Pathfinder 2015 – Leading the Future – Berlin, May 1, 2015

CEOs chose a forward-looking topic, nominated speakers and about a hundred talents each from their own organization to meet in an aeroplane hangar at the former airport Tempelhof in Berlin on Labour Day. It was a successful idea, and there was a passionate host: Gabor Steingart, CEO of the Handelsblatt publishing group.

SYNNECTA participated as a guest. It was a good opportunity for SYNNECTA to see clients once again and meet the next generation as well as encountering familiar topics and pioneers.

The CEO of Bayer AG Marijn Dekkers announced risk researcher Ortwin Renn from Stuttgart, who gave a lively and knowledgeable explanation that innovation needs a culture of readiness to assume risk. He also described how the augmentation of individual risks by media leads us to seriously overestimate these while we underestimate and partly displace other real, but abstract, risks – such as global warming. The chairman of the supervisory board of Daimler AG, Manfred Bischoff, had invited physicist Michael Feindt from Karlsruhe to speak on algorisms and automated decisions that decisively raise the quality of decision-making for all repetitive decisions. However, this does not apply for strategic decisions on the way to the future, for which we cannot make use of existing data. No amount of data collection ascertainment of decisions can replace »gut instinct« there.

Jürgen Fitschen, Co-CEO of Deutsche Bank had chosen the topic trust and invited extreme climber and businessman Stefan Glowacz. He gave an authentic presentation at hand of the story of three attempts at a first ascent of a mountain in Patagonia that showed how many dimensions of trust come together to make possible the performance of an extreme achievement under extreme conditions. There is trust in one’s own plans, the material and the team as well as trust in the goal as the decisive motivator above all. Johannes Teyssen, CEO of E.ON had selected the topic re-invention and chosen American investor and multi-millionaire Steve Westly to speak. The speaker described digitalization and networking as the driving forces of a development that in themselves pose a challenge to current business models. Westly also used anecdotes to bring personalities like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk into the room: they revolutionized industries with visionary force and determined persistency.

Jens Baas, CEO of Techniker Krankenkasse nominated philosopher and journalist David Precht to illuminate the concept of appraisal. The speaker gave a fundamental explanation why people are existentially dependent on appraisal and why it is intrinsic to human behaviour. There followed rounds of conversations with participating talents that covered values such as satisfaction, fairness, love, morality and cooperation.

Bernhard Mattes, chairman of the management board of the Ford works and president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany announced the topic diversity for innovation. Markus Hengstschläger is a human genetics expert from Vienna. He demonstrated how our society systematically produces »mediocricy« that is produced in family backgrounds, Kindergardens and schools and even the development of business managers. We are conditioned not to attract attention, to keep in line and we have to work on our weaknesses in a system that concentrates on deficits while our outstanding abilities waste away. We live in fast, unpredictable times: we need diversty and difference in order to master the challenges it brings. Hengstschläger delivered a speech full of expert knowledge at the highest level, telling analogies, humour and a seminal message – the standing ovation was well deserved.

Gabor Steingart introduced the topic revolution and passionately advanced his conviction that the enlightenment is not a completed era but now more than ever is in fact a universal social duty that could certainly result in a modern revolution. He referenced the economist Tomas Sedlacek who had already touched on the topic from another point of view with a book on »(R)evolutionary Economics?« together with David Graeber. Sedlacek is convinced that the logic of the free market and an economy of growth that is still in place cannot be maintained.

For us, the event was a reunion with our clients, including CEOs with whom we have successfully worked together in great change projects. It was also important for us to see that the topics we are dealing with are ever more appreciated by a broader public. Value and trust have always been the basis of a sustainiable business culture. On July 5, we will dedicate a special open event in Cologne to our topic »diversity and inclusion«, which is still an untapped dimension that is instrumental to business success.

Prof. Hengstschläger gave a deeply convincing presentation of the significance of diversity for innovation. It was certainly no coincidence that the CEOs who met in the hangar at Tempelhof on May 1, 2015 were all white, middle-aged men. Our initiative »New leadership for a new world« takes account of the transformative dynamics conjured up by Westly and analysed by Sedlacek.

