Three days ago, I returned from summer holidays. It all was perfect: the sun, the wind, the sea, the vastness... Everything was just as I had been longing for. Before going on holidays, I had already been thinking about giving this newsletter the title “Summer Breeze”. But after having landed in reality – and yes, I do admit that I largely avoided reading the news or some other heavy stuff during my holidays – the title “Summer Breeze” no longer fits. One of my parents had to go to hospital the day after I had returned from holidays, the kids are finding it difficult to become familiar with their school routine –too unusual after six months of lockdown during the last school year – the many terrible events in Afghanistan, the climate crisis, the looming German parliamentary elections... This is all too heavy stuff for a newsletter entitled “Summer Breeze”.
But burying our heads in the sand is not an option – we still have too many opportunities here in Germany. However, many of these opportunities are associated with change. Therefore, I am wondering: How open am I to new ideas? How open are you to new ideas? How open are we to new ideas? First and foremost, it all begins with looking at issues from different, other, new, unusual perspectives.
I would like to refer to only a few examples at this point:
Working from home and remote
Old perspectives: Prior to the pandemic, we thought that working from home would make people less productive because they would be constantly distracted. We thought that we all would have to be in one room at least for discussing critical and complex issues in order to solve them in the form of a workshop. The bosses feared that they would no longer be able to control their employees.
New perspectives: Today, we know that people working from home during the pandemic worked 30% more on average (see *1). We were no longer be able to postpone critical issues until the pandemic would be over and had to deal with them in the form of well-organized remote workshops and small downstream working groups from remote locations. And it worked! What control of staff working from home is like, I do not know! You tell me!
New mobility concepts (transformation of transport) – avoid unnecessary travel/less cars in cities
Old perspectives: We do not want to give up our car and do not want to do without the comfort associated with using it. Me neither. It’s often too cold or too wet to go by bike, in my opinion. And what I don’t like at all is carrying heavy bags. I live in the countryside and it’s very hard to get from A to B without a car.
New perspectives: If I had shopping facilities in my village that I could easily reach on foot, I wouldn’t have to use my car that often. When I moved to my current place of residence 20 years ago, the village still had a post office, a bakery, a butcher shop and before that even a small grocery store. At that time, I could do some shopping on foot. In my view, a transition to sustainable transport requires improvements of local supply in rural areas and a more active way of living in a village.
New mobility concepts have a very different meaning for cities than for rural areas. Yes, I have to travel to my city of choice using public transport. This is less comfortable, but it’s a wholly different and better urban experience. An inner city where I am not molested by exhaust fumes from cars. More space for me as a pedestrian or cyclist. More green environment, more space, better air...
And needless to say that the concept of working from home benefits the principle of “avoiding unnecessary travel”. A study for the city of Munich, for example, shows that traffic would be reduced by 30% if only half of the workers would be working from home in three out of five days (see *2).
Old perspectives: I want to have access to all sorts of fruit, vegetables and meat at any time.
New perspectives: If I can use only local vegetables that are available at the particular time of the year, I have to look for new recipes and my children will no longer complain that often that there is always the same food. A quick side note on my currently limited cooking skills: I only use peppers, zucchini, eggplants, carrots and onions – throughout all seasons. I am on bad terms with any type of cabbage, so I would have to change that... And this aspect of using regional food also benefits the principle of “avoiding unnecessary travel”.
Economic growth (revenue or profit growth) is no longer our ultimate goal
Old perspectives: We must grow our revenue. To stand still is to lose ground.
New perspectives: What would new, other goals for my company look like? There are no limits to creativity in this context, and I am sure that all dedicated employees have loads of ideas. To name only a few: increase customer satisfaction, increase employee satisfaction, try and test new products and services, act more sustainable, contribute our knowledge and our German engineering art in totally different areas which are now important to our community...
Shared leadership instead of hierarchical leadership
Old perspectives: We must allocate every single employee to a particular manager, otherwise they don’t know what to do.
New perspectives: What if teams managed themselves on their own – what if they took care to ensure together that all tasks necessary to achieve the team’s goals are actually done? How much management and executive capacities would be released, if they did not have to deal with administration and control. How much added value would they be able to generate in terms of coaching individuals, determining strategic approaches, exploring the needs of customers, markets and the society?
In a nutshell: Well, now this newsletter has no longer got anything to do with a “summer breeze” and has become much more of heavy stuff than I originally intended. Maybe it’s because before writing the newsletter I read the article “The great overload” by Max Scharnigg in German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung (see link below). The bottom line of his article is: There is much to be done – don’t look away. My opinion is: We have to deal with change in almost all areas of our lives, now more than ever. Therefore, I repeat my question: How open to new ways am I, are you? From my point of view, it’s easier than what it seems, because every restriction also comes with improvements – you simply have to go along with the appropriate perspective.
This text first appeared in my newsletter 'Innovation on Wednesday'. It is published every other Wednesday. For subscription click here