Franz Fehrenbach never tires of the views at House Heidehof in southern Germany, home to the Robert Bosch foundation which was founded in 1986. From here, you can see all the way down to Stuttgart in the valley below. The inventor Robert Bosch, who founded the eponymous company lived next door to House Heidehof. So it’s an appropriate place to speak with the supervisory board chairman of the engineering and electronics company about the state of innovation and entrepreneurship in Germany.
Handelsblatt: Mr. Fehrenbach, you spent your entire career in a company with defined rules and fixed procedures. What fascinates you about start-ups – companies that are more free-wheeling?
In almost 40 years with Bosch, I always felt like an entrepreneur. I always acted as I would if I were the owner of Bosch. I am constantly impressed when I see the panache and creativity in the way young businessmen and women approach things. This dynamic can also be found in large organizations, although the greatest enemy of progress in corporations is how bureaucracy slows things down. That’s why large companies often take new ideas and build separate, independent departments for them – internal start-ups, so to speak.
What can corporations learn from Internet companies?
Creativity and being open for new ideas. Thinking outside the box. Major corporations have functioning processes. On one hand, that’s a big advantage, for example, in product quality. On the other, it can hinder new ideas.
Events like the global innovation program, Weconomy, bring seasoned managers and business greenhorns together. Should there be more of these?
Certainly. In addition to Weconomy Weekend, we will organize three workshops a year for young businessmen to meet experts from established companies. They will all work together on subjects that can best and most quickly advance start-up companies.