Can innovation be learned?

These days, innovation is a fancy, buzzword. For most people, it is a really blurry area when it comes to talking about innovation.
As for companies, it seems that they are aware that being innovative and invest in their people is necessary in today’s competitive marketplace. But, the main question remains, can innovation be learned?
I attempt to answer this question in this article. Using simple, but very effective lean methodology, we will do an experiment, validate and learn from it.
My experiment was to attend the Innovation Management Academy, which was organized for the second time in ICT Hub Playground.
Also, I will make a report from this event using lean product lifecycle stages which are: Ideate, Explore, Validate, Grow, Sustain and Retire.

The first day and I have no idea about how this academy can help us on our innovation journey. But, progress always should be measured, so we did our self-evaluation and put it on the wall.
The event was officially opened and presented by ICT Hub management.
The first topic was “Busting Innovation Myths”, presented by Sandra Nešić, program manager at ICT Hub and Jelena Šaranović, senior program coordinator at ICT Hub. They were talking about our misconcived notions about what innovation is and what it is not.
Innovation does not mean something expensive and difficult to implement.
The second key speaker of the first day was Vladimir Vulić, co-founder of He had a really good presentation about the Innovation paradox. According to him, Innovation is not widely embraced by employees in big corporations. Innovation means change and people do not like to step out their comfort zone. According to the latest employee surveys in the area of the engagement, the results are not so good.
Only 13% of employees are engaged, 63% are not engaged and 24% are actively disengaged. Just imagine one soccer team where only one member is passionate about winning the game, while the other eight players just run around and show their muscles. In the end, there are two players who are trying desperately to kick the ball into their own goal. That team would never win.

The first day was closed by a presentation from Jasmina Nikolić, of Agile Humans, on the topic of organizational agility. According to her, if you want to survive in the modern business environment you need to be agile. There are many tools to help companies learn and adopt a new mindset. Agile, Lean and Scrum are only tools a company uses, which are completely ineffective without culture change within the company. This means complete mindset change.


The second day of Innovation Management Academy was around innovation, transformation, and intrapreneurship. Keynote speakers were Kosta Andrić, Sandra Nešić, and Dušan Vukanović.

There are a lot of innovation models and maps. They are all available on the internet. But, you need to choose the one which most appropriate, not only for your company, but for a certain moment in time. These tips and tricks you cannot find on the internet.
Developing internal programs that support innovation and intrapreneurship is not so easy task. There are a various option, but this is a very risky area. In many cases, the best place to start is by focusing on three main topics: Organizational Design, People and Culture, and Internal Idea Challenges.

No matter how hard it is, the organization that innovates must be ambidextrous. They need to exploit AND explore at the same time.
Another very interesting topic of the academy was, corporation and startup collaboration. If we succeed in creating synergy between these two entities, we can run a very successful business model, with benefits realized on both sides. A corporation can benefit because it can adopt a new business model, new organizational culture, education and become a provider of solutions.
A startup can benefits because a corporation already has a sales channel developed, clients, company brand, finance, learning, and experience.


Sonja Kresojević had a really difficult task, to present innovation at scale in only one day.
How are corporates responding to innovation? We can simply see that through this statistic:
6% of executives satisfied with their company’s innovation performance
41% of executives believe their companies are at risk of disruption
85% of executives think innovation is very important
and yet:
78% of investment is in protecting the status quo
Nowadays, the crucial thing in innovation is to answer this question:
Can you become an adaptable organization able to operate your core business at scale while simultaneously adapting to change through continuous learning, self-disruption, focus on customers, and innovation to drive long term growth?

What corporation needs to be going this way?
Continuous learning, embracing uncertainty, small bets, customer centricity, business agility, outcomes over outputs.
Outcomes over outputs are probably the most difficult to change because companies are trained to execute and generate profits. Most of corporate think is focused on a one year period, and in that short period, you cannot produce valuable outcomes. That is the main reason why corporations need dramatical mindset change.


The fourth day was reserved for Afonso Rebelo de Sousa, co-founder of Bundl from Brussels.
Today’s corporations are struggling with disruptive innovation.

The world is changing at an ever-increasing pace. Companies are faced with few very important challenges:
– Adoption of new technologies.
– New startups entering the market.
– Changing customer needs.
Also, there is one big difference between corporate and the startup.
A corporation is a permanent organization designed to execute a repeatable and scalable business model.
A startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.

For this reason a corporation needs to create the role of Innovation Manager. This person’s job is to help the corporation keep up with the same speed and stay at the forefront of its industry.
What does the process look like when an Innovation Manager develops a startup within a corporation?
1) Scene setting – Who are you and what alternative industry are you looking at?
At this stage, teams need to discuss market and technological developments.
2) Why innovate? What are the triggers that create long term impact?
At this stage, we need to discuss what your stakeholders and CEO will be looking at.
3) Expanding your market – How far is your desired innovation from your customers?
At this stage, we need to discuss what „idea“ you could buy but realistic adopt in your industry.
4) Synergy Map – What do I own, control or influence…
Identify your key partnership to realize your venture
5) Looking sideways – Who is getting it right? Why are they getting it right? Can we steal it?
Make sure you capture not just the cool stuff but also what really drives value.
6) Build the Value Proposition – It is all about benefits but it links to the offering…
Start by knowing what you will offer in 5 yrs time.
7) Strategic Direction Card – This is the basis for any management pitch brief.
Focus on what will reduce your ‘cash out’.
8) MVP Card – This is the basis for your planning and everything you need to realize it
Focus on what will you measure.

After Afonso’s morning wrap up, the final day continued with Sandra Nešić and Alina Gratschner.
Ideation and innovation metrics are very interesting topics because we need all that work around innovation to measure somehow. The main purpose of metrics is managing risk and uncertainty.
The most famous tools are the “business model canvas” and ” value proposition canvas”. These tools are available on the internet to download.

The business model canvas helps you create value for your business. There are 9 blocks which are crucial for business developing. In the center of all activities is of course the customer.

That is the reason why is developed a new tool, more focused on the customer. That tool is called “Value proposition canvas”. This tool helps you create value for the customer.

A really good example of shifting focus from product to customer is HILTI. They have completely changed ctheir business model and instead of price fighting with a cheaper competitor, they focus on the best service to serve the customer. And that pays off.
“Values proposition canvas” tells you a story of how you create value for your customer. The focus should be on what jobs customers are trying to get done. There are three aspects:
Customers jobs – what customers are trying to get done in their work and their lives.
Customer pains – describe bad outcomes, risks, and obstacles related to customer jobs
Customer gains – describe the more or less expected benefits the customers are seeking

From the “our” side, we have:
Products and services – a list of all products and services a value proposition is built around
Gain creators – describe how your products and services create customer gains
Finally, in the business model canvas, we should consider:
Feasibility – Can we deliver it?
Desirability – Do customers want it?
Viability – What is it worth?
Just for the end, “Future of work” was an eye-opening presentation. What will be our future working place? What would be our job description? Some of the interesting data:
– Investing in Artificial Intelligence in 2017 was 12 B$, and in 2022 will be 60 B$
– By 2022 more than 75 mil workers will have been redundant, but the industry will need an additional 125 mil
– By 2022 more than 54% of workers will need to re- or upskill their knowledge

In the end, one question in the headline provokes more questions than we could imagine which is for us well-known uncertainty.
Can innovation be learned? It depends on you, and only on you. Innovation demands a long learning path, numerous experiments, and validations. Be persistent, longlife learner and don’t be afraid to try something new.

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