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Digitale Transformation

Interview with Vanessa Schmoranzer

C-Level Consultant for Business Innovation, Digital Strategy and Transformation

23 Mar. 2018
Vanessa Schmoranzer
Vanessa Schmoranzer, Futurice

Ms. Schmoranzer, at CEBIT you will be presenting a paper titled “Neo-Stability: A Crisis Concept In The Digital Age”. What do you mean by neo-stability?

"Neo-stability" is a framework that helps organizations get to grips with the digital transformation. Digitization and new technologies are increasing both the pace of change and renewal and our desire for stability. Individuals and organizations naturally strive for a balance between renewal and stability in order to remain successful, but in today’s world, the intervals between stability and renewal are getting shorter and shorter, resulting in a more or less permanent state of crisis. The trick is to overcome these challenges while at the same time using them to support our further development. These crises arise at all levels – business, organizational and personal – which makes change and further development very challenging and complex. Most organizations are not even aware of this kind of "double whammy" effect. In my paper, I describe this phenomenon and give recommendations on how to deal with it and thus achieve a new kind of dynamic stability – or "neo-stability", as I term it.

What, in your view, are the digital age crises that businesses need to prepare for, and how should they go about it?

Companies need learn to see crises as a necessary process. They need to get away from viewing crises as a threat and instead embrace them as a logical and necessary part of development and growth. No challenge, no change. The key is to develop a mindset where you can use crises to your advantage and perhaps even create crises. I like to put it like this: During a crisis, if you’re in the driver’s seat, you have control over the direction you take. The designer Karl Lagerfeld once famously freed the word "dissatisfaction" of its negative connotations. He was referring to a state of creative dissatisfaction that can serve as a spur to creativity. I think that’s a wonderful analogy that shows that crises needn’t be seen purely in negative terms.

Futurice is a Finnish company. Do the Finns approach digitization differently?

According to the rankings prepared by the World Economic Forum and the latest innovation indicator by the Federation of German Industries (BDI), Finland is one of the world’s leading nations in terms of innovation and digitization. There are several reasons for that. For one thing, the nation has excellent technology infrastructure and a fundamental openness to innovation and is thus able to process a considerable level of innovation at a fast pace. The other thing is that Finland has a smaller population than Germany, and a different history and culture. It is also a single, centralized state. Moreover, its government institutions are much further along their digitization journey than ours are. These factors all work together to put Finland ahead on digitization. Germany, on the other hand, has a strong industrial base and is heavily invested in its achievements. So it is kind of understandable that we as a country find it hard to be more risk-tolerant. I mean, why should we try something new, when the old ways are (or at least were) so stable and dependable, right? And that brings me back to my theory about neo-stability. Germany urgently needs to take a wider perspective on how it engages with innovation. It needs to work on its digital innovation game as a whole – and not just keep seeing innovation purely from an infrastructure or "Industry 4.0" standpoint.

You played field hockey in Germany’s national women's team and in 1996 even competed in the Olympic Games. Are there any parallels between that chapter of your life and what you are doing now?

At Futurice, I am responsible for business innovation, the development of digital strategies and business transformation. I also work as a leadership coach and keynote speaker. So, yes, there certainly are a number of parallels with my role in hockey. Here are just a few of them:

  • Mixed teams with a range of different specialists are better than teams where everyone has the same skill set. You can't win the game with just strikers or just defenders. You need the right players in the right positions, and all those players need to work well together as a team.
  • Systems and rules have their place, but at decisive moments of the game it comes down to the magic that happens when players think and play "outside the box". You need a capacity for both styles of play and a keen sense of which style to use when. In today’s digital age, the key is to give people and teams more autonomy and empower them to try new things, make decisions and be okay with failure, so that they are able to constantly learn new things and hence achieve success.
  • In business, just as in sport, success is about having a desire to be the best, play well, and have fun doing what you're going, coupled with a desire to achieve.

Of course, in today's environment, we each have to re-define for ourselves what success means. Hence, while sport is partly a good old-fashioned contest of wills in the pursuit of victory against one's opponent, in modern business you need to think critically about what success means and re-define it so that it encompasses sustainability and ethics. And all the while, you should always remember to approach these new, complex challenges together, as a team.

About Vanessa Schmoranzer:
Vanessa advises C-level executives on business innovation, digital strategy and transformation. In this role she leverages her 18 years of experience as a management consultant and business game changer to develop and transform business models, brands, organizations and teams. Over the years, she has worked for startups, mid-size companies and large corporations in over 20 sectors at international level. A leadership coach and keynote speaker, Vanessa is fluent in several languages and has won several awards. Before embarking on her business career, she played national league hockey in Germany, several times taking her team to victory in the German hockey championship and representing her country internationally, including at the Olympic Games. Vanessa is passionate about golf and loves urban street art.

About Futurice:
Founded in Finland in 2000, Futurice has over 400 employees in Helsinki, Tampere, Stockholm, London, Berlin and Munich. The company develops innovative digital solutions under contract to its customers and helps companies and organizations in their bid to successfully navigate the digital transformation.