© Deutsche Bahn AG

Learning creativity

Skydeck as powerhouse for innovation

11/2015 - The creative heart of DB Systel beats on the top floor of the Silver Tower Frankfurt – the Skydeck, where innovation is experienced and start-up culture is learned.

Achieving genuine innovation is often easier said than done. Creativity at the touch of a button is a rare gift – flashes of inspiration rarely come exactly when you need them. The ordered routine in everyday office life is not exactly the perfect breeding ground for smart ideas. Nevertheless, the search for that eureka moment does not have to be limited to bath time! Fortunately opportunities for promoting innovative processes have been around for a long time, one example being the Silver Tower where the Skydeck and its crew are located.

At the top of one of the tallest skyscrapers in Germany, the Skydeck is not exactly a realm of creative chaos, but the fact that it is no normal office is immediately apparent. And not just from the spectacular views over Frankfurt Central. Here in the Skydeck, DB Systel has created an open space for creative thinking within the framework of its strategic “Innovation Revolution” initiative. Simple experimentation, instead of daily pressure of work.

New technology meets a culture of innovation

Between all kinds of future technologies, unconventional seating areas and normal workplaces, those in the Skydeck are constantly toying with new ideas: how can new technologies actually be applied to everyday work and how can everyday problems be solved creatively? From the use of virtual reality glasses or data spectacles such as Google Glass for checking tickets to the 3D printing of spare parts directly in the workshop – this is where the grandiose dreams of the future are made accessible and tried out for the workplace.

Stefan Hook, spokesperson for Skydeck, provides an insight into the innovative centre of DB Systel.
Stefan Hook, spokesperson for Skydeck, provides an insight into the innovative centre of DB Systel.
© Deutsche Bahn AG

The Skydeck is currently experimenting on about a dozen ideas from various fields, including an indoor navigation system that enables people to find their way around larger, more complex buildings more easily. Possible applications for drone flights are being studied, as well as digital support for the recognition of objects. Apart from the use of new technologies, however, it is also a matter of developing a new culture of innovation. “We should not constantly be thinking of limits and allowing ourselves to be defeated by the enormity of our plans,” says Stefan Hook, spokesperson for Skydeck. “Instead, we should approach the fundamental problem without prejudice and develop real solutions.”

Innovative revolution

The intelligence gained however does not remain the preserve of the creative directors and the Skydeck. Anyone within the DB Group who gets bogged down when trying to solve a problem will receive effective help from the Skydeck. And that really means any co-worker within Deutsche Bahn. Skydeck is open to everyone who would like to receive consultation or coaching in order to further the development of their idea. At Skydeck they will discover, for example, which creative techniques and methods – from Business Model Canvas to Design Thinking – can be applied. In addition, Skydeck is ideally interconnected within regional and national networks, as well as in event circuits, and can establish contacts with suitable partners, customers, manufacturers or experts. The aim of the Skydeck crew is to put the creative directors in a position where they can implement a prototype or develop a business model.

With this initiative DB Systel not only wants to consolidate its status as a digital innovator, but also convey this message more strongly to the outside world. Skydeck serves as a central hub for such innovative efforts and thus brings something of the spirit of a start-up to the DB Group.

(Note from the editors: In future editions of “digital spirit” we will be giving detailed presentations, not only of methods and technologies, but also of individual ideas and solutions from the Skydeck.)