CEO talks: Innovation strategies and competitive advantage

8 March / Sille Võsaste

February brought Innovation Leaders Club to SEB bank where Global expert on innovation strategies and the CEO of Business Model Inc Patrick van der Pijl held a fascinating seminar on innovation strategies, business models and development. The seminar was later accompanied by a fireside chat moderated by Mart Maasik (UniTartu Ventures) together with Andra Altoa (SEB) and Patrick van der Pijl (Business Model Inc) and it focused on designing innovation culture and how to empower a company’s innovation performance.

See event gallery here.

Patrick van der Pijl started the seminar by explaining the six ways to create value for (future) customers. At Business Models Inc. they design growth strategies, help with innovation, venture building and innovation within organizations etc. Their client portfolio is also impressive, while it includes names such as Tommy Hilfiger, LEGO, IKEA, T-Mobile, Microsoft, Danone, Heineken and many more.

The world we are currently living in is changing rapidly. During the last few years we’ve had to concur pandemic, we’ve seen the rise of shape-shifting technologies, generative AI, had to deal with economic challenges, inflation and out of balance energy bills.

Innovation has very much become the core of smart business – the behavior of people (consumers) has changed big time. We expect same-day delivery because of Amazon, smooth and secure online payments because of Apple, track our fitness thanks to FitBit and make more sustainable diet choices daily because of Beyond Meat. These are only some of the most notable examples Patrick shared that have had an immense impact on business as we know it. People have a whole new way of thinking and consuming thanks to the changes in the world. In conclusion, there are unexpected things with big impact happening all the time and that’s exactly why we need to keep up with innovation.

During the pandemic more sustainable options arose and for example women who are statistically more responsible to bringing the food to the table, they now know that there are more healthy and sustainable options to purchase because of the Beyond Meat discourse. Patrick goes on to tell about the 10% layoffs for the sales force that followed at the end of the year because the growth goals were not met for the first time in ages.

Patrick then told the story of Stella electric bikes and an entrepreneur, Pieter Pot, whose online retail went almost bankrupt. He thoroughly explained the subject of miscalculations during the pandemic about life after the pandemic.

“I find it quite fascinating that within this short period of time, companies are experiencing very different circumstances. We believe that you can only solve it by looking at business models and see how they behave and change over time so that the big opportunities for business still remain.”

Always ask where is the value next?

In that very same question “where is value next”, Patrick pointed out that the word “value” is often a misunderstood. Value exists already in the idea and the existing product etc. But it also lies in the innovation, in the potential of what it could become in the future.

He proceeds to explain the subject through the Business model canvas and covers topics such as what are the customers willing to pay for, how to manage innovation and business model (currently existing business models and how one should always look at strategy through a business model lens). Patrick showed us the life cycles of every business model and at what point innovation process comes to play. 

“Innovation isn’t something that we do “on the side”. Innovation is hard work because it doesn’t happen instantly, and it takes a lot of resources. When it comes to innovation, you have to set the target on what you would like to achieve,” he explains and brings examples of Mars and IKEA. 

He shares that they have also designed an innovation playbook for companies to help them get started. The “Six business model shifts” goes deep into products vs services, physical vs digital, linear vs circular etc. All of which were colorfully explained by Patrick through real life examples, such as Mars trying to come to the market with healthier options.


Fireside Chat: How to design innovative culture and empower company’s innovation performance?

After Patrick gave the innovation leaders an inspiring seminar on innovation strategies, it was time for a fireside chat. The moderator for the chat was Mart Maasik – UniTartu Ventures investment lead and head of entrepreneurship at Tartu University. He was accompanied by Andra Altoa, Head of Customer Data and Strategic Transformations at SEB Baltic and Patrick van der Pijl, CEO of Business Model Inc.

Mart Maasik begun by saying: “Designing an innovative culture and empowering a company’s innovation performance can be challenging but rewarding.” He told that seeing the amount of people at the event, it’s obvious that people yearn for practical advice and action recommendations.

Together, they discussed more broadly the foundations of an innovative company culture, which (if there even are any) are its prerequisites at the level of specific skills and focuses. It was discussed whether changes and innovations should come from above or below, and what are possible obstacles in both cases. In Andra’s words, you should never underestimate a small group of really capable people. “Actually, both are needed, small groups and management,” she clarifies.

The discussion was also enriched by questions from the audience, which were discussed together. The discussion round can be summed up in words – you have to have courage and a burning sense of curiosity inside, and if you have that, then the environment doesn’t matter – world-changing innovation can happen in a garage even.


The next Innovation Leaders Club event is held in Estonian and will take place on March 29, 2023. More details: Vestlus juhilt-juhile: Valdkonnaülene digihügieen ja nutikas investeeringute planeerimine