At a time when innovation is the driving force behind corporate success, our colleague Jan Gerhardt has set an extraordinary tone through his involvement in innovation management at BEKO TECHNOLOGIES. His remarkable journey from working student to innovation manager is an inspiring example of how determination and strategic thinking can lead to sustainable success. In this interview, Jan Gerhardt talks about the importance of innovation, the dynamics of innovation management and the essential elements for the path to successful and ethically responsible innovation.
Innovation is key: From working student to innovation manager in two years
Jan, "Innovation is key" is your slogan at LinkedIn. What does it mean to you personally?
In my view, innovations are the key to the sustainable success of companies. By sticking to old products or services, we cannot offer customers long-term benefits in today's fast-changing and complex world. Innovations are essential for sustainable customer satisfaction, no matter what industry - this represents my slogan.
- In your short time at BEKO TECHNOLOGIES, have you been able to put your guiding principle into practice and already achieve initial successes?
In the course of these two years, I have already had some successes in innovation management. For example, I successfully implemented the approach to realizing new product ideas that I developed in my master's thesis. In the scope of the BEKO TECHNOLOGIES 2030 strategy, we introduced a novel methodology to ensure that all innovations are in line with our corporate strategy, while at the same time not overlooking any significant market and technology trends.
We are also intensifying collaboration with the international sales units, to drive innovation on a global scale. In Atlanta, USA, the systematic evaluation and global tracking of all new ideas is already carried out according to a standardized process. We now plan to adopt this approach for our sales units in Asia as well.
- What do you think are the most important factors for a company like BEKO TECHNOLOGIES to be innovative and successful?
The most important factor from my point of view is customer focus. We have to understand our customers, their desires and needs in order to offer them the greatest added value. Satisfied customers who enjoy buying and using our products bring us success and pay for our innovation projects. And they recommend us to others! For innovation management, it is important to have a precise understanding of customer needs and desires, and to tailor new products to these in the best possible way. Innovation is not just about coming up with something "new," but also about gaining customer acceptance.
- How important is it as a company to have a team of employees who are "on fire" for innovation and creativity?
Very important - no one creates breakthrough innovations alone. Even the iPhone was not made a success by Steve Jobs alone. The interplay of various company departments such as engineering, sales, product management, service and marketing, but also international cooperation with colleagues from the other sales units are essential.
- What do you think are the biggest challenges for companies when it comes to innovation, and how can they overcome these challenges?
We must accept that success from innovation management activities is only visible in the long term. The effort is underestimated, the benefit for the company overestimated and it is often expected that new products will be available within a very short time.
Evaluating innovative ideas and selecting the most promising ones based on incomplete and imprecise information is always a difficult task - after all, these are often completely new topics with which we have correspondingly little or no experience. At the same time, however, it is precisely this challenge that makes innovation management so interesting and exciting for me.
- How do you deal with it when an idea or a project fails or does not bring the expected success?
In innovation management, this is not a rare occurrence. Less than 10% of ideas reach market launch, and this is not exceptional - in other industries, these statistics look similar. It is therefore important not to set expectations too high - i.e. not every idea submitted is actually developed, let alone the hoped-for breakthrough on the market. We have many innovative ideas in the pipeline - more than we can implement. That can be seen as a problem. I, on the other hand, see it as a luxury, because it means we won't run out of innovations for the coming years.
- What role do customers and suppliers play in the development of innovative products and solutions?
The customer must be at the center of all activities in innovation management - whether in the search for, elaboration of, or evaluation of new ideas. Without clear customer benefits, no idea will become a successful innovation on the market. Ultimately, we have to convince the customer to buy the product. That's why the voice from the global market is always very important to us. For the future, we are already planning to involve external parties such as customers and suppliers even more intensively in the innovation process.
- What does the future of innovation at BEKO TECHNOLOGIES look like and how can it be shaped?
Strategically, we will of course continue to focus our innovation management on products and services for the treatment of compressed air - which reflects our corporate strategy. To this end, we have selected a number of strategically relevant topics where we want to focus intensively on innovations. Of course, we are not ignoring closely related and increasingly attractive markets such as hydrogen. Thus, we can confidently state that we are prepared for the future.
Incidentally, all employees and customers of BEKO TECHNOLOGIES can help shape the future. Innovative ideas for new products and services can be submitted from all regions to a worldwide uniform BEKO TECHNOLOGIES e-mail address. These are then systematically and objectively reviewed and evaluated according to our process.
- How can companies ensure that their innovations are ethical and responsible and do not lead to the violation of important values and standards in terms of occupational health and safety and sustainability?
This is an interesting question that we all have to deal with. In my view, such topics must be clearly taken into account in the evaluation and selection process. The topic of sustainability already runs consistently through all areas at BEKO TECHNOLOGIES and is naturally also evaluated in the systematic process for selecting the most promising innovation projects for the future.
- What activities do you do in your free time to find a balance?
I like doing sports in my leisure time to free my mind. I play tennis in a men's team, and of course I also keep fit in the gym and on my racing bike. The activities on offer at BEKO TECHNOLOGIES are also a welcome way to balance out my lunch break - be it games of foosball or table tennis with my colleagues. Recently, I've added outdoor activities in my free time with my dog Anton, a 9-month-old Golden Doodle.
Jan, thank you very much for your time and I wish you continued success and joy at BEKO TECHNOLOGIES!