Roland Dürre
Saturday March 2nd, 2019

Turn of an Era: The End of the Digital World ?

What will happen when the digital era comes to an end?

Im Jahre 2019 habe ich nach einem Jahr Pause wieder am Biike-Camp in Sylt teilgenommen.

After one year of abstinence, I again took part in the Sylt Biike-Camp in 2019. The Biike Camp takes place on Sylt annually, along with the traditional Biike-Brennen. It is a huge meeting of entrepreneurs, counsellors and leaders. It is organized by Tedic, the brothers Krickel first founded it around the turn of the millennium.

This time around, the motto was The Turn of an Era. Again, it was more than worth the effort to go there. I was invited to give a presentation on the second day of the event. They had suggested the topic:

”Entrepreneurial Leadership in the Post-Digital World”

I will write down my presentation in the following paragraphs. I started by introducing myself, then I tried to analyse the title in two columns.


 

Personal introduction
Since, on the first day of our meeting, it became clear to me how very much most of us (including myself) are formed by the car, I started by introducing all the cars that I ever drove in my life. In other words: I related my former car and current bike culture. 
? And in the process, I also discovered a few things about myself.
Then I mentioned the computers I use (Mac and Chrome, no Windows).
So I have double mobility – MIV (motorized individualized traffic and on the network). Both tells a lot about the life of a white old man.
And, of course, I also had to speak of my personal history. I told the audience about duerre.de and if-blog.de and mentioned that I consider myself a late founder (I was 34).
With respect to my InterFace history, I referred the listeners to the Wikipedia entry on InterFace AG.


In order to be able to react to the content of the other presentations with the highest possible degree of flexibility, I abstained from using slides with content. Instead, I mostly worked with Wikipedia.

It was my plan to tackle the topic “entrepreneurial leadership in the post-digital world” in a dialectic way. In other words, I wanted to analyse the individual terms post, digital and world (column 1) and entrepreneurial leadership (column 2).


 

I. The post-digital world

(Column 1 – what is the meaning of post, digital, world?)
Before today, I only knew the term post factual. Post digital was news to me. For me, post factual means that we live in the era of totally irresponsible babble, which is part of the new dishonesty (Rupert Lay).

You can even see it if you look at legislation. China is not the only country where legislation is introduced in such a way that it can be interpreted at random. Perhaps this happens on purpose?

Digitalisation has become a matter of course. Everybody talks about it. A short time ago, I read: digitalization is a technology that cannot be turned back. In other words, without digitalization and soon also AI, nothing can be done in the near future.

It seems that we are totally dependent on digitalization, as we depend on electricity and electronics. In the same way, a life as most of us want it would not be possible without digitalization. Every piece of technology contains a huge part of software, there is no technology without any software inside.

If I have discussions with the bee savers in Bavaria about the provocative thesis that “it might already be too late“ to save the planet, then they tell me that, thanks to digitalization, we might actually be able to save the planet. 
? So we have really great expectations when it comes to “digital“.

I like to refer the audience to Wikipedia when it comes to explaining digitalization. You will find an article by Thomas Kofer – at the time he wrote it he was a employee of ZD.B – where he tries to explain the term. He invested many man-years to write the article.

Then I look for the term post digital online. In Wikipedia, you will not find this kind of nonsense. To make up for it, you find something in Accenture. Here is what they say about  post digital:

”The advent of technology identities is leading to a new generation of business offerings.“

Are they really serious? If you click on their link, you find more such BBB (Berater-Bullshit-Bingo). For my presentation, Accenture is definitely not helpful.

Digital and digitalisation are currently buzzwords. They are very famous – and there are no two identical definitions on the market.

So let me investigate the word post. I find that it is “if a composite of adjectives – sometimes also with nouns and verbs – specifies that something happens/ed at a later time“.
That is correct – post is a preposition that specifies adjectives. Well, I understand that much.

Digitalization is said to be irreversible. Because if there is no digitalization, there will also no longer be any technological industry. After all, in all technological products today, you have software, i.e. digitalization – and soon also AI.