SYNNECTA has already established a context for this mosaic-like effective topics and supports businesses and managers on their way to sustainable modernity. The SYNNECTA future check and our organizational development approaches for agile organizations factor in the findings presented and discussed at the pathfinders 2015 event. We will incidentally discuss these approaches on June 10 with HR managers from a range of organizations in an HR round table. SYNNECTA will also elucidate them in a lecture to be held in Cologne on September 15 at Zukunft Personal 2015.

Since labour day, another 800 young leadership talents have been inspired by the topics of the future. Pathfinder 2015 was a successful event! It is good to know that more and more people are joining up to design the future together.

Jörg Müngersdorff

New Leadership for a New World – A diagnostics instrument on the issue of VUCA


The leadership situation of today and tomorrow is characterized by planning ambiguities, the demand for faster adaptation and abrupt strategy alterations. VUCA is the term that was coined to describe this situation. Is your organization prepared for it?

Since last year, we have been experimenting with diagnostic tools that will be able to find your position and to provide an answer on how well organizations are really prepared for this situation. A report from inside the development of the tools for a guided future check for organizations.

Rüdiger Müngersdorff

A diagnostics instrument on the issue of VUCA

Is it really true you are in a state of VUCA in your organization? Is the situation of your business really that volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous? How do the employees and managers in your organization see it? Does the context make a difference – the organisation as a whole, a given team, a given individual? Which aspects are considered to be the most challenging? Where have successful coping strategies emerged already?

We have captured the VUCA phenomenon in several blog entries and demonstrated a range strategies to address the situation. Before an organisation or one of its units takes a measure in order to better handle its existence in a world assumed to be in a state of VUCA, it is advisable to find answers to the questions above. It is only once those answers are before us that can we start to think about possible consequences and interventions.

In this context, it is particularly useful to engage in a guided reflection on the status of your own organization. We have therefore taken a step in that direction by designing a questionnaire in preparation for our last SophiaWorkshop. This tool enables us to find out how the people in an organization really experience their situation. It is not concerned with the measurement and evaluation of objective VUCA indicators but rather with capturing subjective and individual perceptions.

VUCA is often employed to describe the outside world or the organizational context of a business: increasing volatility on the markets makes planning more difficult, for example, as it emerges that the required assumptions and predictions do not fully apply. Many such external factors exist. However, internal factors – »home-made« ones – also play an important role. Certain structures, processes, cultural patterns and ways of behaviour can result in, or at least increase the likelihood of, a situation where employees and managers perceive their environment to be lacking the necessary stability, certainty, simplicity and clarity. That can result in a number of dysfunctional behaviours and limit the organization’s ability to react to the above-mentioned uncertainties in the outside world. The questionnaire focuses on these aspects.

We are working together with the University of Manchester and Carolin Hauner in the framework of her Master’s thesis in order to develop the VUCA diagnosis tool and to continue to sharpen the focus of the questionnaire. We will also work together with industry partners in order to make sure that the result will be a useful tool. If you are interested in taking part in this process of co-creation, please be in touch to address details and the means of cooperation!

If you would like to use the VUCA questionnaire for your own organization in order to gain an initial insight into how the VUCA situation is perceived in your organization, please contact us at

Thomas Meilinger
SYNNECTA Diagnostics

New Leadership for a New World – Democratizing Organizations – initial realistic steps

In 2010, Georg Diez wrote in the newspaper SZ Nr. 275:

»We are on the brink of this new century, the contours of which we can at least discern. A new green hedonism, a new technology euphoria, a crisis demolishing old hierarchies and enabling new realities, thus making room for fresh ideas.«

Now, the media (social as well as official) are full of suggestions on how to use democratic forms and methods in order to handle the crisis of hierarchies. Few pause to ask whether this can be combined with the organizations’ system targets and their embedment into the global financial market. The suggestions for democratisation contain another hope: the hope of many that they will be able to work with more engagement and self-determination.

Discussions of this kind are addressed in organizations from two points of view. Firstly: what do I have to do in order to create a space that enables employees to be engaged as they work? Secondly: how can I create a context within which my employees make their potential available? The answers to both questions lead us to another reality of leadership work. The essential question is: how can my employees be heard and what will enable them to work in a context they consider meaningful? If both of these aims are realized, more employees will feel their effective agency. That is the psychological basis for motivated, confident people.

