Interview / Keynote ZP Europe 2019
A short interview (German) after my keynote at the Zukunft Personal Conference 2019 in Cologne.
Innovation is a passion. And you can get addicted to it. But it is a positive addiction.
When you think about a certain business, a company or a product….you should always ask yourself what is next? How can I create additional value for my customers or user? In the online world you can think every day about new things. It is really difficult to focus on what is important to change, especially if the business is running good. That is the best time to think about innovation. And you should every day ask yourself “what can we do better”. But most important is to ask the user or customer. This should be the center of any innovation….
Responsible for complete P&L of Vertical Media GmbH / Gruenderszene (part of Axel Springer SE) • business models: online advertising, events/webinars, online career services/jobboard, content marketing, membership/freemium model, print premium products • 60 employees • sustainable transformation of organization, product portfolio and business models
Responsible for digital product strategy of WELT and N24 (Axel Springer SE) • leading teams for website and apps including UX, SEO and A/B testing • user centric conception and realization of new web destination and apps for WELT • online advertising revenues • research, development and implementation of new business segments such as WELT travel and a brand studio unit • member of the management team
Leading Product Management • effectively managing the product portfolio & online platform in central Europe within B2B and B2C, incl. job board, database, community network, apps, mobile products, cloud service • developing new regional products from conception to realization in co-operation with sales teams and customers (e.g. whitelabel solutions) • user centric realization of products & projection with internal and external agile teams • member of the Senior Management Team
Founding and managing two vertical business units (1: B2C online community, ticket eCommece shop; 2: utility software) • managing a 25 person team with global and P&L responsibility • successfully utilised technical expertise to licence all new and supporting technology
Effectively managed the global product portfolio including market release and development for 15 core software/game titles and four cloud services • inventing user centric product development, customer integration & research • effectively managed strategic B2B projects for Aldi, Swiss-Com and T-Com • co-ordinated the planning for products and releases in 25 countries in 18 languages
Managed and extended the global product portfolio (from 2 software products to 15) • successfully built, expanded and managed teams for product management, marketing, PR, communication, editorial and events • successfully expanded the eCommerce shop and introduced Magix cloud services
Managing the music marketing agency BLJ-Music / Loewe Songs Publishing • development of new product and marketing concepts • consulting for clients, direction and coordination of media ad production (e.g. Axel Springer, Disney, Hasbro)
Foundation of a new record label (Solid Music Zone, SMZ Records) including business plan, marketing strategy, cooperation with sponsors and distribution partners
I worked with many very creative teams in the last twenty years. And there was no day without any new idea. The fantastic thing about new ideas in the online world is: you can test it! The user can decide himself if there is a great value for him behind a great idea. The user is the center of any product development.
Some years ago I can remember there was always a fight between departments: fight for resources, for responsibilities and for dependencies as well as discussions about “who’s fault is it”. Cross-functionality is a great opportunity to focus on common goals, to share responsibilities and to get a commitment from each involved individual.
Any change is starting with people and mindsets. You cannot transform a product into something new if the responsible team is not supporting the idea of change. And this is not related to product management or development teams only. "Agile" (=new work) principles work in any part of the company and as more people support this as better it will work.
It is great fun to work with digital products. Thinking about offline software product cycles in the late 90s is still making me crazy. We worked a year for a new release and half a year to fix all the bugs. To get valid feedback from users was a long painful process. Today digital products are created in real time, increments are continuously delivered and requirements need to be re-prioritized frequently. But the passion for products remains.
Mobile devices are the main access point to the Internet. Sure, there are still use cases that are difficult to handle via a smartphone. But the classification boundaries between smartphones, tablets and notebooks are disappearing. Websites, content and business models must necessarily work in the mobile world as well.
Trust is the key for success. You need to build trust from the management in the workforce, trust from the employees in the management and the organization’s vision. Trust is also the premise to empower teams to make reponsible decisions. The top management is taking the role of frame keepers and frame expanders.
A short interview (German) after my keynote at the Zukunft Personal Conference 2019 in Cologne.
Two examples of the great events we did in the last years with the Gründerszene team.
I was honored to contribute a chapter to this new book about open source innovation (phenomenon, participant’s behavior, business implications), edited by Prof. Dr. Herstatt and Daniel Ehls from the TIM team at the Hamburg Universitz of Technolgy. My article provides some insights what motivates participants of online communities to contribute for free. The book shows open source innovation from multiple perspectives with all its different facetts including an article by Eric von Hippel professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management (the power of participation motives). The book will be available at the 3rd of April 2015.
In my research about user innovation I identified a phenomenon that I described as „Open Motivation“. Open motivation is not a complete new finding. In view of motivation psychology it is more a specific mindset you can observe at user in product related online communities. Based on the changed usage patterns and new technological option in the social Web, open motivation is an opportunity for companies to influence users and to integrate them in their value chain.
In 2014/15 my German Monster team and me developed a lean and clean white label job board cloud solution. We only had a very short development period available and used agile frameworks as a basis.
In the beginning of 2012 I released my doctoral thesis:
Online communities in the interactive Web, driven by changed usage patterns, have become a potent means of identifying user needs and solution ideas, thereby supporting companies to innovate. That is especially the case for online communities that are related to particular products or brands. My research focuses on innovative user activities in such virtual communities mainly dedicated to tangible (physical) consumer products. Most fundamentally I analyze the motivation to innovate and contribute to online communities voluntarily. The results support companies in understanding online community members relating to the company’s brand or products as active resource and in improving the integration of such users. Thus results provide a foundation for the development of specific incentives and tools that stimulate user activities.
In 2011 I had the great honor of getting an article through the validation for the ZFB journal. ZFB is one of the most credible and famous German scientific magazines in business economics. Together with my Ph.D. supervisor Prof. Dr. Herstatt and my research fellow Prof. Dr. Christina Raasch we have written an empirical approach categorizing motivation in online communities. The goal was to make such user motivation measurable and usable for companies.
During my research project on user motivation to innovate in online communities I was interviewed by the HBM in late 2010. One important finding was that attention by others is a very important incentive for such innovators, more important than any material rewards.
Innovation and change management are key success factors of any company in any line of business, I try to give a very simple definition and personal view how I experienced both elements in the last years.
When I started remixing old Beatles tracks with techno grooves in 1992 I did not seriously believe that we could do any official release. But the idea was stronger and so after a longer fight I finally received support from EMI Publishing that owned the publishing rights at this time. Of course I have not been allowed to use the original recordings, but there was the rumour that Mr. Paul McCartney himself listened to the demo and liked it. So however, we re-recorded the track with the Beatles Revival Band – maybe the best Beatles cover band ever. The track was picked by Virgin Records in 1994 and released in Germany and UK. The most experts predicted a number one hit – but it wasn’t. For the most radio stations the Beatles still have been a sacred cow – they did not play the song.
I have written and produced the song in 1991 for my formation „D-Parture“. The track was released on the Sony Dancepool music label as CD, 7inch and 12inch record and reached several top positions in dance charts of five European countries. Recording and production was done at Acoustic Arts Studio close to Frankfurt with the former Frank Farian sound engineer Tammy Grohé.