An innovative idea is the starting point of every new business. The new product solves an existing problem or brings a whole new world of possibilities for the industry. However, we all have experienced that identifying the problem is only the first step on the long road to an innovative solution. This road called ‘generating a great idea’ is paved with many creative and strategic challenges. But no worries – there are also as many techniques for creative thinking and business model development to guide you through this road. Whether you are about to launch a startup or update your existing business model, we’ve got you covered with a selection of the best three creative thinking techniques. Get inspired by them!
Meet our CODE_n SPACES resident, Refine Projects! Methods knowledge paired with innovation and operative implementation power – that’s just how Refine adds sustainable value to its customer’s projects. We talked to CEO and founder Bülent Yildiz to discover how the Refine team uses Post-it® notes and Legos to structure complex projects and make them more efficient. Read on to learn more about how the company was founded, how the construction industry has been turned on its head, and about the challenges they faced in finding just the right team.
Let’s start with the obvious: Can you explain, in layman’s terms and maybe with a couple of nice examples, what exactly you do?
Bülent: We reduce complexity in projects worth millions – all with the help of Post-it® notes and Legos. Manufacturing in construction projects is so efficient these days, it’s like the automotive industry 60-80 years ago. Back then the automotive industry produced products without prefab units, without production systems, and without concentrating on added value. Therein lies the problem as we see it, and for us at Refine, therein also lies the solution.
Then there’s the trend that anyone who watches the news will spot: These days, 70% of all projects go over schedule and budget – even up to 200% over budget. We tackle the complexity of managing thousands of individual processes on dozens of projects. We simulate project flows with Post-it’s and create project delivery systems for our customers. This hands them a tool for lean project management. We’re consultants but we’re also instructors on lean construction.
And who’s your solution for?
Bülent: We focus on one-off projects in the construction industry, but our solutions are also applicable to complex, cross-industry projects. Our customers include large corporations like Stihl but also smaller to medium-sized local construction companies, as well as bricks and mortar businesses like the Mondi Group. More…
Meet our CODE_n SPACES Resident blickshift! The spin-off from the University of Stuttgart develops software for efficient analyses of the eye movement behavior. Their product, in short, enables the automotive, marketing, and gaming industry as well as the usability research to develop new applications and services based on eye tracking technology. We talked to Michael Raschke, one of the three team members of blickshift about his vision, entrepreneurship in general and the decision to move into our CODE_n SPACES:
Let’s start out with the obvious: Can you explain, in lay terms, maybe with a couple of nice examples, what exactly you do?
Michael: Sure. Imagine you’re interested in finding out how people actually read an illustration in a newspaper. So you show ten people an illustration and ask them a question about it; then you draw their eye movements. A handful of standard techniques already exist for this type of analysis, and, in principle, you can use them as they are. But the moment you need to analyze the information in more detail and find out how specific individuals looked at the illustration, or whether there are groups of people who tend to look at it the same way, these techniques show their limitations. Or it takes an eternity to evaluate just a small experiment. We’ve developed a solution that sidesteps these disadvantages, allowing for extremely efficient eye movement analysis involving a large number of people. In essence, it’s based on the use of big data analytics in combination with highly interactive visualization techniques.
And who’s your solution for?
Michael: One example would be the car market. Imagine a situation like this: You’re driving down a road and you get to a really busy intersection with lots of people in cars and on motorcycles, and even pedestrians. And then there are road signs and traffic lights. Car companies want to know about drivers’ eye movements in such situations, so that they can evaluate them and adapt their driver assistance systems to better match the driver’s perceptions. The idea is to warn drivers about dangers they may not have noticed or perceived properly. So, for example, there might by a pedestrian who’s just about to cross the street and was almost overlooked. Car companies, their suppliers, and research institutions are carrying out tons of eye-tracking experiments on this at the moment.
This involves recording the eye movements of between 50 and 100 people in different situations, then analyzing the results and translating them into driver models that can be applied to vehicles further down the line. The analysis takes up a huge amount of time.
If you think about semi-automated or even fully automated driving, which the carmakers tell us will happen, they won’t just have to evaluate 50 or 100 guinea pigs, they’ll have to evaluate thousands, if not tens of thousands – just to allow for the development of extremely reliable driver assistance systems. Where we come in is when it comes to efficiently evaluating data from as many test drivers as possible, with just a few clicks of the mouse. At the moment, lots of things have to be done manually. Data has to be exported out of one application and imported into another. Lots of programs have to be written just to answer specific questions. This takes up a huge amount of time, so it’s very expensive. Also, it’s easy for errors to creep into the analysis. Our startup offers a solution to such problems. More…
There’s been lots of talk lately about our CODE_n SPACES, what with the whole startup community picking up pace in Stuttgart, our first residents moving into our new location and last, of course, the official opening. Needless to say this called for a party, so we called upon Southern Germany’s innovative community with overwhelming results: tickets went like hot cakes! They were out of stock three days before the RSVP-deadline. 120 guests representing corporations, startups and press, came to celebrate the CODE_n SPACES inauguration with us.
