Here is a quick multiple-choice quiz: How many prototypes did engineer James Dyson build before launching the first bagless vacuum cleaner in 1993?

A) 578

B) 1.763

C) 5.127

Do you think you know the right answer?? Good! You’ll find the solution at the end of this article. But why is this relevant? Managing Partner and Co-Founder Robert Jacobi opened our sixth annual Nunatak Networking Night with this exact question last week.

Do’s & Don’ts in Innovation Management was the theme of the evening. And because it is no secret that retrospection often helps when assessing future topics, Robert Jacobi shared some cases from several famous innovators like Dyson, but most importantly made one thing very clear: Successful innovation requires faith in the idea – and the corresponding persistence in its implementation!

Over 100 guests – existing clients, partners and Nunatakeers – gathered at the Café Reitschule in Munich on a hot Thursday evening to discuss innovation management over cold beverages and ice-cream. Speakers from various industries, who are strongly involved with innovation within their company, shared different approaches to managing it. In addition to Robert Jacobi and Co-founder Rupert Schäfer, the speakers represented renowned companies such as Munich ReLinde GroupOSRAMn-tv and Atomleap.

Although the individual presentations varied, all six speakers had one common message for our audience, which Michael Jacobi of OSRAM summarized well: “It is not enough to throw innovation into the organization and expect it to work on its own. It would end up in the corporate shark tank and fail. The most important thing is to accompany and protect projects in the long run.”

It is also important to exclude the profit factor for now. Julia Wegeler, Head of Digital Products at n-tv, said: “The value of an innovation cannot be measured against normal KPIs. Of course, the question ‘When do we make money with it?’ comes up. However, the essential point of view would be: ‘How are we perceived as first movers?’ And: ‘How many people see us as innovators?’. She also agreed: “And hence, we can only work in peace if we are perceived as those innovators.”

During the final fishbowl round, which was spontaneously moved to the terrace due to the hot temperatures, Nunatak Principal Silke Bonarius moderated the discussion which promptly turned into an exciting discussion about whether to ‘buy innovation or develop it yourself.’ For example, Wolfgang Bosch from IBM Watson said: “Many innovations were simply acquired. We could have never developed them ourselves so rapidly – and so, in something that’s not our core business. Start-ups that focus on one product are not only faster, they are usually better.” Henning Tomforde, Digital Transformation Program Lead at Linde Group, spoke out in favor of in-house development, but stressed the point: “I don’t think innovation can be driven by a single department or by a team at headquarters. You need critical mass across departments.”

The 2019 Nunatak Networking Night came to a consensus that endurance is the decisive factor for success and failure in the development of innovation. One of the greatest innovators of the 21st century, Apple founder Steve Jobs, would have probably agreed to this. According to him, the value of an idea can be assumed only after hundreds of others have been discarded. Or in the case of James Dyson: 5,127.

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