We were happy that around 70 participants accepted our invitation to Brahmskontor, including many decision-makers from the innovation and design departments of well-known German companies. They all wanted to learn more about how innovations are created at these two quite different companies. As always, they also had plenty of opportunity to discuss the topic of innovative capability with other experts.

Sebastian Schelper kicked things off with a very insightful presentation of the BMW innovation process: a five-phase model that BMW uses to develop new ideas that are then transferred to the company’s individual development areas. It was interesting to learn that in the past there were always concepts that could not be clearly assigned to any area and thus often simply got forgotten. For these cases, BMW has now set up its own accelerator, in which intrapreneurs take on such concepts and build them up like internal start-ups. A truly forward-looking form of internal innovation development!

Then Jens Keunecke showed how innovations are created in a family business. The methods that are applied in daily practice are completely different and yet similar in detail, adapted of course to the respective characteristics of the industry. It was very interesting to learn how different not only the requirements of customers are, but also those of the suppliers (of kitchens, for example) in whose context Miele’s products are usually to be found or into which they have to be integrated. Because in the end, Miele products never stand alone. The influence of the family itself should also not be underestimated in such companies. It is often the owners themselves who contribute their expertise and intuition to drive the realization and forcing of innovations in the end. But that was no different under Steve Jobs at Apple, and it was also extremely successful.

Once again, I was impressed by the fact that there is currently a lot going on behind the doors of well-known companies. In Germany, people like to talk about slow-moving tankers, but in my opinion, this description is becoming less and less true every year. German companies are becoming more courageous and open when it comes to breaking new ground and learning new things. Even corporations are making use of methods from the start-up scene, participating in young companies, cooperating with the competition, and increasingly introducing design management and design thinking methods into their processes in order to make themselves fit for the challenges of the future. We ourselves feel this every day in the demand for our “Tools of Innovators” program, which we use to review existing methods in our clients’ innovation departments and help their employees learn innovation techniques and skills. The large companies in Germany will remain tankers tomorrow, but they are modernizing and increasingly have many small side and speed boats, which benefit from the size and protection of the tankers.

For me personally, the learning from this evening was that you not only have to build empathy with the customers, but also with the decision-makers to whom you present the results. This is how you achieve that in the end their gut feeling is right, and they make the right decisions.

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