The City of Zwolle
Zwolle is one of a few larger cities in North-Eastern Netherlands.
The city was founded around 800 CE by Frisian merchants and Charlemagne's troops.
In 1230 it was granted it's city rights. Zwolle became a member of the Hanseatic league in 1294, The municipality  counts about 130.000 inhabitants.
Zwolle functions as the entrance gate to North-eastern Netherlands.

You will find the Bluefinger Innovation Center (BIC) in the heart of the historic center of the innovative Hanze-city Zwolle.
The BIC supports organisations in the North and East of the Netherlands in their effort to innovate, by mobilizing the creative and innovative power of their own staff.
The BIC co-operates with local learning centers, consultants and coaches.

The Bluefinger Anecdote
The name Bluefinger derives from the medieval rivalry between the Hanseatic cities of Zwolle and Kampen, when Zwolle had sold its city bells to Kampen's inhabitants. Once installed they seemed to jangle. This is why Kampen decided to make their due payment in small coins. The members of Zwolle's City Council got blue fingers from counting coins. Today Blauwvinger is the nickname for the inhabitants of Zwolle.

When using the word Innovation, we generally think of developments using the latest technological findings, for instance the application of 3-D printing in industrial environments. This type of developments generates from 'technology push'. But Innovation also can be generated from 'demand pull'. For instance the, now very actual development of a Covid 19 vaccine.
The focus of the Bluefinger Innovation Center however is a very special one: the development of human innovation power.

With a unique toolset, the BIC has the ability to identify and support the strengthening of human innovation power, based on personality profiles, of participants, teams and organisations.
By combining the power of individuals in effective, s.c. Natural Working Teams, these teams are incited to deliver highly creative and innovative achievements and foster a powerful innovative climate in an organisation.

Who is the real innovator ?

Everyone, probably, has a notion of his own innovative power. Some people are, indeed, pretty good in imagining new ideas, where others think of themselves as less creative. But real innovation seldom emerges in one single person's head !
Innovation arises when people meet and discuss and exchange ideas.
Actually, it is true that a certain person may be better than others in outside-the-box thinking. And someone else may be excellent in identifying the big picture, while his antipode is much better in minding important details. We can also encounter people who are very good in spontaneously imagining creative solutions, while others may be known as more pragmatic.
The interesting thing is that innovation only can be achieved when the ideas of the idealist meet the logical thinking of the analyst and when the brainwaves of the dreamer are tested by the sober realist.
Innovation arises in a group process when the different participants seriously listen to each others' ideas and learn to see the essence of what the other means, and learn to identify the possibilities of it, and, of course, the consequences.

Our Cognitive Bias hinders us in seeing new solutions

A Cognitive Bias (Wikipedia) is a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. Individuals create their own "subjective reality" from their perception of the input. An individual's construction of reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behavior in the world.
Everyone will, dependent of the own personality, be biased when searching for solution alternatives for a challenging problem. One may also overlook certain possibilities or even be 'blind' for them.

Only teams that are able to come to an in-depth dialogue on 'pro's and con's' of the extremes of seemingly contradictory solutions, are equipped to arrive at a synthesis of ideas and new innovative solutions.

What can be done to stimulate innovation and develop an innovative organisational climate ?

Innovation cannot be forced 'top-down'. When it appears, it will emerge 'bottom-up' in a dialogue between 'ordinary people'. Innovation is a product of human interaction in a 'trial and error' process, seldom as a result of a top-down planned human design process.
But it is possible, indeed, to develop the innovation power of individual people and in teams and organisations. And, to foster an innovative climate in the organisation.

For bringing together people in a creative team, it is necessary to have a deeper insight in the personality of the individual participants of a group. Complementarity in team roles and diversity in thinking styles of the different players is the key for success. 
The Bluefinger Innovation Center uses the Advanced Team Design Tool for this.

Why is it so difficult to get innovations off the ground ?

