Travelling entails a great deal of uncertainty and chance. Despite my flight being delayed in Helsinki, Finland, and suffering from a stressful presentation due to jet lag, the journey was worthwhile because I gained a lot for my profession in management skills outside of the classroom.
The tour was jam-packed with thought-provoking and educational talks on themes such as Germany’s macroeconomics, European Unions, hidden champions, industry 4.0, and artificial intelligence. Our visits to Wattx, a deep tech business, and the Daimler AG factory, where BMW automobiles are produced, enlightened me. The most important personal takeaway from the trip to Germany is that it is antifragile. Germany’s past was once fragile during World War II, but the country’ current wealth is antifragile.
The trip taught me that Germany has the greatest number of hidden champions, either in the top three globally or number one on the continent, with annual revenue of more than 5 million euros and a low degree of public recognition. With many Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) specializing in deep technology, the German economy thrives on export and characteristics. These family enterprises are clustered and decentralized in Germany rather than in Berlin, among the 1307 hidden champions.
Germany, in my perspective, is antifragile because of its start-up scene and decentralization. Big businesses have strong hierarchical structures and a slew of laws to keep track of their employees. It is nonetheless vulnerable, with a greater turnover rate and poorer change adaptability and less flexibility. On the other hand, SMEs have a lean structure that encourages a high-performance culture, increased employee engagement, and a more people-oriented approach. It is antifragile for a business to execute many functions, especially when individuals are transferred between functions more frequently than in a huge corporation. Employees at SMEs can also have more frequent consumer contact than those in large corporations, allowing them to understand their customers better and respond to market developments more swiftly. Employees in SMEs must be treated as human beings rather than as replaceable resources in large organizations. A lean structure and decentralization system makes the company antifragile. It also provides a long-term strategy for retaining top people.
We need to figure out how these hidden German champions can stay afloat in the market. They specialize in specific categories and excel at one item in particular in the niche market. They have a global reach, as seen by their early entry into Asia and the Chinese market. They have a diverse portfolio, with no outsourcing of essential competencies, and they manufacture all parts to their high-quality standards. They have a premium quality product positioning, such as expensive Yachts.
Last but not least, they have a culture of continual innovation that customers and top executives fuel. They have more patients per thousand employees than major firms due to a high amount of income spent on Research and Development (R & R&D). All of these elements are anti-fragile, allowing them to thrive and develop despite global market instability and unpredictability.
As a result, I’ve noticed a mentality difference between Germany and Hong Kong. Instead of studying science and engineering, most students in Hong Kong have confined their alternatives to work in the same sales-oriented banking and financial industry. Due to historical and geographical factors, Germany, on the other hand, has more sectors to focus on, such as steel, iron, machinery, chemical industry, locomotives, automobiles, and electronics. Rather than going to university as the only option for a career, the new generation has more vocational training for technical skills. The countries’ diversity of job options, manufacturing craftsmanship, and technological innovation make them less vulnerable to dangers.
Germany’s economy is stable, with low inflation, steady growth, a trade surplus, and a high labour force. This state management is necessary to avoid repeating the economic crisis, Great Depression, and hyperinflation that contributed to the development of Nazism in Germany during World War II and political instability and genocide. It’s difficult to remember a time in history when there was social and political calm, democracy, no fanaticism, and a weak military. History is important to comprehend where we came from, grasp current and future difficulties, and improve risk management abilities in chaotic situations.
One of the key reasons I decided to pursue an MBA was to find a solution for my career in terms of management skills in the global market. The vast disparity in wealth levels between countries interested me. For example, following my research trip, I went to Switzerland for a vacation and ate the most expensive McDonald’s big mac meal I’d ever had. It cost me 12 Swiss Francs (about $93 in Hong Kong dollars)! A similar quality Big Mac meal costs 7 Euros in Germany or roughly $62 in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, the world looks unfair if you were born in a weaker economy within the Eurozone, such as Romanian rural poverty with people suffering horribly due to human trafficking. On this journey, I saw the success elements of Germany with anti-fragile throughout my visits to Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, and Frankfurt.
I can use what I’ve learned at the management level to create an anti-fragile workplace. We need to establish a corporation that can deal with unpredictability and uncertainty going beyond resilience or robustness in this changing digital environment, as we have seen in Germany. Small flat teams are antifragile, whereas huge hierarchical structures are unstable. Antifragile firms develop thinking that embraces trying while avoiding the too-big-to-fail notion. Managers are concerned about centralised power, and leaders trust team members to handle complicated challenges and decentralised decision-making.
Living in the age of artificial intelligence and automation is a thrilling experience. Our sector is undergoing a great metamorphosis with the new horizon of untapped options, more connected devices, and more real-world data. After graduating from my MBA program, I continue to pursue my solution to be more antifragile in this quickly changing world, gaining a distinct perspective from international experiences in Germany.