Fennemiek Gommer and Anne Mieke Eggenkamp together lead Caracta Business Innovation.
Working as a duo they believe in the added value of integrating a strategy and leadership development approach to business innovation. They help leaders apply creativity and work with unconventional experts to design their future direction, brand positioning and transformation journeys.
Separately, they are also both independent chairs of several company boards and teach business transformation and ambidextrous leadership.
Fennemiek is a purpose-driven strategy and innovation consultant who enjoys wicked challenges and connecting people and ideas. Professionally growing up in a management consultancy made her realise that her design approach was different, starting from the desired end goal instead of analysing (and potentially getting stuck) in the present.
Anne Mieke’s specific expertise is in circularity and sustainability, leadership development and designing boardroom learning. She pioneered digital design surfing on the growth of the world wide web. Her second degree in education led to the Executive Chair position of a world-renowned design school and the realisation that innovation is a learning journey.
In their new book, Boardroom Creativity, Fennemiek and Anne Mieke explore how applying creativity both in strategy and leadership development can help boards design the desired future for their business.
Please tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
FG: I grew up as the youngest daughter in an entrepreneurial family. As a child I wanted to be a writer and travel the world, so I grabbed the chance to study in the US with a Fulbright scholarship. After studying industrial design and various other studies (I’m very curious and love learning) I started out at an international brand strategy consultancy in Amsterdam, where I grew up from junior consultant to managing partner. I now lead Caracta Business Innovation together with Anne Mieke Eggenkamp, teach Innovation & Business transformation at the NCD Governance Academy and serve as a NED on the boards of primarily family-owned companies.
AME: And I also grew up as the youngest in an entrepreneurial family. I was this classic creative maker, always wanting to draw and create new things. After studying Art and Graphic Design and Education, I started working in the publishing world to design the Dutch MacWorld Magazine. I have pioneered digital design and browsing with the growth of the world wide web and technological developments. My passion for helping people grow led me to the role of chairman of the Design Academy Eindhoven. I now act as an innovation partner, specialising in circularity and sustainability, leadership development and board room learning design. In addition to being a partner of Caracta Business Innovation, I am chairman of the board of various scale-up companies and I give lectures on ambidextrous leadership
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
FG: No never, but I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and grabbed opportunities when they came along.
AME: No, never, although there were times in my life when I took the time to zoom out and try to discover new patterns.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
FG: It’s hard to imagine now, but when I first started working as a boardroom consultant, there were still companies with all male boards that only wanted to work with my male business partner. Luckily, the world is changing, although not always as fast as I’d like.
AME: But of course! For me, trying new things comes with failures. The hardest thing ever was an enormous unexpected resistance during a change process. It opened my eyes to the completely different motivations of people to improve and humanise organisations.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
FG: Today I’d say the launch of our book, Boardroom Creativity. It’s been so long in the making and I’m very happy it’s finally here!
AME: Yes, same answer, our book, Boardroom Creativity. We were both working on different books. But to create a completely new book together was not only fun but also very challenging.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
FG: We focus too much on the role of women, I’d like for men to become emancipation champions (and be allowed to show their ‘feminine’ sides).
AME: Focus more on the broad spectrum of equality. We must learn to change together, using our whole brain and way of thinking to overcome our biases.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
FG: Focus on the things you enjoy doing and are good at, don’t try so hard to compensate for your less strong points
AME: Don’t forget to play and create. You can really learn a lot from thinking with your hands.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
FG: Mentoring is a learning gift, both for the mentor and the mentee. I love working with younger people, and have also regularly been a mentor.
AME: Mentoring is a permanent way of learning, and getting new insights. I do it a lot, and the interesting thing is that I keep emphasising that I learn as much from them as the other way around.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
FG: Next is our book launch. We’ll be going on tour to Milan and Stockholm. We hope to achieve seeing business leaders get more serious about creativity. We need it to find new solutions for today’s complex challenges and to redesign business for the better!
AME: We’re on a mission with our book: let’s get serious about creativity. We feel there is momentum – creating new business around our book, discovering new roads and opportunities. We’re jumping into a new experience and empowering others to design a better future for all.