MING Labs, a digital innovation and venture partner
Berlin, October 27th, 2016
The need for strong leadership is a common thread that transcends most industries. In a competitive and rapidly growing field like user experience design, visionaries are especially crucial. Leaders must be able to stay on top of technology while understanding how to develop their business. MING Labs, a global user experience design and development company, is a prime example of leadership put in action. With locations in Germany, China, United States and Singapore, and hopes of opening a new North American office soon, MING is responsible for high-level clients across the globe, helping them design and execute their businesses for the future.
Guiding the successful team of over 60 people are Matthias Roebel, Co-Founder & CEO, Marc Seefelder, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer, and Sebastian Mueller, COO Asia. While there is much to be said about creative projects the team has worked on, our interview focuses on these three leaders in three separate interviews, forming a MING Labs series that dives deep into the brains of these leaders. Our series begins with Matthias Roebel where he shares his favorite brands and how he became interested in this field, among other things.
Describe your MING Labs in a few adjectives:
Simple, meaningful, different. Speaking of different… Actually, we like to describe MING not as an agency but rather as a digital innovation and venture partner. From the very beginning, we never wanted to become a classical services and agency-only business. We see ourselves as entrepreneurs and want to have real ownership and impact with what we do.
How did you become interested in the industry?
Actually, I have always been fascinated by the potential of digital innovation. I had worked for IBM and Nortel for ten years before founding MING Labs and was lucky to gain deep insight into technology innovation. Combining experience with design-driven innovation thinking makes the difference for me.
What does the word creativity mean to you, in your own words?
It’s creating solutions for problems that matter. Creating magic moments for every human being on the planet – at least once in a lifetime.
How do you stay inspired?
I engage in a lot of reading and ongoing exchange with all the people I meet, from the bakery store to company CEOs.
What are some of your favorite digital brands:
Tencent, Xiaomi, Tesla, Niu, and Softbank.
What do you like doing in your free time?
Wine tastings, cooking, skiing, hanging out with friends, spending time with my family.
Which countries excite you most in terms of digital creativity?
China, Singapore, and Germany.
Where do all of you envision the industry in 5 or 10 years?
Our business is change. This takes many forms, and the current iteration that allows us to be upfront where it’s happening is digital experience design. In a near future, with ‘no interface’ interfaces and more focus on connected hardware and the physical world, that is where we will have to orient ourselves to continue to be at the forefront of it and create value for people.
What 3 important things or experiences that have brought you to where you are today?
Leaving the comfort zone, staying humble, and having trust pays back.
What upcoming initiatives do you find particularly exciting?
Connecting offline and online…while IoT innovations will be another radical game changer.
What are some of the characteristics of people that have been successful at your company?
They have a strong opinion while being open-minded. They show dedication to the work they do and see game-changing potential in it.
How do you help a new employee understand the culture of your organization?
I am telling the founding story, have a drink with them, and tell them to call me day or night if they face a problem. It doesn’t always work 😉
What advice do you often give to people who are starting to work in your same field?
Be open-minded, be humble and observe well. Be confident in your abilities and bold enough to take a stance. The rest will come naturally.
What is your approach to motivating and developing talent?
In our business, the people are everything – so finding, retaining, and developing the best talent is key to success. To that extent, our P&O (People & Organization) team is going above and beyond to make the MING experience great for our internal stakeholders, just as we strive to deliver great experiences to our clients. This includes the little things, like helping with relocation, language courses, anniversaries, and team activities, but also personal development budgets, job rotation, and a match of teams and projects that motivates everyone involved. Not every project is exciting, of course. But we try to cycle in a fair way so that everyone gets to work on exciting topics regularly and has a chance to hone their skills.
What characteristics are most needed to be a strong leader?
Transparency and dedication have to be at the very top. Only by being open about everything that is going on can you give people the chance to really participate and make a contribution in all areas of the business. It makes them feel and act like real stakeholders of the company and empowers them to work on topics they are passionate about. A great leader also has to be fully dedicated to the mission, be the first to tackle any upcoming problems and lead by example. Here, too, it’s about the little things – like preparing the meeting room if no one did it – and of course results in being there for everyone to enable the team in the best way possible.