Shaping the Future with Disruptive Thinking

At the Business Breakfast, Alumnus Christoph Schell (IPBS 1995) reports on his role as CCO at HP

Left to right: Prof. Dr. Dominic Wader (Vice-Dean of ESB Business School), Christoph Schell (CCO at HP), Prof. Dr. Christoph Binder (Dean of ESB Business School)

By Kathrin Ludwig und Tim Geyer

Amidst pretzels and business: 25 years after graduating from ESB Business School and the NEOMA Business School in Reims, alumnus Christoph Schell (IPBS 1995), Chief Commercial Officer at HP, returned to Reutlingen for a business breakfast to share experiences and insights from his successful and eventful career.

Disruptive thinking, curiosity and the courage to embrace change – these are the qualities that got him to the top management at HP, says Schell. As part of the event he passed on his personal insights into cultural and strategic challenges to 55 students across all semesters in the MSc International Accounting, Controlling and TaxationMSc International Business DevelopmentMA Strategic Sales ManagementMSc Consulting & Business Analytics and the BSc International Management Double Degree programmes.

With coffee, pretzels and biscuits, Christoph Schell illustrated how new technologies influence his daily work. He especially emphasised the importance of cooperation with the big marketplaces around Amazon, Alibaba etc. He sees these corporations as the “mirror of how well an enterprise is aware of its own value proposition”. Nowadays, he advises, you need to establish data-controlled business models and at the same time envisage markets which match the company’s core competencies. Christoph Schell is particularly fascinated by Industry 4.0 and demonstrated convincingly that this trend will have a decisive impact on the students‘ future careers: “You are here to identify in such trends the potential for the disruption of existing business models!” He detects disruptive potential in different industries and calls for agility on the part of large corporations so as not to be overtaken by start-ups. Despite all the benefits that go hand in hand with digitisation, Christoph Schell also pointed out the risks: “We should all be vigilant about where the world is going and bear responsibility for what we leave behind – the digital footprint is not always our friend!”

At the subsequent Q&A session it came to the crunch: How do you able to cope with the responsibility and pressure such a management position involves? What motivates a person after so many years to go to work every day? What are the qualities a manager should have today?"

Christoph Schell answered the questions with honesty and humour, stressing with a twinkle in his eye that naturally, for a native Swabian, an attractive income can also be a motivating factor. In his everyday life, however, he is inspired above all by his responsibility towards society and his employees as well as the positive impact on the ecosystem you have in a company like HP. He emphasised that a good work-life balance is essential – hence family and drum kit are a welcome contrast to his day-to-day work. After years of managerial responsibility in Dubai, Singapore, Sydney and the USA he emphasised that you need to adapt yourself and your leadership style and be open-minded about new cultures and people. Finally, he gave the students some practical tips to take home with them, that they should learn languages and shape the future with curiosity, courage and a disruptive way of thinking.