Just got back from a very productive 16 days in Paris. While there, I took a day flight last Monday to Berlin to meet with Léa Steinacker, an amazing, charismatic and brilliant young woman for whom I absolutely fell for the moment I met her.
Léa is German and a graduate of Princeton University, as well as the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. A strong advocate for innovation, digital and technology, Léa is a noted speaker all over the world and this year, made the Forbes 30 under 30 European Edition. Super impressive, right?!
We met on a beautiful sunny day in a cool Vegetarian resto in Berlin and talked about everything from German efficiency, innovation in Europe (which country is taking the lead?), women & diversity in technology as well as entrepreneurship. Basically, the perfect chat for me!
Meet my new BFF Léa Steinacker, and thank you Amber Mac for the connect!
Léa, what do you do and what are some of the current projects you’re working on?
As the Chief Innovation Officer, I work closely with our publisher on innovative strategies and formats. I’m responsible for unearthing and promoting internal potential for idea ideation, infusing the company with outside inspiration, and staying in touch with the developments in other fields. One current project is the conception of a virtual reality space for market-moving journalism, which we developed in collaboration with a technology research partner. Another one is focused on the emergence of audio and voice-driven interfaces in the media landscape.
The publishing world has drastically changed, publications have had to transform digitally to survive. As a Chief Innovation Officer for WirtschaftsWoche, the leading business publication in Germany, what are some strategies you’ve put forward in order to stay relevant in today’s digital world?
As Germany’s biggest business magazine, we are constantly assessing emerging technologies, new business models, as well as our very own company culture. One particular strategy has been to expand our repertoire of live experiences to make journalism even more tangible and accessible.
In your opinion, has digitisation helped you connect/disconnect? Has technology changed the world for the better or for the worse?
Technology in a broad sense has certainly enabled many people to live their lives in a more participatory and inclusive way. But it has also completely altered our daily lives, habits, and power dynamics – such as those between tech companies, users, and the government. Personally, I do appreciate the options and access that the digital world affords me; though nowadays I’d say the real art is being present in the moment, something that technology tends to distract us from.
Artificial intelligence is being used in all sectors, do you think that one day, robots will be able to replace journalists?
Certain tasks, even in the realm of journalism will be taken over and executed efficiently by machines. But it’s a fallacy to think that they could fully replace a human whose job it is to understand and describe the nuances of other humans. Robots cannot replicate the creativity, originality, and observational empathy of a genius journalistic mind.
According to you, where does Germany rank in terms of innovation, technology and your startup ecosystem?
Germans usually excel at accuracy, efficiency, and consistency – which is why we are known for outstanding engineering. But we also tend to be rather risk-averse and terrified of failure, which can stifle innovation. In the digital era, where speed, risk-taking, and a dash of grandiose business vision go far, we have certainly lagged behind. Political and venture capital conditions here have not been ideal for boosting the start-up ecosystem. Also, I wish there would be more of an appreciation of how artificial intelligence will drastically change our lives and how we as Germans could help shape it with a slightly more entrepreneurial spirit.
3 apps that you cannot live without and why?
I could almost certainly survive without all apps. But if I were to choose – “Headspace” helps me stay centered, “Spotify” for all things audio in my life, and “Things” for thoughts and structure.
Can’t get enough of Léa? Me neither! You can follow her on twitter here (she tweets in German & English).