Interview with Oliver Bludau
Oliver founded Innovators Institute
, which supports its clients in training their employees to become innovators in order to strengthen their innovation culture and take it to a higher level. The result and added value is an innovation strategy that ensures their clients' future viability in a dynamic competitive environment.
He also founded FOXem
, an online platform on which small, medium and large companies publish their challenges, problems and questions and receive ideas, solutions and best practices from their own employees and from a worldwide crowd, thanks to digitization.
What inspired you to create the Innovators Institute? How did the venture come about?
Well, I worked in, founded or led around 20 companies in my life in very
diverse industries –
Starting as an officer in the german airforce going into the finance business,
after that into the aerospace, mechanical engineering and semiconductor
industry, managed a theme and showpark, was a professional actor at a
german theater, founded a location-based internet business, wrote a book
about fitness training concepts and now have an own company builder.
I worked as a solopreneur, in the typical german Mittelstand and was
member of the board at American Express. And although they were all
totally different in what they were doing they all shared one question: How
do we earn money in 5 years from now?
To find the answer in each of those companies we had to and we wanted to
innovate, but the problem was: We just did not know how? How do we
start? How do we set up a process? How can we make innovation a core
process in our company and how do we fight all the internal beliefs that
sound plausible, but are nevertheless wrong.
To become smarter I applied at the Harvard Business School in Boston to
study innovation and there I developed a concept how my companies can
innovate in a way that the daily business won't suffer from it, because that
was one major concern about normal "innovation projects".
Since doing this, revenue and earnings of my companies have been risen
and some of the companies are even world market leader in their industry.
It is such an easy-to-use concept and so successful that other companies
got aware of it and asked me if they could also use it. So I thought: Well,
why not make a business out of it.
In the same month, you founded FOXem. What does
In the same month, you founded FOXem. What does it take to get two companies started at the same time? How do they complement each other, if at all?
Actually foxem.net and the innovators institute relate to each other.
foxem.net is a crowd ideation Software-as-a-service which we use in our
training at the innovators institute. Companies ask questions and the
worldwide crowd gives the answers and gets rewarded. But because you
can also use foxem.net without the training component, we seperated the
software business into a standalone company.
You're also a partner in three other companies. What are your duties as a partner in each company, and how do you balance your involvement in all five companies?
I know my strengths and my weaknesses. My strengths are that I'm a builder and the visionary; my weaknesses are that I'm just not an administrator, and sometimes too fast for my environment - which sometimes annoys my employees, and I lose them on the way. I destroy with my bad what I build with my head and my hands, typically. Because of this, I developed my personal strategy: I built up a company, I get some traction, I make it run, and at the right point in time I hand the operations over to my management, who take care of the daily business and I can concentrate on visions of the next business. I step out of operations, but remain as a shareholder or consulting partner in strategic questions.
How did you develop your training concept for Innovators Institute? What's unique about it? What results have you seen?
Our uniqueness is based on 4 pillars
- Best Practice:
You know, we are entrepreneurs and not consultants so we asked
ourselves how our perfect innovation model would look like. We are not
theoretical but practical, we speak the language of business owners and re
very aware of their concerns and everyday problems. We found ways to
integrate our training concept into a working environment without
obstructing the daily business.
There are so many innovation methods like Design Thinking, Open
Innovation, Blue Ocean, Business Model Canvas, Lean Startup, Scrum,
Agile or whatsoever. Every single method has advantages and
disadvantages. But as a business owner I just don’t want to deal with that. I
want ONE method that will work and we asked ourselves: Can’t we just
create a method where we can use the good and dismiss the bad of other
innovation methods. The result is our so called Idea Mining Journey.
I studied Innovation at the Harvard Business School in Boston and got
some great insights directly from some of the best professors for innovation
like Gary Pisano or Michael Tushman. They helped us to design this very
unique and pragmatic innovation method. In Germany we could win
Professor Ulrich Lichtenthaler from the International School of Management
as our Chief Innovation Officer.
Most unique is certainly our approach. We don’t offer consultancy services
where some expert comes into a company for an innovation project, only
discusses with the management, creates some innovation schedule, leaves
the company again an comes back for the next project and high consulting
fees. What we do instead is to train and enable the management and their
employees to innovate on their own without external help – and that every
What are you most proud of? What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in a saturated start-up industry?
Besides my 3 sons I am proud of always being genuine. I am proud of the
values, purpose and achievements in my life. There are certain people who
I could help to pave their way to success by inspiring them, empowering
them and passing on my knowledge. I am proud that those people trusted
me and can now harvest.
I am also proud of accepting my failures and not having lost my track. I
decide quickly and I live with the consequences, no matter how painful they
This is also the advice for any entrepreneur. Decide! Think, but decide! You
will only know afterwards if the decision was right or wrong. The only
reason why I am successful is probably that I made one more good than