Consequently, there can be no post-digital era, because it would mean the end of our technological world. Especially not if the digital world has made itself autonomous as AI. Which is what many expect.


 

On AI

Artificial Intelligence, Deep learning, Big Data are at the top of the current buzz-words list. The world, or at least all those who want to be heard, talks about robots and bots.

So here is my question:
Who of you knows the three letters T, A and Y? 
If you connect them, you get the word and name Tay.

Many in Germany talk about AI, but most of them do not know what it is. Consequently, nobody knows the Tay. As I see it, that is symptomatic for the entire current discussion.
Tay is – or better: was – the twitter bot of Microsoft. Microsoft developed it – and then it was quickly de-activated because of misbehaviour. Both the first and the second version. It was a few years ago.

Today, it looks like Microsoft does not want to be part of AI. They capitulate before Amazon and Google and terminate their system/project Cortana. Because to the great and mighty IT concern Microsoft, AI looks just too big.

Simultaneously, the Free State of Bavaria declares that they want to start an AI offensive. Microsoft gives up because Google and Amazon are too far ahead. And Bavaria wants to make up for it. Just like China. Except – China, unlike Bavaria, will actually succeed.

To illustrate it with an example I tell my audience about the Chinese News Anchor Bot.
Nobody in the audience of AI experts knows it. Well, that comes as a surprise to me.

So much on AI


 

What exactly could the end of digitalization and AI look like?

Here are a few mental experiments:

The first step towards digitalization was when language was first written down. 
Consequently, “post digital” might mean that, in the future, the majority of the people cannot read or write fluently, but only rudimentarily? As I see it, that is distinctly a possibility. Would that be good or bad? Can there be a good or bad – or are we just full of traditional prejudices?

Because:
Why would anybody want to learn something nobody will need any longer? So: why would we want to learn how to read (and practice it all the time, because otherwise it gets harder and harder) if most of what you want to know is available as an ebook or podcast and the remainder is read to you by a speaking computer? A computer that simultaneously translates everything. The asynchronous and synchronous communication is done via spoken language, anyway (oral messages). That is nice, because spoken language transports more than written language. And then, naturally, language will no longer play a role at all?

If that were to happen, then a modern society can easily forego reading and writing, but it certainly could not forego digitalization.

Then I think about “post digital”. On the level:

What or who could destroy the internet?
(besides the EU regulation mania that is pushed by the FRG)

Two things come to mind

 – Engineers become priests.

Isaac Asimov already introduced the concept in his futuristic novels (for example in the series on Trantor):
The people who maintain the systems no longer understand the machines. They only perform memorized (maintenance) rituals.

I can easily imagine such a concept, because even today, in computer science, that is what programmers do. They do a lot of clicking – and they have no idea what exactly they are doing. The complexity overwhelms us, it is easily possible that the world will lose its know-how.

– The end of Moore’s law.

It is very simple:

IT consists of the three components: computer, connection and storage.

Those are the three relevant IT components. With respect to storage, we have arrived in the nano dimensions, you cannot become any smaller because of the dimension of the atoms. With respect to connections, we now work with the speed of light. You cannot go any faster. I deliberately chose the term computer. Because a modern processor (for instance by Intel) contains so much that I like to use the metaphor of the mega city of New York.

We want to make the computers faster by using the quantum computer. Except that, so far, it does not really work. And it will probably never be able to do much more than decode. But that is good enough for the countries of this world, because basically they only want one thing: monitor us.

That is how the end of Moore’s laws could put a stop to our AI dreams. In the past, the multiplication of resources in small time periods spoiled us. The time has definitely come for this indulgence to be over.

So what is important in the digital world?

As I see it, the first thing that comes to mind is Wikipedia – and there are several reasons for this:

– Wikipedia – the thesaurus of world knowledge.

Wikipedia is great. It is currently free of advertising (with the exception of a few articles they smuggled in about Bayern players’ wives), it is administered on a completely honorary basis and financed by donations, independent of concerns, etc.

That makes it one of the last bastions. We need it every day, because there are no thesauri left. Regardless of some weaknesses, for instance when it comes to the topic of digitalization/IT, Wikipedia is still great.

