Dutch Innovation Seminar 2008

On October 9, a beautiful autumn day, I went to the De Baak estate, in the wooded centre of the country to attend the Dutch Innovation Seminar 2008. De Baak is a well-known training institute, established by the largest employers’ organization in the Netherlands. As their site states, it “is the place for leaders, business people and professionals in search of inspiration, motivation, knowledge and insight”. Well, inspiration abounded, plentifully.

The seminar comprised a couple of keynote addresses, as well as a number of workshops, and lots of opportunity to network in a very pleasant atmosphere. The theme of the event was “Pulverizing Borders”, about how the Internet allows all kinds of borders to disappear, borders between people, organizations, supply and demand, and so on.

Interesting to observe were the different foci of innovation approaches of large-scale, corporate organizations like Shell and DSM, and new kids on the block like Nabuur and SellaBand. Shell and DSM are mainly interested in involving the “wisdom of the crowds” as idea generators, but themselves want to keep  close control over their often very complex, long term, and expensive product innovation processes.

Nabuur and SellaBand, on the other hand, act much more as facilitators, delegating substantial control to the users of their site. Nabuur, the “Global Neighbour Network” is an NGO that mediates between villages in developing countries having concrete requests for development assistance, and volunteers, from both North and South, who are able to help address these requests, leading to long-term collaboration and relationship networks. SellaBand facilitates between beginning bands looking for investment capital to produce an album and music lovers who are willing to invest small amounts of money. Once enough money has been raised, each music lover receives a limited edition copy of the album.

An interesting question is whether the “control paradigm” is really necessary for large scale product development, because of, for example, the need to protect intellectual property rights. Or could the new business models being developed by the likes of Nabuur and SellaBand in the longer term be adopted/adapted by their larger, more bureaucratic peers? Innovation of innovation…