesla. But eventually lost interest and sold the shares. Tesla was built on 5 unique aspects: 1) A very fast electric motor 2) New high capacity batteries 3) A big display giving space to all kinds of information 4) A digital experience that went far beyond the proprietary “Board Computer” and 5) A customer experience not seen from the conventional carmakers.
The competition only saw the electric motor and battery. They also did not see the timeline that it took 5 years from introducing the first Tesla to getting it at least a bit off the ground. Chevrolet killed its EV short after launch because they thought the market does not exist. Mercedes ignored it completely, then began to invest and built the EQ series. But it was only the replacement of the motor and tank for an electric motor and batteries.
Only with the EQS, Mercedes finally pushed the innovation button in many ways – BUT – chose not to really talk about it. Still, a market leader by the volume of cars they produce, Mercedes became a follower and did not push their innovation but what Tesla has since 10 years: Motor, Battery, and a “hyper display”. The digital experience and also the customer experience fell behind. And the innovation they made was not even mentioned. When the tough gets going the going gets tough.

Instead of standing their ground and continuing rejecting a large display in or on the dashboard and introducing their innovative head-up display – they competed in a space that has no future for both cars. Instead of drumming up their real innovation, they ignored it because they did not understand what customers want. The innovative MBUX system with a large display mirrored on the windshield, supported by a perfect and unique augmented reality system was not part of the competition. The leader turned into a follower and the capital market recognized it. How is this possible?

Things you can do to correct the current direction

Innovation is everything but a small club of thinking and researching innovators playing in their innovation labs.
1) It needs an innovation mandate from the CEO.
2) It needs a robust innovation strategy that is blessed by the board
3) It requires innovation managers with exceptional talents and abilities – not skills.
4) An innovation process that empowers the team to develop brilliant ideas and then conducts relentless execution.

THE FIRST STEP however is an innovation readiness assessment that makes sure enterprises have the foundation for what is coming.
BlueCallom offers free Innovation Readiness Checks with no obligation at all.

Part of that first step is the understanding that by 2050 we will want to change our energy supply, the energy grid, or whatever we can create, we need renewable energies and tap into energy sources we don’t even think of today. We will want to create transport infrastructure for people, goods, and service infrastructure that is far beyond our today’s abilities. We need to have digitized commerce, business transactions, return services, and handling that is far more intelligent than today. We want to make sure that our health systems, health understanding, and sources for health failure are much better structured, organized, affordable, and available. While we could theoretically feed all people on earth even with a 20 billion population it works only if we can integrate those 20 billion people as contributors to our global society, economy, and humanity. Today only a handful of people seriously try to engage in terraforming mars or build a lunar station. That is far too less to be effective and far too less to prevent new monopolies.

Innovation opportunity for enterprises. What worked for startups can now also work for enterprises. Even the innovation process would be the same. And purpose and reasoning should be the same too. The only difference is the leadership structure. And that requires a new understanding of what actually makes the difference between the two company types today.

No – it has nothing to do with size or capital, And yes both are driven by human beings.

Over the past four years, we learned so much about the difference between innovation in corporations and in startups that we today realize: Enterprises had not even a chance to be innovative even when acquiring a startup.  The full details can be downloaded as a Whitepaper

When thinking of innovation it is most helpful to understand how homo sapiens is performing the creation of innovative ideas. Without knowing how innovation is done, it is hard to manage the process and innovation remains to be a process. The key learning is that ideas are composed by our neurons from past experiences. There is no mechanism that just “creates” ideas.

Without exception, the most innovative solutions were created in an attempt to solve a problem. Random experimentation and hoping to find a great idea never led to groundbreaking innovation. Innovation is an outcome – it cannot be a desire.

When we know how innovation is created, we can request certain results, request to provide insights, and measure and manage the effort. Most importantly executives know what they are asking, even where and what to innovate.

When you know the “what and how”, you can make sure that your business is ready to innovate in the first place and prevent unnecessary costs and delays.

After all – innovation management can be performed like most other mission-critical activities, teams can be selected in accordance with the requirements and tasks and results become predictable and timely.

Successful innovations consumed more than $100 Million in funding, some reached into two-digit billion-dollar investments. Obviously, this is done in stages and in line with progress, KPIs, and timelines. Comparing it with a $500,000 startup would be a huge mistake because that was only their starting point.

