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People as the powerhouse of innovation

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Dr. Christian Kugelmeier is the founder and Co-CEO of VORSPRUNGatwork GmbH in Weinheim. The 50-year-old and his team accompany, enable and advise companies so that they can successfully exist and operate in the market in the 21st century. During his keynote speech “Entrepreneurship is constantly crossing borders”, we talked to Christian Kugelmeier about what he considers to be the most important success factor for companies: people.

The downside of remote

Corona has changed many things, including the way we work together. While video calls make it easier to communicate at a distance, there are downsides. This is also confirmed by a Microsoft study on the topic of remote work, in which 61,000 employees participated and which comes to the conclusion: Remote work endangers collaboration and the future viability of companies.

The shift to the home office itself creates few problems as far as existing work is concerned. However, remote workers make fewer new connections within the workforce and are significantly more isolated in their day-to-day work.

Christian Kugelmeier warns against this dynamic: “The big challenge now is to make sure that employees don’t let technology take the butter off their bread, because innovation and creation are only possible through human interaction. “All the processes that need man in his creative power should take place physically. When you sit together in a room and really engage with each other, there are very different things happening energetically that don’t happen over the camera. In our view, people are the powerhouse of innovation.”

Why digitization and human drivers should be well networked

The art is therefore to bring both – digitization and human driving force – into a good network. This applies to all perspectives and levels of corporate design, with the goal of achieving the greatest possible congruence between the purpose of the organization and the employees’ individual understanding of meaning.

The question of why was also what led Christian Kugelmeier himself to hang up his job as director of a bank with above-average earnings. “At the beginning of the reflection process, of course, I was very strong with myself. I thought something was wrong with me and I needed to learn to move faster.” But through intensive introspection and reading various books, he finally realized that his dissatisfaction stemmed from the corporate system. “That realization made me say I don’t want to work here anymore, I don’t enjoy it.”
With the deep conviction that he can change these things, Kugelmeier founded VORSPRUNGatwork GmbH with two acquaintances in 2015. “We go into companies, create moments of experience from which to read out what’s right and what’s wrong in the system. The goal is to systematize the whole thing so that the company can permanently change with a clear identity.” Even though Kugelmeier now lives with significantly less money, he says he is much happier. “It’s clear to me that people only couple with things that are meaningful.”

“It’s a matter of permanently balancing
of the individual and the organization.”

Dr. Christian Kugelmeier, Founder of VORSPRUNGatwork GmbH

In order for a company to be successful and to remain successful, it is essential that the purpose of the company is clearly recognizable and consistently experienced by both the management and the employees. “It must be clear why the company exists in the first place. Does the company exist to make the boss rich, or because its existence makes a decided difference in the world?” In the course of this, employees could learn how valuable their personal commitment and performance are and that they are part of a greater whole. “When I create that form of meaning-and-purpose coupling in a business, I’m a completely different universe than when people just come to make money.”

Kugelmeier sees it as essential not only to welcome the human component in a company, but to promote it. “It’s about a permanent balancing of the individual and the organization.”

Kugelmeier clearly locates the task of keeping this purpose permanently available and constantly adapting to the given market conditions with the company management. “So it’s no more and no less about fundamental business transformation – driven from a different understanding of leadership, including the discarding of outdated leadership tools and corresponding beliefs about how leadership works in organizations.”

The opposite of the comfort zone? Transformation

However, many companies find it difficult to implement such transformation processes. Christian Kugelmeier knows why: “First and foremost, this is due to a blockade, because you don’t know exactly how to do it and where exactly you’ll end up with it. Second, there’s the famous comfort zone.” As a society, he said, we’ve been conditioned to believe that stability is a good thing. “In terms of corporate identity, that’s also correct.” But this attitude is problematic, he says, when it comes to changes in the environment and the market. And those come inevitably, he says. “When the bear is kicking in the market, everything becomes more complex and dynamic, and I as a company am not capable of change, evolution will always sort me out. Stability is no longer of much use to me today. On the contrary Transformational inability leads to companies stewing in their own juices.”

But how is that feasible in a country with markets that depend on profit, on careers, and on success? “The recipe for success is a strong collective identity. A permanent readout of the customer interface. And thus permanent recalibration of what you offer and also permanent recalibration of your own strategy,” Christian Kugelmeier is convinced. All these components would have to be in flux, while the identity of a company is anchored as a stable core .

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