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Mehr Mut und weniger alte weiße Männer

Dieses Interview erschien am 22. Mai 2021 auf ZEIT ONLINE. Das Interview führte die Journalistin Petra Pinzler im Rahmen eines Fellowships am THE NEW INSTITUTE.

Notiz der Authorin: der Titel wurde von der Zeit gewählt und muss als kontextfreier, provokativer Anreiz zum Lesen gedeutet werden. Ich empfehle dem Leser, sich auf das Interview einzulassen und sich nicht unnötig am Titel zu reiben (auch wenn dazu Berechtigung besteht).

Frau Muff, The business of business is business – hat der Nobelpreisträger Milton Friedman mal gesagt und damit gemeint, das sich Unternehmen aufs Geldverdienen konzentrieren sollen. Was ist falsch an dem Satz?

Das ist einfach zu simpel gedacht: Die Wirtschaft ist ein Teil der Gesellschaft und die wiederum ein Teil des Planeten. Wenn wir den ruinieren, dann funktioniert weder die Gesellschaft noch die Wirtschaft. Also müssen Unternehmen ihre Wirkung auf die Umwelt und die Gesellschaft mit im Blick haben.

Friedman glaubte an die Idee, dass alle Menschen egoistisch handeln, das aber in einer Marktwirtschaft trotzdem zu einem guten Ergebnis führt – weil der Markt die Wünsche aller koordiniert und das am Ende zur bestmöglichen Verteilung von Gütern führt. So ähnlich jedenfalls lernen das die meisten Ökonomie-Studierenden bis heute schon im ersten Semester.

In modernen Studiengängen lernen sie aber auch, dass auch das so einfach nicht stimmt. Die berühmte unsichtbare Hand des Marktes, die Angebot und Nachfrage so steuert, dass am Ende immer etwas Gutes herauskommt, funktioniert ja nicht. Es braucht Regeln, die der Staat bestimmt. Und es wird auch nicht alles gut, wenn in Unternehmen nur ans Geldverdienen gedacht wird.

Anscheinend überzeugt das auch immer mehr Leute in den Chefetagen. Kürzlich gelobten jedenfalls 180 Chefs namhafter US-Konzerne wie Amazon und Walmart in einem Statement of Corporate Purpose künftig auch ihrer Belegschaft, der Gesellschaft und der Umwelt nützen zu wollen – statt nur den Aktionären. Wird die Wirtschaft gerade grün und gut?

Na ja, die Ankündigungen sind das eine, Handeln das andere. Natürlich ist es erst mal positiv, wenn Chefs versprechen, dass sie beim Wirtschaften mehr Rücksicht auf die Natur und auf die Menschen nehmen wollen. Aber das ist nur der erste Schritt. Als nächstes muss das ganze Unternehmen umdenken und umlernen.

Was muss da konkret passieren?

In Unternehmen, die sich so auf den Weg machen, verändern sich vier Dinge.

Erstens, die interne Kultur, was sich nicht nur an neuen Kriterien für die Beförderung, sondern auch konkreten Unternehmenszielen zeigt. Klimaziele, zum Beispiel, müssen überprüfbar sein. Wenn ein Unternehmen verspricht, bis 2050 klimaneutral werden zu wollen, aber keine kurzfristigen Umsetzungspläne hat, dann geschieht nichts.

So was ist, zweitens, nur gemeinsam mit anderen erreichbar. Und dazu muss ein Unternehmen sich als Teil der Gesellschaft sehen, statt nur sich selbst im Mittelpunkt zu stellen. Es geht um mehr.

Drittens, braucht es einen zukunftsfähigen Aufsichtsrat, in dem darf nicht immer der gleiche Typ Mensch sitzen, diversere Aufsichtsräte bringen strategische Gesellschaftsthemen stärker auf den Tisch. Da wird dann in einer Aufsichtsratssitzung nicht mehr nur nach der Umsatzrendite und Risikominimierung gefragt, sondern auch nach neuen Geschäftsfelder, die helfen, die Gesellschaft zu verbessern oder Umweltprobleme zu lösen.

Dies ist der vierte Punkt: Wie zeigt sich das alles in neuen Dienstleistungen?

Notiz der Authorin: hier wird auf den Strategischen Innovationscanvas der Positive Impact Organizationen verwiesen, dieser enthält vier Differenzierungsmerkmale sowie acht Innovationsanstösse. Ein kurzer Online-kurs dazu hier.

Wenn ich die Nachhaltigkeitsberichte von Unternehmen lese oder Begriffe wie Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) höre, dann gruselt es mich häufig. Da stehen so viele schöne Worte und so wenig harte Fakten …

Tatsächlich schleichen sich viele Unternehmen noch mit schönen Worten in ihren Nachhaltigkeitsberichten weg. Dabei gibt es längst wissenschaftlich fundierte harte Fakten, die man messen kann: beispielsweise die Diversität des Managements oder der CO2-Ausstoß des Unternehmens. Und es gibt Verbände, die ihren Mitgliedern dabei helfen, solche Nachhaltigkeitskriterien strategisch anzuwenden. Dort lässt sich auch von Vorbildern lernen, von Unternehmen, die visionäre Versuche wagen und sich wirklich richtig ehrgeizige Ziele setzen – beispielsweise ein 2030 Netto-Null Ziel, für sich und die eigenen Kunden, was im Unternehmen vieles auf den Kopf stellt.

Die Wirtschaft ist ein Teil der Gesellschaft und die wiederum ein Teil des Planeten. Wenn wir den ruinieren, dann funktioniert weder die Gesellschaft noch die Wirtschaft.

Müssen Unternehmen, die die Übernutzung der Natur wirklich ernst nehmen, nicht noch einen viel radikaleren Schritt gehen: Müssten sie nicht einfach eine Menge der Produkte aus ihren Katalogen streichen? Wer braucht in Zeiten der Klimakrise beispielsweise noch Privatjets oder in Zeiten der Wasserknappheit einen privaten Pool – um nur zwei Beispiele zu nennen.

