Stefan Stremersch, Professor in Marketing at Erasmus School of Economics, held his inaugural speech at the University of Gent on March 26th 2015, upon being awarded the International Francqui Chair, in the presence of Prof. Anne de Paepe (Rector Magnificus University of Ghent) and Prof. Huib Pols (Rector Magnificus Erasmus University Rotterdam).
Every year, the Francqui Foundation bestows 2-3 International Chairs on the recommendation of the board of directors of Belgian universities. These chairs are given to professors who excel in their respective expertise fields and are honorary in nature. Prof.dr. Stremersch is granted this title on top of his current affiliations at Erasmus School of Economics and IESE Business School. The goal of the Francqui Chair is to promote interuniversity cooperation, the development of higher education and the stimulus of scientific research in Belgium.
Following a word of welcome by Prof. Marc de Clercq, dean of the University of Ghent and Prof. Patrick van Kenhove (Chair of the Marketing Department), Stefan Stremersch was awarded the Francqui medal by the Rector Magnificus of the University of Ghent, Prof. Anne de Paepe. Stefan Stremersch then presented his inspiring inaugural address entitled “Wiring Innovation in Firms’ DNA”. In his talk, Prof. Stremersch argued that grassroots innovation is the best strategy to promote innovation and escape economic stagnation. Grassroots innovation requires wiring an innovation mindset on employees in the ranks which is the key that allows medium to large firms to unlock customer-centric innovativeness and launch innovations with clear prospects of commercial success. Employees in the ranks are a strong, easily accessible and almost unlimited source of ideas.
Stefan Stremersch brought forward his thoughts on how firms can be successful through grassroots innovation based on vast experience working with multinational companies such as Michelin, KLM and Merck and his latest academic research on grassroots innovation. In particular, his research finds that to succeed in grassroots innovation, firms need to design innovation processes that satisfy what he calls the three A’s of grassroots innovation: autonomy, ability and attachment. When satisfied, these three innate human needs, unlock the passion and drive employees need to develop customer-centric innovations. At the same time, however, firms need to ensure employees work on the “right innovations,” i.e. they need to avoid waste and chaotic processes by ensuring that the ideas generated by its employees are well-aligned with the company's overall vision.
The inaugural address was followed by a panel discussion with distinguished guests such as Jacques van den Broek (CEO of Randstad), Kris Peeters (Vice Prime-Minister of the Belgian Federal Government), Peter Claes (Director Media and Production, VRT) and Marnix Botte (President Belgian Industrial Research and Development Association (BiR&D)). For some additional pictures of the event and panel discussion please click here.