Top 5 Takeaways With Dieter Zetsche

February 8, 2024

We were honored to host Dieter Zetsche for a fireside chat with Applied Intuition’s leadership team. Dieter Zetsche is the former Chairman of the Board of Management at Daimler AG and the former Head of Mercedes-Benz.

Here are five takeaways from the discussion.

1. Software is redefining supplier relationships in the automotive industry.

“When looking at the software-defined vehicle, for many years automakers have struggled with making the patchwork of electronic control units (ECUs) work in concert. As automakers increasingly centralize their electronics architecture onto a few high-performance compute units and utilize cloud-development capabilities, the whole supplier landscape changes dramatically. New software development strategies are required, and automakers need to involve themselves much deeper into the software stack to cope with the new level of complexity that this architecture change brings.”

2. It’s possible to achieve both speed and quality in vehicle software development.

“It’s a misconception that speed and quality contradict each other. We had some painful learning experiences when we pushed for feature development early in the development process before having a stable platform to work on. There is a mind-shift necessary that encourages testing early and often so that quality is built into the product from the beginning.”

3. Smaller companies are more likely to disrupt an industry.

“Just looking at history, 90% of disruption didn’t happen within legacy companies but was brought about by new companies. That’s just the way it’s worked. Disruption is a very tough challenge, and the odds aren’t good that a company will make it. In the end, 90% of a company’s success is tied to culture. Of course, strategy matters, too, but businesses need to create a culture that makes people understand that their own jobs will be redundant and replaced by something new. It’s a very tough thing to do, and companies have to be very bold to do this successfully.”

4. Organization, management, and reliability set the best startups apart.

“First of all, startups must have a strong foundation with a competent skillset and unique value proposition to customers. Secondly, their products need to be reliable. Lastly, they must be competitive as far as the performance is concerned, but ultimately economically as well. Some startups claim they are changing the world, but they are typically not well-organized, well-managed, or reliable. The combination of cutting-edge technology and competencies with a relatively structured and predictable organization is what sets the best startups apart.”

5. Good leadership always starts with the same basics.

“Cultures are different and nations are different, but in the end, the same rules apply. Everywhere you go, you meet humans, and no matter their cultural differences, ultimately, it comes down to the same basics: Respecting the people you work with and trusting them. You will find that people can do ten times more than they believe themselves. They very much appreciate when you’re straightforward and they can rely on your word. If you apply these very basics, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world or what organization you’re a part of—you will go a long way.”