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Want an innovative organisation? Here's how Porsche does it

When it comes to innovation, diversity is key, says Anja Hendel, Director of Innovation Management and Digital Transformation at Porsche AG.

To push forward the digital transformation process, Porsche has been operating its own innovation laboratory: the Porsche Digital Lab. The lab gathers a team of technology and software experts, as well as scientists, and focuses on how Porsche can take innovations from upcoming technologies and turn them into practical solutions. Since 2017, Hendel has worked alongside Dr. Mahdi Derakhshanmanesh to head up the Porsche Digital Lab in Berlin.

An exclusive media workshop held by Porsche Asia Pacific, in line with Innovfest Unbound (27-28 June), gave insight into how the Porsche Digital Lab incorporates new technologies - such as artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain - into solutions to help staff do their work more efficiently and improve the security of the cars.

This include a wearable device that uses sound sensors and AI to help staff ensure the electronic plug connections in its cars are well connected. Another development is an application that makes use of blockchain to unlock its cars even without WiFi connections as well as properly documents when someone opened a car and for how long.

Human Resources spoke to Hendel to uncover the key to creating innovative ideas, as well as how upcoming technological developments can change the way we live and work.

Q In the Porsche Digital Lab, many interesting things are being developed. What is a key aspect to creating such innovative ideas?

In the end it all comes down to diversity. We try to have real diverse teams which means from cultural backgrounds, but also educational backgrounds so we have all types of people there. When you have a diverse group of people, it is fun because they can learn from each other.

If we are all the same, it is good because everyone knows what you are talking about. But if you get attacked from the back, no one will see it. With a diverse team, we are all standing in a circle, back to back. While I won't be able to see what the person directly behind me is seeing, no one can attack us.

We ensure this by hiring specific people as well as hiring teams and training them to know and value their diversity and work together. No one person can create innovation by themselves, but a diverse team can do it together because they see things which the others do not see.

Also, we don't build anything without someone from Porsche in the lab. We call the person a product owner and this is usually the person who knows the problem best. He or she needs to be there because we don't want to just be doing something on our own, we want to work closely with Porsche.

Q Part of your work involves going around looking at different technologies. What is the one most innovative thing you've seen so far and how do you think it can change the way we work? 

I think they are all innovative and there is so much going on. Among others, AI and blockchain.

Right now, AI is not truly AI. We have a specific kind of AI at the moment which is basically just statistics, it's far from being an AI where a machine can do a lot of things. It is very narrow and rule based. It learns faster and more, and it can work with more data. But, in the end it's pure statistics. If we go to the next level, then let's see how far it gets us. This will an interesting part and it can potentially can offload a lot of work from us with automation.

I also like blockchain. If it comes to its full potential, it can really break up the way we organise the world. The platform system can be totally decentralised and it brings a whole new organisational mindset.

Technology can have a very big impact. But, I think the most important thing to remember is that technology is a tool and tools can be used for good and also as a weapon. We have to always keep this in mind and make sure that we solve meaningful problems and not just use technology because it is there. We have to ensure it is always humans first, really have a diverse view on what can be done with technology and try to take responsibility on every use of technology.

Q At Innovfest Unbound, you received some pitches about autonomous cars. Do you foresee incorporating that into Porsche?

There are many use cases that really makes sense. Every year, 1.2mn people die because of car accidents and 90% of that happens because of human error - because the drivers are tired, drunk or not concentrating. I think part of autonomous driving can support us to drive better. If you are tired, you can switch it on for a certain time. This is just one part of it.

Even as someone who is not a car girl, having driven in a Porsche on a race track, I fell in love with it because it is very fun. Imagine if you are sitting behind the wheel of a car on a race track and it shows you the perfect line, then you take over and try it on your own. These are just some of the many ways to use this.

Photo / Porsche

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