The world is in a state of upheaval and digitalization marks the start of a transformation process that has only been made possible by the interaction of multiple digital technologies. From a technical standpoint, transformation is tantamount to conversion; from an economic sense, it is more of an alteration. It symbolizes a world in which paradigms are shifting and guidelines – which until now we used very successfully to navigate – are changing.
As a result, the tried-and-tested navigation tools we have used to date are no longer a match with the current lie of the land: Baden-Wuerttemberg once defined itself as the land of busy inventors and tinkerers. Vast swathes of the economy have seen the onset of a spirit that “we can – and will – do everything ourselves.” This attitude has served to safeguard economic prosperity in recent decades and, coupled with a certain air of tenacity and industriousness, it has produced numerous global market leaders in south-west Germany, as well as a highly successful economy dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises.
Technology convergence, faster innovation cycles, and dynamic shifts in boundaries – but also having to find solutions to climate change – are fueling increasing levels of complexity in the processes that shape innovation and development within companies. Individuals and certain organizations – with a proven understanding of organizational issues and established structures – are increasingly struggling to provide quick (and, above all, suitable) answers to these new and complex questions. Whereas in many areas of politics, such complex issues can be dealt with by trivializing them, this is generally not a viable option for medium-sized companies. The impact of being gravely mistaken with a decision cannot be made palatable to those around us, at least not in medium-sized and smaller companies.
One way to deal with complexity in this fast-moving environment of upheaval is to adopt a culture of cooperation, combined with the (self-)acknowledgement that under constantly changing circumstances, it is still possible to create new things if you work together. Continuously pooling new and different skills, and being willing to do away with established ways of doing things and tried-and-tested answers to problems – in order to create something new, with other parties in a network – allows a “we can do everything ourselves” culture to develop. Such transformation processes may instill fear, and they will meet with resistance, but they also spawn new opportunities and possibilities. In addition to drawing on the expertise of individual employees at companies, it will become even more important to turn to a variety of individuals who are able to focus their skills on different challenges – and create teams capable of forming and introducing new value creation networks, quickly and agilely beyond the individual boundaries of companies. For our economy – so strongly shaped by small and medium-sized enterprises – this highlights an important need to make a change, requiring a holistic transformation process so that we can become more open in our actions, working within value creation networks.
This latest edition of TRANSFER magazine focuses on the topic of being “Strong Together: Network Partnerships that Add Value,” offering a number of suggestions and ideas. There’s a lot to do, so let’s get on with it – but please, let’s not forget: There’s no change without changing yourself!
Let’s work on this together!
With kind regards,
Dr.-Ing. Jürgen Jähnert is the managing director of bwcon GmbH and bwcon research GmbH, which both belong to the Steinbeis Network. The two companies see themselves as service providers that support business enterprises with the digital transformation process by managing ideas, designing new business models, and making the process of coming up with innovations more flexible.