However, now comes the

BUT:

It is written mostly by old white men, in other words: there are few young persons and only very few women. Wikipedia is like a knowledge infra-structure. As with many infrastructures in our world (streets, bridges, railway tracks), the need for maintenance and renovation increases, but the resources decline.

Wikipedia is threatened by ageing and additionally by the copyright (update filter) and lobbyist pressure.

What will happen if Wikipedia breaks down? Who will then take over Wikipedia?
One of the three dominant German media concerns? The Federal Government? EU and UNO might also be candidates. Or the internet giants Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft …

Just imagine advertisements being permitted in Wikipedia. If I were the owner of Wikipedia, I could well imagine other great business models.

– Services such as Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook++, wechat …? 
(I deliberately left out email as a service, because in my opinion nobody needs them any more)
So: What will happen if all these things no longer exist? A short time ago, I read about a murder threat against the youtube boss because of her statement that, as a consequence of copyright legislation (update filter), she may have to terminate the service in the countries concerned!

You should remember:
regulation mania is detrimental.
For all of us!

Instead you should:
Correct the underlying deficits. That is: you should look for the errors, and then initiate reform. For instance when it comes to copyright legislation.

And let us have less DGSVO …

À propos world:
I am sure you remember: only about half of the world’s population have internet access. We still have two worlds: one with the internet and one without. They are approximately the same size.

But in the internet, there are also two internets (more like a vertical separation). The Chinese one and ours.

Many tourists first notice this as they arrive at Peking airport and want to use gmail for sending greetings home or if they want to chat. It does not work.

Then you will try VPN. But VPN service providers are delivering poor quality or else they are very expensive. Mostly both. So unless you have a VPN of a concern that still works in China, you are not very lucky. Googlemaps does not work at all. It can get difficult. Lost in China. But fear the not: the practical Chinese AI will help.

À propos China:
They are now doing a lot with AI. Among other things, they are now inserting humans into a Social Media – System that is omnipotent (wechat). And then they award credits for social behaviour, both positive and negative. Will this lead towards a digitalised dictatorship– or will the human dream of adequate justice come true? As we all know, it became clear as early as with Aristotle that an arithmetic justice  does not make sense in social life.

Well, I believe that, along with Chinese technology, Chinese culture will reach us. And I wonder if what I related above is not too far-fetched for us, either.

Besides:
The use of the internet is collectively and individually totally diverse. As I see it, we still have horizontal divisions.

In a developed, prosperous and intellectual world, the internet is used totally different from how it is used in a poor and educationally remote world. That is how the internet is extremely divided. We have home office users, pornography watchers and internet gamers. Maniacs and fanatics, etc. It is all just as it is in real life. Mind you, that does not mean that intellectuals never watch pornography.

And also, there must and will be an unbelievable number of smart devices on the internet (everything that can activate WLAN is smart and will need a network: cars, lightbulbs, refrigerators, scales). It all happens on a system of antiquated protocols that were initially planned for totally different purposes. And nobody knows who is actually responsible for the change of interfaces.

How is that supposed to work?
I am sure this is a good question.

 


But let this be it about digital and post-digital. So now I will move to entrepreneurial management, i.e. leadership and social co-existence.


 

II Entrepreneurial leadership

(column 2 – what exactly are: enterprise and leadership?)

Enterprises

A young person once said to me that, for him, an enterprise is an organized mass of people who have a goal or purpose.

That is not a bad definition. We call enterprises or public offices social systems with an economic or administrative purpose.

With enterprises, their size is an important criterion. We have concerns and small enterprises. Their nature and functionality differ hugely.

In our concept, we assume that, as a matter of course, an enterprise has several employees. Not only a constitution and capital. And that the employees, like the customers, are human beings. In other words, that an enterprise has people working for it. For the customers, this is no longer true. Mostly, small enterprises do business with other enterprises. It is called B2B.

Enterprises without people – is such a concept realistic? Only with robots and bots? Everything that humans need will be outsourced, i.e. bought from the providers. And the customers are also no longer humans, but instead, for example, autonomous cars and their managers. Is that imaginable? You would no longer need participation and the work regulations (maximum hours, enterprise constitution, labour contracts, …) would be obsolete.

