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Partnering for Innovation

Dr. Eva Budischin (former Mitterreiter) & Jennifer Graf, Head of New Business Building & Innovation @Bosch & Partner at digetiers

“Apart from creating a win-win situation, there’s a great benefit in partnering with other firms to really achieve the best value creation and added value for our customers.”

In this episode, we welcome Dr. Eva Budischin (former Mitterreiter), Head of New Business Building & Innovation, Consulting at Bosch, and Jennifer Graf, Partner at digetiers. With the goal of creating the greatest possible customer value, Eva and Jennifer are partnering to combine their strengths and offer transformation and business model innovation consulting services.

We discuss the consulting approach they follow and what their partnership looks like, including benefits, challenges, and their formula for success. Want to learn more? Then tune in!

Below you will find the full transcript for the episode.

Is the consulting business changing?

Chris: Hi, and welcome back to Innovation Rockstars. My name is Chris Mühlroth. And in this episode I'm excited to welcome two guests: Dr. Eva Mitterreiter who is Head of New Business Building and Innovation Consulting at Bosch, and Jennifer Graf, who is partner at digetiers. So in another episode with Manuel Krauss from Bosch, we talked about organizational ambidexterity and how business model innovations are created, launched and scaled at Bosch. So in this episode, we'll dive into the genesis of all of this. This is an exciting topic. Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Eva & Jennifer: Thanks for having us, Chris.

Chris: So let's kick things off. As always with a 60 seconds introduction sprint for both of you. The sprint is really about you, your career and your current role. So we will start with Eva and then Jennifer is next. So I'd say for the next 60 seconds, Eva, the stage is all yours, let's go.

Eva: Hi, I'm Eva. I'm a business model innovation specialist and enthusiast at Bosch. I started around eight years ago with a PhD in business model innovation and then I built up the central department of BI, business model innovation with some very engaging colleagues of mine and we kind of brought new business models into the organization. So we did this via our Business Model Academy, via our Bosch Accelerator Program, what Manuel told you a little bit about where we test and validate our ideas and we also do a hands on BMI consulting. I for my part did around 150 to 200 startups coaching and supporting and now I'm at a business unit at the Bosch engineering, and I do a transformation and business model consulting together with Jennifer, for example, from the digetiers. And yeah, privately I'm coming from Nürnberg. I am renovating a house there. So next big project.

Chris: Many big project. Sounds great. Thanks. Jennifer, the stage is yours.

Jennifer: I say hi from Munich. And as you said, I'm a partner at digetiers. It's quite new on the market since two years. It's a digital transformation and management consultancy. And yeah, with my passion for people and innovation I support many different clients, mostly industry clients to succeed in this new digital area era. And we do it from strategy to implementing and developing digital products and services and what did I do before? Some years ago, I started at a small company. I think that's where my passion for innovative topics grew. And afterwards, I was strategy consultant at IBM. Also pushing innovative topics at the diverse clients, always in the intersection between IT and business. I created for example an innovation lab incubator for a client, the different digital business models and implemented also digital services and products.

Chris: Thanks! All right, great story. Now as a next thing, here are two sentence starters. For each of you. And I would like you to complete those sentences and we will start with Jennifer. So your sentence starter is: “The next big wave in innovation will be …”

Jennifer: I think collaborative ecosystems and partnerships and we will dive into that topic today.

Chris: Okay, perfect. Eva, the next one is for you: “I work in consulting because …”

Eva: Because I love supporting our customers and bringing them forward by sharing our knowledge that we collected but also our lessons learned from the last years.

Chris: Brilliant. All right, Jennifer, next one is on you. The sentence goes like this: “Any organization needs an operating system because …”

Jennifer: Because as a good football game or any other game also companies need some playbook to be able to operate and to play the game.

Chris: Very cool. Eva, the second one for you: “The impact of artificial intelligence on building new businesses probably will be …”

Eva: “Will be huge, radical, disruptive.”

Chris: Let's talk consulting for a bit and let's zoom out first. You know, and be it external or internal consulting doesn't really matter. So my personal feeling is that consulting as a term and as the offering itself has quite a polarizing effect these days. So for some, consulting still appears to be expensive, highly competitive, human resource intensive. And you know, as an outcome, you get PowerPoint slides, you work from Monday to Thursday on Friday, you do other PMO tasks and so on, you know, those rumors. The question is: Is the consulting business actually still like that or is it changing and where is innovation happening in the consulting business?