Diese Beispiele zeigen genau die Größe des Problems. Man kann ja nicht einfach sagen: Schließt doch besser euren Laden! Das wäre ein sehr kurzes Gespräch. Aber machen wir es konkret, nehmen wir Coca-Cola. Die Welt wäre wahrscheinlich ein gesünderer Ort, wenn es keine hart beworbenen zuckerhaltigen Süßgetränke gäbe …

… zumindest hätten wir dann viel weniger Kinder mit Zahnschäden oder Übergewicht …

Genau. Wenn sich das Unternehmen aber zum Ziel setzt einen sinnvollen gesellschaftlichen Beitrag zu leisten, dann sollte es seine Kernkompetenzen klüger nutzen. Coca-Cola schafft es, ein perfekt gekühltes Süssgetränk bis ans Ende der Welt zu bringen. Das ist eine ungeheure logistische Leistung. Wer schafft das sonst schon? Könnte man diese Kompetenz nicht auch dafür nutzen, mit Nährstoffen und Vitaminen angereicherte Nahrungsmittel in genau diese Enden der Welt zu bringen? Das ist es jetzt nur eine Idee, und soll zeigen, welche Fragen sich Unternehmen stellen, die eine positive Wirkung haben wollen. Es geht nicht nur darum, den negativen Fußabdruck des aktuellen Geschäftes zu vermindern, sondern auch neue sinnvolle Geschäftsfelder zu entdecken und zu entwickeln. Wie der US-Ökonom Peter Drucker schon sagte:«jedes ungelöste gesellschaftliche Problem ist eigentlich nichts anderes als eine grosse unentdeckte Martkchance.»

Gibt es für solch einen Umbau auch Argumente, die den altmodischen Kriterien standhalten? Es heißt, nachhaltige Unternehmen seien langfristig auch ökonomisch stärker als andere …

Ja, und nicht nur das. Nachhaltigkeit ist auch wichtig, um gute Leute zu bekommen. Junge Leute finden es heute viel wichtiger als in der Vergangenheit, was und wie ihr Arbeitgeber im Markt anbietet. Sie bestimmen zunehmend, was verlangt wird. Bereits heute buhlen in einigen Industrieländern immer mehr Unternehmen um die besten hochqualifizierten Talente. Die wollen für inspirierende Unternehmen arbeiten, die wollen etwas Sinnvolles tun. Auch im Unternehmen motiviert ein Sinn jenseits der Rendite alle diejenigen, denen es nicht nur ums Geld geht.

Es geht nicht nur darum, den negativen Fußabdruck des aktuellen Geschäftes zu vermindern, sondern auch neue sinnvolle Geschäftsfelder zu entdecken und zu entwickeln. Regierungen müssen sich schon fragen, was gut für ihre Gesellschaft und die Umwelt ist. Und dann müssen sie das auch in verbindlichen Regeln festschreiben.

Können Sie das belegen?

Ich habe erst vor ein paar Tagen mit dem Chef eines großen internationalen Konzerns gesprochen und der hat mir gesagt, dass Klimaschutz und ein inspirierender Purpose bei der Mitarbeiterwerbung einen noch viel höheren Stellenwert als noch vor 10 Jahren haben. Es gibt auch eine Studie der Young Presidents Organization, in welcher CEOs nach der Bedeutung von Nachhaltigkeit gefragt werden – und die zeigt, wie sehr sich auch bei denen die Stimmung in den vergangen fünf Jahren verändert hat: 93 Prozent finden, dass ein Unternehmen einem gesellschaftlichen Zweck dienen muss, was dem neuen Verständnis von Nachhaltigkeit entspricht und wo auch das Klimaproblem dazugehört. Und dies aus drei Gründen: erstens wegen Druck von Mitarbeitern, zweitens wegen Druck der eigenen Kinder und drittens wegen Druck der Kunden.

Ist das Klima jetzt so wichtig, weil alle jetzt darüber reden? Oder erleben wir da wirklich einen grundsätzlichen Wandel, eine Moralisierung der Märkte, setzt sich da die Idee der planetaren Grenzen durch – also die Idee, dass wir die Erde in vielfacher Hinsicht überlasten und daran etwas ändern müssen?

Immer mehr Leute, egal an welcher Stelle im Unternehmen, wollen etwas Sinnvolles tun. Dies hat oft mit Nachhaltigkeit zu tun und kann das Klima betreffen, die Umwelt, oder die Biodiversität. Es kann aber auch die wachsende Ungleichheit in der Gesellschaft oder andere soziale Themen betreffen.

Welche Rolle spielen dabei die Finanzmärkte? Vor allem bei Aktiengesellschaften heißt es immer wieder, dass die gar nicht anders können, als den Gewinn zu maximieren. Würden sie sich anders verhalten, würden die Aktionäre die Vorstände und Aufsichtsräte davonjagen.

Da habe ich gute Nachrichten. Was da im vergangenen Jahr passiert ist und in diesem Jahr auch noch passieren wird, wird die Welt verändern. Die Verwalter der großen Fonds haben begriffen, dass man mit Nachhaltigkeit Geld verdienen kann und dass die Renditen bei nachhaltigen Unternehmen langfristig gut und sicher sind. Schweizer Großbanken wie die UBS oder auch die Black Rock, der weltweit grösste Investor, verändern ihre Kriterien für Investitionen gerade stark, nicht nur wegen den Vermögenstransfers an die nächste Generation, die einfach andere Prioritäten hat und das Geld bewusst anlegen will.  Jedenfalls ist der Zuwachs bei sogenannten nachhaltigen Geldanlagen und beim Impact Investment rasant.

Impact Investment bedeutet …

… dass Menschen ihr Geld dort investieren, wo es es etwas bewegt und zwar nicht philanthropisch sondern als profitables Geschäftsmodell mit gutem Zweck.

Reden Sie sich die Welt da nicht schön und ist die Realität nicht doch noch eine andere? Kürzlich hat RWE, das große deutsche Energieunternehmen, die niederländische Regierung vor einem Schiedsgericht auf Schadenersatz verklagt – weil die Niederlande schnell aus der Kohleverstromung aussteigen wollen. Gleichzeitig wirbt RWE in großen Anzeigen, dass das Unternehmen künftig ganz grün werden will. Das passt doch nicht. Das Argument für diese Art von Klagen ist dann immer: Wir müssen das tun, sonst werden wir von den Aktionären verklagt.

