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Date: 03-Oct-2018
Posted by: Michael PUTZ
Category: Innovation goals

Interview with Futurist: Pioneers need staying power


Kai Goerlich works for SAP as a futurist and in thought leadership. In the interview, he explains how he works, why new ideas require a broad research and how a company can develop the role of being perceived as a mastermind by the relevant target group.

You are Thought Leadership at a large software company. What exactly do you do, how would you describe your job in a few sentences?

Kai Goerlich: I analyse trends, derive future scenarios from them and develop articles and blog posts that we publish in our magazine Digitalist.

Your task is to develop new ideas. How did you come up with these ideas? Are there sources that you particularly enjoy using, which are therefore very productive for your work?

Kai Goerlich: Of course I have favourites that I visit regularly but all in all this is rather a broad research. Otherwise, I would just recount what others have been thinking.

Paper 10 Sources of ideas

I assume it is important for you to deal with trends? How do you deal with that? Do you work a lot with trend researchers?

Kai Goerlich: Yes, but not for the concrete idea at SAP, but rather for the exchange within the community and for joint projects.

In the modern economy everything is connected with everything - especially in the software industry this is very pronounced. The trends in one industry can completely change another. Can you exclude certain areas, or do you have to deal - at least superficially - with developments in all economic sectors?

Kai Goerlich: I don't ignore much, but come from general trends to industry and IT trends to ideas. It is less about the concrete trends but about their interaction in a certain context. In this respect, however, we do not always use the entire range of trends for every individual scenario.

I assume you have to work with a lot of data. Which applications do you use to generate information, insights or even new ideas from the data?

Kai Goerlich: On the level of primary data collection I work less, that would require a larger budget and a great deal of effort and is not absolutely necessary for scenario building. However, we use existing data and model its course from e.g. resource consumption or the use of robotics until 2030 For the key factors, their projections and the creation of scenarios I use software support

Which trends in the software industry are currently the most interesting/relevant? 

Kai Goerlich: First of all, we would have to define exactly what the software industry is. This is changing precisely because many companies produce IT, i.e. the IT originates from the classical IT industry. I would describe that as one of the trends. Overall, the increasing digitization of society is the overriding movement, which is expressed, among other things, in more data and more connected devices and things.

How far can you think/plan ahead in the software industry?

Kai Goerlich: The software industry is no different from other industries. In principle, we can develop scenarios for the next 15 to 20 years. These are alternative futures which, however, do not arrive in the predicted form but change as we walk towards them.

Thought Leadership means that a company is perceived as a mastermind by the relevant target groups. In a way, this is a marketing tool. What points must one pay attention to here that the target groups also relieve one of this role - that one can take it and play it credibly?

Kai Goerlich: We try to cover the topics as they are interesting from the point of view of our customers. So when we write about the future of robots, it is an overriding theme, as we have no direct products. It becomes more difficult with the topics in which we are involved with technology, such as Internet of Things. I think it is the same with external readers as with myself: I perceive it as reasonably neutral if the sender leaves his products out of the picture and does not place reference projects in the foreground. Ultimately, you need staying power and a more independent attitude to build your reputation as a thought leader.


Ad Personam

Kai Goerlich is in charge of the SAP Marketing Strategy Team's Internet of Things and Digital Supplier Networks, and writes about digital futures. Here you will find some stories that Kai Goerlich has published in the Digitalist:

7 methods for idea generation
Michael PUTZ

Born in the Salzkammergut. After working for Shell and Porsche, he concentrated on innovation management as a study assistant at the Innovation Department of the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration. In 2003 he founded LEAD Innovation and manages the company as Managing Partner. Lectures at MIT, in front of companies like Google or NASA.

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