Trends Vlerick Business Academy


Saturday, October 11th, early in the morning. Today I’m attending the Trends Vlerick Business Academy. Business Academy is an initiative of Trends & Vlerick Business School, who joined forces to organize a one-day training focused on entrepreneurship.

I arrive at the venue, the luxury Dolce Hotel in Brussels, and join the other early birds in the coffee lounge. This year’s Business Academy offers 3 training tracks:

  • Track 1. Entrepreneurship training aimed towards professionals who already started their own business or who have an idea and want to develop a concrete business proposal.
  • Track 2. Intrapreneurship training aimed towards professionals who want to launch an idea within the company and want to promote and feed an entrepreneurial culture within their business.
  • Track 3. Trends & Strategies training aimed towards professionals who want to be on top of new trends and fully informed about the latest developments in management.

As an aspiring product manager, I decide to participate in the intrapreneurship track. As the other 250 participants gradually arrive, I can’t wait to start feeding my mind with new thinking, new ideas and inspiration.

 Are you a game changer?


“Are you a game changer?” asks professor Marc Buelens. “A game changer is a person or organization that exploits opportunities for growth, outside its core business with a radically different business and management model.” says Marc. After a series of inspiring examples of game changing companies, Marc shares that in our fast changing world, we need renewal and game changing behavior, not change for the sake of change. “Renewal has always been the foundation for long-term economic success. But only game changers can come to those simple ideas.” says Marc. 

Marc’s presentation is packed with principles and examples of game changing behavior. In the end I’m absorbed by my inner drive to become a game changer. This was the motivation I needed to start the day off right. I’m excited.

 Aligning the business model.


Professor Veroniek Collewaert takes the lead in our second session on internal and external alignment of all building blocks of a company’s business model. After an in depth explanation of Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Generation, Veroniek shares insights on how changes in a business model can affect the complete organization. A very interesting discussion is sparked about how smart changes in the business model can make your competitive advantage and value proposition significantly more difficult to copy by competitors.

In a world where the lifespan of business is decreasing, rapid change and business model innovation is mandatory for a company’s survival. Veroniek concludes her session by sharing ways to redesign a business model by applying lean methodology and design thinking principles.

 Entrepreneurial Culture

In the next session professor Katleen De Stobbeleir talks about the development of an entrepreneurial and creative climate inside a company. By focusing on imagination, observation, attitude, collaboration & diversity, Katleen points out a way for companies to nurture creativity in an organization and support people develop ideas that drive the business forward.

“If you ask customers what they require, they’ll think inside their boxes.”, “Run your business by ideas, not by hierarchy.” and “Support your creative geniuses, don’t push them out.” are some quotes that stick. Definitely a fascinating session that changed my perspective on the ways my organization is trying to be innovative.

 Doing it the start-up way.


Professor Miguel Meuleman talks about how launching new products in an uncertain market place is a search, not an execution problem that needs to be solved. Managing uncertainty is becoming a necessity and can be done by acting more like a start-up. A major part of the session is dedicated towards experimentation and developing a culture of learning where failure is accepted.

The key question is, can my big multinational company really create the mind-set and processes to return to the start-up mode?

 Lessons from the field.

Bart de Waele, CEO at Wijs, shares how he leads his organization driven by an entrepreneurial spirit. The cornerstone of his company is a culture of transparency, communication and sharing. “Create a working environment that promotes communication and co-creation.” and “Facilitate creativity and continuous innovation, don’t try to control it.” are his key takeaways.

Tom Aelbrecht, Director Venture & Incubation Center at Janssen/J&J talks about business incubation and venture acceleration. Tom talks about how top management needs to support and help people in the organization foster an entrepreneurial mindset and develop ideas. “Engaging people and making them passionate to deliver results requires executive sponsorship and organizational support systems.” is his core message.

From the outside in


The last training of today is lead by professor Marion Debruyne. Marion talks about how to survive today’s markets by practicing ‘customer innovation’: combining extreme customer focus with innovative strength. Using the metaphor of looking through three different lenses, Marion explains how to connect with the customers of today and prepare tomorrow’s growth strategy.

After a session filled with tons of information and valuable insights, Marion concludes: “Dream your worst nightmare. Then invest in it.” True, the best way to predict the future, is to participate in it.


When I receive my training certificate and goodie-bag, I conclude the Business Academy met my expectations. I’m inspired and motivated to translate my new knowledge into the real context of my organization. Not only did I learn a lot, Trends Vlerick Business Academy was also a tremendous opportunity for networking. I’m glad I got to know several interesting and inspiring professionals from diverse industries.

Late in the evening. Satisfied and with a mind saturated with new insights, I’m driving back home.

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Creativity Class 2014


Every two years, Creativity Class is organized by Vlerick Business School and Flanders DC. Creativity Class is an exclusive four-day training on creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, allowing only the best 24 candidates to participate. The goal of the program is to have small teams invent an innovative business idea, create a business case and defend the concept for a jury of Vlerick professors and business experts.
Having participated in this contest with my team in 2012, I was thrilled when Vlerick invited us to talk about our experience to the group of 2014. Of course we accepted this invitation.

I must say the location of this year’s edition, an old chapel at the Vlerick Campus in Ghent, was quite inspirational. We shared our experience about working in a cross-functional team, building a strong value proposition and offered tips on how to develop a good business model. Most of all we told a story about hard work and fun. Lots of fun!

For me personally Creativity Class was an amazing experience that changed my perspectives on success, my career, my personal development and even life itself. Read all about it here.

I just want to wish all participants of Creativity Class 2014 good luck. Have fun and become inspired. Your life is about to change.

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The explorer’s mindset.


Specialization is an innovation inhibitor.

We are living in times where people know more and more about less and less. Every day we are bombarded with so much information our nervous system would snap if we responded to all of that data. In order to function in the world of today, we narrow our focus and limit our field of vision. We all specialize in a particular field of interest. We all become experts in something.

Paradoxically that’s exactly what may hold us back from innovation and growth. Specialists love to stay in their comfort zone. They often forget to look for ideas and inspiration that exist outside their field of expertise. How many people have you heard say “That’s not my field,” or “That’s not my problem.” In many cases specialists are not defining their problems in broad enough terms. Because of this specialization can be counterproductive for innovation.

On being an explorer.

Thomas Edison one of the greatest innovators once said: “Make it a point to keep on the lookout for novel and interesting ideas, that others have used successfully. Your idea has to be original only in its adaptation to the problem you’re currently working on.” Truth is we are all becoming specialists and we better keep in mind to stay open to new ideas and experiences. We need to keep looking for new ideas outside our areas of expertise.

We need to step out of our comfort zones and venture off the beaten path, exploring for good ideas from divergent sources. Find those blogs, books, stores, restaurants, business models, activities, … that inspire you and help you think creative. Be open to the things that help you generate new insights and ideas about the problems you’re facing. Think of Steve Jobs who loved to walk because it made him think different and clear his head. Personally, I like to read science fiction novels and play the drums to clear my head and allow new ideas to flow in.

As Heraclitus put it twenty-five centuries ago: “Lovers of wisdom must open their minds to very many things.” So feel free to comment and share where you explore for ideas? What outside places, activities, and situations do you use to stimulate creative thinking?

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