Today, David Bowie is my own personal assistant. He navigates me through Berlin, shows me his favorite bar and creative corners that have inspired his top musical performances. Together, we’re cruising along the East Side Gallery on an electric eKickboard in sync with “Starman” and feel like heroes for one day. But the true heroes are actually different ones, namely Stephan Beutler, Tim Pensel and Maximilian Oberacher, all of them Audi employees. With their project “Rideguide”, they unite David Bowie and myself. For one day with an app they’re currently developing. David Bowie is a character that I can choose within the game. The trio has been tinkering in the Audi Think Tank since January this year. They have six months to create a valid business case. A task that Stephan, Tim and Maximilian drive forward with high pressure, lifeblood and commitment. Because they all know there’s not a lot of time left.
Which innovations are developed in the Audi Think Tank
Agility, flexibility and creativity share one name – the Audi Think Tank. The innovation lab located in Berlin brings together what’s meant to be together: Audi innovation artists and future thinkers. Together they develop and implement digital business models for the premium mobility of tomorrow. Audi blog author Stefanie Lackner found out why it all started with one post-it note.
The home of the Audi Think Tank: Berlin instead of the Silicon Valley
The Audi Think Thank is located outside the Audi headquarters in the heart of Berlin, a co-working space in the Berlin Factory, near the Görlitzer Park. Here, the start-up scene’s heartbeat is pulsating across 14,000 square meters and five floors. Inspiration and a smell of a cafe nearby are in the air. Here, start-ups and entrepreneurs work highly concentrated on their ideas and future business models, while sitting in the brick building’s stylishly furnished rooms. Among them is the team of the Audi Think Tank.
Audi Think Tank = (Location + Team + Task + Method) x Network (internal + external)
That’s what the success recipe of the Audi Think Tank looks like – and as is customary in formulas, all variables are changeable and thus the result is always something different. The parties substantially involved are manager Matthias Brendel and the core team of six of people that have been aboard since the think tank’s founding in 2016.
"Together, we want to make a contribution to ensure the future viability of Audi as a mobility provider. For this purpose, we’re creating business models for premium mobility from our ideas and put them into action. That’s how we support Audi with our projects on the way to being a Digital Car Company."
The core team is supported by 15 Audi employees that dive into the Berlin eco-system and the think tank for six months according to the rotation principle. “Talent has no limits. That’s why a diverse team structure with employees from all hierarchies, age groups and business units from Audi is especially important. That’s how we achieve maximum competence variety, connectivity and cultural transformation, explains Anna Trunk, core team member and responsible for strategy and relations.
From co-working to co-living
Flexible, cross-functional and project-bases – that’s how temporary participants work in the creative environment. In doing so, they benefit from a strong network that goes beyond the core organization and continues to grow. Separated into four teams, the think tank’s participators tinker without any hierarchy and with a lot of individual responsibility on their different business models in different focus fields.
The goal after six months is a valid business case that is attractive, efficient and feasible. And then? “The solutions that are realized in the think tank, can either be transferred into the core organization after a certain development status or become a spin-off company. Of course, we also stop ideas if the business case or the customer benefit isn’t apparent. This is exercised quickly, so we can learn from our mistakes and have capacity for new ideas”, explains the think tank’s manager Brendel. Aside from the co-working itself, the co-living takes the participants out of their comfort zone. Because during their stay in Berlin, they live together in a shared flat with other Audi colleagues.
Agile methods and innovative topics
“I wanted to find out more about agile working and the corresponding methods. I’ve found that in the think tank”, Stephan Beutler explains. He works in chassis development and is always excited by innovative topics, such as 3D printing. His temporary team colleagues are Tim Pensel, who loves to shape IT driving concepts, and Maximilian Oberacher from engine development. “I love it to work agile, fast and in small teams. We have an incredible team spirit and are passionate about our ideas. We’re working on the pulse of time and deliver new thinking on the future of Audi”, Tim explains while meticulously writing down his ideas on post-it notes.
This is how the digital service Rideguide works
“In Berlin, there are more than 4,500 restaurants, 360 tourist attractions and 190 bars“, the trio explains. ”This selection can quickly overwhelm tourists. We’re supporting customers with our digital service Rideguide.” And that’s how the simply and truly unique service is supposed to function: The customers can create their own profile or alternatively connect their social media account. You can also opt to choose a character, for example David Bowie with a focus on musical sights. Following, the time corridor and other desired destinations can be specified. Then, the Rideguide suggests a personalized route with that the customer can check out the city. Recommendations on the app can be deleted and others can be added. The route updates itself accordingly.
But that’s not enough. “We want to connect individual routing with other mobility forms and different devices.” A device is micro-mobility – an electric eKickboard that is developed at Audi. The team is also convinced by that product. “We can use the eKickboard in different use cases. One of the means of transportation is our digital service Rideguide, but also our First & Lase Mile concept. The current market is already huge.”
As they notice my critical gaze, they roll the eKickboard towards me and equip me with one of the first versions of the app. Andso, I’m testing the project Rideguide in the Audi Think Tank that has started with one post-it note. I’m cruising through Berlin, David Bowie in tow as my assistant. And we’re thinking the same: Berlin has never before been so beautiful.
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