Crisis as an Opportunity

Despite the pre­scribed and advised spa­tial dis­tance, peo­ple move clos­er togeth­er and show more inter­est and under­stand­ing for each oth­er. If we could pre­serve this for the time after the Coro­na pan­dem­ic and do not imme­di­ate­ly fall back into old pat­terns, much would be gained.

Neces­si­ty is the moth­er of inven­tion and even though it may not feel that way for every­one at the moment and cer­tain­ly not always, I basi­cal­ly agree with Max Frisch: “A cri­sis is a pro­duc­tive state. You sim­ply have to get rid of its after­taste of catastrophe.”

A crisis is a productive state. You simply have to get rid of its aftertaste of catastrophe.
Foto: ETH Library / CC BY-SA

Home office with our three chil­dren Marie (5 years), Ella (4 years) and Valentin (3 months) is a huge chal­lenge, which we only man­age to some extent because Kathrin, the very best wife in the world, is tak­ing parental leave at the moment. The unusu­al amount of time spent togeth­er nat­u­ral­ly brings with it a lot of fric­tion. And it is not always easy to do jus­tice to all aspects of life. On the one hand.

On the oth­er hand, it also brings us clos­er togeth­er as a fam­i­ly and helps us to bet­ter under­stand and respect our needs and lim­its. And some­times it is even more relaxed than before, when there were so many pos­si­bil­i­ties. Noth­ing can be done now. And because every­one else has the same lim­i­ta­tions, we don’t have the feel­ing that we are miss­ing some­thing. The FOMO (Fear of miss­ing out) has also some­how become a casu­al­ty of COVID-19. Those who have few­er options are not auto­mat­i­cal­ly more mis­er­able. The Para­dox of Choice as Bar­ry Schwartz describes it.

Para­dox of Choice

Many col­leagues now face sim­i­lar chal­lenges. I know this thanks to the great ini­tia­tive of a col­league in our Enter­prise Social Net­work. One morn­ing last week, Kai shared a pic­ture of his home office in Sin­ga­pore, described his dai­ly chal­lenges with their lim­i­ta­tions (which in Sin­ga­pore have been around a bit longer) and called on peo­ple to do like­wise under the mot­to #ShowMeY­ourHome­of­fice. Since then I have learned an incred­i­ble amount of per­son­al details about col­leagues. I have seen work­places at the kitchen table, in the tool cel­lar, in the attic, on the floor and in a tree house with Wi-Fi, some­times tidy, some­times messy, most­ly impro­vised, with cats, dogs and many chil­dren. Sud­den­ly, despite the dis­tance, our coop­er­a­tion has become much more human through these pictures.

Many now inter­act with more empa­thy and inter­est in the oth­er per­son. Meet­ings start by ask­ing with hon­est inter­est how col­leagues are doing today. And in the end one wish­es for good health. We are (final­ly) learn­ing dig­i­tal col­lab­o­ra­tion, also and espe­cial­ly beyond video con­fer­enc­ing. The exchange in the Enter­prise Social Net­work has nev­er been faster and more help­ful. Now that the mutu­al exchange over cof­fee is no longer pos­si­ble, dig­i­tal cof­fee kitchens are flour­ish­ing. And that is a good thing.

Once the Coro­na pan­dem­ic is over, can we please always have a quick chat at the begin­ning of a meet­ing about how we are doing? And at the end, wish us health, hap­pi­ness or even just a nice day? And not just as an emp­ty phrase, but with real inter­est. Can we then con­tin­ue to treat each oth­er with empa­thy and under­stand­ing as human beings on a par and with equal dig­ni­ty? Thank you!

In the Chi­nese lan­guage, the word “cri­sis” is com­posed of two char­ac­ters, one rep­re­sent­ing dan­ger and the oth­er, opportunity.

John F. Kennedy

But this request also res­onates with fear. Fear that after the cri­sis we will for­get every­thing and fall back into old pat­terns. Or even worse, that because of the cri­sis and its eco­nom­ic con­se­quences, we will be all the more relent­less and dogged after­wards. Then the togeth­er­ness dur­ing the cri­sis quick­ly turns into com­pe­ti­tion in the fight for our own jobs. And final­ly, there is the fear that the cur­rent restric­tion of civ­il lib­er­ties or the soft­en­ing of data pro­tec­tion and increased sur­veil­lance, e.g. by eval­u­at­ing the move­ment data of our smart­phones, was just the begin­ning, i.e. the fear that we have opened Pandora’s box and that this will then be clev­er­ly exploit­ed for their pur­pos­es by polit­i­cal arson­ists, of whom we unfor­tu­nate­ly have no shortage.

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