On Episode 111 of The Edge of Innovation, we’re continuing our conversation with inventor Falk Wolsky! This time we’re talking about why it’s important to stay curious as an innovator! 


Stay Curious About Everything
What Makes You Unique is Curiosity
Innogate Tech
You Need To Have An API Strategy
Falk Asks About Paul’s Inventions
Is Automation a Good Thing?
Making People Useful Again
Training People Who Are Willing To Learn
How Do You Motivate People To Change?
Conclusion: “Stay Curious”
More Episodes
Show Notes

What Sets Inventors Apart From Other People? – Part 2 of Our Conversation With Falk Wolsky


Paul: We’re talking with Falk Wolsky. He’s the Chief Innovation Officer with Innogate Tech.

Is there anything specific you would like to talk about in this interview that would be helpful, you think, that I haven’t touched on yet?

Falk: This is a hard question.

Paul: I know. I’m sorry.

Stay Curious About Everything

Falk: Yes, yes. I will not sell my product. That is not fair. We talked about innovation, but I’m very interesting, hearing about how maybe we all will see supernova very soon. Scientists are very interested in it because in the nebula of Orion, there is one star, and he lose in the brightness, right? And in these days, in these weeks. And people are very curious because it’s maybe a sign that he will have supernovas. First time we actually can watch supernova.

Why I tell you this? Because you come back to this curiosity. Now I might say, “Why I should care? It’s not economically relevant. It’s not relevant for my calendar. It’s not relevant for my relationship and so on and so on.” But somehow, we are all part of this very big game. Right? We are the very small bubble, in a very small blue planet, flying around the very small star, in a very small galaxy and surrounding us. Might say this is a wonderful to trigger to look up and say, “Wow. Cool. Amazing.” This wow-cool-amazing is a wonderful world.” Let’s come back and have a wonderful world for Michael Ende, one of my favorite authors as a child. He was writing “The Neverending Story.” He said if you’re getting adult but don’t stay a child, you’re not a human.

Paul: Yeah, that’s true.

Falk: But what it is, is the eyes of children, not everywhere to see wonders but to stay curious. The one is you cannot see any time. Again, you have seen the buck. It’s still a buck. Wonderful. And after a thousand times, it’s still a buck. You learned it. Nevertheless, there is so much interesting things and to keep curious and stay curious.

What Makes You Unique is Curiosity

Falk: When you ask what is to say, what is to talk about, this is the key. Staying curious. In our world, it’s the definition. Maybe even to connect it to Masamune Shirow’s “Ghost in the Shell.” It is one of the best and most accurate future prediction, some of any book I read. I read Asimov. I read Stanislav Lem and a lot of Strugatski. And so on and so on. Everyone has this vision how the future could be. But this Masamune Shirow was most accurate for fifty years. I’ll watch this because we get a good impression of what will be.

And there’s one scene – everything is very philosophical in this, and very military. It’s crazy all the time. It’s a shooting. It’s the special force of military for the government and so on. But there’s a scene with robots. They’re getting their own artificial intelligence, and they must curious. And that curiosity makes them special. And there’s one sentence in this time in which we live now, when everybody can have access to information as much as he need, because we all have internet. What makes you unique is curiosity. Because only then you will go and search and find and will build your own uniqueness. That’s a wonderful reward.

Paul: Yes, I think you’re right. I think, as I’ve been taking notes here, I underlined curiosity twice. I think that’s the definitive differentiator for an innovator. It’s somebody that’s really curious and how are we going to solve this in a different way.

So, one of the things that we will include in our show notes is some of the links that Falk has alluded to and also some of the things that he reads and frequents, both on the supernova and different things that he’s interested in as well as to his company, which… Well, tell us a little bit about that. You’re headquartered where? And what do you actually do on a daily basis?

Innogate Tech

Falk: The very first is it might be interesting. I live in two different countries, mostly likely in the hotels, because I work in Germany, and I work in Ukraine.

