Learn from people from related fields: the RWTH Exchange between Experts

[Deutsche Fassung]

Business is war and peace. But not like in Tolstoy’s novel, in which war and peace alternate. No – in business life, war and peace occur simultaneously. As Ray Noorda, the founder of software company Novell, put it: “You have to compete and cooperate at the same time.” American authors Adam Brandenburger and Barry Nalebuff used Noorda’s term “co-opetition” as the title of their much-noticed book of 1996, in which they described the phenomenon in more detail. They wrote about the new mind-set: “Business is cooperation when it comes to creating a pie and competition when it comes to dividing it up.”

Exchange on complexity management

The RWTH exchange between experts is loosely based on this concept. Since last year, it has been bringing together representatives of specialised mechanical and plant engineering. Discussions about complexity management provide the framework. Today, it is rarely enough to offer a standardised solution. Products increasingly need to be tailored to the specific requirements of customers. As a result, procurement, production and logistics become more and more complex. In order to meet these challenges and learn from the experience of other companies, the exchange between experts was established. Since 2012, experts from the companies Krones, GEA Refrigeration Technologies, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen and Oerlikon Schlafhorst have met regularly. The participants hold management positions in their companies’ research and development, sourcing, production and quality and product management departments.

Focused dialogue between people from related fields

The exchange between experts will involve three one-and-a-half day meetings, one each in summer, autumn and winter 2013. The events will take place near Cologne, Munich and Mannheim. Ahead of each meeting, the participants agree on an issue which will serve as basis for the exchange. At the moment, the following issues are on the agenda:

  • Product qualification: from the definition of characteristics to the final product
  • Technology roadmapping in practice
  • Innovation strategy
  • Integration service
The value net (Brandenburger/Nalebuff)

The value net (Brandenburger/Nalebuff)

The RWTH exchange between experts is a good example of how the principle of “co-opetition” can be implemented in practice. Today, it is important not only to find information, but also to get it quickly and structure it. As no-one has the time to hunt up all information by themselves, networking between people from related fields is crucial. Once the participants have been identified and brought together, a discussion of the problems which all of them have to face may lead to efficient new results – at low cost.

(For more information on the RWTH exchange between experts please e-mail Lydia Schneider, deputy managing director of RWTH International Academy gGmbH: l.schneider@academy.rwth-aachen.de).

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