The Shift Guide


A vibrant collection of speakers content that brings together the
results of questioning, interviewing, and shaping a community.


Covering a diverse range of fields from fashion and hospitality to technology, politics, and society, SHIFT hosts, Nick and Simone Hartmann, build new networks––and also, one could say, networks of thought.

SHIFT MAY 2023 included musings on how best to confront indecisive consumer behavior, how to deal with the many uncertainties involved, and, at more granular level, how to tackle hard-headed landlords of city-center properties. What kind of framework is being set by policymakers? Here, a traffic signal that is changing too slowly for many speakers’ liking; there,   ensions with China; all accompanied, of course, by fast-paced technological developments that fan the flames of hope and skepticism with equal vigor. One of the standout learnings from our SHIFT Conference is that the combination of artificial intelligence and common sense may seem contradictory––but is a great tool for shaping the future.

The recent SHIFT chapter explored a fascinating interface, pointing out that in the future AI can be used for greenwashing, or can destroy the image of a sustainably operating company in the blink of an eye (think deepfakes, say). We are certainly in danger of entering an age of disinformation. And yet, as AI expert Adrian Locher described, AI can help to halt the destructive exploitation of the planet by artificially generating proteins or synthetic fibers.

Business location marketing politics is often clientele politics. What’s missing in today’s political world is a grand plan. What are the industries where we want to drive growth, and what are we doing to achieve it?
I’m appalled that people are moving away from belief in a social market economy, that they’re no longer aware of the benefits or of the need for open–– not monopoly-based––markets.

We’re currently living from the achievements of the past. We’re in a state of democratic exhaustion; the mood is blighted. I expect that Europe and the USA will move closer together. We need tighter treaties, we need Europe as an independent power bloc between the USA and China. But we’re too late; we won’t make it now.

Hans-Jürgen Jakobs

Senior Editor & writer for Handelsblatt, author

I’m pretty underwhelmed at the new companies springing up in recent years. It really isn’t enough for a major industrial company. But I haven’t reached a state of full-blown panic. Yet. The next wave that we need could be startup founders that bring in commercial stakeholders, but also people with profiles in science and technology––people that genuinely invent things and enable things. When I talk to experts about AI, all of them say: We have the developers right here, the experts right here, lots of what we need is already here, the will is here. All that’s missing is a little more work on the right timing and the right product.

Philipp Westermayer

Founder OMR

There’s an opportunity to transform the Mittelstand, Germany’s sector of

small and medium-sized enterprises. And it’s happening now. SMEs have

understood that they need interfaces and startups. But not only that: they’re going out and investing in startups themselves.


19 percent of all new companies founded in 2020 in Berlin were with us

in the Factory

Martin Eyerer

CEO Factory Berlin


A great journey

Maximilian Böck

CEO Marc O`Polo

Tom Junkersdorf 

CEO Off-Script & Podcast Host TOMorrow

Cyberattacks on the company, COVID, war in Europe, imminent recession: none of these factors can prevent Maximilian Böck from working to achieve his goal of Marc O’Polo as a global brand. In our interview with Tom Junkersdorf, he put forward a plausible case for why the Stephanskirchen-based company could be successful. 

Podcast star Tom Junkersdorf appeared at our last-but-one SHIFT conference as an interviewee; this time, as SHIFT presenter Marc Schumacher put it, he was “hijacked.” In barely a couple of minutes, the successful lifestyle journalist had set up the backdrop for a new episode of “TOMorrow” and the SHIFT Community found itself taking part in a live podcast. 

Maximilian Böck is certainly on the young side to be a CEO; he took over the helm of the casual lifestyle brand in 2021 at the age of just 32. Also a relatively new father, he is getting used to long days and very short nights. Nevertheless, the son of Marc O’Polo’s former majority shareholder put forward a very clear-eyed view of the fashion world from the start of his talk. 

