Corporate Practice

Creative Leadership at Bertelsmann

By Dan Lentell

Did you notice there’s a new, executive version of the hand game Rock-Paper-Scissors doing the rounds at office Christmas parties? Business As Usual beats Creativity , and Creativity beats Disruption , while Disruption beats Business As Usual. It is hardly surprising that this particular variant of an old favourite should be proving so popular in the VUCA world of Uber, PayPal, Amazon, and Google. No sector is entirely without disruption, but few have been as heavily impacted, or for as long, as traditional media. Technology has transformed the way we consume print and broadcast material, making the business landscape all but unrecognizable compared with even half a generation ago. What does this mean for the biggest fish in the pond, for the established players who must match agility to strength, experience with innovation, and all at a pace that would have Johannes Gutenberg wishing he’d stuck to polishing mirrors? Bertelsmann is a multinational corporation based in Gütersloh, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Founded as a publishing house by Carl Bertelsmann in 1835, in the second half of the 20th century the group grew from a medium-sized enterprise into a major conglomerate, offering not only books but also television, radio, music, magazines, as well as educational and business services. Today Bertelsmann is one of the world’s largest mass media companies whose major divisions include the RTL Group, Penguin Random House, Gruner + Jahr, BMG, Arvato, Bertelsmann Printing Group, Bertelsmann Education Group and Bertelsmann Investments. In 2016 Bertelsmann revenues stood at € 16.950 billion while 116,434 are employed by the group worldwide. Of these around 500 work for central HQ at Gütersloh where Bertelsmann University, the focus of the company’s internal executive educational as well as vocational learning provision, is located. Bertelsmann University is designed to drive organizational capability: It offers innovative state-of-the-art learning solutions and formats that systematically promote and develop Bertelsmann competencies and skills worldwide, across divisions and hierarchies. Bertelsmann University is divided into four campuses that foster individual learning and development, strengthen core business functions and their networks, develop executive leadership skills, and support the Group’s strategic transformation process. The Program and Its Participants “We have to become even more proactive and creative when it comes to innovation, and integrate it into our business in a value-adding way. And for this we need skills. Already in the midterm, the skills we’re talking about will be very different from what they are today or tomorrow. Companies and their employees need to be more responsive and flexible. In short, Bertelsmann is striving to establish sustainable change in the company’s learning culture.” Steven Moran (Group EVP & Chief Learning Officer, Bertelsmann)

46 | Developing Leaders Issue 28: 2018

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