Daimler Business Innovation - A closer look behind the scenes, part 1.

Looking backstage

A few years ago Daimler realized that the more business opportunities they became involved in, the more likely they were to complement existing core structures. The question soon became: “How can new businesses be detected early enough to be developed into groundbreaking ideas and projects?” Since 2007, the resounding answer has been Daimler Business Innovation — a lab for new business models.

This “breeding ground for innovative ideas” takes a very unique position within the company. It’s not simply enough to “think outside of the box” — there is a need to develop a supportive structure to encourage the international team’s way of thinking and working.


The Daimler think tank.


Let’s look a little more closely at Business Innovation: how are they professionally “different”? The essential tasks of Daimler Business Innovation are to recognize trends early enough in order to derive new business models. This not only requires strokes of insight and inspiration but also the integration of a broadly skilled team in order to pull the most pertinent knowledge from various areas of specialization. It’s therefore hard to place employees of Business Innovation into a specific niche, as roles may change according to the topics being addressed — thus ensuring that their knowledge is used in the most effective way.

Of course, it is also important to keep one ear to the ground in order to stay on the cutting edge of technological trends worldwide. A total of five offices in Germany, the USA, China, Brazil and Argentina work closely together to make for a consistently global approach.

Innovation is everywhere.

But that's not all. Brilliant ideas are, of course, often found in our close-knit teams but in reality can be found anywhere throughout the enterprise — and beyond. For example, specific challenges may be presented to the whole corporate organization, with the goal of finding the right expertise within the company. One effective way of developing new ideas is the Digital Life Day, where BI offers employees a platform to express their innovative nature. In addition to DLD, BI is also involved as both a sponsor and mentor of Startup Bootcamp, allowing us opportunities to regularly connect with progressive-thinking minds and projects.

With so much input, and an increasingly competitive innovation climate, it’s important to remain flexible. The flexibility provided by Daimler Business Innovation is to be seen throughout its structures and processes, for example in its flat hierarchies. This structure allows for each project to be managed in the most successful way, on a case-by-case basis.

From idea to implementation

There are unfortunately plenty of ideas that cannot be taken on. Strict and decisive criteria include the assessment of whether or not an idea would constitute a sensible addition to the core business model of BI — and of course close consideration of whether it meets the best interests of its customers. One of the success stories of Business Innovation is car2go. What was once an idea — car sharing — soon became a reality. The implementation of services moved quickly, as this project was fast-tracked and tested in a relevant environment. The growing success of these tests can be seen internationally in cities around the world — with new markets added every year. What if the idea didn’t take off? As prior examples have shown, this might is possible and in those cases it’s important to pull the brakes on the project instead of pushing when it is not living up to its potential.

Outlook Part 2: “What has made Business Innovation successful?” Of course, Business Innovation is much more than just car2go. In part 2, Wilfried Steffen, Head of Business Innovation at Daimler AG will share which projects have emerged since 2011 — under his leadership of the think tank.

This article was published by Business Innovation, Daimler’s lab for innovative business solutions. Please find us on Twitter as well as Instagram and join the discussion in the Business Innovation Forum.

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