Tag Archive for: innovation

BlueCallom is officially a year old now. In the past three years, before we started, we learned so much from neuroscience that it turned our perspective of innovation upside down. In 2021 we hosted several Innovation Thought Leader Roundtable events and learned about how innovation is done in most enterprises today. We learned about the struggle to be more innovative and heard from many that the lack of innovation culture is a considerable challenge. Also, in 2021 we completed our first version of BlueCallom DEEP, our cloud-based neuro innovation management solution, and conducted our first Deep Innovation Design training. BlueCallom has released two critical white papers: “Innovation is a CEO Mandate” and “Innovation Master Plan.” Now it is time we look at the innovation outlook for 2022.

From randomness to strategic innovation

One of the biggest frustration for CEOs is the random experimentation with no results. The fact that all enterprises have the same challenge doesn’t set anybody apart. But that is the goal for several enterprises for 2022. Most innovation centers today end 2021 with several improvements but no genuine innovation. While almost all of today’s innovation methods help manage ideas to get to the prototype stage, non have reached the market. In a few cases, it did but died within a few months. It’s time to get strategic. There are 800 unicorns, bolstered with a billion $ or more, ready to disrupt whatever market they are looking at. One CEO asked, “Why did I never see a unicorn in the making? I saw hundreds of startups, but most didn’t make it.” An excellent question. We answered: “Because you saw only those who ran around from startup event to startup event, trying to raise capital.” A unicorn is far more strategic than most people think. They are relentless executors, have brilliant talents, and run faster than any other business. Many enterprise leaders have yet to learn what it takes to bring innovation successfully to the market. But there are several who just now do that – with a dedicated innovation development strategy.

From improvement to genuine innovation

Another early shift we saw for 2021 is that enterprises realize that improvement is not innovation. Improvement has been made for 200 years in every R&D center. Some enterprises have already learned the hard way: an R&D center is not an innovation space and cannot be just “tasked” to be done. Using improvement as a step-by-step path to innovation is like a sailor using a lake to prepare for circumnavigation. One major force to make a clear decision to engage in innovation is the CEO. Without a clear direction from the CEO, innovation cannot happen in any enterprise. That shift to genuine innovation bares the question, “Should that innovation center remains a department, be a business unit, or even a separate company?” The trend is already seen by companies like Kärcher who separated the innovation activities into a legally separate unit which is still owned by the mothership. There is a slew of advantages included above and beyond the risk mitigation. Those separate units don’t have to be integrated into the massive bureaucracy of the main enterprise, they may have different legal contract frameworks and more.

From Students to top-level teams with exceptional cognitive abilities

Another interesting trend comes actually from the innovation consultant space. Very often, students had been hired to innovate for a company. The task was simple, “find a great idea”. It has been that way for quite some time because innovation was associated with a brilliant idea. Only now do we understand that a brilliant idea is always coming from solving an existing or in the future envisioned problem. Today we know that a human is producing thousands of ideas every year. We are even drowning in ideas. Ideas are of no value. Solving a problem is a hard and complex task and the solution may be considered a brilliant idea. When Elon Mask hires people, he still focuses on people with exceptional abilities. When Amazon employs people, they spend more time on soft skills than hard skills. The search for people with exceptional cognitive abilities for the innovation job is on the run. Several software companies emerged from this trend, like Pymetrics, which exclusively focuses on a hiring process for those soft skills.

2022 Summary

In the past two corona years, businesses of all sizes learned to be far more agile or suffer enormously, if not pushed out of business. Innovation has shown its positive effect on some companies where it resulted in innovation efforts that brought even significant improvements to the market capitalization on the stock exchange. We see even a trend of amplification in innovation efforts as the past growth also encouraged investors and the capital market.

In 2022, we will see

  • More enterprises investing in intelligent and strategic innovation, away from random experimentation.
  • More explicit use of the term innovation by refraining from using “gradual innovation” as an excuse.
  • A big challenge is finding talents with innovation-related soft skills.
  • A surge in upskilling teams to gain innovative thinking and become more entrepreneurial.
  • Finally, by the end of 2022, we may see some significant innovations created by enterprises.

We, the BlueCallom team, wish you all a happy, healthy, and innovative 2022.

In November BlueCallom hosted its fourth roundtable where the primary goal was and still is, making innovation a better-understood practice. The whole idea of the Innovation Thought Leader Roundtable is the exchange – dive deeper into the innovation processes. 

