Tudor Mihai: Innovation comes in many forms, from Funkybottles to Problem Solvers Meetup

21 oct. 19
Tudor Mihai Innovating Society Atelierul de Idei

A new article in Agile&Innovation People series tells the story of Tudor Mihai , who has returned from Amsterdam to preach "innovation way" in Cluj. We share passion for innovation and friends in Studio Why, a Dutch design school and entrepreneurial community made by people that "educate to innovate". The Dutch studio where he was also trained is one of my sources of inspiration for the future steps of Atelierul de Idei.

Who is Tudor Mihai? What would you like your audience know about you? What about your clients?

I moved back to my home country after 5 years of living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, to share the knowledge and experience gathered by studying and working there. I started to work on innovation projects for new product development and improved service experience by using a comprehensive method that combines market and trend research with user research. I organize trainings on soft skills to help managers improve their creative and critical thinking, as well as co-creation workshops to discover new business opportunities, then develop the ideas and test them to achieve product-market fit. My personal approach is putting people first. Clients would say that I have a distinct ability to guide diverse groups of people in the right direction when having to come up with difficult decisions. 

If you were to describe Innovation to a 3 year old or to your grandmother, how would you do it?

If creativity happens when you play and come up with new ideas while doing so, innovation is the process of turning that idea into a product that can be sold on the market so that more people can benefit from it.

Was there a trigger to send you on this journey related to Innovation? How did you get to be here?

I started to think about innovation the moment I became more aware of what is happening around me. Whenever I got annoyed of something or I thought things can be improved, I challenged myself to think of all of the complexities of the problem and tried to come up with solutions. That’s how my first business came to life in 2016, Funkybottles (www.funkybottles.com). I was annoyed by the plastic pollution problem and got to explore the topic more, which made me want to contribute in some way. While this being such a big problem, no one can ever make one solution to solve it all. That’s why I started something that can make a small difference, which combined with other small initiatives can make an impact. The product I came up with was the idea to transform the boring water bottles into personalized accessories that people can express their personality through art. We tested the concept and people did not forget the bottle at home if it had some sort of value for them, which led them to not buy another plastic bottle from the store every time they did not carry one with them, resulting in less purchases that means less plastic to be thrown away. 

This was the moment when I saw how a small improvement can make a difference and that innovation comes in many forms from different places. Since then I started to pay more attention to the things around me, which is the first step when you want to innovate. First, you identify the problem and get to understand it, then come up with possible solutions and many iteration phases of improvement. The excitement and surprise that comes out of creating something new that people find useful is the reason I now guide others on this process of innovation. 

Do you have a recent or important project that you want to showcase? Something that makes you proud or something that is concerning you and you want people to know about?

We recently started a series of free Meetups called ‘Problem Solvers - Inspire to Innovate’ (https://www.meetup.com/problem-solvers-cluj/). As the name says, we want to bring inspiring, international speakers to inspire others to start their own business or improve their existing ones. We are addressing Founders and CEO’s, Product Managers, Developers, Designers and aspiring entrepreneurs. This project is close to my heart because I have the chance to bring people that I met while I was living abroad to visit Romania and share some of their mindset and practices that they use in their daily life. I believe that innovation comes by being exposed to new perspectives and meeting the right people, so I am happy to create the right environment to make this happen. 

Why does innovation fail? Are there any caveats, advice, tips or tools you might want to share for people that are just starting this bumpy road?

Innovation implies change, and very few people like that. Therefore, convincing people to change towards a new direction might be the most difficult part. Luckily enough, with practice, people can adapt a more flexible mindset, and that’s what we do at Innovating Society through our workshops. By training yourself to make connections between things that don’t appear obvious at the first glance, you gain access to using your creative and analytical thinking. Next to this and other reasons which I don’t want to get into right now, is that innovation fails because the market is not ready for your solution yet, obstacle which can be overcame by launching your product on a small scale and testing it. We at Innovating Society can help with running experiments that can tell whether a product is ready to sell or not. 

If you were to be a Lego character, how would you look like? Please describe us and let your imagination go free. Visualization is a powerful tool and we might all find new things about ourselves when trying to step out of the old shoes

Hmm, Lego! I think I would be the guy that lays bricks to build houses; making small steps towards a shared goal and enabling others with the right resources to do the same. 

Tudor the Lego minifig

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