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Outside the box

Fantastic truths

Columne Outside the box / by Thomas Masuch — 19 May 2022

From an early age, I always liked biographies. The first one I ever read was about Julius Caesar, who rather famously witnessed his own fair share of ups and downs. Much more recently, celebrities seem to have been feeling more of a need to record their own exploits of varying import and immortalize them – not by etching them in stone at the Forum like a Roman statesman, but by publishing a book.

Illustration:, iStock / id-work
Illustration:, iStock / id-work

Bastian Schweinsteiger, a former captain of Germany’s national soccer team, was one such star who felt compelled to share the various episodes of his life with the general public. To aid this undertaking, he engaged the services of the Swiss writer Martin Suter, who reported spending two years on related research and evidently came to the conclusion that the midfielder’s actual experiences on and off the field didn’t quite have the drama that makes for a good read. In the 192-page Einer von euch (“One of You”), Suter thus put one of Schweinsteiger’s grass-stained cleats in the realm of biography and the other closer to fiction to tell tales that are “true – or almost true”, as the book’s dust jacket reveals.

Unfortunately, embellishing the truth with a bit of imagination still wasn’t enough to produce a quality book in this case. The method, however, is common enough in the world of business as well, and sometimes even a prerequisite of success – at least when it’s applied in the right doses. As Erna Lackner astutely puts in in the book Phantasie in Kultur und Wirtschaft (“Imagination in Culture and Business”), “The imagination can conceive of any desire, but it can’t fulfill any of them.”

At times, up-and-coming industry sectors like Additive Manufacturing are also borne by propositions that aren’t based entirely in reality. Without them, many innovations and business ideas wouldn’t have even gotten off the ground. And it’s not just start-ups, either: Think back to Formnext 2021, where plenty of well-established companies showed how they’re letting their imagination (and not just their latest figures) guide their actions. For example, big-name manufacturers of AM machines have made sustainability the focal point of some of their business in order to take on current and future challenges in industry and society at large. The emphasis here is on “some”, of course. “If our machines were more sustainable, but also more expensive, we wouldn’t sell any,” explained a manager from one such manufacturer, who was somewhat less euphoric about the supposedly endless possibilities in this regard.

Still, the skyrocketing prices we’ve seen in energy and raw materials in the last few months have made it even clearer that the topic of sustainability (and resource conservation) is more crucial than ever. And with the real world moving so quickly, who needs fantasy?     


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