Obviously, you can catch up with the market to survive. But the financial market will recognize it accordingly. A follower will not beat the innovator – not on the market cap.

Innovation is one of the intellectually most demanding jobs. Not only does it take 100% focus, it also requires relentless execution and the motive to do so. The Innovation Culture, team selection, and motivations are the ultimate driver of successful innovation.

The BlueCallom Deep Innovation Design method was modeled and shaped based on all the findings from our research and our own experiences, building 4 innovative businesses and helping hundreds of startups to get there too.

Whitepaper Download here.



Why is it important to define innovation? How do you measure innovation? How do you collect ideas from your customers?

These are just a few of the thought-provoking questions that came up in conversation between Innovation Managers from around the world in BlueCallom’s Innovation Thought Leader Circle (ITLC) in April. The ITLC is a virtual gathering of international innovation professionals with a diverse range of experiences with the goal of exchanging ideas and furthering learning within the discipline of innovation. 

What is Innovation and How to Measure It? 

Surprisingly, there is no one-size-fits-all definition to describe the term ‘innovation’. In the software industry alone, “there are more than 30 definitions of innovation” says Axel Schultze from BlueCallom. Without a universally accepted definition, companies will have different experiences in how they identify opportunities for value creation, develop an innovation process, and measure its success. 

Defining the concept of innovation will influence how an Innovation Manager is able to “implement the idea of innovation into the organization” as mentioned by Wolfgang Zondler from Zondler Consulting. To proactively confront challenges in considering how to measure innovation, Tony Namulo from Tavalé recommended an approach to clearly define what innovation means within your organization and relevant indicators to track its success by looking at it “what problem it is you’re trying to solve”.

 The goal is to gain a common understanding of innovation, while taking into account that variables such as industry type or firm maturity will influence the understanding of innovation, according to Alkan Dogan from Simmons & Simmons. He also added that “‘innovation should not entirely be focused on generating ideas and implementing them no matter what,” but rather for Innovation Managers to be selective about what ideas to pursue.

Kevin Minier, Health and Social Care Advisor, also recommended that your organization’s ethics should play a role in defining innovation.

Fiorella Vari Castro from Sportradar discussed how to define innovation within an organization by breaking apart the concept into three types: incremental (improvements to an existing product or service), strategic innovation, and disruptive innovation.

According to Schultze, disruptive innovation can be considered as when “you build something new…new market segments, new behaviors, or new needs.” But, defining innovation can be controversial because it depends on the perspective of the end-user, as discussed by Namulo, in judging whether something is truly transformational or not. As a result, the concept of innovation is perceived differently by alternate groups of people, just depending on their life experiences. 

Interestingly, Namulo introduced a very cool strategy to describe the concept of innovation: rather, “define the opposite of what it is not”. By providing a point of contrast and defining what “does meet the definition”, innovation can be better understood, according to Namulo.

 “What are the key performance indicators for innovation?” asked Schultze. It’s an important question because the chosen metrics or KPIs will influence and incentivize employee behavior and how innovation is managed. To provide an example, a company that measures its level of ‘innovativeness through the number of patents will incentivize employees to produce patents, but “how does this affect customer satisfaction?” questioned Namulo.

Furthermore, KPI considerations include: “Did [the innovation] improve outcomes? Did it make the company more profitable?” as pointed out by Minier. 


Innovation Culture is Key 

A key takeaway from the conversation revolved around the importance of cultivating company cultures to support innovation, with special attention to assembling diverse teams. Diversity is required to protect against groupthink and linear thinking,” said Minier.  This thought was also echoed by Vari Castro, who said that “having an innovation team with background diversity helps so much to come up with different ideas.” 

But in order to reap the benefits from a group of diverse thinkers, a company should invest in building up an innovation culture that makes productive exchange possible.

Mikel Mangold from Venture Lab at NGK mentioned the need for “collisions and confrontation” to create a productive dialogue with different perspectives. Fostering an environment where creative abrasion can occur leads to more innovative thinking through diversity in thought. Of course, the challenge is then extending this innovative mindset from within the bounds of an Innovation Team and how to “foster culture within the company?” as asked by Vari Castro.

It’s an intriguing question, and one that we may be exploring during our next Innovation Thought Leader Circle on June 11. 

