A coach in Berlin

A coach in Berlin, at a Lean Startup conference? Lean Startup is one of the biggest IT conferences in the world. Many IT specialists, entrepreneurs, start up founders … and a coach. At first, it was strange to me also. But, I have come to realise that if you want to be an innovative coach, you should change the way you work and try to be innovative. And where can you find a better place for innovation then a Lean Startup summit. That’s how this story began.

But, first something about Berlin. Why is Berlin such a great place for innovation? Why Lean Startup in Berlin? Berlin is a great city, having the ’’privilege“ of being at the border between two political worlds, the east and the west. Political differences carry business differences, and we will focus on business only. Berlin is also a city which offers opportunities at every corner so you must run an innovative business in order to succeed. Berlin in the ’90s was a ’’city of liberation“ and you can still feel that spirit in the air today.

The Lean StartUp conference was a two-day event, consisting of the ’’Unconference“ and ’’Conference“ parts.
The „Unconference“ part was held in ESMT, Berlin. The organizers tried to do something innovative and different from the previous conference. They invited all participants to pitch their ideas and create workshops on their own. This resulted in a lot of interesting ideas, more than 30. First, every participant had up to a minute to explain the idea. After that, the participants voted for the best ideas and chose two workshops to attend. Many interesting topics appeared on the very busy agenda that day. The three keywords dominated on the floor: innovation, people and learning. Two workshops revealed very interesting approaches to innovation and learning.

The first one, ’’What is wrong with the corporate innovation?“, kindled a very lively discussion. Many corporate employees tried to explain their own experience with implementing innovation in their companies. The participants willingly shared their failures and learnings.

The workshop recognized several elements important for successful implementation of innovation in a company and, more importantly, among the employees. Here are some of the key conclusions:
– Goals are not the same for the company and for the people who work in it;
– There is frequently a lack of skills needed for innovation to be implemented;
– There needs to be a culture in place that supports innovation.

The workshop participans also produced a list of activities that support innovation:
– An innovation lab
– A corporate incubator
– A corporate accelerator
– Open innovation
– Outsorce projects
– Corporate venture capital
Internal factors need cultural change, new learnings, hiring new people with new skillsets. Also, a corporation should try to implement innovation when it has enough money or very good incentives for it.
External factors in a company might be a disruptive innovation, new business models, different customer focus.

The second workshop,’’How to educate people to be lean“, was about people, how to teach them, train them and coach them. It was a really useful workshop because there were a lot of experienced people there from that field of expertise.
– Which methodology to use in order to have the best implementation results?
– How to align processes with new learnings in order to adopt a new culture?

– Which tips coaches can use in order to deliver the best measurable results?

The key takeaways from the methodology and process part were:
1) Take time to prepare people for the innovation process. Not only the MVP (minimum viable product) but MVK (minimum viable knowledge) is necessary for starting the innovation process. Start with changing the corporate culture first, prepare the ground for further construction work.
2) Just-in-time learning, to provide the best results for changing the corporate culture, step by step, but fast enough to see results. Everyone in the room agreed that implementation of innovation in a company was a long process, which lasted 2 to 3 years at least. One of the participants said that could be a neverending story.
3) Practice what you preach. In the last minute of the workshop, when the moderator asked the participants if they practiced lean or coaching methods in their daily life, just a few of attendants put up their hands. Practice what you preach, validate your learning and be prepared to fail. Be willing to be told that your baby is ugly. If you want to be a lean coach or trainer, you need to be credible, to know how hard it is when you try to implement this on yourself.
Start small. Team by team, group by group. This way, you are preparing for small failures, and also for learning fast and pivoting to the next bolder step.

Day two, the ’’Conference“ part of the summit. The event was opened by Thijs Sprangers, Director & Founder of Lean Startup Summit EMEA & Live on Demand. He wished a warm welcome to every participant of this summit. The Lean Startup had been held 40 meetups in 2019, in 27 cities and with 5,000 innovators attending. The topics of this summit were: Culture of entrepreneurship, Customer centricity, Innovation accounting, Portfolio management, Lean startup basics, Experimentation & Validation, Pivot, failure and learning, Agile, Product management, Design Thinking, The modern company. As for the participants, 40 per cent were very experienced (more than 5 years), 40 per cent had medium experience (2-5 years) and 20 percent less than 2 years. When it comes to nationality, 50 per cent were from Germany, and the rest came from 35 different countries.
The second speaker was Christoph Raethke, from Berlin. He explained why Berlin was such a great city to be the host of this great event. The blend of the east and the west, two different cultures and lifestyles, makes Berlin an ideal city for innovation. 

A very interesting talk was given by Tendayi Viki, author of The Corporate Startup, on ’’Leading innovation – right question, right time“. The main goal of innovation is to transform creative ideas into profitable business models. The biggest challenge, especially for large companies, is how to innovate and keep the core business healthy. Also, it is hard to manage innovation with the same tools that companies use to run their core business. Asking the right questions at the right time may turn out to be crucial.


After the panel called ’’Culture of entrepreneurship“, Alexander Osterwalder, CEO of Strategyzer AG, stirred a lot of interest. The topic ’’Winning with business models and business portfolios“ explained Alex’s latest work on business model mechanics. A lot of examples with a big, successful companies explained how they succeeded or failed. The key message was – don’t focus on the product, focus on the business model.

Another great panel, ’’Unlocking large enterprise lean challenges and win“ took place on the main stage Berlind Island. Meanwhile, a lot of workshops were held all around ’’Alte Munze“.
A really great talk, ’’Growth hacking“ was held by Regan Kirk. It was a brief but information-packed power session covering the process, mindset, and tools which help on a journey towards more customer-centric, experiments and data-driven organization. He created in 7 minutes a company logo, the motto, the marketing mix, a landing page, a testimonial and even and chatbot! The key message – you can do everything in a short time using the right tools.
After the ’’Beating uncertainty in product development“ panel, there were a few talks presented in a very interesting way, the 5 min format. A lot of ideas and shared experiences ignited creativity in the hall.
At the very end of this summit, the participants had the opportunity to be part of the live fireside chat with Eric Ries, Co-Founder, and author of Lean Startup Co. In 30 minutes, Eric explained from San Francisco the core philosophy of Lean Startup and the most common challenges running small businesses and startups. Also, he talked about resistance in organizations when the innovation process was ignited. At the end of the chat, people had the opportunity to ask Eric a few questions.


The wrap-up was done in a very unusual way. After Eric’s talk the organizers were sharing Eric’s book ’’The startup way“ and Thijs Sprangers, Director & Founder of Lean Startup Summit EMEA, invited all the participants to the new Lean Startup summit, which will be held in the USA in autumn.


What’s next? The organizers will continue with MeetUps, and some of the cities that they mentioned were Belgrade, London, Rotterdam and Berlin.
It is hard to summarize a two-day event in just a couple of pages. This was a well-organized event, with great energy, a lot of learnings, and exchanged best practice and knowledge. The people who attended were open to seeing new horizons and willing to implement what they learn in their everyday jobs.
The keynote speaker were exceptional, easy to approach, willing to listen, understand and help.
Berlin, as the host town, was open to new ideas as usual, and not only ready to accept but also to ignite.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.