Jennifer: I think it is changing and it needs to because I think from different point of views. Back in the days or also the last years it was like that, that you work a lot of hours like 24 hours a day and I think that's changing. That's the first thing that new generations are not willing to do anymore because they have a higher focus on work life balance, and yeah, want to do other other things than just work. And also, maybe the values change as well. That's I think, the first thing and consultancies and other companies as well need to adapt to it. And I think the second very important thing is that all information is now available, right? Like for clients, for everyone. So consultancies, it was previously the thing, they had their frameworks, they had their methods, and so they need to change and I think they need to change to more asset based consultancy where consultancies also create their own processes, their own products and services on top of their normal approach. So I think these are the two things from my side.

“When you go on our daily work and work with customers, we see that there's really a growing need also for more operative, hands-on support and implementation strength.” 

Eva: I would add, maybe more specifically, when you go on our daily work and work with our customers, we see that there's really a growing need also for more operative, hands on support and implementation strength. So the customers do not only want that classical, strategic and methodological part of consulting, where you have slides and then can go to internal stakeholders journey, but that you always also have a strong operator's hands on support. And this, I think, is becoming much more important in times of crisis, when we see budget cuts all over the place, and especially in innovation, right. So we see that a lot of firms are struggling, they do not have budget, they also do not have enough headcount to really try new ideas and validate them. And so it was also a trigger for us thinking about how can we bring in a strong focus in a very quick and fast value creation.

The role of partnering in innovation consulting

Chris: I think that's really interesting to also get back to the good old days and just getting your hands dirty. Again, you're doing the talking to a high level and creating just frameworks and processes but actually also executing could be really valuable. Especially Jennifer, as you said, if you productize maybe some of the offerings, and then include some execution parts to it. I think that's really cool. And, you know, on top of that, I've heard the term “collaboration is the new competition” quite a few times recently, and I think in a previous episode with Audi and McDonalds, this statement came up to and it kind of refers to leaders and organizations acknowledging the fact that even their best individual efforts cannot stack any more against today's complex problems. One example of this might be innovating along the entire supply chain, for example. You cannot do this alone. Obviously, you need to do this with partners with suppliers, across and along the supply chain and maybe even second, third, fourth level, depending on how this is set up. So how could you possibly approach the new normal, and what role does partnering play in your concept?

"There are more and more ecosystems needed, firms realize that they cannot offer what is needed on the market just by themselves. So, they need a strong partnering approach." 

Eva: We totally agree with this. And this is also something we see in our daily work, especially when you're working with new business models, there are more and more ecosystems needed, firms realize that they cannot offer what is needed on the market just by themselves. So, they need a strong partnering approach and we see them everywhere right in the automotive sector. For example, autonomous driving and software defined vehicle area. Or in consulting as we are talking about today, and our approach, our view is that apart from of course, partnering to create a win-win situation, it is also about building up a long term relationship to bring some stability into the game, to offer our customers really a stable value proposition and experience. So that they on their side do not have to hop from one partner to another, but that they know that they can rely on us and that they know what they have if they work with us together.

Jennifer: And I would like to add something I think that's a really good point. This long term view because I think it was a few weeks ago, when we had that topic with another colleague. And they also said, it is like partnership tourism and we don't want to do that. I think it's also important to say what a partnership not is. I think it's also important that we don't want to do everything. So we say we partner up to do a specific thing. And not to do everything in the supply chain, but to incorporate really the experts for it and the experts that complement each other. I think that's important as well.

Chris: This is a fair point. Could you also talk about some of the challenges facing or maybe even being incorporated with the partnering approach. One could be sourcing. Can you even source a partnered approach in many companies as a joint venture or as a joint group. So, what are some of the challenges you typically faced with the partnering approach?

Jennifer: One of the challenges, it's right in the beginning, actually, when you are searching for the right partner and I think it's that you have to check whether you have the same values and also the same understanding of specific terms and the topics you're working on with the client. For example when you say a buzzword like agile or business model innovation. Different companies and also different people, I mean, we're all individuals, have different opinions about it. And that's why I think it's a challenge and also on the other hand, very important to sort that out right in the beginning.

"There are more and more people really realizing that this ‘not invented here’ syndrome has to be overcome and that there's really a benefit if we partner with other firms to really get the best value creation and the best additional value for our customers."

