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7 innovation lessons from Hans Meeske (Holland Innovative)

Hans Meeske innovation lessons

Today a cool inspiration lesson from Hans Meeske, the innovation leader of Holland Innovative (formerly based in hub Beta at Twice Eindhoven). Innovation is not a buzzword but truly a necessity, he likes to share 7 lessons he has learned about #innovation in recent years.

Hans explains in an article on the Holland Innovative website that he believes innovation is the oxygen of the economy. At the same time, it is a buzzword. Put the word "innovative" in front of (or behind) another word and you are instantly hip, modern and relevant. In practice, Hans sees that few companies understand what innovation really means. It goes far beyond simply bringing "something new" to market. "Innovation is a mindset, a way of thinking and doing things. And that can be learned. In the more than 25 years I have been in business, I have had the pleasure and privilege of playing in the Champions League of innovation, namely in the Brainport region of Eindhoven, home of companies like Philips, ASML , VDL and TFS. In this sector, innovation is not a buzzword, but an immediate necessity.

Below, Hans shares his 7 lessons learned through trial and error about innovation.

Lesson 1. Step out of your comfort zone

As Einstein said, we can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking that went into creating them. Successful innovation requires that you be challenged to think and act creatively. No matter how safe and familiar your comfort zone feels, it is very beneficial to step out of it from time to time. He regularly encourages his employees to do things that are not within their job description. For example, having a project manager conduct a risk management workshop. The response is often: but I've never done that before. However, if they jump into the deep end, it usually works out well. If Hans has learned one thing, it is that people can do much more than they think. Give them that push or just dare to jump. The result: more self-confidence, new insights and an out-of-the-box thinking and working mentality.

Lesson 2. Make creative use of your network

The days when innovations took place in lonely attic rooms are far behind us. Innovation means collaboration. That's why your network is one of your most important assets. A network is like a treasure chest full of opportunities and possibilities, but the trick is to see them and then act on them. A few years ago, a LinkedIn connection of Hans posted an article announcing that he was the innovation manager of a new Data Science Institute. He had wanted to be involved with Data Science for some time and sent a message back. That simple message led to the creation of a Data Science program for industry, a business trip to a top Canadian university and the creation of a Data Science professor at the company. Innovation is always about people. Hans' own innovation mantra is: meet, share, connect.

Lesson 3. Build an ecosystem

Once you have mastered creative networking, you are ready for the next step: building an innovation ecosystem. This is a group of like-minded companies and entrepreneurs connected to market services, products and/or projects that generate profits for all stakeholders. At Holland Innovative, they are currently working with the Johan Cruyff Arena to optimize the turf through sensors, data science models and innovative turf management. The goal is to adapt the turf to the performance of soccer players, allowing them to determine exactly how fast the ball rolls down the pitch, for example. This information is of interest not only to soccer clubs, but also to shoe manufacturers, who can develop special footwear for certain types of grass, and to insurance brokers, since smart grass management can prevent injuries. In short, that's how they realized they were sitting on a gold mine with high-tech turf management. They decided to develop an ecosystem (an innovation platform) and find partners, develop new technologies and products together and share costs. Through Hans' network, he was able to use an innovation platform model of a business relationship. This means he can eventually bring that relationship into the nascent ecosystem. A real win-win.

Lesson 4. Bring private and business together

Instead of always keeping business and personal life strictly separate, they can actually reinforce each other. You're awake at the office half the time, so why not work on your personal development while you're there? Your personal life also gets a benefit. When one of his employees was stressed by a heavy project, Hans gave him the opportunity to take a management training course where he learned breathing exercises. Not only did he get his stress under control, but he started asking questions about his fatherhood and how he wanted his children to view him. A great example of how his business problem affected his personal life in a deep and meaningful way. Thinking along and giving space to the development of your colleagues and employees is not only an important pillar of successful innovation. It has a huge impact on their personal development and situation at home, and this healthy well-being is key to balance in all areas of life.

Lesson 5. Do something selfless

A few weeks ago, he sat down with a group of monks from Brabant who had developed a wonderful sustainable and circular model for their brewery. Although Hans was not paid a penny for his advice, he was bubbling with energy afterwards. Innovative ideas come from passion. Making money comes later. For example, he would rather enjoy his work than drive an expensive car. When you innovate, your eyes twinkle with lights, not euro signs.

Lesson 6. Develop your social skills

According to Professor Henk Volberda, innovation is only 30 percent determined by technical breakthroughs. The other 70 percent comes from meeting, connecting and collaborating, or social skills. Hans totally agrees with him. Especially in the high-tech sector where high-tech developments are a priority, social skills sometimes become a neglected child. He works closely with voice coach Robin van Beek, who comes from the entertainment industry. He helps Hans' people develop their social skills so they feel confident, learn to communicate better and present an idea easily in front of a group. Help your technical staff with their social skills so they know how to land their brilliant "moonshots" back on earth.

Lesson 7. Be mindful of diversity

As ambassador for Female Tech Heroes, Hans was invited to a dinner early this year. Two men and Hans were the only men present at an event with a hundred women. For the first time, he experienced what it feels like to be a minority as a man. That was an eye-opener. He realized what women in the high-tech world constantly experience. Social skills, one of the most essential ingredients of successful innovation (see point 6), are often more developed in women than in men. So make sure you have a healthy mix in your organization. Diversity is essential for innovation. Both in terms of the male-female ratio and in terms of ethnicity, culture and background. You need all these different perspectives to approach and solve problems and issues.

If you follow these 7 steps, Hans can assure you that innovation is not a buzzword, but becomes a daily practice.

If you would like to have a comprehensive brainstorming session, don't hesitate to contact Hans via LinkedIn or, better yet, call him: Hans Meeske CEO of Holland Innovative. Contact info: 06-20619096