In this interview, we talk to Human Nagafi (, Founder and CEO of 1789 Innovations (, a small boutique consultancy which focuses on corporate innovation. 1789 Innovations is based in a co-working place in Frankfurt. During the interview Joe and Human talk about the process of corporate innovations. They talk about exemplary innovations and mistakes made in the understanding of the innovation process. If you want to know why they had so much fun in the interview and learn more, tune in!



00:05 Host: Welcome to, your podcast and YouTube blog. Covering the German startup scene with news, interviews and live events.

00:20 Joe: Hello and welcome everybody. This is Joe from here for you in WeWork Goetheplatz, Frankfurt. It’s pretty much in a city center and I’m here because today I do have something with innovation for you guys and I got Human here.

00:37 Human: Thank you. Very well. How are you?

00:40 Joe: Doing great. Can you tell our viewers just a little bit about you, where you come from? And then we get a little bit into what you’re actually doing.

00:5o Human: Yeah. Actually, it’s a complicated question, to be honest. But to make it short, my background is basically I have a master’s in economy and finance. I was working six years for a large consultancy, an auto company. And after six years I decided to take the leap and start something on my own basically with my team together. And this is why we are sitting here together.

01:17 Joe: And we’re right now here in the office. The people in the background they’re not hired, they actually work for you here in the company?

01:24 Human: They are hired to work in the company.

01:27 Joe; They did not just hire for the video. And your company is beyond seventeen eighty-nine innovation. What does it mean and what do you actually do here?

01:38 Human: Yes. So, seventeen eighty-nine, it was an idea of how we could work in a more innovative and a more open way it could look like. We had this idea ofl eaving our previous company, because we were engaging very strongly with the topic of innovations. Actually, we were obsessed with it. And at one point we were like, why are those companies very innovative and why others are not? And they used to be innovative so why are they not today?

02:14 Joe: And why they stopped innovating.

02:16 Human: Yeah, why did they stop? And as I said, we were very obsessed with it. And in two thousand and thirteen, fourteen and obviously fifteen, there was this big hype of startups and everything around innovation. We were part of that hype actually, so we were really digging deep down too. And then we started to think about the stuff. I mean technology is obviously something you can get very passionate about, it’s very interesting.

02:43 Joe: And it’s not only playing with the iPod?

02:45 Human: No, no. Not only playing with the iPod. Let’s say the bigger topics like everything you’ve got around I.O.T., you’ve got everything around blockchain are big data and AI. And those stuff are fascinating obviously. But at one point, you ask yourself all those companies are doing stuff with small or big, but there are those startups were very successful. At one point we realized yeah technology is fascinating, but it is not the technology at the end it is being innovative with it. And innovation itself, what does that mean for us?

03:22 Joe: Just an example for our viewers. For example, everything that was used for the iPod or iPhone were known before, it was just the combination of it.

03:31 Human: Right. That actually bringing together of it that made it a special product. For those who had the chance to read Lean Startup, there is a very interesting explanation on Steve Jobs with the iPod. And it is the explanation of the hypothesis you have to validate which are not validated. It’s called, I think, the antidote hypothesis, the hypothesis that you don’t validate. And the idea is that, thinking about the iPod, you’ve got a hypothesis which is already validated. I mean think about the Walkman from Sony. They validated the assumption that people are willing to take a device with them on the go. So, when Steve Jobs was doing the iPod he already knew He didn’t need to validate this hypothesis, its already validated.

04:25 Joe: I may add, since we do have very young clientele from time to time. Walkman is something like the iPod, but it used to work with cassettes, right?

04:35 Human: Whatever cassettes are. So, when he was doing the iPod he already knew that. But he also knew another thing which was, are people willing to download music? I mean basically, Napster validated that on a different topic.

04:52 Joe: Illegal basis?

