Roland Dürre
Sunday October 15th, 2017

Great Orators and Their Stories – #7 Jolly Kunjappu

I started with the “Day Labourer” Alain Neumann. Then I told you about Hans-Jörg Bullinger and Hans Strack Zimmermann before arriving at Augustinus Heinrich Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck, Klaus-Jürgen Grün and Rupert Lay .

Today, it is my special pleasure to add my friend Jolly Kunjappu to the list of names in my personal hall of fame.
Jolly’s motto is INSPIRING PEOPLE. Today, he sees himself as a Performance Artist, Keynote Speaker and Philosopher. In his life, Jolly Kunjappu lived many different roles. Among other things, he played music with such well-known musicians as Mick Jagger. He also organized “drum” seminars for top managers.

One of the activities I shared with him was my cooperation in the series of presentations about peace. Here is what he himself says about it.

You will find several articles about what he does in the IF Blog.

I bow to Jolly and his life work.

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Friday March 26th, 2010

Great Orators and Their Stories – #6 Rupert Lay

RupertLayRupert Lay was my mentor during many years of my life. As I see it, he was the most important of all my teachers. The first seminar of his I attended was in the spring of 1983, around the time of year we are now again in. For me, it was a totally new experience. Meeting him meant quite a fundamental change to my life.

When I was younger, my attitude towards seminars for personality promotion – as they were still called at the time – was a rather sceptical one. In 1980, I was lucky enough to attend a great seminar with Herr Uhlenbrock of TPM (Training Psychologisches Management) when I was working for Softlab. That took care of my scepticism.

In 1983, I attended a seminar by Rupert Lay. At the time, he was a Jesuit priest and the nestor for “Ethics and Management”. For us, he was discovered by Peter Schnupp, one of the Softlab founders. By chance, there was a vacancy for me in one of Rupert Lay’s seminars. Rupert was a celebrity! His seminars were extremely expensive and yet always full.

His three-day seminar was scheduled to take place at a rather less-than-friendly hotel near Frankfurt airport. The seminar was to start early in the afternoon. Having arrived with time to spare, I sat down in front of the hotel, enjoyed the spring sunshine and watched the people come and go. Also, I wondered what was to come next.

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Roland Dürre
Monday April 27th, 2009

Great Orators and their Stories – #5 Klaus-Jürgen Grün

I first met  Klaus-Jürgen Grün in the  Ronneburger Kreis, which was formed around the seminars held by   Rupert Lay.

For me, Klaus-Jürgen is the one philosopher when we are talking about freedom or enlightenment. It comes as no surprise that he is an exceptionately gifted orator. After all, he was taught by  Augustinus Heinrich Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck for several years.

Dr. Grün describes the meaning and value of enlightenment like no other. Listening to him brings you a little closer to understanding man’s secret. You start understanding that it is necessary to accept both people’s shortcomings and individual greatness.

Nobody ever made the difference between anxiety and fear as clear to me as Klaus-Jürgen. During his “truly fearless” lectures, you experience “heaven and hell”, discover deep human abysses and fascinating heights. Nevertheless, his lectures are full of positive thinking.

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In this series, I write about orators who made a huge impression on me. Here is how I met Augustinus Heinrich Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck.
Augustinus Henckel von Donnersmarck remains unforgettable. The first time I met him was at a meeting for ICL (International Computer Limited) customers. As opposed to Augustinus Heinrich Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck, ICL features rather poorly in the German Wikipedia version. Meant as a “thank you” gesture for customers and partners, we were invited to the “Hessischer Hof” in Wiesbaden. I owed my invitation to our very enjoyable and successful co-operation. In those days, ICL was a huge success in England, while it was more of a backbencher in Germany. That must have been at least ten years ago.

