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Sometimes just a small idea is all it takes to spark a major transformation. If an employee at Daimler Financial Services or Mercedes-Benz Bank has a brilliant idea that could benefit fellow employees or customers, he or she can present it on the in-house innovation platform HATCH.
HATCH was set up two years ago. Since then, 900 employees of Daimler Financial Services and Mercedes-Benz Bank have submitted more than 1,500 ideas. I myself already pitched more than 30 ideas and try to help to make the company fit for the future. For example, I ordered a solid-wood bed on the Internet not so long ago. It was delivered three weeks later at a cost of €100 for the forwarding agent. That gave me an idea: Why not develop an app that would enable people to transmit delivery orders between B2C and C2C?
Since lots of Mercedes drivers travel between A and B every day anyhow, this would not only save costs but also reduce delivery times. This kind of ride-sharing platform for freight has great potential. The market is booming, and nowadays everyone orders goods on the Internet. A short time later, I posted my idea on the in-house innovation platform HATCH. The feedback was positive. And who knows? Maybe my idea will be implemented one day.
This was not the first idea I had uploaded on HATCH in order to share it with all of my colleagues. In the past two years I’ve had 36 ideas, some of which are being implemented. All the employees of Daimler Financial Services and Mercedes-Benz Bank can do the same as me — post their ideas on the platform quickly and easily, make comments, and help to shape HATCH.
A network of 40 international experts works behind the scenes at HATCH. They are responsible for a variety of theme areas and they support the contributors during the subsequent stages of the process. Ideally, a budget is provided and the idea becomes a project. HATCH is a simple way to communicate ideas and encourage people to share them — especially if these ideas obviously have the potential to solve problems and bring clear advantages, and if their implementation provides practical benefits for us and our customers.
A truck warning system and alternative drives
I work at Mercedes-Benz Bank as an IT test manager. But my thinking is not limited to my own specialist IT area. I also like to think about digital business models and business development. To date, I’ve come up with a varied mix of ideas about all kinds of themes related to Daimler Financial Services, Mercedes-Benz Bank, and other divisions of Daimler AG.
Among other things, I’ve developed an idea for an alternative drive system that could reduce carbon dioxide emissions and another idea for a warning system that would enable trucks to avoid collisions when they are driving through a portal of a tunnel or a bridge. I’ve also developed concepts for customer authentication methods. With regard to the last group of ideas, the way an individual walks has 24 characteristic features and thus is a more reliable form of identification than the person’s fingerprints. I came up with this idea after reading a study dealing with this topic.
You might be wondering where my motivation comes from. I’m very interested in technology and in practice-oriented solutions for everyday problems. We live in an exciting period of transition, and there are many overarching challenges that affect not only our company but all of us. If you go through the world with your eyes open and look beyond your immediate surroundings, you will certainly realize that. My ideas are often unexpectedly sparked by everyday situations or conversations.
When I generate ideas, I deliberately don’t orient myself according to the relevant literature on innovation management, and I don’t do any systematic brainstorming. In my experience, ideas develop automatically over a certain period of time, and they have to ripen. Actually, the creative process always begins in my head subconsciously and spontaneously as soon as something that is regarded as a problem — or rather, something that can be optimized — appears to my mind’s eye: something that is practically crying out for the right solution. In most cases, I can’t get this idea out of my head for a long time.
“Compete with your core business yourself, before other people do!”
Confronting a problem and tinkering with an approach to a solution — I do that because it’s fun, but that’s not the only reason.
Above all, I also want to help the company to move forward.
In our company there are lots of things that run well, but of course there are aspects everywhere that can be improved. That reminds me of a quotation from Dieter Zetsche: “Compete with your core business yourself, before other people do!” That’s why I never tire of appealing to my colleagues to take action themselves and contribute new ideas. There is creativity in each one of us — we only have to spark the fire. You need to have a clear head in order to be creative, but it’s worthwhile to take the short amount of time this requires.
Many ideas arise while you’re taking a shower
Apropos time, some people might be wondering how I found the time to come up with 36 ideas and whether I get anything done in my regular job. But I can reassure everyone that I don’t get bored. Besides, I mainly develop my ideas during my leisure time. The flashes of genius usually strike when I’m on vacation, stuck in a traffic jam or — this is the classic situation — taking a shower.
Once in a while I drive after work from Pragsattel to the Daimler headquarters in Untertürkheim in order to present my ideas to my colleagues there. Of course there are also setbacks, for example when an idea doesn’t pan out or I don’t get the support that I need. But, quite honestly, that motivates me all the more. In these situations I can be really persistent — after all, my zodiac sign is Taurus!