Let’s not deceive ourselves. Many companies think the crisis is over – they have recognized its challenges and mastered them. But: have we also learned from the crisis? Do we know how to turn a crisis into an opportunity? What works for big companies is not necessarily a guiding principle for small and medium-sized businesses.
Business may well be profitable at the moment, but we should still ask ourselves whether we can be satisfied in general. Conventional approaches, and the techniques of yesterday, are no longer enough. Traditional management methods – focusing mainly on liquidity and current earnings potential – must be superseded by an orientation towards managing potential, and a strong leaning towards current and future earnings potential. Already the most pressing issues are: Where should the business be in five to ten years? How will the market change, or customer demands? Which industry rules will become obsolete? And, more than anything, how can we actually shape the rules of our industry, rather than merely react to them?
Things are becoming more chaotic. The treadmill is moving faster. And there is more and more firefighting. One of the key challenges now is to find our bearings and hold them – clocks will be replaced by compasses! It will become more and more important to set clear goals. In day-to-day business, a strategy must be more than bundling together plans for different fields of business. A few product or process improvements, a couple more points of market share, cut costs a bit, spruce up our design, and hey presto, we’ve got a marketing and production strategy. But where’s the big vision?
Efficiency programs are important when learning from past mistakes. But they have yet to catapult a company into pole position in a market. Efficiency programs alone don’t make future winners! Innovation takes companies forward, sustainably, not the economy. ”Vorsprung durch Innovation“ is the only way to safeguard prosperity and employment in our country. The precept is renewal: from records to MP3 players, from telephones to mobiles, from tungsten lamps to LEDs, from the drawing board to virtual product development – and next?
Innovation is more than a new (product) concept. It’s not about happy-go-lucky engineers inventing for the sake of inventiveness. It’s about bringing ideas to the fore – to the market – with a keen eye, entrepreneurial spirit and the courage to take (calculable) risks. To achieve the possible, people must be willing to attempt the impossible, time and again. Money and strategies are crucial for innovation. But it’s people who fuel success. Which is why we must set more clear goals, point to potential and show why it’s worth taking to the barricades. Seen from this angle, many new avenues will open up to us in the days that follow, although we will have to open many up ourselves. This latest edition of TRANSFER gives an insight into the potential offered by the Steinbeis network. I hope you enjoy reading it, and I wish you strong leadership, courage, drive, and of course success with your future change processes!
Prof. asoc. univ. PhDr. Arno Voegele
Prof. asoc. univ. PhDr. Arno Voegele heads up the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Production & Management and is Director of the Steinbeis Transfer Institute for Development & Management at Steinbeis University Berlin. He is also co-founder of the Steinbeis Engineering Group, an expert forum in the Steinbeis Network and is one of the program directors of the Steinbeis Engineering Forum on 12 April 2011.