Lou Schreurs was running a consultancy when Bang & Olufsen asked him to take charge of its product development. The luxury consumer electronics firm took notice of Schreurs’s 30 years of experience innovating in the industry. Schreurs had worked with firms like Philips where he launched the world’s first consumer plasma television. Today, he works as the Senior Vice President Product Creation at Bang & Olufsen where he manages a team to develop timeless experiences through electronics.
Three Questions with Lou Schreurs
1. What is the biggest challenge you face when innovating?
The key question is always "How do you always make sure that you're close enough to the key trends in the market?" What we do is different than the industry standard; we make sure to keep a very close contact to trends. If we see something, we look at how we can translate that into something that has meaning to consumers -- it has to be relevant. You have to see what's relevant and try to put a twist on that. By doing this, we can bring in a little more magic and translate trends into new technologies.
The big challenge for me and the development team is in pushing the limits. We recently launched new headphones and the craftsmanship is incredible. The aluminum isn't just one small piece like most headphones and the leather is from sheep in New Zealand because there are less wrinkles. It's not the cheapest way to do things, but it's what matters. I would say a lot is embedded in the people, in the mindset, the mindset for design and the drive for perfection.
2. What makes an innovative culture? How do you create a culture of innovation?
It's deeply embedded in the culture of the people in the company. That’s the main drive behind the company’s exciting processes. If you look at James Bond movies, our company’s products have always been picked. It starts with the people who have been focusing on this for many years. The real starting point is the people and the culture and the drive that they have.
Part of this is that design is embedded in the minds of Danish people. Denmark is not a small country in terms of space. However, from a people point of view, it's quite small. If you look in Denmark, all of the population is excited and thinking about design. Design is very deeply embedded in the DNA of the people. That's why over the course of 80 years, we were able to create such great products.
3. Looking to the future, how is Bang & Olufsen going to be a leader in innovation?
Since our inception in 1925, we have always been into innovation and design. I am convinced that we will keep that moving forward. The feedback that we've been getting is great. If you walk into a shop, 90% of the audio video products are ugly black boxes. Some of them sound nice, but B&O does that while focusing on design. We have a nice combination of something that stands out in the market and we wrap the best tech and performance in an amazing design. We have a high potential to help customers enjoy their audio video devices.
From an organization point of view, we've stepped up. We have a clear objective to grow substantially on top of a very well-known brand and a customer base who really appreciates the product. I believe that with the power and knowledge we have in different categories, there is a lot more to come.