OUT ON THE
Transformation is a process, says Dominik Ueblacker. “You can’t just flip a switch and it’s done.” The 37-year-old is senior manager in the “Experience Consulting Team” at PwC Germany – in a sense, the product innovation department of the industry giant, which otherwise only employs auditors, tax advisors and management consultants. Sustainability is the axis everything revolves around for the 850 designers and technologists working for the PwC Experience Consulting Teams worldwide. Two dozen team members are based in Munich.
To do so, the team has expanded, for example by bringing in a circular economy expert who has founded her own start-up dedicated to plastic avoidance. In addition to concepts and digital processes, the team also creates practical products. It has its own prototyping lab in the basement. “We are hands on and also enjoy getting physical ideas off the ground.”
„We don’t just want to design new products and services, but use them to improve the state of our planet.”
Change is the hot topic. Mobility, Health, and Retail are the industry’s focus areas. The team is working with a German car manufacturer on new distribution models, which amounts to a cultural shift for the company and its dealers. What can they offer if customers buy directly online? What services, what opportunities come from that? All touchpoints are being digitized.
How that feels is currently being tested by the Experience Consulting Team “We do interviews, build prototypes, and if that works well, we put large development teams on it.”There’s still a lot of research to be done first. For one project, they are testing highway-related services, which involves talking directly to users on the road. They conducted dozens of interviews with truck drivers in Polish, Romanian and Ukrainian. They wanted to understand what is going on out there, and learned that for drivers, expensive restroom fees and unhealthy food at rest stops are serious challenges. A coincidental find? Quite the opposite, says Ueblacker. “We always go to those who are affected and ask: Who exactly is our target group, and what challenges do they have? And what are they looking for in the middle of change?”
More than the creative playground of a large management consultancy: This is where ideas take shape.
In 2020, the innovation and design agency experienced first hand what change entails. The former IXDS, according to its own statement, “Germany’s leading innovation studio”, was suddenly a candidate for takeover. IXDS was absorbed by the management consultancy PwC. A major culture shock for many creatives. “Just imagine: a design agency joining a company with more than 13,000 employees, that wasn’t exactly a walk in the park,” Dominik Ueblacker recalls. Some left because they felt the transformation wasn’t for them. Others wanted to make a change anyway. Processes, routines, workflows – everything was adjusted. “Today, almost three years later, we have finally made it,” says Ueblacker, “as our own team known as the Experience Consulting.” The employees at the Munich-based Experience Center, one of 40 worldwide, want to move some big wheels. And the corporate giant PwC serves as a “door opener to riveting topics and projects,” explains Ueblacker: “PwC is right in the heart of the action. Especially seniors are intrigued by this combination of agency environment and consultants.”
The goal is: to identify entrenched hinking and disrupt old habits.
Whether it’s the traffic turnaround, public transport or health: Germany is changing. Hence the field research. His team doesn’t just want to look at one person, but at the entire ecosystem, as the political sciencist explains. The goal is to identify entrenched thinking and disrupt old habits. It begins with the studio itself: “I have started doing the morning team call while I’m out walking. Just talking on the phone while I’m taking care of my mental health.” Ueblacker, who lives in the country with his two dogs, took a sixmonth sabbatical in 2022. In this regard, he quotes the American economist and organizational expert Warren Bennis:
„There are two ways to be creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish.“
Ueblacker felt like he was the second guy his entire professional life and decided to “recharge and reboot.” Quite an appropriate image for the big transformation we are currently undergoing.
The interview with Dominik Ueblacker first appeared in mcbw mag 2023.