Launch of my new book “The balancing act of innovation” on January 17th in Brussels

The official book launch of “The Balancing Act of Innovation” that I wrote with Walter Van Dyck and a group of professors from Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School will take place on Monday January 17th in Brussels.

The Balancing Act of Innovation is a hands-on book for practitioners and proposes to learn from the practitioners: how successful companies do it. The book shows innovation in its diversity and contains case studies about Alcatel Lucent, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Studio 100, and many more. The foreword brings an inspiring vision on innovation by Rudy Provoost (CEO of Philips Lighting), and the book ends with an exclusive interview of Billy Salha, General Manager Europe of BIC. The book intends to help companies discover their own road to innovation!

Date: 17 January 2011

Location: Living Tomorrow, Vilvoorde (Brussels)


3.30 pm  Welcome coffee

4.00 pm  Handover first copies of the book to the authors –  Hilde Vanmechelen, LannooCampus

4.10 pm  Welcome – Philippe Haspeslagh, Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School, Dean

4.20 pm  Introduction of the book by the authors – Philippe Silberzahn, EM Lyon Business School, Professor & Walter Van Dyck, Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School, Professor

4.40 pm  Panel debate: “How to boost innovative performance?”

  • Tom Aelbrecht (Director Venturing & Incubation, Janssen Pharmaceutica)
  • Jo Daris (General Manager, Studio 100 Animation)
  • Wim De Veirman (CEO, GreenPan)
  • Pieter Geeraerts (General Programme Manager KPNGB Managed Network Services, Alcatel Lucent)
  • Moderator: Olaf Du Pont (University of Gent)

5.30 pm  Q&A

5.45 pm  Walking dinner

Amazon link here.

Robert Burgelman conference at Vlerick: cross-boundary disrupters

Robert Burgelman was at Vlerick Management School on February 5th for a conference on cross boundary disrupters, ie existing firms entering industry by disrupting its prevailing rules. He started by summarizing his work on intrapreneurship and more generally his methodology. Initially, his PhD was about communication between the R&D and marketing departments. He realized, however, that there were research projects that did not fit the company’s strategy. Put otherwise, whereas Chandler was predicting that structure would follow strategy, here was a case where structure preceded strategy. When the project was eventually approved by top management, strategy was modified as a result, which meant that strategy had followed structure.

Hence Burgelman’s model of intrapreneurship identified two types of projects: those resulting from the official strategy, and those resulting from the autonomous action of middle management sometimes in opposition to the official strategy. The model was further developed when combined with the work of Hannan and Freeman on the ecology of organizations in the 1970-1980s. According to this view, industries evolve through a mechanism of variation (creation of diversity), selection, and retention (reduction of diversity through mortality). Applying this model from the industry to the inside of an organization, Burgelman showed how a firm could manage this ecology of projects, the basis for maintaining an innovation edge. Thanks to this, the firm is not dependent on the official strategy and preserve the ability to create real options on different strategies.

Then Burgelman moved on to the main topic of the conference. Often, disruptions in an industry are described as being originated by entrepreneurial firms. However, cases show that startups are not often successful in their efforts and are successfully fended off by incumbents. However, their efforts do not go unnoticed and open the way for existing firm in other, adjacent industries, which “recognize” the opportunity and attempt a disruption, but from a much stronger base. The typical case in point is Apple with the iPod. Apple’s growth was constrained in the PC segment, but the firm could leverage its expertise in software and design to succeed where Napster had failed after the music industry’s lawsuits. Burgelman tried to formalize the conditions under which a cross-boundary disruption can be successful: an initial attack by a relatively weak startup fails, but still manages to undermine the incumbents; a stagnant existing industry stuck in business models undermined by a disruptive technology; and a potential new entrant limited in its growth but having relevant assets that can be exploited to cross the boundary.

Still in the case of Apple,the theory does not apply so well to the iPhone: it cannot be said that mobile telephony was stagnant with irrelevant business models and slow moving industry participants. Indeed, if the iPhone has been very successful, it can hardly be said that Apple changed the rules as it did in the music indusry where it essentially set the price for digitized music. Proof that this is an area where predictions are difficult, Burgelman, in his Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal article on the topic was skeptical about the chances of success for Apple, observing that Microsoft was better positioned and, with 10% of the smartphone market, already ahead. Since then, Apple has been able to gain a significant market share and Microsoft presence in mobile phones has all but evaporated even though a come back is in preparation at the time of writing. Another example of potential disruption in a completely different industry was given by Burgelman with Wal-Mart possibly moving in the low-end health-care provision. This is a question that Christensen has explored in the innovator’s prescription, his latest book on disruptions in the US healthcare system.

The Economist conference: Fresh thinking for the innovation economy

On March 23-24, The Economist is organizing a conference called "Fresh thinking for the innovation economy".

A multi-part, multimedia, multi-continent forum, this event will expand and possibly overturn established thinking about what innovation is, where it comes from, and how to make it work. Some of today’s top global innovators will examine and iterate on the genesis of good ideas, the great challenges of the twenty-first century, the question of whether we live in a flat world, the costs and benefits of crowdsourcing, the power of social entrepreneurship, the role of government in catalyzing innovation, leveraging failure, finding innovation in a crisis, organizing the teams of tomorrow, the phenomenon of reverse innovation, the future of open innovation, and how old economy actors are being disrupted in the new economy. Whether the impetus is to improve customer relationships, develop new products and services, explore untapped markets, or improve efficiency, companies today must implement more than just an R&D strategy to survive and thrive. Regardless of geography or industry, an organization lives or dies by how it innovates.

