Continuous Adaption as a Strategy for the 21st Century - An interview with Thorben Sertler

The need for strategies to be agile and adapt to market volatility is stronger than ever before. The topic of continuous adaption is getting more important.

January 3, 2023
November 7, 2023
Tina Ruseva

When it comes to agile strategy, Thorben Sertler is an expert. And the need for strategies to be agile and adapt to market volatility is stronger than ever before. Thorben has extensive experience in helping businesses make the shift to help them succeed in an ever-changing world. But he’s more than just a business and strategy expert. He’s also a talented musician and a whiskey aficionado. We sat down with him ahead of his webinar with us to get to know him better and give you a sneak peek into what you can expect from our learning session with him.

Tell us about yourself

I’m Thorben, currently living in Düsseldorf and working as a Consultant for Strategy and Innovation at the award-winning boutique consultancy venture.idea. During my career, I’ve worked for multinational companies such as L’Oréal, Bosch, and Alpro / Danone gaining in-depth practical experience from various industries. Extended stays abroad in England and Sweden complemented my experience and allowed me to meet interesting people with fresh perspectives.

At venture.idea (amongst other topics) I’m focussing on researching organizational agility and how corporate strategy can become more agile. Or more in general: how companies must be rethought today, to prepare for the future. In combining theoretical insights with the practical experience from multiple projects, we build on a solid foundation for a holistic and proven consulting approach we offer to our clients.

On the more private side, I spent a lot of time producing music. Currently, my colleague Lucas Sauberschwarz and I work together as a singer-songwriter duo with the goal to record an album later this year. Furthermore, I’m a huge aficionado when it comes to whiskeys, that’s why I’m always keen to increase the stock of my collection with some fine bottles.

Who has been the most influential person in your career?

Narrowing down one single most influential person in my career is difficult, since every career step was accompanied by different people who had an influence on me.

However, when I first started my apprenticeship in marketing communication back in 2011, my boss, who has since tragically passed away, had a great influence on me. He was the one who taught me the absolute basics when it comes to behaving in a business context. Moreover, he also mentored me with private decisions, and he played a major role so I could become who I am today. These personal encounters with people who had an influence on me can be found at every step in my career, and I’m forever thankful for all the inspiration, lessons, and perspectives.

How did you get in contact with Mentessa?

I’ve been in contact with Mentessa for over a year now, and my first contact was with Tina Ruseva, who approached me with the invitation to speak at the Big & Growing conference. From that point on, we continued exchanging, and now I’m glad to be part of the Mentessa Webinar series.

Can you tell us about one of the most meaningful problems you were able to solve for a client?

In order to answer that question, it’s important to describe what a definition of “meaningful” could look like. Otherwise, every problem tends to be meaningful, when you consider the different perspectives you can take.

For me personally, in this context, „ describes solving a problem that helps the company to fulfill its purpose and its reason for existence. Pointing out one particular project, we consulted a German SME whose business model needed to change because of adapted legal regulations. This change was pushing them out of their comfort zone because, throughout most of their business history, they had a comfortable market situation. Now, they needed to adapt and develop new strategic opportunities. In order to get to this point, we consulted them in developing a strategic process for efficient innovation and analyzing their dynamic capabilities for a flexible and agile strategy. Ultimately, they are now able to continue their operations and fulfill their purpose. Hence, we could help them to solve a problem that was meaningful for them.

2023 has just started, so we’d like to know what you expect to see as far as trends in strategic planning is concerned.

Coming from a highly volatile and turbulent 2022, I expect this uncertainty in the business environment to continue in 2023. Securing a company's competitive advantages, and thus its long-term competitiveness and profitable growth, is one of the greatest challenges managers face nowadays. Companies in the 21st century must be able to continuously adapt their business model and their competitive advantages to new changes by means of suitable strategic initiatives. Therefore, it is no surprise that one of the leading management thought leaders Rita McGrath states “strategy, as we know it, is dead“.

Businesses rather need to shift from a static strategic planning process to an agile strategy that allows flexibility in reacting to various upcoming situations. Strategy development must continuously and systematically identify strategic opportunities, develop them iteratively, and validate them efficiently. Depending on the organization, this portfolio can be filled from within the entire company, by strategy and innovation units, or by external partners. An agile control system then allows the derived projects and initiatives to be continuously evaluated, prioritized and resources allocated. In this way, companies can continuously review their strategic orientation and align it with the changing framework conditions in an agile manner.

As a consultancy, we support companies not only with setting up the agile control system but also with methodical support and textual development of an agile strategy with a portfolio of relevant strategic opportunities for sustainable, organizational target achievement.

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