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Work Outside the Company Walls

Creative thinking is all the rage. But let’s be honest: especially when it comes to finding innovative solutions for future challenges, approaches that are unhindered by established company structures offer a valuable opportunity to create something new. However, it’s not necessarily easy. In order to proceed with one of its large upcoming tasks, namely the development of CO2-neutral heat energy, the swb AG energy company initiated the first Sprint Project for employees in collaboration with Ramboll, a multidisciplinary engineering, design and consulting company from Denmark. “Proactive action and flexible work that is free of rules” defines the parameters for Sven Wahlers. In order to implement this approach, he met at kraftwerk together with Christoph Döpp and other colleagues. Everyone comes from different areas in the company. Generation, sales, services, Weser network, etc: “Everyone had their own ken and their own perspective on the issue,” said Sven. They have to come together first of all. “Free thinking is good, but one must also learn to adapt one’s thinking to the team and to find one’s role there,” explains Christoph. Sound difficult? Well, it is. However, it is amongst the greatest opportunities of its kind in collaboration. “All thoughts are allowed and not immediately dismissed. It is unstrained and open because the hierarchies cease to apply.” In addition, it’s not necessarily about learning new creative techniques. “I’ve always worked with these,” explains Sven. “But the atmosphere is totally different here.” Does that have anything to do with the environs? Why does the project group meet here at kraftwerk? Why isn’t the project held on the company’s premises or in your own office? “The environment is totally different here. Here we sit for long periods relatively close with one another, we work without restrictions outside of the familiar company structures. That changes your thinking,” says Sven. “Yes, you are outside of your daily business routine, you achieve some distance, and have a space where you are open to new ideas,” confirms Christoph. “That would be good for lots of people, but it’s not as easy for everyone to implement.” Sven smiles. As a chemist, he generally also prefers to work within structures. “Especially for projects where considerable investment and concrete implementation into the grid will be made later, it’s important for me to work in a structured manner on a stable foundation.” Despite this, he found the type of work at kraftwerk interesting. “The challenge lies in translating creative processes into functions. Little things have major effects when it comes to implementation. If a detail isn’t right, then it doesn’t work in practice,” warns Christoph. Sven nods, “that’s why we do interdisciplinary work here, in order to illuminate the whole. It goes faster than when everyone thinks only for themselves and leaves the others, their challenges and limitations at the door.”

In practice is where the improvement potential of this pilot project lies. Working in this manner requires high levels of concentration and constant attention and presence. “We all have our everyday work routine. To exit completely from that for six weeks isn’t easy to organise,” according to Christoph. Another difficulty is IT. Once you move outside of your own company, access to internal networks is often not available. “You sit there at your company laptop and determine that wireless internet doesn’t work at all. Permission from the respective IT coordinator was required. It’s hard enough to get them within the company – and even then it takes a while,” Sven sighs. “We need a ‘licence to data,’ Christoph says, laughing.

However, all of this can surely be organised and optimised for the next group of their type. Both of them agree on this: even if the agile team approach isn’t suitable for all topics, it’s a really wonderful way of developing ideas and solutions together. Henceforth at kraftwerk, swb teams are always welcome at any time.