Einerseits fordern gewisse Investoren nun was anderes. Auf der Aktionärsversammlung von Unilever wurde dem Unternehmen vor Kurzem der Auftrag gegeben, die Klimastrategie ins Zentrum der Unternehmensstrategie zu stellen. Es spielen jedoch tatsächlich die Aufsichtsräte häufig noch eine hinderliche Rolle. Den Aufsichtsräten geht es zu oft nur um die eigene Risikominimierung, die wollen nicht von den Aktionären verklagt werden und haben eine zu kurzfristige Perspektive. Da wünsche ich mir mehr Mut und weniger weiße alte Männer. Denn schon wenn Sie die Gremien anders zusammensetzen, würde das viel verändern.

Das klingt verblüffend einfach. Eine andere Personalpolitik in den Chefetagen und damit dort eine andere Sicht auf die Welt – und alles wird gut?

Wir sind im Moment tatsächlich in der glücklichen Lage, dass Unternehmen von allen Seiten Druck bekommen. Und für ein solches Umdenken bringen jüngere, weiblichere und insgesamt diverse Chefetagen und Aufsichtsräte den nötigen frischen Wind und Weitblick.

Wäre das leichter, wenn wir strengere staatliche Regeln hätten, die von allen Unternehmen verlangen, dauerhaft und nachprüfbar anders mit der Umwelt umzugehen?

Ja, das wäre sicherlich hilfreich. Regierungen müssen sich schon fragen, was gut für ihre Gesellschaft und die Umwelt ist. Und dann müssen sie das auch in verbindlichen Regeln festschreiben. Der New Green Deal der EU setzt ein hervorragendes Zeichen,  der einen schonenderen Umgang mit der Umwelt für die Wirtschaft verbindlich zu machen will. Diese signalisieren der zögerlichen Wirtschaft: Euer Sandkasten wird gerade verschoben. Und unterschätzen Sie dann die Unternehmer nicht. Die sind sehr innovativ, wenn es darum geht, ihr Spielzeug dann auch zu verschieben.

Es kursieren im Moment viele Ideen für andere Unternehmensformen. Da gibt es Social Entrepreneurship, in den USA die B-Corps, in Deutschland die Bewegung der purpose economy. Bei allen geht es im Kern darum, dass schon in den Statuten des Unternehmens nicht nur die Gewinnmaximierung steht, sondern auch andere sinnvolle Ziele. Für wie wirkmächtig halten Sie die?

Die stoßen auf jeden Fall etwas an. Und sie knüpfen im Grunde an eine alte Idee von Unternehmertum an. Nehmen Sie beispielsweise den Gründungsgedanken von Unilever oder Nestle. Die wurden gegründet, weil sie ein gesellschaftliches Problem lösen wollten. Bei Nestle ging es darum, die Kindersterblichkeit zu senken, Unilever wollte die Hygienestandards in England verbessern.

Ich kenne Nestle vor allem, weil es immer wieder für die Privatisierung von Wasser kritisiert worden ist – und dafür, dass es viele Tonnen unnötiger Plastikflaschen produziert. Also nicht gerade als Modell.

Stimmt, da müsste wohl einiges passieren, damit der Ursprungsgedanke wieder stärker in den Fokus kommt. Unsere Forschung zeigt, dazu braucht es einen CEO mit entsprechenden Zukunftskompetenzen und ein Unternehmen, welches ko-kreativ mit anderen Akteuren arbeiten kann.

Kennen Sie eigentlich ein Unternehmen, bei dem alles stimmt – das gute Produkte hat, gutes Geld verdient, gut für die Umwelt ist und für die Gesellschaft? Oder ist das die Quadratur des Kreises?

Wir nennen solche Unternehmen „Positive Impact Organisationen“. Es gibt alternative Banken, die ihr Geld nachhaltig und nach ethischen Kriterien anlegen. In der Schweiz gibt es Choba-Choba, welches die Kakaobauern am Unternehmen beteiligt. Und die SV-Gruppe, ein Catering-Unternehmen, das seinen Klimaimpact dank einer Umschulung der Chefköche massiv reduzieren konnte, mit gleichem Profit. Oder es gibt Climeworks, ein Zürcher Unternehmen das CO2 aus der Luft holt und nicht nur bindet, sondern auch Mineralwasser-Herstellern weiterverkauft. Wir sammeln einerseits Beispiele solcher Unternehmen um zu inspirieren (Kurzvideos hier auf Sustainability-Today.com) und helfen Unternehmen andererseits beim Entdecken solcher neuer Geschäftschancen. Packen wir’s an, denn die Zeit läuft!


Anybody can contribute to the mindset shift that is needed to create a positive impact!

We know that it takes an enlightened leader to reposition an organization to provide also value for society and the planet. And we also know that there aren’t enough such leaders. However, latest research shows that there is hope: any engaged employee can increase their changemaker potential by inviting external stakeholders to traditionally internal decisions-making meetings. The current digital meetings are a great bridge for this. Learn here more about the magic of external stakeholders in triggering the organizational mindset shift towards creating positive value.

What lesson does COVID-19 crisis have for business?

Covid has shown us how important it is for organizations to become resilient. There is one guaranteed way to increase your resilience, and that is by orienting yourself to the burning challenges that society and the world face today. Pioneering organizations do this by matching their core competencies with these challenges in order to develop new business models and revenue streams for their business. This requires you to create value, no longer just for your shareholder, or even stakeholders, but to think beyond the existing markets and clients to think broader. The question becomes: How can you as an organization with all the competencies, resources, and capacities you have contribute to solving societal and environmental challenges that are out there?

How do leading positive impact organizations accomplish this?

The pioneers show that in order to transform from a traditional organization to a positive impact organization, there are two predictors of success:

  1. an enlightened leader, meaning somebody who gets the benefits of contributing value to society beyond just looking for creating value for your business, and
  2. an organization that is capable to work outside of its business boundaries, as effectively as internally. I call this the co-creative organization. In addition to managing your business internally, you need to learn how to be co-creative outside, and not just the CEO, but actually many people in your organization.

