Discover your real strengths! Teambuilding for Fraunhofer scientists in the AHEAD program

Behind every successful Fraunhofer spin-off is a strong technology - and a strong team of tech experts and personalities, who get things done. Fraunhofer scientists bring much of this with them, and the optimal team set-up and working methods are developed together with experienced coaches. We spoke with Dr. Klaus Dürrbeck, Managing Director of the Munich Leadership Group and head of team development for the AHEAD program.

Klaus, this week a bunch of new Fraunhofer teams are taking off at the AHEAD boot camp. You and your colleagues from Munich Leadership Group will be facilitating the team development. Why is a good team so important for startups, founders and technologist partnerships?

Good technology and organization is like a perfect engine, but the fuel that really drives a young company or an innovation project is the team behind it, the personalities who are willing to forge a new path together and face the challenges that any real innovation brings. When a team works well, the individual personalities not only complement each other perfectly, but often grow beyond themselves. A good team is much more than the addition of individual competencies and skills. We want to ignite this dynamic interplay of strengths and personalities together with the teams. 

How do you go about this and what do the teams and scientists take away from the bootcamp?

The most important thing for a young team and also for us as coaches is absolute clarity about the strengths and weaknesses of each individual personality and the team as a whole. Most scientists and founders know very well what their technology can do and what problems it can solve. That is the measurable, transparent part of their portfolio. The inner nature of the team, the motivation, perceptions and personalities are far too often not addressed upfront, if at all. This is where we come in: In the first two days, teams and members get to know themselves in a new way with our support. They develop a strengths and weaknesses profile for themselves as a personality and for the entire team. Participants experience themselves as team personalities in various scenarios, learn about their own strengths and the special skills of everyone together, and even often find new, valuable skills in themselves and others that advance the joint project. We have a clear focus on strengths and develop teams from that base.


Those were the strengths. How do you deal with weaknesses?

They are at least as important for our analysis, because strengths can only be fully exploited if weaknesses are dealt with professionally. I would like to explain this with a few concrete examples, because it then becomes clear why even recognized "weaknesses" can make a team stronger.

It is not always clear to the bootcamp participants whether they really want to spin off, whether a partnership and co-development with external partners is not the better path for them personally, and what their own role in the future company actually looks like.

In principle, we approach this question with an open mind together with our colleagues from Fraunhofer AHEAD. The best solution is the one that fits the team personalities and is tailored to the team's self-analysis. If a participant determines with our help that his or her role in the future company is not that of CEO, but rather that of a CTO with a focus on technology, then it may be that we have to look for a suitable CEO externally and develop a custom-fit personality profile for this. However, scientists often get to know their own entrepreneurial personality at the bootcamp and lose their shyness about the big word of a spin-off because this option becomes tangible and can be experienced. Some scientists realize for themselves that for them the proven role as a Fraunhofer scientist is also the model for the future and that their know-how would be better exploited through licensing. These different models are all elementary findings and equally valuable because the result moves everyone forward: the scientists with a clear plan for the future, the institutes with an optimal exploitation path, and Fraunhofer with new spin-off and licensing projects for the AHEAD program.

However, I can guarantee all participants that everyone will take away new thinking, new methods and a different basic motivation for new things, regardless of whether they spin off their own company, become a partner in a startup or return to their institute.


The bootcamp is the stress test for the teams and also the entry point into the AHEAD program. How do you follow up with the teams?

The bootcamp is also just the start for team development. With the teams that are subsequently accepted into the AHEAD program by the jury, we continue to work on their respective learning curve as a team during all phases of the AHEAD program. In addition to this individual support, we constantly broaden the focus of the teams, depending on their maturity and the challenge at hand. During the check-ins, i.e. the monthly presence and coaching meetings of the teams, we introduce further modules, currently for example tools for the measurable increase of remote working performance during the forced home office of the AHEAD teams. In years of working with high performance teams, we have developed pragmatic tools and methods that now enable teams in the AHEAD program to make massive leaps forward.

Looking at a longer time horizon, however, we are also learners because the AHEAD program goes further than the known standard in many ways. Together with our colleagues from AHEAD, we have developed a so-called Team Readiness Level, which makes the development levels of a team measurable and visible. With these new methods and the Fraunhofer know-how in the background, we will be able to collect data in the future that will provide us with completely new insights into startup and team development - and with which we also want to break new ground.


Thank you so much for your insights! See you at the bootcamp.