Innovation Management at Avans University

A couple of weeks ago, I had to give a presentation about innovation management at the Frismakers Festival in the Netherlands. The presentation was about innovation management at Avans University, where I’m employed as a lecturer on this topic.

The presentation follows a structured number of steps:

firstly, I had to jump into the subject: the innovation management game, a game about innovation management, a company that is now commercially developed but started as a spinn-off from Avans University.

In the next step, a short summary of the need for innovation in the educational sector followed: it all comes down to our business model. Why are students going to Universities? Right, because they’ll receive graduate certificates. Why do they need them? Right, because companies ask for these credentials. But what if companies are not asking for credentials from a single University anymore, more rather like their new employees to have different certificates from high-end institutes like MIT or Harvard, received by following online courses (which is already possible), why would students go to a smaller institute like ours? The current business model is on the edge of a huge change and educational facilities need to think about their innovative capacity quickly.
In the next phase, I explained what we did: the process of innovation. The direction of innovation is mainly top-down. But most of the (fuzzy front end of) innovation starts bottom-up, like in many professional organizations. Therefore, many great ideas will never make it to a good business case, let alone a true a commercial product or service.


So what did we learn? Innovation has to be facilited both top-down (for the larger projects, oftenly incremental) as bottom-up (for radical ideas). We also learned that innovation (therefore) mostly happens incidently. However, the whole idea behind innovation management is to not let is happen incidently. And thirdly, there is never enough time. Innovation is something we usually do in the weekends.

Bottom line: we acted on it by creating a new rol: the innovation director (1 fte) in the lowest level of hierarchy in the organisation: the team of lecturers. All the lecturers got 5% of their time to spend on innovation, which is managed by this director. Ideation and Concepting are seperated; some people are better at the first, some people do better at concepting. The director talks to the educational board and makes sure that project fall within strategic plans or – when not – are supported by external or internal financial resources. And it’s starting to pay off.

The video:

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