Cherish the crazy ones and other learnings from the nexxworks Innovation Bootcamp
At the end of an intensive and overwhelming week, I was struck by the emergence of three insights, bringing all the impressions of the week together:
Don't be afraid of the shadows
Remember when you were a kid? Shadows could be very scary, even today sometimes they still are. But with a little imagination you can turn them into fabulous stories.
That's exactly what the bootcampers did this week. They heard some pretty scary stories, about a future where mankind might be ruled by rogue AIs, about companies that seem to be light years ahead. And that darkest moment is exactly the moment when imagination kicks in. Yes, these stories do cast some pretty spooky shadows. Without any hesitation, though, the participants bravely turned them into narratives of hope and optimism and ambitious plans for their own businesses.
It's always interesting to see how the same story can leave a totally different impression with two participants, even two colleagues. The breaks left ample time for some verbal shadow boxing, contesting each other's views and experiences. As it's critical to stay both mentally and physically fit to get through a week of bootcamp, there was even some physical shadow boxing!
Don't be afraid of the humans
Technology is often perceived as the driver of innovation. And don't get me wrong, I love to have a driver. There is (almost) nothing better than getting into an Uber and being driven wherever you want to go. And that, precisely, is the critical part. Where YOU want to go. In the same way, we don't let the Uber driver decide where he is taking us, we shouldn't let technology decide the future of business.
Business will always be about people. The startups that came to pitch their stories (June, Suit Case, Tsjing) all work in the same way: start from the desired customer experience, then work backwards to build the appropriate organization and processes. If you don't have an emotional connection with your customer, if you're not making their lives easier, then you're not in it for the ‛Day After Tomorrow’.
Even the cold and data-driven artificial intelligence and machine learning are intrinsically human. Bernie Caessens, psychologist by trade, reminisced about the days when engineering students attended classes about neural networks in the psychology department. We should deploy these technologies to augment our own thinking, to strengthen our human abilities to better serve customers.
Don't be afraid of the crazy ones
The greatest quote at the bootcamp came from Gerrit Nollet: "If a mind is stretched, it will never return to its original dimension." The bootcamp was a mind-stretching experience for the participants. They, too, will never see their job, company or even their life in the way they did before.
Peter Hinssen started the conversation about ‛pirates’ during the bootcamp. Every large organization needs about 1%of pirates. The crazy ones. Those who don't care about the rules, who dare to be different. Those whose minds have been stretched.
Steven Van Belleghem added that the best way to empower those pirates, is to connect them with your crazy customers. Those who use your products and services the way they weren't designed to. Those who ask for new features that might seem to make absolutely no sense at first sight. You can think of them as hooligans walking into your living room with muddy shoes. Or you can see them as your guides to stay relevant in the ‛Day After Tomorrow’.
To conclude: let me ask you one question. Do you know who the pirates are in your company? To stay relevant in the ‛Day After Tomorrow’, you have to find the pirates in your organization and stretch their minds.