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56. SMG Forum
SMG Forum

Thursday, 19 September 2019
11.30 - 18.30
AURA event location, Zurich


We live in an increasingly technological world – does it leave room for instinct and intuition?

Never in history have we had easier and wider access to information than we have today. Data of unknown scope and abundance lies at our disposal and technological developments open up countless possibilities for its analysis. But can we actually find our way around this rising tide of facts and forecasts? Isn't it becoming more and more difficult to distinguish relevant content from trivia and identify the meaningful principles on which important decisions are based?

Albert Einstein said: «The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.»

The pure reason that guides us to potentially optimum decisions probably lies in the interaction of these two gifts, combined with today's new technological opportunities. However, in our sophisticated world, shouldn't we also depend more on our instinct, our intuition or, colloquially speaking, our «gut feeling»? Or would we be better to fade it out and hand over to the algorithms? Are we still capable of accepting or comprehending this «gut feeling» and will that capacity remain to us in the future?

Isn't it our instinct that differentiates us from artificial intelligence, that gives humans (for the time being, at least) their distinguishing feature and makes the crucial, promising difference compared to purely fact-based thought and action?

These are just a few of the questions that famous people from Switzerland and abroad will answer at the 56th SMG Forum.



Dr. Christopher E. Mason, Principal Investigator for NASA's Human Research Program and Associate Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Dr. Christopher E. Mason completed a dual BSc in Genetics and Biochemistry (2001) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a PhD In Genetics at Yale University (2006). He then went on to complete post-doctoral training in clinical genetics at Yale Medical School and a joint post-doctorate Fellow of Genomics, Ethics and Law at Yale Law School (2009). He has been Associate Professor at Weill Cornell Medical College since 2015. His Mason Laboratory conducts research in the field of Functional and Integrative Genomics and is working on a 500-year plan for the survival of the human species on Earth, in space and on other planets. To this end, scientists are deploying new biochemical and computational methods and algorithms to elucidate the genetic basis of human disease and human physiology. The laboratory works closely with NIST/FDA to build international standards for these methods. It also collaborates with NASA to build integrated molecular portraits of genomes, epigenomes, transcriptomes and metagenomes for astronauts, which help establish molecular foundations and genetic defences for long-term human space travel. Christopher E. Mason has received many prizes for his work and has co-founded five biotech startups: Genome Liberty, Biotia, Onegevity Health, P-Omics, and Shanghai GeneTech.

Jinlong Wang

Jinlong Wang, Group Chairman and CEO PizzaExpress, Managing Director & Operating Partner, Hony Capital.
Jinlong Wang is the Managing Director / Operating Partner at Hony Capital and the Group Chairman and CEO of PizzaExpress. Before this, he held a number of leading positions at Starbucks, including Senior Vice President of Starbucks Corp., President of Starbucks Asia Pacific and Chairman of Starbucks China. In this function, he played a decisive role in Starbucks' extremely successful market development and the creation of a coffee culture in a traditionally tea-drinking country. His career began as a government employee at the Chinese Ministry for Economic Relations & Foreign Trade. Jinlong Wang gained a Bachelor's degree in Economics and Trade from the University of International Business & Economics in Beijing in 1982, before completing a Juris Doctor at Columbia University in 1988.

Nicoletta della Valle

Nicoletta della Valle, Director of the Federal Office of Police (fedpol).
Nicoletta della Valle has been the Director of the Swiss Federal Office of Police since 2014. Global, networked, digital: crime reflects our society. To fight crime, she relies on national and international cooperation. Her everyday tasks include hearings in parliamentary commissions, budget discussions and IT projects on everything from combatting terrorism, cybercrime, money laundering and human trafficking to administrative prosecutions in the case of PostAuto. Her career began in the public sector: after obtaining a law degree from the University of Bern in 1989, she held leading positions at the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL), the finance department of the City of Bern, the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) and University Psychiatric Services (UPD) in Bern.

Carsten Koerl

Carsten Koerl, Founder and CEO of Sportradar.
Since founding the corporate group in 2001, he has been responsible for strategically managing all aspects of Sportradar's business and successfully steered its growth from a technology-oriented start-up to a globally leading provider of sports data and audiovisual content. Prior to founding Sportradar, he spent more than 15 years in managerial positions at a variety of companies in the software development and sports betting industry. Amongst other things, he founded bwin (formerly betandwin), a company he subsequently floated. To this day, this is one of the most successful initial public offerings ever on the Vienna Stock Exchange. Carsten has a Master's degree in Electronics and Microprocessor Technology from Constance University of Applied Sciences (Germany).


Prof. Dr. Hauke Heekeren, Vice-President and Professor of Biological Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience at the University Berlin.
Prof. Dr. Hauke Heekeren studied medicine in Münster, Munich, Essen and Berlin and received his doctorate with distinction from Humboldt University Berlin in 2000. In 2005 he became head of the Max Planck Research Group "Neurocognition of Decision Making" at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, and since 2009 he has been Professor of Biological Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience at Freie Universität Berlin. Mr. Heekeren was Dean of the Department of Education and Psychology at Freie Universität Berlin as well as Managing Director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. He was deputy speaker of the Cluster of Excellence "Languages of Emotion", which was funded from 2007 to 2014, is a founding member of the Berlin School of Mind and Brain and was president of the Society for Neuroeconomics. He has been Vice President of Freie Universität Berlin since 2018. Mr. Heekeren has received numerous prizes and awards for his work, including the Rudolf Virchow Research Award of the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin.


