Tuesday, 27 January 2009

I Love it when a plan comes together


This week sees the 10th edition of AIFW - a platform to put Amsterdam on the fashion map, launched (almost) exactly 5 year ago. The official show schedule starts tomorrow night with the Fortis Opening Soiree, but a number of ambitious young designers make use of 'empty' slots in the schedule by showing 'guerilla-style'. Tonight, Antoine Peters showed his AW09 collection, titled "I'm With Stupid".

I've had the pleasure of co-organising all 10 editions of AIFW from its inception, and will be standing down this saturday. Tonight was a great pleasure: world-famous designer Marcel Wanders giving a standing ovation to Antoine, and just a few heads down the front row, famous stylist Ruud van der Peijl and Bank Honcho HJ Stuyling rubbing shoulders.

This is exactly why we started AIFW - to connect the disciplines in Amsterdam's funky creative industry scene and bring together stakeholders from across the creative-commercial divide.

Like Hannibal Lecter used to say: "I Love It, when a plan comes together..."



In November last year, we informed you about the 'Inspiration Book' called '>5' that we created together with XS4ALL. The book carries 26 visions on the future of the Internet: real stories written by people with very different backgrounds. The book was launched on the FIFI congress on 28th of November. 
Initially the book was for XS4ALL business clients only. However due to the many positive reactions, it was decided to make it available for everybody. 

SO HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS: it can now be downloaded from the FIFI website.  

So I would like to invite you to go there and push the download button. Then all you have to do is sit back and enjoy all 26 stories! And... don't forget to pay attention to the inspiring lay-out and visuals that complement each story. Each visual was found on the Flickr website and relates to a certain key-word in the text - very 2.0, don't you think? 

Enjoy the read!


You can find Steve Jobs' first big presentation from 1984 online. Hear the crowd soaring. When we at Fronteer talk about smart brands, we talk about Apple (sometimes). The thing is, this brand is built in a quarter century. It was carefully constructed and nurtured over the years.  

When you have people screaming for more at your first real introduction, and 25 years later still... what can we add to that?

We found the link at TechCrunch

Thursday, 22 January 2009


A while ago one of the experts in a Rooftop session dropped a question "So all people are connected... and then what?" It seemed quite bold at first, but he actually was so right, asking for the reason WHY you would want to be connected, why would you want something... just for the sake of wanting it?

It got me thinking about the role of asking 'why' in the innovation process. As a child you were always asking why? why? Just to get a grip on things and try to understand things. And even though I still ask this question quite often, I noticed that you often stop asking this and just deal with a situation as it comes along. But how wrong can you be!

A well known Japanese business scholar, Ikujiro Nonaka, has some interesting reasoning behind the importance of asking why when it comes to innovation. It all has to do with the 2, probably familiar, types of knowledge that exist: explicit and tacit knowledge (also called episteme and techne, Aristotle). Episteme or explicit knowledge is about knowing WHAT & HOW. It's concrete, measurable knowledge that we can learn from a book or by (individual) training. Something we're particularly fond of in the West. We assume that this is more accurate and reliable, and we just looove information to be measurable and reliable...

In Eastern cultures people embrace the techne or tacit knowledge, which is about knowing WHY. It's based on personal awareness & feelings, a subjective interpretation of situations. It's about knowing why you do or feel things in a specific way. It cannot be universalised or measured scientifically. It grows through experience and is inseparable from the human being who possesses it. Uhhh, freaky...

So in Western cultures we just like to know WHAT the problem is and HOW to fix it. Not wasting time on figuring out why there is a problem and if it's even necessary to fix it at all. But only the tacit knowledge puts the explicit knowledge in a context, something that is quite crucial in innovation... It's the interaction between expertise (knowing what) and experience (knowing why) that makes it possible to evolve, create knowledge and truly innovate. When you find the way to combine this Western and Eastern thinking, you will eventually know the right steps to take.

