Innovation in times of change

Gunter Dueck was a professor of mathematics, who then rose through the ranks of IBM to the position of Chief Technology Officer (CTO). As a public speaker, Dueck now makes it his mission to promote a new culture of learning and innovation, explaining future economic and societal challenges to his audiences.

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In conversation with Gunter Dueck

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The innovation expert on...

... economic change: “I come from a farm in the heart of Lower Saxony, from Groß Himstedt (population: 500), where a similar transition has already taken place. More than 40% of the people there used to be employed in agriculture. And then the tractor came along and replaced horses. In this case, people were not fundamentally afraid of the new technologies, because the tractor did not replace people. It is a bit different nowadays. We are moving into a digitalised society, but we are also afraid of losing our jobs.”

 

...how companies are dealing with digital change: “In the industrial age, entirely new business sectors, such as automotive transport and tourism, came into being. At that time, people were actually more innovative! But then someone came up with the idea of making everything more efficient and lean, which led to further innovation being ignored. And now the discussion is: How do we actually innovate? You have to recreate the old situation and invest a lot of time; I would say that 30% of a company’s driving force has to be geared to innovation – on a long term basis and with enthusiasm.”

 

...dangers for companies: “Change affects everybody. The fintechs are coming, the new smart energy network with solar and wind power, drones and self-driving individual rail carriages. WhatsApp is already drying up the the telecoms companies’ profits from texting; even the best German TV channels are suddenly entirely flat. These developments could all be seen well in advance, but new trends are often laughed at here in Germany. It’s just a gimmick, it won’t last, people say. And while they are laughing, they forget respect and, above all, how to learn from others and change their mindset for a new era.”

 

...milestones for a secure future: “We are facing gigantic change and it would be good if we could have a constructive discussion as to where we want to be in 2030 or 2040. And then we can really get down to working towards this and not start a new discussion about it every day. Radical change presupposes the absolute will to revamp the entire company. This will cannot be allowed to waver.”