Among other items, ICL also sold two Unix lines, one Intel line and one Risc line. Incidentally, the ICL manager in Germany (I think his name was Herr Olschewski ?) was proud of having a very reliable customer basis and of never having written “red tape”. Regardless, ICL was taken over by Fujitsu shortly afterwards and then merged with FSC – which also will soon cease to exist. Interestingly, at one time (much earlier), there had also been an attempt at founding a CII (Compagnie Internationale Informatique), as far as I know also with BULL and ICL, but that was soon liquidated. Instead, Siemens and Nixdorf merged into SNI, which later led to FSC.
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Roland Dürre
Tuesday January 27th, 2009

Great Orators and their Stories – #3 Hans-Strack Zimmermann

I met Hans Strack-Zimmermann often and in many roles. I know him as a real pioneer of information technology. At CERN, he set the corner stone for the world-wide-web, he made Unix a standard at Siemens, and he promoted the IXOS archive system. Many of his ideas and activities supported the creation of Brainloop. In terms of “scrum terminology”, he was always the “product owner”, the visionary type who promoted themes.

Like all those I am writing a tribute to in this series, Hans is, of course, not “just” a “professional” orator. He is director of his own enterprise with technological knowledge and always prepared to take up a new challenge. Although he has been at the top, he always remained down-to-earth. He never adapted “in the interest of less friction” and always stood up for what he believed. He fought with passion for his projects. As an orator, Hans has special charisma. His audience – no matter if customers or employees – was downright swept away. What had to be said was said and he did not believe in beating around the bush. For him, there is no difference between talking in German and talking in English.

I was privileged in having had the chance to witness him in various situations: as project manager at Siemens, as orator on IT events at SAVE (that is the community of Siemens users), GUUG (German Unix User Group) and GI (Gesellschaft für Informatik) and, of course, as co-founder and managing director of IXOS. Or at the Uniforum in the USA.

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Roland Dürre
Sunday January 11th, 2009

Great Orators and their Stories – #2 Hans-Jörg Bullinger

Today, in my “Hommage to great orators” I bow before Dr. Hans-Jörg Bullinger.

Hans-Jörg Bullinger is from Baden-Württemberg and was born in Stuttgart. I have had the pleasure of listening to his talks several times. A few years ago, InterFace had organised a beautiful day out for all employees to the lake Ammersee, including ferry trip and beer garden. Hans-Jörg Bullinger’s talk before dinner was the highlight of the day.

The last time I heard him was at the OCÉ in Poing, when Ernst Spaett (long-time boss of the sector high-power pressure systems at Siemens AG, later OCÉ) was sent into retirement. Ernst Spaett is now my mentor and dear friend.

Hans-Jörg Bullinger is the embodiment of “middle-class way of thinking” combined with “common sense”. What he says and advises is very simple, logical and always gives confidence. His criticism is constructive and often he also offers a simple solution to a problem.

His story about “the machine that did not look very nice” is one I particularly remember. Even if I am sure that I cannot really do justice to how Hans-Jörg Bullinger himself would have told it (the representation of the pleasant southern German sound of the speech, along with a grain of Swabian is not easy for me), I will now relate it.

In this story, Hans-Jörg Bullinger tells about his visit to a middle-class enterprise for which times are not easy at the moment, even though it offers technically excellent products. The owner of the machine production firm shows him the new machine and proudly presents the improvements of the new model: reduced running energy, simplified control, extended intervals between maintenances, fewer rejects, and much more. The machine itself looks like a hideous monster. Dr. Bullinger asks if it might not be beautified by a few metal sheets or a nice spraying. Upon which the ignorant owner replies that the machine would not be any more efficient if that were done. So much the more is he surprised to hear the answer by Professor Bullinger: “But maybe it would sell better!”.

I like this story because it is an example for sectional blindness. “Honourable engineers”, in particular, want to deliver a job well done, and that is absolutely adorable. But once in a while they forget that the bride should also be hung with ornaments. Because the eye makes the appetite, not only when you dine.


