„What we need at companies is a true culture of mistakes. Failing faster means to fail cheaper.“

// Corporate Culture, IT Quality Improvement

How the rules of the game are redefined in business

The work environment is changing permanently and will, in the years ahead, become completely different from what we have known in the past. These are not trends that come and go but rather a true change of the rules of the game. Even though today traditional work is still common at a lot of companies, this model is approaching its expiration date. The young generation of „digital natives“ and an unstoppable change of values in society are reaching the work environment more and more. New, individual factors and values determine the attitude towards and the understanding of work. The following two new rules of the game regarding ideas vs. efficiency and the new culture of mistakes will be inspected more closely as examples of the new framework conditions:

New rule of the game: Ideas vs. efficiency

Good ideas and innovations do not drop out of the sky. But that is exactly what is expected from the employees. While in the past years, effectiveness and efficiency were demanded, now the demand is increasingly for exciting creativity, stimulating inspiration and fresh impulses. This is asking too much of some good managers and is triggering unnecessary stress. Burn-out and work/life balance have entered the day-to-day vocabulary. That said, it is really not all that difficult when creativity and innovation are not understood as something that is put on and additional. Creativity and innovation can be promoted easily if the corresponding structures are built-out internally. This includes the option for a cross-departmental and cross-company exchange, to integrate customers and partners into the idea development, and to create sufficient leeway in day-to-day office business for thinking outside the box and for tinkering. Network with institutions of higher education, research institutions and professional associations. Change routines in day-to-day personal and business activities time and again. Create small, creative disruptions in the furnishing of your office, at the start of meetings or in project work. Try out new creativity techniques time and again. New rule of the game: Mistakes are good if the company learns from them

Penguins are smart animals. When hunting for fish, first a single penguin dives into the cold water while its brethren are patiently waiting on the ice floe whether any enemies are in the water. Once it is clear that the situation is safe, all the other animals follow. This way, the community is protected and help is provided to one another. Companies can learn from the penguins. In times of fast-paced change, a lot of projects are handled concurrently. Quite often, little is learned from the mistakes in unsuccessful projects since these tend to be covered up by those causing the mistakes for fear of disadvantages. The consequences are fatal for the organisation. The same mistakes are repeated in future projects or projects running in parallel, time and again. A learning organisation is not possible. Companies such as Google want to break through this error dynamics and offered an unusual prize years ago already, the so-called Penguin Award. Every employee can imagine a project that absolutely tanked. Instead of criticism and ridicule, lessons are learned from the mistakes and the courage for open communication of mistakes is rewarded. A method and culture from which other companies can learn as well. Prerequisite being that brave executives take the lead and create a positive culture of mistakes. An environment free from fear where not only success factors are looked for and where not only successful projects are provided with a stage, but rather, where mistakes are communicated openly, analysed and used for a learning experience. In line with the motto: You can learn from mistakes!

Conclusion: Question the rules of the game to date

The new rules of the game are no new management trend, rather, they do representatively illustrate the shift in power and changes in society and in the work environment currently taking place. The new rules of the game are intended to encourage one to think about future rules of the game and to diligently question the rules of the game to date.


Axel Liebetrau

Keynote-Speaker und Entrepreneur

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