So that’s why I talk about two mindset shifts: 1) one of the leader who needs to shift somehow the purpose of the organization to want to create more value than just for shareholders. And 2) the mindset shift of the organization where suddenly a sufficient number of employees in the organization learn how to work creatively outside of their boundaries and make sense for their own organization out of it. This external fluency is an entirely new expertise that typically doesn’t get developed in business schools.

But there aren’t enough such leaders, are there?

Indeed, there are unfortunately there aren’t enough leaders. But our research offers great hope. Since it takes two things, the leader, and a co-creative organization, I have some ways to make sure that your organization can become co-creative. Even if you don’t have an enlightened leader, at least you now have one of the two success factors. And we have seen that process of becoming co creative co creative becomes a mindset shift trigger for the CEO. By engaging in the practices to become co-creative, there is a transformation. Even with the leader so you may have initially a leader who doesn’t get it.

Are you saying anybody can bring about change?

Indeed, we are calling them intrapreneurs or change-makers. It could be the head of sustainability, the head of strategy, head of innovation, who says: «Hey, we’re going to bring in such new practices».  In addition, there is a younger generation, an amazing amount of changemakers that are already kind of intrapreneurs that are ready to bring in a lot of energy, new thinking and dynamism, to be the changemakers that can bring in that that can work on that co-creation part.

But what would such a change agent do?

There is a method for turning a traditional organization into a co-creative one. There is a specific way to bring in external stakeholders. I call them Collaboratory events. The change agent invites constructive external stakeholders and together with them the company participants develop a solution to a problem that is out there. In that one-day workshop, particularly if you have the CEO present, our research shows that something happens with people. Exposure to different thinking, arguments, ideas, perspectives opens your mind. And sometimes, the little opening that happens triggers a mindset shift. A mindset shift is nothing else than an expansion of mind. The key to the organizational mindset shift is all about creating triggering incidents where participants minds expands. There are specific proven processes for this. My book «Five Superpowers for Co-creators» is all about it.

So what do you suggest for changemakers out there?

If you have an appetite for helping your organization to identify what are the positive opportunities in there and get together with the innovators and the strategists in your business together, what you need to do is to find a professional facilitator, ideally somebody trained with the SDGXCHANGE methodology, and organize a multi-stakeholder meeting. You pick a day, invite some external stakeholders and a diverse range of your work colleagues – new and long-time serving your organization, all ages, genders, backgrounds and skills. And together with a skilled facilitator, the group has a conversation about what could be the positive role or contribution of your business to address these issues out there. This is what it would mean to put yourself on the «offense» team.

Take-away message

Even if you work in an organization that currently isn’t focused on creating a positive impact for society and the world, and your leader doesn’t necessarily get the importance of such an orientation, there is something you can do: find ways to bring in external stakeholders to your next meeting you have in your department. Any meeting that benefits from a broader perspective and new ideas will be perfect for this. With this simple act, you will start broadening the mindset of your colleagues and help position your organization for a mindset shift. Be surprised with how the positive benefits start to spread in your organization.

If you need help in how to go about this, feel free to reach out to me katrin@katrinmuff.com.


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Try something different!

The impact of the change of being in our ability to change

When have you last tried something different? I had to think for a while until I recalled such a moment. For me, trying new foods is the easiest way of trying something different. Travelling to new places and discovering new cultures and places and people is my preferred way of trying something different. Trying a new sport requires courage for me to try and I love the feeling of excitement when I have overcome my resistance. Trying a new behavior is by far the hardest way of trying something new, by a long shot. It is also by far the most exciting way to challenge myself.

try smth new

Image source: https://aminoapps.com/c/books/page/blog/weekly-challenge-try-something-new/7viP_u3dXvQ7BJXVkbzVaBMkqe12Dz

What about you?

I was very touched by what Kathy Miller shared in her last blog and when she shared how this simple advice by a friend “try something different!” changed her approach to looking at change. And I have observed myself in the past month to see how often I might be willing to try something. What I noticed as I observed myself was that there were conditions that favored my ability to try a new behavior. And this led me to consider the impact of the state of being in our ability to change.

Some external conditions favor a state of excitement, of thrill, or of fear or anxiety. These carry the same underlying high energetic vibration and they generate states of being which lead to states of mind that then allow or prevent our ability to try something different. For me, such a high energetic vibration is really good when I want to try a new sport. And it hinders me when I try to adapt myself to a situation trying a new emotional attitude.

courage

Image source: https://www.humansynergistics.com/blog/constructive-culture-blog/details/constructive-culture/2017/07/18/organizational-courage-part-1-of-2-what-it-is

 

On the other hand, my travels to Cuba has exposed me to a country that resonates entirely differently. Its relaxed attitude, laid back music, warm temperatures and kind people grounded me in a very easy and relaxed energetic state. The calmness that comes from appreciation, satisfaction, joy and gratitude expresses itself in a much calmer low energic vibration. Such a vibration has served me well to try new ways of approaching relationship and served as a condition that allowed me to react with more kindness, openness and patience than I had known as my natural patterns. Quite obviously the state of being served as an enabler for change. I must say, however, that this relaxed state of being did not serve me when trying to motivate me to join a local public fitness class. I felt way too relaxed for such a try during vacation.

emotional

Image source: https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/meditation-and-emotions-the-power-of-silence-during-times-of-change/

 

In conclusion, there is not a preferable state of being, each such state simply either promotes or prevents an attempt to try something different and hence to change. High energic vibrations serve to push us beyond our boundaries which is useful in some situation. Low energetic vibrations, on the other hand, will pull us more inward to our source freeing other potentials that are useful in attempts of something different.

hi low energy

Image source: https://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/waves/Lesson-2/Energy-Transport-and-the-Amplitude-of-a-Wave

 

May I invite you to observe yourself for a week or two and to share what you notice about enabling or disabling conditions to try something different? I would love to hear from you!


