Interview with Prof. Paul Iske (NL)
What is innovation?
Answer: Innovation is the process of value creation by applying knowledge in a way this didn’t happen before
Is innovation something you can learn or are you born with it?
Answer: Innovation is a competence that can be (further) developed. The early stage, including idea generation, is something everyone in principle is born with, but can be unlearned. Creativity can be killed! So, we should not stimulate innovation, but remove the barriers!
In times of massive globalization what do you think about boundaries? What’s your impression of Norwegian business culture?
Answer: Boundaries are usually obstacles for innovation, especially in a complex world where combinatoric or open innovation is required to explore new innovation spaces. Sometimes, however, boundaries help to create context and to consciously look for opportunities within the limited possibilities. I think Norway is very well positioned, because of the culture and the positive economic positions. On the other hand, Norwegian culture contains elements of closeness, maybe partly due to geographic circumstances, which are still having impact on the society. The prosperity makes that there is no real sense of urgency, which might be OK for the moment, but on the long term may be a threat to sustain the current positive situation.
In Norway we have a culture where you get stigmatized when you fail and if you get bankrupt people look at you as a failure. We even have an unwritten law called “jante loven” a pattern of group behavior towards individuals within communities, which negatively portrays and criticizes individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate. What do you think of that in context to the national economics?
Answer: We see the same in other countries, like in my home country The Netherlands. This is opposite to (business) cultures like in the US, where failing is even being admired. I believe the optimum is somewhere in between: there should be a climate in which people who dear to explore the unknown are supported, at least not judged in a negative way when things work not out in the way it was expected. Actually, many great innovations and discoveries have been achieved by coincidence! The world is complex and so is innovation. So people should stop to insist on management and control in situations where these are simply impossible.
In Holland there is a very open community, which is very dynamic and full of entrepreneurs. Why is the entrepreneurial culture so unique and what can Norway learn from that?
Answer: Holland is a trading nation and therefore we have connections throughout the world. This open (business) culture is a great source for new combinations, inspiration, hence for new (business) opportunities. If there is one thing that Norway could learn from the Netherlands, it would be: Open Up! Start dialogues with as many environments as possible.
What was the mistake, you learned the most of?
Answer: I started a company in 1996 which was based on an internet-approach for knowledge sharing. A kind of yellow pages that people could use to find experts and expertise. I developed it for Shell and it was quite successful. So, I decided to quit Shell and offer the product to other organizations as part of their Knowledge Management and R&D Strategy. I learned to things: First, it makes quite a difference whether you have Shell as company logo on your business card or Integral Research Partners. A lesson in humbleness… Second, and very important from innovation point of view: Too early is not in time! Most organizations were not ready yet for this type of strategic use of inter/intranet. Shell was an early adaptor and I discovered this when trying to convince others of the importance of managing intellectual capital. Nowadays, tools like social media are in fact building on the same ideas as I had in 1996. So, 16 years ago!
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