The me Convention: My weekend in Frankfurt

“Who’d like to join us at the me Convention?” This was the call to a competition on the Daimler employee portal. In order to have a chance of winning, participants needed a recommendation from a colleague. I was one of the lucky ones.

I was described as a cool and creative person — someone who is promoting digitalization at Daimler. That made me a prime candidate for the me Convention, right? Today I can say, “I certainly was — and how!”

The me Convention is an event focusing on future-related issues. It offers fascinating insights into the latest developments in the areas of technology, science, leadership, art, and marketing. And it uses various formats such as workshops and presentations, all in line with the slogan #createthenew.

Along with these formats, it also featured a hackathon and lively discussions between the participants during the auto show and as part of the evening program. During all of these activities you could meet interesting people, expand your horizons, gain new inspiration and ideas, and of course also have a lot of fun.

My first impression

The me Convention was held in parallel to the IAA at the Mercedes stand, but on Level One, separately from the rest of it. Customers and auto show visitors ascended past us on the long escalator, from the ground floor to Level Two. I was in the midst of things, between our products, the visitors, and the Daimler colleagues who were working at the auto show.

As soon as I stepped inside, I was struck by the design and the presentation. The me Convention looked like a cozy but modern living room, full of plants and lots of bright colors that strongly reminded me of our Leadership 2020 initiative.

There were lots of stands where I could try out new devices, ranging from a 3D printer to a piece of sports equipment that you could control by means of VR glasses and the weight of your own body. The fridges were well-stocked with organic drinks, and we were offered various kinds of snacks. The participants of the me Convention were extremely diverse — there were people from every age group and a wide range of nationalities and professions.

Because there were many international participants, you often heard people speaking English, as well as German. Although I met some colleagues from Daimler, a clear majority of the participants were from other DAX companies, agencies, startups, and established technology companies.

Buzz Aldrin: There are no limits to good ideas

Who would’ve thought 70 years ago that it’s possible to fly to the moon and come back to Earth alive? Buzz Aldrin has done exactly that. He was the second man to walk on the moon in 1969, after Neil Armstrong. He’s a scientist who has received eight doctor’s degrees, and he is now 87 years old. The participants of the me Convention received him with thunderous applause.

His opening speech was a fantastic kickoff for the convention. He proved to us that if good ideas, good people, the right technology and, above all, lots of enthusiasm are available, there are no limits to what you can do. Our founding fathers Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz must have had similar feelings as they enthusiastically tinkered around, learned from their setbacks, and formed an idea that many people, including Kaiser Wilhelm II, initially considered insane.

The IAA hackathon IT professionals tinker around

I’ve often read on the intranet about the hackathons that are organized by Daimler, but so far I had not participated in any of them. At a hackathon, international teams meet together for 24 hours to work out ideas using laptops, circuit boards, and Lego blocks. The aim is to generate ideas that provide added value for our customers or our products.

It’s exciting to see how much enthusiasm the teams invest in their projects, even though they are not Daimler employees. They simply want to take existing systems and make them even better. This hackathon was won by the “HD Vision Deep” team, which had developed new opportunities for car2go. According to their vision, in the future it will be possible to lease cars by means of facial recognition technology. As a regular car2go user, I think this is a great idea.

More than 150 inspiring events

There were more than 150 presentations, talks, and workshops. At times it was a challenge to decide which presentation I wanted to go to next. The Buddhist monk Gelong Thubten urged the participants to do something for their mental state. He talked about moments when you can’t change anything — for example, if you’re stuck in the midst of a traffic jam. His message was that if we manage not to get angry about things we can’t change, this has a positive effect on our mental health. Many of us are familiar with this situation because we encounter it on our way to work.