04:54 Human: But, he knew that people were willing to download music and listen to it on the go. The one he did not validate was actually are they willing to pay for it on his system? and this is where he started to think about, how can I get the users to opt into using the service? He focused more on the user experience and the design and everything. I think this is where we started to understand that technology is interesting. And as you said, this is a reconfiguration of stuff which are already out there. And maybe there are some stuff which I don’t know, but it is the venture of finding those assumptions and finding the validation of those hypothesis. And this is where we started to engage with innovation. But at one point, we realized this itself is also something that is not enough for being innovative in today’s digital era.

05:50 Joe: And when we talked before, you talked about having a fancy innovation center or having a corporate startup also not being enough.

06:01 Human: Yes. My key point is that corporates understood that it is not technology, it is innovation. And they understood that innovation is figuring stuff out, validating those hypotheses. So, they started in the two thousand and fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, starting with all those innovation centers and with those corporate startup programs, to figure out how can we adopt those processes. They started on scale doing design thinking. They started to implement and adopt on Lean Startup methodology. They started to work on scrum and agile, everything you know today.

06:42 Joe: All the buzzwords.

06:44 Human: All the amazing buzzwords. They were figuring out, we need that, and we need a group who’s doing that. And they started to build like islands disconnected from the core operation, disconnected from the core business. Thinking about it, they had the freedom to do it and sometimes they even spawn spun off the corporate startups. Like if they do it on a green field it’s going to be amazing.

07:12 Joe: It’s like Expedia for example. It used to be the travel department of a company, right? Like a spun off a corporate startup.

07:22 Human: Right. I mean there’re amazing examples that worked, but most of the time it worked because they were stand-alone organizations, or they could survive stand-alone. But when we were engaging with those companies in our previous consulting jobs, we realized that it’s not working. It’s not working because first of all, the old organizations, I mean the larger organization or whatever the legacy or the incumbent, or how you want to call it, they have assets, and those assets are important. It does make sense to reconfigure some stuff over there. On the other side, we were creating those new ventures and organizations and startups and whatever, which they should start from the Greenfield. And they were built like away from the corporations, away from the history of the organization and that was kind of challenging.

08:19 Joe: Yeah. Before we started the interview, we talked about a lot of German corporates who are located all over Germany. Plaister innovation center, for example, in Berlin.

8:29 Human: I mean think about it, you are a traditional manufacturer in whatever area or industry, like automotive.

08:38 Joe: Like machine building, the traditional German industry.

08:41 Human: And then you start to say look we need to be innovative, but we cannot be it here where we are doing all of our operations, all of our values and we do it in Berlin. I mean everybody’s in Berlin, right? So, they amazing loft, put sofas and some beanie bags, some white boards, bring some creative people into the team.

09:07 Joe: They have to have some big beards, they have to be from Berlin, and that’s everything account.

09:12 Human: Yeah, a hoody would be nice and sneakers also.

09:14 Joe: I got the sneakers but…

09:16 Human: I’ve got both hoody and sneakers no worries.

09:18 Joe: You’re awesome great.

yes, they need to have that and then they need to disrupt. But we’re forgetting that this stuff which is created in Berlin, which maybe is important for the company, at one point they need to be on return and invest for the large organization and it needs to be brought back.

09:20 Human: But yes, they need to have that and then they need to disrupt. But we’re forgetting that this stuff which is created in Berlin, which maybe is important for the company, at one point they need to be on return and invest for the large organization and it needs to be brought back. Because we shouldn’t forget those companies, successful companies, maybe over one hundred years there is a reason why they’re successful. And neglecting that and saying that we need to do everything new, it’s kind of I would say, me personally, it’s like I’m losing my mind on that. I don’t understand because I have something amazing. Now, let’s think about how we can bring that into a more digitized and more technology driven context and environment. And this is what we saw, that those investments or those quick wins which were telling the organizations if you do this and that they are going to come, they just did not come. And this is the reason why we exist. At one point we realized it was not about the technology maybe it was not even about the core innovation as it is about the people who are doing this. And this is why seventeen eighty-nine constitutes itself. It was about creating structures in organizations. For organizations who see that their environment is changing rapidly and in order to survive in a more complex world, they need to be complex itself. And this is what we do, we help organizations create those complex structures to cope with the complexity.

