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"Agility, but not at any price"

Disruption presents real opportunity for change - three tips from Ulli Hegge, digital expert

“Disrupt Yourself” is the call from Christoph Keese in his latest book. The ZEIT Foundation’s Disrupt Yourself Camp attempted to investigate precisely what this might entail in mid April. Uli Hegge, 52, helps companies embark on a successful digital course, not as a classical consultant, but rather by taking on the role of external disruptor as a member of supervisory and advisory boards in start-ups and more traditional companies. Hegge views disruption less as destruction and much more as an opportunity for genuine change. Among the companies that he has subjected to these changes are Comdirect, G+J and the U.S. advertising tech platform Appnexus. As an online expert from the earliest days of the internet, Hegge can look back on 30 years of digital experience and has set up numerous businesses. In addition, he has identified three significant turnaround approaches.

1. Transform a supposed customer focus into a real one

“Each product and every service receives brutally direct and rapid feedback in our digital world – from usage data sometimes right up to a shitstorm,” Hegge said. This gives the company an immediate impression of what’s going on in their customers’ minds. But many companies first have to learn how to deal with the digital echo. “Many people see this immediacy as a threat. In reality it’s an incredibly useful tool that allows businesses to react before the customer changes their mind.”

Product innovations can also be developed in a more tailor-made way. Where there was great uncertainty in the past about whether a product will gain market acceptance, despite market analysis, today’s feedback loops facilitate a considerably more exact analysis of customer needs. But, given the diversity of customer feedback, is there not the danger of fragmentation? “Of course,” Hegge concedes. “And that’s why it is so important to be clear about this as a business: What does my company represent? What is our main customer benefit? Where do I see our position in the market, and what are our strategies? A business that really understands itself is able to distinguish relevant from irrelevant criticism.”

2. Creating an indispensable product

“On the basis of a genuine customer focus, I am now able to approach offering a product or a service, the absence of which would be simply inconceivable to our customer.” Hegge points to the search engine Google as an omnipresent example that has infiltrated both private and professional life. “In developing a products, it is essential to embark on a fresh mindset,” Hegge makes plain. A future-oriented imagination is key, rather than one focussed purely on the product. “So, for instance, what will driving a car or flying look like in 2025? Where will my business be with its service then? And which of my products or services will turn driving or flying into a special experience?”

3. The right implementation strategy

If the strategy is clear and the approach has been identified, the transition is made to implementation. Those seeking a digital path now tend to fall back on agile methods like Scrum, Working Out Loud or Design Thinking. “But it’s not about agility at any price,” Hegge cautioned. “If, for instance, a software project with a clearly identified objective is to be completed, a formalized process is possibly the more effective approach.” And knowing what is happening, why and with what objective, is also essential, he said. Digital change may take place at a rapid pace. “Nevertheless, for the companies involved, this at first always means pause and reflect – followed by single-minded implementation.”

Source and further information: 
Uli Hegge, contact via

Melissa KnausJuly 31, 2019