‘So what do you do?’
‘I’m an Innovation Consultant at Board of Innovation’
‘Oh… and what does that mean?’
‘I help corporates to innovate’
‘Rather general… What does your job entail, what kind of projects do you do?’
‘A variety of projects ranging from consulting, training and workshops’
No matter how hard I try to explain it – people never really get what I do at Board of Innovation and why I have so much fun. I wrote this article so that my parents, friends, relatives (and probably my husband too) can grasp what a job in Board of Innovation really entails.
3 reasons to hate Board of Innovation.
1. Rejecting awesome projects
As we manage our own time and often work on multiple projects at a time, it’s often difficult to keep in mind which projects have priority. This especially applies to internal projects: you want to level up the company, but also want to level up your projects. If you’re terrible at priority management like me, you tend to have too high of a self-induced workload.
2. Planning the unexpected
Our work is inherently flexible, which makes planning tricky. You want to keep it light, but also realistic. We tend to reshuffle projects quite often, which makes planning a challenge. I don’t like to plan either, so always hate doing that! It sometimes feels like time flies by, and we have little control over it, since we’re not the best at planning. Then it can feel as if you’re in a rat race. My strategy is to focus on getting priority management right.
3. The rollercoaster of culture change
Some projects demand quite a huge time investment, and they have a long-term impact on the client’s organization – think of cultural transformation programs. But change doesn’t happen easily – people are evolutionarily adapted to reject change when possible. So, after getting stakeholder’s buy-in, you also need them to take ownership and make their teams accountable to make the change they need. We apply the 20% effort vs. 80% impact rule to work as lean and mean as we can, but sometimes this requires more of a time investment.
6 reasons to love Board of Innovation.
1. Fit with my values
I’m a typical millennial: I need to feel a direct match between the organization’s values and my personal values.
One of Board of Innovation’s values is “Raise the bar”, and I feel we do raise the bar on every level. From having challenging projects, to hiring, to the way we organize our sales and marketing. We always challenge each other to raise the bar. It makes you feel part of an all-star team. For each project, I always assign one person as a challenger. Their job is to be a critic, plays the devil’s advocate, find room for improvement or radically different approaches to get it to the next level.
Also, being a self-steering organization, we have extensive business transparency and use an advice model to make our decision decentralized. At any point in time, I have a 360° view of how the company is doing: finances, marketing, sales, recruiting, … We all have access to that data to make our own decisions. There are no rigid processes either: if you think the finance sheets need to be adapted, you get the advice of those who have the expertise or are affected by it, and then do it.
2. Variety of projects
The reason I became a consultant is that I thrive on variety. My main role is Innovation Consultant, specifically Business Designer. I take up Client Lead roles and Project Lead roles. Furthermore, Board of Innovation undertakes projects in a multitude of different industries – Innovation also happens through cross-fertilization.
In addition to consulting projects (which takes roughly 80% of our agenda – check out the complete 1-week agenda of my colleague Tarryn to have a complete overview of what her week typically looks like), every consultant in Board of Innovation takes up one or more further roles (namely Marketing, Sales, Finance and Recruiting), with an average commitment of one day per week. For example, Tarryn has a Marketing role.
My additional roles depend on my team’s needs and personal ambitions. I used to take up a Sales role. However, Sales is one of the things I now prefer to coach others in, as it’s not my ambition to grow further in that. A couple of weeks ago I switched to a Recruiting role, as this is at the moment a top priority for our company in order to keep satisfying our growing client demand, and I was curious to know more about it.
I love that we’re niche, we’re a small agency playing the global innovating field like a pro. That sense of belonging in a small agency like Board of Innovation (we’re a team of 27 at the moment) is much higher than within a larger organization. Despite the increasing number of touchpoints, we still all have a human connection with everyone in the team that goes over the simple “how are you” stage – this turns the office a space for deep connections and transparency between us.
4. Travel & Project Balance
We keep each other’s personal preferences into account when we can. For example, I would easily burn out if I would be traveling every week. I prefer to take on a majority of Belgian clients for long-term projects, combined with some short-term international projects (for example a 2-day workshop on Innovation Strategy in Curaçao). Others prefer to see the world, so we balance each other’s ambitions out, in a way that everyone gets the chance to do what she/he desires the most. We also keep in mind our personal development goals as much possible: for example, I like to work for small- and medium-sized companies, on consulting projects. Whenever we have the luxury of choice, we do take that into account.
5. International mindset
Board of Innovation is one of those rare ‘born global’ companies, at the point that our network counts many more international than Belgian contacts. Our team also consists, for a large part, of internationals (10 nationalities): Shervin from Iran, Claire from the USA, Giorgio from Italy, Tarryn from South Africa, Zygi from Lithuania, Jentzen from Malaysia, Mike from the UK, Simone from Denmark and Todora from Bulgaria. For me, that’s really important: it expands my world, gives me the opportunity to work in English and learn about different cultures. Every day, the conversation at our lunch table goes in a different direction. From brainstorming new crazy ideas to the latest cool nerf guns to silence retreats.
For example, this week together with my colleagues from Bulgaria and Iran I’m organizing a Funky Friday to immerse BOI into Balkan and Middle-Eastern culture with delicious foods, drinks, and music. I love to hang out with the expats – they dropped everything to come here, and it’s just so much fun showing them around the city and helping them build their network by creating connections.
It’s been my hometown forever, and I love it. (I have to say that, to live up to our ‘chauvinist’ reputation ;-)) I was used to driving for 2-4 hours a day to go to work, so being able to bike to work is an absolute treat to me. But you can also listen to an outsider perspective by asking the opinion of our international colleagues: they’ll give you their take on how easy is to find a place where to live, good spots to hang out, and crunchy fries to get rid of hunger.
Got nothing but love for BOI?
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.