How do you ensure that your organization keeps up with the accelerated pace of today’s changing business landscape?
Having continued education training internally is very important in upskilling our employees at Bayer and keeping them engaged. We make sure we have a strong capability program in place that we continually update so the content remains interesting and timely. Statistically, 24 hours after a training, a participant loses 30 percent of the knowledge gained, and one week later, 80 percent is lost if the participant doesn’t apply their new learnings to their work. So we always make sure to support our employees in this application of knowledge as soon as the training session is completed. Everyone is called on to get together and share their learnings with their department’s teams.
What is your secret to making the right decisions in uncertain situations?
I don't think there are “right” decisions. I think you can have better informed decisions. If we wait for the perfect decision, we may lose a lot of time and the results may not be what you hoped for. You may have the best decision for that exact moment in time, but that same decision will not be right three months later or three months earlier. So, I always try to make sure that we make well-informed decisions. I challenge myself to understand the fundamentals of whatever it is we are discussing – to understand the implicit risks. I have good experience with that. “Experimentation”, without all the relevant information, means that a lot of times it goes wrong, and it's all about the learning we apply to scale. This is why I often ask myself additionally: what if it goes wrong? What is the impact financially from a resource point of view? From a moral point of view? What do we learn from it, if it goes wrong? Oftentimes, you only do this if it goes right. And I always ask myself the following additional “if-questions”: Does it impact our reputation? Does it get us to learn on a new platform – develop a new skill that we haven't before? Does it have an economic impact on our organization? This all helps me to make the best-informed decision at that point in time. And, luckily, there is no decision I've taken so far where I’ve said, “OK, it was a complete waste. Where there was nothing learned and all was lost. There was always a massive learning opportunity that helped us the next time to do even better.
In times of COVID-19 and remote working, what is your approach to foster the creativity, passion and curiosity of your teams?
I think my personal “superpower” is that I'm extremely curious and very good at asking questions. To me, this is fundamental when talking about creativity and leadership. First of all, though, my team has done a tremendous job in bringing in really great speakers virtually to inspire the team. Before, such events were less possible because so many speakers were less accessible with full agendas, traveling a lot, etc. – but these days, fantastic speakers have a bit more availability. It is great to see up to three hundred and fifty people joining in these virtual meetings from across the globe. People are joining after dinner in Asia – while others are having breakfast in the US and Argentina, and the other way around. The speakers program has been super helpful to keep the team energized during this time.
Another thing we have done is increased our strategic agency partnerships – as this has been a period where you’re either struggling alone or you're struggling together. Why not join forces with other teams that are dealing with different kinds of problems and understand how we can work better together? Why not use these moments to strengthen our relationships and think about things we can do to improve the environments we’re in right now, together?
I think this new challenge opens space for opportunities. You know, the best inventions in the world, the best achievements in the world – they all came about because there was a massive challenge. I think it's not going to be different now. And I think that virtual communication channels have become even more important now than they were before – without them, we risk losing the personal touch with individuals. I also feel very grateful that we had someone who joined the team in the middle of the pandemic who is really pushing excitement for – and connectivity via – the communication channels that we have.
I read about one of Bayer’s campaigns called “Heroes”, could you tell us more about what this campaign’s about?
During the first weeks of the crisis, together with our partner Mullon Lowe, we asked ourselves: how can we help? On answering that question, we created the campaign “Heroes”.
Bayer has a product in its portfolio called Bepanthen – it’s really big in Germany, really one of our portfolio’s jewels. With the “Heroes“ campaign, we wanted to show our admiration and support for frontline workers, thanking them for caring for us all during the crisis. In 27 markets, Bepanthen donated products to help protect frontline healthcare workers’ skin, which was frequently irritated and damaged by the need to wear masks constantly. It was an amazing creative campaign with a great impact for our brand. We received amazing letters from people all across the globe, often with a big “thank you” because our support allowed them to reduce the pain, to sleep and get their energy back in order to be able to go and fight another day. I believe that now is the time to really think about how we can be a force for good in the world.
What is your personal wish for the near future?
From a societal point of view, I really hope that together we can find and produce the vaccine that gets us out of this safely. And my wish is that we learn from all of this. We say our health is the most precious gift we have, but most of the time when people are on their deathbed, they say that they wished they had taken better care of their health. So I think this is a bit of a wake up call: that health is something that shouldn’t be an afterthought, but should take priority.
As I realize that this interview will be read by creative leaders, I have another wish I want to share with those in marketing and advertising, in particular. I think for too many years, when people mentioned marketing, it had a bad connotation. For example, people would say: “Oh, do you think that’s good? Don’t – it's ‘marketing’”, it's a “marketing trick” or a “marketing fiasco”. My wish is that the conversation changes, so that when people talk about marketing, instead they say, “Wow, look at how smart these people are – they take something great and make it even better. They opened my eyes to something incredibly helpful to me that I hadn’t identified before.”
I want all of us working in the creative space and the marketing and data insights space, to be seen as agents for making positive imprints on people’s lives. If this happens, then marketing will be transformed for the better and for the greater good.
In the near future, I'm also looking forward to hearing the wonderful updates and about the programs coming from the Berlin School – because we need more creative leadership in this world, now more than ever.