I know founders (teams) who want to build up an enterprise where everything is automated. Basically, the entire enterprise will only be some software!

No employees, only robots (and providers and partners). Everything else is outsourced – the programming of the product and the marketing/sales. What remains is a small back office with one assistant – the leadership is limited to this one person.

Then you will need no leadership in the sense of human resource. A mere jamming session with the founder team is all you need. Just like jazz. The founding process and the enterprise will become a game with providers, customers and money providers.

I know these kinds of business plans from BayStartUp. I would say they are fashionable. Just like the design of portals or apps used to be fashionable. Or the use of 3-D printers…

In all the business plans I know, the necessary and to-be-written software had enormous importance – I cannot remember a single business plan where it was not a fundamental reason for the USP.

Leadership is, per se, only possible if you have people (employees). But perhaps we will not need them in the future.

For this presentation, I would like to assume that the majority of enterprises will still have employees in the future. Then it makes sense to talk leadership.

The broad range of leadership.

Hierarchy versus Network.
(teams working in a network)

Secrets versus Transparency

Group based (model German Reichswehr – Siemens) versus Team based (micro organization with self-organization)

Taylorismus
(detailed pre-definition of working methods ”one best way“, exact fixation of the place and time of delivery, extremely detailed and divided tasks, one-way communication with determined and strict content, details requirements with respect to final goals for every individual without obvious connection between these details and the general goal of the enterprise – along with quality control) 
versus
Involvement 
(as the sum of being made part of the whole, being included and the integration of task… ).

Processes versus self-organization 
(Henry Ford – the caste of engineers as the predecessors of management caste)

Feudalism versus self-determination.

Being someone’s property versus belonging to yourself. 
That is the theory of power. There are two classes: the wise ones and the stupid ones. With Henry Ford, the farmers were the stupid ones. Powerful machines made them jobless in farming and thus they had to work for him. Not even clocks were something they were familiar with. The engineers had to teach them everything, from being on time to how the tools needed to be handled. Every single procedure at the conveyor belt had to be shown to them. And the caste of engineers are the forefathers of the manager caste.

Evaluation:

As you all know, I always preferred the red option.  Yet in practice, nothing is just black and white (in this case redblue), which means we mostly need to answer the question if an organization is more red or more blue.  I also do not believe that red is only for the “creative“ processes and  blue only for “simple” processes. I know enough examples that prove the opposite, for example Buurtzorg for nursing services. More than 10,000 employees in the Netherlands do the work that is allegedly simple.

Digitalization supports both red and blue !!! It supports communication at eye-level and can also take the role of the boss in a hierarchy. That is also why there is a fear that adssRobots might rule over humanity.

I am convinced that all efficient structures, both blue and red need a powerful digital infra structure.

The blue world needs it for realizing processes and command structures, the red needs it for realizing an infra structure that enables a management of experience and enlightenment for all. I do not use the term knowledge management, because this is about enlightenment and experience.

And I see a huge potential for AI in both worlds.

Outlook for and review of history 
Because especially with social topics, you have to consider yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Yesterday:
(before 1900) 
In the European countries, there was fiefdom, in the new world, there was slavery (also in God’s own country).

During a trip through the Caribbean, I saw Curaçao. I visited the Kura Hulanda Museum and learned a lot about slavery. It officially existed until the early 20th century. In many countries, they still have it.

But also in Europe and Germany , we had many centuries of serfdom . Basically, it is the same as slavery. Only few people were free, most belonged to someone else. The majority of the population lived in the country and produced food (90%). Not in the city – “city air makes you free” (10%).

In the cities, progress had its origins. Because this is where the free craftsmen – wood and iron, levers and wheels (wheelbarrow) had their networks and cooperated with each other. In the country, most people were owned by someone else. Mostly, they were farmers and worked on the land. Which is why they were owned by the land. It was actually quite simple – the people belonged to the person who owned the land.

