Strategy & Innovation

Prof. Tom Philipps about the CESAR method

What is your opinion on the topic of innovation and consulting, something that is currently very popular?

The call for "successful innovation" has unfortunately become a buzzword. Companies have always been required to innovate and compete - bad products are rarely sustainable and don't sell well.

However, due to exponential technological development, we are currently facing a special challenge that we humans cannot grasp and yet have to deal with all its advantages and disadvantages on a daily basis - whether we like it or not. Familiar markets and principles are being called into question, often resulting in disruptive changes. In order to keep pace with this rapid development, companies today are required to review and question traditional principles more quickly. The call for comprehensive innovations is therefore becoming more and more frequent. This applies to new products and services as well as to new brands and corporate processes.

Is there a solution for this? How do you address it?

As business designers, we have learned to address this situation with our CESAR method. The primary goal of this approach is to identify a need based on a precise and comprehensive understanding of the context, and to meet this need in a coordinated and structured way by means of innovative solutions. In doing so, we particularly strive for the inclusion of all relevant actors or departments of a given context. In this way we manage to consolidate the core business but also to find impulses that provide growth in new business areas.

What qualifies you for this; isn't this also the core competence of classic management consultancies?

There has been movement in this field in the last ten years. The traditional consulting agencies, which have their origins primarily in economics and marketing disciplines, are also realizing that classic consulting processes that have been honed in over decades are no longer sufficient for the companies they advise. The companies themselves have become very powerful in this area. Increasingly, they are looking for people who can bring a new agile methodological competence to strengthen business areas or create new ones.

The established design agencies provide the missing competence here, since they have co-invented this currently sought-after methodological competence and have been using it for decades as consulting tools (e.g., DesignThinking, HCD) and are operationally active in the same client environment.

Additionally, the recruiting of qualified employees plays an increasing role here and both systems fish in the same waters. This also explains why so many consulting and design agencies have merged in recent years. (Accenture/ BCG / ...)

There are several models - and you are not alone in this respect, what makes your approach stand out?

Our approach is not a purely theoretical model, but is based on a very long experience of development, application and optimization in the professional corporate environment. On the one hand, we have been able to further refine the insights gained scientifically, and on the other hand, we have been able to immediately test the effects in a practical environment - thus, we have meanwhile formed a very powerful toolset. In addition to this benefit for our customers, the strengths of the CESAR method is the fact that it is not a linear process, but a flexible and individually adaptable system that leads to "resilient" decisions - these are what we call focal points. This decision-making process is a central element of this methodology, as it is where diverse, often highly contradictory positions collide. Our strength in this regard lies in absorbing these positions and shaping them into a common goal. Thus, we manage to link different levels (company divisions) and to implement the innovations and innovation processes. We have been able to demonstrate this successfully in the past years.

How do you operate - is it always the same?

Generally, we follow a classic development process, which is divided into the phases of motivation, research, analysis, innovation, definition and realization.

This is the basic pattern in most cases, but it is adapted individually depending on the requirements and is not linear. Currently, two different project variants have emerged, which can be derived depending on the customer's initial situation:

- Innovate and Implement

- Developing a new product or service

As mentioned before, we try to structure the projects with our CESAR method and thus create the foundation in the research and analysis phase. This takes place in the form of interviews, questionnaires and a board game, with which we playfully work out and record the pain points together with the customer. Our analysis team then works out the focal points and thus creates the basis for the project progress, which can implement or accompany a structured innovation process or even lead to a concrete implementation of a specific task (product or service).

Do you specialize in certain industries?

In recent years, we have been able to implement projects primarily in the field of medical technology for both large and medium-sized companies, and we are currently expanding our expertise in special machinery and plant engineering. However, our toolset is not industry-specific, and ultimately we rise to every new challenge.

You are an institute that is closely associated with Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences, what are the advantages here?

As an affiliated institute, we enjoy the privilege that the university is a contractual partner (statute) of our company, but we independently bear the economic risk. Thus, we are fast and competitive and, among other things, also promote the practical relevance of the university. This alliance offers us the options to access the university' s facilities and personnel in the form of workshops and students, who support us in research, user experience analysis and workshops.

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