3 questions to smart minds
Photo: Philipp Hübl

Constructive disruption through radical openness

For this 3 questions to Philipp Hübl

Berlin Univer­sity of the Arts
Photo: Phil­ipp Hübl
18. Decem­ber 2018

In the age of digi­ta­liza­tion, the envi­ron­ment is chan­ging rapidly. But to under­stand digi­tal trans­for­ma­tion, most analy­ses ask the wrong ques­tion, namely: How are new tech­no­lo­gies chan­ging us? But the more important ques­tion is: How do we need to change, what quali­ties do we need to have to deal with change?

For this 3 ques­ti­ons to Phil­ipp Hübl, author and lectu­rer in philo­so­phy at the Berlin Univer­sity of the Arts |

1. Mr. Hübl, you say open­ness is the virtue of the digi­tal age. From what do you conclude that?

The analogy to the busi­ness envi­ron­ment is obvious: the faster the uphe­avals in society, the more central open­ness beco­mes as a maxim for action. — Let’s look at the tech­no­logy. In the second half of the 20th century, the core of life has chan­ged little. Today’s 40-some­things grew up in an analog era where incre­men­tal logic prevai­led: the idea that you improve products and compa­nies incre­men­tally. Cars became faster, safer and more comfor­ta­ble, and super­mar­ket products more diverse. The proto­type of this incre­men­tal logic is German engi­nee­ring, whose basic idea is: refi­ne­ment and optimization. 

For some years now, howe­ver, tech­no­lo­gies have been follo­wing a disrup­tive logic. In banking, for exam­ple, FinTech is curr­ently revo­lu­tio­ni­zing the indus­try, parti­cu­larly visi­ble in mobile payments. ATMs and EC cards will soon seem as anti­qua­ted to us as fax machi­nes do today.

2. What does disrup­tion mean?

To do this, you have to take a closer look at the uphe­avals. “Disp­ru­tion” does not mean that ever­y­thing will now be diffe­rent, for exam­ple that soon neither cars nor publi­shing houses will exist. Rather, the digi­tal uphe­avals concern a decou­pling of carrier and func­tion. The func­tion remains, but the carri­ers change. News­pa­per publishers no longer distri­bute prin­ted news­pa­pers, but have rede­fi­ned them­sel­ves in the abstract: as digi­tal news compa­nies. Auto­ma­kers will soon no longer be selling cars to private indi­vi­du­als, but mobi­lity concepts for cities or entire count­ries. — The needs remain constant, but the imple­men­ta­tion chan­ges radically.

3. What does that mean for mana­gers, speci­fi­cally chief finan­cial officers?

Today, the focus must first be on the future. Less tradi­tion is requi­red, but more anti­ci­pa­tion. The new role is: manage less, decide more. Be less tradi­tio­na­list, act more agile and open. 

This is also shown by a study conduc­ted by the World Econo­mic Forum, which asked what skills are needed to master the “Fourth Indus­trial Revo­lu­tion”. Crea­ti­vity and criti­cal thin­king in parti­cu­lar will come to the fore in the future. Both skills are deci­dedly non-tradi­tio­na­list and corre­la­ted with a high degree of openness. 

In Europe, compa­nies could still become much more open, crea­tive and coura­ge­ous. There have been too few great disrup­tive busi­ness ideas so far, from people who think as progres­si­vely as the foun­ders of the GAFA compa­nies. These succes­sors of the hippies from Cali­for­nia have chosen open­ness as their lifestyle.
Open­ness as a maxim for action means more respon­si­bi­lity for manage­ment, but also more crea­tive oppor­tu­ni­ties for individuals.

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