Axel Schultze opened the roundtable with a topic that has been current for some time among the BlueCallom community: Innovation is a CEO Mandate. What do CEOs need to do to empower their teams to become truly innovative? 

In the first place is clear communication between the C-level managers and innovation teams i.e. define the innovation goals, directions, and methods. We have already mentioned several times the importance of identifying team members with unique abilities to move the team and project forward. 

How to identify innovative minds? 

When we talk about successful innovation, execution is a part of it. As Christian Weh, Senior Director Innovation & Global Projects at Johnson & Johnson, said: “all successful innovators are playing an important role in the execution process.” The Maverick traits of a person are always visible through their independence, creativity, and experimentation. Truly talented individuals exist and they are the ones who always tend to be the best performers in the organization. Christian also mentioned capability building training as a part of human resources management, where organizations provide talent programs, incorporate continuous learning and improvement which is focused on specific capabilities. This tool is used to identify innovative talents. Ambition is another powerful trait and its impetus for success and achievement since ambitious people are goal-oriented and always strive for the next achievement.

Luuk Houtepen, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Innovation at SThree, sees exponential thinking as one of the important factors when it comes to recognizing talent. Individuals who possess this trait can envision the future and reveal new opportunities. We need to start visualizing the future to harness the potential of technology and positively impact our lives, not just in five or ten years, but also in a few generations.

“If you are really driven to make a change, to prove yourself, you won’t just settle down. You will be ambitious enough to push forward, to identify problems, and opportunities,” said Christian. He gave us an example, “Amazon did disrupt the book industry with audiobooks and Jeff Bezos can be described as an ambitious leader who set his targets and went beyond the next business plan.” 

Innovation is not only the CEO Mandate, it is also a CEO Task

Instead of having more and more innovations, most of the organizations are just followers with no concrete business plans. And this is the reason Luk said that “Innovation is not only the CEO Mandate, it is also a CEO task to open people’s minds up to where the world is going.”

Axel Schultze agreed that innovation is a CEO task, but when we look at their daily life, which includes political ambitions, involvement in the investor industry plus running a company, there is very limited time left for an extra assignment. But if innovation becomes the core of a business, the CEO has to give his/her best to encourage the innovation team and support the innovation project. 

As Luuk already said, exponential thinking is important, I would like to point out the following: 

Exponential thinking brings us to innovation and the BlueCallom Equation, G = I * E² (Groundbreaking Innovation (G)  = Ideation (I) * Execution(E)²), where the brilliant ideation plus exponential execution describes the foundation of any innovation process. 

Culture of Failure

A culture of failure is something that should be present in most organizations. Failure also means learning and if we want to make a change and personal progress, we need to be willing to identify our weaknesses and maximize our strengths. Luuk explained that we, unfortunately, don’t have the “Culture of Failure” and therefore most people are afraid to make decisions – it is less risky not to make decisions at all. 

What Axel has noticed is when it comes to large organizations where the CEO makes decisions, there is a risk that some decisions are not good which can result in job loss. On the other hand, making no decision because of the risk is a good idea.  It turns out that making no decisions is the best thing a CEO can do. Unfortunately, this is a common practice in the western world. 

Even when we look into the eastern societies, Asian countries, the decision-making process is also a long process. They might be faster in the decision-making than Europeans and the reason for that is that the whole team is included in the decision-making. Also if it turns out the decision was right and the first results are visible, employees are getting the rewards. 

The biggest advantage of startups over enterprises is that the decisions are made by people who have invested their own money. As soon as you hire a CEO, very rarely that person will become a decision-maker. 

When a company is determined to make groundbreaking innovations, that division has to be extracted as a separate legal identity. In this way, the innovation team has, so to say, “free hands” to do things and make decisions without being controlled. 


When it comes to the innovation process the most important is to have the right team on board. Innovative minds can be found in any organization and the CEO’s task is:

a.) recognize innovative minds 

b.) nurture innovative minds

c.) encourage innovative minds 

People with an innovative mindset think ahead, are creative, are likely to experiment, and are visionaries. These professionals involved in the day-to-day running of an organization can overcome obstacles, idealize, and generate truly disruptive processes, products, and services.

If you are interested in joining our next roundtable by-invitation-only event, please send us an email: tanja@bluecallom.com

It takes unique cognitive abilities or so-called soft skills or talents to get you to groundbreaking innovation.