Organisations the wish to (or realistically said must) innovate have often difficulties of letting go their worn out business model when markets suddenly (?) seem changed.
But even if they recognize the need for change, they tend to have a hard time realising it. Anyway, to innovate top-down is hardly possible, whereas innovation is a bottom-up process by trial and error. Sad enough, especially when the need for innovation urges.

A Hidden Power

However, organisations have a hidden power at their disposal: the imagination and creativity of their own employees! Workers, especially those without a formal management role. Professionals, who operate independently and who do a good job and who represent the core quality of the organisation. 
If the organisation would appeal to them to contribute in innovation activities, by participating in a special 'think-tank', they probably will not only be prepared, they will be extra motivated and feel appreciated.

LDpe, the initiator of the Bluefinger Innovation Center, has developed a special approach. The program Gearing Up Innovation, which is enabled by a unique toolset, the Advanced Team Design Tool (ATD). The ATD enables us to design creative teams, based on the unique personalities of the individual participants.
This approach is been used by the Bluefinger Innovation Center

Crisis or Challenge

As you probably have heard before, the Chinese concept for Crisis contains two different characters. One for 'threat' and one for 'opportunity'.
The Chinese assume that there is a coherence between the two seemingly contradictory notions. And that a crisis is not just threatening but that it also offers new possibilities.

According to Ties Dams, scientist at the Institute Clingendael and author of the book 'The new Emperor' about Xi Jinping, the Coronavirus offers an exceptional opportunity for Xi: 'In ten years time, we will have to recognize that China's geopolitical rise has not been delayed by the Corona crisis.
In the long term, China's advance will even have accelerated, especially when Trumps mis-management of the crisis will have contributed largely to the erosion of America's mondial reputation.

A crisis in an enterprise may already originate during the heyday of its success. A phase in which the governors fail to pay enough attention to the world outside. The turning point is not recognized either. Gradually results tend to reduce, but intervention seems not necessary, despite some restless feelings. The management keeps on focussing on the (formerly successful) business model, until it is obvious that the company faces a crisis. And that the organisation may not really know how to cope with it.

The psychological root cause of this phenomenon is pretty good explained in Peter Robertson's publication 'Always change a winning team'*]:
In all living mechanisms and organisms, especially also in humans, organisations and in societies, the S-curve forms a leading pattern: birth, development and growth, decadence and decline.
*] Peter P. Robertson, 2005, Always Change a Winning Team, Why reinvention and change are prerequisites for Business Success.

In the Netherlands we say: 'when the need is greatest, salvation is near'. This obviously is not always true, but something interesting generally happens: we see, during a crisis, a flourishing human creativity, especially under 'ordinary people'. But substantially less under managers, who are fixed with their economic models (and those models do not take care of the things outside the scope they were designed with).

The creative synthesis

The kind of problems we discuss here are often hard to solve within the existing context. We call them 'wicked problems'. And possible solution alternatives seem generally contradictory. Often they are the consequence of disrupting developments.

Entrepreneurship and leadership do not only include the running of an organisation, based on a KPI-model (Key Performance Indicators), but they include as well the capability to cope with 'wicked problems'. The difficult thing is that it is not easy to find the proper solutions. Besides the capability of thinking outside-the-box', for approaching 'wicked problems' one needs the  in-depth understanding of pros and cons of different solution alternatives. But here, our own brain fails us. 
Our own personality causes, that we may be able to see the consequences of a certain solution direction, but this may mean that we cannot at all see de consequences of the alternatives of the opposite direction. Our brain is biased by our personality. 
If we want to be able to see the other type of solutions, we only can analyse a broader scope of solutions with a diverse team, with different personalities, thinking styles and role-patterns.

In the program Gearing Up Innovation LDpe has the ability to design creative teams, based on a diversity of personality traits.
In this program, managers get other roles than 'non-managers' and even other people may be included, than those employed by the organisation.

