Girls‘ Day 2019 at Covestro

Girls‘ Day was fun this year. First I showed them a short presentation about „Girls in IT“ …

Then I let them play a coding game, which turned out to be suitable for girls in the age of 13-14 years without programming background, They programmed Angry Birds that had to chase Pigs. The 18 girls worked in teams of three and it was real fun watching them discussing different strategies an approaches.

Here is the game

Our Family Tattoo

This is our family tattoo we got last year. It is a reference to a song that has become our family anthem over the years:

„Our House“ from Crosby Stills Nash and Young:

„Our house is a very, very, very fine house
with two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy ‚cause of you“

<3 <3 <3 

Birds fly to the stars

That’s our family crest for some years. It comes from a scene in one of our favorite movies: „Moonstruck„. The dialogue is actually rather prosaic. Cosmo Castorini the plumber has an affair and gives her a hand chain with birds and stars as pendants during a secret rendevous. He says: „Birds fly to the stars – I guess„.

I sketched the blueprint for this installation in Powerpoint (…) and sent it to a glassblower. Here is the result:

Birds and Stars

Recycling old Calendars

When surfing an auction site I found a pocket calendar I possessed in my early youth: the Ensslin-Schüler-Taschenbuch 1974.

As a ten-year-old it fascinated me, because it not only contained the calendar of that year but also useful information like a complete survival guide (how to navigate without compass, to make fire, to source water, to build a tent,  to track foot steps, to use morse code, to leave signs, …), a table that allows to calculate the week day for any given date and a contest on how many different objects can be put into one matchbox.

When I considered buying it, I thought it would be useless because the calendar would not match this year’s calendar. But, what would a calendar need to match to another year? A given date (eg. Jan, 1st)  has to fall on the same week day and both years have to be either leap years or not.

I wrote a small program that compares different years for these conditions and found that I could reuse this calendar of 1974 again in 2019. However, many public holidays like (Easter, Whitsun, German Carnival, Ascension Day, Corpus Christi) are floating and match in some years only.

If you use your calendar as a diary, you can find a lot of “on this day”-reminders in your old calendar.

On my way to the attic now

In year … re-use old calendar of … YC
Re-use old calendar of … in year …CY


How a Police Detective changed my Life

girlsday-konfetti-smWhen I was a boy back in the Seventies, I loved to watch U.S. TV crime series like “Kojak.” Every time a murder occurred and the investigation got stuck, Kojak would say: “We’ve got to ask the computer!”

Then he and his team would go into a computer room and type in some clues on the crime, like male victim, brown hair, blue eyes, contusion on the back of the head caused by a blow with a blunt object.

Magnetic tapes in racks would spin back and forth and after a while the printer would start to rattle and print five or so names of suspects. Three of them would already have been in jail or out of the country and a fourth one probably dead at the time of the murder. Only one was at large. Kojak would tear the paper out of the printer — he knew exactly what to do next.

Of course, that all made a lasting impression on me. One night I asked my mother, “How did the computer know?” To my disappointment, she told me that computers didn’t know anything at all; they had to be fed with information first (as people used to say back then).  My interest in computers vanished for a while after that, until I went to college.

As a computer science major in the Eighties, I bought my first home computer. Later, at my first job with a U.S. computer manufacturer, I worked as a programmer and consultant on software projects for major corporations.

That is when I began looking for a computer that would give me answers I did not have to enter myself in advance. Even if it seems so, I am not talking about Google or artificial intelligence, augmented reality or big data. I was looking for something completely different. And I finally found it: at Covestro.

But let me back up first: when I joined Bayer in 2000, I suddenly found myself in the midst of major change and was faced with many new challenges. It was the beginning of e-commerce and many industrial companies were racing to set up their own sales platforms on the internet. Bayer had just resolved to form a team of 50 people for this purpose, half of which was to be comprised of existing employees and the other half of new ones like me.

On this international and diverse team, I worked independently as a Java programmer and project manager, which included trips to Pittsburgh, United States, to coordinate activities with colleagues there. I did not expect to experience that kind of dynamism, openness and agility in an industrial company.

