Welcome to the Culture Club


FIEGE had once again invited friends to join it for its FAST & FORWARD event held in Berlin on Thursday. The goal of this year’s networking event is to bring companies and start-ups together, engage in discussions, and take along fresh stimuli for one’s teams and organisations. An expectation which once again was more than fulfilled.

250 attendees from ten different countries, inspirational speakers from long-established companies and brand-new start-ups – they were all on fire for the same topic: Culture. The fifth instalment of the FAST & FORWARD event held in Berlin was more than just a lively exchange – it was also a resounding success. The future is human – welcome to the Culture Club was the motto headlining the event. And by the time the afternoon came, just about everyone felt a part of this adage: “The day was a lot of fun and showed us that culture and working on it is a fundamental topic for all organisations! The discussions were particularly inspiring due to the colourful mix of participants from different sectors, types of companies and countries. That is what FAST & FORWARD is all about. We take away a lot of new ideas and approaches, but also a lot of food for thought" said Jens Fiege, Co-CEO of the FIEGE Group.”, Jens Fiege, Co-CEO of the FIEGE Group said as his concluding remarks which he drew together with Sarah Schimmelpfennig, Director Marketing & Communications.

Begrüßung durch Felix Fiege und Kati Wilmsmeier

Welcomed the guests at the "Von Greifswald": Felix Fiege, Co-CEO of the FIEGE Group, and Kati Wilmsmeier, Director Marketing & Communications at FIEGE.

But let’s start from the beginning: After a laid-back get-together, Felix Fiege started the official programme jointly with Kati Wilmsmeier, Director Marketing & Communications. “Is culture the right topic for our current times? Does it fit well into the context while we are talking about a war in Europe and dealing with an energy crisis?”, the FIEGE Co-CEO asked and also offered an answer: “Most definitely, the answer to this is a clear yes. Good culture forms the basis for the challenges that lie ahead of us. For this reason, we must not put off this subject. On the contrary: We need to advance and encourage it.” The dynamics and the change in the market, after all, will only continue to increase, so Felix Fiege. “How do we as an enterprise keep up with this, or, in an ideal scenario, even stay a step ahead? The goal is to find the right answers to this.”

It is not only about producing sound, but about making music together

In search of these answers, guests could expect an exciting programme in the special ambiance of Von Greifswald in Berlin. To begin with, Dr. Raphael von Hoensbroech, Conductor and Chief Executive of Konzerthaus Dortmund, held the keynote. What at first sight may have seemed like a rather unusual choice as keynote speaker turned out to be the perfect match. What does an orchestra have in common with corporate culture? Spoiler alert: quite a lot. Just like a conductor who guides the musicians in tutti to harmonise their instruments, good team leadership in the end thrives especially on uniting all employees with their many different talents, values, and opinions to achieve a common goal.

Keynote-Speaker Dr. Raphael von Hoensbroech

What does corporate culture have to do with orchestras? Quite a lot, as Dr Raphael von Hoensbroech impressively explained in his keynote.

“To think in multi-dimensional spheres, to listen ahead, pay attention, create trust, and give constructive feedback. All of this without putting oneself into the spotlight”, is how Hoensbroech described his recipe for success. He adds: “You can only win as a team. If you wish to bring about change, you will need to create a culture in which change is possible. It is vital that we as an orchestra, that is, as a team, not only play the right notes, but create music together”, Hoensbroech said, proving not only with these words that he had hit just the right notes with his presentation.

Wind of Change

This was then followed by the keynote presentations. Bianca Lammers of the Culture Change 4.0 team at OTTO Group started off. Her heading: “Here to stay!” The family business OTTO set out on a change process seven years ago into which the Division Manager granted exciting insights: “We realised that the best strategy is no use to us if nothing reaches a personal level.” But where do you begin if you want to change behaviour that has been acquired over decades? “Change is usually perceived as unpleasant. It was important to us that we signal how serious we are about our message, and that we remain open about the outcome and will take all our colleagues along with us on this journey”, Lammers stated. Rolling out this programme within the organisation was surely quite the challenge, “sort of two steps forward and three steps back”. But the effort proved worthwhile: “The initial scepticism has vanished. The new processes are taking effect and every day is a learning day.”