The current urgency is demonstrated when we address the scenarios drawn of the near and middle-distance future. With regard to perception within organizations, these are described by the acronym VUCA (Jörg Müngersdorff: New Leadership for a New World; Johannes Ries: VUCA).

Jörg Müngersdorff clearly outlined the potentially dramatic nature of the developments in a range of fields, asking the decisive question: Are organizations prepared? A look at the regular polls on employee motivation in larger and large organizations yields a clear answer: no (depending on the study, 70% to 80% are described as unmotivated). Unless, of course, you believe that 30% of employee potential suffice to tackle the challenges ahead.

Is democratisation the answer, however? Even a simple look at the topic »Choosing our leadership« raises fears of never-ending election campaigning. Yet, democratisation has already started to take place long ago. Forms of plebiscites like employee questionnaires, 360° feedback and management dialogues are steps along a path towards a democratically composed organization.

With regard to the next steps, there are two aspects that have to precede the experiment of daring to »choose« leaders, strategic topics, wages, etc. The first step has to be the dissolution of hierarchic borders. We create layers in organizations. As a result, debates are limited to single levels and often keep repeating in the same patterns. At this moment, we are witnesses to a protest against these limits arising among the lower layers. This protest is not primarily about status issues or what would generally be subsumed as »envy«; it is about a sense that leadership is too far removed from reality, that it is not in touch. This is true internally as well as with regard to market developments. Delineations of this kind can be opened up swiftly and without disturbing the structure. It could be considered a realization of the popular fireside chat.

Participation in leadership conferences, management meetings, strategy circles and other meetings will be changed: half of the participants shall be delegated by employees. It is important that the delegates are sent by local or functional units that have fewer than a hundred employees. This strategy will always touch only selected groups that change over the course of time. It will nevertheless introduce a lasting change to the conversations, debates and topics at traditional meetings. The hierarchic borders will become more fluid. Bottom-up knowledge can enter opinion-forming processes and enable participation (the condition for engagement and motivation). These are soft methods of democratisation, which at the same time bring about a lasting improvement of an organization leadership’s vertical communication: Having been there will change the way we speak about an event.

The second aspects concerns one of the bases of democratic orientation: the establishment of an internal critical media landscape. Organizations will have to abandon their guided internal press led, as it is, by image folders. One condition for functioning participation is a critical counterpublic, which is at the same time an important source of information on prevalent thoughts, perceptions and feelings for those in charge. The introduction of internal social platforms are an entrance gate that make it possible to practice and try out how to deal with a critical counterpublic.

It is apparent that the traditional procedure where a manager defines the hierarchy has lost some of its full power of legitimation. It has been joined by a second process of decision-making: once I have been placed, my employees will have to actively choose me. This fact obliges us to enter dialogue. An organization that has managed to introduce vertical participation models and that is truly engaged in an exchange with their employees will find it much easier to gain social competence. In such organizations, people are working together on a goal. They know the significance of what they are doing and can experience the value of their contribution.

A final reminder: Why do we need all of that? Because we will need the engagement of more than 20 to 30 per cent of our employees if we want to be able to face the challenges ahead.

Rüdiger Müngersdorff

New Leadership for a New World – On the Sustainability of Organizations

New developments everywhere!

People are vigorously finding solutions. Possibilities are opening up. Future is emerging. Knowledge is largely accessible. Spiritual awareness is growing. Many breakthroughs happen because people are taking their fate in their own hands and are not allowing the contradictions, complexity and uncertainty that so often surround us to take the wind out of their sails. Throughout the world, people are searching for meanings and are taking the initiative to bear responsibility for the earth. They find like-minded persons in their immediate neighbourhood, in their region and in the digitally connected world, they seize ideas, share successes, take part in initiatives, provide resources, invent and put things into effect.

At the same time, we are faced by concrete challenges and have to address urgent questions. Such questions concern peacekeeping, protecting the environment, nutrition, health, mobility, energy, economic and finance policies. All of that is going on while upheaval rages in the world. Geopolitical power struggles and wars, natural catastrophes and epidemics, terrorism, finance and economic crises, population explosion, the growing chasm between poor and rich, hunger and malnutrition in large parts of the world, obesity and fatal lifestyle diseases in the affluent societies, species extinction, climate change and the constant excess stress on the earth’s natural limits.

