One only speaks of coincidence, if one can’t find a causal explanation for an event. In contrast to that, one speaks of providence when something seems to fit the (divine) plan. Innovation is one or the other depending on the perspective. In the best case, you congratulate yourself afterwards on the fact that the plan worked out, that the right people had been assigned to the project or you find pivotal explanations for the success or failure of an innovation project. But what role does chance play, the little bit of luck that makes one innovation drop a bomb on the playground or makes the other project a pipe-breaker?

Can the unknown be planned?

Is it the “typically German” desire for systematics and for praising the structured approach? Or does serendipity play a role? These questions were met by Dr. Ulf Pillkahn, Professor for Innovation and Technology Management at FOM Munich, and Volkmar Döricht, expert in strategic visioning and fore sighting within Corporate Technology at Siemens. With very different opinions, these two were stormed after their lectures with questions from the audience.

Volkmar Döricht stands for – what Professor Pillkahn called – the “typically German” way of doing things: namely the systematic innovation that follows a process that also requires knowledge and prior knowledge as the basis and that (Sesame Street justice) requires a problem that has been recognized and that now demands a solution.

Ulf Pillkahn focused on the somehow soft factors. In his view, innovation has much more to do with emotions than with facts and plans. And so, he spoke of visions, without which innovation cannot be possible. And from the fact that something new is not tangible at all, because its origin can be found in the unknown, and therefore it is in the nature of things that it cannot be planned.

Above all, he emphasized how important the role of chance is in successful developments and that it would be underestimated only because ‘it is not for management’ and ‘nobody wants to admit it’. And although there are great examples of these very coincidences, when searching for A, B was eventually discovered (everyone may be aware of the discovery of penicillin based on the contaminated sample of some other research).

So, what does it take on the way to innovation? According to Ulf Pillkahn, it is about a certain sense of humor, the acceptance of the so-called unavailability (no matter how much you do, there is no guarantee of success) and love and attraction – all unpredictable factors. Volkmar Döricht, on the other hand, focuses on entrepreneurial opportunities, entrepreneurship, cognitive qualities and prior knowledge.

And so, in the end, sophisticated graphics contrast with strategic project planning, design implementation, realization & co and an imaginative sheet with cartoons, jokes and provocative thoughts.

[Read clockwise: Unkown, Can the unknown be planned, Planned, Vision, Serendipity, Unavailability, Love]

Of course, many guests also wanted to know what we as innovation consultants say about the very contradictory statements of our speakers, so our CEO Karel Golta answered: “One cannot succeed without the other. Knowledge, process planning, systematics and the so-called soft factors are two sides of the same coin or, in other words, Ying and Yang. A successful innovation comes from cultural thoughts and backgrounds, but then it needs structure.” In addition to emotions and knowledge, he sees innovation as a kind of muscle, which many employees in companies habe, but which has to be trained to acquire the right strength (which by the way, is exactly what our sister company TOI does).

From Karel’s point of view, systems do set quality standards; it only has to be avoided that they mean rigidity at the same time. That’s why INDEED means ‘playing’ within innovation processes as well. “Before we step into defined steps, we open our eyes and ears to new ideas. Nevertheless, there is no lack of structure. Rather, we use certain tools and methods that are so wide-ranging that they allow us to make many different choices.

At the end, each guest had formed his opinion and could start with new insights into the week. Our thanks to the great guest speakers – for their lectures, their excitement and humorous exchange with each other.

More about the speakers:

Dipl.-Ing., Dipl.-Ing-Wirtsch. Volkmar Döricht

Volkmar Döricht has held various positions in technology and innovation management at Siemens AG München since 1999. In 2009, he published an approach on the systematic development of future technological and economic developments under the title “Strategic Visioning – Future of Business”. He is one of the leading experts in Strategic Visioning and Strategic Foresighting within Corporate Technology at Siemens AG.
Volkmar Döricht has degrees in mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Dresden and in business and economics at the Technical University of Munich. He is a well-known conference speaker and participates in many national and international programs on different future topics.

Prof. Dr. Ulf Pillkahn

Ulf Pillkahn teaches and researches at the FOM in Munich in the field of innovation and technology management. How decisions are made under uncertainty, how new things are created, what role randomness plays and what the future looks like are some of the topics that he deals with.
He started as an engineer for electrical engineering at Siemens. While using every opportunity for further development, he owns today a MBA, PhD in psychology (LMU) and Master in engineering philosophy (TU). Today, he advises companies that want to become more innovative or are interested in the future. His new book ‚Theorie des Neuen’ will be published at the end of 2019.

Karel Golta

Karel J. Golta

CEO + Founder

Karel, CEO and founder of INDEED, is Swiss but far from being neutral. When he's not planning "the next big thing" with clients, you can controversially discuss with him the value of design.

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