Paul: Okay.

Falk: Ukraine because I met my wonderful wife last year, and she was actually from Ukraine. I was, you will laugh about, curious to fly there and get in contact because she was reading, as one of the last people even I know — and then women — she was reading Strugatski. I said, “Not true. I need to get to know to you.” I come to Ukraine and we get in touch, and we fall in love, and we married. So, Ukraine. This is where Innogate reside.

Innogate is mainly focused to business applications. Roughly speaking about all this AP. And doing this for very big companies in the energy sector. In Ukraine you have DTEK for example. It’s a very big one. And what I dislike, they have, it seems to me still over 80% of charcoal to power. This is coal to power. Right? So, this is not really friendly. And in Ukraine, nobody cares. Right? They are not developed like, for example, Germany, when they look really close to the detail. How will we make electricity?

But they had a very good program and energy tariff in Ukraine to support solar and wind power. And this was a huge push also for this DTEK. And the baseline is still there’s people working there already. Roughly 300,000 people so far, I remember. That’s a lot. And they somehow need to work. And a workplace software all the time, contracted to customers, contracted to suppliers, management, field service — all this stuff.

And this kind of software Innogate makes. And, DTEK has a digitalization, master plan because they also understand when we do all of the paper forms. It will be a little bit slow. We cannot grow internationally. We cannot grow. We cannot save cost. And to digitalize, processes, is a huge thing.

Actually it starts very boring with the first question. Do you have everywhere Wi-Fi?

They say, “Huh? Yes, yes, we have. No, you mean office.”

“I don’t mean office. I mean do you have everywhere Wi-Fi? In the production sites, in the markets, at the stations where you go around?”

And then, ah-ha, okay, if you have everywhere Wi-Fi, people can work in a close network, and you have applications. Everyone has a smartphone that they need to access. That’s the first step.

You Need To Have An API Strategy

Falk: Then the question, do you have an API strategy? API is the possibility to offer you services for first to yourself. You will develop faster when you have a clear API strategy, and you can show others that you have these services. It was a very nice example. I worked once in Germany for E.ON, also energy producer. And they had to — you cannot believe. They had 800 internal — no. 800 external APIs and,1500 internal. It’s pretty lot. They said, “We have somehow we have 18 APIs only to get zip codes.”

Paul: Wow.

Falk: But these APIs, it’s a very good point when you can first invite developers, companies, and external service partners to go with you, together, and create a value. If you have smart meters, it’s very nice but how to connect and how to invite all the companies to invent something on that infrastructure, go with you? You need to have an API.

This, for example, I did also here in Germany, in GK where I worked for retail. This is one of the biggest companies producing software for retail. Whenever you go, for example, there’s retailers like Lidl, Walmart, we step by step. Also, go for American Market. And so, we go step by step then to produce software for the point of sale. One of the biggest, because this is a quite complex process. And it’s the same. I came to company and say, very brave actually, I said, “You don’t have an API strategy. You have to one. You have to have one.” We have now a very good API, and people, step by step, can integrate with us.

Falk: And that’s a very first point when you come in the sense of innovation, first make the basics. Right? Because you cannot invent something if you cannot connect to a company. API first, the right structure to scale. That is the point when you’ll come up, and then you can build step by step. I said, “Okay, we have to payment, we have to integrate with different software windows. We have to do this and this and that, and create products and so on.” And then teams, step by step, develop it.

Paul: Fascinating.

Falk Asks About Paul’s Inventions

Falk: Oh, okay. Now I have a question too. What about you? We talked a lot about me. Pretty boring. What about you? Who are you? And what you did? You’re also an inventor, I heard.

