SYNNECTA and the Pathfinders almost have a tradition by now! We met once again this year in Berlin on May 1st with CEOs of leading companies, inspiring speakers and about 800 talents from Allianz, Daimler, Siemens, Deutsche Bank, Deloitte and Techniker Krankenkasse. The CEOs chose a speaker on a topic that was relevant to them and invited about 100 talents from their own company in order to spend the Labor Day holiday together engaging in an intensive exchange on topics for the future.

Joe Kaeser (CEO Siemens AG) invited Dr. Jonas Ridderstraele, author of the book Funky Business from the year 2000 and Reenergizing the Corporation, How Leaders make Change Happen from 2008. The cultures of successful companies create spaces where creativity can develop and the willingness to take risks as well as entrepreneurship can flourish as distinctive values. Successful companies are highly innovative, easily ready to experiment and heterarchic. The move from hierarchic leadership to independent organization and the way guidance from the top is turned into lateral attention were just some of the insights Ridderstraela was able to present in a lively and enjoyable presentation.

Dieter Zetsche (CEO Daimler AG) brought along renowned dancer Eric Gauthier from Theaterhaus Stuttgart, who worked and danced with the audience in the Tempodrom under the heading of »Spirit«. Gauthier convincingly moved the people and got them to resonate.

Jürgen Fitschen (Co-CEO Deutsche Bank), was clearly more relaxed than last year, enjoying the last to weeks in his current post. He had invited »horse whisperer« Linda Weritz, a communication scientist and psychologist from Dusseldorf who specializes on horses. Linda Weritz is a passionate and successful dressage rider. She has developed a unique training concept that consistently respects and values the nature of horses and therefore makes it possible to train horses without any use of violence at all. It became very clear how the principles of her training concept can be applied to management in companies and how important and decisive empathy and trust are in management processes.

Jens Baas (CEO Techniker Krankenkasse) introduced computer scientist and artist Prof. Jürgen Schmidhuber. His groundbreaking research has revolutionized the idea of optimal forecasts made from past data. He deals with machine learning, neuronal networks, Kolmogorov complexity, digital physics, robotics, low-complexity art and theory of beauty.

Schmidhuber showed great courage when he introduced his Gödel machine for the solution of any computable problem. Using an asymptotic optimum theorem proof technique, the Gödel machine overwrites any parts of its code as soon as it has found proof that this will improve its future performance. We humans stick to old behavior and thought for much longer, even when we have long since recognized that something different will make us perform better in the future: we are »clearly programmed differently«. Add to that the enormous digital possibilities and robotics that create new perspectives – we were truly led towards »leading the future«.

Oliver Bäte (CEO Allianz) had invited Gary Hamel from the London Business School, who spoke about »Added Value«. He forcefully repeated the valuable thoughts set out in his most recent book (2012): What Matters Now: How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation. It is about rethinking and new thinking, independent organization and experimenting in a world of business that needs to increasingly move away from hierarchy and bureaucracy on the one hand in order to meet the demands of the customers and on the other hand to meet the young generation’s needs.

Markus Kerber (BDI) and Martin Pleindl (Deloitte) decided to bring in Prof. Dr. Yasmin Mei-Yee Weiss. She is a German-Chinese academic who spoke about »Digital Talent and Digital Leadership«. In her lecture, she cited the previously unpublished results of an extensive study on skills in the digital age. One of the requirements of digital leadership is proper technological and digital competence. This research, however, identifies an entirely different skill as the most important: the ability to bring together and lead »truly diverse« teams. We are eagerly awaiting publication of the research in the summer and will report in our blog.

There was a particularly moving, golden moment at the very beginning, when Julia Engelmann spoke right to the hearts of the audience. A bright moment given to us by the young actress and Poetry Slammer from Bremen with her poem! It was an inspiring, sunny day in Berlin.

However, at the end of Pathfinder 2016 it is tempting to imagine what it would be like if the tables were turned: what if the motivators and speakers were chosen by the talents instead of the CEOs, what if there was a little more time available for interaction, participation and dialogue? Doing so would use an important opportunity to reflect that dominant call to let go of hierarchies and foster independent organization and participation in the very design of the event.

The event organizer, the business newspaper Handelsblatt, also celebrated its 70th anniversary on the same weekend. SYNNECTA is extending its warmest congratulations on this proud day and on the wonderful event in Berlin.

Jörg Müngersdorff