In his view, COVID did not trigger a revolution; his industry had learnt little. Although a new down-to-earthness is taking over business, Böck did not attribute this to the pandemic, but to the fact that consumers are now feeling “the true impact” of the economic situation for the first time. “There is a general trend towards what is more timeless, more normal, more decent, and it’s a sustainable trend,” he believed. Collections are being “tightened up,” both at Marc O’Polo and its competitors: “There are fewer styles being made, there are attempts to boost efficiency.” No more urge to offer more and more style options, collections, and drops; no more price increases slapping yet another 300 euros on a pair of sneakers. “There’s a move towards less, and I think that’s very positive. We’ve all exaggerated a little in the past.”

Böck pointed out that sustainability is no longer high on consumers’ agendas; concerns have now turned to whether people can afford things. People’s willingness to pay more for good products––the “agreement,” as Junkersdorf called it––has been torn up. However, what is returning is an at least occasional need for clothing that is more than simply casual: “I definitely see a new trend coming in. During COVID our sales of tailored jackets and blazers plummeted; now we’re selling more of them again, alongside classic shirts. People are seeking to look better, more groomed and stylish,” explained Böck, and pointed out that there are now enough events to warrant wearing smarter clothes. 

So despite all the pushbacks, things are looking up. “Last year we notched up the highest sales in our company’s entire history,” said the CEO with no little pride; Marc O’Polo far exceeded the 500 million euro barrier for the first time, “and we’re heading for over 600 million this year.” The billion-euro mark is a long-term target. Böck is convinced this upswing is a sustainable trend because it extends beyond the company’s core business, explaining: “Our growth is not only driven by DACH and casual women’s wear, the areas where we already have a strong position. It’s in international markets.” He concluded, “We’re on exactly the right track, we can do this, we’re on the way to becoming a global brand.”

At the same time, Böck admitted that Marc O’Polo had experienced a delay in breaking into the key markets of the USA and UK; the war in Europe and the soaring inflation rates had forced the company to pause its activities. “We’re represented in 60 countries, but we still have some blank spots; we have North America, but those two major markets are naturally in our sights.”

However, Böck noted that the basic strategic pillars were in place and there was no need to tear them down. One guest described Marc O’Polo’s decision to embark on its revitalization process as “very brave” given all the social and political upheavals and uncertainties taking place. Replying to the question of how that could work, Böck said, “It’s ultra-difficult to retain the customers you have.” The company’s aim had been to lower the average age of its customers without losing its sixty-year-olds; in doing so, it had gone a little too far: “a little too edgy, styles a little too modern.” A constant process of adjustment. Maximilian Böck’s age is itself bringing change to the corporate culture at Marc O’Polo. The average age at headquarters is 37, “so it’s pretty good that I’m young too,” he said with a grin.

But Böck’s approach is basically one of timeless pragmatism. “We don’t have a digital-first strategy,” explained the young CEO. “Online only isn’t the path we want to take. Our customers can decide for themselves where they want to shop. If they decide to shop online, we’re there for them. And if they want to visit a bricks-and-mortar store, we’re there to welcome them in.” In this context, discussed a topic that was a leitmotif at this SHIFT Conference: the role of commercial lessors in city centers. Böck was blunt: “I think many of then didn’t hear the warning shot.” He pointed out that lessors often continue to insist on rent increases of seven or eight percent at times when sales are falling and all other costs are soaring, and called for new ideas and constructive collaboration. 


As so often these days, Marc O’Polo too is tackling the conflict between classic methods of corporate management and the new flexibility that is such an essential asset in times of permacrisis. But that does not mean abandoning big goals, as plenty of historical examples can demonstrate. After all, the original Marco Polo did not allow skeptical popes or poorly built ships to discourage him from pursuing his vision of an international market.

Felix Neureuther

Founder of “Beweg dich Schlau”
& Partner Green Game

What drives me? The future. We’ve got three small kids.

Skiing comes in for a lot of bashing. But people love doing it! You can’t take that pleasure away from them.


Sustainability costs money. A company on a sound financial footing can take all the actions it needs to. But only doing it to get the right headlines is the wrong way. 

Common sense is essential.

91 percent of people believe that brands should take a central role in committing to sustainability. 69 percent would choose a brand that actively supports sustainability. But: 89 percent often don’t know which messages they can believe.

Marc Socher

Managing Partner Green Game

We’re trying to scale up this boutique feel and enlarge it a little. But also to introduce automation in all the right places, and one-toone communication in all the right places. 

