Written by Frederik Simoen

On Thursday the bootcampers turned their eyes to organizations, they explored the boundaries of the firm as they know it. They engaged in inspirational conversations with speakers from backgrounds quite different from their own.

Ignition Bootcamp Utrecht: Thursday March 23rd, 2017 - Day 4

LEVI VAN DAM - WHERE I AND YOU BEGIN

Levi is the trailblazer of Spirit, a Dutch youth care organization. Spirit is a top-down organization: they put the youth at the top of their org chart. Levi talked about the Garage 2020: a project which aims to make youth care redundant. The majority of the team has no particular experience in youth care, they work in government services, corporates or start-ups. The team is looking for alternatives to the current solutions, not efficiency gains. One of the running projects is the creation of a chatbot, which is always available for the youth, not just from 9 to 5. The Garage gives motivated employees the room to acquire new perspectives and create and test new solutions.

Levi continued his talk with the JIM program. Rather than looking for help in the digital social networks of the youth, Spirit looks for partners in their existing social networks. Having a relative or neighbor involved in the treatment has proven to be very successful. It has been a challenge to the organization, though. Because the youth could stay at home, some employees had to be let go of. The traditional duration of a treatment also changed, because now the partners decide when the situation is stable. The care professional takes on the role of a facilitator and is no longer in the lead.

At the end of his talk, Levi left the bootcampers with the question what their true calling was. He believes, just as the philosopher Levinas did, that all true innovators felt the need to create something for society, to improve others' lives.

LEEN GORISSEN - BIOMIMICRY: HOW CAN NATURE INSPIRE US TO SOLVE PROBLEMS?

Leen introduced the bootcampers to biomimicry, an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. One of its applications is the use of fabric imitating shark skin in hospitals, because it is antimicrobial. Another example is scheduling new routes for public transportation inspired by the patterns in which molds grow. The rainforest Peter talked about on Monday is a perfect example of what biomimicry is teaching! Forests can grow because of cooperation, not because of competition. Tree roots are tangled under the ground. When a storm hits the woods, all trees take on the immense forces together. And did you know trees share information via the wood wide web? When one tree is attacked by an insect, it will send rescue signals to its neighbors. They will in turn send out signals attracting predators who will the insect.

In nature, 99.9% of innovations fail. This means we can learn a lot from the 0,1% success stories. Ants have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, they have been able to surf the waves of change. Ants have never been building wealth, they have been improving their environment. Ant colonies have no traffic jams, no slums, no pollution, no unemployment. How have they been able to evolve to such a society? We, humans, still have to discover how to live sustainably. We have to see change as an opportunity for creation! 

ARNO LAEVEN - CORPORATE INNOVATORS: WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER BLOCKCHAIN

Arno introduced the bootcampers to the blockchain. His definition is that a blockchain is a network of computers who all have a full copy of a register of events. This register is immutable (it cannot be changed), tamper-proof and transparent. Today, most blockchain projects are still only proofs of concept. We are still waiting for the killer app.

When experimenting with blockchain, companies should not only think about the technology. It has to make strategic sense, and be supported by top management or the board. The legal aspect of it also can't be overlooked. You need legal people involved to analyze the impact of newly created frameworks on the company and the customers.

One thing is certain: the consequences of blockchain will be huge! It abolishes the need for trusted third parties (regulators, banks, notaries, insurers …). It enables direct transactions (so long Uber, AirBnB …). It allows for rules that can't be messed with, once something is in code it is final and fully transparent. Blockchains will certainly change the way organizations look like and how they work, since it decreases the need for control and lowers transaction costs to zero. But we're not quite there yet. Just as Leen said, Arno confirmed that it is hard for humans to imagine a decentralized world. Existing infrastructure and vested interests are also forces pushing the agenda against a paradigm shift. That's why there is a lot of experimentation today, but no breakthroughs yet.

At the end of the session, the concept of blockchain had become a lot clearer to the participants. Though Arno was so kind to tell them that the first five times you think you understand Blockchain, you actually don't.

GUY WOLLAERT - CORPORATE INNOVATORS: INNOVATION CULTURE IN LARGE CORPORATES

Many years of corporate experience haven't been able to put the architect inside Guy Wollaert asleep. On the contrary, he brought architecture to corporate innovation by introducing the 'house of innovation', a holistic and design-driven approach to innovation. Guy believes innovation is about connecting the dots. He says "It's not what you look at, it's what you see!" All innovation should contribute to the triple bottom line: it should create value (economic value, but also reputational and equity value) over time in a sustainable way to the benefit of all shareholders.

Because there is no silver bullet approach to innovation, every company needs a 'house of innovation'. It represents every initiative as a single room in the house. This is a representation that enables everyone in the company to relate with the innovation efforts. Every room has its own expectations and risks, and also its own decision making process. The rooms can be segmented based on many different intervals that were already discussed in the bootcamp: today - tomorrow - day after tomorrow, physical vs digital, ideation vs commercialization …

As a true architect, Guy added 'location' to the bootcampers' toolbox. How are you supporting the internal sharing of your own R&D and expertise? What technology and skills do you have to acquire externally to strengthen your product or brand? And how will you uncover the value of what is currently unknown to you? Guy presented different models to build networks to share experience internally, find external value and invest in the long term potential of your company.

The 'house of innovation' enabled the bootcampers to combine the plantation mindset with the rainforest in a holistic way. Guy concluded by printing into the minds of the bootcampers that "it is critical for corporates to combine scale with agility."

This is the fourth of a series of five posts about the Ignition Bootcamp of the week of 20 March until 24 March. Stay tuned for the last daily report tomorrow!

We've made a short compilation video of our fourth bootcamp day as well. Check it here.

Want to join one of our next Ignition Bootcamps? Check them here