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He shows why it’s time for big business to embrace – rather than fear – people who are ready to break the rules
It takes a certain type of person to disrupt an 170-year-old global organization. But whatever criticism they may face along the way, it’s often these people who can recognize an issue or an opportunity – and are not afraid to do something about it.
Patrick Pernegger is one of these individuals. He’s a rule-breaker. He doesn’t blindly accept things simply because “it’s the way it’s always been done”. Ultimately, he dares to be different.
After 15 years in various IT roles at Siemens, Patrick knew something had to change. Within an organization comprising 372,000 people across the globe, it can take a long time for decisions (big or small) to be made. So, he had an idea; and not everyone was going to like it.
He proposed creating a think tank within Siemens; a think tank that could function alongside, but very much independently, from the long-formed establishment. The concept, called #iDea, would function like an internal startup. It would operate by encouraging a smaller team of thinkers and doers with different skillsets to come up with solutions to company-wide issues. It would inspire change from within.
When Patrick first aired his idea to colleagues in Germany in 2016, he was met with uncomfortable looks and forced smiles; it was almost as if they were sympathetic to his noble, but useless, attempt to ignite change. After all, he was one man; one tiny piece in the Siemens puzzle; how much could he really achieve?
“Cool, so why don’t you just try it over the weekend then?” was the response he was first fed by one of his managers not believing in – or not willing to follow – his guerilla tactics. But within a few hours, he’d managed to recruit a team of seven people to join him. “At Siemens, to get what you want, you have to pull the ‘fake it until you make it’ card. I pretended that #iDea was actually planned for a while to make it sound more legitimate,” he says.
He referred to the first colleagues working alongside him at #iDea as his “troop” to “fight the flames within the company”. His troop’s first task? To discuss and fix issues employees had with connecting their company phones with their email accounts. He asked the developer in his troop to come up with a solution; he was successful.
Although Patrick was keen to present the rapid success of #iDea’s first project to managers, he still met some criticism. “Why are you doing this? Why can’t you follow the rules?”, said various people within the company who were not yet convinced by Patrick’s subtly radical method for change.
Some people would see opposition as a reason to stop fighting. But for Patrick, it simply spurred him on. “There will always be haters who would never break a rule, but rather than fighting them, we see them as a motivation,” he says. Instead, this resistance gave him the drive to push forward his concept and prove its worth within the company.
Patrick is proof that you don’t have to follow the herd to gain success, even in a huge company like Siemens. Sure, it’s likely you’ll make some people uncomfortable, but if you approach an issue in the right way and have the drive to push forward your solution, you can reap the rewards.
With time (and results), #iDea was accepted. Now, just a year-and-a-half year later, Patrick’s team comprises more than 200 people; some work on the think tank when they have time, some are actually paid to progress the project full-time. Not bad for a concept that was almost defeated before it began.
Since it launched, #iDea has made waves within the company. Earlier this year Patrick and his team organized the first “hybrid hackathon” where 1,700 people from across the world worked together to create innovations for the company. It was a huge step in gaining official recognition for him and his troop — in fact, it was so successful that next year’s three-day hackathon is already planned, with more than 6,000 people expected to take part. Attendees will be encouraged to act as start-ups by recruiting employees and negotiating using specially developed Siemens coins.
An integral part of this future vision is finding the next generation of disruptors. Patrick is already recruiting young apprentices, and is on the hunt to find those who are keen to break patterns and smash any concepts or processes that from the outside may seem set in stone.
Patrick and his team have already achieved so much. Together with a member of the trains department and a member of the corporate technology department they are developing a chip that can display drug abuse by testing urine. Even though the chip is yet to be fully developed, they have already received interest from schools in the US. If drug abuse is evident in schools, they would be able to respond by providing students with counsellors and other support.
Now, they also have their sights set on using #iDea to spark change outside the company. Watch this space.
There will always be haters who would never break a rule, but rather than fighting them, we see them as a motivation
Beyond the successes of his project, it’s also Patrick’s entrepreneurial, daring spirit that is important to recognize. Just because you are a single person within a vast and complex organization doesn’t mean you can’t have the potential to make a difference. There is always room for change-makers, disruptors; people with a vision to improve the way something has always been done. After all, isn’t that what all great innovators throughout history have done?
Patrick is a Future Maker — one of the 372,000 talented people working with us to shape the future.
Patrick Pernegger is a Senior IT Strategy & Innovation Manager at Siemens. He is also Founder & CEO of #iDea, a think tank within Siemens which launched in May 2016. He is based in Nürnberg, Germany and has worked with Siemens for 15 years.