Change Mindset - a case for Open Innovation 2.0

By Anna Koj

We’re living in the era of exponential change. New ideas pop-up at a much higher frequency rate than ever before and one of the common challenges for all organisations today is the competition for customer’s attention and buy-in. 

So, why should customers choose you? While changes these days occur more quickly and may take us in unexpected directions, it’s also increasingly more difficult to actually come up with an idea that would leave competition far behind for long. High quality is essential but it’s more a starting point than a unique distinctive success factor. What is key, is the overall user experience you build around your offering. And building successful user experience requires a well-developed change mindset. It is essential to keep an open mind, seek feedback and remain flexible to adapt accordingly, and most importantly, perceive individuals in their whole selves, and as part of a broader eco-system they function in.

Easier said than done?

Yes, and no. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, which makes it more specific and may require more work. The good news is that the secret ingredient is available to all. Stop thinking in terms of “us vs them”, start thinking in terms of just “us all”.

It’s about how WE influence collectively the society and environment around us, what contribution WE have in making our lives better, what role WE have in building solutions that will help us stay better informed or work more efficiently. It’s about thinking bigger than a single event or a new product. 

What is the role of open innovation in all of this? To succeed in this new reality, we need to employ new paradigms, such as the Quadruple Helix Model, which puts knowledge exchange, collaboration and co-creation at its core. By bringing together public sector, academia, industry and civil sector participants, we build on our collective intelligence as a society. We bring to the discussion all aspects of our lives that make us who we are and impact us as individuals, and we facilitate the development of innovative solutions that go beyond anything that any individual or organisation could achieve on their own. 

The article has been originally written for HQ - The Association Magazine and published in the July 2019 edition of the magazine, accessible online, here.

Change (Mindset) is the New Constant

By Anna Koj


Change is a very important concept. As complex to comprehend fully, as it is common in our lives since forever. Over the years, a lot has been written and said about change management processes and techniques, developed to help leaders drive and manage change in their organisations. 

The concept of change today, however, as per its own nature, has evolved. With the development of artificial intelligence and growing innovation in the area of automation, we are witnessing changes occurring at an ever increasing speed, and becoming more and more exponential. As Yuval Noah Harari notes, we struggle with imagining the scope of change in the future because we keep using the same thinking patterns we have been using for years. 

Traditionally, when thinking about change we anticipate a disruptive force challenging the status quo, a period of adaptation, and finally stabilisation in the new status quo. However, what is more probable is that constant change will become in the coming years the new normal. This means that both as individuals and as organisations we need to look for ways to become more agile, reactive and adaptable. We need to develop tools and mechanisms to thrive even if we don’t have all the data to predict what future will bring us. What we need to work on is, first and foremost, our own Change Mindset. 

The Change Mindset allows you to fully embrace the concept of constant change, without fearing the unknown. It empowers you to unleash your creativity to proactively drive and shape change, to write your own story. Ultimately, it plays to the strengths of your whole self, as it mobilises to capitalise on your full skillset rather than staying closed in the box of any specific professional role. This broader way of perceiving yourself is crucial in ensuring success, as supported by the results of the study by the World Economic Forum on the top 10 Skills needed to Thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. While complex problem solving, unsurprisingly leads the list, skills such as creativity, critical thinking or emotional intelligence have all gained in importance. 

Throughout the year, in a series of targeted and crisp reflections, I will explore with you ways to develop, practice and empower your Change Mindset. 

The article has been originally written for HQ - The Association Magazine and published in the February 2019 edition of the magazine, accessible online, here.

When women come together, great things happen

By Anna Koj

When I joined Professional Women International Brussels (PWI Brussels) a few years ago, little did I know just how much it would influence my life. Just another opportunity to network and attend some events, I thought.

Two and a half years later, I am a member of PWI Brussels’ Board as Vice-President responsible for Partnerships. I have organised and lead our Events Team. I have helped put together a number of great events and initiatives, and I have grown … ohh so much!

I consider myself to be a strong, independent woman. I go through life proudly, take up new challenges and openly face what comes my way. Why would volunteering for a women’s organisation bring me any benefit?

Firstly, when women come together, great things happen.

I believe that we, as a society, can achieve more and flourish when we work together, women and men alike. Equality, the right and opportunity to equally contribute to the common project, is something I have been taught early on by my parents, something I have brought along with me to adulthood. 

I realise, however, that still many women grow and live convinced that their work and actions are somehow less valuable, that they don’t have the right to take ownership of their own personal and professional life. PWI Brussels has shown me the unique power of women coming together. We shine when working collectively, building on our individual strengths to achieve a common goal. This has been such an incredible empowerment tool for so many women I have met along the way.

Secondly, volunteering lets you grow your professional skills almost seemingly, and it’s so much fun.  

Volunteering is a great way of learning by doing, while also having the time to look inside yourself, reflect on what suits you, what doesn’t and finding your own, unique leadership style. It’s not about attending a yet another one-day training course, getting a certificate and pretending you have overnight become an expert. Instead, since it all happens so naturally, these new skills grow on you and you own them without feeling fake and having to fake it, till you make it.   

Finally, having safe space really is a thing.

Before and even after joining PWI Brussels, I honestly thought that the whole concept of “safe space” was a just another empty, overused term. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Volunteering for an association that has enough professional structure allows you to push yourself and try new ways of leading a project or a team. It gives you a chance to find out your professional persona, realise where you may be lacking skills and allows space and opportunities to develop them. All this without the constant fear of being judged and possibly fired. 

The article has been first published as part of the HQ - The Association Magazine's #84. All digital editions of the magazine can be found on their website, here.