Fair enough, you might think, but why Stuttgart? Let’s get real on the facts: Stuttgart, placed on rank 16 in the European Digital City Index 2015 (that’s right!), not only is home to our GFT Corporate Center, but also to a thriving industry with a lot of huge global corporations, such as Daimler, Bosch or Züblin. Big names, all attending our party last Thursday! The guest list also included VCs, law firms and – of course – startups.
What we’re especially proud of is the fact that we were able to welcome nearly every single startup initiative of Stuttgart to our CODE_n SPACES Opening Party! Bundesverband Deutsche Startups, was there, just as well as Business Angels Region Stuttgart, e.V. and Startup Stuttgart, to only name a few. This sums up how well established the connections in Baden-Wuerttemberg really are; we feel and are surrounded by a true entrepreneurial spirit.
Naturally, visitors got to have a look at the already occupied office space and overall workplace of our residents: The IT security experts Code White with their founder Dr Helmut Mahler, CODE_n Alumnus parkpocket as well as Refine Projects in addition to Dr Bernd Bohr (a consultant from the automotive field, and among other things, a member of the supervisory board at Daimler AG and Knorr-Bremse). The list of residents (and therefore party guests) has recently been enhanced by CODE2ORDER, digitalizing services for restaurants and hotels. More…
What are spray cans, colorful adhesive tape and a giant mirror doing inside GFT’s headquarters? Artist and sculptor Tobias Rehberger, who designed the innovation hall at the first CODE_n CONTEST at CeBIT 2012, has now turned his attention to the SPACES, the latest element in the CODE_n ecosystem. In our interview, he reveals his concept for the design of the space in which startups and established companies from the Stuttgart industrial zone will network in the future. High-profile managers move into the second story of the building; the first floor is reserved for digital pioneers who may have groundbreaking ideas, but who still need space and vital contacts. The CODE_n SPACES are set to change this.
Mr. Rehberger, this isn’t the first time you’ve worked with CODE_n. For the first CONTEST, you designed a trade fair concept that was intended to stay around for a few days and draw attention. With the SPACES, you are now creating a permanent area for young companies. At the same time, the startups are only staying for a finite length of time. What was the idea behind the design of the first floor?
Rehberger: The rooms may be permanently occupied by startup companies, but it’s primarily about flexibility and improvisation; the ability to change something quickly. When I think of startups, I don’t think of carefully planned and organized workflows, in which the next step is already pre-defined. Instead, I’m creating spaces here for people for whom exactly the opposite occurs: Spaces where they can improvise, where they can invent, where they can respond quickly to different situations. This is why we also have the garage element, the unfinished feel.
In the entrance area, the slogan on the mirror is quite eye-catching: Super Duper Studio. The checked pattern on the walls spans the entire floor. What’s behind this?
Rehberger: In the 1960s and 70s, there was a group of architects from Italy called Superstudio. They developed superstructures with Utopian constructions that covered entire landscapes. These architects used the check pattern as their trademark, because their ideas came from a checked sheet, the draft pad of an architect. This superordinate thing, this superstructure that takes over everything, it matches the philosophy of a startup very nicely. When you’re founding a company, you’re ready to give some things up: The work, the passion for what you do, overtakes all other areas of your life. More…
CODE_n SPACES is the name of the latest element in the CODE_n ecosystem. In addition to the CONNECT digital platform, the SPACES are an all-year-round, physical platform that networks promising startups and established companies. On the first and second floors of the newly built GFT headquarters in Stuttgart’s Fasanenhof, spaces have been created over an area of 2,000 square meters that are geared entirely towards innovation in terms of their design and function. They were designed by the artist and sculptor Tobias Rehberger. In our interview, Ulrich Dietz, CEO of the GFT Group and the initiator of CODE_n, explains the concept behind the SPACES and extends an invitation: Digital pioneers can apply straight away.
The first CODE_n SPACES in Stuttgart are now ready. Who are you looking to appeal to with this innovation hub?