Rahaf Harfoush, Digital Anthropologist and Best-Selling Author.
Rahaf Harfoush is a Strategist, Digital Anthropologist, and Best-Selling Author who focuses on the intersections of emerging technology, innovation, and digital culture. Her research centres on the human impacts of artificial intelligence, algorithms, social networks, and big data. Rahaf is the Executive Director of the Red Thread Institute of Digital Culture, a think-tank and consultancy that focuses on helping organizations translate innovation trends into strategic opportunities. Her clients include UNESCO, L’Oréal, Estee Lauder, BNP Paribas, Baccarat, 1 Hotels, IBM, Airbus, ING DIRECT, Oracle and many more. She teaches «Innovation & Emerging Business Models» at SciencePo’s MBA program in Paris. She is named a Young Global Changer at the G20 Think Tank Summit. In 2019, she will be chairing UNESCO’s research initiative exploring the links between Artificial Intelligence and Gender Equality.

Fabrice Leclerc

Fabrice Leclerc, Entrepreneur and a life advocate.
While scooping ice-cream to finance his studies, he ended up few year later being the CEO of Häagen Dazs. He has founded and spearheaded the business Innovation Labs. of Fortune 100 corporations including L’Oréal Prestige, SKY and Apple where he partnered with Steve Jobs. Fabrice is an angel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and in the Silicon Valley / California. He has recently received the Patagonia award for the creation of the eternal valley, a wildlife sanctuary, dedicated to the quest for natural longevity and elements conservation.


11:00 am

Arrival of registered networking lunch participants (ground floor)

11:30 am

Optional networking lunch with a three-course menu (AURA Restaurant)

12:15 pm

Arrival of the Forum participants and networking (at the event hall foyer, first floor)

1:00 pm

Dr. Lukas Braunschweiler, President SMG

Changing consumer instincts
Jinglong Wang, Group CEO and Chairman, PizzaExpress,
Managing Director & Operating Partner, Hony Capital

Instinct for big data
Carsten Koerl, CEO Sportradar

Instinct in the police
Nicoletta della Valle, Director of the Federal Office of Police (fedpol)

2:45 pm


3:45 pm

Decision making and the brain
Prof. Dr. Hauke Heekeren, Vice-President and Professor of Biological Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience at the University Berlin

Blast-Off to Mars!
Dr. Christopher E. Mason, Principal Investigator for NASA's Human Research Program and Associate Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine

Is humanity made for big data?
Rahaf Harfoush, Digital Anthropologist and Best-Selling Author

Innovating successfully by instinct
Fabrice Leclerc, Entrepreneur and a life advocate

6:00 pm

Dr. Lukas Braunschweiler, President SMG and
Catrin Wetzel, General Manager SMG

Drinks reception

8:00 pm

End of the event



Dr. Christopher E. Mason, NASA, Weill Cornell Medicine.
"Moon is the proving ground, Mars is the destination" – a clear message from NASA, fifty years after the first moon landing. It is planned that we will once again walk on the moon by 2024 and that a manned landing on Mars will be possible by 2033. No other species is so instinctively driven on by the spirit of discovery like Homo sapiens. The urge to see what lies across the ocean, behind the mountains or beyond our planet is in our blood – and is crucial to our success. We have the technology to bring us into space – but what do we need to successfully visit, remain in or even settle in distant galaxies? Dr. Christopher E. Mason, Principal Investigator, conducted intense research on the two astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly as part of the recently published NASA Twin Study. He is especially dedicated to the topic of radiation exposure and knows the answers to these questions. What does man's instinctive spirit of discovery need to put him on the path to Mars?

Jinlong Wang

Jinlong Wang, Starbucks, PizzaExpress, Hony Capital.
China is considered to be the birthplace of tea, and its tea-drinking tradition goes back to around 2,700 years BC. How did a western power brand make Starbucks consumers out of people who had been instinctive tea drinkers for millennia? Jinlong Wang played a decisive role here as Senior Vice President of the Starbucks Corp., President of Starbucks Asia Pacific and Chairman of Starbucks China. Under his aegis, the original 1,017 Starbucks Coffee Shops grew into 3,300 in the short period between 2013 and 2018. On the other hand, we would also like to explore with Jinlong Wang how he applies his instinct for consumers today at PizzaExpress, and as Managing Director & Operating Partner of Hony Capital. What premises does the pioneer of China's private equity industry base his investments on, and how strongly does he rely on instinct?

Nicoletta della Valle

Nicoletta della Valle, Federal Office of Police (fedpol).
The globalised world has led to criminality without borders. Accordingly, fedpol as the Swiss Federal Office of Police plays a central role. fedpol coordinates, analyses and investigates serious crimes and provides infrastructure. Technology and big data play an ever more central role in these huge challenges.
Nicoletta della Valle, Director of the Federal Office of Police fedpol, describes in her speech how she leads her 1,000 employees in dealing with this reality.