Sheryl Sandberg and Dieter Zetsche

One of the topics that Dieter Zetsche and Sheryl Sandberg dealt with in their talk was the importance of making sure that members of the young generation learn programming as early as possible, just as they learn math in primary school. Sheryl Sandberg called on the audience members to set an example for their young daughters by making sure that the work in their households is not done only by women — Dad should also be running the washing machine and the dishwasher. She also pointed out that the word “ambition” should have the same connotations for men as well as for women.

In his presentation, “The psychology of pitching: The art & science of changing minds,” Paul Boross offered some tips on how to create a positive atmosphere for a conversation through trust and empathy in an age in which decisions have to be made in ever shorter periods of time. Tip: Don’t look into both eyes of the person you’re talking to — gaze into only one eye. Determine exactly what eye color your partner has, and think of a good wish for him or her. But don’t say this wish out loud — simply think of it. Try it out with your colleagues or your friends.

These were my personal Top 3 experiences:

1. I was impressed by the presentation of John Cohn, who mesmerized his audience with his deep insights and lots of jokes. Cohn is the chief researcher at IBM in the Watson Internet of Things (IoT) unit. In his presentation, titled “Serious play: An engineer’s perspective on fun & passion at work,” he called on his audience to try things out in playful and enthusiastic ways at home and at work.

Life is too short to do things that aren’t any fun in the long run. Setbacks and defeats are part of life, and our experiences make us what we are, he said, citing his own loss of one of his three sons. “When we do something, we shouldn’t be afraid of failure. And if we do fail, that’s okay.” After all failures are part of life.

Talk “Serious Play” by John Cohn

2. Brock Pierce is a venture capital investor whose company has earned more than $200 million to date. Initially I thought I had mistakenly entered the wrong event. Pierce delivered his presentation, “The Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies & Icos,” wearing a cowboy hat and Western regalia. He reminded me somehow of Crocodile Dundee.

But his talk turned out to be different from what I had expected. He talked about his experiences at the “Burning Man” festival and discussed blockchain and cryptocurrencies. It’s an interesting combination, which in the years ahead will generate business models that we can’t even imagine today. Daimler has already tested the opportunities that are opened up blockchain technology.

3. Ambarish Mitra, who grew up in very modest circumstances in India, is now the cofounder and CEO of Blippar, whose value is estimated to be about $1 billion. In his presentation, titled “How AR & computer vision technologies are impacting our lives today,” he demonstrated the augmented reality functions that are already available today if you have an iPhone and the Blippar app.

For example, manufacturers of granola bars can print barcodes on their packaging that enable customers to upload games from the Internet in just a few seconds. The presentation made me curious about what kinds of things will be possible in this field in the future.

Inspiration by day — parties at night

Inspiration by day — entertainment and networking at night: There were lots of restaurants, bars, and clubs near Frankfurt’s central train station that had been designated as meeting points for all me Convention participants. On Friday we first went to a Beth Ditto concert and then to the Mercedes stand, which was transformed within a few hours into a club with electronic music.

For me, the absolute highlight was the concert given on Saturday by the band Beginner. I’ve been listening to their songs for more than 17 years, so this was a special treat for me. Well, what can I say? The concert was simply fantastic! It felt as though everyone was singing along, and that created a fantastic atmosphere in the club.

An event that should be continued

At the me Convention, people don’t talk only about automobiles. The convention is a meeting place for visionaries, artists, pioneers, and adventurous people who want to help shape the future. It’s great that Daimler has taken the initiative in this area.

The digital world and the automotive world are increasingly merging. Our vehicles are already connected with the Internet, they work with millions of codes to operate countless components and control units, and they can be controlled via apps. Tremendous opportunities are opening up for us, now and in the future. I’m looking forward to future developments and to what I can contribute to them myself — hopefully, at the second me Convention, which will be held next year. Maybe the motto will once again be “Let’s go on to #createthenew!”

He won tickets from a competition on the Daimler-Intranet for the me Convention in the context of the IAA 2017. Usually he works at the distribution centre for Mercedes-Benz Germany in Berlin. On a daily basis he thinks about ways of digitalization to improve distribution processes.