By Ronny Shani
You probably know Rainer Berak as the Operational Partner and Managing Director of Project A. But did you know that Rainer is also the founding father of PAKCon? Since he came up with this year’s elusively simple motto—The Obvious—we asked him to explain what it’s all about and what he considers a successful outcome.
When asked why dedicate an entire conference to stating the obvious, you mentioned that “the crises we’re experiencing—globally and in our industry—were, in fact, predictable.” But if that’s the case, how come everyone ignored the red flags?
“We (like every human) fall easily for tasty promises. If somebody sells a diet that allows us to eat whatever we like, we buy it. If a startup tells us it has a fantastic use case, and you won’t need sales or marketing spent, we buy it. These promises sound so appealing. If we don’t lose profits when we allow ourselves to produce in China and buy gas from Russia, and somebody tells us: ‘Trade will turn them into sustainable democracies,’ it just sounds so awesome, we can’t help but believe it. Why is the 4-day work week more popular than its plain old 5-day counterpart?”
That’s a session I’d like to hear.
Which other fundamental questions can help us focus on solutions and pave the way forward together?
“There are a few:
- How can we do the right things right?
- How can we achieve ambitious goals while maintaining an essential clarity of mind?
- How can we shape our industry without making unrealistic assumptions and adopt a sustainable and honest approach instead?”
Would answering these questions prevent us from repeating the same mistakes next time?
“Thinking about them can. Always ask yourself: Is it obvious or surprising? What would I want to believe? And if something isn’t obvious, and you have good reasons to want to believe it, be genuinely critical because you’re probably bullshitting yourself.”
Welcome to reality check
PAKCon 2023 is all about straight answers. It’s a reality check that highlights truths so obvious we simply ignore them; we can’t afford to do that anymore.
“We know the human brain isn’t as rational as we thought. We fall into traps, and things like bias and selective perception are real. The technical developments of the last decades—mainly the internet and social media—have created an echo chamber, manipulation heaven: It’s easier to hear and read what we want to hear and read.
If we’re honest, we know that the only way to end the crisis is by overcoming our tendency to believe something just because it sounds attractive, no matter how unlikely. And that’s the problem with idolizing those who make bold assumptions. Challenging the status quo and setting audacious goals is excellent! But the bold assumptions often become an end in themselves and serve the wrong purpose: To make things sound the way the person making them wants them to sound.”
Let’s give this a practical context: Can you name a few sessions you had in mind when you thought about this theme?
- AI will kill jobs for content writers, but it doesn’t have to lead to unemployment.
- Decades have passed, and most companies still haven’t solved attribution.
- Accept that you need to “sell” and start doing sales right.
- Can you explain your product in three sentences that my mom can understand?
What would be your “dream takeaway” from this year’s conference?
“My dream takeaway is that people in the digital world be inspired to get back to the basics.
I was recently at the OMR conference, and a founder tapped me on the shoulder. He said, ‘I met you at the last PAKCon. My co-founder and I were starting our tech company, and we asked you for one piece of advice. We told you we’re both tech people and haven’t considered the commercial part yet. You told us to stop immediately and find a commercially driven co-founder. We did just that, and it has been awesome!’
So, do your homework and grow your companies and yourself according to realistic milestones and assumptions instead of focusing on false promises.”