Germany Is Not Doomed Yet
Presenting recent books: “Deutschland digital” by Marc Beise and Ulrich Schäfer
Germany may have lost the first round of the digital competition. However, that is no reason to give up, if you remember the strengths that have made the German economy great: precision, reliability and accuracy. That is the conclusion reached by authors Marc Beise and Ulrich Schäfer in their book “Deutschland Digital.”
Silicon Valley in sunny California is considered the promised land of digitization. Day in and day out, creative people there are working on disruptive business models which are expected to completely change people’s everyday lives around the world. Even traditional strongholds such as the automotive industry, machine building and the insurance and pharmaceutical sectors are no longer safe from the attacks of American Internet giants and innovative start-ups. And what is Germany doing? It is lagging behind in the digital competition. Does that mean Germany has already lost? No, say the business journalists Marc Beise and Ulrich Schäfer. This is because with its companies, the “hidden champions” among its small and medium-sized firms, the knowledge at its universities and the drive of its start-up scene, Germany has the very best chances of holding its own in the digital age. To do so, Germany must neither replicate Silicon Valley, nor beat Internet giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple with their own weapons.
Trust – a business model for the future
According to a central thesis of the authors, Germany must take its own path by recalling its strengths (precision, perfection, reliability and accuracy) and finding its role in the industrial Internet. The chances of success are not bad, they write. One field to consider, for example, is the interconnection of all things with everything else. This is because the Internet of things is open to everyone — to German industry too. And the proverbial German “angst” could also be a business model for the Internet of the future, they argue. Why? In the digital world, trust will play a paramount role in the future, and the Germans in particular have a good hand to play there, given their hand-wringing and their data protection laws. After all, only the providers who are trusted by customers to keep their data securely documented and archived will succeed in the long run.
Twelve points for a smart republic
In order for Germany to develop in the direction of a smart and open republic, something has to change quickly. But what, and most of all, how? Beise and Schäfer have developed a twelve-point plan for that.
- Challenge the established approach: The changes must begin with a change of mentality. We must be ready to challenge what is already accepted: the way we work, lead companies, and make laws and rules.
- Promote education: Schools should prepare our children for the digital world. Programming belongs in the curriculum just as much as reading, arithmetic, German or English.
- Think like an entrepreneur: In the digital world, every employee must think like an entrepreneur and be able to act like one.
- Merge the new and old economies: Germany’s chances in the digital world will grow when established companies work closely together with start-ups to the mutual benefit of both.
- Set up small German Silicon Valleys: Germany needs many sites which can act as centers for digitization — especially in places where universities and technical colleges are based.
- Build up the high-speed network: Germany urgently needs a functioning high-speed network — everywhere!
- Update analog laws: Many German laws have their origin in the analog age. They now need a digital update!
- A digital government: Germany doesn’t need a digital minister. Instead, it needs a digital government in which all the department heads see themselves as digital ministers for their areas.
- Founders need private money: Instead of state subsidies, it would be more useful to have a segment of the stock market for young companies, a New Market 4.0, as it were, with a way for investors to exit as well.
- Protect the data: If more and more data is being linked together, then smart, modern rules must be found to guarantee data security. For this, we need simple and clear terms and conditions which work with symbols so that everyone can quickly grasp them.
- Make founders into role models: Germany has many positive stories — of founders who have done amazing things, of start-ups that are growing fast. These must simply be communicated better to the public.
- Think positive! Those who moan will miss the digital future. More optimism and more self-confidence will do Germany good. If the country looks at its strengths and builds on them, the digital transformation will be a success. And the winner of the second round of the digital competition could be Germany.
Marc Beise and Ulrich Schäfer, Deutschland Digital Unsere Antwort auf das Silicon Valley, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt 2016, 19.95 euros
Marc Beise and Ulrich Schäfer together run the editorial department for business at the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. They have both been occupying themselves with the topic of digitization for years.
Author: Editorial team Future. Customer.