- IMD Business School
IMD Impact Stories · Technology Management

How listening to others helped create solutions for future challenges

Paul Gemperle brought a team to TransformTECH primarily to get involved in the conversation around technology. He and his teammates found that hearing others' challenges served as a trigger to analyze how they would deal with similar situations
September 2018

More and more businesses are realizing that to stay ahead, they need to have a deep understanding of technology and what the future holds in terms of digital innovations. TransformTECH is a program that helps participants use cutting-edge technology such as artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics or the Internet of Things (IoT) to transform their business.

Paul Gemperle runs EVS, an SME he founded more than a decade ago. Originally specializing in promoting and selling automatic coffee and vending machines, the company is now involved in outsourcing, international supply and support activities. It is based in French-speaking Switzerland near IMD.

When he brought a team to attend the program, he simply wanted them to be involved in discussions and start thinking about technology challenges before they occur, rather than to resolve a specific challenge.

“None of the AI, IoT or robotics topics discussed were something we needed exactly, but that was the strength of the program, as it forced us to open our minds and think, well, what else is there that we should be looking at? The topics discussed were triggers, and this made us more creative during the program,” says Paul.

TransformTECH was also an excuse for him to bring together a diverse team, although none who attended the program with him worked directly for EVS, but were associates and other partners who worked with the company. Paul did this deliberately, as he specifically wanted people who were not wed to the way things had been done at EVS in the past.

While on the four-day program, the entrepreneur said its tools and methods gave the team a common language. “We couldn’t just sit there and listen, so we were extremely active and challenged ourselves. For example, when we were told to prototype, we prototyped!” Paul recalls.

Hearing other participants’ challenges was also an eye-opener for the team. “This was extremely useful even if, or perhaps especially if, you’d never had that problem. Suddenly you were forced to say, ‘what if that happened to us?’ and extrapolate from that person’s problem and solution to our business,” explains Paul.

During the team’s debrief session, all members found that the program was extremely rewarding and informative. Its networking sessions also proved useful and Paul was able to connect with existing and potential partners to discuss future collaboration.

Paul’s main take-away and advice to other teams? He says that to get the most out of this program it is best to bring a diverse, multi-functional team whose members have different ways of seeing the world. “You want creative people, but also people who are pragmatic, with their feet on the ground,” adds Paul.

The businessman has previously attended IMD’s Breakthrough Program for Senior Executives in 2015, which for him was a career-defining moment.