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Listening – deepening a capacity

In the spirit of continued authentic communication as initiated in my last blog, I would like to share my reflections about the competency that was in highest demand in my past two months: listening!

 

Let me provide a bit of context. Having stopped my roles at Business School Lausanne at the end of July has brought an abrupt end to the previous demand of my leadership skills. I had chosen to let go of leading already three years prior when we introduced self-organization at the school. Yet I had not been able to drop the reporting function of leadership towards the owners and was in many ways still carrying the full weight of responsibility. It took August and September for me to appreciate how much lighter I started to feel, with human interaction being simplified to the person to person contact, rather than facing the projections and expectations that people would associate with me as a holder of a institutional role. With all of that gone, there was space for something new. 

 

I have discovered listening in many forms: professionally listening was a core competency when facilitating stakeholder meetings or chairing panel sessions, and when conducting interviews of best practice companies. Personally, as I reconnected to my purpose asking myself what would come next, I listened to signs of my body to guide me in deepening my intuition. I am also learning to listening to my emotional, cognitive and physical demands when it comes to freeing myself of my cognitive restrictions when it comes to eating. Behavioral scientists have unveiled to what degree modern times have disconnected many of us from a natural and healthy sense of what our physical needs are when it comes to food and how to listen to these. A multi-layer journey as I am discovering.

 

Listening to myself and to others has been complemented with my more conscious listening to what is around me in the city and in nature. A deeper listening, I am discovering, is slowing me down, grounding me and generating an instant deep connection to the core of what unites us all: the energy field that vibrates and pulsates if only we listen. 

3 x

 active listening

  • It is in that energy field that the solutions lie when I seek a transformative turning point in a multi-stakeholder meeting. Depending on the vibration and pulse, it becomes clear what the group needs to step forward in the direction they seek. 
  • It is also in that energy field that the right question, comment or exercise emerges when coaching a person in their journey. Guiding the coachee to connect to that field allows the person to find her answers herself. 
  • It is in this energy field that I am reconnecting to my deeper purpose and my passion. Be it in nature, be it simply by taking a few slow and deep breaths, be it by feeling my feet on the ground, my mind quiets down and I am operating at the speed of my body and its sensations. 

What are your experiences with listening?

 

For me, my core insight of these past two months of deep listening have let me to ponder the following question: “Why would I not live a life that follows the rhythm of my body, rather than racing through life at the speed of my thoughts always dragging my body behind?” I don’t yet have an answer and for the moment my courage is limited to sharing this question with you. 


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Falling on my feet after leaving BSL

Exploring communication in times of uncertainty

It has been two months now, since I was told that my time at BSL is up and that my contribution to the school was no longer desired by the majority shareholder of the group to which the school belongs.

It has been a strange time, with good and bad moments. On one hand it, it has been painful and stressful. A journey that took me from shock that immobilized me, to agitation and concern for what might now happen with the school and the many people there I care so much about – my colleagues, the students, the faculty. On the other hand, it has also been wonderfully liberating. The glimpse at a new phase in my life for which I feel so ready. Possibly so because I had thought of leaving BSL before but have never dared to. I thought I would harm BSL too much by leaving. Now that the owner decided on a new strategic direction, discontinuing what I have invested in and developed – I am suddenly free!

How do you communicate in such a time authentically yet without creating confusion? This is my challenge right now and this is my first attempt at it. I sense that this ability to communicate in uncertain or changing times might be a useful skill for not just me. There are two areas of thoughts I would like to share: a) insights gained and b) emerging questions:

A) These are the insights where I have gained clarity in:

  • I would like to find a way to live more authentically what I “preach”. If I want to suggest changes to make the world a better place, this starts with me. For me, now, this means to slow down and to stop racing from project to project, becoming more careful and mindful in selecting and prioritizing, and connecting to a deeper sensing of how I can truly make the difference I seek.
  • I would like to review my research questions and my teaching and to adapt them based on what I have learned these past years. This includes our experience of self-organization at BSL and the challenge of finding new, better organizational and governance structures to operate in today’s world. Also, I want to revisit my (PhD) question about the connection of the inner and outer world and how transformation occurs at a personal, organizational and societal level. How do we change?
  • I would like to operate in a new structure, rather than seeking a next employment. I want to serve my purpose, to be of service, to add value with my reflections and research, to create tools and methods, courses and programs, more powerfully than before. And I will do that creatively, together with others and in a structure that suits this purpose.

B) These are emerging questions I would like to explore further:

  • What does the BSL incident mean for my work in helping organizations to transform so that longer-term “sustainability” concerns weigh more than a short-term profit focus. What is there to be learned for such change processes? How can this apparent organizational setback instruct my inquiry about the transformation of business?
  • How do I interact with those who looked at the transformation of BSL as an important sign of hope in the landscape of business education, who had chosen it as their place of study, or who had dedicated dear time and energy to support our emergence as a promising prototype for a new type of business education? What can I offer, now?
  • What are my personal lessons from this change? What has prevented me from finding a more constructive solution? What are my shadows, blind spots and shortcomings? What does this mean in my life as I have just turned 7 x 7 (or 49), and what is the deeper message for my journey?

Each of these questions will deserve a separate blog and shall serve as a further attempt to authentically share in times of uncertainty. I am attentive to the interconnection among these and I am curious what I will be learning in my exploration. I am grateful for those who accompany me in this journey. It reminds me of what Bob Quinn calls “Building the bridge as we walk on it”.

Katrin


Leadership vs. Citizenship

Re-defining the word in the 21st century context

Who is a leader in the context of the challenges in the era of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? Business leaders, government leaders (speak politicians), non-government activist, social entrepreneurs, parents, or maybe all of them? And how do we define if somebody is a leader? Leaders have long been associated with organizational roles they hold; in a company, the CEO may be a leader, but not an accountant, salesman or marketer. But does this assumption still hold true in times where courageous action and responsible behavior is expected from almost anybody at any level of any type or organization, including at home?

