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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