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Roots of innovation

At MLI’s recent Future of Leadership conference, Thomas Eilrich, the Chief Editor of DUB Unternehmermagazin, hosted the Discovering the Roots of Innovation panel.

During the session Thomas raised key questions on Innovation with four innovative leaders of their fields, here are their thoughts.


The sky is no longer the limit for Dr Ametsreiter, as he leads Vodafone’s project to launch the first LTE network in space. During the FLI conference, he shared his insights on fostering innovation in large corporations.

“Being innovative can be hard, especially in large organisations,” starts Dr Ametsreiter. “Innovativeness means to be open to totally new things, ideas and changes. As a big established organisation one of your biggest strengths can be your ability to offer security and linearity. Hence there is an inherent clash between legacy and the need to be innovative. However, establishing a culture of innovation is possible, if you take certain principles to heart.

  • You need to walk the talk!
     If you don’t show your people what is important to you and follow that with action, no one will follow you.
  • Confidently, build on your strengths!
    Don’t try to copy anything that is already out there. If your organisation didn’t have any strengths, it wouldn’t exist. Make yourself aware of your strengths and use them as a breeding ground for new ideas.
  • Become purpose driven!
     Seek purpose in everything you do and build a narrative around that purpose. Consider connected cars. As a telecommunications company, do we simply want to connect cars for the sake of technological exploitation? Probably not. The higher goal is to make cars safer and decrease the number of accidents. The moment your purpose is no longer simply putting sim cards in cars, but rather saving lives, your mission becomes much more motivating.”
Hannes Ametsreiter Grafik


Antonella Mei-Pochtler Grafik

Named ‘Germany’s best-known consultant,’ by Der Speigel, Dr Antonella Mei-Pochtler was one of the youngest ever partners at the Boston Consulting Group and has held many leadership positions since then. She was a member of the Global Executive Committee from 2006-2010 and is the recipient of many industry awards including Consulting magazine’s Women Leaders in Consulting Lifetime Achievement Award.

She summarised her thoughts on the topic as such:

  • Being innovative has nothing to do with a debate between large versus small companies. Regardless of age, every company has an inborn purpose and lots of potential to be innovative. Sometimes you just need to trigger a bit of creative gene mutation.

  • Innovative leaders must have an entrepreneurial drive and addictive passion. They need to be able to transmit their passion to everyone in their company.

  • Innovative companies need to be willing to take risks and follow their ideas with persistence. Even if that sometimes contradicts financial predictions or general opinions. They must create a space for experimentation and failure.


FLI Board Member Lin Kayser is a Munich based serial entrepreneur and investor who has worked in disruptive industries for more than 20 years. As co-founder and CEO of Hyperganic Technologies AG, his focus is on transforming the future of production through additive manufacturing. These were his three key messages to drive innovation:

  • Embrace serendipity!
    A leader must not be afraid to recognise and seize unplanned opportunities. It is not management, but great and visionary leadership that fosters innovation. Often, this also means that you need to overcome your fear of failure. You can even turn fear into a guiding principle. Whenever your gut feels uncomfortable about one of your ideas, without a logical explanation, then it could be a good sign to delve deeper.
  • Innovation leaders also need to assume responsibility.
    You need to be willing to stand up for your ideas, even when they fail.
  • Breakthrough innovations usually come from the outside.
    In large organisations with strict hierarchies fostering disruptive innovations is hard. So, as a large corporation, you should proactively get out of your comfort zone, cross silos and seek new impulses from outside.

    Lin Kayser Grafik


As CEO of  Personio, Hanno Renner’s goal is no less than to revolutionise human resources processes for SMEs across Europe. The Munich-based start-up has already secured over $14m in funding since its foundation in 2015. Before founding Personio, Hanno studied at the Center for Digital Technology and Management - an academic founding partner of the Future of Leadership Initiative (FLI). Here are his principles on how to build highly innovative teams:

  1. A great start is to base your leadership philosophy on the formula suggested in Daniel Pink’s book ‘Drive.’ The book identifies three key principles to unleash the full motivation and innovative power of your team:

    Give your people the opportunity to find their own field of expertise and support them to acquire the necessary skills to excel. 

    Do not micromanage. Empower your people, trust them and provide them with a great deal of autonomy. In that way, you will turn compliance into engagement. 

    Ensure everyone has a sense of meaning and purpose. Not just your core product or strategy team, everyone. It is crucial that the back office, HR departments et cetera are all clearly aware of the main purpose of the company and know how they contribute to the overall goal.

  2. Encourage peer recruiting! 
    Let your people recruit their own peers. In that way, they automatically gain a sense of ownership for their own team and are more likely to work well with their new colleagues. This will automatically translate into a great team climate and boost performance.

  3. See everything as a chance to innovate!
     Do not only try to innovate your core product. Everything that is happening in your company is worth innovating on. Perhaps your small every day supporting processes need a new twist to make your team more effective, efficient and motivated, leave nothing off the table.
Hanno Renner Grafik

Veröffentlicht in Leadership Stories am 28.09.2023

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