Kathy Miller in her recent blog suggests that leadership entails “seeking solutions to wicked problems most always through collaboration with others”. She also reflected on how few true leaders there are on her horizon. Her definition suggests a much larger field of action of a leader than previously considered. When I went to business school in the early nineties, things were still clear. A leader is in charge of managing his company. Period. Ever the Rio Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, it has become clear that business is expected to deliver far beyond only satisfying internal needs, including those of employees and shareholders. Having included external stakeholders in selected consultation has become a fashion since the start of this decade. And yet, the SDGs introduced in 2015, take the stakeholder engagement perspective even a step further suggesting that business may need to operate far beyond its current set of stakeholders.

I entirely concur with Kathy’s definition of leadership. Even a traditionally defined leader, a person who holds a top position in an organization, is expected today to not only manage her business, but also to engage with players in a growing ecosystem that represents the trillion dollar business opportunities of engaging in solving burning societal and environmental issues. For this, we need to replace the outdated idea that leadership is attached or connected to a specific role or position. Everybody, in every position and role of an organization, no matter how small, needs to embrace the responsibility to seek solutions to the “wicked problems” as Kathy suggested. Is that realistic or even necessary?

At BSL where I work, we see how demanding self-organization is on individual. Self-organization demands a high degree of personal responsibility and emotional independence to allow the organization to thrive. But that is not a realistic expectation. There are many people who for various reasons do much better in an environment where they can rely on emotional support, political support, and a bit of clarification on priorities from somebody better apt at defining these. We have learned the hard way that personal responsibility is not something that can be expected or necessarily developed in a person who is not open to this. We all have effective defensive systems that prevent change and development. Often for good reasons. So what does that mean?

I suggest that the word leader needs to be reinterpreted. Rather than being reserved to those holding a specific role or position, it should be used for those exceptional individuals who have the capacity, energy and competence to build on a high degree of personal responsibility so that they can not only do their day-job but can find synergies between what they do and what can help solve wicked global problems. Such people can be found everywhere, but – and this is a realization I must admit – they cannot be expected everywhere. They are exceptional human beings and I suggest that they fully embrace their responsibility as global citizens and can hence be considered as the 21st century leaders. Such a shift really means that we have come to consider Leadership as engaged Citizenship. And for this, we certainly need to adjust the way we educate such leaders in business and management schools. Or should they be called citizen-schools in future?

 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


Stop making sense!

A special message to the 100 change makers of the Diploma of Sustainable Business of Business School Lausanne and the University of St Gallen IWÖ at the occasion of the first Alumni event in Zurich on April 28-29, 2018. #DASTeamRocks

By Katrin Muff, Co-Director of the Program

 

The early adapters are onboard and solid best practice examples are emerging. We have accomplished much in the past decade on bringing business and its leaders onboard to embrace the challenge to create a sustainable and just world, and to make it their business.

The Rio+20 Conference in July 2012 can be seen as a tipping point for the early adapters in business. More than 5’000 top executives gathered to envision how to scale their efforts towards sustainable development. Failing governments in the previous decade had led to shift the hope to business. With its innovation power and easy access to funding, business became the prime driver for a world “where 9 billion people live well on one planet”, as expressed by one of the business conveners, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, founded 20 years earlier around the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.

What might be the tipping point so that the large crowd of followers will jump on the bandwagon? That is the one billion dollar question we have to address today. And for this, we – the convinced – need to change our attitude and our tone. Our voices were important to wake up, or shake up, the business community. And those who could hear us, did. But now, our voices need to reach those who weren’t buying into our arguments and who still remain skeptical or maybe also preoccupied by other significant other mega trends that shape the world.

The climate debate in the United States has clearly illustrated to what degree it is pointless to try and change somebody’s mind by providing seemingly convincing facts. The strong bi-partisan polarity experienced in the United States as a result of the election of the current President further confirms to what degree the only result of a well-considered argument is a counter-argument. We are challenged to let go of the polarity perspective of “I am right” and “you are wrong”. If anything, such attitudes – which both sides hold – simply amplify the gap to be bridged.

In some ways, we – the converted and convinced – need to acknowledge that we unintentionally do onto those we are trying to convert what we blame them to do to us. To ignore and reject a given point of view as invalid or worse ridiculous. Ever attempt we make to say “listen to this and you will finally understand” is an opportunity lost to create a true dialogue by first establishing a common ground. A common ground that includes both points of view, and doesn’t presume one is righter than the other. Only once we have established this common ground can we then engage in a dialogue where together both parties take the immense risk of exploring new grounds together. The risk is huge as it involves that we may end up in a place that is not the same from where we started, requiring us to enlarge our existing understanding and integrate further perspectives. Hence, broadening our worldview.

Integral theory call this neutral, higher or detached, space an “integrated state”. Such a state implies the ability to hold both one’s own and somebody else’s perspective with equal appreciation and respect. And this is no small challenge and not for the weak hearted. Try it at home or try it at work and you will see, how quickly you will step down from that “integrated state” back into the polarity of arguing that the way you see the world is right.

I challenge you, dear fellow converted change maker, to practice this new muscle in your mind and in your heart: adopt this higher neutral state more and more often, and every time a bit longer and with a bit more ease. It is the single best thing you can do if you want to create a positive impact in this world and contribute towards a better world. I know that you can do it, you have that capacity already built in, you simply need to remember it and train it again. I think that the deteriorating state of the world has thrown us into a polarity state where we could do no better than “knowing better” and preaching, pointing fingers, raising hands, highlighting, raising awareness and alerting others. They heard us, those we could reach we have reached. Now, we need to develop new pathways together with those preoccupied with other priorities on their radar to collaborate towards solutions that make greater sense to more people and institutions and that embrace more perspectives. By including opposing thoughts and ideas, better ideas and solutions will emerge. Collaborative processes have long demonstrated that – now let’s go the extra mind and embrace a new mindset, that of the integrator.

 

 

Picture credit: https://innovationleadershipforum.org/our-wisdom/mindset-shift/


The Superpowers of a Change Maker

What is it that makes change makers so impactful? And what can we learn from them? How does resilience turn into a strength that when combined with other strengths becomes a true superpower?

As I am adding the finishing touches on my upcoming book that answers these questions in the context of what makes co-creation successful, I would like to share an emerging bit of insight that hopefully adds value to you.