After that, Jens Diekmann, Chief Business Development Officer at GALERIA gave us his account of a similar journey. “Our image was a little outdated. On top of this, we recorded a certain decline in shopper frequency at our stores. We had to choose a new path”, Dieckman explained. No sooner said than done. A new brand identity, new offers for employees and most and for all, a new communication style. “Why do we go to work? What motivates us – even, and especially, in times of crises?” Based on these questions, GALERIA is currently working out how they want to bring this subject into the organisation.

Blick ins Publikum

The varied presentations by the speakers ensured that the fun was not neglected.

We take a stance

After the lunch break which quite simply was too short for the invitees to satisfy their desire to catch up on the discussions, Laura Bornmann, Managing Director Startup-Teens & GenZ Talents, rang in the afternoon. With her presentation, she made a case for a culture of intrapreneurships. “If there is no new mindset, no radical change that makes us more attractive as an employer, we will not be able to cope with the challenges that the future holds for us”, the 31-year-old said. After all, today’s top talent expect their job to fit in with their life, and not the other way around, “so that they may unfold their full potential and bring their professional career in line with their personal life”.

Dr. Reza Moussavian, Vice President People Products at Zalando, seamlessly tied in his keynote presentation with this. “We want to be the first point of contact for our customers when it comes to fashion. For this, we need to take a customer centric approach in everything that we do. We need a culture that is open to innovation. We also need to zoom in on the subject of purpose”, is how he outlined the philosophy behind the online platform. What does this mean for employees? “Do not follow rules. Communicate transparently and frankly. Voice even unpleasant truths. Also, in-house meetings are a PowerPoint-free zone”, Moussavian added.

The question of How

Then, the discussions took off. Couch Talks were on the agenda. How can we personalise learning offers that meet the individual needs of employees? How do we ensure transparent communication offers within the organisation that actually reach every single employee? How do we reach the goals that we set ourselves and make sure that everyone is on board? David Middelbeck, founder and Managing Director Edyoucated, Benedikt Weitz, founder and CEO of Loxonet, as well as Carolin Obernolte, Management Consultant Objektives & Key Results (OKR) Transformation, debated with the presenter, Katharina Krentz, founder of Connecting Humans and Corporate HR Transformation at Bosch. Martin Rademaker, Executive Board member of the FIEGE Group, was by her side as co-presenter. All the while, guests were given the opportunity to contribute their own ideas. Even the four keynote speakers returned at the end once again on stage to take questions from the floor.

Moderatorin Katharina Krentz mit FIEGE Vorstandsmitglied und Co-Moderator Martin Rademaker

Moderator Katharina Krentz received support from co-host Martin Rademaker, board member of the FIEGE Group.

Hands-on sessions

To wrap things up, participants could choose from four different hands-on sessions. The respective topics were Purpose, Culture, Leadership and People. They were each introduced by two presenters with the help of two controversial theses that could not have been more opposing: Is purpose a necessary compass in constantly changing market environments, or merely a means to an end? Must leadership nowadays be participatory, appreciative, and personalised, or should it remain centralised?

And now was the moment when things became interactive at the latest. On a numerical chart from one to ten, participants were to rate their opinion of the two opposites. Neither of the four sessions produced a completely clear picture – however, there was the odd change in perspective.



The final wrap-up that again took place at the plenum was followed by a change of location this year. For the evening event, guests were invited to take in Berlin’s night air. At the hip Bricks-Club on Gendarmenmarkt, FIEGE & FRIENDS came together for dinner and let the evening come to an end. After all, even a good celebration can indeed spark culture.

FAST & FORWARD 2022 Aftermovie