21 projects in 21 months: the numbers behind an innovation consultant’s life

Innovation consultant

I just wrapped up my 21st project in the span of 21 months!  🍾
And still, it’s really tricky to explain what I do.*

To help answer that question for talents looking to join our team, I wrote down some statistics and spotted some patterns about my work at Board of Innovation so far. Here’s a first one: I directly worked with 541 people at 19 companies – and more numbers to come: get ready for some numbers porn!

* The answer is very different for each of us at Board of Innovation, but let me offer my unique view, even though it might not apply to fellow BOI

21 projects in 21 months: the numbers behind an innovation consultants’ life
Click to enlarge
My bucket list: checked boxes
  • Launch and run an accelerator program Ever since I discovered innovation as a field, I was triggered by the external accelerator model. I had the pleasure to kick off Season 2 of Orange Fab Belgium & Luxembourg yesterday, after having set up a successful Season 1 last year.
  • Be an entrepreneur-in-residence Checked this 3 times over, in 3 different industries. Nothing is more rewarding than being an entrepreneur with all the knowledge, resources and ambition of a corporate client!
  • Do an H3 radical innovation project This one was the most challenging, but also most inspiring of all! For 6 months, I worked on identifying and validating a radical innovation for a medium-sized company.
  • Keep my rebellious attitude I wore a dinosaur onesie in our ‘corporate pictures’, so safe to say this one’s checked ;-)
  • Work for the world’s most innovative companies According to BCG’s list, I checked this one three times over with #18 General Electric, #19 Orange and #49 Philips!
  • Meet my professional crush Jane McGonigal Checked this box last week at Supernova! (I have a picture). I’m absolutely fascinated with Jane’s work on Gaming in Healthcare, as well as her work on EthicalOS and as a futurist!

Unchecked boxes

  • Give a talk at SXSW (South by Southwest)
    I visited SXSW two years ago, and would love to go back to inspire people with what I learned since then! Hopefully in 2020…
  • Go to space
    Okay, I’ll also settle for a project in the space industry! Working with GE might get me there sooner than expected…
  • Do a project in Australia
    After having traveled there for 2 months, I’m super interested in discovering the professional side of Australia as well.

For those who like roleplay: plenty of that at BOI. Besides our core role as a consultant, each of us spends 20% of their time on internal roles.

As a self-steering company, each client circle (team of consultants) is essentially a mini-Board of Innovation. Multiple people per team take on one or more roles: sales, marketing, recruiting, or finance – or a LAB role (our innovation LAB).

In each project at Board of Innovation, we have two lead roles and one or more project support roles.

The client lead is like an account manager and is the main point of contact of a client. They build the relationship, get a wider understanding of their context and make sure all project leads adapt according to the context.

The project lead is the person in charge of a single client project. They keep the team focused, makes sure we do the rights things (= effectiveness) and the things right (= efficiency). They own the communication with the client’s project team, manage the budget and the resources etc.

During my first projects, I took on more of a support role, in order to learn, while now I take on the lead roles more often. I am client lead on a number of clients, and project lead on most of those client’s projects. I enjoy taking on a support role though as well, as this means I get to learn from my colleagues’ approach and expertise, as everyone has a different way of taking up the lead roles and has a different set of skills.

Project-locations

Here’s where the geo-bragging usually starts. Not with me. I only visited two countries I hadn’t been before at BOI. And that’s just the way I like it :) 

Everyone says ‘I love to travel’. I don’t always. In a work context I only love it when it’s 1) a new destination 2) a very cool project 3) short. 

I’m not a person who enjoys living out of a suitcase – and while a lot of BOIs do enjoy this lifestyle, that’s not something I want to do on a weekly basis.

In the context of my work at Board of Innovation, I’ve had projects in Texas, New York, Saudi Arabia, all over Western Europe. Ok, I’ll add one geo-brag: Curaçao. Sorry, I had no choice. 

That being said, there’s still a lot of countries on my bucket list. Would really like doing a project with the Australians in a work context: anyone care to help us plant our flag there? :)

 

Here’s a short list of the most incredible locations I had the luck to discover:

  • An unnamed-CEO’s mancave
    Complete with Porsche’s in the living room and an après-ski hut for after-work drinks
  • The full-fledged GE Leadership Development Campus
    In the countryside of New York, the GE Campus lives up to its ‘campus’ name: 10+ buildings, including hotels, restaurants and a bar with full entertainment gear
  • A sunny resort on a Caribbean island
    Working in Curaçao has its perks, I admit :)

65% of my work is done with a small team of 2-3 partners in crime. I’m a business profile at heart, so I balance my own professional deformation out by adding a design or tech profile to the mix. Half of the time, I work with people from my circle (circle = team/ tribe/ squad/ whateverthebuzzwordistoday), and the other half I work with colleagues from other circles.