The sales platform was a success:  for several years, our customers could use it to schedule, place and track their orders. We later used the same computer code again for other portals. But for me personally, the search I mentioned before continued.

After six years as an in-house “IT service provider,” I switched over to the client side.  As a project manager in Business Engagement at Bayer Material Science, I mediated all project phases between IT and the IT program and platform users.

In 2009, we then launched our Social Collaboration and Networking platform, and I took the first, major step toward my goal. As a user of comparable platforms on the Internet, like Facebook and Twitter, I quickly got involved and became an active participant in a rapidly growing community. It was logical for me to be the one to answer those first inquiries that came into IT concerning the use and sense of such platforms. It was the beginning of an avalanche of questions and I started giving training classes all over Bayer on the hows and whys of social collaboration. After a while, I was released from my job at the time to work full-time on training and education in this field. I even went to Thailand, Hong Kong and Shanghai in this capacity.

What I never had thought possible before happened: based on my interests and inclinations alone, I had picked this new job myself, with the help of an employer who supported and promoted me along my chosen path.  I began giving talks about our experiences and advancements in the field of social networking and collaboration at national and international congresses. Interest was very great among the professionals in attendance from companies, government agencies and other organizations, because many of them were either still waiting to see how things would develop, or had not had the desired success after launch and were in search of new ideas. I can well remember a talk in front of some 250 international professionals at a congress in Orlando.

This growing network of people at other companies is still a source of many new ideas for my job today, which is at Covestro, a young and exciting company. By “young” I mean not only physical age, but also the ability and willingness to constantly change, develop and question the status quo. Our CEO once called Covestro “an eighty year-old startup.” We can look back on a long tradition of invention and research, but by leaving the Bayer Group, we acquired the freedom we need to start afresh in many areas and tailor things to our needs.

Here at Covestro I have finally found the answer to the question I have been pursing for so long: where can I find a computer that can give me answers I don’t have to enter first myself?

While collaborating within our social network, we collect knowledge and ideas, and share opinions, but the result is often greater than the sum of the contributions of each individual participant. The network gives me answers to questions like “Who is a recognized expert in topic X?,” “Where can I find information on topic Y that was also helpful for other colleagues?” or “How can I, as a specialist, become visible to others?” – I can access all this information without having to enter it first myself.

The “computer” I was looking for is not a device full of electronics after all, but rather our company’s social network. But what sounds so trivial is of inestimable value to us.

Take the topic of innovation. Social networks and innovation are closely related to my mind, and this fact is also expressed in my further career. In addition to my responsibility managing Social Collaboration, I am now also head of IT Innovation. Apart from planning and supporting company-wide idea campaigns, I am currently preparing an idea campaign for over 480 IT employees worldwide, for example. Recently, I greatly enjoyed holding a guest lecture on innovation management at the Cologne Business School and also the Girls’ Day 2017.

In everything I do today, I naturally can build on knowledge and experience acquired in the past, but I mostly use my new-found “computer.” When it comes to “ideation,” meaning finding and developing ideas as a team, we at Covestro already have a well-developed culture of collaboration: the broad competence and high motivation of the participants encourages the finding of ideas, as well as commenting and voting on them. Our in-house counterparts to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, as well as chats and video conferences, round out the options we have for collaborating. These platforms help me to select the right tools, depending on the task, and leave nothing to be desired. When they occasionally do, then I can develop and discuss new ideas with my colleagues.

So if I ever get stuck with something, like Kojak did, I just say: “We’ve got to ask the social network!”

3D Printing – My first hands-on

Covestro Booth at the K-Fair

Last week in the Covestro Booth at the K-Fair I had the chance to watch a presentation of Autodesk.

It was about Additive Manufacturing (=3D Printing) and bringing Software, Hardware and Material  together.

Catalogs of materials with all its properties and specifications would be included in the design tool and help designers to choose the right material. Autodesk sees a $B market not only in fancy designs but especially in parts like sealings for cars (in the first step).

3D-Printers will be able to scale for industrial manufacturing at appropriate volumes and costs. With Additive Manufacturing no dies or tools as in traditional machines are needed upfront.

They mentioned a light-weight tool (Tinkercad from Autodesk) that can be used to create (not only) simple Objects in the Browser.

