Interview with Norbert Hillinger
Innovation Consultant; Founder @ Berlin Retail Tour; Co-Founder @ GDOS playroomrocks

Norbert advises companies on the use of new technologies and the conception of modern marketing campaigns and speaks at lectures at international congresses and customer events on topics of the future. Berlin Retail Tour brings people to the the most innovative points of experience in the German capital including innovation labs, start-ups, flagship-stores and the latest pop-up stores. GDOS playroomrocks brings the magic back inside the cooperation, where innovation should happen, by providing an innovation space that is as agile as it can be in terms of material and method. By constantly changing the setting employees embrace change and push a company´s innovation culture to it´s limits.
Hi, Norbert! Tell us a little about both of your start-up projects. What markets were you hoping to address with both?
Hi, I'm Norbert. I'd like to tell you a little bit more about the two startups I've founded: one is the Berlin Retail Tour - it's basically a service for retailers, but also consultants who are working with retailers. I invite groups of up to 15 people to spend the day in Berlin with me and to visit the most interesting retailers, shops, pop-up stores, flagship stores but also start ups and hubs here in Berlin to spend a day visiting these companies, getting inspiration for your daily work and for your future initiatives. The other company I founded back in 2006, together with a couple of friends in Vienna, is playroom.rocks. It's basically a company that works not only in innovation consultancy, but we also build innovation spaces - physical spaces within companies. The markets we are aiming for are basically every company - every company that has space that wants to build up an innovation space or lab. We do not only build the spaces, but we also play with our customers - meaning that whenever the space is ready to use, we also provide services and methodologies, like design thinking or futures thinking to our clients. Coming back to the Berlin Retail Tour, it is basically a - the idea is to prolong workshops. When you do a workshop with a client, usually you talk theoretically about the future and about cool stuff that's happening out there, but the moment you go out and you have something tangible, something to experience in the real world it all becomes more,you understand it better. I think that's also the missing link between the two projects.
How do you fit freelance work into your work with both of your start-ups? How has your freelance work influenced both projects?
I think in the end it all comes down to commitment, that's the most important word I would say when you are a freelancer and when you are just about to start a new company, a startup. I really don't make a difference between being a freelancer or a startup founder: when you're fully committed, and when you really believe that your idea is the one idea that needs to be solved -the problem that needs to be solved - I do believe the commitment is most important. So how has my freelance work influenced both projects? Well, I bring in my network whenever I feel that it is it is useful and fruitful and could be of interest, I bring in my network. Of course I'd love to work on problems, I'd love to solve those problems, and especially with the Berlin Retail Tour and playroom.rocks. I saw that there is a need, a customer need, and there is a lot of solution - there are a lot of solutions out there in the market, But I simply didn't have the feeling that those solutions were the best for the market and didn't really solve the problem. So I decided to come up with the Berlin Retail Tour and playroom.rocks. And especially with playroom.rocks, I think we have the use p*** with these tangible feasible rooms we are building and yeah, that really made me commit 100 percent - or even more - to this company, and investing my time in it.
How did you begin to focus on retail, financial services, and entertainment? What drew you to these industries, and what keeps you there?
So I think for half of my life I've been a movie buff - I love cinemas, I love going to the movies, I love watching films, and I studied journalism and organizational communication to become a movie journalist. After a couple of weeks in that job, I found out that it's not the thing I want to do for the rest of my life, so I changed to the dark side and wrote my diploma thesis on Movie Marketing 2.0, or movie marketing and social media. That was back in 2006/7, so quite in the beginning of social media. I published all my findings on my blog, and I received a call from a German trend research company that was interested in my findings and the output of my diploma thesis. So, in exchange for the findings, I offered to work for them, and they agreed. So I started my career at this trend research company and I was responsible for all the entertainment clients, meaning all of a sudden I could work with 20th Century Fox, with Warner, with Paramount Pictures, the Universal Music, with Ubisoft - so with all the big names in the entertainment sector, and I was able to inspire them with the latest trends, with all the latest innovation that was going on worldwide. That was a lot of fun. And my boss asked me whether or not I was also able to - if I wanted to work with other industries and I said yes. So - and all of a sudden - I worked with retailers and financial services providers, which was, I would say, even more interesting, because they all face the same problem of digitalisation. And the last decade was was such a fast-moving change that what was happening, and this is actually what what keeps me in this in these industries because, yeah, it's a constant change and this whole industry - all of these industries - are constantly changing, and I can feel that inspiration is something that sparks conversations there.
What are your top strategies for innovation and creativity? How do you advise your clients?
You know, talking about my job is quite difficult, because many people believe that I'm an early adopter or I am a Nostradamus, being able to predict the future. So personally, I consider myself a, let's say interpreter or a guy who is building bridges between the modern world (so, meaning the startup world and the innovation world) and the corporate world. So companies that want to transform digitally, that want to be innovative, want to learn how to do innovation, be creative - so I'm kind of the intersection between those two worlds, and that is what I love about my job. When it comes to innovation and how you do innovation in the company, I do believe it's always about three questions that you need to answer with "yes": Are you able to innovate? Do you have the right knowledge and the right knowhow in-house, and also the right mindset - meaning are you willing to innovate? And are you, as a manager or as a product owner, able or allowed to innovate? So those are the three questions you need to answer: Are you able, is your company willing to, and are you allowed to innovate? If you can answer those three questions with "yes", when you have good chances to - you're on a good way. When it comes to creativity, I'd say be curious, stay fresh, seek stay curious, try out new things. Try to travel the world, try to talk to people - that's at least how I do it. I travel to Silicon Valley; I try to talk to people from different, with different culture backgrounds; I read a lot; and also I try things. And of course you fail, but with these failures you learn a lot, and that is something that is happening right now in many companies - they kind of implement this trial and error method of -
What are your top strategies for innovation and creativity? How do you advise your clients?
You know, talking about my job is quite difficult, because many people believe that I'm an early adopter or I am a Nostradamus, being able to predict the future. So personally, I consider myself a, let's say interpreter or a guy who is building bridges between the modern world (so, meaning the startup world and the innovation world) and the corporate world. So companies that want to transform digitally, that want to be innovative, want to learn how to do innovation, be creative - so I'm kind of the intersection between those two worlds, and that is what I love about my job. When it comes to innovation and how you do innovation in the company, I do believe it's always about three questions that you need to answer with "yes": Are you able to innovate? Do you have the right knowledge and the right knowhow in-house, and also the right mindset - meaning are you willing to innovate? And are you, as a manager or as a product owner, able or allowed to innovate? So those are the three questions you need to answer: Are you able, is your company willing to, and are you allowed to innovate? If you can answer those three questions with "yes", when you have good chances to - you're on a good way. When it comes to creativity, I'd say be curious, stay fresh, seek stay curious, try out new things. Try to travel the world, try to talk to people - that's at least how I do it. I travel to Silicon Valley; I try to talk to people from different, with different culture backgrounds; I read a lot; and also I try things. And of course you fail, but with these failures you learn a lot, and that is something that is happening right now in many companies - they kind of implement this trial and error method of -