The small remainder of projects (35%) I run solo when I’m for example an entrepreneur-in-residence or an innovation coach. Then I either work solo, or I join an existing team of a client as sole Board of Innovation representative.

As Tupac would say, I’m a sucka for love: I really enjoy building long-term connections with clients (cheesiness-alert).

The thing is: when you actually get to know and appreciate a company, get insights into their industry and complete a first project together, it’s a pity to never see them again. It’s only after you completed a project successfully, and do a debrief sessions with honest feedback, that you really build mutual trust. I really like feeling like ‘coming home’ whenever I go back to one my key accounts, like Thomson Reuters, GE, Orange etc. You get to level up together.

Work with existing clients accounts for roughly 40% of my time.

The other 60% of my time is spent with new clients, which is always thrilling. I get to dive into a new industry, a new context, meet new people and solve new challenges. All of a sudden you discover this whole new world: I get to dig into healthcare, logistics, industrials, library systems, tech, maritime etc. That’s why I became a consultant in the first place: to work on a variety of projects, in a variety of settings.

At Board of Innovation, I had the chance to work cross-industry in every sense of the word: from B2B to B2C and in many different verticals.

I spent most of my time in Telecom, Healthcare, Industrial and Logistics, on long-term projects. Projects in Finance, Legal, Cosmetics, and HR were most of the time very short, one-shot type of projects.

That variety of industries allows me to take on a helicopter view, and spot analogies (for example: what do the porn and fashion industry have in common with Logistics, what does corporate venture capital have to do with the movie industry, how can we use gaming in healthcare… ask me!)

Business Model Innovation Capability
Together with Philips Healthworks (the innovation team of Philips Healthcare), we built out a business model innovation capability during a year-long project.

Entrepreneur-in-residence
Here, I hustle as an entrepreneur for a corporate. I get the best of both worlds: the corporate support and the startup flexibility. In these types of projects, we run through the whole innovation funnel, and focus our time on business design and validating ventures (we summarized our learnings in a PDF guide).

Innovation Strategy
During innovation strategy sessions, we co-design with our clients the long- and short-term goals, define relevant programs and tactics and take the first steps in testing whether this approach works. This lays the groundwork for any future innovation initiatives or takes current initiatives to a more strategic level in the organization. Our approach to strategy: actionable, easy to communicate, and easy to adapt.

Accelerators
Internal accelerators focus on ventures with employees of the organization itself, while external accelerators focus on working with external startups. Both result-focused, both very interesting.

Talent Development
Teaching people the methodologies we use, as mentioned above, is rewarding because we build a capability. I do this in the form of running a short (2 days for example) training, but the most rewarding ones are the long-term talent development programs (e.g. 1 year). A leadership development programme like the ones we run at Thomson Reuters and ING gives us plenty of time to really learn-by-doing. Sometimes we get 40 people in a training programme that fly in from all over the world and then go back with a concrete playbook and skillset to actually teach their teams too. It cascades the learnings and multiplies our impact.

One-shot workshops
A one-shot workshop is honestly my least favorite and my least frequent activity. During half a day or a couple of days, we run an audience of corporate innovators and managers through methodologies and tools, ending up with a concrete result (e.g. 3 ideas, 1 detailed business model), but then there is limited room for follow up. I prefer workshops that are part of a bigger picture (like part of an accelerator or innovation challenge).

Corporate Venture Capital
Sometimes we are asked to assess a startup as an investment target. We help steer the investment decision, coach the startup to be a more attractive target and give a final advice on go/no-go.

That’s all for now – I hope this snapshot helped you have a better grasp on what we do at Board of Innovation, and whether you could love working here. If that’s the case, well, join our team today!

 

Thanks!

I’m Julie de la Kethulle de Ryhove, Innovation Consultant @ Board of Innovation. Spreading innovation culture is in our DNA – if you liked the read, contribute to our mission by sharing this article.

Share this article: