«From Competition to Compassion»: What connects Led Zeppelin with Digital Learning 4.0


INPUT: The Initial Situation

Until a few years ago, learning processes were practically exclusively aimed at acquiring knowledge and skills through accumulation, especially in music, shown by great bands like Led Zeppelin. Knowledge was essentially based on an inductive experiential and personal reflection competence, as Goethe already knew in “Wilhelm Meister’s Lehrjahre”:

“Art is long, life short, judgment difficult, opportunity fleeting. Acting is easy, thinking hard.”

In the course of the digitization of knowledge, the exploratory and extensive knowledge acquisition is today ultimately competed by seemingly objective and universally valid knowledge formats. These will often be taken without criticism by learners and those inquisitive and no longer need fundamental self-reflection. Google and Wikipedia have, as it were, referred to the critical mind including the German “Brockhaus” in the digital orcus:

“If Google does not know, it does not exist!”

Well, learning an instrument and management skills have an important thing in common: They are both experience-based and can not be digitized in the future, despite all the online tutorials and Kindle-optimized management books: Contrary to the live play, management mostly plays on several stages, namely a superficial in the official business day and a hidden, commonly called “hidden agenda”. In the age of digital transformation, these levels are fading together, as digitization ruthlessly roars the age of radical transparency. Faults and incompetence can be hidden less and less behind office doors and responsibilities. Nowadays, Blockchain technologies make it possible to trace financial transactions down to the smallest detail, which ultimately destroys the long-standing knowledge advancement of the proven banker for all time. This development increasingly affects all relevant business processes.

In the era of digital transformation, executives are increasingly under pressure: unpredictability, uncertainty, complexity and increasing ambiguity of the markets (VUCA) call for radical new leadership competences. This can be a source of anxiety, especially those managers who are not used to acting live and authentic before and with their employees and stakeholders, i.e. their audience. Executives are expected to make digital change company-wide. At the same time, many of us must first understand what is actually going on and what consequences this change will bring along. Classic retreats such as hierarchy and status are less and less get effective because communication becomes more and more transparent. In the digital age, leadership becomes more and more permeable , the hierarchies become flatter. At all levels of the company, co-creativity and collaboration are suddenly in demand. Not for moral reasons, but because the markets set a high pace, because high flexibility is required in the face of the speed at which markets, products, customer groups and interests develop and change. We have to beware of “co-processes”, in order not to knock out ourselves.

THROUGHPUT: The Challenge

What do leaders of the 21st century learn from the rock icons of the past decades? That development has to do with daring, with the desire to discover something new – and with detours. Serendipity is the formula behind it: If something valuable happens to me while I expose myself to uncertainty. Innovation always means a creative combination of courageously expanding the boundaries of the past and looking for exchanges with like-minded people. Successful people do not keep their strategies to themselves, as long-term success is always collaborative. Especially, since every generation of guitarists learns from the previous one: So, the 1928 young blown musician Robert Johnson was stated an important musical example of renowned guitarists like Eric Clapton or Keith Richards.

As in music, the discovery and development of new competences is always associated with uncertainty in management. No one is protected from this, especially in the age of digitization. Up to the very last days of management, the digital transformation requires us to be able to act “in an unexpected, open, sometimes chaotic situation, self-organized and creative”. The good news is that such skills can be specifically trained and developed. However, this is only possible in stress-loaded and emotional situations, e.g. In difficult decisions. Such irritations are therefore a necessary prerequisite for the emergence of new skills, as quoted by Rarrek/Werner, Die Krux mit den Fähigkeiten (2012):

“As a rule, the handling of critical situations or the passing through of border experiences usually lead to the greatest and most lasting competence development.”

OUTPUT: The Solution

How can leaders develop in these VUCA environments? Again and again we hear the contradiction in the conversation: the pressure to adapt to new competences is high, but the time is missing. Training is still organized in such a way that it “eats” working time, instead of qualifying it differently. In addition, the working world of executives has so far mainly consisted of competitive environments. These feed the fear of devaluation, failure and weakness, and they promote avoidance trafficking. Here it is forbidden to understand uncertainty and instability as a sign of personal development. Therefore, competitive environments prevent learning, competence and flow. Such leadership cultures are the longer the longer the past. The type that these tactics can play is less and less in demand or successful.

This is why Learning 4.0 is also taking a new course. It creates new environments of learning, which we call compassionated environments. They offer a protected framework that can take tempo and make deepening learning possible. A frame in which uncertainty is not interpreted as a blemish, but as a signal that the next ignition stage is imminent. Learning 4.0 offers offers in coaching and further education, which are free of phrases and missionary zeal. In which appreciation for the human being behind the function is self-evident – and a true understanding of the often torn-up expectation world in which executives must function. The most important difference to traditional image formats is that Learning 4.0 is no longer organized in a “school mode”, so that competent and experienced performers no longer press on the school bench. Instead, they integrate the changes and opportunities associated with digital transformations confidently into their portfolio and build their own high-quality digital networks on and off.

If the sound of Led Zeppelin is an example of the future of successful organizations, the successful “tuning” for companies means choosing the right strings carefully so as to improve the “corporate sound” and make the company more flexible, if necessary. As for musicians, it is also crucial for organizations to be part of an agile team. I develop new competences as a leader or specialist in the digitized world of work on the job, in real, real situations. Just compare the recordings from the 1970s, when Led Zeppelin completed their concert tours in a leased Boeing 720 called The Starship, in order to put entire stages in wind ropes in ecstasy. Because only in the live performance, executives grow new abilities, which increase self-effectiveness and the feeling of sovereignty sustainably. The motto of future leadership development in the digital age is therefore From Competition To Compassion or to close with Led Zeppelin:

“Ramble on, And now’s the time, The time is now, To sing my song!”

This article was originally written in German and is co-created with Dr. Christoph Schmitt, www.bildungsdesign.ch.

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