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Innovation in Nordic companies explored and debated on the MMI mid-term conference

  • Publisert 10.10.2011
Inspiring presentations, interesting results, good company, tasty food – and some fine jazz. These where some of the ingredients at the Nordic Measured and Managed Innovation (MMI) conference, where the first results from the MMI programme was presented.

110 managers from the companies participating in the programme and having been taken through the Innovation radar, arrived at Kronborg Castle in Elsinore, Denmark, in the morning, as the fog paved the way for the sun. Here Hamlet once asked himself whether to be or not to be. And here the MMI participants now would ask themselves whether to innovate or not to innovate.


When everybody had found a seat, the conference was officially opened with a welcome by Ivar H. Kristensen, Managing Director at Nordic Innovation.


- We need to change our perception of the word innovation and create a common understanding of what innovation really is. The MMI programme and the Innovation radar open up for new opportunities. The concept of innovation is now down to company level where it should be, he stated.


Hans Christian Bjørne and Jørn Bang Andersen, both Senior Innovation Managers at Nordic Innovation, presented the preliminary findings and bench markings from the MMI programme, now half way through the project.


- The Innovation radar is a tool to identify innovation areas of positioning within innovation, and much can be learned from looking at the companies that stand out in comparison to the others.


The findings show that Nordic companies in general have an unfocused approach to innovation and few of them have an innovation strategy. The existing innovation is biased towards offering oriented innovation.


The result furthermore shows that Nordic companies with an innovation strategy put more effort on being innovative and they also have a higher innovation focus and a more coherent organization internally.


After having gone through the Innovation radar deep-dive workshops, 70% of the companies expressed a desire to change their innovation approach.


- A change in mindset is crucial for companies with a restricted view of innovation, in order not to miss out on great opportunities in the future, Hans Christian Bjørne and Jørn Bang Andersen concluded.



Companies ready to innovate

Markus Närenbäck, Innovation Director at Logica, continued by asking the participants if they really are innovation ready. He stated that the company focus to a larger extent should be on agility, hereunder partnerships and customer value, instead of growth.


He also highlighted the need of a good company leader.


- Leadership has the key role in fostering all aspects of innovation. Creating what I call an innovation multi-culture, which encourage participation from implementers, innovators and cheerleaders, requires flexibility and a sense of purpose that only a leader can inspire to.


According to Närenbäck Nordic companies needs to focus more on measuring innovation.


- Nordic companies score low when it comes to measured innovations, and without quantified objects your innovation will remain art rather than science, he said.


Here it was time for a Nordic inspired lunch, accompanied by Morten Fink-Jensen, Senior Lecturer at Aarhus University, telling a story about the history of innovation at Kronborg Castle.


Full and content, it was time to listen to Robert C. Wolcott, Executive Director of the Kellogg Innovation Network and a Senior Lecturer of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Kellogg School of Management, who entered the stage on the headline: Moving Forward – thoughts on implementing great strategy. Wolcott’s advice to the companies was to focus on building networks and creating a portfolio, instead of trying to predict the future.


To get the conference participants in action, they were split into twelve different groups, with the mission to come up with good examples on innovation. The result was presented by four MMI consultants and Blue Lagoon, Questback, Christiania Bikes, Spotify and the Switch were some of the companies listed as Nordic examples on good innovation through different dimensions.



How innovation can be about jazz

After some intense discussions, it was time to lean back and listen to some jazz, as Jazz Code and its world class jazz musicians demonstrated what companies can learn from dynamic interaction and instant innovation.


- In our case the interaction is about playing jazz, but it could just as well be about innovating. It is like driving a car – the key is to stay present and concentrate on the road, drummer Carl Størmer said.


The theme for the following panel discussion was what it will take for Nordic companies to become more innovative and how national innovation agencies can contribute to the return of innovation in Nordic companies. Led by panel moderator Michael Thomsen, Innovation Director at Workz, the panel members delivered many relevant suggestions, and one of the main points was the creation of a common perception of innovation.


The guided tour at the historic castle was followed by a delicious dinner begun with a canon toast, in accordance with an old royal tradition, and the glasses were raised to innovation.


Before this, the concluding remarks had been held by Ivar H. Kristensen.


- The question is not whether to innovate or not to innovate. Innovation should be regarded as an essential part of all Nordic companies, and the MMI programme is a step in the right direction.