(tranlated by Evelyn Gemkow)

Roland Dürre
Monday January 5th, 2009

Great Orators and their Stories – #1 Alain Neumann

Great Orators and their Stories – #1 Alain Neumann

I have had the desire to pay my respects to some great minds who have perfected the art of oratory for a long time. That is why I will now start a series “Great Orators and their Stories” in the IF blog. In it I will write about people who have given me a lot through their talks. I will tell stories they told which had a particular impact on me. Let me start with Alain Naumann, simply because his first name starts with an “A” (lets try and do it in alphabetical order).

Alain Neumann is an advisor to enterprises in Switzerland. I first heard him at a meeting organized by HP. Then I invited him to talk at an InterFace Blue Friday. Although this was a few years ago, we were already in the age of power-point and beamers. Alain, however, made a point of using the overhead projector. He had numerous slides, and after having put them on the overhead, he threw them into the waste. (After his presentation, he picked them out of the rubbish and carefully sorted them  ).

At the orator’s desk, Alain Neumann is a whirlwind. His talks are entertaining. He likes to contradict prevailing prejudices and plays “the nail on the chair of those who feel they are infallible”. Listening to him makes you thoughtful and confident. He believes in “empowering people” and preaches team work. One of his stories stuck in my memory. It is the “tale of the nut chocolate”.

Switzerland is famous for its chocolate. For example, a medium-sized enterprise in Switzerland produced a brand with whole nuts in it. It was not easy, because when the nuts got cracked, they often broke. What is more, splinters from the shell often found their way into individual chocolate bars. Besides being detrimental for the taste, this was also a legal problem. People might sue for damaged dental outfit, because, after all, hazelnut shells are rather hard.

That is why a small team of engineers intensely but in vain sought a method for the nut cracker to both keep the nuts themselves intact and prevent any shell splinters from reaching the chocolate material with absolute certainty. The attempt seemed hopeless until an apprentice commented (in the most beautiful Swiss-German dialect, which I cannot copy): “You would have to slide into the little nut like a little worm and open it from the inside”. When the engineers heard this, they hit on the right idea. They developed a method of drilling “little holes” and explode the shell from the inside by pressurized air. That was the breakthrough. The discard rate of accidentally split nuts dwindled to zero and ever since that day the Swiss nut chocolate has become splinter-free!

Alain Neumanns calls himself a human and day labourer.

I plan to continue this series. In the future, I want to write about the “great orators” Hans-Jörg Bullinger, Hans Strack-Zimmermann, Augustinus Henckel von Donnersmark, Klaus-Jürgen Grün, Rupert Lay, Simon Grand. And perhaps others will be added to the list.


(translated by Evelyn Gemkow)

Today, you will read a wonderful metaphor for entrepreneurs on:

“How Creative Innovation Can Work“

I heard this story many years ago from Alain Neumann. I will retell it and modify it a little in the process.

You see a happy entrepreneur, because we did it.

Switzerland is famous for its chocolate. When I was a child, I was always craving very ordinary chocolate. My favourite was “full-milk”. But even when I was young, “just chocolate” was no longer a hit. Because the market of the economic miracle country wanted more.

In order to expand, the chocolate industry enterprises had to offer more. For instance chocolate with hazelnuts.

The story I am going to tell plays in Switzerland. A medium-sized enterprise produced chocolate with hazelnuts as their specialty. It was not easy, because the cracking of the nuts was sometimes a problem. More often than not, the nuts would break into many small pieces and, even worse, there would occasionally be splinters of nutshells in the bar of chocolate.

This was not only detrimental for the degree to which eaters enjoyed it, but also less than fortunate for the enterprise, because the nutshell can be rather hard and thus might well damage the occasional tooth when you bite into it. And selling the chocolate with whole hazelnuts was not at all an option, because when you cracked the nuts, they would regularly break into several parts, which made the pickings of whole nuts rather small.

Consequently, they gave a team of engineers the task of having to revolutionize the process of nut cracking. The nuts were to remain totally undamaged. Besides, it had to be avoided at all costs that nutshell splinters ever got into the chocolate. And, of course, the entire process had to be automated and done by unmanned machines.

The engineers worked day and night, but found no solution. It seemed to be a hopeless assignment and the engineers became more and more frustrated with each passing day.

