Monthly Archives: December 2013

Abundance

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Last month I saw Peter Diamandis speak in Amsterdam and was inspired by his vision and approach to creating a world where we live in abundance rather than scarcity. Together with Steven Kotler he has earlier articulated this case in the excellent book ‘Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think’.

The Abundance Pyramid
Diamandis and Kotler describe abundance by means of a pyramid, structured with three tiers of ‘goods’ (inspired by Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’). The base of the pyramid concerns the essential needs of water, food and shelter: these resources enable life itself. The middle tier in the pyramid includes energy, education and ICT: they contribute directly to improved living standards and can also catalyze further growth. The top tier of the pyramid is reserved for freedom and health: they support the well-being of the individuals and enable them to reach their full potential and make the maximum impact for a better world. The authors describe the goal of abundance as a sustainable world in which every person on the planet has the opportunity to access the goods in the three tiers.

Progress through technology
The authors make the case that expontential advances in technology will allow us within twenty-five years to create abundance on these three tiers for a world of nine billion people. How about that for a Big Hairy Audacious Goal: global abundance within twenty-five years! They believe that these advances will be supported by three driving forces. Firstly, the rise of DIY innovation, enabling individuals and small organisations to tackle problems previously only addressable by governments, thereby massively opening up the talent pool working on solutions. Secondly, the rise of the technophilanthopist, whereby very wealthy individuals commit a major part of their wealth and talent to helping the world’s less fortunate. Thirdly, what they term ‘the rising billion‘ – the world’s poorest (in fact, closer to four billion today) who have made rapid progress in improving there positions in recent years, largely supported by mobile technology, and will soon be able to pull themselves out of poverty.

Concrete cases
Diamandis describes for each of the goals in the abundance pyramid, the technologies that could contribute to a more abundant world and in which way. He makes a convincing case!

Accelerating the pace of change
They conclude the book by suggesting that the best way for businesses and governments to achieve abundance goals is to use open incentive prizes – they believe that such competitions are the most effective method to motivate the smartest people in the world to develop new solutions. They puts forward some powerful cases to demonstrate the point.

Inspiring work
I was inspired by the optimism of this book and the concreteness of the supporting arguments. The failings of our world are well covered in the media (rightly so) and we are in any case biologically programmed to be on high alert to them. It was good to see the other side of the coin and I experienced this as a well-founded articulation of a positive scenario. I respect that a lot. Arguably there are parts of the book that go too far, and some of the downsides of the journey to abundance could be ugly. Nevertheless, I would like to recommend this book to readers looking for inspiration about a positive future for our planet.

Sanoma can make a difference through education
About a week before seeing Diamandis, I joined a group of innovation leaders for lunch with the former PM of The Netherlands, Jan-Peter Balkenende, to discuss innovation and sustainability. He emphasized the importance of the business of sustainability: how can we create new business opportunities (with a profit incentive) by helping to build a more sustainable world? He referred also to Abundance in this context.

In the case of Sanoma, I believe we can best support sustainable abundance through our Learning business. As described above, education is part of the middle tier of the abundance pyramid, contributing directly to improved living standards and catalyzing new growth. Through our strong positions in developed economies, I believe we can further progress personal and societal development by personalising the process of learning, to help individuals to realise the full potential of their unique talents. Maybe an even more audacious goal would be to bring access to high quality online education to the rising (four) billion people in developing economies. I don’t yet know the extent to which Sanoma is ready, willing and able to play a role in this. Even if we could fulfil but a part of that task, it would surely be a worthwhile (and profitable) contribution to a more abundant future! Wouldn’t that be a terrific mission to work on?!

Imagine
Imagine that you could be part of a movement that could create an abundant world within twenty-five years. What would you do? Sanoma Learning can help to provide access to high quality education and I am personally passionate about that goal. Care to join us on that journey? Or to create a new journey to abundance of your own? I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this.

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Making it happen at the CommerceAccelerator bootcamp!

Participants at the closing session. Blinded by the light ...

Participants at the closing session. Blinded by the light …

We’re working hard on transforming Sanoma for a more digital future. Boosting innovation is key and includes developing new digital business lines and learning new skills that we can use across the company. For this purpose we have created the Innovation Accelerators and the CommerceAccelerator is the third in the series so far.

We see three domains of opportunity for the future Sanoma. Firstly, we want to provide information and entertainment to consumers across multiple channels. Secondly we want to help advertisers with powerful marketing solutions based on our reach to consumers and insights into them.  And thirdly, we want to help to help pupils and teachers to achieve great learning outcomes using new learning solutions.

Winners go to bootcamp

Team leaders at the closing session

Team leaders at closing session

In Amsterdam last week we ran the bootcamp for the CommerceAccelerator – focusing on the advertising domain mentioned above. The top 5 ideas and their owners were selected in a live webinar to build prototypes of their concepts. This followed an inspiring program of ideation and training, of building and testing ideas, which started out with about 220 participants from across Sanoma and included about 70 university students.

