Companies are urgently looking for appropriate ways of meeting the challenges of the future. Universities are supporting them by transferring science into the economy through education offers – whether it’s the Hamburg School of Business Administration’s DI-Lab or the NIT Toolbox by the Northern Institute of Technology Management.
No end to digital transformation
Yet universities also face the challenge of preparing for unknown fields of activity and providing the tools for unfamiliar problems. “It’s true. We don’t know what the end of digital development is – and there will probably be no end to this development,” said Anke Nehrenberg, 38, head of the Hamburg chapter of Digital Media Women and co-founder of kommitment GmbH & Co. KG, which specializes in change management. “Companies have to make far-reaching investment decisions despite an uncertain future. Thanks to the internet, we have a wealth of data at our disposal, but this goes hand in hand with a wealth of opportunities, which in turn increases the uncertainty of making the right choice,” she added.
Corporate culture should nurture new ideas
Faced with an “overload of choice”, how does one remain capable of acting? Nehrenberg recommends adaptability and innovativeness or reactivating these skills. She noted: “Start-ups have these competencies. They are incredibly flexible because they are still in the process of determining themselves. ‘What skills do we have and does our market lie?’ But when they find it and grow their companies, traditional structures establish themselves and become rigid.” However, corporate culture should nurture ways of developing new ideas to cope with ongoing change. Avoiding well-trodden paths to make way for new experiences is best. Nehrenberg pointed out: “New experiences lead to new values and norms that characterise a culture.” That includes the oft-vaunted culture of zero mistakes, which Germans find particularly difficult. Yet Nehrenberg advocates this culture.
Understanding the logic behind the systems
Digital skills should ease the transformation. But apart from handling devices confidently or the multitude of new communication channels, it is a question of “understanding the logic behind it and how machines and systems work,” according to Nehrenberg. Being able to learn, find and classify information is crucial in both the digital and analogue era. Special IT skills such as coding are helpful and programmers are presently sought after. Artificial and machine intelligence and will likely take over programming in few years. “Machines can move numbers back and forth far better than us. Our strength lies in creativity,” Nehrenberg stressed. This forte can be reignited and trained e.g. through design thinking. “Go forward iteratively. That means go back one step when developing innovative ideas and review them, exchange ideas with others constantly and resort to the tinkering box. We have to improve that. Go out and play!”