Eva: Yeah, and I think I can add, it is on the one hand the alignment of terms and the content, but on the other like in our case also the alignment of processes. We as Bosch are a a very big ship with complicated processes sometimes, and the digetiers are a smaller consultancy and we need to bring that together. When we started our partnership, we were all very motivated and we wanted to bring things forward very quickly. But then we're sometimes slowed down by kind of the administrative processes in the back, especially from the Bosch side. So that is one thing. And then I would say another perspective on the customer side. I remember talking to customers, sometimes we get the question: Can I ask you something provocative? So why do you as Bosch need a partner? Can’t you do it all by yourself? And we say: Well, we are a big company with a broad know-how and network but you cannot do everything on our own. And I think this is also kind of a mindset change. Also for us within Bosch. There are more and more people really realizing that this ‘not invented here’ syndrome has to be overcome and that there's really a benefit if we partner with other firms to really get the best value creation and the best additional value for our customers.

Chris: Right. And honestly, the ‘not invented here’ syndrome is something that is specifically when you try to change something, move something and then bring it to the organization is something that is encountered quite frequently. Do you have any ideas or even approaches on how to overcome that. How could you possibly go around the ‘not invented here’ syndrome for teams that you want to engage with?

Eva: Well, of course, it's challenging and of course, it's not something you can solve from one day to the other. It's a mind set change in the organization. But, for example, with Bosch, we have an Open Innovation initiative, which is growing stronger and stronger, and which is communicating which is really making aware all our employees what the benefits are of some partnership of collaboration. And then I think it just needs to sink in and you have to kind of tell the story all over again, which is the same in business model innovation, by the way. Different KPIs, different methods, different processes. You cannot blame a Bosch employee because they've been doing the other way their whole life and they learn something new. So it takes a little bit time. But I think with patience and just repetition, and some new minds that are fresh minds that are coming to the company. I think we've already moved a little bit ahead in that.

Jennifer: And I think that's also syndrome on the client side because as a consultant I see it also on the client side that sometimes they say then: Okay for this specific matter, we want you and we want you to support us, but this thing we want to do on our own, and we want to inform everyone that we did that and spread the message. So I think it's also on the client side.

Chris: Very much agreed. Could we say that the key to overcome this or one of the keys to unlock this is communication? And then repetitive communication and just making sure you communicate correctly and hopefully and rightfully is that one thing we can say?

Eva: Yeah, exactly. That is one thing. And then, I mean, we can add to what you just mentioned before to the challenges. For the administrative processes, it's more patience, again, also a little bit planning ahead. Like, we are no newbies at Bosch, we kind of know how to play the system. So we know when there's a project coming that we really start early with the processes. And on the customer side, it is also about the value of our partnership and explaining this to the customers. It's also very important that we have internal preparation before. That we with our partner and talk very clearly about what is the value for one side, what's the value for the other side, and what's the value for the customer and if we are very clear on that we can also communicate that very clearly to the customer.

Chris: Clarity is an important aspect. This is great advice. I would like to dive deeper into the partnership and the relationship that's basically going on but before we do that I would love to play a quick game and the game is called ‘Either Or’. It's the game of choice. And the rules are pretty simple. I mean, really simple. So I just give you two options. And please choose one and then if you want to also spend one sentence on this briefly explaining why you chose the one over the other. So let's see, Jennifer you go first and it's about vacation: Ocean view or mountain view.

Jennifer: I think now the latter, ocean view. Because now in Munich I have a lot of mountains and I really need some ocean time, some wind, sea and yeah, just the sun.

Chris: Makes sense. All right, great. Eva, what would you either go for: fully fledged full day workshop or smaller, more frequent sessions.

Eva: I would rather go for smaller sessions. Depending on if it's virtual or face to face, by the way. If it's face to face, then a full day workshop. Because you can interact a lot and you have some coffee breaks. You can also chat a little bit off site. If it's virtual, I would prefer the smaller ones.

Chris: All right. Okay, Jennifer, the next one is for you. Would you either work 100% on a remote island from now on like really remote islands or 100% in an office building and why?

Jennifer: I think then, actually the office building. Although digetiers is a remote first company but I think I would really miss the people around me because at digetiers we still meet each other. We have our team meeting. We go to a spa hotel and we do some strategy workshops and some work. But definitely then the office because I would really miss the communication, the cooperation and I believe that better things grow out of it. If you see each other.

Chris: That's a brilliant answer. And finally Eva, where would you be found more often if I would ask you: in a trendy restaurant or in a village pub.

Eva: I think more in a village pub. Where you can maybe be a little bit looser, a little bit more innovative, maybe also a little more relaxing.

How to work as consulting partners

Chris: Great choice. All right. Okay, so back to consulting and back to partnership. We were on the surface, having some discussions around trends, on some challenges, but now diving deeper to the partnership approach. So, can you describe how the partnership approach looks in detail and what some of the characteristics are?

