Catalyst Companies European Summit, Amsterdam: Brands Collaborate on Challenges and Opportunities

by Carl Bohlin, Sr. Member Sucess Manager

Council Members gathered in Amsterdam for 1.5 days to discuss innovation at our first European Summit of 2017. The group started the experience with excursions to ShareNL and Startupbootcamp prior to our Member Dinner.

Amsterdam is at the forefront of the sharing economy and environmentalism efforts. Our excursion started at ShareNL where they discussed assisting through education, and start-up guidance. Members also participated in an interactive discussion with start-ups to understand more the opportunities brands could have with them. Council members challenged startups to combine and collaborate across sharing platforms to enhance the user experience and value. We also discussed how consumer adoption of the sharing lifestyle and respective platforms was more of a priority to startups than regulations.

Startupbootcamp provides guidance, structure and a formalized process for innovation. Bootcamps are designed for start-up’s and corporate training programs. Start-ups engaged in the program provide equity to Startupbootcamp but they are also provided a stipend for living expenses for the three month program to ensure they can focus on completion. Survival rates are ~80% for the start-ups who have completed the program. Regardless of the attendee origin, Startupbootcamp strives to push attendees for the “why” and to maintain a customer centric view at all times. For the corporate program they include a mandatory 1 day session for C level executives to ensure greater success when employees finish the program and are integrated back into corporate.

Philips hosted Catalyst Companies members for the full day of interactive sessions. The sessions included two thought leaders, Rik Vera, CEO of Nexxworks and Patrick van der Pijl, CEO Business Models Inc. We also had deep dive presentations from fellow members at Philips, Achmea, Swisscom, and Leroy Merlin which showcased their Innovation efforts, and allowed discussions for best practice.

Through the day common elements or trends emerged from the leaders across all presentations/discussions including: Customer Centricity, Data, Strategy & Communication and Culture.

Customer Centricity
This may seem obvious but know who the actual customer is and the “why”. Get outside and observe, ask and learn – it’s really fun too! Ensure the product, innovation or corporate strategy aligns to the end customer. Gain insights by connecting the dots of your internal and external parties, possibly creating something new. One example of really knowing the end customer provided a potential 60M in savings. We also discussed the customer voice/actions being one of the best sales tools.

Data and management continues to be a significant trend. For monitoring, the right or agreed metrics being the critical component. One member shared their digital footprint for social monitoring and how they could communicate information back to product owners in near real time. Autonomous, Artificial Intelligence, Chatbots and other technologies will only increase data to be reviewed – choose metrics wisely and be sure agreement exists on measurements.

Strategy & Communication
Nimble strategy cannot be overlooked. Innovation leaders discussed how some are gaining traction within the board level to increase awareness and improve communication. Some have annual meetings to revive mission and vision to see where they are . With customer and technology advancements strategy has to be fluid and changing – one presenter shared time spent may be 70% today, 20% tomorrow and 10% longer term. Metrics also need to be highly communicated and agreed in advance so that Innovation is not bound to KPI’s meant for traditional business functions. Failure should also be open and okay to learn fast, adapt and change – doing something and learning is better than nothing.


We all know the important role culture plays within any organization. We have observed in our research the frozen middle layer and executive acceptance of Innovation. Members at this meeting shared insights to how they are dealing with change – forcing C level participation at bootcamps, open communication on metrics, involving HR through all levels of the organization to require change and unlearn old methods, pushing back on ROI or unknown goals during initiatives. Open the doors to outside your industry (Value of the Council). Trust – in the team innovating to do the right thing. One member shared 8B in new revenue was from products not in the market 8 yrs ago. Visual representation was also discussed as a tool to assist with a new project or initiative and gather support.

It’s great to see and hear the member challenges and opportunities. To me, it’s especially gratifying when I hear afterwards how members return to their organizations with concrete steps to improving innovation learned from our meetings. Such a fantastic group!


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