“My house, my car, my grave” – disruptive thinking is strongest when it does not remain stuck in the present. This week, the digital conference Disruption 2019 – in which we participated as partners – demonstrated this concept. The idea of a life-affirming grave came from our workshop on developing innovative business models – but more on that later.
At Munich’s Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten, around 200 guests discussed what it takes to promote digital innovations in companies. They talked about how networking and modern forms of cooperation can help open up new ecosystems and markets, and how companies can profit from the digital revolution. Our Managing Partner and Co-Founder Robert Jacobi had already explained in advance how disruptive thinking can be translated into entrepreneurial success: “Successful disruption means being courageous, not destructive.”
The recognition that courage and out-of-the-box thinking must be at the heart of entrepreneurial development was a common theme throughout the conference.
This became particularly clear in the panel on the development of new digital business models: it’s only when employees have the courage to rethink, that companies will be successful in the long term. “People are decisive when it comes to successful disruption. They can either drive innovation forward, or slow it down out of a need for security,” Jacobi said. It is therefore particularly important to show employees in the company that it is worthwhile – and a good thing – for companies to evolve. Panel member Sandra Reich also thinks so. As the CDO of MAN Truck & Bus Germany, her goal is to “take people along and to accompany them on this journey.”
In order to establish disruptive thinking in a company, managers in particular are in demand as courageous role models. Martin Unger, managing director and CTO of the Viessmann digital unit WATTx, told the panel that he even explicitly sees his task as “creating unrest,” even if this might make a person unpopular in a company, at first. Because he knows that someone is needed who “rocks the boat and says, ‘There’s a different way to do this!’”
The panel once again shows that successful innovation goes hand in hand with a corresponding corporate culture. If the culture doesn’t mesh with innovation, nothing can move. Robert Jacobi stressed that disruption is definitely not about completely destroying old structures and rebuilding everything. Rather, “the task is to take the great strengths of industry into the digital age” – as Tom Oelsner, head of digital innovation at Heidelberg Digital Unit, and an employee of just such a steeped-in-tradition industrial company, says.
Digitalization of grave maintenance: is it possible?
A difficulty that Jacobi experiences again and again with German companies is that they struggle to implement something quickly and have a tendency toward perfectionism. When it comes to innovation, though, speed – along with courage – is an important factor. With the help of a Nunatak framework, it is possible not only to quickly develop and implement ideas, but also to quickly test and evaluate them under market conditions. The time span for this framework is four weeks. Prototyping at its best.
At an interactive workshop in the afternoon, led by Robert Jacobi and Nunatak Senior Consultant Jan-Henning Jestädt, the focus was on people – in keeping with the theme of “new culture”: the approximately 100 participants were encouraged to propose ideas, one of which was then jointly developed in a four-stage process.
In the first phase of the Nunatak framework (“Discover”), the main focus is on brainstorming, which ultimately involves assessing the opportunities and risks of an idea.
The audience’s suggestions varied greatly, from a face ID, to car unlocking, to vegan, pollution-free cigarettes with coffee flavor, to the digital organization of gravesite upkeep. The grave-care idea received the most applause and was processed live in the workshop. The Nunatakeers who were present put together a team of volunteers to further develop the idea – fully in the spirit of a creative process, featuring representatives from all relevant professions. One participant took on the controlling role, one was responsible for marketing, one for IT, and one served as the digital expert. Lastly, an idea provider rounded off the team.
The second phase (“Design”) deepened the process. Here the team went into greater detail under the guidance of the Nunatakeers. Among other things, the estimated investment requirements and the concrete solution approach were discussed.
In the third phase (“Test”), everything revolved around validating the draft solution, making any necessary adjustments and setting up a timetable for the launch of the idea. In the fourth and final phase (“Scale”), the team thought about how to take the innovation and “make it big.”
Conclusion at the end of the day: no matter how esoteric an idea may appear at first glance, it pays to give it the necessary space – embedded in the right framework. You can always bury it later.