Stores are too expensive to simply be places where merchandise is sold. You have to digitalize your customers, end to end. 

Store staff are increasingly acting as microinfluencers. You can already see it with the luxury goods suppliers. It’s hard work, but that’s where the trend is heading.

Tim Kälberer

CEO Wormland

Omnichannel always seems to be such a cerebral matter. There’s so much to think about: instore operations, legacy versus custom systems, processes, forensic consideration of the next steps. Or so we thought. 

Then we talked to Tim, and realized that actually, his story is pretty cool. They start from the other end, with the idea: we’ll start with the customer, and then we’ll just do it. Creativity of this caliber is incredibly valuable and important. 


Thought Salesforce was only something for the big players? Not true, and Tim is the proof.

Nino Bergfeld 

Retail Industry Advisor Salesforce,
Co-Founder Web3 Studio Salesforce

I think it’s completely wrong to claim that people are all going to be replaced. Machines only improve through direct collaboration with humans.
What’s still viewed as rocket science for today’s AI will be completely standard in five years. I’ll be able to download open AI from the cloud and use it as a basis for creating new applications. Then we’ll see the technology becoming mainstream.
I don’t see any “Terminator” scenario up ahead. What I do tend to believe is that humans will merge with machines to form cyborgs. We’ve already started to a certain extent with our smartphones; we haven’t merged completely, but we’re very closely entwined.
“In conclusion: AI has transitioned from hype to reality, making notable strikes in various domains, while still facing challenges. It has the potential to create new markets, transform industries in the next decade, and revolutionize the way we live and work.” – Sophia, the AI entity in Adrian Locher’s talk

Adrian Locher 

Founder & CEO, Mercantix


AI in 2023 – From hype to reality

Adrian Locher

CEO Merantix

Nick Hartmann 

Founder & Managing Partner hartmann consultants

AI’s brain is located in Berlin

Compared to ChatGPT, Siri and Alexa seem like pensionable oldies. But Merantix entrepreneur Adrian Locher says: We’re only getting started! In just a few years, AI will turn our lives upside down at breathtaking speed. For company founders and CEOs, that means more than radical changes in company culture. It will also unlock new business areas and new job profiles.

When we encounter online content these days, we are increasingly forced to wonder whether the person we are listening to is real––or AI. In this case, of course, the answer was AI. Right at the start of Adrian Locher’s keynote, AI took to the stage in “person” to inform us about what lies ahead. Artificial intelligence will turn our personal and professional lives upside down. And if anyone in the audience had still had the misapprehension that Sophia, his virtual colleague, was no more than a bit of tech gimmickry, Locher followed up with a quote from Bill Gates: “Artificial intelligence is as revolutionary as mobile phones and the Internet.” He himself referred to “the most transformative technology of the 21st century.”

Locher is one of the drivers of AI development, with his foot firmly on the gas. Berlin-based Merantix has the stated mission of making “the remaining 99 percent” of AI usable; according to Locher, “what we see now in our everyday lives constitutes just one percent of what is actually possible.” As he explained, “We see our role as an ecosystem and platform. The teams we assemble are often taken from extremely different areas, and need to work together to solve problems.” As an investor, Merantix is at the heart of a think tank that brings together around 1000 people engaged in AI and machine learning, as well as founding startups itself. Locher noted that Merantix had already contributed to the establishment of the German AI Association.
This vast network is vital; and as Lochner predicted, it will always be vital, however fast the pace of development becomes. The human element is This vast network is vital; and as Lochner predicted, it will always be vital, however fast the pace of development becomes. The human element is always the driver––in the most literal meaning of the word. Machines always learn best when their programming combines the highest number of data points drawn from human experience. In fact, these learning processes are already so rapid that even some AI researchers are calling for a research freeze, concerned that this breakneck speed allows no time to evaluate the potential consequences.