Example  of a wicked problem: the decline of shopping areas in cities 
An irreversible trend where small and medium sized boutique-like stores gradually 
disappeared, being replaced by uniform chain stores has got an even more destructive successor-trend: the enormous growth of internet-shopping.
City shopping areas are now full of empty stores and vacant buildings. Sometimes a building fills temporary with a pop-up store.

Bad for the shoppers?
Not for all of them. Cheap execution sales can be popular! But it certainly decreases the city shopping pleasure for many of us.
But also not for real estate owners who always seem to be able to maintain high rental prices. High enough for making it very difficult to survive for shop keepers.
Real estate owners do not seem to care when shopkeepers go bankrupt and estate agents do not mind a higher frequency of brokerage transactions.
But what does it mean for the attractiveness of the inner city? And, what can be done about it? And who feels responsible for it?

The Bluefinger Innovation Center, founded April 30th 2020, elaborates on the analysis of 'wicked problems' and the synthesis of creative solutions. This is done by carefully designed working teams.
The composition of these working teams is based on a diversity of thinking styles and team role preferences, mapped through the personality assessment of the different team members.
We co-operate with learning centers, consultants and coaches. And we operate while combining working, learning, innovating and at the same time developing people and organisations.
Innovation, after all, emerges through interaction between people. Innovative thinking and pioneering entrepreneurship will arise after the discovery of possibilities not earlier identified.

Referring to the above presented example about the decline of shopping areas in cities, which we also can witness in the city of Zwolle: corrective market forces disfunction when dominant powers (real estate owners and estate agents) strive for status quo instead of development and change. They continue to focus on their own business models.
In such cases, the analysis should start at a higher context level. One should start with the question what makes a city lively and attractive and one must think differently and understand that fun shopping is not the only answer. It is the people that make a city lively. Often younger people who meet, interact and network.
By associative thinking one may discover other reasons for crowding the city.

Thinking differently
The above analysis of the failing of shop areas already tells us that the current market players will not solve the problem. Especially not when they keep on focusing on there own business model. And, actually, they are not the most important stakeholders! The real stakeholders are the people who come to the city. Not only for fun shopping, but also to enjoy culture, theatres, museums and those who visit pubs and restaurants. And as already indicated, the people who come to the city to meet others, interact and network!

What makes a city lively and appreciated?
Why do certain cities suffer more than others? 
Why is the city of Utrecht able to continue being lively and attractive. The answer is 'younger people'. Students who meet, have a drink at a pavement café, discuss, get to the cinema, visit the theatre and, perhaps, work together.
Actually, a lively inner-city does not depend on fun shopping only. 
And, a concept like the Epicenter in the city would fit in excellently, don't you think?
Except, of course, the fact that rental prices for office space are kept at a too high level, today.

The Bluefinger Innovation Center plans to, under conditions, establish an Imagination and Incubation Center in the heart of the city of Zwolle.

If you want to know more about this project, you may click on the picture below.


Entrepreneurship and innovation
There is an important trend on how enterprises arise today: startups and scale-ups.
Entrepreneurship may already emerge during the student days of the individual(s).
This is why Universities started to facilitate Incubation Centers en High Tech Campuses, often in the suburbs of the city.
Question: why not in the city center?

The Epicenter concept

Epicenter is located in the heart of Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, and in Amsterdam.
Members of the Epicenter community, who are entrepreneurs, fast growing digital companies and creative corporate initiatives, meet to collaborate, learn and grow their businesses.
The concept and development of Epicenter rises from the founding team’s extensive knowledge in bringing up companies that are digitally innovative, and increasingly impactful.
In order to achieve your growth and to make innovation happen faster, you need the right partners, tools and methods. This is where we come in. Epicenter was founded in 2015 by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs.
Or, the reason why we get out of bed every morning (except coffee)
Epicenter acts both as a commercial engine and as a role model in its chosen markets.
Our mission is to establish Epicenter Digital House of Innovation in the key digital hotspots of the world.