Overcoming The Buzzword Bias By Making Innovation A Reality

Twan van den Broek

Innovation. The digital age. Design thinking. Co-creation. If you’re working in software or in an organization that is making or contemplating the shift towards digitization, you’ve heard these words. Are they buzzwords? They are certainly used as such. And in their wake, terms like blockchain, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, machine learning, and predictive analytics follow suit.

This buzzword bias is a wall I keep hitting when I try to explain the value of these intelligent technologies for businesses. It’s a shame, because all these digital technologies do drive business results. Like my colleagues have justly argued: they really do deliver in turning you into the front-runner in your industry. However, there is a way to overcome the buzzword stigma and it’s quite simple: Make innovation tangible, practical, and real.

Digitization: let it come to life before your eyes

Imagine this: You want to adopt innovative technology to become more futureproof. In order to achieve this, you’ve invited a software partner to come to your office to talk to you about the digitization of your business processes. He grabs his laptop. Clicks on his presentation. Gives out all the information you need. Bam. Death by PowerPoint, as we jokingly refer to it.

We’ve all been there. It’s hard to grasp what intelligent technologies can do for your business, let alone take it all in, based on a PowerPoint presentation. We wanted to shake it up a little and set a new standard. We wanted to make innovation come to life right before your eyes. Let you really experience the business value of digital technologies in everyday settings and overcome that buzzword bias.

A playground to work on digital ambitions

New York, London, Paris, Copenhagen, and Singapore. They all have the perfect aide to make digital innovation a reality. An experience center.

Now, this list of illustrious cities is complemented by the Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Here, we’ve recently built our own center. No matter where someone is in their digitization process, the center forms a playground where they can work on their specific digital ambitions.

Whether they’re in the early orientation stages or ready to develop a digital solution for an existing business challenge. Whether they’re in retail, logistics, or are involved in discrete industries: We tailor the program in our center to any digitization stage and any industry or line of business.

Keeping it real by making it real

What does “making it tangible and real” imply? Well, we do just that by guiding guests through several spaces in our center to let them experience first-hand what certain intelligent technologies mean for a particular organization. And, on top of that: we can do it for any role in any company.

Take a mechanic, for instance. He doesn’t care about intelligent technology in itself. He is preoccupied with getting the job done. And, if it’s possible, saving time. If we tell him he can do his job quicker with image recognition or augmented reality, he would just shrug.

Seeing is believing, right? If we show him how he can bring together information from different data sources on his tablet with just a few clicks, he gets excited. If we let him experience how he – with a layer of augmented reality on his tablet – can solve the issue he is working on faster, he is sold. That’s exactly how turning innovation into reality works.

Immersive digital journey

Another way to make it tangible? We can take a mechanic on an immersive digital journey through a regular working day with a digital, 360-view projected onto four wall-to-wall screens.

In this experience, we show through storytelling how we can improve the service he delivers and make his job easier. The story starts with him sitting in his chair at home, getting a notification about malfunctioning hardware somewhere in Holland. It shows the drive to the location, the tests he has to run to find out what exactly the issue is, the repair itself, and the digital paperwork he has to fill out after. Through this journey, we let the mechanic experience how intelligent technologies can help him. How’s that for making digital into a reality?

The mobile innovation lab is an extension of the experience center. In the center, we can offer the design thinking part along with deep dives into the software. The lab relies on a pressure-cooker approach to develop prototypes in just five days.

Afterward, we can show some of these solutions in the center and take a closer look at the benefits it provides for a company. Although the experience center is equipped to accommodate the same methodology, I recommend inviting the lab to your doorstep. To see rapid prototyping on your own company’s grounds is an experience in itself.

We’ve been on tour with the lab the past few years. Among other places, we visited Gasunie in the Dutch city of Deventer. We showed its mechanics how to turn an equipment-picking process from hours into minutes by adopting image recognition technology. We developed a minimum viable product in just five days. And, we let the people of Gasunie test it. The feedback we received? They want to turn the solution into reality.

The digital age requires a new way of working

Why do I think the experience center is worth a visit? It’s an advocate for the way we should be working in the digital age. It’s all about meeting your peers in the field of technology, getting inspired by countless possibilities and showcases, and engaging together in building solutions for future-proof business processes.

Partnerships, co-creation, and collaboration are key. Why would you want to invent the wheel if you can develop a stronger strategy by working together? And profit from already available expert knowledge others are happy to share? The approach that is used in the center, along with its creative environment, will give you insights you never would have imagined without a visit.

Even before the experience center’s official opening, we received more than 1,000 guests. We have learned a great deal from these visits, for example, about the wants and needs of different industries and various lines of businesses. It’s given us valuable insights about trends in global and local economies. Awareness we can use in making the world run better. In the center, innovation works both ways.

Want to see the center for yourself? This video lets you experience where the innovative magic happens.


Twan van den Broek

About Twan van den Broek

Twan van den Broek is Customer Innovation Architect at SAP. Twan combines a broad experience in SAP development, Integration and Process Management with agile methodologies (Scrum) and Design Thinking to deliver SAP solutions that add value to your business and make end-users happy. As a crew member of SAP’s Mobile Innovation Lab, he delivers customer innovations with Rapid Prototyping within one week.