Mr. Garaus, at the moment, companies are in a difficult situation due to constant turbulence; what would you advise companies to do from a strategist's point of view?
Christian Garaus: My advice for entrepreneurs is divided into three points
- Don't forget organizational ambidexterity. Ensuring short-term survival is, of course, paramount. At the same time, invest in potentially disruptive technologies. The performance of new technologies typically follows an exponential trajectory. I.e., you need to get in early enough to profit when the market grows and not lose out when your own products are forced out of the market.
- Look for analog markets. If success fails to materialize in core markets, consider how your competencies can be leveraged. Analog markets that have structurally similar problems are exciting. For these related problems, the company's products often offer superior solutions that can be transferred to the analog markets and thus generate a head start.
- Do not carry the development risk alone. Consider entering into collaborations, especially with tech startups. These are often leaders in exciting digitization solutions in virtually all industries (e.g., AgTech, FoodTech, LegalTech) and are looking for implementation partners.
Why have you specialized in the topics of strategy and innovation? Why are these fields particularly interesting to you?
CG: First, these issues are essential. According to studies conducted by the Boston Consulting Group with approximately 1,500 executives, the strategic importance of innovation has been increasing for years across all industries and geographic regions. Innovation is now the top 3 priority for 75% of all companies. Second, it shapes the future. Decisions have been made for years about what will be offered, where and how, and what processes will be used to produce it. These are decisions with an impact on economic, ecological, and social aspects. Thirdly, I find the topics personally exciting. I am constantly learning new things about technologies, social changes, and different ways of reacting to them.
To follow up on this, why do you find this topic so vital for MBA participants?
CG: Participants are already making decisions about strategies and innovations and will continue to do so in the future due to hierarchical advancement. These are the important decisions that determine organizations' short- and long-term survival. Knowledge of theories and models of strategy and innovation is central to analyzing situations correctly for one's own organization and making decisions based on this.
What do you see as the major challenges of the present and the coming years?
CG: Globally, the key challenge is and remains climate change, with direct impacts on our economy. In the past, the idea was often that you do something "good for the climate," but that leads to additional costs. In the future, these tradeoffs tend not to exist. Ecologically unsustainable solutions will be increasingly less economical in tomorrow's bioeconomy. We can already see from the unintentional, current actual experiment how saving energy serves companies and climate protection. Financing will also become more expensive if one acts ecologically unsustainable way (keyword: ESG criteria). At the same time, challenges also offer new opportunities. This can also be seen, for example, in the current enormous demand for alternative energies.
The topic of "digitalization," which can also be seen as a great opportunity, will continue to be a topic of interest. Machine learning algorithms, platforms, and digital twins - to name a few - are creating new opportunities in virtually all industries to develop more economically, ecologically, and socially sustainable solutions.
What are your current research topics, and what are they particularly interested in?
CG: In addition to organizational ambidexterity (e.g., in connection with strategic planning and control), I have done much research on crowdsourcing (e.g., idea competitions, crowd voting, crowdfunding) in recent years. Currently, I am especially interested in how to use the ideas of many to generate more sustainable products and solve Grand Challenges.
Another topic is the design of business models. Together with colleagues, I am investigating, for example, which people can develop sound business models. I also conduct applied research on business models suitable for biobased products.
Thank you for the captivating answers! Our students are also always interested in the private side of the lecturers. Is there something one would perhaps not expect from you in this way?
CG: Before my academic career, I was a handball referee in the highest divisions in Austria and Hungary. Talking to the players has expanded my vocabulary. I now know swear words in many languages.