Daan Roosegaarde in the spotlight:  “Not having ideas, but #doing and the right execution directed at impact, that’s what it’s all about.”

On my Facebook page I saw an irritated Daan Roosegaarde walk out of the #CollegeTour interview. That made me curious enough to watch the complete TV broadcast. Almost the entire interview was about a subject that I’m intrigued by: innovation, ideas and #doing. In short: Innovation Management. My big hero Schumpeter described it well, almost fifty years ago, that ideas are often a combination of existing elements, calling them rightfully “neue Kombinationen”. Many of my clients and partners have little creativity and therefor are always looking for the “best idea”. Quite funny, because I think now more than ever there’s an abundance of ideas. Google the internet, or get in contact with other creative minds: a large list of new ideas is quickly found or created. That’s not the issue.

I totally agree with Daan Roosegaarde that only #doing matters. Only the realization of an idea determines the question whether an innovation has truly become an innovation. Without realization there is only a cute development (prototype) or worse: it just remains at “having an idea”. The process from idea to prototype to innovation (hence impact guidance), that’s the essence of good entrepreneurship. Without impact no innovation. And without #doing you’ll never realize the intended impact. That’s why I understand what Daan is doing. And that’s why at TOP BV that is the true mission for our company and all projects we execute: #doing!

Half way through the program – after several times of having dealt with the question about the difference between an innovative idea and a new combination of two existing elements – Daan described it beautifully:

Bowling or Ping-Pong, that’s the question.
A nice big heavy ball that you slowly roll into a corner, hoping something will fall.
I don’t believe in bowling ball anymore.
I believe in Ping-Pong, a tiny ball, rather cheap, but quick in interacting with others, making your story.Being the group that DOES it and starts acting.

It actually is about creating an atmosphere in which clever minds get to it. That’s how you can make a difference. To me, a bowling ball is a metaphor for a lonely researcher or typical inventor wanting to do everything by himself. Often solitaire, focused on knowing even more about the subject, but not creating impact, not #doing. In that context I strongly encourage everyone to read Robert’s Rules of Innovations II, with the terrific subtitle “the art of implementation”: “A correct execution makes the difference, dear scientists and advisors”. Mobilizing and inspiring smart and creative people may well be the most important skills you should have as an entrepreneur. Strong leadership including the right timing for pushing and letting go.

Daan getting mad at the researcher of TU Delft (Bob Ursem) I found rather childish. Maybe he got too emotional or angry and was afraid of losing control. Or maybe that woman in the program was right: “Daan has become Icarus, getting too close to the sun”. He should be unselfish and simply admit that Bob Usem was the original inventor of the idea. He should be on top of it and explain to interviewer Twan why he does what he does. But I do understand his emotion, for it really takes blood, sweat and tears to – against all odds – eventually realize the smog-tower. It costs a lot of energy and money. Nice for bowling ball Bob Ursum to have been at it for 18 years already, but obviously he needed Ping-Pong ball Daan to create the desired (media) impact. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful for them being on the stage together, putting each other in the spotlight? That would have been respectful. And Daan should show that kind of grandeur. No, Daan has revealed his true character during this College Tour, in my eyes not showing “strong leadership”.


In another article on internet Daan was compared to Elon Musk or Steve Jobs. Both examples of amazing modern high-tech entrepreneurs. I think this comparison is too much honor for Daan. He is a fine artist who knows how to reach the media. But he definitely is not an entrepreneur (nor does he pretend to be one). What the College Tour program should have focused on, is what is indeed needed to innovate successfully.

It is not science (often just having an idea, and only sometimes a prototype) nor the art/media (with a prototype or art object or media impact) that leads to more entrepreneurship, to more activity and employment. No, it’s the high-tech entrepreneurs that mobilize their teams and get into a DO-mode. It’s also about prototypes and launching customers (the first users or clients). And of course with high-tech entrepreneurship it is about marketing (visibility) and sales. Bob Ursem and Daan Roosegaarde both have some essential skills that, provided these are embedded in a greater team, can lead to success. But both lack other important skills, which they should humbly confess.

I’m disheartened about the future of the present Netherlands in which point-scoring contests to get media impact seem to be the standard. We do indeed see too many narcissists on television and in the papers. Both Daan and Twan are into that. I’m disheartened about the lack of high-tech entrepreneurship in our country (we do need Dutch Steve Jobs’ and Elon Musks). And I’m disheartened by the lack of serious (financial) resources needed to really innovate. This Daan-Twan-College-Tour case shows again the lack of insight and knowledge in journalists, politicians and officials in The Hague about the essence of innovation and high-tech entrepreneurship. That’s where my gloominess origins. Whithout knowledge you can’t direct properly. Without insight and knowledge we will never get to good policy. That’s why I’m disheartened.

Summarized, success needs:

  • A good idea, or even better, a working prototype;
  • A vision on the (latent) market;
  • A fantastic multi-disciplinary team;
  • Strong leadership, especially a boundless amount of perseverance;
  • More than enough financial recourses.

And success in the future should especially lead to:

  • More employment in The Netherlands;
  • Strong (new) companies. Prepare by putting large SME’s in a network;
  • Products and services that make the world more beautiful, more fun and more sustainable;
  • Customers and users.

Where in The Netherlands are the main bottlenecks?

PS: On my Facebook page you’ll already find an active discussion about this subject:

2 thoughts on “Daan Roosegaarde in the spotlight:  “Not having ideas, but #doing and the right execution directed at impact, that’s what it’s all about.”

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