Interview with Philipp Hahn and Miriam Appel

“Disruption solutions are the result of uncomprising, hard work and a lot of passion”


A conversation about disruptive changes, role models and visions

Philipp Hahn is one of the most wanted strategy and transformation pioneers worldwide. With his disruptive approaches, he regularly impresses his listeners and brings international top corporations safely through their transformations. We spoke to him about disruption, successful change management and the future.

Mr. Hahn, you work with companies on disruptive solutions. How do you define "disruption" in one sentence?

Disruption smashes the established through radical redesign of the fundamental rules of the game, products, services, manners, ... you name it.

What does disruption mean for business practice and what tips do you give to equip companies in change processes?

Disruptive solutions are the result of uncomprising, hard work and a lot of passion. They are based on a courageous corporate culture, where decisions are made using facts and figures. Sensitivities like they are (still full) present in European corporations have no place in them.

When a company wants to „change“ something it is advisable that they already have experience in change. It’s very rare that the knowledge is available internally, and if it is, usually at the „lowest“ level. However, when a company wants to change something, I recommend getting help from the outside. On the one hand to expand your own horizon and on the other hand to have someone who gives you the necessary kick in the ass. Because the culture, the collective behavior of the company are what has eventually led to the company not adapting fast enough.

Who do you see in the driver seat of the companies?

In most of the companies the decisions are made by management and mostly in favor of their own position. Often they do not even notice how obvious their self-protective behavior is, because their own already blunted team can no longer say anything, otherwise the would no longer fit into the collective adapted behavior. This is the opposite of customer orientation, especially since most of the top managers have had no interaction with customers for years and they only know about problems in the base from PowerPoint presentations on their flat screens, if a KPI slips into the red area again. Thanks to their company histories which have grown for many many years, the companies do not notice much of it at the moment.

Many companies are a big step ahead. They have committed themselves to a purpose, a sustainable vision. This “North Star” becomes the compass needle for all entrepreneurial activities. Ideally, individual functions such as managers within the company are then chosen over a project period. Much like a class representative. If the manager does not serve the purpose, the team and therefore not the customer then he can easily be deselected. Something like that is by the way part of a swarm organisation, there is little room for ego in that. Imagine tomorrow is election day in your company ...

What characterises a strong disruptor? Is there a company that we should take as an example?

Of course, the usual suspects like Google, Facebook, Virgin or Tesla, who have just turned the entire pick-up industry upside down with their Cybertruck. After the model was announced, almost half as many vehicles have been sold as Ford has sold with the competition line, the „F-Series“, throughout the year. While the press mocked the PR debacle after the failed metal ball test, Tesla is already immortalizing this mishap on a T-shirt, which exactly reflects the damage and is boosting its own merchandising profit with the error. But we can also learn from Netflix, 10 years ago after a number of misfires, no serious threat, the now push TV channels against the wall. Walmart shapes innovation in classic retail and is a pioneer in digitalization, while Amazon dominates retail. Airbnb is a problem for the hotel industry. The list is getting longer and longer...

A glimpse into the future: Is disruption foreseeable so that the companies can specifically plan? Or will it always remain an unknown, to which you have to react in short term.

It usually comes unexpectedly and shakes entire industries to the core. Companies that are in a pioneering role or have been making good money for a long time in the market should be particularly careful. An example: The last major development that emerged from the established banking industry was the ATM. External disruptors such as the finance cloud, mobile pay etc. are just the beginning.

Your performances are known to discuss “the uncomfortable thruths“. Can you give us a sample?

I am often told that my live performances are incomparable. I make sure that my presentations are up to date and not the same like the others. A tailor-made suit, so to speak, therefore I'm increasing the tension and the "Fear of Loss" by not telling anything in advance, except that it will get very explosive and up-to-date (wink).

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