Society is subject to change and so is the world of work, driven by the increasing level of interconnectivity between processes, machine tools, and the content of production itself. This may facilitate lateral thinking and lateral vision, but only when networks transcend sectors of industry and areas of know-how, and only when key players are able and willing to step outside their traditional areas of expertise.
A key leitmotiv of Steinbeis in its pursuit of entrepreneurial technology transfer is to “transfer visions into business.” It is thanks to visions of society and the future world of work that solutions are spotted – solutions that quite possibly do not exist yet, but are already conceivable, assuming we’re willing to think laterally. Lateral thinking is original, it takes us into new territory, and it allows people to make mental connections and have leaps in thought. Everything seems possible! Sometimes it’s not known what the outcome will be. So it’s important not to see the goalposts as a given, but rather to consciously choose alternative approaches. Compared to linear thinking, such lateral thinking is not always immediately understood or accepted. It’s thinking against the flow.
So if we talk about the future, we don’t just think in terms of trends and predictions that may well turn out not to be true. We think laterally. Thinking laterally makes it possible to invent and shape the future and to leverage new realms of technological feasibility, in order to create a world that is worth living in. Other viewpoints stimulate business, even if at first they feel like they’re slowing things down. Innovative leaps forward often happen by chance or when new or known technological developments are consciously thrown into the same melting pot. The art lies in ensuring that the other ingredients of this process are the needs and wishes of sometimes highly different target groups. A target group should not be seen as a uniform whole; instead differences within the group must be picked up on, which is also lateral thinking. Radically lateral thinking always takes an ability to break down established patterns and processes. Creating space to think or dealing playfully with information also takes a certain degree of creativity. The arts and literature are sometimes a good source of inspiration, and fantasy can discharge a fountain of ideas for innovation.
In practice, the challenge in business is to make entrepreneurship, curiosity, and fantasy perfectly permissible and introduce new skill sets. When new ideas are lifted from differing playing fields of science, but are also discovered in fiction and linked together, this leads to new lateral value chains – with new players and a variety of expert fields.
This lateral creation is also the goal of a new initiative in the Steinbeis Network called “The Other View on Innovating”. We want to remove the barriers between specialist fields by using different formats and opening new doors, thus laying new roads for transferring knowledge into the market. Having started with a book, which was first presented with a bang at an event at the State Gallery in Stuttgart, the next step will be to lift the lid on the transfer skills of women in the Steinbeis Network. These will be networked into new lateral value chains, which will encompass not just technology skills, but also creative competence and skills important in societal terms.
More courage is also needed in everyday business practice. It is not enough to fill rooms and whole stories of company buildings with new furniture and equip people with creative tools. It’s important to allow people to think differently.
Allow us to engage in a lively and courageous exchange of ideas and shape the future creatively – a future that will be worth living in for us and for generations to come.
We hope you experience many new insights while reading this latest edition of TRANSFER: Add value and form links in the chain – LATERALLY!
Dr. Petra Püchner & Beate Wittkopp
Dr. Petra Puchner is director of Steinbeis 2i GmbH and Beate Wittkopp heads the Steinbeis Transfer Center TransferWorks BW. Together, they have been working under the Steinbeis umbrella to launch an initiative called “The Other View on Innovating. Women in Technology Transfer”. They are also the editors of a publication of the same name which has appeared in Steinbeis-Edition and provides insights into the activities of the successful female entrepreneurs in the Steinbeis Network.
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