New skills for the digital age: make mistakes, have fun, switch off!


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The world of work is changing. What does that mean for Companywhat does that mean for each of us? Some thoughts about what ideas and beliefs we need to question.

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisher, German Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.

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Get rid of the unwritten dogmas

In order for us to be able to use the advantages of the Internet and networked collaboration, we need to say goodbye to the dogmas of the Protestant work ethic. Because there are these unwritten dogmas in our society: One of them is that one hundred percent perfection is a condition worth striving for. Another, that work is only worth something if it is hard and full of privation; Work has to hurt. And finally, another ideal that is closely related to this: Those who get things done immediately are considered to be particularly hard-working - and that is also an extremely positive thing in the eyes of our society. Our reader Wolfgang recently reminded us of it when he was under a Article commented on (in his eyes) inconsistent job hoppers:

“The considerable export share of the German economy and the associated high importance of the topic of 'world market leadership' require long-term engagement with a topic, even in a rapidly changing world. “Long term scientific commitment” made Portugal great in the 15th and 16th centuries, in principle this still applies today, as studies comparing successful companies with less successful ones show. The same job is certainly an exaggeration from graduation to retirement, but you should stick to it for a few years if you want to achieve excellence in one area. The expectations of the German labor market are probably not that wrong. ”

What is the Protestant work ethic?

We owe the fact that such characteristics were positively connoted at all, thanks to the ideal of Protestant work ethics, which was described by sociologist Max Weber, among others - and which, historically, is by no means natural, but is still a fairly new phenomenon: it was Martin Luther who made a sacred duty imposed by God on the work which had so far been neutral in value and declared idleness to be a sin. In the 17th and 18th centuries it became a sacred duty for the Puritans to follow their vocation and material success through hard work was considered a proof of God's mercy.

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But these changes were only made possible by the fundamental economic upheavals of that time: industrialization. The rapid increase in population led to an increased demand for goods that wanted to be served. In addition to technical advances, this required the optimal utilization of human labor through centralization of factory work and the systematic division of routine work processes, the division of labor. The required strict organization and the dependence on rigid working hours were only made possible by the invention of the clock and the electric light, which allowed to work without daylight.

The digital revolution - a historic turning point

As we know, we are now at a historic turning point: routine tasks are increasingly being taken over by machines and people can and must turn to creative tasks. The digital revolution means that more and more professions are disappearing, as Gunther Dueck demonstrated relentlessly at re: publica in 2011. There is only one thing left to do: rethink, away from the Protestant work ethic, towards more creativity, cooperative cooperation and ultimately more enjoyment of work. The more I deal with digital technologies, the more convinced I am that thanks to the Internet, social media and mobile technologies we are facing a drastic paradigm shift in society and the world of work. This is the only way to create the innovations that our economy so urgently needs, as our reader Wolfgang so pointedly pointed out in his comment.

For example, the Internet offers excellent opportunities for networked cooperation, in which cooperation is possible even over great spatial distances. Like no other tools, social media offer the possibility to stay in contact without obligation even over long distances. This is one of the reasons for the success of Facebook - whatever else you might think of the blue giant. But that is exactly the point: Many people have the disadvantages in mind. In my lectures on social media, I always find out how great the need for clarification in this regard is so that the Internet can be seen as a positive development.

Change is scary

Because the change scares many. In my books “Nackt im Netz” and “Die 110% Lügen” I dealt in detail with the insecurities of employees and managers in a day-to-day work life that is rapidly changing due to digital media: constant accessibility and supposedly constant communication, teamwork with spatial separation or Constant distractions are also stressors that directly affect the performance and thus the productivity of companies and which we have to face.

In other words, to take advantage of the Internet and networked collaboration, it is necessary to say goodbye to the dogmas of the Protestant work ethic: quite different skills are required in the digital age - and which, I will shed more light on in the second part of this article ,

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To learn from mistakes

One example is how we deal with errors: Services and products have to be perfect. However, since every statement can be verified directly via the Internet, this is hardly possible anymore. Google, one of the world's most successful companies, takes a different path: new services are launched as unfinished beta versions and improved by the users. Google stands by errors, tries out publicly in a trial and error procedure - and that is precisely why it develops innovative products. This principle could become the guiding principle of a digitized corporate culture that uses failed innovations for improvements instead of denouncing them.

If you're not constantly under pressure to create something perfect, work can even be fun. This idea seems outrageous to many people. But work must also be fun, because only motivated employees are able to develop good ideas and create innovations. Companies like Google have understood this and also offer their employees all kinds of leisure and sports spaces.

Have fun and switch off

However, many people break the fun of their work themselves: I recently had that on Example from Miriam Meckel written: In an effort to be ambitious, hardworking and willing to perform - that is, to fulfill the work ethic - many make themselves slaves to technology. But it is also her own fault - and it is a fate that she shares with many people. Because many believe that they are only willing and hard-working if they can always be reached.

Those who are clever, on the other hand, increase their reputation with occasional phases of inaccessibility. Because when everyone is available at all times, it becomes a rare luxury not to have to answer all the time. And whoever allows himself the luxury of communicative absence shows: "Look, I can afford it!" Absence as a status symbol. An example: Those who want to demonstrate their leadership skills as managers today go on vacation for 10 weeks - and are simply not available! Apart from the fact that this is beneficial to his own health and performance, he shows something completely different.

Reward for not being available

Namely that he understands his job because he has organized the shop so well that it can be done without him, while not only relaxing but also hatching good ideas for the future. On the other hand, a manager who is permanently stressed and on call, has no time left for his actual management task and innovative thinking. As a deterrent, Harvard Business Management once even recommended:

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“Every time a manager calls his office during this time, his year-end bonus should be reduced by 20 percent. Every time an employee had to call the manager, 10 percent of his bonus would be deducted. ”

Thomas Jakel also showed that constant accessibility is not a prerequisite for business success: The startup founder was on a bike tour from Berlin to India for some time and at the same time managed his company. Treat yourself to mistakes and try things around, have fun at work and switch off again and again for regeneration - all of this fits helps us to stay passionate and creative and to develop innovative ideas.


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