Eva: Yeah, sure. So if you start with what we do, what we’re offering, our value proposition is that our formula of success is exactly the combination that we talked about earlier, about classical strategy consulting, combined with the operative work, really hands on work, and we think that we bring everything to the table. Like Bosch has a century long, deep know-how, experience, also this deep operative know-how. And the digetiers on the other hand are a small agile company with a big digital know-how and our fast implementation ability. And if you pair this, I think you can just create the biggest customer value. And maybe just to add a little bit from the Bosch side: We are coming from an internal consultancy. So we have many years of experience in internal consulting. And the thing with internal consulting is that you can always be reached, right? So also, as a project is finished, our colleague can always just call you and complain if they need to. And this is why we always had our highest quality standards. Because we wanted to avoid exactly this. And this is something that we transfer also to our external clients of course, this high quality standard. And then the other aspect of that is that we do not stop at slides. Because that's just basically also not what we're doing within Bosch, right? We really do hands-on operative work, and that's what we want to bring to our clients as well.

Jennifer: And I think on top of that also, we spoke earlier about the values and what each of us understands in terms of different topics. And I think that's really important because one thing is, for example, transparency, which really also characterizes our partnership, and I really like it that we work together because we also share for example, client lists, I mean, not like the whole thing, because obviously we do projects on our own as well. But we share it and we work together on slides and we work together in the project not only on those slides and I think that's really something that is really important. Yeah.

Chris: Okay, that makes a lot of sense. And you can bring in good things from both worlds like corporate and non corporate. Now on the tasks of responsibilities, how do you actually delineate those between the partners. Is it just one party doing the implementation, the other party doing more strategic work, or how could you possibly arrange the jobs and the tasks you're doing?

Jennifer: It really depends on the client and on the needs of the client. And then we go for the strategy or the process that is best for the client. But we do both. So we really see us also in the project at the client in a tandem. We have different focuses. For example, one project about a smart factory, it was more on the side of Bosch to bring in another expert that has really this industry knowledge, and maybe a little bit more from the digetiers side. Yeah, in terms of the strategic direction. So we really do it like that. And I also think that in terms of customer acquisition, it's kind of equal because that's, I think, an interesting fact because some projects come from Bosch and some from digetiers. So we both do it in both ways.

Eva: And then to add, when it just comes to the operative, normal daily work. At start, we work together on slides on customer projects, and we share our tasks. We sit together in remote meetings, weekly meetings. But it's also the case that when there's someone very busy with another project, the other one just jumps in and does a little bit more. So it's a very collaborative way of working I would say.

Chris: And on the partnership approach, do you communicate your value proposition and the solutions that you have, as it would come from one single source. Or are you more transparent? Saying, this is a partnership approach between at least two companies. And how is the sourcing like, Can you just single source from one of your companies or do the clients even not want this anymore? So how does that work?

"Our preferred way is actually ‘one face’ to the customer. When we start the conversations with the clients, we say: This is what Bosch can offer. This is what digetiers can offer, but this is what we can do together."

Jennifer: So it also depends on the client, but I mean, our preferred way is actually one face to the customer. So we really try for example, when we start the conversations with the clients that we say: This is what Bosch can offer. This is what digetiers can offer, but this is what we can do together. And for each client, we really work it out what this sweet spot is, and then we really try to offer it in a joint way. But it really depends. We had it now. In the commercial terms, for example, that we did it then separately because it was just easier. So we do it really both ways. And I think to do that it's really important to trust each other and to have this transparent communication because otherwise it's not possible.

Eva: We are always honest to what we bring on the tables, what Bosch prints on a table or what digetiers does. What is the strength from Bosch and what's the strength from digetiers. We are very transparent in the customer context and I think that's also something that customers really appreciates and understands as well.

Real-life examples and outcomes

Chris: Absolutely. Okay, now let's get real. Can you give us some examples of some of your work like any project examples, any outcomes, anything you can share? Obviously, which is not confidential.

Jennifer: I cannot share the name, but I can say which industry. It's an automotive OEM. I think that's also very important or very interesting that we've focused on clients that we both can handle or that we both have something to offer. So it's mainly in the industry section. And that was one automotive client and we did an agile project and this one came more from digetiers and we needed really an expert in the field of agile transformation, who really did it day by day the transformation the past five or ten years at least. This was really a successful one. And maybe another one is a little bit newer. So we are right in the middle of it. It's also with an industry client, but it's a midsize company. And they are more hardware focused and their business model is as well. They wanted to change their business model or at least wanted to develop some options for them for more digital business models. And, yeah, that's what we're doing with them together. And that's also a lot of fun, I would say.

