Products thinking with

Mitdenken – thinking with – meaning thoughtful, deliberate, reasoned action taking into consideration possible advantages and disadvantages, is clearly a German character trait. It should not be a surprise that there are How-to books advising managers on how to think with. 

Along with people in Germany who think with there are also products in Germany which think with, developed to make life easier, safer and more comfortable.

They are often referred to in English as smart. Smart packaging which inform consumers about the product. Smart materials in eyeglasse which dim when sunlight is too bright. Smart wind turbines which turn automatically to the wind in order optimize electricity gain.

Smart automobiles whose steering wheel notices if the driver is falling asleep and sets off an alarm. Such cars also have smart headlights which adjust to oncoming traffic and read speed limit signs and inform the driver.


Mitdenken – literally mit with + denken thinking. With-thinking or thinking with. A very German word. There is hardly a German who has not heard this word repeatedly, from their parents, in school, from their driving instructor, or their boss. They all stress, expect, demand Mitdenken. But what does Mitdenken mean?

Duden, one of Germany’s most prestigious dictionaries, offers a brief but complex definition: „etwas denkend bei einer Tätigkeit nachvollziehen.” Literally: “something thinking during a task comprehending.” 

Grammatically this formulation does not work in English. Its meaning, however, is: while you are performing a task, a job, an activity, be aware of how and why you are doing it, in the sense that you are recapitulating or reproducing in your mind how and why the task should be done in a certain way.

Duden also states: “nicht gedankenlos, sondern mit Überlegung vorgehen.“ This is easier to understand. Literally: “not thoughtless, but with Überlegung (consideration, reflection, thought, observation, deliberation) proceed.” In other words, think through carefully what you do while you are doing it.

A German online dictionary states: “think clearly about what is to be done; for this work we need someone, who can think-with; students should learn to think-with; we need young people who can think-with.”

Mitdenken is also defined as „etwas mit anderen Gedanken zusammen denken” – literally: “something with other thoughts combined think.” Meaning: to think about something while combining other thoughts with it.

Intelligent software

SAP is located in Walldorf, Germany, not far from Heidelberg. It is the world’s fourth largest software maker and the largest in Europe.

Founded in 1972, SAP initially created mainframe software for payroll and accounting. Over time it developed a single system capable of processing different types of data from different areas of complex companies. 

Today SAP offers a suite of business intelligence solutions which can extract highly relevant data from very large amounts of data, thus enabling sophisticated analysis, which in turn allows for intelligent decision making. 

Intelligent software for intelligent decision makers.

Oil change made easy

Hattinger Stahlbus GmbH has patented their oil drain, which makes draining automobile oil much easier. Their motto is: “The intelligent way to change you oil!” And it works like this:

“The stahlbus®-oil drain valve takes the place of the conventional drain plug. For the oil change, you unscrew the safety cap and attach the quick connect with the drain tube. Once this is connected the valve opens and the oil starts flowing into the catch. After disconnecting the drain tube, the valve closes automatically and you only need to install the safety cap.”

An intelligent solution to avoid spills and dirty hands. Made in Germany.

Good old watering can

Gardena is located in Ulm, Germany. With approximately 420 million Euros in yearly revenues it is Europe’s leading maker of gardening tools. Owned by the Swedish Husqvarna-Group, Gardena was founded in 1961 by Eberhard Kastner und Werner Kress.

One of Gardena’s products is the Micro-Drip-System. The Gardena website says: “Water your yard the intelligent way!” Watering manually is hard work and it leads to “uneven results.”

The Micro-Drip-System is a great relief, “because you only need to turn on the water (faucet, spigot) or to give the command into the system’s on-board computer.”

“The system does the rest of the work itself.” Instead of watering too much or too little, the grass and plants get just the amount they need as determined by sensors which measure humidity and rainfall.

Gardena tools are so intelligent that they can decide themselves how much water is necessary for even and uniform growth. This also saves water. 

Of course, the question remains if the proud homeowner would not prefer to demonstrate his or her gardening expertise by using the good old watering can.

Knowledge Society

Because Germany has few natural resources, its economy has had to produce high quality, high technology products and services.

In politics, economics and the media the Germans stress time and again the importance of maintaining a knowledge society, of education as its key resource. Germany‘s high standard of living, its high level of social welfare services, can only be financed if it can continue to develop and market high margin goods and services. The Germans stress, therefore, the need to produce generations of scientists and engineers.

There is consensus across the country on this point. Every chancellor, state governor, head of a major German company stresses time and again how critical it is to stay on the cutting edge of science, engineering, technology. Germany sees itself as the land of ideas, recognizes that its future depends on it producing breakthrough ideas.