Both the land and the people were of the feudal class – the nobility and the church. It lasted until the end of the 19th century. This, too, is part of our glorious Christian tradition. Sadly, this is often forgotten.

But here is what beats everything:
Slavery and fiefdom were not abolished for humanitarian reasons. Instead, they found that it became too expensive, inconvenient and costly. This also explains why they fought the American Civil War. Naturally, the end of slavery was promoted by the resistance of the parties concerned. It was both individual and collective resistance.

Well, that was the moment when my idealistic concept of the world was destroyed for good.

Today:

Consumism  is the world’s most powerful religion. Without work, a person is worthless and beyond society. There will be less work in the future. I think especially of well paid administrative workers in offices and the financial industry and similar tasks. Even today, RPA (Robotic process automation) is extremely relevant.
In the developed societies, the people who have a job (or/and capital) are still really well off. But the rich who are well off become fewer and fewer and the poor become more and more.

Tomorrow:

It will depend on what works better whether enterprises will have leaders who are blue or red.  It is not about ethics, morals or #newwork.
And, of course, the development will also depend on the economic and social situation. On the other hand, it might also be simply about survival!

The future

I will not try to predict the future. 
I am sure others are better qualified. My favourite is and has always been the Brave new World by Aldous Huxley.
If you do not know the book – here are three options you have.

  • You can read the book (or listen to the audio-version), 
that is the classic approach and will take some time.
  • You can visit the theatre (there is an excellent performance at the Volkstheater München) 
which would mean you need a ticket – the work is rarely performed
  • Or you can read about it in Wikipedia  ? 
 which is the easy, quick and free way What could come next?

In the dwindling upper classes:

  • Money becomes an electronic number (a digit on your smartphone).
  • Power and feudalism will remain.
  • The upper class will work with courage and joy in a developed society.
  • Work will be part of self-fulfillment. “newwork” might happen?
  • All efforts are taken to multiply your property and to fight impoverishment.

Time becomes a personal value.

For the masses, it will be different!

  • No work or precarious work.
  • Work on call. Whenever the robot is out of order. Or if there is extra need. For instance at the harbour in Mombasa or in the calium mine in Tunesia, where masses of people stand in the queue offering their service for minimal wages. Or:
  • Thanks to BGE (unconditional income) you kill time by playing games. Or by just chilling.

The polarisation between the poor and the rich will increase – the world-wide tendency is clear. The rich become richer and fewer and there will be more and more poor. That is quite drastic.

Turn of an era :


Money feudalism, robots and poor people will probably be the drivers of a future turn of an era. There will be a BGE and it will not be enough, which means that the people will have to improve their income by doing precarious jobs.

New combination of feudalism and slavery?

Those who have money can find self-fulfillment with courage and joy, probably on an honorary basis. Other than that, all they will need to do is increase their prosperity. They simply have to see to it that they avoid impoverishment.

The others either have a BGE or not and earn extra or struggle for existence?
Topics
(that move me)

  • Education
Should children use a smartphone as early as possible?
  • Schooling
Schools have become worthless. What will have to happen?
  • Science and higher education 
The structures of and life in academia are still feudalistic. Will that be good enough for the future? My answer is: no!
  • Societ:
#Newwork is far away because our genes are still in a feudalist pattern.
  • Men still dominate and have all the power.

In front of Westerland (Sylt) taking a walk on the beach.
But where are we headed?

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
I dedicate this article to the Biike-Team around Kai Krickel.

P.S.1
At the end of the two days, the speakers were asked to formulate a concise message for the audience. The thing that came immediately to mind was:

”Love it, change it or leave it“!

Roland Dürre
Wednesday January 9th, 2019

“Business Theatre“ (Entrepreneur’s Diary #128)

On this picture, the person in uniform does not look happy at all.

I spent 18 months serving the country (in the army) and in these 18 months, I learned to drink and chill. To be sure, I also learned how to survive in a sick system.

However, these 18 months also showed me how enterprises should not be yet how they mostly are (perhaps because enterprises often follow army patterns when it comes to their organisation).

