Digital Future Summit 2017

ESMT Berlin

Digital Future Summit at ESMT Berlin

My journey to this summit started months back when I got an email from my university regarding this digital summit being held at ESMT. As the topic was digitization, I was quite interested to know more about it. After doing my primary research, I got to know the topics of workshops, masterclasses and the companies coming to the summit. The summit almost has all the big names I could think of such as Google, McKinsey, Microsoft, Daimler, and others.

After a simple application process of submitting my resume and motivation for attending the session, I got the confirmation after a few days. Exciting workshop and master classes ossified my decision to attend the session even though the summit was in Berlin quite far from where I live.

Just after attending the ‘Future Communication Conference’ at EBS Business School (My home university) it was the time to transcend the journey to Berlin. It took almost 12 hours to reach the Berlin Main Bus Station with Flixbus, and now it was time to find ESMST Berlin. With the help of everybody’s friend google navigation, I managed to reach to the ESMT Berlin campus of time.

There was an introductory speech by Prof. Jorg Rocholl, who kicked off the summit and shared the agenda for the day. Also, shortly mentioning the importance of the digitization in the coming future.  Just after the kick-off speech, it was time for the keynote speech


Keynote Speech 1:

Mr. Markus Hagele (Head of Digital Life at Daimler) took the speech on “Shaping the Future Mobility.” Mr. Markus explained that they follow four-step processes to drive the digital transformation at Daimler and they are ideate, transform, change, and collaborate. Some products such as Mercedes me, Fleet Board, Detroit Connect, Mercedes Pro are establishing new ecosystems in the market.

He also talked about CASE acronym which they generally use are connected vehicle, Autonomous, Shared & Services, Electric. He said for making the people aware about the digital transformation at Daimler they organize digital city tours. And to foster the innovation culture in the company they generally organize “Fuck up Nights: Fail ‘N’ Learn Nights. This helps to create a positive culture of failing innovation. Also, they use a fairly new principle of “Working out Loud” which a method integration based on new networking methods. In short, this is a way to connect people to share their expertise with someone in need of it. And finally, before telling about Hackathons and various other events to connect with Daimler he talked about 3I: Information, Inspection, and Innovation.

Other fancy terms which I hear were: Hyperventilating terms, also there were talks about the change in the focus from product to service industries.


Keynote 2 speech:

Ms. Conny Lohmann (Co-Founder & CEO of ASK HELMUT), who shared some insights on things to be taken care of while running a start-up. Some points were like daring to take chance and much more.  Next, we had panel discussion debating on various disruptive technologies in the market and how digital entrepreneurs challenge the market. And based on the current trend and digitalization panelists discussed if today’s corporate world is still viable for the future. The panel consisted of Prof. Matthew Bothhner (Professor of Strategy and Deutsche Telekom Chair in Leadership and HR at ESMT Berlin), Dr. Johannes Bruder (COO, Rocket Internet), Josef Brunner (CEO, Relyr), Dr. Annette Demmel (Partner and Certified Lawer Squire Patton Boggs), Dr Christof Mascher (COO, Allianz) and Marco Thelen (Accenture Digital).

After keynote speeches and panel discussion, it was the time to attend the workshops. The workshop was allocated to students based on an undisclosed method of allocation in line individual preferences. Fortunately, I got my first preferences for both the workshops. Below are my experiences from the mentioned workshops.


Babbel Workshop:

Mr. Thomas Holl (CSO, Babbel) took the workshop. He started the workshop based on a presentation about the journey of Babbel and its current market condition and challenges.  For some of you who don’t know about Babbel, it is a language learning app with 14 languages and is based on a subscription model. Babbel started with 33-million-dollar funding in 3 rounds and is competing in a market of language learning which is 60 billion dollars. And he said Babbel is designed for users and 73% of users report feeling confident with a short conversation after 5 hours of using Babbel. According to a report on English language learning mobile learning would be of 2.4 billion dollar which is their major focus. After his presentation there was question and answer session, in these, there were many interesting questions such as: How is Babbel customizing the user experience? Are they working on artificial intelligence principles? Which market is their focus? Do they have any plan to expand in other categories? Etc


Keynote 3 Speech:

Mr. Rafael Westinner (Partner, McKinsey) took the keynote 3. He talked about how digital analytics can fuel the next 20% productivity, how industry 4.0 is driving rapid change. He described the 6 main categories like advanced analytics, robotics& automation, process digitalization, connectivity & Sensing, additive manufacturing and business model innovation are the opportunities within operations. More importantly, he talked about four different approaches to achieve the next performance level in operations. They were zero-based budgeting (ZBB) which is budget driven, digital manufacturing which is new lean, analytics-to-value which is product driven and digital services which are journey driven.

In between, he also discussed new horizons of excellence such as standard performance, functional excellence and operation 4.0


Keynote Speech 4:

Mr. Martin Ott (Managing Director Central Europe, Facebook), explained about the choices in careers at different stages in one’s life and how to choose the best of it. He explained the below-mentioned point:

  • Focus on impact
  • Move fast
  • Look down (focus on one biggest thing)
  • Be open (in business it means being transparent)
  • Be bold
  • Build social value

In the end, before closing his speech he said if there is any dilemma one should ask questions from themselves such as what is really important to me? What makes me happy (…and what doesn’t?).