Featured speakers

The conference will take place at the Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley, USA.

Call for Papers: Tilburg Conference on Innovation

 Call for Papers – The Tilburg Conference on Innovation: Innovation at the Intersection of Strategy, Organization and Learning. June 10-12, 2010, Center for Innovation Research (CIR), Tilburg University, The Netherlands

Successful innovation is fundamentally about the discovery, use and commercialization of new products, processes and services. Organizations engage in innovation in order to enhance their performance; those that fail to innovate run the risk of losing out to those that do. But innovation as such does not guarantee competitive success, as the degree to which firms are able to benefit from their innovative efforts varies widely. This conference aims to explore the drivers and consequences of this heterogeneity. Innovation strategy involves a number of decisions regarding the nature and type of innovations to engage in, as well as the speed, openness, and flexibility with which the organizations respond to challenges.
Additionally, organizations experience a tension between routine and innovation, which implies that they need to balance the resources dedicated to explorative and to exploitative projects. In many respects, issues related to innovation strategy are inseparable from those related to the organization of innovation activities. 
To begin with, organizations face issues regarding the governance of innovation activities: whether to develop know-how in-house, in collaboration with other organizations, or to outsource it. Additionally, how organizations manage their portfolio of innovation activities and organize the innovation process is critical for success. The timeliness and successful commercialization of innovations are especially important. In
this sense, insight into organizational learning processes in innovative projects and organizations is also crucial to understanding their innovative
Hence, the central theme of this conference will deal with innovation at the intersection of strategy, organization and learning. The Tilburg Conference on Innovation, hosted by the Center for Innovation Research at Tilburg University, is a forum in which scholars from intersecting research streams will come together to debate current research and gain insights into future trends. This will be a small conference with a maximum of 45 papers so that participants have the opportunity to receive quality feedback. Our aim is to
include participants from all over the world and to give equal opportunity
to younger as well as established scholars, with quality of research being the predominant goal.  
We invite both theoretical and empirical papers that predominantly, though not exclusively, reflect some of the following issues:
*       What organizational capabilities are needed to deploy and govern
innovative activities effectively, especially in fast-changing environments
and across great distances?
*       How does organizational structure affect the learning inputs and
outcomes involved in innovation?
*       In what ways do networks of organizations contribute to the
development of innovations?
*       How do institutional forces affect the innovative performance of
Any other contributions pertaining to innovation strategy, organization of innovation and organizational learning for innovation are also welcome.
There is no registration fee, and presenting authors will have their accommodation covered during their stay. An added attraction of the conference is the opportunity to visit the southern Netherlands in spring and sample the best local beers Belgium and the Netherlands have to offer.

Confirmed speakers/special guests include:
Bart Nooteboom   Will Mitchell    Andrew van de Ven      
Daniel Brass     Terry Amburgey  Maurizio Zollo  
Deborah Dougherty        Joe Lampel       Lee Fleming     
Arjen van Witteloostuijn        Keld Laursen    Gino Cattani    
Anna Grandori                  

Submission process:     
Please submit a full paper to by February 15, 2010. Submission
guidelines can be found here.
Authors of accepted papers will be notified by March 15, 2010. 

Workshop on Innovative business models in the digital economy

On December 18th, the Innovation and regulation in digital services Chair created by Orange, Ecole Polytechnique, and Télécom Paris Tech organizes a workshop on innovative business models in the digital economy: Chinese and European Ways.

The digital economy is now in search of new business models. More and more frequently, new services are offered even if the sustainability of their operation is not ensured: innovators are seeking formulas that will put in front of the production costs of these services, revenue that the market will accept to generate.
Moreover, on activities in increasing numbers, different business models are often tested. We see competition arising between business models: the competition has shifted from services to business models that can make consumers solvent. The innovation concerns now the business models as well as the products themselves. Product innovation, process organization and market design must from now on combine in innovative business models.
This workshop has two aims: firstly, to address innovation in terms of business models, analyze this emerging market of business models, and attempt to characterize the business models involved in the digital economy, and secondly, produce this analysis from two types of markets responding to different logics, the European market and the Chinese market.
This cultural comparison around the business models should provide an interesting field not only for studying the innovation processes at work on business models, but also to better identify structures that could allow their classification.

The workshop takes place in Paris. Registration is free here.

Adademic Enterprise Award

The Academic Enterprise Awards (ACES) will take place on December 10th in Paris. ACES is the only pan-European programme to recognize entrepreneurship at academic institutions. ACES is a mixture of keynote speeches, roundtable discussions, and networking opportunities.

Speakers inlcude:

  • Jean-Philippe Courtois, President, Microsoft International, Senior Vice President, Microsoft Corp.
  • Bart Gordon, United States Congressman, Chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology in the U.S. House of Representatives
  • David Eyton, Group Vice President, Research and Technology, BP
  • Cyrille van Effenterre, President of ParisTech.

In addition, ACES organizes awards. The awards gives public recognition to those researchers, engineers,
professors, students and government officials in Europe who have done
the most in 2009 to foster a culture of enterprise on campus. This can
be through taking the risk of launching a spinout company, developing a
discovery into a marketable innovation (at the risk of the tenure-track
publication record), or promoting policies that create a receptive
environment for entrepreneurship on campus.

For more information: ACES.