Talents or Soft Skills matters – in some cases, even more than hard skills. One of those cases is with Innovation Development. Creating a groundbreaking innovation needs a new perspective, open-mindedness, creativity, courage, and other cognitive abilities deeply ingrained in a person’s mind. We prefer ‘Talent’ over ‘Soft Skill’. A skill is something people can get by training on. Talent is something that has evolved early in a person’s life, beginning as a newborn. For the sake of this post, let’s use talent as something we are looking for when attracting innovation team members.

Cognitive abilities as a Critical Success Factors of Innovation Teams

About ten years ago, we asked ourselves, what critical skills an innovative mind should have? After many long discussions, we realized: No skills at all. We learned that 20-year-old innovators with no developed skills could quickly create unique ideas and form a company. An early reaction was that age is a crucial factor for innovators. Startups should be run by young people that are unbiased and can change the world. Later on, we all learned that 50-year-old Elon Musk unfolded his full potential in the mid-30s. Regardless, all highly successful innovators have a few things in common, independent of age, skills, or educational background – TALENTS.

Those top innovators are without exception highly curious, very courageous, continuous, or relentless in their execution and exceptional collaborators. While looking deeper into the fabric of the innovator’s talent, we discovered eight key aspects: Curious, Courageous, Continuous, Collaborative, Creative, Communicative, Confident, and Connected. You may wonder what about PASSIONATE? We put it consciously out. Passion is not necessarily a specific talent or wiring in one’s brain – it is a result of a particular neurological trigger. Any person can be extremely passionate about something. Passion is undoubtedly a success factor for innovators but not a talent.

The 8 Cs of innovation talent

Curious, Courageous, Continuous, Collaborative, Creative, Communicative, Confident, and Connected

Curious - important talents or cognitive abilities(1) Curious

We learned that new ideas are composed of past experiences. Unrelated experiences to solve a problem or create a new solution are especially valuable. People who are curious above average have more and broader spread experiences than others. Curiosity is also an essential talent when learning how customers work today and what it may take to make a significant improvement. In some cultures, curiosity has a slightly negative connotation as it is used for people snuffing around other people’s private life. However, curiosity is a key driver in knowledge acquisition driven by an interest and not so much by an external force to learn something. That mind-driven curiosity makes a person find out things to satisfy the overall interest or the interest in the context of a purpose.  Why want people to get faster with their car? What distances do they go? How important is it to be on time? What do they do while driving for 5 hours? What are the alternatives? What would be the most convenient way? Even if we don’t have fast trains, would they use it if ……? In the innovation space, innovation teams need to ask questions that may have never been asked. They need to construct their own paths to acquire knowledge that may not be available in that form. What is the max width of a train trace to make narrow curves at 300 miles an hour? This is not about having ideas – but all about asking related or connected but unrelated questions.

Courageous - important talents or cognitive abilities(2) Courageous

When radically new thoughts get created, it takes a lot of courage to share them with others. It takes courage to stand your ground, despite others laughing at you. In an enterprise, it takes courage to push for a change and, at the same time, take the risk to get fired. Courageousness is the basis for bold thoughts. It allows to break any rule except the law. And if the law is hindering innovation it takes courage to make all efforts to change the law.  Innovation is not just inventing new products but also building new business models. Should it be necessary to question the current business model, then it needs to be discussed. If the company’s structure is in the way to bring radically new processes forward, it takes courage to say so and not only mention it but make every possible attempt to make it happen. Genuine innovation is touching many people; employees, customers, partners, vendors, alliances, unions, and possibly many more. It takes courage to not stop at this overwhelming undertaking but to work through all the groups, interests, and aspects that may need attention. Enterprise employees are typically best when they follow the rules, don’t question the set structure, and get great results fast. Courage is not part of the recipe to success – but it exists in many people without using it in business but in sports or hobbies.


Continuous - important talents or cognitive abilities(3) Continuous

Brilliant ideas are just an episode in the entire innovation effort. Relentless execution makes innovative ideas and concepts a genuine innovation. Missing that duality between ideation and execution is why so many innovation projects failed. Successful innovation is the entire work from pre- ideation market observation to a multi-year engagement to scale the new solution globally. Innovation teams, therefore, need to be continuous in their work. Never give up and never surrender. Once an idea is found the innovation team will want to validate the idea, make sure to finance the project and then bring it successfully to market. There is no known case where the existing organization was able to bring an innovation to market. The only exception may be if the company is virtually dead and has nothing to sell anymore and the innovation is their last hope. The innovation process is a 5 to 10 years marathon. Look at any significant innovation created in the past 50 years; you won’t find a single one that became globally successful in less than five years. It simply takes time to make a dream a reality. It isn’t because all the teams so far were slow – it is the adoption time of conservative buyers, which represents the most significant part of almost any market.