Dietz: CODE_n, whether it be with the elements CONTEST, CONNECT, EVENTS or SPACES, generally always has one goal: we want to offer people with unusual ideas a platform – lateral thinkers, digital pioneers, designers of the future. Young companies need to network with experienced people and established companies in order to promote the development of new, groundbreaking business models. With the SPACES, we have put together a creative space for this collaboration to take place. Digital pioneers, young startups, experienced managers, but also teams of innovators from large companies, can register with us and apply for a place in the SPACES.
What requirements must an applicant meet to secure a place in the SPACES?
Dietz: We are intentionally not focusing on a specific target group or on definite requirements, because what we want is the right mixture of exciting projects and ideas. Our desire is to also bring together startups and companies that might actually be in very different stages of development. Whether it be an early-stage startup or an already well-established young company, none of this matters for the application process. The idea needs to convince people, and then we can agree on the use of the SPACES individually. Applications can come from any industry – even though we naturally assume that the Stuttgart site offers tremendous potential in terms of mobility and industry, we’re very open to other areas too.
What’s special about the CODE_n SPACES?
Dietz: The SPACES combine the concept of creative design thinking premises with the idea of co-working and a professional working environment at the same time. The flexible elements in the “Super Duper Studio”, designed by artist Tobias Rehberger, means we are able to respond spontaneously to the different target groups and applicants in the CODE_n SPACES. At the same time, our digital pioneers and innovation teams have the opportunity to improvise by themselves and adapt their office to the conditions they want to work in. Flexible dividers, for example, allow offices to be quickly rearranged, expanded or merged. There are options for quiet time, as well as open areas, offering everything that a young company needs in its early stages. Experienced managers on the second floor have the ability to move into a prestigious, high-quality office.
In our first interview with parkpocket, Karoline Bader, CFO of the future mobility startup, told us all about their initial idea and vision. A lot has happened since then: the team backing siblings Karoline and Stefan Bader worked hard; parkpocket celebrated a product relaunch today. Originally based in Munich, they grew immensely and recently opened a second office in Stuttgart, located in the CODE_n SPACES. This goes hand-in-hand with even bigger news: GFT, the initiator behind CODE_n, has invested in the startup once selected as finalist for the CODE_n15 CONTEST.
Around half a million – that’s the amount GFT invested in the startup with the parking solution; however, the bond between the young company and its investor goes beyond money. Ulrich Dietz, CEO of GFT and CODE_n initiator, believes that the parkpocket solution “will solve a very essential issue. An issue that millions of people face on a daily basis.” To Stefan Bader, CEO of parkpocket, Ulrich Dietz has taken on the role of a mentor: “For us, GFT is a partner and advisor, rather than just an investor,” he says. The relationship is also special in the sense that, while GFT has acquired quite a few firms in the past, this is its very first startup investment.
Embedded into the CODE_n Ecosystem
With the opening of an office in the CODE_n SPACES, parkpocket is automatically embedded into the CODE_n Ecosystem – even more so now than they were before. Although CODE_n has been set up as an international startup initiative, bringing in partners and know-how from all over the globe, being based in the CODE_n SPACES Stuttgart means: being close to Baden-Wuerttemberg’s strong industrial environment. As a future mobility startup, parkpocket will definitely be benefiting from the fact that the automotive industry is literally right around the corner.
It’s the start of something completely new in the Stuttgart: CODE_n SPACES, an arena specially dedicated to innovation at the GFT Group’s new corporate center. Measuring 2,000 sq m, the arena gives startups, innovation teams at established companies, and creative thinkers all the space they need to dive into the task at hand and define the shape of things to come. On board since its inception: EnBW, closely involved as a strategic partner of the CODE_n innovation platform. The focal topic: Future Mobility.
CODE_n SPACES: a place to explore creativity without limitation
“The first question we posed was, ‘What, aside from a brilliant business concept, do young and established firms need to be innovative and successful and to be part of the transition into a digital society?’ The answer was patently obvious: a place for both parties to explore their creativity without limitation; to collaborate and network with universities, international businesses and investors. This fired the starting shot for our very own innovation ecosystem, CODE_n SPACES,” states Ulrich Dietz.
The founder and CEO of the GFT Group already got the ball rolling for CODE_n in 2011. Every year since then, the international startup contest, which awards a prize of €30,000, has been hitting the headlines at CeBIT, the world’s biggest IT trade show. And all for the right reasons: The initiative has become a mecca for digital pioneers worldwide. Following in the footsteps of the online platform CODE_n CONNECT, which the GFT Group only recently catapulted from the launch pad, CODE_n SPACES now becomes the next extension to the initiative.