The enterprise also had a porter. He came from what we would today call the “uneducated”, but everybody rather liked him. He felt pity for the engineers who left the building late at night and became more and more frustrated every day.

The porter really felt bad for these engineers. Consequently, he promised to think about the problem and later offer a solution. Of course, the reaction of the engineers was a pitying smile, rather than hope.

One morning, after he had worked the night shift, the porter told the engineers that he had now found the solution. In best Swizz-German (which I cannot pronounce), he said:

“You want to find your way into the nut like a worm and then open it from the inside“.

Initially, when the engineers heard this, they just laughed. But then one of them had the right idea. And then the engineers drilled a small hole into the nut-shell in order to implode the nut from the inside with pressure.

That was the breakthrough!

From then on, the number of split nuts dwindled to practically zero. Since that day, you can buy nut chocolate with whole nuts and with a guarantee that it contains no splinters!

It is quite possible that hazelnuts are still cracked in exactly the same way today. At least, this is how Alain Neumann told it ten years ago. That was the time when Alain was allocated a place of honour in my private collection of people I know in the “Hall of Fame” for great orators. Decades ago, he already made people understand in his unique way what it means to found an enterprise and mange it well. By just giving them enthusiasm and then let them do the job.

Whenever I find creative innovations in my own environment, I add a new story. On the other hand, as of now, I have never found a successful innovation that was created in the laboratory.

(Translated by EG)

For more articles in my entrepreneur’s diary, click here: Drehscheibe!

Roland Dürre
Thursday November 24th, 2016

“Digital Change” – About my Presentation – #nostructure !

Leider habe ich keine Bilder von Vortrag in Nürnberg und Rosenheim.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the presentations in Nuremberg and Rosenheim.

I always enjoy giving presentations. Most of them are for cherished friends or good causes. I try not to express truths, instead questioning those concepts I myself believe in.

Because I feel the “truth” inside myself that there is no such thing as an absolute truth.

It is a rather difficult topic. Just think of the sentence:

“Tolerance is the most precious commodity. Intolerance can only be tolerated against intolerance. But that is where it has to happen!“

A little pondering will quickly make you understand what the real problem is.
These days, I mostly speak about topics such as “leadership”, “entrepreneurship” and “digitalization”. I always learn most when I give a presentation. The same was true the day before yesterday in Kolbermoor, where I had been invited by Tech-Division, which is an enterprise that gave me a very positive feeling. The Tech-Division’s offices in Kolbermoor are at the “Alte Spinnerei“, which is a beautiful loft building.

This time, the title of my presentation on digital transformation was: 
What is often forgotten when people talk digitalization!

Since it is my desire to have something of interest for all the audience, I always bring something like a “critical potpourri”. I mostly work with metaphors. I try not to force the presentation into a structure. Consequently, as a matter of principle, I do not use slides (if the lecture hall is huge, I use emotional background images).
I only use the important standards of communication (such as the rule of three and the rule of five, Syllogisms  and logic arguments) within my “potpourri”. I used to give many “sales presentations”. The intention was to manipulate or at least to convince the audience of something.

Here is how I did it:

In my presentations, I introduced a (plausible) theory X (which was easily understandable for the audience) and then developed a logical chain: from X follows A, from A follows B … and from Y follows Z. This is how I deduced a message Z from X, wanting to show that from a commonly accepted assumption X a conclusion Z can be justified. Z was my message. I wanted to make the audience believe in Z. Those days are over.

In general, I like working with analogies during my presentations. For instance, I describe a principle or a mechanism that basically has nothing to do with the actual topic, yet it contains a message that can be applied to other principles or scenarios. And, depending on how I see the current moment, I also relate the analogy – or let the audience find it.

Here is an example:

Whenever I talk digitalization, I also talk infra structure. Infra structure is an exciting topic. We live in the Anthropozene (Anthropozän), that is the era of humans. Humans have changed the world, either considerably or totally. They created new infra structure and technologies. In fact, it started with the “humanoids” who were our forefathers.