Kathy Miller has expanded the personal resilience story I have shared in January reflecting on my WEF experience with her insights on what makes organizations resilient, pointing out how few companies possess the cultural backbone that enables such resilience. Here I am turning the spotlight on a remarkable group of people that are emerging as the pillars of change in turbulent world: the change makers.

My book features six change makers from all walks of life. They have a few things in common:

  • They feel an increasing need to connect what they do at work with what concerns them in life in general
  • They are triggered and challenged by their environment (students, colleagues, kids, news) to acknowledge that what they do no longer works
  • They have a capacity to reflect and the courage to listen and learn
  • They are able and willing to engage with others, often strangers, to try old things in new ways and to collaborate in entirely new settings and with new approaches

What none of them had, however, were superpowers. And here is were we come in. All of us who care and who resonate with the above. Superpowers can be acquired and developed. Let me explain!

In his book “Building the bridge as you walk on it”, Robert Quinn offers a new way to look at leadership competencies. He suggests moving beyond a static view of preferred traits that we “should” possess, to a dynamic view of so-called competing strength that are both required but which need to be equally developed in order to achieve a higher state in which both strengths lead to a higher state of competency. Too complicated? Take the example of two strengths we are all familiar with:

  • Being tough and providing structure and limits
  • Caring about the other and being lenient and forgiving

Both of these are undoubtedly strengths, yet one without the other will not lead to an ideal outcome. Quinn argues that we need both of them and calls for a higher state of “tough love”. Makes sense, right! You got the concept that I use to define superpowers!

A superpower for me is when a strength polarity pair is overcome and super strength, or superpower, emerges!

In my research that has led to the sequel of the Collaboratory book, we have identified the following three superpowers of individual change makers in co-creation processes (see also Figure 1):

  • Appreciative curiosity results from being constructive and positive, overcoming self-righteous judgment.
  • Building bridges happens when an inclusive influencer stops being opinionated or unprincipled.
  • Empathic support comes from being open and caring, resisting the temptation to be distant and withdraw.

Figure 1: Extract of the Book “Secrets, Solutions and Superpowers of Co-creation”
due for publication in September 2018 by Routledge Publishing
From Strengths to Superpowers

 

From Strengths to Superpowers

We have developed the strengths by having identified the reasons why co-creation efforts among stakeholders fails most often. We have labelled these causes “limitations” and found out that these limitations are not failures or weaknesses, but rather strengths that have turned into a negative expression due to insisting too much. Each strength therefore has a negative expression when over-stretched (see Figure 2). This is something that you may have experienced when having either experienced somebody being too tough or somebody being too caring.

Figure 2: Extract of the Book “Secrets, Solutions and Superpowers of Co-creation”
due for publication in September 2018 by Routledge Publishing
From Limitations to Strengths

 

From Limitations to Strengths

The journey from limitations to strength and from strengths to superpowers is the development journey of the heroes of our times: the change makers. I am sure that you have used your inherent strengths in various combinations with other strengths to develop your very own personal superpowers. Here I invite you to take a look at the strengths we have identified in our research in Figure 2 and to ask yourself: where am I on the scale of these strengths and their respective limitations? Which limitation have I noticed in myself when I overstretch a strength and how can this overview help me return to my powerful expression of the strength again?

The book highlights two additional levels of superpowers that come into play when we co-create: the superpowers of a stakeholder group and the superpower of facilitating the space for solving shared issue. You will find out more about these in the book which is expected in a bookstore near you in September this year.

 

Picture credit: https://www.dumblittleman.com/7-superpowers-you-act-like-you-have-but/

References:

Robert Quinn (2004): Building the bridge as you walk on it. Jossey-Bass.

Katrin Muff (2013): The Collaboratory – A co-creative stakeholder process for solving complex problems. Greenleaf Publications.


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Finding our space in a new place

Building personal resilience – an applied example

CEOs and HR Directors have consistently rated adaptability, authenticity and values as top leadership qualities for people at any level of an organization. These are also key ingredients for resilience. I define resilience as the capacity to respond to external pressure by adapting and recovering quickly and hence finding a new equilibrium.

Typically, we look at resilience in interaction with others in an organizational setting. I discovered last week, that I can apply these three ideas also in a challenging networking environment. As a way to launch our transatlantic blog into a new year, I wanted to dedicate this first blog to how we can build personal resilience while being in new challenging situations. I will demonstrate this with my personal experience and reflection from my first participation at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos last week.

Arriving in Davos for the World Economic Forum was hard. Hard for different reasons than I had anticipated – it had been raining and the slush on the street made it a real challenge to make it to the AirB&B my colleague had organized for us. And yet, all this struggle was nothing compared to the difficulty we had securing accommodation for the event! Unimaginable! My colleague Julia Christensen Hughes, Dean of the College of Business & Economics at the University of Guelph , persisted through all obstacles and miraculously found for our Female Deans Trio a fabulous apartment.

Figuring out networking in an event that is strictly structured around privileged access to select events was another eye-opener. The weather challenge which drowned the arrival in unbelievable masses of snow and rain meant that nothing worked as planned. Being simply in the moment and helping fellow attendees out, together finding registration and queuing for badges ended up being the best way to connect. The human element of together making it in a challenging moment created a connection far more important than a typical cocktail party ever would. I may even have attracted a new MBA student to BSL as a result of one such incident.

Nesting in and finding spaces that feel comfortable was a big thing for me too. Given such unfriendly weather conditions outside made it a necessity to find warm and dry spots. Ideally with a seating option and a coffee machine nearby. So finding comfort in the welcoming Female Quotient equity lounge, felt perfect despite my initial resistance to join a “feminine” movement. Admitting that, listening deeper to my intuition and overriding superficial mental judgement, was important. The previous night, I had ignored such intuition and in an attempt to do some networking and meet up with friends, I ended up roaming the Promenade getting wet feet in the slush and maybe a cold along the way – without ever catching up with my friends. I did have the intuition that I should have stayed in the apartment and caught an early night, but failed to listen.

