Start to innovate with Peter Hinssen

Journalist Ben Van Alboom's takeaways from 'Innovation Masterclass with Peter Hinssen' - 11.02

The common thread through Media & Culture Fast Forward last year? That the digital revolution is also a cultural revolution. So self-proclaimed technology geek and cultural nerd Peter Hinssen had to make an appearance. “But a masterclass in twenty minutes is not going to work.” Or is it?

Peter Hinssen is so used to traveling the world that it’s a small miracle he even got to Media & Culture Fast Forward. He spends most of his time telling companies how to innovate and giving a record number of keynote speeches. An even greater miracle is that he ended up getting half an hour for his “innovation masterclass“. And however impossible the assignment seemed, even with those ten extra minutes, Hinssen delivered

You think thirty minutes is still too long? Well then, find the 15 main takeaways from one of the most exciting sessions on Media & Culture Fast Forward below:

1. First, let’s bring out the dictionary: “Innovation is the process of creating value by applying novel solutions to meaningful problems.” In other words: as a company or organisation you can only innovate by tackling an important problem. Don’t waste time tinkering. Act in a fundamentally different way, so that added value is created.

2. You think you have a company that cannot possibly innovate? That’s what they thought in the travel bag industry. Until someone in 1972 – three years after the moon landing – came up with the idea to put wheels under a suitcase. Sometimes innovations are so obvious that no one comes up with them. Or industries are so conservative that no one even bothers to. 

3. Chances are, the inventor of the suitcase-with-wheels has been called both a creative genius and a gigantic idiot. The line between the two is razor-thin, according to American author Cynthia Heimel. “And innovation revolves around crossing that line,” says Peter Hinssen.

4. In other words, bad news for those who are afraid of being seen as a gigantic idiot. Because in doing so, you can never be innovative. And that is annoying, because without innovation you cannot progress, says Steve Jobs.

5. Joseph Schumpeter had been telling that decades before Jobs. The Austrian economist was a great supporter of creative destruction (read: everything eventually makes way for something new; innovation is inevitable).

6. The problem is that not everyone is equally convinced of this. Whenever Hinssen goes to Silicon Valley with European business leaders to introduce groundbreaking ideas and technologies, the American innovators often tell him afterwards that “quite a lot of European questions were asked”. A European question usually starts with: “Great idea! But…”

7. Not everyone is capable of thinking innovatively. But according to Hinssen there are even fewer people capable of disruptive (read: radically innovative) thinking. As a result, even companies that surf the digital wave smoothly are faced with surprises. Like Sony, who thought it had conquered the photo market from Kodak with its digital cameras, until Apple introduced the iPhone and no one needed another camera ever.

8. If even a company like Sony doesn’t see this coming, what can a smaller company or organisation do? Hinssen says relax. But also: “Realise that the New Normal has been replaced by the Never Normal.” In other words: after technology and economy, society is now constantly changing too. The dumbest thing you can do as a company, is to hope that things won’t go that fast.

9. That is why Hinssen is warning companies that are patting themselves on the back for surviving 2020. “That is not enough.” More important is how you recover. How can you grow and innovate with what you have learned in 2020? There’s a good chance that 2020 will prove to be a pivotal moment in the history of most companies and organisations. The beginning of the end or a new start!

10. In the past, many companies had a tendency not to start experimenting or innovating until sales were down. #toolate! “Today, it is no longer sufficient to start innovating when you reach a peak,” says Hinssen. “In the Never Normal you have to reinvent yourself as you grow.” Innovation should no longer be a (bi)annual reflection exercise. It should be part of your daily operations.

11. However, that is often easier said than done. Even now, many business leaders are sticking to the market logic of yesterday, in a world that barely glances at today and is already busy with (the day after) tomorrow. Hinssen says: “Many business leaders think they spend 70% of their time on today, 20% on tomorrow (next year) and 10% on the day after tomorrow (the future). In reality, it’s closer to 93%, 7% and 0%.” That’s asking for trouble.

12. Ready to start innovating, but you don’t know where to start? Hinssen describes four types of innovation (each including a Disney example).
First off: product innovation. Disney films have always been technically groundbreaking. And the company is not afraid to buy other innovative companies such as Pixar and Lucasfilm.
Secondly: market innovation. Walt Disney, the man, quickly saw that there was a market for his films outside of the cinema, and he opened up Disneyland. 

Thirdly: service innovation. Disney is constantly looking for new ways to offer fans a better experience. And to collect their data.
Finally, Peter talks about model innovation. With Disney +, the company has completely changed its business model in two years’ time.

13. So, you now know where to start. But you still want to know how to get started? That is what Hinssen invented VACINE for. (And yes, unfortunately only for that.)

V(elocity): Learn to shift quickly, because the world is racing at F1 speed.

A(gility): Learn to deal with change so that change becomes your friend, not your enemy.

C(reativity): anyone can find the answer to a simple question; use creativity to find the answer to a complex one.

I(nnovation): dare to completely reinvent yourself.

N(etwork): make sure you can count on a good network.

E(xperimentation): make more room within your company or organisation for failing (and therefore also for learning).

14. Hinssen really emphasises this last point. For every auditor within a company, there must be a disruptor. Someone who feels comfortable doing things that have not yet been done. Things of which no one knows the outcome. Also important: the auditor and disruptor must not only keep an organisation in balance, they must also be willing to find each other. “Innovation is disciplined disorganisation,” concludes Hinssen, “and for this the right amount of space must be created. Because someone who has to fight against the rest of the company all the time cannot be creative. ”

15. The end. (Fine, that’s not really a takeaway. But “fifteen” just sounded better than “fourteen”, don’t you think?)