Google Workshop:

Now the time was for the Google workshop, and as expected everybody was very excited in the room. Martina Dopfer, Jessica Schmeiss, Peter were in the room from Google. Peter began by explaining the journey of Google from the beginning when Larry Page and Sergey Bin started working on Google from a garage. He showed us search engines such as Alta Vista, Excite, and Yahoo which were present in the market before Google. He said, now a day there are 40 million searches every second and six out of ten searches are done through mobile phones. Also, he explained how Google has maintained its simplicity by giving two options at first interface: Google search and I am feeling lucky. And it was very surprising to see that only a few people in the room knew the function of I am feeling lucky search button (For your information if you press I am feeling lucky for a search query it will directly direct you to the most relevant web page. It is a very big deal for any product of a company to have more than a billion users but Google has 7 products such as Gmail, Android, YouTube etc. with more than billion users, this buttresses the fact how big Google is in the market. One suggestion which Peter gave focused on user- and everything else will follow, this is something which has worked for Google and this mantra is quite relevant to any field of business.

3 Big Ideas followed by Google:

Big Idea 1: Use technology to change the world for good

Example: Project Loon- The internet on a balloon

Big Idea 2: Democratize platforms

Example: Google translator for any language ( an earlier version of the ranslator was not very useful as it provided the literal translation of what was being translated but now Google is trying to give the exact translation using machine learning).

Big Idea 3: Go for the moonshots, even when they sound crazy

Example 1: Project Soli- Interaction using radar technology

Example 2: Waymo (Google’s self-driving car company)


Business Model Innovation:

Now after big Ideas, it was time to learn some techniques of business model innovation from Martina Dopfer and Jessica Schmeiss.

The presentation began by the example of Airbnb which has revolutionized the way we book the hotel and how within a short period of time their market cap is far more than the biggest hotel chain Hilton.

Then they explained about the various dimension of disruption (which creates value in return):

  • Rethinking value creation
  • Rethinking value consumption
  • Rethinking quality control
  • Rethinking scale

Various elements of the innovative business model are a value proposition, revenue model, value chain, players in the market and change drivers. Also, before giving us a case to solve they also explained about some principle which can be used to solve business problems like similarity principle, confrontation principle and various ways of ideating using the pattern cards such as sequential vs parallel, open vs closed and high vs low frequency

After some amazing insights and facts, the Google team taught us the process of initiation, ideation and integration then the result is implemented, evaluated and finally checked for consistencies. Based on the above-mentioned theories we were expected to solve a case “Olli: the autonomous bus.” For this purpose, the students were divided into 5 groups consisting of 8-12 members.

Some facts about Olli: It is self-driving

  • It is self-driving
  • Can carry almost 12 passengers
  • Maximum driving speed is 12 Km/h
  • The bus is interactive (Using IBM Watson)
  • Will be used for transportation Purpose
  • It is developed for DB (Deutsch Bahn)

The task was to commercialize the product with the use any innovative revenue model. And the idea was to be presented in 2 minutes in the best way possible. My team took all the materials provided and decided to go out in the garden to work on the idea. We knew we need to hurry as we had only 45 minutes in hand. But, as we started discussing things became a bit ugly as not everybody was familiar with empathy map (a process of design thinking to know about you consumer in detail) and how to approach it. Fortunately, I had the experience of using design thinking while working on a live project at SPJIMR in India, when demonetization happened. And hence I explained them about it and some other colleagues who had the idea helped me to make everybody understand. The task was a bit challenging because here we had the product (which you generally develop based on the process of design thinking) but the task was to understand the customer and to find the way to commercialize the product. So, finally, after agreeing on what our customer may need from the proposed product it was the time to find which revenue model would work the best. We had various options in hand such as flat rate, freemium, locked in, third party etc.


Finally, after many ideas, we decide to go with flat rates and advertising model in the car. The offer was to develop an app for using the service, and based on the user data and machine learning Olli can suggest people best possible options be it a place to it, entertainment etc. Now, we were out of time but we were convinced to present this idea in an innovative way. So, we did a play with one person acting ass Olli, two as the customers, one as the place and one person explaining everything in detail. Even though we were not sure how well we would do it but when group 3 (my group number) was called on stage we all did a great job in communicating the idea. We had no idea how people received it but we as a team were quite happy about it. And it was time to see the other team coming out with innovative ideas. Everybody did a great job, and it was the time for evaluation. Every participant in the group had 1 billion to invest and after various pitches group 3 won the case with 26 billion investments (including 3 billion of Peter from Google). And now it was a chance for group 3 to rejoice the victory.

Image: A click with my group (Group number 3) after winning the case

Master Class by Lars Hinrichs:

After a wonderful Google workshop, it was time for an interesting master class by a highly renowned personality Mr. Henrich Lars, best known for founding Xing (professional social network like LinkedIn). Mr. Henrich started the session by sharing his journey. He talked how he realized the need to connect with the colleagues and the feedback he got after requesting an invite to his friends. He said many said it is the dumbest idea, but a good number of people registered themselves as well. He accentuated the fact that you need to believe yourself rather than reacting to the naysayers. He said as many people were interested to know who viewed their profile, that was the point for them to make the money. After many years of turmoil, he succeeded. And then detached himself from the company and started other venture in which he believes. He said engineers are the core of the teams so always have some good engineers in your team. In the end, there was question and answers session where students asked how he manages his time? How he thinks digitization would change the business environment in the future etc.


Now, with this officially all task ended and we headed to the party zone. It was an amazing experience to talk to many people and know their motivation to attend this conference. With this, an unforgettable conference came to an end.



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