Eva: To add on the last project. To give you an example, what we bring to the table, Bosch, and digetiers bring to the table. We as Bosch bring in our innovation know-how, we use our Bosch innovation framework to test ideas and how you can build them up. But what is not our strength is to develop MVPs and prototyping very quickly. And at this part digetiers jumps in. They say: Hey, we can do this very quickly, in a very lean way. So we can really combine our strengths and create the biggest value for the customer.

Chris: Got it. Okay, that's the tandem you’ve been talking about. Let's try to summarize all of this into some actionable recommendations. So my question to you would be, in your opinion, what are the most important success factors? And three recommendations from your partnering approach that you would like to give to others.

Eva: So it would be for me honesty and transparency. That's what also Jennifer just mentioned that we are really transparent about the client list and who are we talking to. So that you can really build up a trust foundation and then it's what we already talked about the delineation of tasks, a clear delineation, so who does what. That needs to be clear. And then maybe on the software side, it's also you have to have fun, and it kind of has to match. So when we met for the first time, it was pretty clear that we are kind of on the same value base, that we share the same values and that we also have the same perspectives about how do we want to treat our clients and how do we work our working style was kind of the same or similar. So it's all a very good base foundation for building up a successful partnership.

Jennifer: We also have the same outcome in mind. What if I told us previously, this implementation focus or this outcome driveness. That we don't only want to produce slides, but we are rather focused on real outcomes and long lasting outcomes for the client. And because what we also saw is that a lot of consultancies or companies write it on their website first, but they don't do any projects and we kind of do it the other way around, which is to first learn from it, iterate a little bit and then maybe put it somewhere but yeah, I think that's also something we can share.

Chris: That's great advice. Okay. And we are approaching already the end of this episode, but before I will want to hear your Rockstar moment. So Jennifer, maybe you go first. When you look back on your professional career and reflect about it, what would you say was your greatest Innovation Rockstar moment so far?

Jennifer: I think it was a lot of rockstars.I think it was some years ago at a client and we had like a yearly kickoff in January and they wanted to do a kickoff for all the C-level people and it was like 20 C-level people from different business units. And until this point, they thought design thinking, innovative methods, it's only about putting nice, colorful post-its somewhere and they didn't really grasp what it really was. And in that workshop, we managed within one and a half days. Yeah, it was more one day, we started with a problem and created a whole virtual reality app, a prototype of it and with those C-levels, so there were no other people. And they did it and I think it was for me, yeah, those rockstars because I could really see the change in their minds. And I think that was the greatest thing for me.

Chris: That's a great moment. All right. What about you, Eva? You're Rockstar moment.

Eva: I think my Innovation Rockstar moment was when we were validating a lot of ideas. And we had 24 startup teams at that time that were testing their ideas on the market. And then at the end of that eight weeks, 12 teams came up on stage and they said they are a no go so meaning they will not go on with the idea because they have just no evidence from the market that their idea will be successful in the future. And those ideas, they got those no go decisions. They got much more applause from the audience than the actual gold ones. And for me, this is a Rockstar moment. Because it indicates a mindset change in the organization. That you celebrate failure that you celebrate, not failure, specifically, but also I'm starting projects very early and putting the resources into new ideas. So that was my Rockstar moment.

Chris: Fantastic. That all sounds great. And you know recently somebody told me maybe it's not about fail fast, fail early, but fail fast, fix fast. So maybe that's something we could also discuss in an upcoming episode. But that's all for the moment. And with this, we can actually wrap up this episode. So Eva, Jennifer, thanks for this great conversation. It was great having you on the show.

Eva & Jennifer: Thanks so much, Chris. It was very fun.

Chris: All right, and to everybody listening or watching if you like the show, leave us a rating or a review and share the podcast with whomever you want to share it with and if you want to get in touch simply shoot us a message at Now that's it. Thanks for your time. See you in the next episode. Take care and bye bye.

About the authors

Dr. Christian Mühlroth is the host of the Innovation Rockstars podcast and CEO of ITONICS. Dr. Eva Budischin (former Mitterreiter) is Head of New Business Building & Innovation at Bosch. Jennifer Graf is Partner at digetiers.

The Innovation Rockstars podcast is a production of ITONICS, provider of the world’s leading Operating System for Innovation. Do you also have an inspiring story to tell about innovation, foresight, strategy or growth? Then shoot us a note!



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