So what am I saying here? I find that when we reach out into the world as change makers, we end up in new, unfamiliar spaces where we need to orient ourselves and find out how we can be effective in such a space. Being effective, I suggest here with my brief insight into my brief #WEF2018 Davos experience, involves these three things:

  • Adaptability: Arriving well and creating a space of comfort either by being with people or having accessories that create comfort (I always bring a candle when I travel)
  • Authenticity: Being in the present moment and embracing the encounter that presents itself wholeheartedly without trying to be elsewhere – trust serendipity!
  • Values: Listen to your intuition and go or stay where you feel well rather than where a program suggests you should or could be. Find your inner rhythm and stick with it as you dance with what is happening around and allow that duality with grace and joy!

And these three insights that I have gained in Davos link nicely back to what CEOs suggest are the backbone of resilience: adaptability, authenticity and values. I hope you find this reflection insightful in your own journey as a change maker both within your organization, and as you shape your own journey across new ground and landscapes!

 


Business Schools finally involved in the World Economic Forum

A blog by Katrin Muff at Business School Lausanne in collaboration with Julia Christensen Hughes of the College of Business & Economics at the University of Guelph and Mette Morsing of Copenhagen Business School and the Stockholm School of Economics

You may wonder why business schools should be present at a global economic event. Well, some leaders have received their education from business schools and there is great pressure from civil society and business that business schools do a better job in educating the future generation of leaders. Leaders that can deal with the complexity of a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (short VUCA) world, that have a solid values-based inner compass, can work effectively both inside and outside of their organizations, fluent in systems thinking and capable of leading multi-stakeholder initiatives that address the complex issues that the world is facing. At Business School Lausanne, we call such people “Responsible leaders for a sustainable and just world”. We are dedicated to developing such leaders across all of our programs, from bachelor to doctoral degrees and substantiate our learning space with world-leading research in the areas of sustainability, responsibility and transformation.

We are not the only ones! Toby Heaps, CEO of Corporate Knights and Jonas Haertle, Head of U.N. PRME jointly invited 40 business school Deans who are championing responsible management education for a better world. So, for the first time at the World Economic Forum in Davos, a comprehensive cohort of Deans from such disrupting schools were present to discuss how to strengthen our initiatives and collaborate with like-minded business leaders. There are 13’000 business schools around the world, and while there are 700 signatories to the PRME principles, it is high time to disrupt the 20th century curriculum built on flawed assumptions about the economy, the purpose of business and the role of a leader. These 40 champions offer inspirational ideas for providing a 21st century education and research focus that provides the foundation to receive a “licence to educate” as expected by society (source www.50plus20.org).

Celebration dinner of the 40 champion business schools appointed by United Nations PRME, in collaboration with Corporate Knights. Lisa Kingo, Head of the UN Global Compact, addressing the champions

I had the privilege to spend time with Julia Christensen Hughes, Dean of the College of Business And Economics at the University of Guelph in Canada and Mette Morsing who created possibly the largest CSR center in business at Copenhagen Business School and who is now creating a similar new sustainability research center at the Stockholm School of Economics. Being roommates in a rustic (AirBnB) apartment in Klosters has allowed not only great late night and early morning talks around the kitchen table, but also deepened a human connection that results from the bonding experience when three women have to make do with one bathroom and make it out of the door by 6am. My coffee capsules helped a bit, and Julia’s tea bags did magic, as did the wine we shared. The celebration dinner hosted by Corporate Knights and PRME allowed us to deepen connections with fellow Deans who have been partners on our transformative journey such as Philip O’Regan who last year hosted an unforgettable joint PRME and GRLI conference in Ireland. It also allowed us to make new connections with delegates from around the world including Africa, and new faces such as AIM in the Philippines, Berkeley in the USA and Insead in France.

Mette Morsing, Julia Christensen-Hughes and Katrin Muff

Visiting the Sustainable Impact HUB

Business schools have a long way to go. And so does business! While it may seem contradictory to participate in an event that assembles a global political and economic elite and where social entrepreneurship is possibly seen as a noteworthy phenomena, we realized how important it is for us, leading disruptors in business education, to also have our voices heard if we are to support further disruption in enabling global business to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Our input was appreciated and called for at many sessions, including those that focused on women’s leadership (and yes, there is a case suggesting that women deans can be particularly effective change agents, like women managers!). In business oriented sessions, our input and reflection was also sought and appreciated; it was heartwarming to feel how welcome our presence was. We were also challenged. Business expects significant change in education – we heard calls for breaking down silos, teaching in interdisciplinary non-linear ways, focusing on problem solving and embracing a spirit of experimentation and co-learning with our students. We also heard of how technology, applied well, is democratizing education – providing anywhere anytime access and opportunity to learn.

Participating in a breakfast meeting

Influencing and networking at the WEF in Davos happens everywhere, not just in meetings. This is the Davos magic. I talked to a successful entrepreneur who became interested in doing an MBA at BSL while queueing for my badge. Mette challenged assumptions behind the WEF competitiveness report while sitting next to its author in a shuttle bus. Julia met business leaders with an interest in supporting further curricular innovation in her business school. She also proudly participated in sessions offered by one of her alumni on block chain and crypto currencies. We got first-hand insights into the new IMF report while riding a local train and we thought of an inspiring new initiative around the Golden Rule when having lunch with Kim Polman. Julia also met renowned author of Donut Economics and HD recipient Kate Raworth while riding a late night shuttle. Kate is designing the first entire updated 21st century economics course with BSL to be launched in September 2018. The WEF demands that you are present in every single moment and that you are free to engage in the most diverse kind of conversations you can imagine at any time of the day, from the moment you open your eyes until your head hits the cushion. It is as much exhausting as it is exhilarating and if we leave this event with one shared learning it is this:

We will be back next year and we will be better prepared and better organized. We will work on the ideas that were developed this time around and announce the results next year. We will organize a house where Transformative Deans (or Deans as Agents of Change) can meet and discuss effective ways to transform not only their own schools but the management education landscape. It takes leadership, and this year’s WEF theme seems to suggest that it takes female leadership. Well, that is a currency we have plenty of!