Initially, a very long time ago, came the upright posture, the (resulting?) development of tools, the ability to think and speak (10,000 years ago?), followed by “written language” (5,000 years ago?). These innovations probably triggered the “information society”, or else they were at least what made it possible.

Building infra structure in mobility was probably started with the development of paths that facilitated “walking on foot”. When the wheel was invented (3,000 years before Christ?), the first forms of “streets” had to be built. Water (the ocean, rivers, lakes,…) has always played an important role when it came to mobility. A network of channels was used. Then came the postal service coach, the railway and mechanized and motorized individual traffic. The traffic network was extended to an unbelievable dimension.

However, not only humans and products must be mobile. The stories of the people also needed mobility. This is why the job of the courier was invented. Letters were sent, transmission by cable or radio communication, networks such as the telefax, telegram or telephone circuits were invented. Today, it is the internet. The first requirement for all these things was electricity. Consequently, they made electricity networks for transporting energy.…

What I like talking about in my presentations on “digitalization” is the road network, which – as I see it – is the biggest infra structure of all times. You can probably get to almost any inhabited place on this planet by car. You will find parking places, streets, gas stations and repair shops for cars everywhere – even on small islands. There is probably nobody who does not get products that have not at some point been transported by a truck or car.

There is probably no other sector where rules and regulations tell us how individual mobility has to look and what we have to do and what characteristics such a vehicle must have. There is a minimum age and you need a driver’s licence if you want to move inside this infra structure with a motorized vehicle.

For me, the question (naturally) is: what benefit did all this bring us if we look at the results. 1,400 million fatalities per year world-wide. Besides no end of health hazards through noise and air pollution. But also indirectly because we no longer exercise and consequently become obese. A landscape that is all concrete. And much more. Isn’t it quite obvious that one might fear something must have gone wrong? And that perhaps you should learn from history?

In my presentations, I take this huge infra structure and the way there as a metaphor for technologic development (after all, digitalization is only a part of technology). Now, being the orator, I have to decide:

Should I explicitly say it? After all, I am talking about “digitalization”. Consequently, everyone in the audience might start thinking about how the road network metaphor might be applied to the “digital network” and the internet.

I might choose to motivate people verbally towards thinking and I might give some impulses.

On the other hand, I might want to expand on facts that will motivate people to think by themselves. That the traffic network reaches almost every human. However, the internet currently only reaches 2 trillion out of 8 trillion persons. Facebook can allegedly reach 1 trillion persons. I say “allegedly” because some sources say the number is “only” 500 billion.

I could ask people what it means to be a “digital” person and internet user. Is it enough to use email and chat, have a Facebook account and occasionally use Wikipedia (which, basically, is just another thesaurus)? Or do I have to actively participate in order to be a digital person? Just think of the not-so-old buzzword Web2.0 that is now forgotten (humans becoming “part-givers”, instead of being “participants“)!?

This is how I intentionally try to give very “chaotic” and “confusing” presentations. I enjoy every single nice feedback. Especially if it is later modified by phrases such as “… but, unfortunately, it did not seem to be very clearly structured… “ or ”… even if occasionally I could not find a real thread… “

Because then I succeeded in doing what I wanted to do!
(Translated by EG)

Here is another piece of advice: if you want to learn something about digitalization – meaning how it works – then I recommend you read Fefe’s Blog, That is the “BILD-Zeitung for Nerds“ (joke!) You can learn under many aspects.

Roland Dürre
Saturday March 28th, 2015

Leadership Wisdom …

Gelegentlich bin ich auch als Speaker unterwegs - hier auf IF-Weihnachtsfeier 2014

Once in a while, I also give presentations – here at the IF 2014 Christmas Party.

During quite a few years of my life, I liked listening to the famous and successful “Motivation Speakers”. I was fascinated with how they can describe and explain the world in such easy terms. And, above all, how convincingly they show their audience the way towards success.

Their way of speaking and their charisma enraptured me. The top experts I am referring to are people who literally seem to be surrounded by a special aura. They elude a natural charisma that puts a spell on many persons, me included.