We are in a decisive phase of transition. Underneath the visible surface of our current situation, shaken and dissipated by countless crises and dramas as it is, there lurks the development of something new in experiments that range from the tentative to the powerfully confident. Like in any transformation, the innovative forces are opposed by strong, conservative forces.

The developments are driven by many dynamics that will continue to shape our future. Just a few keywords are globalisation, digitalisation and acceleration, urbanisation, demographic change.

We have to experimentally lift ourselves out of the enclosure of our immediate concerns in order to free our perception of the great, fundamental questions, the visionary and strategic design of a sustainable modern age. Looking at the earth from the height or distance and complexity of the cosmos, we can observe the great lines of development. We, who share the earth as a habitat – a home – belong together and are connected. This is the first fundamental truth.

This bond and responsibility for our joint space and future generations are the seedbed of developments, initiatives and projects that are the courageous messengers of a future society and future economy. Solidarity and responsibility, transparency and democratisation are characteristics of the great range of developments.

At the same time, innovations and alternative designs are increasingly emerging apart from the traditional systems. Citizens are no longer waiting for politics or industry to develop according to their expectations, for competent majorities to emerge or for protracted decision-making processes to come to an end and for difficult implementations of minimal compromises to take place. They are taking the initiative and making their own designs in recognizing their responsibility for issues that are close to their hearts in their immediate context. They join up with similarly minded persons via social media and where necessary make use of alternative methods of funding, for example via crowdfunding.

Countless examples show how our lives are currently undergoing serious and rapid change as well as the creativity which humans are tapping into in response.

We will be more!
The growth of the world population is one of these many changes. The prognoses all agree on this, they differ only in their degree. The UN, for example, is expecting a growth from 7.2 billion inhabitants of the world in 2014 to more than 12 billion within the next eighty years. How will we design living space for so many, how will we make sure that they will be fed?

We will be older!
Life expectancy is continuing to grow, especially in the Western civilized world, and a third of the babies born in 2012 may expect to live to be more than 100 years of age. Are humans going to work into old age in order to generate sufficient income, or will there be completely new social contracts?

We will be more urban!
More and more people are moving into cities. Huge metropolises are developing. In 2030, the urban population is expected to be 5 billion; that is 2.5 billion people more than in 2010. The cities themselves as well as urban life are undergoing change. New features include car-free residential areas, housing complexes with extensive communal spaces and affordable houses based on sustainable concepts, such as the »Happy and Cheap« house in Sweden. Communal gardens are popping up in and around the urban sphere, people are growing crop plants in gardens and on balconies. Urban gardening makes sensible use of urban ground. The cities will be greener.

Recycling as well as sharing and swapping of cars, clothes, food, technical equipment and specific skill are well underway. Traffic is changing. Alternative propulsion systems such as the electric engine, fuel cell, etc. and fully automated cars are two of many lines of development and progress. Tesla’s decision to release all patents and invite the entire sector to use them is instigating new forms of cooperation and will speed up progress.

Nutrition is changing. Humans are no longer willing to ignore the realities of mass animal farming and laying batteries. The significance of nutrition for everyone’s own health and well-being is moving into focus. Nutrition is turning into the best medicine. The number of people who are forgoing meat for ethical or health reasons is growing steadily throughout the world. In the distant future, the development of a vegetarian or vegan society is foreseeable. There will certainly be serious consequences for animal farming and the entire meat industry. Furthermore, it will be important for organizations to cast their eyes not only outside at their clients and consumers, but on the inside, where the same processes are taking place. How will organisations alter the food on offer in their canteens, for example, in order to fulfil their employ-ees’ demands for healthy food without animal proteins?

Maximum use made of the possibilities opened up by mobile internet access will continue at increasing speed. »Wearables« have potential. For example, a watch that can measure its wearer’s pulse, movements and calorie intake can provide important health information; contact lenses that go beyond being a visual aid are able to measure blood sugar levels and deliver potentially life-saving information to diabetics. Such objects have only just opened a door to a far greater range of much more advanced applications.

