Innoboard: There is no consistent definition of innovation. Every industry and every department perceive it differently. How would you define innovation with respect to your position as Senior Director Future Innovation Strategy at Deutsche Lufthansa AG?
Doris Krüger: Indeed – this question can of course be answered in many different ways and perceived through manifold perspectives. Let me try to give you a short answer regarding what matters to me in my present role and responsibilities. Keep in mind that this definition is an always moving target with the capability to change at all times:
Innovation is the successful development and implementation of an idea. This could be: a new product, a new service, a new process or a new business model. Innovation is therefor especially important to the Lufthansa Group as it improves our competitive position by creating a significant value for our customers and the company itself.
We differentiate 3 categories of innovation at Lufthansa Group:
1. An existing concept, but optimized or even new for the Lufthansa Group
2. Something new for the industry or branch or containing new aspects
3. Something completely new for the whole world
What role does innovation play for your firm, and what are the particular challenges of the airline sector in this regard?
The aviation industry has always been and will always be an ever-changing and transforming entity. It was therefor always involved in innovation activities. If innovation wasn’t part of the aviation industry’s DNA we would never ever have started to fly and leave the ground in the first place. A big game changer for the industry is definitely digitalization and the process of implementing great innovations that come hand in hand with digitalization have just started. In every single step of the travel chain – business or leisure – digital innovation accompanies us more and more. Travelling and getting on a plane today is almost as common as taking a bus or cab.
Using digital solutions, e.g. convenient apps that provide you with the needed information at the right time during your journey, is a commodity for young people – but for the older generations as well!
A lot of people tend to believe that travel ambitions might decrease over time due to modern meeting technology, i.e. cyber meetings, hologram decks or A.I. solutions. I honestly don’t think so. Over the past decades the number of passengers, as well as air freight followed a continuous upward trend, always accompanied by new products, processes and business models.
The margins of the aviation sector might not be overwhelming, but we are still one of the main engines which move our present world forward. By using new technologies and innovative services, employees in charge of innovation and product developers are working closely together to improve the complete travel experience of each customer, following the goal to make it as pleasant and convenient as possible. Nowadays, mobility – next to communication and networking – is one of the most important aspects of our life. Meeting people and to connect with them is the key to be successful in businesses but as well in life. ‘Challenges’ is not a new term for airliners – it’s our daily routine.
How important is the trend towards digital transformation for your innovation and new business development activities? Which specific developments will play a major role in this regard?
That is an easy answer: it is essential!
If you want to keep up with the future it is not enough to simply follow current trends, to improve your digital skills or develop the innovation culture of your company. You have to be part of this ongoing change, rethink your behavior and your attitude on a daily basis.
Work together in diverse teams – young and old, explorers and troupers, digital natives and well-experienced employees.
To quote Steve Jobs: “Be foolish, stay hungry.”
In what way do you rely on external partnerships for innovation and digital transformation? How do you integrate these activities with your internal activities at Deutsche Lufthansa AG?
Working together with external partners who are specialized in innovation and digital transformation processes is of course part of our innovation ambitions. It is necessary for my colleagues and me to change our perspectives regularly, asking questions, reflect on what we are doing. But it is as well important to get an external view from time to time, small hints, sometimes consultancy or even more ideal: working in alliances.
What is your personal goal for the next year or so regarding innovation?
Innovation has already been a part of my professional life since years. And I love it! My personal goals for the next year would be to stay open for new developments and to not give up on the ‘trial and error’ principle, even though the next generation is taking a fast lane, a more let’s call it experienced woman like myself is definitely able to keep up with the speed.
What might be the next big step?
Let yourself be surprised and ask me again in August 2018… ;-)
About the interviewee: Doris Krüger
Doris Krüger started her career at Deutsche Lufthansa AG in 1978, initially in operational areas, customer service, and IT projects. Working in an innovative environment and seeking exceptional solutions is as important for her as the commitment to customers and people in her daily routine. After establishing and leading the Lufthansa Group Innovation Unit in 2013, she was appointed as the Senior Director, Future Innovation Strategy, Lufthansa Group, in January 2016. Previously, she held numerous management positions in different business units of the Lufthansa Group: Product Development, Product Management, Marketing & Public Relations, and as the Head of Corporate Personnel Marketing. For more than a decade, she has been a member of the speakers’ committee for managerial staff; since 2006, she is Chairwoman of the Lufthansa Group Executive Staff Committee. In 2013, she became a member of the Lufthansa Group Supervisory Board and a member of the Audit Committee.