This only leaves us with the question how to realise this interaction...(since we still like the explicit 'how to' steps, right?). Lets try this:

1) Create a comfortable environment
2) Invite people that dare to ask why
3) Create an open dialogue where why is not a dirty word
4) Always keep in mind the 'so-what'
5) Start sharing knowledge & experience, start to co-create!

Friday, 16 January 2009


Japan is the country of Kawaii - meaning cute (amongst others). Doing some pretty serious retailing research in Japan we found out that even grown up businesses are heavily influenced by this miraculous little word. 

Women determine what is bought and what not. Men get pocket money. Cars, food, travel goods, clothes,  anything really, bought by women. What do women want? Colour and pretty curves basically. This means that entire categories have to adopt to this and that foreign brands have to be well aware of the impact it has on their ranges. This combined with a very strong hype culture makes doing business in Japan tricky to say the least.

In our specific research - travel goods - we found a market dominated by a few players well aware on the might of the retailer and consumers. Double or Nothing is the game. Once you're in, you're doing well. Once you're out, you're out for good. Quality problems? Say by to the brand. Not cute? Same deal. Made in China? Rather not. Luggage brands that did well managed to please everybody: curves, colours, coolness and country of origin. 

What did we learn? Interviewing in Japan is tiring - try to sit in the same hot blue cubicles for days on a row - but Japanese are actually open for business. The ones that have stamina and try to do everything right have a pretty good chance to actually making it out there.

And, don't forget to bring 'stroopwafels'!


One month ago we held a Rooftop co-creation session in Helsinki for Nokia. The subject involved developing scenarios for using mobile phones in the future. The people we invited to join the excellent Nokia team flew in from Portugal, Belgium, Holland and Sweden. A great mix of backgrounds and characters formed the basis for a successful workshop. 

Nokia is actually one of our most cherished clients. They see the true value and meaning of co-creation. Together with them we are exploring the road less travelled in open innovation. This road is one where companies actually allow people from outside to join its challenges for a longer period of time. Nokia intends to come back to our external professionals in a few months to actually touch base on the progress that has been made. And even after that, 9-12 after the session, we would like to review with the entire group what had been done with the workshop outcome. Did it change in any way Nokia's product portfolio, strategy or vision? I can't wait to find out.

Discussion continued in any case long after the session in the KLM business class - our private lounge.


I had the honour of meeting Frank Piller, one of the most knowledgeable people on co-creation, open innovation and mass-customisation. We had set up a meeting since our Rooftop expert co-creation product is the kind of thing Frank researches. Frank is currently conducting a study on the 65 most important co-creation consultancies or intermediates, he told me in an animated conversation. He is especially looking for examples of well executed co-creation projects and he is invesigating the larger expert based platforms like Innocentive. One of the people admired by Frank was, next to Eric von Hippel,  Nikolaus Franke, from the Wirtschaftsuniversitat in Vienna. He also mentioned the success of Innospace, the on-line community based customer research tool, and Hyve, the German design-driven innovation and research firm.

We discussed the different approaches to co-creation and the value some companies bring to the table. Many companies deal nowadays with an urge to step into open innovation and co-creation but don't know how to do that. An awful lot of companies are in or close to being in a pilot phase. I was happy to discuss some of the recent successes we had with co-creation at Heineken and Nokia.

Our approach was seen by Frank as being fresh and differentiating. Some of the things we do he sees being not standard in co-creation are:

Expertise. We believe in finding the best people, screening them, and preparing them well for the assignment. 

Equality. Also, we strive for equality between all parties involved: clients, experts and lead-users. Only then true co-creation is achieved. 

Value. Each participant has different things he or she wants to take out of the session. Recognising that and making it happen for them are crucial.

Synchronisation. When dealing with a diverse group of people with different interests, being on the same page with the same energy level is a must. Sounds easy, it is not.

Continuity. Co-creation does not stop after a session, it continues. When clients recognise that, a wonderful world of opportunities arises. We have an online community space to facilitate that. Before, during and after the session.

A wonderful visit it was.