What Digital Means for R&D and Innovation: Q&A

Publish Date

21 JAN 2017


On the 18th January, we welcomed around 150 guests to the Innovation Center in Darmstadt for the first installment in 2017 of our monthly Innovators’ Club series. Scroll down to finde the answers of your questions from the live-stream!

On the 18th January, we welcomed around 150 guests to the Innovation Center in Darmstadt for the first installment in 2017 of our monthly Innovators’ Club series. Scroll down to finde the answers of your questions from the live-stream!

After a short introduction about what the Innovation Center is doing to boost innovation in the corporation, Frank Mattes, Innovation Management Specialist at innovation-3, took to the stage with a presentation on “What Digital means for R&D and Innovation”. He spoke to our innovators about how businesses can use emerging digital capabilities as a growth catalyst in R&D and innovation. This time, we want to make our Innovators’ Club even more interactive for those who haven’t been able to attend physically and have been watching the live-stream on Facebook, so we have introduced a Q&A in the Facebook live stream. We received some great questions from our online audience – Frank’s answers to the live stream questions can be found below:

Secondly, the scientific process will change. Up so far, the scientific process has basically meant: “Understand what is there and the innovation challenge; Work out scientific hypotheses that address the innovation challenge; Formulate experiments that validate the innovation hypotheses; Evaluate the results and decide on next steps. Digital tools will suggest innovation niches that are interesting to explore, propose innovations, suggest appropriate experiments and (pre-)evaluate the results as described above. Digital tools will also speed up the process by showing where the wheel has already been invented and by providing the opportunity to manufacture custom equipment for experiments, using 3D printing for example. And thirdly, the skill profile of scientists will change, respectively the organization will make sure that the skills needed are there. A study done by the IIR in the US made the point clear, that scientific research in the future will require “Pi-shaped people”, i.e. T-shaped people (Deep expertise in one area, broad awareness of adjacent topics) with an extra deep-dive in Analytics.

2. Question: What kind of education will be most helpful for the workforce of manufacturing companies to survive in the digital transformation?

This of course varies a lot with the function you are talking about and the exposure to Digital. It’s hard to provide a specific answer for a general question – but we have found two principles to be valuable.

The first one is to “Get the people out in the field”. In our experience, it is very hard to educate people at a purely rational level on Digital. There are however a number of proof points showing that if you have the people visiting conferences or other companies, working in Digital Learning factories, arrange in-house conferences where other companies and solution providers demonstrate their Digital stuff, it will ring a bell. We got the impression that story telling has a bigger impact than pure rational education.

The second one is that “learning Digital” is not about doing a deep-dive into Clouds, Predictive Big Data Analytics, etc. for everyone. There are in-house and external specialists who could do the heavy lifting in these areas. There are other skills that are at least of the same importance, e.g. (a) establishing a good discussion between business and IT, (b) Design Thinking and Agile work styles, (c) working out Digital business models and (d) Systems Thinking to understand the interdependencies between functions, IT and the external ecosystem.

And fourthly, if one sees Digital to go beyond the existing silos and business models, they lack the methodology and the processes to explore the opportunities. As one of my clients recently put it, “we are sitting on mountains of data but we do not find business models to capitalize out them because we are trapped in our cage.” And lastly, usually if a company finds a new Digital business model they do not know how to scale it. So, here’s the brilliant new idea, some customers like it, it seems to be technically feasible and commercially viable – but how to we turn this great idea into a great innovation at scale?

5. Question: What are the first steps a company should take to start Digital Transformation?

5. Answer:

The answer to this question probably cannot be given at a general level since it depends on the company’s industry and situation.

I suggest to rephrase the question and link it to some sort of “Digital maturity model”. So rather, ask the question: “What is in the first step in Digital maturity?”Taking the question from this angle, some answers could be provided (which are also backed up by studies looking at stages of Digital maturity). In the first step of Digital maturity the company should have …

  • A common language about Digital
  • First set of change agents who drive individual Digital solutions
  • Some sort of roadmap in the 3 dimensions Operational Excellence, Customer Experience and Digital for growth
  • An organizational anchor point (like a Chief Digital Officer or a Digital Board) for capturing and ideas about how to move on with Digital (bottom-up) and how to operationalize the roadmap (top-down)
  • Some budgets in terms of people and money to build up some showcases that allow for storytelling and “High Touch” for those who are eager to engage in Digital

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