Shapers of the future at work

Guest contribution by | 10.09.2018

Shaping the future with diversity

We live in a time of upheaval! Megatrends such as digitalisation and globalisation are revolutionising the way we work, live and think. What is therefore needed is cooperation that enables us to meet the complex and dynamic changes. What is needed are diverse skills, experiences and ideas. And diversity is the key to innovation. But for it to show and develop, a culture is needed that not only accepts different perspectives and diversity, but also values and actively promotes them.

Okay, that really says it all! Is it? Because there is actually nothing to object to this initial thesis. So far, apart from a few reactionary objections, I have heard little to the contrary. And yet, in 2018, companies will still find it difficult to make diversity visible and use it in the interests of the company.

The simplicity of the “Thomas cycle”

How do I come up with this? Well, you only have to look at the management floors of most German companies. Many of them still have “all-male-boards”. Not a trace of women. The AllBright Foundation in Berlin calls this phenomenon the “Thomas Circle”. It has examined 160 listed companies on the DAX, TecDax and MDAX. The result: 93 percent of the board members of these companies are men who are very similar in age, origin and education. “The German CEO prefers to surround himself with mirror images of himself; 5 percent of CEOs are named Thomas, and there are more board members named Thomas or Michael than there are women in total,” the foundation wrote in its report last year.

Countries like the USA or Sweden show that there is another way. There, the proportion of women at board level is between 20 and 25 %. If you want to take a closer look, I recommend the publications of the Allbright Foundation, which is committed to more diversity in leadership.¹

With rules into the abyss

But a lack of diversity is also reflected in rigid structures and traditional corporate cultures. Processes as well as employees are pressed into rigid forms. In the end, one wonders why employees do not take responsibility and prefer to follow the systemic rules. VW, which is currently pilloried with Diesel Gate, is not the exception. It is just one of many companies where implicit and explicit rules shape cooperation rather than the people themselves. In this case, people are happy to follow the anticipatory obedience right into the abyss, because the responsibility for one’s own actions is located outside one’s own person.

Repeating patterns as a tranquilliser

But why is this so? Well, there are certainly many good reasons. We humans like to follow recurring patterns. We associate this with greater chances of success. It is almost reassuring to follow the same patterns of action. In addition, knowing what to expect gives us security. Even if this means that we always have to bite the bullet in the same places. Even this constancy can convey a sense of security. Whoever is halfway successful will quickly feel committed to the belief “Never change a winning team”.

Arrogance comes before the fall

In times characterised by dynamics and complexity, however, this strategy is no guarantee of success, but can even become an existential threat. Because it blocks the view of opportunities or alternative solutions. Jogi Löw can certainly sing a song about this at the moment. Companies that are spoiled by success are particularly at risk. Their sense of the customer, their feeling for new possibilities and often even their ethical compass suffers. Their own products, their own methods become “golden cows” that are worshipped and defended to the hilt.

But as the saying goes: “Pride comes before a fall”. Kodak, Schlecker, Nokia, Quelle, Arcandor … They all show where the road from the top can lead. Currently, companies like VW, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are under pressure. Even if they still appear to be stable, these companies are at a crossroads. Traditional banks in particular are writing off business areas because of too low margins. Their view of what is possible is obscured by past experience. What is missing is a look into the future and the technical possibilities of internet payments. And since many companies hire according to the principle that “like goes with like”, not only is the common framework quickly defined, but the common horizon is also narrowly limited. Only through alternative perspectives and spaces of experience that question and challenge the old can energy and space for something truly new be created.

Only the strong survive

Collaboration and cooperation is the magic formula in the new working world. And even if many people think of hip open-plan lofts and table football. New Work is not a pony farm. Quite the opposite. Because dealing with diversity in a cooperative and collaborative setting requires more than “chilling zone” and a free fruit basket. Living diversity brings with it a variety of perspectives and positions. In the ideal case, this makes the most diverse experiences, competences and ideas visible. At the same time, this means that all those involved have to deal with this diversity. This is particularly challenging when one’s own values or thought patterns are questioned. This can shake your own foundations. But as the saying goes: “Only the strong survive”.

A strong We needs a strong I

It is important to learn how to deal with conflicts and to develop them further, so that the dispute over different views does not end in small-scale wars, but in profitable solutions. What is needed are egos that take themselves back and put themselves at the service of the common cause. This attitude requires continuous self-reflection and self-management. This is not something you just get “to go” quickly at Starbucks or at the supermarket checkout. It takes time as well as trusting relationships – in private and professional life. And so, for the future of work, “a strong We needs a strong I”.

Establishing a common framework

If this is the case, then staking out the common playing field becomes child’s play. Because everyone understands that the diversity of the other person is an enrichment, even if it can be a nuisance from time to time. What then succeeds is a common “creative space” in which people can contribute their potentials and ideas – without fear of rejection or humiliation. The importance of this “emotional reliability” was also shown by a work study on Google.³ Central result: the basis of every successful team is “psychological safety”.

Conclusion

And this is where the circle is complete: Those who make diversity visible, value it and actively promote it in all its facets create a culture in which the potential of the organisation can unfold. This is where product innovations are created. Above all, however, a company is developing that continuously enhances its own future viability.

What does this mean for your team / organisation? Well, you might ask yourself the following questions as a first step:

  • How does diversity manifest itself in your team / organisation?
  • In what ways are you similar? What makes you different?
  • How do you deal with these differences?
  • Which relevant perspectives cannot be represented by your team structure?
  • How do you include different perspectives and points of view, also from outside your “bubble”?
  • Have fun exploring, appreciating and expanding your diversity in advance!

 

Notes:

At https://www.coplusx.de/x-blog/ you will find many interesting articles by Nadine Nobile. The click is worth it.

[1] http://www.allbright-stiftung.de/allbright-berichte
[2] http://www.manager-magazin.de/finanzen/boerse/kuenftiges-dax-mitglied-was-macht-eigentlich-wirecard-a-1226269-2.html
[3] https://rework.withgoogle.com/blog/five-keys-to-a-successful-google-team/

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Nadine Nobile

Nadine Nobile

Nadine Nobile is the founder of CO:X. The self-confessed New Work enthusiast supports people in companies as a process facilitator and coach in change processes. “Recognising potential and enabling development” is her guiding principle. Cooperation, collaboration and co-creation are for her the keys to the future of work. In mid-2017 Nadine founded the network New Work Women. The aim of this initiative is to bring the thoughts and ideas of women about the future of work into the world. For her commitment she was nominated for the Digital Female Leadership Award.