Carsten Koerl

Carsten Koerl, Sportradar. 
Carsten Koerl only needed eleven years to take his company Sportradar to a valuation of more than CHF 2 billion and give Switzerland a "Unicorn". Sportradar analyses more than 400,000 games a year in 60 disciplines, generates around 5 billion data files a day from the analyses and leads the world in the provision of data and audiovisual content. This is the second time in his career that Carsten Koerl has proved his business instinct – he previously founded bwin (formerly betandwin) and floated it successfully on the stock market. But how do you manage your company to a promising future when a start-up becomes a game changer? Can the technology start-up's corporate culture be preserved when a small team grows to more than 2,000 employees within ten years? When sports emotions become data – could it even become possible to predict the outcome of matches thanks to AI? And what could Sportradar's scaling potential lead to in the future? 


Prof. Dr. Hauke Heekeren, University Berlin.
On what should we base important decisions? On G for Gut Feeling or B for Big Data? Are instinct-based or big-data-based decisions more successful? Is it a combination of the two? Do we actually still allow our instinct to play a role in light of the abundance of data? And how can we manage to listen to our instinct more? And does the brain really separate instinct from reason? These questions are the main focus of Prof. Dr. Hauke Heekeren's research. After studying medicine, he received a PhD with distinction from the Humboldt Universität Berlin (HU Berlin) and became head of the Max Planck Research Group "Neurocognition of Decision Making" at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in 2005. Since 2009, he has been Professor of Biological Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience at the Freie Universität Berlin (FU Berlin) and also leads it as Vice-President. 


Rahaf Harfoush, Digital Anthropologist and Best-Selling Author. 
The possibilities of present-day technologies are making dramatic changes in our lives and value systems. Thanks to our data traces, we are becoming transparent consumers. Companies are able to offer us tailor-made products. We run the risk of filter bubbles defining our view of the world more than objective information, and are faced with disruption of our ability to perceive information hierarchies. Being available and busy 24/7 is the done thing. However, are we actually made for that? What does our instinct have to say about it? Does it help or hinder as we adapt to the new situation? What kind of implications does the changing environment have for our health, and why does it damage our creativity? Rahaf Harfoush, digital anthropologist and best-selling author, devotes her research to precisely these topics. Of course, there are always two sides to every coin. As leaders, we can also use big data for the benefit of our employees. Because shouldn't the central focus of our activities be on them? What if we used data as a tool to enable our employees to achieve their full potential, increase their commitment and learn faster? Rahaf Harfoush addressed these questions in her best seller "The Decoded Company", and will point out possible ways to do this.

Fabrice Leclerc

Fabrice Leclerc, Entrepreneur and a life advocate.
Fabrice Leclerc's extraordinary innovativeness has made him an important partner to a number of Fortune 100 companies. How can a person more or less create a production line for innovation? What forms the basis of Leclerc's ground-breaking ideas that he has developed for companies such as L’Oréal Prestige, SKY, Google, Nespresso and Apple, and made him an innovation partner to Steve Jobs for many years? Fabrice Leclerc follows a clear method: "If you want to innovate successfully, human instinct has to be the central focus. Because there's no stronger emotional approach than through feelings that we have been carrying around inside for millions of years." The graduate veterinary surgeon and management scientist has operated on this principle since his time as CEO of Häagen Dazs – whether as an innovation partner, angel and mentor at the EPFL and in Silicon Valley, or in his personal life.  

Registration and fee

Early registration is recommended. Because of space restrictions, the number of participants is limited. Registrations are accepted in the order in which they are received. Registration is binding. A representative from the company management may attend if the original registrant is unable to attend at short notice. We are obliged to invoice in the event of cancellations and in case of no-shows.

Please note that pictures taken by our photographer may be displayed in SMG publications and on the SMG website.

Member’s fee to cover cost: CHF 650.-

Members can register any number of participants from their executive board at the member rate.

Non-members: CHF 790.-

The fee covers the refreshments served during breaks as well as the drinks reception in the evening.

Optional lunch
11:30 to 13:00
Price: CHF 90.-
The price includes a three-course menu and beverages. Because of space restrictions, the number of participants is limited.

Confirmation of registration and invoice will follow within a few days.

How to get there

By public transport
Trams nos. 6, 7, 11 and 13 travel directly from the Bahnhofstrasse stop at the main station to Paradeplatz. Walk along Bleicherweg towards Enge station. After approx. 50 m, you will find the AURA event location on the left.

By car
Please use the public parking garages in Zurich city centre. 

We recommend using public transport.

Route planner: How to find us.

Host and event organiser

Event venue
AURA event location (old Stock Exchange)
Bleicherweg 5
8001 Zurich

Event organiser
Swiss Management Association SMG
Zeltweg 48, 8032 Zurich
office [at],
Telefon + 41 44 202 23 25
Fax + 41 44 269 90 01

Video summary 55th SMG Forum


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