Intrapreneurship Conference – Joris van Heukelom on corporate innovation.

wazoku Blog

Last week Wazoku was at the Intrapreneurship Conference here in London and we had the opportunity to hear a few interesting speakers. One of them was Joris van Heukelom, founder of MakerLab, a Dutch innovation company focusing on innovation for big corporations such as educational publishers, banks, insurance and retail, among others.

Joris gave a presentation on “How to create a future-proof organisation”, which was very useful and interesting. In his role as the founder of a company who provides innovation consultancy services he has seen a lot of companies from the inside out and learned a few things about them.


He learned that innovation needs to take into consideration a few factors, that need to be balanced in order to be successful. Startups are at the forefront of innovation, very often with truly revolutionary products and services and there are a few things that big corporations can learn from startups.

In order to create something different, a new product needs to be viable, desirable and possible through technology and these three elements need to be present in any new startup. Uber, a big disruptor, was given as an example of this: it wasn’t difficult in a technological point of view, they focused on the onboarding process by making it “sexy”, as well as an aggressive market entry strategy to buy in taxi drivers and they have an extremely viable business model. Joris also added that a startup isn’t one anymore once it has a proven business model. Another example of a company that has recently attained a lot of success was AirBnB: they have a relevant value proposition, as there are always people who need economical accommodation and know their customers and exactly what they want.

The focus on users is also every important. Anyone can iteratively do product development and it’s not difficult to copy these behaviours in a corporate environment. However, there are four other aspects that need to be taken into account:

There needs to be a future proof vision – most companies are focused on the present and current competition. For startups there is no past and they are always thinking about the future. Corporate people usually don’t.

Skills – People in the corporate environment need to be re-skilled in order to work innovatively like startups do. Everyone should have digital marketing skills and be able to speak for the brand on social media and big corporations should have programs to train at least 33% of their staff with these skills.

Governance – corporations should have what is known as sandbox governance and have different rules depending on each project’s needs.

It is important to change culture and behaviours to innovate. It can take 5 years for corporations to be able to change this. A good example of this is WhatsApp: their entry strategy was to provide users with the possibility to text for free. The business impact was enormous as it was free for users, making it very desirable, it was viable and possible through technology. This type of innovation is usually not possible in big corporations as they can’t fit it into their current business model as they wouldn’t be making any money from it. There is then a need to rethink the governance paradigms, if corporations want to innovate.

There is a lot of group thinking in large corporations but this doesn’t work with innovation. Something needs to change in the culture to make this happen. There is a lot of process improvement in large corporations as well, which can have some impact but a lot of the times no life changing ideas, because all too often the C-suite has no trust in their people and it would make no sense to expect things to happen in this environment.

To conclude, large corporations not only have to manage all these aspects in order to innovate but also need to forget about the numbers. Big and game changing ideas don’t always make money immediately, but it doesn’t mean that they are less relevant because of that.