Leading Innovation Excellence programme alumnus shares her journey of developing an innovation capability within Centraal Beheer

21 September 2020


In September 2017 we welcomed Linda Nieuwenhuizen as one of the participants in our Diploma Programme: Leading Innovation Excellence. Two years after finishing the programme, Linda shares her innovation journey with us.

Linda Nieuwenhuizen, Senior Manager New Business & Services at Centraal Beheer Achmea, one of the Netherlands’ biggest insurance companies, started the programme at a point which might be recognisable for many innovation professionals; an abundance of ideas in the organisation but all missing serious and grounded business potential. To solve this issue, Linda asked herself the question: How to build a capability of scaling new business initiatives that create a value of € 500,000 profit before tax in the same year?

Innovation as a core business unit

One of her key takeaways of the programme is that innovation needs to become a capability of the organisation in order to continuously improve and stay ahead of the competition. As such, Linda successfully conveyed the importance of developing a separate business unit with the sole focus on innovation to senior management. Currently, the newly formed innovation business unit is one of the core business units at Centraal Beheer Achmea.

Get the right people on the bus with the right tools

Instead of making the development of the innovation unit her own project, Linda involved everybody around her in the process; from managers to employees of different business units. She believes that this is one of the main factors that contributed to her success: ”Since innovation is a road of resistance, it is important to have the right support system in the form of a management team that supports you every week. Get the right people on the bus!”

Apart from having the right people, Linda also made sure to make innovation itself a more predictable and structured process. She developed a stage-gate model to structure the innovation process by phasing it in three stages: Discovery, Build and Grow. Each stage has a specific set of goals which need to be met, KPI’s to meet the progress towards reaching the goals and deliverables which determine whether innovation teams can move forward to the next stage or must stop at all.


In the first stage, innovation teams engage in ideation and exploration while making sure that innovations fit within the innovation vision of the organisation. Is there a problem amongst consumers for which there might be solutions in the market? During this phase, innovation teams start to work on the Value Proposition Canvas and Business Model Canvas to develop the problem from the customer perspective.


To move on to the Build phase, innovation teams need to finish the Value Proposition Canvas. Is the problem valid? Can existing solutions be (in)validated? How will the idea generate money? Innovation teams start to fully validate the Business Model Canvas and the Customer Journey to understand how the business works and what is needed to support it.


In the final phase, preparations are made to ensure the business is able to stand on its own feet. Who do we need to build a team? What will the business case, vision and strategy be? Will it become a spin-out or spin-in? Innovation teams use the Scaling Funnel and Autonomous Team Canvas to help in scaling and finalizing the business.


The StageGate model as identified by Dr. Robert G. Cooper (Cooper, 2008)


A new service of Centraal Beheer Achmea which was launched during the rise of corona measures and followed this innovation process, is ‘Klushulp’. Klushulp is a platform where both existing customers and non-customers can find repairman for fixing small household tasks. The platform was a huge success as Centraal Beheer Achmea could use their existing network of handymen to commercialise it. Existing customers could easily find solutions for issues which are not covered by the insurance policy and non-customers could get access to a variety of handymen for fixing household tasks. Since its inception in March 2020, the platform has fixed over 25.000 jobs of which 67% are new customers.

More clarity

Through the strategic notion of Explore and Exploit, Linda recognised that the two would often get mixed up within her environment. As she was responsible for innovation, it did not make sense to be reporting with KPI’s which were formulated on the current business. After all, innovation has more to do with exploring rather than exploiting. To provide better and more accurate reporting, Linda has used the Explore and Exploit concept in her management reporting in which she now only uses Explore KPIs and not Exploit KPIs.

Future perspective

Overall, Linda has succeeded in showing others the importance of successful innovation (and the yields which that might bring) and she hopes to turn the business unit innovation into the biggest one within Centraal Beheer Achmea through continuously developing the competency of people.

Develop your organisation’s innovation capability

If you would like to learn more about developing, implementing and sustaining organisation-wide innovation that fit the people, process and culture of your organisation, sign up for our Diploma Programme: Leading Innovation Excellence or get in touch to discuss a customised programme.

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