Africa Business Communities

[Interview] Hans Balmaekers, Director, Intrapreneurship Conference Cape Town, 2017

Hans Balmaekers is Director of the upcoming Intrapreneurship Conference taking place in Cape Town South Africa on October 13. Africa Business Communities interviews him about the event:

Tell us a briefly about your company.

In a rapidly and constantly changing business environment, industries are being disrupted one by one. In response, intrapreneurship helps big organizations to innovate faster, better and continuously, by adapting innovation methods successfully used by startups.

Intrapreneurship is a driver for accelerating culture change and organizational transformation, developing the capability to capitalize on opportunities for growth. Embedding intrapreneurship also helps to attract, retain and develop the best and brightest talent.

Yet it’s not an easy task to implement intrapreneurship and to yield sustainable results from it. There is no one recipe for how to do it - it largely depends on the unique culture and context of the organization.

Since 2011, our conferences have supported thousands of corporate innovators implementing and improving innovation programs at their organziations.

Who are your clients?

We have welcomed innovators from most multinational companies to our events, across industries and from 50+ countries. Our participants – we prefer to call them members of the tribe, actually - are the folks who are responsible for innovation programs, innovation centers and labs, and for launching and leading new ventures. Across companies and industries, they face challenges quite similar, and it’s our goal to facilitate learning and collaboration amongst them.

You are organizing an Intrapreneurship Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, on October 13. What is the objective of this event?

Most senior leaders are aware the world is changing fast, and they probably see opportunities how they can benefit from that and launch new products and services to their customers, but the real concern often is – can we do it? Are we able to change legacy organizational models and governance structures, are we able to bring in the entrepreneurial spirit and keep talented employees, are we able to move fast enough?

Intrapreneurship helps with all of that. If you do intrapreneurship well, it’s a sandbox for new ways of working that brings together employees across silos, all learning a lot more than in their day to day job. If they are able to successfully launch some new products or services too- that’s a real bonus.

We will make sure participants learn the core elements of intrapreneurship, share experiences with peers from other companies who are already experimenting with it, and to experiment with different practical tools and techniques. It’s our goal to help them organize and develop their innovation capabilities to create, capture and capitalize on opportunities for growth, given the context of Africa 4.0.

Who can participate in this conference, and how?

The event is for business executives, innovation leaders and pioneering entrepreneurs who believe in the power of collaboration for realizing the promise and potential of Africa 4.0, and want to understand how to organize innovation at their organization.

If that sounds like you, do apply here.

There have been similar intrapreneurship conferences organized in the US and in several European cities. Is the upcoming Cape Town event an entry into the African scene?

Absolutely. We have seen a growing interest in our events and trainings by innovators out of several African countries, so the time felt right. But more importantly, the time is right because of the huge potential for companies in Africa to lead the way. This is how Saidah Nash Carter, SVP at Thomson Reuters, describes it:

“It has been said that we are on the brinks of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything we have experienced before and for those not paying attention, it will be very disruptive. However, for those with their fingers on the pulse – embracing this evolution is a remarkable chance to connect business with innovation, to improve efficiency and to drive social change.

In fact, this emergent era, is a great enabler for Africa. An era that could unlock the potential of these emerging technologies with use cases that benefit business and communities across the continent.
It could also position Africa as a leader in this 4th industrial revolution and provide a platform for us to realize our true vision for the continent. An Africa 4.0 if you will!”

So, we were pleased that Thomson Reuters Labs invited us to partner for this event, and we’re excited to facilitate conversation and collaboration on this important topic of Africa 4.0.

Why is this a good time to venture into Africa, and will there be subsequent conferences of the same or similar objectives in other African cities going forward?

We have been hosting our events in dozens of innovation hotspots already, and usually go to a new city every time. Basically go where our community wants us to go – so if we get good feedback from participants asking for more, and other innovation leaders reach out, for sure we’ll be back. In fact we already had requests to come to Lagos and Nairobi, so I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen.

It’s worthwile to mention that we’ll soon launch a digital platform that replicates the learning and networking experience online, which will enable thousands of new innovators to join the conversation and learn, network and collaborate. So even if we don’t come to your city, you can join the tribe.

What can participants and partners expect to gain from the Cape Town Intrapreneurship Conference in October?

First, they’ll leave with tons of new insights and ideas. They’ll hear from Tim Jones about the 4th Industrial Revolution- and what this means for Africa. They’ll understand how companies like Thomson Reuters, Barclays, Tiger Brands, Standard Bank and Afgri are doing innovation.

Secondly, they’ll leave with new skills and tools and techniques. They’ll join hands-on practical sessions by Paul Steenkamp, Charles Ojei, Baratang Miya and David Hicks. To highlight the latter- that session is all about innovation in a constraint-driven context, so really useful.

Thirdly, they’ll leave with new friends and contacts to reach out to and collaborate with long after the event is done. Half of the participants of #IntraCnf Cape Town are participants to Thomson Reuters’ Africa Summit; business leaders and strategy directors from across the continent. The other half are mostly heads of innovation and intrapreneurs, coming from the globcal network of Intrapreneurship Conference, and so together this makes for a truly diverse and interesting group of exec’s all keen on realizing this potential for Africa 4.0.

We always say- if you can only go to one event a year, make sure it’s #IntraCnf. It’s not just another conference; our events are intimate, immersive and international learning experiences. Would be great to see you in Cape Town, on Oct 13th!

     Apply to participate in the Intrapreneurship Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, on October 13 now.



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