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60 seconds with....Rody Vonk, Innovation and Creativity Consultant


Rody Vonk has been working as an innovation consultant and trainer for over 15 years. He started his working life as a creative concept developer in advertising agencies. Over the years he moved over to developing marketing and communication concepts and strategies for various companies and projects around the world. Nowadays Rody uses his creative background in developing disruptive ideas and strategies for organizations that get stuck in their daily routine or projects. He uses these learnings as examples and as a source of inspiration in his training sessions, workshops and presentations on serious creativity and innovation.

In this short interview, Rody discusses his biggest achievements and challenges as an innovation trainer, how innovation culture could change in organisations in the future and gives advice to people just starting their innovation journey. Rody is the Course Director for the 5-day Innovation Mini-MBA.

What are you most proud of achieving in your current role?

For the past few years I have worked on building training courses that really work for delegates. Training that contains a good balance between theory and hands-on sessions and which offers plenty of practical takeaways. By asking people'd opinion and constantly evaluating the programmes I have been able to refine and make them relevant for a wide range of job titles and organisations that need inspiration, tools and techniques and clear, step-by-step processes to guide them on their innovation journey.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced regarding your innovation journey?

My biggest personal challenge was (and partly still is) to change people's mindset around creativity, which I think is the basis for successful innovation. At the start of my career as a trainer, I found that in my programmes on Creative Thinking a lot of delegates were just there to have some fun, think out-of-the-box and to return to ‘normal’ the next day. But I have always seen creativity as a skill that is relevant for a broader audience than just those who work in advertising or art-related jobs. In my search to put creativity in a serious context, I accidentally learned about Design Thinking: both a mindset and a way of working to solve problems for people in complex and rapidly changing environments. Creative thinking is part of the framework used in this 5-step process. When I discovered this, another challenge was to start running training in this field. I started by asking some people in my network if they were willing to put 2 days of their time into participating in my training. They would discover interesting tools and techniques and I could experiment how to facilitate a training about innovation and Design Thinking. It was a matter of learning by doing. Now, 4 years later, I have trained hundreds of people around the globe.

Looking towards the future, how do you think the view on innovation and innovation culture within companies will have transformed in 5 years?

I expect the culture in companies will be much more open to innovation. Although I do see big challenges for companies to open up since cultural change is very hard and takes a lot of time, but I do see more and more understanding and openness towards processes and new ways of working, such as Design Thinking. This is enforced by the fact that the world will change even faster every year. More and more organisations will feel the urgency to adapt or change. Doing nothing will be less and less of an option in every industry, so companies will look for effective and efficient ways to innovate. Plus, the necessary skills for employees to stay or become relevant for the future workforce are changing, according to research by the World Economic Forum (see ‘The Future of Jobs Report’). Skills like innovation and creativity are growing, which will contribute to companies developing a positive attitude towards change.

Why is the Innovation Mini-MBA relevant right now?

I have run numerous programmes and have met hundreds of delegates from a wide range of organisations and from different levels. And they almost all face similar challenges - how to get innovation started within their company, how they can align their team or department around a practical framework for innovation, how to get buy-in etc. Many companies are struggling with these questions, no matter if they are an SME or a large corporate. In the Innovation Mini-MBA we address these challenges. Each time we run this programme I see that delegates see the power of the process.

People realising they don't have to be perfect every step of the way is a big eye-opener; a lot of people still think linear, whereas being iterative brings so much more insight, so much faster! And in a fast changing world that is exactly what organisations need to do: act faster in order to keep up or stay ahead of their competition. Since the programme is based on Design Thinking, the focus is on human-centered design and really understanding the problems and challenges of users or customers. Most people and companies think they know their customers and their problems, but over and over again I see delegates using the tools in the training and realising that they can and need to gain deeper insights in order to come up with better products, services or processes for their users or customers.

If you could give someone starting out with innovation one piece of advice, what would that be?

Keep it small! I see a lot of people and organisations that want to start at too big scale. And since innovation is about experimenting which involves risks, making it too big is a recipe for reluctance; you won’t get buy-in from (internal) stakeholders and decision makers. Take small steps and fail (and learn) fast in order to get to those first successes, even if they are small.

Inspired by this article?

If you’re interested in developing your career further, join Rody for the Innovation Mini-MBA.

We created this course to attend the high demand and numerous requests of professionals working with propositions and offerings, product management, digital, marketing and corporate innovations.

Visit the course page or email PAUL.WAITE@KNECT365.COM for more information.

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