At the same time, Swiss-born Locher dismissed the hosts of vague horror stories that swirl around the topic, pointing out that fear of the unknown is deep within our very nature. Far back in our past, it was once a survival mechanism; as such, it should be taken seriously. However, he refused to believe we face a Terminator- or Frankenstein-style future, even in the long term. “Machines don’t possess the intent of self-creating their own goals. They don’t have consciousness,” declared Locher, and defined the actual goal of AI as making people’s lives easier. In fact, this is already the case in many areas; Locher described startups that are using AI in areas such as breast cancer screening, and others that are designing proteins that could replace fossil fuels. AI is also playing a major role in process optimization. With all this in mind, the future scenarios outlined by Locher are very far from dystopian. “The collaboration will increase value creation. And job profiles will emerge that are beyond our imagination today.”


Everything will proceed far faster when AI technology becomes universally accessible. “OpenAI is ultimately what Amazon Services or Google Cloud are today. In the future, OpenAI will provide artificial intelligence on tap,” predicted Locher. Once the focus is no longer on the technology itself, but “on what I make of it,” the race will be on, and the best ideas will win. The best human ideas, of course. 


A further reason for the buzz created by ChatGPI is that anyone can use it. AI has already beaten human opponents not only in chess, but also in the games of strategy Go and Diplomacy. However, Locher noted that in the shadow cast by those headlines, far more significant breakthroughs are finally taking place after years of waiting. He mentioned the biotech industry as an example: “60 percent of the materials we use today could 

theoretically be produced using protein folding”––with financing often the only stumbling-block. In the field of fashion, say, many of the textiles in use today could soon be produced in reactors as protein-based fibers. Lochner continued, “The future will see an increase in meat from non-animal sources that is cultured from individual cells. That’s only possible with AI.”

Locher identified problems, but not in relation to our interactions with machines, or even their interactions with us. Instead, the pioneer expressed his concern about “political bugs.” First, because unnecessary regulations could cause development to slow or even stop altogether; and second, because the rivalry between the USA and Europe on the one hand and China on the other is a drag on the pace of development. 

And then there’s deepfakes. Interviewer Nick Hartmann presented a manipulated daily news piece by his brother-in-law Oliver Jarasch; while the fake was visually clearly identifiable as such, it was all but undetectable based on the acoustics alone. It is possible that truth and lies will become increasingly hard to differentiate. Among the many new professions that are expected to spring up, the job of technical verifier is one that we can probably anticipate seeing very soon. Those technical verifiers will themselves likely be non-human, and one day we’ll be able to ask, “Siri, is this video genuine?”

The big headline for 2023 is the grand scale of dehabitualization. Learned patterns, learned behaviors, and paradigms are being brutally discarded. This is presenting enormous challenges for marketing and sales operations. 

88 percent of global executives admit to feeling that the pace of consumer change is outrunning their ability to adapt their business models. 

With respect to the complexity behind ChatGPT 3 and with an eye to ChatGPT 4, these are quantum leaps! It won’t be very long before call centers contain no humans at all. 

Between January and August 2022, consumers spent 25 percent more on out-of-home dining. But I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear exactly the opposite. It’s good news for marketeers and consumer goods manufacturers: ultimately, consumers are still supremely irrational beings.

Marc Schumacher 

CEO Avantgarde 

Transparency has become a very, very hard currency. People are looking very closely at who they’re buying from. 

We believe it’s time for a new paradigm shift. After the times of pandemic, which often forced us to confront ourselves as individuals, we’re now moving into an era of communities, a sense of belonging.

Over the long term, no company will achieve successful sales without offering non-commercial spaces as part of its brand. 

A brand community that seeks to enable identification has to polarize. Polarization is key. It’s a bit like: us against the world.


The concept of “community” is everything and nothing at the same time. It will soon become more specific; we’re already hearing words like “tribalism.”

Sabine Rogg 

Director Trends & Strategy Trendbüro 

The title of our panel discussion is: Decoding Communities – Building Communities. But why not change it to: Decoding and Questioning Communities? After all, is it really a good thing to continue strengthening this global phenomenon? Is that really something we should want?

Nina Kalmund 

High performance coach & award winning international speaker

Izogie Guobadia

Director of Membership & Communication EU Soho House

Product consistency is vital. All of our locations provide that “home away from home” feeling.  You can join us as a member, and you’ll naturally meet certain people from certain circles. But that’s only one part of your life. If you never manage to broaden the rest of your life, well, that’s also a form of personal responsibility.