Look at how this Dutch company has embraced Innovation Tournaments

Have you heard of Wolters Kluwer and their innovation tournaments? Walters Kluwer is a global information services and publishing company, headquartered in Netherlands, which employs 18,000 people and generates around $4 billion a year through products and services tailored for professionals in the health, tax, accounting, financial services, and legal sectors. You can think of it as a company similar to Bloomberg but with European roots.

The company’s brands might not be household names but there is something unique about their innovation process: They have embraced the “Innovation Tournament” approach for identifying and selecting new exceptional opportunities.

You may recall from my earlier posts that by using the term tournament, I am referring to a structured multi-staged process through which a group of people generate ideas and filter them to arrive at a handful of highly valuable ones.

Since few years ago, Wolters Kluwer has decided to make the mentality of tournaments a habit: In fact the company doesn’t look at this as an occasional event but holds monthly innovation tournaments in multiple locations around the world organized around a common theme: The topics are usually part of its Global Platform Organization selected innovation topics. They range from main product and service categories to wearable computing devices and emerging technologies or User Experience and analytics.

Andres Sadler, Senior VP, Wolters Kluwer Corporate Strategy and Dr. Karl Ulrich, Vice-Dean and Professor at the Wharton, discuss Innovation Tournaments.

By making a habit out of participating in tournaments, the company has encouraged and facilitated more collaboration and knowledge sharing among individuals from multiple business units and functions. In the words of John Barker, VP of Strategy & Competitive Intelligence, “… many people who otherwise do not regularly interact discover that the need to integrate content in a contextually relevant way runs across all market segments.” This in effect will lead accumulated knowledge from various disciplines which can be a source of breakthroughs.

My takeaway from Wolters Kluwer is that, you shouldn’t think of a grand challenge or tournament as an annual event to boost publicity: You should do it often so that you can learn and get the most out of it. What do you think?

Photo credit: josstyk / iW / CC BY-NC-SA

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