Paul: Yeah, I’m multidiscipline, done a lot of manufacturing stuff, a lot of technology stuff and when technology, computers come out, I saw a way to do a lot of the things that you would do in the manufacturing sector without getting your hands dirty. It’s like a manufacturing suite without – there’s no oil or grease. You don’t have to get dirt under your fingernails. I’ve done a lot of that over years, and I love technology. You know, the same stuff that you’ve done. We’re taking software, writing it. I’ve written software. Did a startup that was e-forensics in the email sector.

Falk: Yeah, okay. Very interesting.

Paul: Ended up selling that. I’ve done publishing software, publishing automation software for financial publishing and things like that. And the company I’m currently doing is sort of more a labor of love, but it’s an IT services firm, and I had an IT services firm in — let me think… I sold it in 2000, after about ten years. I really enjoyed that company. So, I started another one, IT consulting. And I’m sort of building that up right now. And that’s going very well and I’m enjoying it.

Falk: You’re so very early to potential in this software to automate everything. Right?

Paul: Yes.

Falk: This is the footprint I see when you told this.

Paul: Very much so. Very much so. There was an Apple campaign with Kinkos, very old, called Wheels for the Mind. And it really symbolized, or encapsulated, what you could do with technology. It was the ability to automate and give people more efficiency and basically amplify the number of people you had.

Is Automation a Good Thing?

Falk: Let me ask you something about it.

Paul: Yeah.

Falk: With my wife, we will build a foundation. And the foundation should take care about what we call the youthless society. I’m pretty sure you have heard already about it. Youthless society is the people, they get out-automated of their jobs. We have this discussion a lot, and I mean we have now a huge quote of people in the university already, and their jobs they later do still don’t exist.

And on the other hand, we have a huge amount of people, they will just out-automate, I say. As I see two directions as a very first — the truckers and the lawyers. The problem on them is they’re not high-skilled. If the trucks — especially the trucks are super easy in exchange to cars on the street in the city, but on the highway, it’s easier. And the big companies are very near to getting full-automated solutions of that in the range of five years. This is millions of people. Millions.

What they will do? They go to elderly care? I don’t believe so. They have, most of the time, no second job. And this is what you call the youthless society, and they will get more and more by this automation. So, one of the philosophical questions goes exactly this: If a human understands he can automate something, he will do. But it’s not always a good thing. How do you see this?

Making People Useful Again

Paul: Well, first of all, I mean, what we’re doing, we’re in the IT space. And the unemployment rate in the US is under 4%, under 3%. You can’t hire anybody. And what we we’re doing is we’re taking people that are unemployable or not skilled in technology and training them. If we can take a person who has good personality skills, we can add to them systems, automation, that can help them deliver technology solutions to a certain level.

I think that the new economy can be bent to the will of making people useful again. I think there’s a tremendous need for making them useful. And I think it’s going to be interesting because there’s going to be people who are not willing to want to learn something new. That’s the hardest thing to overcome, is how do you motivate somebody who has invested the large majority of their life into something that is now obsolete. And how do you get over that? I think that’s something that we need to come to terms with.

But I think it’s happened. There’s been industries. You know, you look at here in America, there’s been many industries that have come and gone that have been overseas moved to Asia or different countries. And, now many of those people, I don’t think were properly mentored or properly brought along, if you will. They weren’t really stewarded well. They were sort of allowed to just exist or have a basic subsistence life. But I think they also allowed themselves to have that basic subsistence life. And I think our society, in some ways encouraged that through welfare and things like that.

Training People Who Are Willing To Learn

Paul: There’s a big argument there is, well, we should take care of these people. But if you didn’t have it, and they were forced to go out and get a job, then they’d learn the new technologies, and so what I’m trying to do is, I want to take people and offer them free training and see if they’re interested in technology jobs and offer them… and hire people that have a good personality. Because that’s the one thing I can’t train is, if you have a bad personality, I can’t do anything about that. But I can teach you how to talk to a person and say, “Oh, what’s your issue? Oh, okay. Well, let me get the right person for you.” I can do all sorts of levels at that.