Collaborative - important talents or cognitive abilities(4) Collaborative

Sharing ideas, not owning them, is part of a strategic ideation process component called Idea Confluence. Working with others to extend the brainpower and accumulate more ideas is critical in the ideation process. Also, when ideas are realized or brought to market, the innovation team needs to be highly diverse but also collaborative in every aspect of their work. When in exchange mode, ten brains produce more than ten times as much value than just one time ten. The time of solopreneurs or isolated researchers or engineers is over. Not that they cannot come up with good ideas, but they won’t outperform a diverse team of ten amazing brains. And a well-assembled team is usually 5 times faster in the market than a single expert – no matter how smart he or she is.

Moreover, collaboration is far more than a team sport. Innovation terms need to know their limits and quickly pull external experts, science, research into the operation. If an innovation team member is not collaborative, their knowledge and experience would not be shared, discussed, extended, and so forth, and therefor that team member is far less valuable in an innovation team.



Creative - important talents or cognitive abilities(5) Creative

Creativity has very many faces. In the innovation space, creativity is not only creative ideas but also creative business models, creative ways to produce things, creative ways to finance development, get to the market, and more. Creativity in the innovation space means going ways nobody else went. Creativity is the talent to connect many unrelated things, thoughts, or experiences, construct them in their head, and come up with a structure, shape, process or anything of that order that has just not been done but at the same times provides a significant advantage over what exists today. Creativity to be different is of no help in the innovation space; however, when created in a collaborative effort, it may trigger new ideas and new structures in somebody else’s brain. Creativity, in a collaborative process, is what makes innovation work. An innovation team member lacking creativity will very quickly feel uneasy, not contributing, and not successful.


Communicative - important talents or cognitive abilities

(6) Communicative

Compared to other biological life forms, one of the most significant advantages of being human is communicating thoughts and visions for the future. That talent is needed in every phase of innovation, every collaborative event or meeting, every ideation session, and every other collaborative engagement. The more communicative a person is the more content of their thinking gets across. A big innovation dilemma is that the human brain can think extremely fast and has a large number of thoughts and ideas within milliseconds but can’t communicate them at the same speed. Communication talent is key for every innovation team member. The best thoughts, ideas or brain constructs are rather limited of value when they cannot be communicated. Communication talent is not only important during the ideation processes. Communication becomes extremely important when it comes to involving others. Those “others” include early customers when it comes to idea validation, the management team when it comes to approval financing of the concept, business partners when it comes to the early building and production validation, the market when this radical innovation needs to attract its early adopters.  



confident - important talents or cognitive abilities(7) Confident

Confidence is needed in communication, motivation, investment phases, and in the interaction with the market. Confidence is derived from very well-thought-out solutions and concepts that have been explored from hundreds of different aspects. Confidence is not about convincing others but transforming a vision into a realistic model that others can adapt as well. Confidence is needed by every innovation team member as the new “thing” needs to be explained with confidence to attract others. Confidence is an essential connection in the brain between a variety of aspects of a brand new solution. In particular, knowing it will help many people, realizing it is possible to build what is shown, and knowing that even if not everything works today, it will be possible to make it work in the coming years. Confidence is a form of being visionary by translating all that is known about that envisioned future today will be possible through certain actions that are yet to happen. At the same time confidence is not being afraid to say that there is no guarantee about the anticipated outcome.



Connected - important talents or cognitive abilities

(8) Connected

And finally, a strong networking ability connects a person with relevant people from all backgrounds and levels. Connection skills are critical when unique expertise is needed to augment an innovation team. Ideaconfluence sometimes requires very rare experiences or skills that are not present in the innovation team. Making those connections in timely order – typically on the same day is a talent that every innovation team member should have.  Well-connected people are inherently open and open-minded, involving others in whatever needs to get done.

Isn’t Passion a Cognitive ability?

