Truly agile companies know they don’t have the funds, time or capacity to achieve success fast enough on their own. Strategic alliances are the way of cutting development costs and accelerating time to market. Tap into local trusted networks first to see what’s possible. Accept you can't know everything or ever hire someone who does. But if you can tap into a network of people, you're a lot smarter.
Our Brainport region has one of the highest concentrations of expats in the Netherlands – 35,000+ people now, double that by 2020. Many “internationals” bring their partners, who turn out to be extremely well qualified. Yet, it is never easy for a partner to find employment in a foreign country and, until recently, Holland was no exception. So we all applauded the emergence of the Expats Spouses Initiative – an active network of 500+ local expat spouses who turn out to be chemists, scientists, engineers and mathematicians. They are perfectly qualified to help us grow our local and international networks. And remember spouses that successfully restart their careers will encourage the whole family to stay in this innovation ecosystem.
Eindhoven is building “clusters of excellence” in photonics (anything to do with light), precision engineering (think; various kinds of robotics), artificial intelligence, smart sensors and knowledge around new materials. Find your own core strategies of excellence. Then weave formal and informal networks together of OEM’s, SME’s, startups and research institutes. Take initiatives to organise a multitude of activities across your region. And keep the “creative fires” burning by ensuring regular encounters happen between different groups of people. Once you establish trust, informal networks tend to work much faster than formal ones.
There’s a tight correlation between personal interactions, performance, and innovation. Putting restaurants, a conference centre and convenience services along The Strip was deliberate. Everyone has strong reasons to go there repeatedly during the course of the workday. It’s a concept you now see trending elsewhere. Google’s new campus is designed to maximize chance encounters. Facebook has already put several thousand of its employees into a single mile-long room. Harvard Business Review reminds us of the Allen Curve, which explains why proximity is so important for innovation ecosystems to thrive.
Thomas J. Allen was the first to measure the strong negative correlation between physical distance and frequency of communication. The “Allen curve” estimates that we are four times as likely to communicate regularly with someone sitting two metres away from us as with someone 20 metres away. But the office is no longer just a physical place; we can enter it by logging on, attend meetings from anywhere, and collaborate on documents without ever seeing one another. So it would seem that distance-shrinking technologies break the Allen curve, and that communication no longer correlates to distance.
Wrong. Studies show that both face-to-face and digital communications follow the Allen curve. Out of sight means out of sync.
I often talk with alumni of our Startupbootcamp HighTechXL accelerator program. They tell me the help and support that teams give to each other during the 3 months are what makes it incredibly special. Having access to trusted mentors within walking distance is just as important. In fact these are reasons to start HighTechXL Plaza in HTC 12 – but more on that next time.
Remember, no-one can order innovation to happen. There is no script for an innovation ecosystem, there will be complications and the search for new business creation is never finished. Great ideas often come from chance encounters which were given time to breathe. That’s why I’m enjoying every moment of our journey!
Have special times together during the holidays. Celebrate success and look forward to bright engaging conversations in 2016.
High Tech Campus Eindhoven