Mario A. Brueckner, popularly known as “The Innovation Speaker” is a corporate coach and motivational speaker who has worked with numerous big and small organizations, to help them identify their innovative immune system and unleash their creativity. Known for his interactive and energetic approach, Mr. Bruckner has delivered keynotes in German and English at conferences, seminars, and corporate events, across the globe. Most of his speeches are based on the ideologies of being self-organized, cross-functional, and purpose-driven, which is more relevant than ever, in the present scenario when most companies and organizations have switched to remote working. In fact, in one of his blog posts on his website, he highlights the importance of being purpose-driven in the times of remote work.
In this exclusive interview, Mr. Bruckner talks about his journey so far, and what makes an organization function smoothly.
Interviewer: It’s a pleasure to meet you! My first question is, what inspired you to do what you’re doing at present?
Mario A. Brueckner: I believe in the tremendous potential of people in organizations. Today’s leaders undermine their enormous potential, and power to lead their organization. The companies need to be empowered to respond quickly to specific market requirements and it is absolutely important to stay fit and successful for your future in the digital world.
I love to shake them up and support the organizations to release this potential innovatively with my speeches or coaching. The right innovative techniques in combination with a good drive can help them in saving precious time and money, and give my customers a competitive lead in expanding their business.
Interviewer: We know that you have transformed the operations and work culture of many organizations. So, what is your approach while delivering keynotes to any group of audience?
Mario A. Brueckner: First of all, operational work, such as processes and systems, can be changed or, as many consultants often call it, transformed. However, changing culture is not possible from outside. Not even by a coach.
Culture can only be influenced by changing processes and structures, but not changed. To understand that, we have to understand in advance what culture is. The concept of culture is often used, but not always correct. I find Clifford Geertz’s definition quite fitting, he writes “Culture is the way in which people communicate, pass on and develop their knowledge of attitudes to life. Culture is the pattern of meaning in which people interpret their experiences and guide their actions.”
Organizations don’t change their culture from big transformation programs with beautiful videos and posters, but only through real systematic changes in the organization. This presupposes the willingness to change. I challenge this will in my speeches and drive the transformation further through my coaching.
Interviewer: What do you think are the major factors important for the success of any organization?
Mario A. Brueckner: The current times make it difficult to answer in so absolute terms. After the COVID-19 crisis, businesses should shift their attention to the utilization of the digital space, giving their projects an agile approach, and establishing a firm connection with customers.
Let me focus on the last two factors in detail –
The agile business approach: It is a new approach in business that deploys agile principles to help a business to be better suited to flow with the very dynamic and unpredictable trends in the market and economy not forgetting, changes in the business environment (Loss & Crave, 2011). The agile approach is self-sufficient; that is, it gives the steps to follow with all the solutions to issues that might arise during the transformation and implementation phases of the agile business model (Graml, Bracht, & Spies, 2007). Also, it is worth noting that it is suitable for any type of business ready to embrace it, whether an established one or just a start-up. It works the same magic for both. The three most important aspects that the agile approach is based on are:
- An empowered workforce with a targets-achieving mindset
- Proper and efficient communication within the business
- Fast adaptation and responsiveness to both internal and external changes
With these, a business can withstand and push through economic seasons or find it very easy to come back in case of crises, like the COVID-19 being experienced currently.
A good relationship with customers, A business to do well, it should emphasize on customer satisfaction more than anything else. Happy customers are irrefutably going to come back for more, and even generate leads for the business! The three steps to maintaining a healthy relationship with customers are:
- Engaging the customers at a personal level
- Monitoring their habits and taking feedback
- Being ready to improve service delivery for ultimate customer satisfaction.
With loyal customers, businesses can have the upper hand in surviving harsh times, and coming back to life in case worse comes to worst(Lavender, 2004).
Interviewer: On your website, you have talked about “energizing” the company. Will you please elaborate on that?
Mario A. Brueckner: Yes. After years of observation and traveling around the world I conclude that organizations to much extent, rely on external know-how, consultants, and other experts. Don’t get me wrong, it is sometimes good to get fresh energy and other markets insides, but it becomes very clear, that the greatest potential for future business and the survival of the company lies in the organization itself. Often unused. Leverage this potential. Wake your employees up, train them in methodologies and techniques like design thinking or design sprints, so that everybody listens and understand the customers. And give them the freedom to make own decisions. They are adults, treat them like that. Trust your people, energize your organization!
Interviewer: In critical times like these when people have switched to remote working, how can they achieve maximum productivity and motivation to work?
Mario A. Brueckner: The media is often answering these questions with the need for robust and digital infrastructure. However, this is secondary. Of course, certain basic equipment and supply of digital technologies such as a good bandwidth are important, but not sufficient.
The two most important to achieve maximum productivity and motivation of work are Purpose Driven Work and Decentralized Decision Rights.
Especially, when you work remotely and have not achieved your financial goals yet, you need to ask yourself why you are working in a certain field and whether or not it fulfills your purpose. PURPOSE-DRIVEN actions are the most powerful and the most impactful ones. I wrote a special blog about this part, and if you want to go deeper into this subject please consider reading, “Reasons why being purpose-driven in times of remote work is even more important”.
Now let’s take a look at the second success factor in remote work, Decentralized Decision Rights. It is understandable for leaders to have the urge to centralize control to ensure everything works to the plan. With remote working policy, micro-managing employees are impossible. Even leaders that believe in the model have been required to reconsider their style of management. As businesses open, it will be interesting to see how leaders assume their roles in traditional working space. I’m optimistic many organizations will be more positive about workers taking charge of their functions with minimal control.
As a leader, you should focus on both Purpose Driven Work and Decentralized Decision Rights when it comes to more or only remote work.
Interviewer: Tell us about your most prominent works so far.
Mario A. Brueckner: My work is quite diverse, so it is difficult for me to make a selection. On one hand, I coached executives of big and mid-size companies and politicians on questions of agile leadership & digital transformation, on the other hand, I worked on different very interesting big scale projects.
As an example, I worked on a special project for a large automotive manufacturer in Europe. My team and I were able to redesign the process of operationalizing the strategy for all digital products and services as part of an agile transition. To combine Agility and Strategy is a very strong move for a company. Not only driving efficiency by using agile delivery methods, but also optimizing effectiveness, that was certainly one of my prominent works, even if not directly visible to the public or the customer.
Interviewer: How can a company approach you for delivering keynotes to its employees?
Mario A. Brueckner: My webpage can certainly provide a first orientation. However, it is quite important to understand the specific background of each event and assignment. That is why my employees and I like to have discussions with potential customers in advance to coordinate and get insights. Even though the organizations facing challenges in the VUCA world are similar, the situations are often very special. Every customer is special.
More information on Mario A. Brueckner can be found on his website the-innovation-speaker.com.