The right way to deal with innovation in the digital age

Media manager and best-selling author Christoph Keese tells us what we can learn from Silicon Valley. Keese is a graduate business economist, was previously a journalist (Financial Times Deutschland, Welt am Sonntag), and is now Vice President at the publishing house Axel Springer Verlag.

Der richtige Umgang mit Innovation im digitalen Zeitalter

In conversation with Christoph Keese

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What do we have to do to keep pace with the digital age?

Christoph Keese takes a critical look at Germany as a location and draws comparisons:

Be curious…
I have been curious about technology all my life. Germany is a country with a very strong technology culture, a country of technical inventors. This has been forgotten to some extent. Society is more concerned with pensions than change, it has aged. I do not see this basic curiosity in society as a whole, nor do I see it among many people that I know.

Form conurbations…
One of the myths surrounding the internet is that it is somehow disembodied and has no centre and that wherever you are in the world you can participate in what is happening on the web. This is true from a consumer stance – but not from the producers’ stance. In this respect the global map is white with a couple of large ink blots. And these ink blots are in Silicon Valley, in New York, in Tel Aviv, in Shanghai, in Beijing, but there are hardly any in western Europe. There are nearly 2,000 start-ups in Berlin, 50% of the venture capital invested in Germany finds its way to Berlin. We should not even attempt to establish an independent technology cluster in each federal state or in each region in Germany. This cannot function. The USA has only two or three. If we attempt to create 16, all nicely balanced in a federal manner, then ultimately we will not have a single one. Berlin has exceeded the critical mass, and now there will be a vortex effect.

Opt for technology, not for e-commerce…
There are many more start-ups in Tel Aviv and in Silicon Valley that are utilising certain technologies at the cutting edge of progress and even beyond; they are doing something completely new in technological terms. That can only function in close cooperation with universities, with Max Planck, with Fraunhofer. There has to be networking.

Change…
We can be proud of what has been achieved, but we have one very tiny problem:
digitalisation is determining the course taken by the economy in the 21st century. In the future, therefore, things will not be conducted on the basis of the rules with which we have been successful until now, but on the basis of the rules which Silicon Valley has promoted. If anybody has to change, it will be us.