Rich talent

Student team Weggle from Tampere

Student team Weggle from Tampere

We had an interesting and varied mix of talent amongst the team leaders, including people from business development, sales, product management, television and a student team from Tampere.  I like it a lot when we have such a diversity of experience and skills at the bootcamp: it makes for a rich and exciting experience!

Fast pace, strong delivery

I love the bootcamps. They are practical and fast paced. They’re very demanding but also a lot of fun. It’s great to have teams of talented and driven people working on building prototypes and testing them with real customers.  Making it happen!  I believe in learning by doing and this is a very concrete proof of that!

Leadership

Listening to CEO Harri-Pekka Kaukonen kicking off the pitch session (for the sake of good order, I am tweeting that picture in this photo, I am not checking my mail during the speech :))

Listening to CEO Harri-Pekka Kaukonen kicking off the pitch session. (For the sake of good order, I am tweeting that picture in this photo, I am not checking my mail during the speech!)

We were joined by Sanoma’s CEO Harri-Pekka Kaukonen, CHRO Jackie Cuthbert and the CEO of Sanoma Learning Jacques Eijkens. They are all strong supporters of the accelerators. We appreciated that they joined us; they are all super-busy driving the transformation of Sanoma, but it is brilliant that they make the time to support the accelerators.  A great show of leadership!

Five prototypes

Listening with intent to the pitches. Amongst others, Harri-Pekka Kaukonen on the front row, and Jackie Cuthbert on the back row.

Listening with intent to the pitches. Amongst others, Harri-Pekka Kaukonen on the front row, and Jackie Cuthbert on the back row.

At the end of the day on Thursday each of the teams demonstrated their prototypes. They included i) a contextual and sentimental targeting service; ii) a pre-targeting service; iii) a mobile advertising service iv) a gamified service to engage viewers during TV commercial breaks and v) a shopping service bridging the real and virtual worlds. Some of the testing with customers has been quite brilliant and helped to underpin the commercial promise of the ideas. Great validation!  (I would like to show the promo video’s here, but feel it’s a bit premature at this stage).

Top teams

I really like and respect the passion and enthusiasm of the teams and am proud of how they have performed and behaved! This counts for the idea owners and the talented professionals from MakerLab.  And also for Lassi Kurkijärvi (@lassi, Director at Sanoma) and Joris van Heukelom (@jorisheuk, Partner at Makerstreet) who once again showed inspiring leadership throughout the program.  Great job everyone!

Next steps

We have promised the teams that we will inform them how we would like to proceed by the end of next week. There are three alternatives: i) create a new venture ii) develop within the business or iii) not pursue the opportunity. I am confident we will pursue some of these concepts and will engage with the key stakeholders to ensure that we will be able to bring them to market quickly!

The world turns of course, and we are working on developing the next accelerator which will focus on 4G and video and we aim to start in Q1 next year.  With the launch of our Innovation Lab in January (as part of the new unit Sanoma Digital), which will be led by our mobile superhero Lassi Kurkijärvi, the Innovation Accelerators have become a core element of our transformation program. I see the establishment of the Innovation Lab as a great validation of the success of the accelerators we have run so far.

I’ve been happy about the high level of support that we have won from top management and young talent. What I would like to develop further in upcoming accelerators is to secure more engagement from middle managers. I believe this would help us in transforming the core business.  If anyone has good ideas about how to achieve this, please drop me a line!

CommerceAccelerator goes to bootcamp

commerce-accelerator-bootcamp-selectionLast week in a live broadcast, we selected the five winning concepts and idea owners who will join us this week at the bootcamp of the CommerceAccelerator in Amsterdam. We will build prototypes of these ideas and test them with customers, as a pre-cursor to deciding which concepts to sponsor as new ventures at Sanoma.

Two big goals

We have two main objectives for the accelerator programs.

Firstly, we want to develop new digital business lines – to plant the seeds of the next generation of Sanoma products and services. We have set ourselves the target of establishing five new ventures (the “fabulous five”) within the next five years that have clearly demonstrated the potential to become as successful as NU.nl is today. From the first two accelerators we have created six new ventures and we will soon reach the critical moment when we decide which of them to boost further and which to discontinue.

Secondly, we want to develop lean development skills across Sanoma to support the overall digital transformation. We want 20% of all employees to join an accelerator program in the next five years. By the end of 2014, we expect that more than 1.000 Sanoma employees will have participated in an accelerator and learned the lean development methodology.

So far, so good :-).

Why the CommerceAccelerator?

This is the third accelerator in the series so far and focuses on enabling commerce. We see three domains of opportunity where Sanoma has the ability and ambition to succeed: i) creating, curating and distributing content for consumers ii) providing powerful marketing solutions to advertisers and iii) supporting learning and education. This accelerator clearly supports our ambitions in the second domain.