When done you can send the result directly to one of many 3D-printing providers with a few clicks. You can choose the material and order it. It will be printed within days or even hours.

You can also download the model and print it yourself!

Out of curiosity I created and ordered a small object of about 5x5x5cm that in the meantime was made of ABS for a few Euros. If have to admit: in this I am a member of the late majority.

My first 3D-Printed Object
My first 3D-Printed Object. It throws my initials („B.E.O.“) as shadows when lit from different angles.

With tools like this it is easy to create 3D-Objects and Prints without any expert knowledge and any special equipment.

Why not print spare parts for your household appliances? Some simply shaped ones in my car and my kitchen appliances, I had to replace recently, come to my mind.

I remember once having to replace „almost“ a complete car door, because a broken plastics part in the electrical window regulator was not separately available for order 🙂

With a 3D capture app (like the coming  Windows Capture 3D) the last hurdle of having to create a model first will disappear.

Where will it lead us to when people start to print their own parts and exchange self-made models that are good enough for a certain purpose? Will the material get as expensive as ink cartridges for paper printers are now? Will there be charge on it like there is for rewritable storage media?

Will business models based on the short life-cycle of products or their parts disappear?

We will see. At least I have got a nice and solid Pencil Holder on my desk now.

The Last Thing We Need is an Enterprise Social Network

  1. we need to succeed by fulfilling our strategy to create greater value in a rapidly changing market; and to do that
  2. we need to be able to work in new & better ways that create a more effective, agile and responsive organisation; and to do that
  3. we need a new culture in management and more leadership from our people; and to do that
  4. we need new conversations that enable our people to discuss and act on creating better strategic value; and to do that
  5. we need more engagement and a better ability to leverage the potential of our people to contribute to and lead this change; and to do that
  6. we need an enterprise social network to support the first 5 steps.

Read on …

Hi Mom, finally I made in into an eBook


The Book is in German my chapter is in English.

A word in the beginning: this post is not about condemning E-Mail and its usage but on how to increase the efficiency of collaboration by utilizing and leveraging all tools and platforms a modern workplace has including Networking, Collaboration, Conferencing, Instant Messaging. For many use cases E-Mail is the tool of choice and for sure it will remain to be for quite a while.When I started at in my current department I was handed over an ongoing project by a colleague. She went to her mailbox, selected with a few clicks all mails associated to that project and sent me the result as one big E-Mail. I was supposed to read all these historical conversations bottom-up. After trying this for a while I ended up just poking around in this mess using the built in search whenever I needed some information that could be issued in a search query … 

Read on …

How to reduce your email load

mail234A word in the beginning: this post is not about condemning email and its usage but on how to increase the efficiency of collaboration by utilizing and leveraging all tools and platforms a modern workplace has including Networking, Collaboration, Conferencing, Instant Messaging. For many use cases email is the tool of choice and for sure it will remain to be for quite a while.

When I started at in my current department I was handed over an ongoing project by a colleague. She went to her mailbox, selected with a few clicks all mails associated to that project and sent me the result as one big email. I was supposed to read all these historical conversations bottom-up. After trying this for a while I ended up just poking around in this mess using the built in search whenever I needed some information that could be issued in a search query …

Email is a communication form which is now 40 years old (the term “email” was formed 30 years ago). The only big change to that technology happened when attachments were introduced 20 years ago.

For many of us the email client has become the tool we open first in the morning and check several times a day. Notifications about incoming email come in and interrupt our work. The number of unread emails seems to increase steadily.

We misuse our mailbox for our personal Document Management, Knowledge Management, Project and Task-Management.

Usually no one else has access to the information we collect and if someone would have, she would likely not be able to source the information in it without understanding the structure (if any) in which it was stored.

We assign tasks per email in a fire-and-forget mode. Since we can always expect an answer, which is an implicit rule in emailing, we can forget requests until the recipients reply / react. When something goes wrong (and always something goes wrong) we can pull the email out (we usually even don’t have to) and say: “I informed you in time that something could go wrong” / “I told you to take care 2 weeks ago” / “I asked but you didn’t answer”.