So what about passion? Being passionate is not a soft skill to qualify for an innovation team member in general. People can be passionate about anything – they can even be obsessed about anything. We learned that passion or obsession kicks in if a specific action or environment, religion, or people captivates one so much that they can’t stop being engaged. Suppose everybody can develop passion about what they care about most. In that case, it is not a soft skill to probe for – but – it is utterly essential to find out in an interview process if innovation in your space would be a passion for the candidate.

Open-minded and other traits

In our research, we found that people with the above eight Cs are inherently open-minded. Openness is a relatively fast identifiable characteristic of a human but doesn’t necessarily include our talents. But to the contrary, people with the 8 Cs are always open-minded. Otherwise, those specific abilities would not show. This is true for many other soft skills that seem to be important in innovation but indicate some of the other talents we mention here. However, we want to clarify that we are just at the beginning of understanding the brain’s ability to compose ideas and what it takes to get there. We continuously research behaviors during innovation processes and learning as fast as possible, including using tools like AI to improve our work and results.

Testing Talents /Cognitive Abilities

Unlike well-trained and adopted hard skills, it seems that testing soft skills or cognitive abilities is not so easy. Exploring the soft skills of a job candidate is far more difficult today as there is only little experience. Hard skills are trained and the person will need to repeat what they learned or applied and then get tested on the results. Those repeat/linear jobs are rather easy to test while lateral activities like being curious, communicating, being creative, and so forth have no exact outcome as they have no exact input.

Here are a few tips for testing a candidate for specific soft skills. Instead of having multiple-choice questions or questions that you expect either a right or a wrong answer, try to understand how they behaved in certain situations by asking questions about their experience in various situations.

  • Ask them to remember a situation or time where they had to solve a problem that they never had or don’t know anybody who solved it.
  • Ask them to remember a scene where they had to help another college while they were under stress themselves.

We will publish a separate blog post just on soft skill testing and probing.

Where to find the best talents?

Most business managers tend to hire their innovation dream team from the outside. Reasons may include that they don’t trust their own culture, don’t know anybody who has the right profile, or fears that the organization already blinds them. However, our research indicates that most enterprises that desire to innovate have the top talents already in-house. We have seen amazing creative and ingenious people in all kinds of departments within enterprises. Attracting talents from within the organization has various advantages. It would help if you did not fear that they may already be blinded by the way things work in the company. If they have the 8 C’s as soft skills they will make a better organization and culture faster and with more intensity than newcomers.


  • Make yourself familiar with the value of the 8 C’s
  • Look inside your own organization first
  • Make sure you have a very compelling offering
  • Be aware that you will deal with exceptional talents that other companies will try to hire away.
  • Don’t protect your talents, give them a dream environment
  • It takes teamwork to make a dream work

Looking for a career in the fast-growing innovation space. Take the Innovation Talent Test to see if you have the 8C’s to start your innovation career opportunity.

Tackling a main corporate “Innovation Blocker”

When we talk about innovation culture, the first thing that comes to mind is a work environment where people can develop their ideas. To hear more about this topic, I would like to share amazing insights from Erik Wirsing, Vice President of Global Innovation at DB Schenker, the latest guest on the Navigation of Ingenuity podcast. 

What is Innovation Culture? 

Innovation culture is all about bringing new knowledge into the organization. As Erik pointed out knowledge has to be shared among the people, let them learn something new, and encourage them to create new ideas and solutions. 

One thing DB Schenker is proud of is their innovation department – a place where they bring experience to the right people, train them, empower them and let them be creative. When you create an environment of constant change, networking, agility, and collaboration, employees’ motivation brings increased productivity and higher levels of output that will help organizations reach their important goals.

The biggest obstacle to innovation is having too much guidance and instructions that have to be followed. Put all this aside and give employees the freedom to work independently. This is the recipe that makes DB Schenker successful in their industry – logistics. When empowering team members it is important to provide them with resources, funds, time, and place but keep in mind that this might fail. 

How do you encourage your team to be innovative?

Team members and employees need to feel confident and comfortable to express their thoughts. Therefore the right communication style is the answer to this question. 

We also have to mention the importance of team diversity since their varied backgrounds and experiences allow them to bring broader ideas and new perspectives. Curiosity, openness, and emotional intelligence are crucial when it comes to empowering. It’s not all about monetary incentives and the best way for empowering your employees is to enable them to reach their full potential. Just like Erik said: “Help them to shine”. Erik tells us the story of how DB Schenker’s sparked innovation within their organization:

When Eric joined the company, he was responsible for global innovation and all the innovative activities. Since he had no idea how to run this globally, one of his team members came up with the idea of an innovation magazine that collects stories from colleagues and their experiences. Since everyone wanted to be a part of this magazine, the idea was very well accepted and the storytelling approach got more popular over the years. With time, the sales team recognized the value of the innovation magazine for their customers, which resulted in the new format – an external magazine. With the approach of bringing people together and promoting their success through the “Innovation Champion of the month” column, DB Schenker continues to be a leader in supply chain management and logistics solutions.

What was your last innovation?

As Erik stressed, it is not about establishing something completely new but adopting from different industries. 

His last innovation was not planned, it just happened accidentally at one event he participated in. Talking to one of the attendees who work in the roofing industry he found out about a special paint which keeps the roofing firm. Erik realized a potential use for the paint and adopted it in the logistics industry. As a result, we have a transport vehicle whose floor is coated with this paint to prevent the movement of cargo while driving. Now customers are using it for the forklifts. Such an easy and spontaneous idea provided benefits for different industries.

Creating the next groundbreaking innovation

We also asked Erik if there is one thing he wants to invent or see invented, what would it be? This is what he said: having one device (ie smartphone) with the possibility of the screen adjustments just like we do with Windows on the PC. He wants to stop traveling with his phone, tablet, and computer, one device that can expand or contract based on the use. Other great things he would like to see in the future are self-driving vehicles and space tourism available for everyone. 

Bringing different innovative minds together and being able to manage a big global innovation culture it is important for all the team members to know that within organizations there are people who are going to support their “crazy ideas”. Structured organization, developing a business model, and taking into consideration customer feedback is the foundation for tackling a main corporate “Innovation Blocker”. 

We thank Erik Wirsing for being a special guest on the Navigation of Ingenuity podcast. With certainty, I can say we all learned a lot from his experience in the innovation world. To listen to the episode please visit: https://bluecallom.com/podcast/

Authored by: Tanja Sopcic

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.

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.



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?

Calculating the value of an innovation

One of our early objectives was to easily describe the value of our work. It is not easy as Innovation has so many moving parts and the fact that enterprises around the world are feverishly trying to find better ways to achieve groundbreaking innovation and not just improvement is a testimony for its complexity. We tried to distill our value contribution down to neuro ideation, innovation opportunity discovery, innovation-to-market method, innovation financing, reporting, Innovation KPI framework, multi-user digital canvas technology, genetic computing technology AI usage, and a few other things. One aspect recently rose very prominently in conversations with users and customers: a very close relationship between brilliant ideation and relentless execution. However, there was an inner conflict: It is described in a blog post written a few years ago: The Initial value of an idea is zero. How could something of no value sparked multi-billion dollar businesses and disrupts entire industries if it has no value? It just needed to turn on of course but what value is it then? It reminded me of something I learned in quantum mechanics, that I quantum state can be seen as having two states at the same time. Every idea can too. As we learned from neuroscience, an idea is a clearly defined “object in our brain that is composed of past experiences”.  The trick is to use it or not. Unused its value is zero and used its value turns into one. The value of one is still not a lot but multiplied with execution that leads to exponential growth makes the one incredibly valuable.  Let’s not get deeper into quantum physics as it is just an analogy but look how this concept changes our understanding of innovation.

The two key aspects, that make or break groundbreaking innovation:

  1. Finding a brilliant idea that leads to innovation
  2. Making the idea a reality and bringing it to market with relentless execution

Harnessing the duality of ideation and execution is where BlueCallom makes the biggest difference. Moreover developing the BlueCallom Equation, paved the way for making innovation predictable, creating Innovation Forecasts, calculating an Innovation Lifetime Value, and an Innovation ROI. Groundbreaking Innovation (G)  = Ideation (I) * Execution(E)².

G = I * E² 

The meaning of G

For the development of innovation processes, we needed to make a statement of what we understand by the term INNOVATION, in particular groundbreaking or disruptive innovation is not Improvement. It became even more important when trying to find a way to calculate an innovation value. There are hundreds of different definitions of what innovation means. The following definition is made to make our methods and technology clear, and also what our equation is addressing.

Innovation is the introduction of a
groundbreaking elevation in the way
people do things and ensuring
a successful global distribution.

It often results in disruption, how
industry segments conduct business.