A watch that enables its wearer to make cashless payments will have a very concrete effect on a whole industry: it is foreseeable that selected banks and financial service providers will have to be involved to handle the background processes only at the onset of this innovation and will be entirely redundant in the future.

The possibilities of digital networking, which manifest themselves in the »internet of things« and industry 4.0, are exerting considerable pressure on organizations to make new inventions. They also result in an increasing automation of work. This makes reality of what Meynard Keynes had described as early as 1930, namely that technological progress will enable a continuous increase of production per hour of work and that humans will in the future have to work less and less in order to meet their needs. But what will humans do with the time thus gained and how will incomes be defined? Sharing portals are flourishing. Internet platforms like Airbnb are bringing together those who rent out sleeping places on a short term basis (couch surfing) and lodgers. Although it has only been online since 2008, Airbnb surpassed the largest hotel chains in the numbers of worldwide overnight stays already in 2014.

Differences between the generations will have an effect. While the baby boomers dominated the working population in 2010, and still have a hold on most »positions of power«, the younger generations will soon gain more influence; in as little as five years’ time, generation Y will make up the majority of the working population. Generation Y has clear notions of life. Its members emphatically want to know what they are working for. They look for meaning and for fun; work also has to meet these criteria. They don’t fight as much as they simply act. They become vegetarians out of protest against mass animal farming, but don’t stage a demonstration. They consciously buy organic produce and use fair trade products. They make extensive use of family policy models like parental leave; same-sex marriage is considered a matter of course without anyone feeling the need to convert others to their opinions. They are very well informed and connected. They have high demands of management and the values of an organization.

Management has to keep legitimizing itself beyond its ascribed role. Authority is granted only to those who are able to convince. Freedoms, responsibility and regular feedback as well as performance-linked wages are necessary in order to motivate this generation and keep them in an organization. As management is the most important factor in the motivation of people within an organisation, it is high time for managements to actively develop a conscious and active management culture. Members of Generation Y will leave an organization without prior warning as soon as their values are compromised or management is failing to meet their expectations, when there is a want of flexible working hours, attractive employment models and aesthetic spatial concepts. They simply live what is possible today; that is how they are taking us into the future. This generation will significantly shape our future.

Resources are being shared more and more: that is true for the private sphere as much as the industrial sector. Common platforms have long existed in the automotive industry, and meaningful cooperation is taking place in many contexts. That includes logistics, where it can happen that competitors share space in a single lorry. Such ventures help them reduce costs and mean that transport companies no longer have to send their half-empty vehicles into already jam-packed streets.

Alternative energies (water, wind and solar) are gaining ground. The radical reorganisation of Germany’s largest energy organization clearly demonstrates the concrete effect of these trends. Business models are being put to the test.

A patient-led health system is being developed and the integration of alternative medicine is almost complete. A change towards a preventative, holistic medicine will alter the curricula of today’s university education as well as of medical practice.

The principle of sustainability affects many spheres of life. Many people are yearning for a healthy life in a healthy environment; that has already had an emphatic effect on organizations. All organizations consider the aspect of sustainability in one way or another. Sustainability indexes measure progress and make it possible to compare organizations with regard to this aspect. They simultaneously evaluate three different measures of success (planet, people, profit). Yet the business model, the flywheel of economic activity, mostly remains unchanged. We look at the top and bottom line and focus on growth.

This is where a change in consumer behaviour has a powerful effect and will challenge the organizations as well as the current economic system.

Still, organizations very actively stimulate consumption. They do so through ground-breaking innovation, which Schumpeter had already recognized as the crucial driver of a functioning market economy, as well as with attractive products. At the same time, however, they also employ temptation: advertising gives purchasing impulses independently of a consumer’s actual need of the product. If more is being bought, then more can be produced and sold. This effect is reinforced even further by the artificial limit placed on the lifetime of products, such as, e.g., the lifetime of the filament in light bulbs, which has been limited in response to industry pressure since 1924. This drives a system of growth, which in turn fosters the creation of superfluous things, encourages superfluous consumption and taxes the environment during production, advertising and sales, as well as creating »waste« by way of the product itself, which will soon need to be cleared out and disposed of in order to make room for the next new purchase.