We discuss content and send office documents back and forth receiving multiple copies of multiple versions. Discussions are fragmented over several emails, this works more or less as long as there is a sequential discussion. When the discussion branches and several participants reply to different aspects of a discussion it gets time consuming to put the conversation in a sequential order with clear causalities. There is no easy way to include colleagues who joined the conversation later.

In many emails, if we have a look at the net information which is actually included we find that this is only a minor part compared to what is added by headers and footers and the repetition of the complete history of the email conversation.

What is wrong with email?

“Email is a ruthless delegation machine & your daily to-do list imposed by others. (Luis Suarez, @elsua) Just send an action to someone, cc: her Supervisor and it is extremely difficult for that person to not take that action. Asking someone face to take an action is sometimes not as easy.”

Information is private (closed team collaboration). Knowledge is hidden.The information contained in emails is restricted by default. People who might need this information have no access and even worse: they sometimes don’t even know that it exists. Adding recipients later often leads to the mess described above. Information is not available when colleagues are on vacation, signoff or retire.‘

Recipients have to be chosen in advance. As a result: often too few or too many or wrong recipients are chosen. Emails and recipient lists once sent are neither updateable nor adaptable later

Attachments blow up mail size and are costly. Multiple copies where is is unclear which is the valid (latest) version

Inefficient for discussions. Sometimes you have to open a series of emails to follow up a discussion. Often you have to scroll a long way down to the end in order rollup the discussion and hope the discussion hasn’t branched in between.

Where is email useful?

When sending emails you can rely on a „Contract“. Following an unwritten law the recipient is supposed to either take notice of an information, or to take responsibility for an action (in many cases only to return information). In any other case she is supposed to reply to you stating why she does not handle the mail in the way you expect. In the latter case she will choose to reply to all.
Since the delivery (at least within the company) is guaranteed, mails often have also a documentary character. Sending an information or task via email documents the transaction including the content of the mail, the timestamp and the recipient(s) of a mail. At a later point in time the sender can use the copy of the mail in his mailbox as an evidence.

In one-two-one private conversations email is always a good choice. It is one of the strength of email to limit the distribution of an email to a closed circle. If necessary the conversation can even be encrypted.

Calendaring, scheduling meetings and sending/accepting invites is a bonus email systems offer. For this purpose they are highly specialized and can not easily be replaced by other tools without losing comfort and reliability.

Are you ready to give it a try?

  • Do not reply to email with email (@elsua). Every reply provokes another reply. Instead inform the sender using a different channel. Talk to her personally, send a reply via chat or post the answer to her or your board or to a common collaboration space, like a community. Doing this reduces the email traffic and helps our organization to adopt a new way of collaboration step by step. An answer to an email posted publicly (where applicable) can also be useful to colleagues who were not on the initial scope of the email
  • Move all distribution lists that are not confidential to blogs/communities.
  • Between the senders and recipients of information posted, optionally agree upon a common set of tags, that senders attach to each posting  (files, blog entries, bookmarks, …).
    This requires some discipline on both adding and subscribing (to) the rights tags. The advantage is that recipients can choose what pieces of information the want to receive (they subscribe to) and to change these subscription over time as their responsibilities, projects or organizational position changes.
  • Give all project teams a closed group and encourage them to „work out loud“.
  • Discourage emailing documents. They should all go into a shared space.
  • Check the appropriateness / necessity of CCs/BCCs whenever you send an email or us the “reply all” button. Consider that many recipients due to their load just ignore emails (some of the even by automated rule) that does not contain their names in the to: line.
  • Encourage anything that needs a CC to go into a social network blog or discussion board.
  • Encourage people to answer questions that they receive through any channel in a blog post.
  • For confidential information (and that should be done carefully), for scheduling, for personal notes and for accepting email from external contacts, some of which should be stored centrally to a collaboration space and link from there.
  • Consider setting an autoanswer in your mailbox or an extension to your email footer hinting (internal) senders how to communicate with you alternatively in order to optimize the collaboration.
  • Check which replacements are available in your environment by Use Case.
  • Use / stay with specialized tools like Document Management, Knowledge Management, Project and Task-Management.

Any Questions? Just reply to this blog post.

Thoughts which aren’t my own are stolen with pride from: