Innovation requires the correct mixture

What makes a strong project team is a variety of skills, perspectives and talents. This is Harald Sighart’s point of view, as Director of Research and Development at W&H. When choosing members for creating a team, he ensures that colleagues with different levels of training and varying specialisms work together. This not only brings different disciplines together, but also encourages the kind of networked thinking needed to find customer-centred solutions. In the following interview, Harald Sighart explains what makes his project teams so special.

Mr Sighart, you took on the role of Director of Research & Development at W&H on 1 July 2018. How did you like it so far in comparison to your previous employers and what future approaches will you be taking at W&H?

Sighart: W&H is developing from a supplier of products to a provider of solutions. In order to carry out this transformation, we rely on interdisciplinary collaboration within our project teams. After all, new solutions require new ways of networked thinking. In this regard, W&H is set to stride ahead in the field of innovation. We make sure that our project teams comprise people with different types and levels of training. This way, team members are able to learn from each other and build up their individual strengths.

Sighart with his leadership team
Harald Sighart with his leadership team – Harald Gebetsroither (L) and Karlheinz Eder (R), both managers in Research & Development – in their daily development work.

Which training fields are of interest in?

Sighart: As a solution provider in dentistry, we are very interested in the areas of Built-in Solutions, connectivity and mechatronics. Every day we are required to integrate different disciplines, such as mechanics, electronics and software into intelligent products. For these projects, we need employees with a passion for networked thinking, who can think outside the box and keep the customer’s solution in mind. For us, interdisciplinary working is a basic requirement for successful collaboration.

Do you prefer particular levels of training?

Sighart: No, we value variety. Qualified specialists with professional experience are just as much in demand at W&H as young professionals. It is common practice for us to have employees with apprenticeship, qualifications and degrees of higher technical institutes, and technical colleges, working together in Research & Development. With our younger employees, we want to prepare ourselves for the future and support them in their professional and personal development. But it is also important to us that our experienced colleagues are able to transfer their knowledge to the next generation.

Are your colleagues allowed to make mistakes?

Sighart: For me, a healthy ‘mistake culture’ is part of everyday life. As long as we learn from our mistakes, every mistake gives us the opportunity to learn something new, which we can use to make our products even more innovative. With the introduction of the more flexible approach within product innovation, we are now able to rectify deviations very quickly and improve our understanding of problems. Therefore, it is important that our employees are open and honest with each other within the project and work together at all times to try to find the best solution.

It’s very special experience for me, that again and again each employee develops on a personal level as the project progresses. We purposefully use agile methods, which encourage our employees take an independent approach to product development. I assess the teams according to team performance – I do not evaluate the contribution of each individual.

Fegg and Sighart
Markus Fegg, MTD, Head of Human Resources, and Harald Sighart discuss the skills profiles of the future.

You use the slogan "The passion of a start-up – the innovation of W&H". What does that mean for you personally and for your potential employees?

Sighart: Because the world of work is changing and the younger generation prefers to take a much less prescriptive approach to tasks, we have to offer people the space and freedom to come up with innovative solutions. New approaches such as our flexible development create added value for the innovation process. Our success is clear to see in our countless W&H patents, awards such as the Austrian State Prize for Innovation 2018 or simply the diversity of our products.

Many thanks for such an interesting chat, Mr Sighart.

About Harald Sighart:

After successful graduating from HTBLuVA Leonding, Austria, with specializing in EDP and organization, Harald Sighart began his professional career as a software developer in the field of sawmill automation. His studies in business informatics, which he began alongside his career, led him to spend three exciting years in Hagenberg at the Research Institute of the University of Linz, Austria. In 1998, Harald Sighart took the opportunity to transfer to a software company in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. There he spent a few years working on challenging projects as an advisor in the field of data management. His passion for software architecture and his experience with databases took him back to Salzburg. This period of his career was particularly enriched by his intercultural collaboration with colleagues in Japan and the USA. With the move to an international manufacturer of communication systems, after several years of pure software development, Harald Sighart returned to embedded software development. In 2017, his interest was aroused by a challenge at W&H, and he began his journey as a member of the leadership team for Research & Development. In July of this year, Harald Sighart assumed the role of Director of Research & Development.