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About Dr Bettina von Stamm

I thought perhaps it would be helpful if I shared a little about my story of how I discovered my passion for innovation, and where I am actually coming from, professionally speaking.

So here goes: I started my professional career with a compromise, believing that architecture would be a good combination of the two things I liked but did not have either guts or conviction to pursue; computer science and fashion design.  It only took me a few months to realise that architecture would not be for me, but in the absence of a clear idea of what to do instead I decided to finish my degree as quickly as ever possible, start working, and keep my eyes open for anything that would capture my imagination.

This came along in the shape of an article about MBAs - at the time (1989) a rather unknown concept in my home country of Germany.

In addition to having learned that compromises should not be made when it is something REALLY important in your life, my first degree told me that doing things ‘second rate’ is not a good idea either, so I applied to one business school that was considered to be one of the leading in Europe at the time (and still is): London Business School.  And what a good choice it proved to be as it was the only business school at the time that actually talked about design in the context of business!  Having experienced two key figures in the field at the time, Peter Gorb and Angela Dumas, and having been inspired by the connection between emotional - design, and analytical - MBA, I found exactly one company I worked for: Wolff Olins.  Wolff Olins were an organisation that seem to take a strategic and holistic approach to corporate identity which for me was all about establishing what a company is and wants to be about, and then finding ways to communicate this internally and externally.  Unfortunately when I finished my MBA in 1992, it was not a good time to attempt to get hired into the ‘creative industries’.  So, instead of doing yet again something where my heart was not in it I decided to start working for myself.

Of course, initially I took (almost) any project that would help pay the bills and loan I had taken out for the MBA though I tried to focus on projects somewhat related to design, design management, new product development as much as I could.

Realising that project work was definitely my cup of tea I also realised that a deeper level of expertise would be helpful in persuading people to work with me - rather than any of the others doing project work out there.

So I went back to London Business School, this time to get my PhD.  The glorious title of the end result is:  The effects of context and complexity in new product development.  I somehow think that if I had written my dissertation a little later innovation would surely have had a place in its title!

The PhD work provided me with the 3 key insights that until this day form the foundation for my thinking on innovation:

  • The importance of understanding the context, and with it a healthy scepticism of ‘best practice’ and ‘one right way’;
  • The need for a holistic, systemic approach to understanding and embedding innovation;
  • The need to focus on individuals, behaviour, and human nature in order to understanding resistance to chance, and overcoming that resistance.

Almost from the word ‘go’ I have aimed to combine a number of different activities: teaching, researching, running networking groups, writing, public speaking, workshops, seminars, in short anything that would aid the ‘understanding and enabling of innovation’ - which is the shortest possible summary of what all my work is about.  When someone asks me what I like best I always answer: it is the combination of it all!  I would not want to miss a single aspect of it.

In Relentless Pursuit of Innovation...
Founder and Catalyst

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