Innovation is not the same as Improvement. For more clarity, we use Groundbreaking Innovation (G)

The creation of I

To get to groundbreaking innovation you need an amazing idea. And since we know, thanks to neuroscience, how innovative ideas get created, we can go one major step further: Making the innovation a reality. Not only by building a prototype but bringing that innovation to life in global markets. Some years ago I wrote a provocative blog post: “The initial Value of an Idea is ZERO” and that has not changed. There have been many known cases where people bought an idea for $1. With that payment, the idea had legally changed ownership. So we can assume that the buy-in of a team developing such an idea has the value of one – assume any currency. The idea is the must-have ignition to innovation, yet has no big value to anybody – yet. The value is created through execution. Every startup knows – it gets embossed in their neurons by every investor. And there is an important effect to be observed: Any successful innovation – ever created – was following an exponential growth rate. Hence the E².  But with no execution: 1 * 0 = 0 – in other words, the lack of execution makes the innovation value zero.

The significance of

  1. Innovation Timeline
    Innovative solutions take quite a while to get accepted in the market. And there is no shortcut. The larger part of the market participants is rather careful and conservative. It took a few years until the name Tesla even made it to News. It took even longer until Amazon became a household brand. The first two years, Computer 2000 and TechData had a tough start. But 10 years later both bypassed 8,000 competitors which never understood the level of disruption our business models had. Today the merged and combined company is doing nearly 40 Billion in revenue. The inflection point when the so-called “Hockey Stick” kicks in and turns the slow start is recognized as part of an exponential growth curve, it is too late for many companies to seriously compete.
  2. Innovation Management
    Managing an “Innovation to Market” process is an ART and a SCIENCE. One of the key aspects of the science part is the understanding that innovative products will never be purchased by conservative customers, which is the largest audience. One of the arts to get it to scalable results is to know when the broader audience is ready to engage. Today the function of “Innovation Management” is widely underestimated or even completely misunderstood. Innovation management could also be called “Innovation Value Management”. It is all about creating value from a disruptive innovation that has usually the DNA of a unicorn – no matter whether it is a corporate or startup unicorn.
  3. Equation
    * An idea, as a result of any kind of ideation, has a fixed initial value of zero.
    * Once a team is intending to use the idea and make it a reality, the value of such an idea becomes one (1).
    * As soon as the innovation is given to users and they see a value for them and start using the product, the value increases above 1. Here it can potentially grow exponentially based on the energy somebody puts into execution. The energy that is put into execution should become proportional to the value growth of the innovation if the execution is done right.

This also explains why some of the innovative products are perceived as “Overhyped” in the eyes of normal observers.  Only after carefully analyzing the innovation’s growth path and rate, capital markets react and may look unrealistic. This was experienced with almost every Silicon Valley IPO and afterward, those technological advances became the new normal and ever more often dominating entire markets. The   in the BlueCallom Equation can now also explain that behavior of seemingly hyped values that turned out to be valuable over time. The BlueCallom Equation is represented in the BlueCallom Deep Innovation Design model as well as in the architecture of the BlueCallom Innovation Management Software (code name ‘deep’).

Debunking 100+ Innovation Methods

G=I E² is more than just a formula for groundbreaking innovation, describing the duality between ideation and execution.  It is describing the foundation of any successful innovation effort or process.

  • Innovation Team Structure
    Brilliant innovation and relentless execution is not a job that a person can do on the side. It’s the opposite – innovation development is one of the most demanding engagements in any business anywhere in the world. The equation also makes clear what the innovation management’s responsibility is.
  • Execution – Execution – Execution
    It demonstrates the value relation between the idea itself and the execution process after the idea was created. It’s all about execution and that has never been even a consideration in innovation management.
  • Time is of essence
    It shows the importance of the factor time in the execution from zero to the max. In conventional innovation playgrounds, teams had infinite time. The outcome was zero. Unicorns ran like crazy and that made a huge difference.
  • Innovation KPIs
    How innovation teams achieve probability calculations, ROI, etc. to develop more robust innovation plans.  Only robust KPIs can indicate performance. The number of idea contributions, the value of the contribution, market validation, innovation confluence data, timelines, budgets, degree of disruption, adoption rates, growth pattern, and more. The number of projects can’t be one of them.
  • The end of Innovation Kindergarten
    The equations expose why empirical experimentation, pivoting, random brainstorming, and other “exercises” just could never lead to groundbreaking innovation. Lego games and dancing, meditation, and other relaxation is really nice – but cannot be the core of the top job of any industry leader.