New thinking – the standard of an innovation culture

On 9 January 2016 the New Year’s reception of the IHK Karlsruhe took place. The keynote speaker was Dr. Frederik G. Pferdt, Chief Innovation Evangelist at Google and Adjunct Professor at at Stanford University. Dr. Pferdt is the founder of Google’s creative lab “The Garage”. The goal of his keynote was to show how successful innovation cultures develop in companies and how they function – so to see new thinking as a standard and to question the impossible.

Increasing exponential trend of new technologies

For 20 years, there has been the Internet, the smartphone for 10 years and there is an increasing exponential development regarding new technologies. This trend should be seen as a positive one, as technology gives more and more people access to information, for example.

In order to keep up with these developments as a company, it is important to create a culture that gives creative freedom. Children still have the ability to generate ‘wild’ ideas. This has been lost in adults during the course of their adulthood and professional activity. The central question about innovations at Google is “What if …”, that is, an unlimited idea generation, which releases creativity. Curiosity is a central factor for innovation. Great questions lead to great answers, says Dr. Pferdt. As a leader, it is necessary to inspire his team with questions. Questions you ask yourself should be shared with others. Transparency creates an atmosphere of trust in the company and trust is a prerequisite for sharing bold ideas with others. At Google, this transparency is maintained by the fact that the company management takes every Thursday to answer all questions from employees as far as legally possible.

Dr. Pferdt appealed to promote new thinking, not “Yes, but …” must be the question, but “yes and …”. Rapid failure is important for successful product development, so to experiment and not to be afraid of failure. An analysis of more than 200 teams at Google showed that emotional security is the only factor for successful innovative teams.


Principles for the creation of an innovation culture

According to Dr. Pferdt, the following principles must therefore be implemented in order to create an innovation culture:

  1. Create transparency
  2. Create trust – give emotional security that looks as normal
  3. Generate ideas with “what if”
  4. Establish the process of rapid failure

When it comes to product development, Google ensures that the user always comes first. In order to promote the researcher-minded innovator, Google had systematically created freedoms:

  1. Creative freedom – every employee can use 20% of his time for important ideas, concerns, etc. From these 20%, Google products have emerged in the past.
  2. Physical freedom – Here was created by Dr. Pferdt at Google a creative space called “The garage”. This space is very flexible and allows cooperative work on new ideas.

Important values ​​of corporate culture at Google are curiosity and something to marvel at. An innovative culture is characterized by openness that promotes breaking with routine and habits and does not tolerate excuses (“we cannot do it because …”).


User benefit as a guide for digitalization

Following the keynote speech by Dr. Pferdt, a panel of well-known experts discussed the challenge of digitalisation. There was agreement that the speed of digitization in Germany is too low. Silicon Valley is an attitude, that is, openness and optimism. The technological aspect is only relevant after that from the point of view of Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Peter Lockemann, co-founder of computer science in Karlsruhe. A fast Internet is important as a hygiene factor for digitalization in Germany, says entrepreneur Horst Fritz. Compared to the Silicon Valley and important for successful digitization, the topic is not limited to “technology”, but is viewed from the customer’s point of view and which new business models are possible, asked Prof. Dr. Gisela Lanza, Head of the Institute for Production Systems At the KIT. The central appeal of all experts was to do something now, where the economy is going well and the companies are doing well.



A fast Internet is an important prerequisite for digitization in Germany, i. e. for facilitating agile forms of work and cooperation. With this factor, Germany is not even among the top ten economies. The demand has been recognized by the Federal Ministry of Economics, but the process has to be accelerated (see also entry Modernising Germany)

On the company’s side, it is important, through the promotion of an innovative culture based on the customer, to deal with issues related to the so-called digitization as a company. This includes change processes and these should not be shifted further into the future, even if no economic need for action seems to exist. Cooperations and platforms can be important elements.

The New Year’s reception of the IHK Karlsruhe was a real impulse to deal with the issue of digitalization with an open optimistic attitude.

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