Holger Seier: Humanity has always worked best when it worked as a team.
Chemistry is in anything and everything. It is an ubiquitous science. Each specialty chemical contributes in its own small way for the benefit of today and tomorrow. Holger Seier is the head of innovation marketing and corporate innovation at Evonik, one of the world’s leading specialty chemicals companies.
Evonik’s mission and daily work are driven and shaped by global concerns, like sustainability, diversity, and digitalization. Holger’s forte is finding internal partners and external partners that make the innovation power of the company more visible. Internal partners may include communications teams, investor relations, and HR departments. External cooperation partners, on the other hand, could be universities or national and international associations with which collaborations in research activities can be sparked.
Holger explained, “All these partners act in turn in a variety of ways with the target groups, each of whom has a different motivation or interest in our innovation activities. The general public is often interested in the answer to the question ‘what is getting better,’ whereas the scientific community is interested in the question ‘how did you do that?’ To answer these totally different questions, you need a targeted stakeholder management and the development of hopefully intelligent strategies for innovation.”
Working with specialty chemicals for manufactured products certainly doesn’t come without its hurdles. Being a B2B company, Evonik may not have their own manufactured products like tires, mattresses, medications, or animal feed that could be bought at a corner store, but that doesn’t mean their impact isn’t immense, because it is. Evonik is part and partial with all of those products—and more—because even a small contribution of a specific material can be the transformation factor for a game-changing outcome.
“Making a difference is what specialty chemicals is all about,” Holger noted. “[One] example is a project house in Singapore working on tissue engineering. There, we develop materials and processes to improve the cultivation of tissue in the laboratory, thus enabling new therapies for healing human skin, for example… If you have a look on the entire chemical industries, [such projects] can play a major role in shaping the future as a provider of solutions to the major challenges of our time.”
For a company like Evonik, which has a presence all over the world, the notion of trust in safety and sustainability is key. Their corporate responsibility and long-term business success are what Holger calls “two sides of the same coin.” This is particularly evident in the rising demand for products and services that reflect sound economic, ecological, environmental, and social factors. “Protecting the environment and climate are major global changes of our age, and maintaining the natural basis of life for future generations is part of our corporate responsibility,” he said.
For roughly 10 years, Holger has worked with Evonik in various capacities. He has served as part of the communications, marketing, public relations, and corporate finance departments, and each experience has helped him grow and learn, both on a professional and on a personal level. He believes a company must support personal development at every stage in a person’s career.
“There are three main essential insights I’ve gained. First, development is closely linked to the ability to shape things yourself. Let people do instead of limiting their creativity by setting strict limits. Second, good cooperation is important. Until now, humanity has worked best when it worked as a team. Third, respect individual needs and personal goals, particularly because in large companies like ours, more and more attention is paid to diverse teams. That’s why it’s all the more important to consider the wishes and goals of each individual in order to achieve the greatest possible success.”
Holger strives to put goals and needs at the foreground of his work and to find new solutions with groups, a perspective and philosophy that aligns quite nicely with Sonophilia. Thinking in terms of restrictions only limits our potential; we must have faith in our own ideas and those of others, express our passions and inspire change. Brainstorming “opens new worlds of thought” and ideologies are made visible, thereby broadening our horizons.
“This global group of leaders and individuals from business, science, arts, technology understand creativity and critical thinking as a cornerstone of societal wellbeing. These [Sonophilia] Network meetings use the diversity of people, organizations, and perspectives to generate concepts and ideas that inspire creative action.”
We all have an inherent thread of creativity inside us, and that thread can be weaved into a grand tapestry. According to Holger, creativity is an essential component of innovation culture, which should be the goal of every company. This innovation culture should nurture creative minds and intellectual thinkers, as well as enable, uncover, and explore hidden potential.
“Innovation culture is not a self-explanatory term,” Holger said. “Incremental innovation requires a completely different type of innovation than disruptive innovation does. However, a company can only teach creativity to a limited extent. Therefore, in the future there will be increasing demand for employees who are able to question the status quo, to overcome old patterns of thinking and develop unconventional solutions.”