Under the overall theme “When transformation becomes innovation”, experts and practitioners came together in the beautiful, and unusual, venue — Hallenbad - Kultur am Schachtweg (what, what was once an indoor swimming pool) — to exchange ideas and best practices for the working world of tomorrow. This very much centered around questioning existing work models, and exploring new cooperation as a driver for innovation.
Speaking in our session was Head of Premium-Cola Uwe Lübbermann, whose collective has been successfully playing by its own wayward rules for the past 15 years. For instance, working with no fixed hours, employee bonuses, or even an office. The company also believes in handing over decision-making power to whoever wants it — co-workers, suppliers, customers, anyone.
“We treat all stakeholders that we work with as internal people […] Everybody who is affected by a decision should be involved in it,” Uwe said.
Operating as a collective, people work “with” rather than “for” the company, choosing how much time they want to contribute. They are therefore viewed not as employees, but rather as entrepreneurs or contractors. This leads to everyone feeling as though they have ownership for the collective, and therefore have the drive to improve it.
Hearing about Premium-Cola’s approach to work was particularly inspiring, and is something we have looked into extensively as a best practice approach of a successful, self-managing organization: the company is growing at a controlled rate of 10%, and sells 1.5 million bottles annually.
Everybody who is affected by a decision should be involved in it.
While it’s becoming increasingly clear that self-management is the key to staying innovative in a complex and fast-moving world, just how to start putting the principles into practice can be difficult to comprehend. Therefore, together with SAP, we’ve been carrying out extensive research into various companies to dive deeper into the topic, and to provide concrete ideas for how other companies can start moving towards this way of working.
Our new work Design Lead Katrin Kaya presented the initial results of our research, alongside President Research & Innovation at SAP SE Reiner Bildmayer, at the event, highlighting that “at the core of this model is a new mindset — working on eye level, and moving away from hierarchies.”
Based on what we learned, we created a visual representation of what a self-managing organization looks like, which was also presented to the audience. Participants said the graphic overview was extremely beneficial to help understand how roles and processes change under this model.
The positive feedback we received from the presentation has helped us us push our research into the next phase, and also better frame SAP’s vision for tomorrow's company software.
We always find the Xing events extremely valuable to further build upon and share our new work knowledge. We will again be partnering with Xing in November, bringing another group of inspiring speakers together for the next New Work Sessions in Berlin. If you’re interested in collaborating, or have insights to share, please get in touch.