Positive and optimistic

I’m enthusiastic about how this accelerator has been going so far. I love the positive energy and can-do attitude of the people. This time we have made the accelerator “open” to university students and that’s brought it an extra edge, a new freshness. I like it when we innovate the innovation programs :-). It’s also been great to see such a good mix of people: Sanoma and Students; Finland and The Netherlands; Print, Digital and TV. Lassi and Joris have done a wonderful job again: every time we do it, it grows and gets better.

Voting criteria

The ten concepts and their owners were all strong and had put forward excellent pitches. Prior to the selection I advised the voters to consider five criteria when making their decision: i) does it fit our strategy? ii) are we capable of doing it? iii) can we earn money from it? iv) can this person make it happen and v) is the lean development method being well used? I don’t know if anyone listened to the advice, but I am happy with the results of the voting :-).

High Five

Voting was tense and the public rounds went to the wire a couple of times. The three concepts selected from the public voting included propositions for mobile advertising, engaging tv ads and marrying offline and online commerce. Two additional concepts won “wildcards” from the expert jury based on the expectation that they would be well position to “make it happen”: a reverse retargeting proposition and a relevant and engaging online advertising service.

Excited about bootcamp

I’m truly excited to see what the idea owners will create at bootcamp this week! What can we make of these concepts? Might one of them eventually become one of the fabulous five? I’m sure that most of the participants will experience this as one of the best weeks in their professional lives so far: hard work, fast pace, rapid learning, focus on delivery and a lot of fun too! Tomorrow morning is the kick-off and by the end of Thursday afternoon we will see what the teams are capable of.

So, good luck to the teams and do your best! Looking forward >>

Wise crowds and wildcards: the moment of truth for the CommerceAccelerator

Commerce-Accelerator-logoMid-September we kicked off the #CommerceAccelerator. This is the third in the series of Innovation Accelerators at Sanoma. We have two big goals for the program: i) to build new business lines and ii) to learn new skills.  As a direct result of the first two accelerators we have established six new start-ups and by the end of this accelerator almost 450 of our most talented employees will have learned new skills about Lean Innovation.  We believe this will boost our capability to succeed in the overall digital transformation of the company.

This accelerator has two new angles. Firstly, we are focusing on “enabling commerce” rather than creating and distributing content: how can we use our ability to inspire, engage and reach consumers to enable commerce? And secondly we have opened up the process to include about 70 students from 6 European universities, to bring an extra richness of talent and ideas. This has given a great new twist to the proceedings.

Vote yes to make it happen

Previously we have selected the top ten ideas and their owners to build pro-MVPs. vote-yesTomorrow evening is the moment of truth!  In a live webinar we will select the top five that will be given the opportunity to go to bootcamp. At the bootcamp we will be build working prototypes and evaluate the potential of both the concept and idea owner to take the next step in our intrapreneurship program and establish a new venture at Sanoma.  Places at bootcamp are highly coveted and are a ticket to build your idea and show your talent at our company.

Wisdom of the crowd and expert opinions

Three of the five winners will be chosen by the public vote with the final two positions awarded by a team of experts (the “wildcards”). We took a first view on the ten competitors in the expert team last week and made a preliminary ranking for the wildcards. The experts tend to use the wildcards to strengthen alignment with the overall strategic goals of Sanoma. It was really great to see the pitches and concepts – it’s going to be a hard fight for the places tomorrow! In previous accelerators it’s been remarkable to notice how similar the voting of the wisdom of the crowd and the experts has been.  In some ways that gives a certain level of confidence that we are making the best choices. (In others, I wonder if I could save some money on the experts :-)).

Three criteria

There are three key criteria that will be considered when voting. 1. Strategic fit with Sanoma.  2. Ability to operate.  3. Financial attractiveness.  Most of the ideas tend to score highly on the first two points, partly due to the guidance we give during the process and partly because of the experience of the participants.  My biggest question usually relates to the financial attractiveness of the idea – particularly with regard to scale. What are the ideas that could really succeed at scale?

Intrapreneurs

Last week we reviewed the first quarter performance of the new ventures Hubly and SpotandShop that we created from the #ContentAccelerator.  I was truly impressed by the progress Birgit and Nikky have made, including first sales already!  It’s really brilliant how they have taken the opportunity and brought it to life. Respect!  I hope this is a sign of what is to come from the #CommerceAccelerator.

Good luck

So, I’m excited about the outcome of tomorrow’s voting.  Good luck to the ten teams competing and thanks to everyone who joined the program. It will be great to see the winners at bootcamp in Amsterdam during the week of 9 December! Looking forward >>. 

I’m interested to hear how other corporations boost innovation, or any feedback or comments you have on our program – feel free to drop me a line!