Mr. Schäfer, “Innovation Management” was already the core topic at this year’s Nunatak Networking Night. What insights have you incorporated into your project work since then?
RUPERT SCHÄFER: Above all: innovation is a change topic that depends very much on people and accordingly is reliant upon optimal cooperation. We knew that before, but that evening and all the input coming from different perspectives confirmed it once again. Innovation can only succeed if you manage to change cooperation, leadership, project work and the way mistakes or failures are handled within the company. And at the Nunatak Networking Night, practically all the representatives of large industrial companies, such as The Linde Group, up to large reinsurers confirmed this. The human component is and remains the crucial point if transformation and ultimately innovation are to be successfully driven forward.
In the past, innovation initiatives often failed due to a lack of measurability. How is success measured today?
Of course, measurability is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to innovation. For years there have been a lot of attempts to establish KPIs and targets in companies with fixed processes and structures. And when jumping into the unknown – exactly what innovation is – those targets aren’t going to work at all or only with great difficulty. KPIs and targets that are needed to steer a tanker with a turnover of 100 billion euros are usually not the same as those that are needed for disruptive innovation, mindset change and new working methods. At the Nunatak Networking Night we got to know some very interesting approaches to measuring innovation success. These include, for example, the number of employees involved in an innovation program. Or whether new working methods are applied and adopted in day-to-day business. In contrast, classic target coordinate systems, such as sales and margins, are more or less unsuitable. However, this insight has to be understood by senior management before companies begin to deal with establishing change processes.