As the years went by, I made the personal acquaintance of some of these people. I saw how easy it is for them to formulate their vision. But I also saw that it is not always quite as easy for them to actually live up to their own standards. Once in a while, it did not look quite as glamorous behind the scenes as it had been looking on the podium. Because it is mostly easier to “teach something” well than to actually do it well yourself.

A short time ago, I met the key-note speaker Carsten Rath. Or, to be more precise: a friend pointed me in his direction. Because he had heard an interview Carsten Rath had given the Bayerischen Rundfunk. And he was so fascinated that he immediately sent it to me.

I do not know Carsten Rath personally, but the BR podcast is definitely worth listening to:

My friend believes this interview with Carsten Rath made it clear to him how a good managers differs from a poor manager. And that he only wanted to work in companies where work-life and work as such is practiced as Carsten Rath demands.

In fact, in this interview, Carsten Rath actually introduces many theses on leadership and management which no rational manager and person can seriously dispute. And his reasoning is both very competent and smooth. He also supports his theories with many small stories. In fact, it is convincing as a whole.

If I were asked to summarize what he says, it would read as follows:

  • “The customer always has to be the focus of what we think and how we act.”
  • “You cannot do a good job without being totally enthusiastic about it.”
  • “Every job is about everything, so you always have to give all your best.”

And then he cites his (created by him) “4Ms” as an abbreviation for:

  • “Man muss Menschen mögen!” (You Need to Like Humans)

The “4MS” are also something I can only approve of. The same is true for his postulating “the central virtue of a leader must be truthfulness”. That fits. Except that I call it “transparency, openness and authenticity”. But Carsten Rath also says that

  • ”consolidation lies in repetition” and “true top achievement usually means a lot of pain”..

Well, I have an easier term for the former: “Practice Makes Perfect”.

I am not quite so sure about the latter. I understand the statement because Mister Rath originated in the hotel business. Except that, for me, for instance “nursing homes for the elderly” are also some kind of hotel. And this is an area where I would think it is more important that all persons in the company consciously bear and share the responsibility for all those elderly persons. I would always wish to reduce the “pain” to what is absolutely necessary.

In order to give more weight to my ideas, I looked for another example from the circle of famous “Management Speakers”. During the Nuremberg 2013 DOAG Conference, I heard the great Peter Kreuz . Later, I made his personal acquaintance at the speaker’s table (well, I am sometimes at it myself ).

His presentation was perfect. On an inter-human level, we understood each other perfectly. “You” (women and men) were left with no alternative but to nod approval. All was great, all was right. He sounded convincing in all points. The only and very reserved criticism I heard was that, perhaps, the show was a little too perfect. Apparently, he and his wife are the perfect couple and enterprise.

These aforementioned speakers and several more can be said to play in a “different league”. Except, although I certainly would never begrudge them their high fees and the usually nice and long applause, I seem to have learned over the years that good leadership is a little more than that. And I do not even have the means to make this understood.

Well, let me try:

It is the many daily small things that might make a “leader” out of a person. There is the mostly constructive brain, an upright mind-set, practiced humanity and the ability to help towards your own and other person’s life getting a chance to flourish in many dimensions. Whenever you manage to make the people you meet look greater, instead of smaller, you might perhaps be a good “leader”. One indicator that you are a good leader might be that people you met feel better after having met you than before and they are also aware of it.

And all those beautiful theses that our top speakers brilliantly present could essentially just be the basic requirements that go without saying for a good enterprise climate. But there is no question that they, too, are terribly important.

But still, even if a “leader” has both the knowledge and competence to do all these things, even if he means ever so well in his job and does everything right, there will occasionally be instances when something goes wrong. Simply because the “leader” is also a human being like everybody else. Be it because he himself made a mistake or because once in a while strange developments make things happen that you simply could not mend – and perhaps you could not have foreseen them, either. Because we are all only human.

And that is something not even the most expensive and best management seminars and presentations will protect you from.

(Translated by EG)