Sanoma’s #contentaccelerator bootcamp: making it happen!

Participants at bootcamp

Participants at bootcamp

Last week we ran the bootcamp for the #contentaccelerator. After seven weeks of ideation and training, of building and testing minimum viable products, we sent the five winners to bootcamp to build prototypes of their concepts – to take the next step in making it happen.

On a personal note – these weeks are amongst the absolute highlights of my year. We take some of the most talented people in the organization and give them the opportunity and tools to turn their idea into a prototype. I believe in innovation by doing. Not only is this the best way to move fast and develop close to the customer. It’s also the best way of learning new skills.

Focus on delivery

The first impression of a visitor to the bootcamp is that we put the participants in a cool space and give them four days of playtime to see what they make of it. However, the fact of the matter is that bootcamp is tough and demanding. Deliverables and discipline are at the core of the way of working. Preparations for the bootcamp have been stringent. We have selected the best ideas and leaders by a competitive and transparent process. Teams with complementary skills are formed including a visual designer and interaction designer best suited to the team and assignment. Each day starts by establishing clear deliverables for that day, and we are very strict in maintaining discipline to ensure that the results can be presented at end of the day. It’s structured, focused and intense.

Five concepts turned into prototypes

The outcome of the week is that we have built five great prototypes that have been tested with customers. They include i) a content marketplace (“if content is King, come and join the other Royals”); ii) a fashionista community (“you spot the look, we spot the shop”); iii) a service to hear the news in a new way (“have you heard the news”?); iv) an educational talent discovery app (“discover the talents of your children”) and v) a learning solution that mashes up the real and virtual worlds with educational quests. It’s amazing how far the teams have been able to bring these concepts in just four days. I’m tempted to link to the promotional videos here, but it’s a bit premature to make external announcements at this stage.

Proud of the teams

I’m really proud of how the teams have performed. Not only what they have delivered as prototypes. But also how they went about it; the spirit, motivation, energy and passion – the “can-do” approach has been truly inspiring. Congratulations to the team leaders and respect for the blood, sweat and tears that you have put into the last few months. Thanks to the support teams from Sanoma and Makerstreet for helping to make it happen. And once again Lassi Kurkijärvi (@lassi, Director at Sanoma) and Joris van Heukelom (@jorisheuk, Partner at Makerstreet) have been brilliant and inspiring in leading this program from beginning to end.

Fostering an innovative culture

As we continue on this journey of discovery to the roles that Sanoma will play in the futures of media and learning, it’s of the essence that we foster our creative and innovative culture. I believe the accelerators contribute to this in several ways. Directly, we are training hundreds of people on lean development methods and building new digital business lines. Indirectly, the accelerators generate discussion about innovation in the company, with supporters and sometimes detractors too. And the discussion often leads to new initiative – to more attention for innovation – what to do, what not to do, and how?

High level support is critical to the success of any program like this. I especially liked the visits of Harri-Pekka Kaukonen (CEO) and Jackie Cuthbert (CHRO) to the bootcamp. Both are strong supporters of the program and it’s great that they are visible and transparent in that. I loved the way the project leaders engaged with them, and the different styles they used in pitching their ideas and themselves – not only using facts, figures and beautiful design, but also appealing to their emotions (“Harri-Pekka, imagine your daughters using this”; “Jackie, this will help you find more great shoes”). Definitely some natural sales talent in the room!

The accelerators have proven the case that women rule at Sanoma. All five of the first round of new ventures are led by women and four of the five teams at this particular bootcamp were led by women too. Probably the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions about this phenomenon of the superior performance of women in the accelerators. Our experience on the whole is that the participants who came with the best ideas, put the most effort into developing them and sold them most effectively, came the furthest. Is there something about the accelerators and intrapreneurship that might give Sanoma a competitive advantage by creating an innovation and venturing space that particularly appeals to women, or at least supports a level playing field for talent?

Next steps

Based on the outcomes of the bootcamp we are now working on the next steps. In some cases, we will create new ventures. In others, we will likely sponsor next steps in the local business. There is one case where we believe we might need to work with an external partner to win in the market. We are currently engaging with the various stakeholders and expect to have made agreements within two weeks.

The clock never stops ticking of course. On Monday we will launch the recruitment drive for the #commerceaccelerator that we will run in the Autumn of this year, in cooperation with a number of leading European universities. Looking forward >>.

15 thoughts on “Sanoma’s #contentaccelerator bootcamp: making it happen!

  1. Ron van Bekkum / Mirjam van 't Klooster

    Hi John, I read your post on the bootcampaccelerator program and I was triggered by iv) an educational talent discovery app (“discover the talents of your children”). We are working in this area for the last two years ( and would like to get in touch with you to figger out where we can join our strengths. Hope hear/read soon from you.

    1. johnrichardmartin Post author

      Hi Ron and Mirjam, thanks for your message. Indeed we see opportunities in this area, also internationally. Let us first decide internally on the next steps we will take and then I will bring you into contact with the project leader. Kind regards, John

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