10:56 Joe: And how do your guys actually do it? You’ve seen all of that and how do you actually help your clients? And you won’t get away with just throwing out five bus words. It’s forbidden to say block chain, disruption, AI, what else is out there?

11:15 Human: Agile, I loved that word.

11:17 Joe: And what else? Lean. No use of those passwords. Just explain.

11:24 Human: I can use design thinking so that’s something

11:27 Joe: Aww why didn’t you tell me?

11:30 Human: So yeah. It is an easy question. The answer is quite complex. I mean, you have to think about it, we as a very small consultancy, compared to the large ones with hundreds and thousands of people, how can we survive.

11:46 Joe: Like big four companies do half more than one hundred sometimes two hundred thousand employees, so it’s a little bit different. When I look around here maybe twenty will fit in here?

12:00 Human: Fourteen

12:02 Joe: Fourteen? Yeah well, I lived in China and there are more people on less space.

12:06 Human: Yeah. I mean, it is obviously a challenge especially what we do, because we did not focus on solely doing innovation and helping people with workshops and other stuff. Our focus is very strongly on how strategy is done, how strategy is designed in a digital world where uncertainty is a new norm, more or less. We are very intensively researching in terms of the right organizational models for the time we have today. Yeah, the answer is quite complex. How do we engage with our clients? And try to make it a bit easier. Our main focus is not to deliver solutions to our clients in terms of, this is what you need to do. It is not just about to give them knowledge, as it is to empower them that they create a learning organization.

13:02 Joe: So, you don’t have a blue print and you just rip them apart and reattach them to blue print?

13:09 Human: No. I mean, we’re working with design patterns. We’re trying to understand the fundamentals, we’re trying to understand the context they are in, we try to understand where the organization is in itself. What is their identity? What is their heritage? And obviously, what is their purpose? And then, we try to understand, how do they want to work together? And from that, we can create an understanding, but at the end, everything we do comes from the organization. I mean, our focus is to empower the organization, empower the teams, the individuals. At the end, what you need today in a context where everything is changing drastically where actually, I don’t know. And the truth is, alter leadership does not know everything. You need to create a learning organization. An organization which can bridge adaptability. The need for change in a changing environment as well as reliability. When you change, when you create value, you have to deliver this to your customers and clients. So, those organizations are in need today. Your question was how do we do it? We start small, first of all, every project we do is based on two persons. We don’t have a junior senior thing. We’re looking for entrepreneurs and people who understand what we do. And we believe in the powering model, which basically means that, even though one person can do one thing, it is always better that two people do it. It’s better for the clients, it’s better for the service, it’s better for the project, and for us, it’s better for the bottom line, even though there are two people on it. And we start small, we start to identify the early adopters and innovators within the organization, and then we start to build small groups. Small groups within the organization who want to pursue this change. And then we empower them, we help them. We train them on the methodologies, we train them on the strategies and the tactics, and then we start going out and start to engage the larger organization. One pitch situation I had with a client was like, I know all that stuff and I tell my people to do that, but they’re not good at it. And I was like yes you are sending your people out to the field without training them on the weapons, on the stuff, on the tools and everything that they need to be successful. And then you blame them for not being successful. First, they need to understand what they’re doing, and this is what we do.

16:10 Joe: The training?

16:11 Human: Yeah, it is training. It is first of all is training and then it’s applying. Applying in a small area and then scaling it to the large organization.

16:23 Joe: That is very interesting. I do believe that there are many people out there who would like to talk with you about it. And everybody who wants to learn more, go down here in the show notes you’ll find the link to your organization and your personal Linked In profile.

16:40 Human: Amazing

16:41 Joe: Thank you very much.

16: 42 Human: Thank you. Have a nice one.

16:44 Joe: You too.

16:50 Host: That’s all folks. Find more news, streams, events at Remember, sharing is caring.