The team at BlueCallom will continue the Innovation Thought Leader Roundtable exchange. If you are interested in joining our next by-invitation-only event, please send us an email:

When is the time to innovate?

The time between the day when the need to innovate is recognized to the day the first version of a prototype is in the market. Innovation speed or perfection? Go for speed any time.

For instance: The need or the dream to have an internet connection in any place in the world, land, or water is as old as the Internet itself. But in 2015, Elon Musk had an idea how to solve it. In Feb 2018, he created a company called StarLink. Today in 2021, we have full coverage, and in the next few years, it will be a standard. By 2025 people will realize that over 30,000 satellites are in orbit and connect all of us any time from anywhere. Look back and wondering how this could happen. Very much how we wonder why there is only one search engine to be considered serious, one computer operating system, one super large social network, one shopping platform, and soon one internet provider. We all heard of StarLink; but so far, nobody dares to compete. Is California or Silicon Valley a time capsule in itself? Time seems to run much faster – but only because we don’t hear a lot from China, in particular Shenzhen.
Only a few decades ago, Shenzhen was a collection of quiet farming and fishing villages. Today, the city is among the world’s leading innovation hotspots—in other words, the perfect location for our Airbus China Innovation Centre (ACIC).

If you want to innovate on Shenzhen speed you got to be even faster. Does it feel impossible? Yes, it does but only due to our massive overhead. If we don’t watch it, we will end like the British empire in 1900 or the Roman Empire in 1600 or Egypt or Mesopotamia or or or.

Western innovation labs, where are your results?

Innovation speed or perfection. In the past 20 years, several hundred innovation labs had been incepted. Yet, the outcome is more or less nonexistent. Yes, there had been nice improvements, some fun stuff, and maybe a few marketing Giggs. But nearly no groundbreaking innovation. They came all from startups. Something major may have gone wrong in those “Lost 20 years,” as one of the top Japanese executives told me recently. Everybody looked at startups because they seem to do something right. However, we all know 90% fail, and if you look at them, you will fail too. We all heard it “Innovation needs amazing creativity, and you can’t enforce it” – ok, so make innovation playgrounds with meditation, lego play games, sing together, and do sports together.  Hmmm – the unicorns show relentless execution, amazing speed; they work under enormous pressure. TIME seems to be a silver bullet. Very much like Elon Musks demonstrates it every day. When I founded my companies and watching my peers and the hundreds of startups we worked with, the best of the best were constantly full of adrenaline.

Groundbreaking Innovation in 40 days

We wanted to know:  What is the Innovation speed limit? The answer: 40 days right now. We can create groundbreaking innovation and validate the concept and bring it to market in 40 days. While most people are driven by their schedule, which is driven by others, who drive other agendas, and so forth, we need to put a stake in the ground NOW. The Nespresso Capsul took 15 years from idea to market success. The Tesla automobile took 15 years from inception to market success. Facebook took less than 10 years, Starlink probably less than 7 years. And the upcoming generation will be even faster. The western world already lost its first race against the red dragon in China. But we are used to not give up, to not surrender – to get up and compete.

Dare to compete

Some people use pacemakers to keep their heart beating – what is your business using? In a few days, we start with the global Ingenuity Cup. The promise is to get to groundbreaking innovation in 40 days. So far, most contestants are startups. While under huge pressure to deliver a real innovation for the first time, enterprise teams are struggling to make quick decisions, get approvals, find ways to put all the other administrative work to the side, and are fearful of failing. We MUST break through that barrier.

Dare to break all barriers and walls

  • You have no time? Never say this again. Take the time for what is most important.
  • You need approval? I don’t think so, because you have a mission.
  • You have other e important things to do? Stop innovating – it’s a waste of time doing it on the side.
  • You worry about your career? 5 years without success in an innovation lab is 25% of your career wasted already.
  • The next company won’t take you !!!!

Mr CEO, tear down that wall

Make your innovation teams play by the rule of global markets, global timelines, global competitors, global speed limits, and compete against everything and everybody. Innovation playground time is over. Every unicorn on earth competes with relentless execution, other nations have no rules and no limits. If you spend more time protecting what you have than investing it into future solutions, you, your board, and investors declare the limits of your abilities.


Dare to join the Ingenuity Cup even last minute – Remember innovation speed or perfection, what are you seeking?