You can learn how to innovate: entrepreneurs have their say

09.09.2021

In his book ‘Als de raket niet opgaat’* [If the Rocket Doesn’t Take Off], expert Stijn Ronsse tells companies how they can innovate. We link his tips to the approach of the Trends Gazelles. They tell their story in our podcast ‘Connect to Grow’.

Tip 1. Keep a wide perspective

Innovation begins with a broad view. “Start by looking for relevant information and refine it into a list of influencing factors. As such, you learn to look at things in a different way,” is Stijn Ronsse’s advice in his book.

In our podcast, Caroline Carpentier of playground and brasserie Tarzan & Jane explains how the company used market research to discover its customers’ desires. “This revealed that our customers are by no means just parents looking for an activity for their children,” she says. The target group turned out to be broader. “That’s why, at Tarzan & Jane, we offer several activities under one roof. There’s something for everyone.”

 

Tip 2. Let data do its job

In innovation, knowledge building is the essential foundation, its dissemination the lever and its use the goal. Data plays a crucial role in this, and it’s everywhere.

Christophe Mazuin of Groupe SAN Mazuin, a concessionaire for Volkswagen, confirms this: “Our vehicles are connected. This gives us the opportunity to contact customers, for example to remind them of necessary maintenance. We work with various data management and tracking platforms and have learned to use data to improve our service and vehicle care. Its development just keeps going.”

 

Tip 3. Don’t think only in terms of technology

Innovations often arise simultaneously at different levels within a company. “That’s why you shouldn’t just focus on one angle,” advises Stijn Ronsse. So don’t just think about technical possibilities, but also about interesting economic opportunities.

Ruben Devrieze from beverage company AsterX applies innovation at various levels. “For example, we want to create additional experiences in our liquor stores, by organising certain promotions or themed events,” he tells us. “At the same time, we are also having new software developed and ensuring that it can grow alongside our business processes. There’s innovation there, too.”

 

Tip 4. Put your employees first

To get your employees to innovate, it’s important to get the right people on board and train them. “You have to build a framework that allows people to flourish,” says Ronsse.

Michel Wauthier, CEO at Wauthier CTP, which specialises in customised electrical work for individuals and companies, confirms the importance of the vision and voice of his employees. “We take decisions together in our company. In the field, our employees often make their own choices and carry out the work as they see fit.”

 

Tip 5. Start from scarcity & opportunities

Innovating is about dealing with opportunities, but also with (temporary) limitations or scarcity. “The more you feel like something is in short supply, the more attention should be paid to ways of dealing with it,” is Ronsse’s advice in his book.

During the coronavirus crisis, 3D printing specialist Materialise had to deal with reduced – or less obvious – supply options. The company invested in a virtual optician that allows customers to make a self-scan of their face via smartphone and then receive advice on choosing glasses based on a number of parameters. As such, they anticipated the trend of ordering online. It’s a good example of how limitations can also create opportunities.

 

In our podcast series, we gather experiences, strategies and tips from entrepreneurs who have been awarded Trends Gazelles. Find the full list of our podcasts at www.connecttogrow.be.

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