This system furthermore pressurizes people by stimulating desires. The result is status-bound consumption. A new car, new technology, the latest gadget are all the more attractive as soon as a friend or neighbour has them. If I feel that I must have a product in order to belong, I can easily use the financial offers provided by producers and banks in order to buy it on credit. Work therefore becomes a means to enable consumption and to pay off debt. It has been established that private households are increasingly in debt, people are overstrained and suffer burn-out: that is the price we pay for working on such a basis. The cycle is beginning to run on empty. People are beginning to flee the enforced consumption of unnecessary products and liberate themselves from the draw of »more and newer«. They report an immediate liberating and relaxing effect. Basic needs are becoming visible again. As a result, we will consume less because we don’t really need the things. We will consume less because we will share. We will consume less because we will go back to repairing our equipment.

An altered attitude to consumerism, the overcoming of status consumption and a regained consciousness for what is really at stake will have serious consequences for the economic logic currently in place and the business models of organizations. Even where organizations are already finding strategies in order to follow a path to a new balance of product and service, they will not be able to make up for these effects alone.

The focus on the gross domestic product (GDP) and economic growth is dissolving. Numerous attempts have been made to complement or replace the GDP, a category that has also been critically questioned by economic scientists. An initiative by the OECD entitled »Beyond GDP« has attempted to bring together a range of approaches, albeit until now without any particular effect. There are, however, implementable alternative designs on offer for the post-growth economy. Some of these are finding a growing number of followers, such as, e.g., »Economy for the Common Good«, which has been joined by more than 1000 organizations since 2010.

Seeds for a new reality can be found everywhere. Next to economies for the common good, these include cooperatives in solar power and housing projects, share and repair platforms, people who are re-using, repairing, sharing and exchanging things, who do up their neighbour’s living room in exchange for a website design, recycling exchanges, cooperatives, cow share, crowd funding, open source projects: these serve as examples for the many new paths that are successfully being tread.

The range of individual and group initiatives and the degree of acceptance and support has by now grown to such a degree that it cannot be described as a series of outsider phenomena any longer. They are no longer taking place on the margins of society. Visionary entrepreneurs and managers must courageously confront the sustainability of their own organization against this background.

Are we prepared for these developments?
Is our organization and are we as managers prepared for a vision of a future reality shared by us all that consists of these above-mentioned developments and the many new ways of leading lives; a reality that grew out of modern humanity’s desire to fundamentally re-design the lives we lead.

Once again, we will have to experimentally lift ourselves out of the enclosure of our immediate concerns in order to free our perception of the great, fundamental questions, the visionary and strategic design of a sustainable organization.

To test whether an organization is fit for the future in the face of the potential, radical changes in society on the way to a sustainable modern age requires us to address fundamental questions and enter an open dialogue.

The SYNNECTA Future Check allows you to answer these questions within a protective setting.

Here are some examples of the questions we ask as part of the SYNNECTA Future Check:

Test your organization’s vision and concept of itself. Why does the world need us? In what way do we make a particular, valuable contribution to our stakeholders? (Employees and contributors, clients, consumers, partners, investors, society)

Product or Service Portfolio
Does our product or service have potential for the future? How will our industry develop, will it still be stable and justified in five or ten years’ time? What factors may influence the course of these developments?

Are we sustainable in all our actions? Are we making use of technological facilities (networking, social media, internet of things) in order to support our business? Have we developed the skills and attitudes we will need to safely navigate the digital world of work? Are we confident that we are making full use of digital tools to enable us to work together and effectively?

Have we organized ourselves adequately, have we developed a structure that is flexible enough to share ideas and knowledge and support cooperation? How successfully do we live cooperation? Are we including partners from outside of our organization; do we appreciate them, consider them as partners and integrate them? Does our organization and management culture ensure active participation, initiative and responsibility? Will it meet the demands of the young generation and does it at the same time use the experience of the older generation? How does our culture foster trust, fun and joy? How much can flexible work models and attractive space concepts support our success?

How well are we applying diversity and inclusion in order to make the best possible and full use of our organization’s potential?

It pays to apply these fundamental questions to our own context and think ahead. How well is my organization positioned and how well are we as managers prepared to actively and confidently engage with and contribute to this potential, great transformation of society?

Jörg Müngersdorff