Klemens Skibicki, also known as “PROFSKI”, is considered a dinosaur when it comes to digital transformation. For more than 15 years he has been advising and supporting companies in tackling the topic of digitization. In the interview, he gives insights into the topic of change management, explains what that has to do with the Cologne carnival and reveals what he means by the DJ principle.
Klemens Skibicki was a member of the Young Digital Economy Advisory Board of the Federal Ministry of Economics for many years and was a professor of marketing and market research at the Cologne Business School until 2019.
Change management: what do turntables have to do with business management?
Meike Neitz: Klemens, let’s start with your book, which you published in September 2020. It is called “The DJ principle of management – action-oriented knowledge for leadership and decision-making in the digitally networked age.” What do turntables have to do with business management?
I believe that in the digitally networked age, the DJ principle will be the fundamental principle of good management. Everyone has been to a party where a DJ just played his or her favorite music, which wasn’t very successful. He or she paid too little attention to what is actually happening on the dance floor in front of him or her.
On the other hand, you can see that worldwide charts are led by DJs or former DJs. Why is that? The good DJs know exactly how we tick because they follow the reactions of the party guests in real time and interact with them. DJs know what works and what doesn’t!
The data of the digital world out there is just like this dance floor: the billions of people who send and receive data via their smartphones show what is being clicked, liked or commented on and what people are searching for.
For the business world, this means a revolution in real-time market research, insofar as the data can be viewed and interpreted – you just have to make smart data out of big data and read the audience like a DJ.
This means that we have an opportunity to interact with the other side of the market and if we use this, we are able to bring it into the company’s own learning process or its own services: If you don’t do that, you might get lucky, but he does will not improve the music and as a result inspire the audience.
The three aspects of digitization: technology, economy and social affairs
The data aspect you describe is part of a structural change brought about by digitization. Can you explain the most important aspects of this change for us?
When it comes to digitization, most people naturally think of technology. But that falls short because it is only one aspect of it. Tech is actually an enabler; Much more important are the economic implications, i.e. understanding the changes for new processes, new roles and taking people with you.
In my opinion, structural change has three dimensions that you have to think about at the same time: the technological, the economic and the human, i.e. the social component. I come from structural change research, my doctoral thesis was about the transition from the agricultural to the industrial age and that was much more than the steam engine at the time – all aspects of social life were reorganized.
This is exactly how we are now in the transition from the industrial to the digitally networked age. That means we have new roles here due to technology. The network economy also offers newer processes than the processes that were established in the industrial age.
Rigid value chains, hierarchical internal communication and one-sided mass communication with a broadcasting function to the outside. Digital change therefore requires companies to adapt to new opportunities, so ultimately it is always people who have to change the most in the context of new technology.
Change Management: “Solve your carnival problem!”
You are a change management consultant: For many, this is still an abstract concept. Suppose I am a medium-sized automotive supplier and come to you. Can you briefly describe for us what the first steps in your consulting process are?
Yes very much. The very first thing is: solve your carnival problem. There is carnival here in Cologne, but also in Düsseldorf, Mainz, Venice and Rio. And there is always the same word, but they are completely different concepts. And that’s exactly how it is in digitization.
That means one of the most important tips I can give companies is: First talk about the same thing. I usually do this in a first kick-off workshop, which usually lasts half a day: I grab the most important people and ask:
Who must have understood all of this, that they are talking about the same thing first, not that one party is celebrating carnival in Rio and the other in Venice, but that they are organizing the same party. That sounds totally banal, but based on 15 years of experience it is the most important point.
If I don’t have a uniform understanding of what the core of digital structural change is, what the three most important drivers are, then I can’t develop a uniform goal or strategy. As part of the common goal reflection, I work the following three points first through point one:
What is happening out there, what are the most important aspects of digital structural change. Point two: In which direction do you have to adapt and point three: What are the main hurdles. If you have a unified understanding of these three points, then you’re ahead of 99 percent of the other companies out there.
Change Management: An understanding of drivers and processes
Are there things that organizations should and could do on a small scale and independently in order to do justice to the network economy?
Exactly the same: An understanding of what the most important drivers are and which processes you did when you “grew up”. Be it as a business or as a person you can now run more efficiently digitally. For the little ones, it often starts in the area of communication to see how to reach your customers.
Who talks where and how about my topics and where and how can I position myself there? For this I need time and an understanding of how social networks work.
“Right now the next big thing is actually the Metaverse”
What do you think are the big trends in digital marketing?
There are many trends and developments but right now the next big thing is actually the Metaverse. The convergence of virtual, physical and augmented reality. In principle, it is a process that has been going on for a long time.
But now the linking of people’s different worlds of perception has picked up speed and opened up many new possibilities, of which blockchain and NFT’s are the best known.
The personal brand Klemens Skibicki
You’ve become a personal brand yourself. Have you practiced strategic personal branding?
No, my brand personality has established itself over the years. I always looked closely at what people liked and what didn’t, and then made a strategic product out of it, but one that had to fit my character.
And ultimately, following my own DJ principle, I first tried out my themes, then looked at what came through and then amplified the signal. In the meantime it has become a personal brand, but it was actually a learning by doing.
The famous word ‘being authentic’ (which is probably the most misused word in marketing) has played a big part. First of all, I did it intuitively, then looked on which channels the references to my topics are there and then answered the following questions: Why am I doing this? How do I position myself? And how do I speak?
Feedly, Social media und Podcasts
How do you educate yourself? How do you stay informed?
I have compiled my most important topics using RRS readers such as “feedly”. Every day I get an overview with the most important links with the best sources I have put together over the years on my topics, i.e. marketing, digitization, financial policy and the economy in general.
There are not only German but also English-language formats such as Mashable or Wired.
I also really like listening to podcasts. For economic policy, for example, this is the great podcast by Dr Daniel Stelter – Beyond the Obvious.
For everything to do with marketing and start-ups: the OMR Podcast and OMR Education with very good experts who impart in-depth knowledge. From time to time I listen to Gabor Steingart, who always has a very strong personal opinion, but also very good guests. I follow the people I’ve identified as thought leaders, this is becoming more and more Linkedin.
When it comes to digital/social, this is Brian Solis, for example, who is an absolutely forward-thinking social media expert. Lately I’ve been (fortunately again!) traveling a lot as a speaker at conferences and I’m learning a lot from other lectures and panels!
Dear Klemens, thank you very much for the interview!