And so I think that, in some ways, we have a lot of green fields coming up. You know, that there’s a lot of opportunity in ways that people would have never imagined they could have worked twenty years ago or ten years ago. But it’s what we do with that. I think technology enables that, just like it enables all these other things. These people who are unwilling to change, I don’t think we just dismiss them and say, “Well, tough for you.” I think we need to, as a society, figure out how to shepherd them along so that they feel okay to…

In some ways, it’s sort of like “Well, you made the wrong bet. You went into the wrong career that isn’t going to be a long-lasting career, that you’re not going to be able to retire into.” I mean, even doctors nowadays, who knows what’s going to happen with them in America with the healthcare changes. If you were a doctor, you were set for life. Well, now it may turn into no. You have a standard wage, and that’s the way it is. It’s an interesting change.

So, I agree that we need to be good stewards of technology. And I do think that there is a tremendous potential for it to do exactly what you’re saying, that, for all these people to just be lost and not to be able to do that. I think what will happen is people will realize a little bit too late. I think we’re early realizing this. That they will realize that “Oh my gosh, we need to make these people useful to the technology economy because that’s the only way it’s going to scale.” So that’s my two cents.

Falk: Very good one. Very good one. I liked your answer a lot. Thank you very much. Some points I do agree. Some points are on my radar, let’s say two. Some are completely new.

How Do You Motivate People To Change?

Falk: What I take out of it is, what is not new is education, education, education. What is new to me, motivation. The big point is to motivate the guys who don’t want to learn new things. That is interesting. That is really a point when you say, “Okay, wow! How I do motivate them to change with the time?” And that is maybe the bigger one instead of education. Education you have all the tools in the moment. They’re electronic, classic. Right? You can do it. You can measure it afterward. But to motivate them, it’s a very good question. I will chew on it, I would say.

Paul: That’s the work. That’s the real work is to motivate them. So it’s an emotional thing is to…

Falk: True. That’s very good. This is something for my wife. She’s very good in all emotional stuff. She’s a marketing officer. She created a lot of brands. She’s very famous in Ukraine. [She has her own community, I might say. When she, step by step, going for international, and she is my emotional brain. So, I am the technical brain, and we are absolutely… Some people say we, as a couple, are complete. Might be. Might be.

Paul: I understand. I know exactly what you mean.

Conclusion: “Stay Curious”

Paul: Well excellent. We’ve been talking with Falk Wolsky. He’s the chief innovation officer with Innogate Tech, and you’re headquartered in — what would you say? Both Ukraine and…

Falk: Kiev. The one is in Kiev, Ukraine, and Germany, Berlin. Let’s say Berlin.

Paul: Okay. And we’ve had a great talk about innovation, and there’ll be a lot of links in the show notes to both his company and some of the things we’ve talked about. Any final words you’d like to say?

Falk: If I say now “stay curious,” it’s too, too simple.

Paul: Well. That’s a good one to say. Stay curious. I like that.

Falk: Stay curious. The final thought is that I’m very thankful for the talk. I enjoyed it a lot.

Paul: Excellent.

Falk: It was very good questions. Thank you also for that. And I wish all of us, especially in this times we have, in 2020 good year. Let’s come safe through to the year. This is concerning most of us in the moment, I believe.

And stay curious is the key. Right? Because, especially we see our future is more and more speed up, uncertain, flexible, changing. Everything is not like it was yesterday already. We will only survive if we are flexible and curious.

Paul: Yes, absolutely. Good words. Well, thank you very much.

Falk: Thank you very much too. It was a pleasure to talk to you.

Paul: It was a pleasure to talk to you too.

More Episodes:

This is Part 3 of 3 our interview with Falk Wolsky. If you missed Parts 1 & 2, you can listen to them here:

Part 1: Exploring Innovation & Inventing With Falk Wolsky
Part 2: What Sets Inventors Apart From Other People?

Show Notes: