Innovation Management Academy – managing innovation can be learned

Led by the mission of empowering innovation as the only important and critical indicator of business success nowadays, and in the future, last November ICT Hub successfully completed its first Innovation Management Academy. A few of the numbers clearly indicate how ambitious the project was: 40 participants from 23 companies had spent over 5 days going through more than 40 hours of lessons with 12 different lecturers who covered 10 modules. This time around, the same ICT Hub team carries on with the program, which will take place from the 13th until the 17th of May.
The Innovation Management Academy is being organized as part of the project “Playground of Innovation” and with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Many months of preparation, planning, organization and careful design of the curriculum previously helped answer a very important question, which is – how can the companies that aim to remain competitive on the market innovate and how can those innovations be managed. The Academy is designed as an intensive program and its main goal is improving individual and organizational innovation skills, thus contributing to the development of innovation competencies that are necessary for all modern companies that want to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing business environment.
In words of Seth Godin, a well-known author and influential business thinker, that people are those who innovate, not companies, the participants of the first Innovation Management Academy were individuals who were already recognized as those who think and act as entrepreneurs within large business systems. In their companies, they are in charge of creating and running new business ventures, coming up with new ideas, creating new products and services, managing innovation, and are hence responsible for innovation programs, teams, functions or units. Participants came from companies like Societe Generale Bank and Insurance, Vip mobile, Delhaize, Bosch, Phillip Morris International, NIS, Generali Insurance, Infostud and many other organizations who are leaders in their markets and within their respective sectors.
On the other hand, lecturers were international and domestic experts, with proven experience and strong reputation in the field of corporate innovation. The first day of the program started with Sandra Nešić, program director at ICT Hub, and her lecture on innovation paradox. Janez Križan, who was the Director of Digital Transformation and Innovation in Vip mobile and A1 Slovenija at the time, explained how this paradox looked like in practice and within his industry. Novica Ninić, Integration and Development Sales Leader for CEE at IBM, presented the range of digital transformation in corporate systems, as well as new business models that would, in his words, soon dominate the markets. The first day was conluded by Kosta Andrić, Managing Partner at ICT Hub, and his lecture which made everyone think more about the topic of building win-win partnerships with start-ups.
The lecturers used the opportunity to point out the importance of this type of education: “This program is extremely important because, looking from the global standpoint, we can see how digital technologies, digitization and tech-fuelled innovation are crucial for the overall economic development, development of individual companies and creating new businesses. This type of training is also important because it enables the participants to actually use the knowledge they get and implement it in their everyday work.”, said Novica Ninić. Janez Križan added to this, pointing out a very important segment: “The experiences shared among the participants are crucial and this program allows for that. All the companies are on the same path, each with its own problems and only by sharing the knowledge and experiences can we all achieve our ultimate business goals. ”.
Dušan Vukanović, Business Development and Innovation Director at ICT Hub, welcomed the participants of the second day of the program and, through a very lively conversation, led them to discuss the innovation strategy and building an innovation ecosystem in which all stakeholders function together, closely cooperating in order to improve the overall state of the market. After that, Afonso Rebelo de Sousa, Corporate Venture Builder for Bundl, launched a design thinking workshop, promising an even more interesting and intensive program the following day and leaving it to Ivan Filipović from 30Hills, to wrap things up by talking about the application of lean and agile in the working process. Afonso also gave his vision of the future of corporate innovations: “I look at it with a lot of optimism and a lot of scope. Optimism because corporate innovation is becoming common knowledge and because many now recognize corporate start-ups as a way to efficiently bring innovation into a company. Acquisitions of start-ups are sometimes more difficult when it comes to integration, but the situation changes when we talk about building corporate start-ups from within. And the scope I mentioned, it can be seen in the number of industries that are opening up, because the financial sector is now doing it, the insurance sector is doing it, the health care sector is doing it… It’s all opening up nicely and I see myself having work to do over the next few years, same as the people that go through the program of this Academy.”
For the last two days, Austrian duo from WhatAVenture took the lead – Daniel Schwarzbach and Heinrich Schmid-Schmidsfelden, who prepared the Innovation Box training. It was Daniel who had a good advice for all future innovation managers: “First important thing – you must stay strongly engaged with innovation topics. I think that you need to believe in what you are doing. If innovation becomes just a job, it’s not going to work. Second thing that is very important is to work on certain innovation methods. You have to look at your customers and you need to know your customers. Also, in order to be able to complete the process of building a product, you must have some business expertise and really become an expert. This kind of training leads you to that.”.
During the end part of the agenda, all participants have once again been taken back to the very core, that is people – people who come up with ideas, people who work on their development, people who adopt them. With a lecture on how the intrapreneurs within PMI are encouraged and trained, Tatjana Jovanović, HR Director for the SEE region, shared her experiences, followed by Milica Jović, CHRO of Nelt, who spoke about innovation and its journey from corporate values to becoming reality.
According to Dave Blakely, who advises executives in Silicon Valley on the topics of building a culture of innovation and developing innovative products and services, we are just in the early stage of a pretty remarkable change in the way global 1000s innovate nowadays. ICT Hub has recognized the right moment to become a pioneer in education on this topic in Serbia and to positively influence organizations that recognize the importance of this type of training. This is ultimately the best possible validation of their idea, that one needs to find a way to innovate within corporate systems in order to keep the market race going, and to further strengthen the innovation ecosystem in order to create and secure a more successful technological and business future. This was confirmed by the feedback of some of the participants: “For the market, some of the initiatives that were mentioned here, like the concept of open business and open innovation, are those that are actually important, because that way you’re not just helping individual companies, but all those who seem to need you help.”, said Filip Nešić from Delhaize. Luka Prišunjak, from Swisscontact, added: “We are talking about new things, new technologies, new trends, at least for Serbia. I think everyone has to be aware that this is something that had to occur and needs to be done. We are now talking about how this should happen, and I hope that next time we talk it will be about how it had already happened.”.
By listening to the needs of the market and keeping in mind all the positive and negative comments that followed the first Innovation Management Academy, ICT Hub decided to once again tackle this program and offer those who are interested in learning how to innovate the right way a new and improved syllabus, presented by a couple of new lecturers as well. The next Academy starts on May 13th and will again require the participants to devote themselves to an intensive five-day training. This time, there will be talks about the innovation challenges and opportunities, dealing with organizational agility and properly binding innovation and transformation within a business system. Sonja Kresojević, a world-renowned expert in the field of corporate innovation, will bring even more to the table, by presenting the participants with all the important segments of building an innovation ecosystem, and the program itself will end on still a very current topic of building and supporting corporate start-ups. Sandra Nešić, Dušan Vukanović and Kosta Andrić will return to their teaching roles, as well as the already mentioned Afonso Rebelo de Sousa, while Jasmina Nikolić, co-founder of AgileHumans and Vladimir Vulić, program director at and the co-founder of will be the new faces among the experts.
Do not miss the opportunity to improve your company’s business, empower yourself as an innovator and learn from the best. Applications for the second Innovation Management Academy are open until April 26th and all the important info can be found on its official landing page.

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