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Creating New Value through Innovation and Intrapreneurship

Creating New Value through Innovation and Intrapreneurship | אלון אפשטיין

ADAMA (up to recently Makhteshim Agan Industries) is the global leader in the off-patent crop protection market, ranked #7 in the general agrochemical arena (in 2013). Originally, an Israeli owned and managed company, which grew through a series of successful synergetic M&As. Today, ADAMA is owned by ChemChina (60%), and Koor Industries (40%), with global presence in over 45 markets, serving farmers in over 120 countries. In 2014 ADAMA had an operating profit of $312.8 million out of an income of more than $3.2 billion, almost 5% more than they generated the year before.

The way to become a true market leader

As an off-patent manufacturer, innovation and breakthrough products might not be perceived as core elements in the company’s DNA. However, in order to become a true market leader, companies cannot afford to focus on incremental growth, evolving in the pace of the market, but must be committed to create new value for their customers, stakeholders, and the community as a whole. ADAMA were determined to do just that.

Led by ADAMA’s innovation development team, a global initiative to instill abilities and mindsets of corporate entrepreneurship (intrapreneurship) and innovation throughout the company’s subsidiaries began during 2013. For this purpose, Lahav Executive Education, an integral part of Tel Aviv University’s Business School, served as the strategic partner to design and deliver this global endeavor.

A blue print of the intrapreneurship and innovation facilitation workshop was designed, and readapted for ADAMA corporate headquarters and global subsidiaries. The workshop was delivered eight times, catering for corporate officers, line managers, and professionals stationed in strategic intersections of the company. Workshops were delivered in Sydney Australia, Costa-Rica, Israel, Dallas Texas, and Berlin Germany. This case analysis shall focus on the workshop delivered in Berlin for the company’s European subsidiaries, while deducing insights and outcomes from the entire global process.

Innovation and corporate entrepreneurship

In this world of hyper-competition, the reliance on classic models could not guarantee future organizational growth and prosperity. The standard approach to competitive advantage expects increases in revenues and decreases in expenses in order to achieve incremental growth, allowing financial performance similar to the average market benchmark, or slightly more than that. However, the core challenge is not improving the ratios between revenues and expenses; it’s changing the game altogether. The business arena has become more and more polarized between two kinds of companies, those who see the average market’s benchmark performance as a goal, and improve their own performance incrementally; while on the other hand there are companies who have leapt into radical innovation, by changing their mindset and succeed in ‘Wealth Creation’ for their stakeholders. The current reality is clear – in a nonlinear world, only nonlinear ideas will create new wealth. The workshop developed by Lahav for ADAMA was intended to accomplish these kinds of mindset shifts and business breakthroughs.

Workshop design and objectives

Lahav Executive Education together with ADAMA professionals designed a four day intensive, result oriented and experiential learning process. The model, an epitome of the concept described in the bestselling business book Start-Up Nation which looked at Israel’s many successes in technological innovation, constituted a synthesis between state of the art academic knowledge, and cutting edge practices developed in the industry. Lahav Executive Education has successfully applied these approaches before, tailoring the process for groups of senior executives from around the globe. In this instance, the practical learning process guided ADAMA Germany executives through the core stages of innovation creation. The program and workshops delivered aspired to promote corporate innovation, and facilitate its implementation through the program’s participants, who later served as organizational innovation champions. The program was designed and executed while fulfilling these goals:

• Generation of new radical innovation ideas.
• To expose participants to core pillars of innovation, used and applied in fields outside of the current core activities of ADAMA.
• The program’s design helped empower and leverage the ideas generated by innovation leaders within ADAMA and its global subsidiaries.
• Facilitate and promote innovation projects, while granting participants advanced operative tools to implement innovation within ADAMA.

The program and conjoint learning process created a forum of innovation leaders within ADAMA, serving as a significant engine of innovation and growth throughout the global corporation.

Framework and contents

Workshop participants came from diverse professional backgrounds and organizational hierarchies. The group was headed by ADAMA’s Vice President of North Europe, Dr. Gerhard Ahlers, a highly experienced scientist and business executive; together with marketing, sales, product management, and development officers from ADAMA’s European subsidiaries. Over a period of four days the group underwent a process that gradually brought them to the point where ideation turned into innovation plans. The preliminary topics of complexity and uncertainty followed by strategic innovation and leveraging of networks set the ground and created a sense of urgency regarding corporate innovation.


Each workshop, including the one conducted in Germany, generated 3-4 applicable radical innovation projects. By definition, the projects were removed from ADAMA’s existing product lines. Projects were chosen by corporate management according to their maturation expectancy – medium to long range, with an average maturation expectancy of 12 months. Corporate management chose which projects would receive funding and resource allocation, not only in the immediate future, but also set milestones for a second and third round of investment, subject to positive proof of concept validation. The innovation projects were certainly direct products generated by the workshop; however, the process encompassed additional values, benefiting the regional and corporate levels. Diverse teams initiated the projects, engaging managers from ADAMA subsidiaries from across Europe – Germany, UK, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Israel (corporate HQ). Serving as a European melting pot, the workshop leveraged diversity and perspectives to enhance dialogue, create synergies and promote cooperation between business units, and corporate – line.

These outcomes could not have been achieved without corporate management’s sincere commitment to the process itself and the application of the selected projects within company services.

Dr. Gerhard Ahlers summarized his and the group’s workshop experience: “The Berlin workshop designed by Lahav Executive Education incorporated the experience gained in previous workshops carried out in other ADAMA subsidiaries. The combination of the four elements, Start-Up Nation Concept, in-depth business knowledge of the participants, diverse background from different functions and hierarchies of the company as well as the cultural diversity of the people, created a unique environment of entrepreneurial creativity and out of the box thinking. Beside the innovative business ideas followed up by separate working groups, the main takeaway for all participants was the creation of an innovative environment in the company. Everybody experienced the personal empowerment in the projects and the get it done spirit of the company, thus actively living the values of ADAMA”. 

Lahav Executive Education – Innovation from the ‘Start-Up Nation’

Lahav Executive Education is a symbol of excellence in Israel, with extensive global experience. Lahav programs deliver a unique synthesis of academia and hands-on experiences, leveraging and utilizing the very best of both arenas. In recent years, Lahav has successfully delivered global innovation facilitation programs for private and government organizations, each time uniquely designing the contents and process to ideally suit the attributes, culture, and goals of the target audiences.

One of the largest European banks has partnered with Lahav to facilitate innovation mindsets and tool acquisition. In this instance, the program had an internal, as well as an external perspective. Bank executives and business associates came to Israel not only for the learning experience, but also to seek business opportunities in fields of bio-tech, clean-tech, agro-tech, infrastructure and additional arenas in which Israel has pioneering developments.

Tel Aviv University holds strategic partnerships and bilateral academic associations with renowned Chinese academic institutions, as well as private and public sector entities. China is on the brink of changing its innovation and design mindset – in order to transform the axiom of Made in China to Designed in China. Chinese traditional paradigms need to be challenged; there is no place on earth to better challenge paradigms and adopt critical thinking methodologies, than in Israel. Lahav is proof that this is indeed possible and effective.

Over the past years, hundreds of Chinese, South Koreans, Indians, Brazilians, and Argentinians have undergone Lahav’s state of the art customized innovation and entrepreneurship development programs, enabling them to achieve results they previously considered unattainable.

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