They drafted me on April, 1st, 1970 and assigned me to the air force at Lagerlechfeld. After a stop at Landsberg, my army career as “Flyer Dürre” started in Ulm on April, 5th. I ended up in a battalion that had its small barracks area at the Lower Kuhberg not far from the Centre of Ulm. The barracks had been named after the war-hero Boelcke (see Militär in Ulm).  It was an old barracks venue, some people actually believed they could still see the (removed) swastika over the entrance.

The barracks I landed in after Landsberg belonged to the training regiment of the air force. The air force was one of the three weapons categories they had in the German Armed Forces: they also had the navy and the army.


 

The organization was quite simple:
The battalion (Bataillon) consisted of three companies and a few staff positions, for instance the medical group, the vehicle service group and the supply group. The battalion commander was only a major. That indicated that our battalion did not have much military significance.

Each company had three platoons. Each company had a company commander (usually a corporal) and the master sergeant, usually in the rank of sergeant major. He was the boss of the administration, including the typists’ office and he had the operative task of organizing order, which also consisted of drawing up the guard service list.

Each platoon had a platoon commander and three units. Usually, the platoon commanders were non-commissioned officers, once in a while an ensign was among them. Each unit had its unit commander who led ten learners for three months of basic training. The unit commanders were generally rank and file.

In summary, you can say that about a hundred recruits (about 3 x 3 x 11) were facing a small group of thirteen (9 + 3 + 1) coaches. Since, basically, recruits are difficult soldiers, the group had to stick together and was often a tight-knit community.

The business model was part of the compulsory service model and also very simple:

Whenever a new quarter year began (on the first of January, April, July and October), the German conscripts had to go under weapons in hordes – they were drafted. They were put into barracks distributed all over the country. Whenever a unit had problems with one of the recruits they had been assigned (regardless of the reason), then said recruit was sent to us in Ulm. That is how I, too, ended up in Ulm.

One of the problems was that the people who came a few days later were totally different from me. In July, most of the new recruits were successful high-school graduates who had been taken out of their units because of insubordinate behaviour or because they had other problems (such as drugs). At all other times, we always had many people with social disadvantages, often they had not finished any school education. Every three months, the mixture was totally new.

Our task at Ulm was to make proper soldiers of these problem cases. They were to be turned into air-force soldiers with simple tasks such as object protection (sentry) or in typing offices (today, you would probably call it back office).

During my first home visit in my parents’ sitting room.

Three of the recruits always had to be upgraded to become future commanders of each teaching regiment. I was selected because I was the only one in my regiment who had successfully graduated from high school (most of the others had not finished school at all). They needed someone who could actually teach (civics, military ranks and structures, learning to use a weapon). This is how, after no more than three months of basic training, I became unit commander with special tasks such as teaching the regimental recruits.

Our staff unit:
The staff units were responsible for the entire battalion.

  • Medical unit
    The medical unit consisted of two doctors and a few paramedics. Besides the general health care, they were responsible for giving out sick passes and, especially problematic, for giving someone the status of “unfit for service“. Many wanted this certificate, but the ratio allowed for each battalion was rather low. Besides, everyone who had been declared unfit by our doctors had to get a second opinion. And if one of the recruits actually managed to get both documents, he was the happiest person on earth or at least on the barracks.
  • Vehicle service group
    This unit consisted of the mechanics and the drivers who serviced our vehicles (regardless of being part of the air force, we had no airplanes). They also moved the vehicles. 
The fleet had a few lorries with which the recruits were driven to the manoeuver or to shooting practice, a few accompanying vehicles, a kitchen truck and a few limousines that were used by the driving service to take the officers where they needed to go. I think we also had a bus, but it mostly sat around. As far as I know, the entire drivers’ service of the German Armed Forces (including tanks) is now outsourced.
  • Supplies
    The supply department was responsible for everything the company needed: clothes, weapons, office hardware, toilet paper. After all, a hundred new soldiers had to get their uniforms every three months. Food, however, was only organized by the supply unit (planning, procurement). The cooking was done by civil servants, of which the German Armed Forces had plenty on top of their 500,000 soldiers.

And it all worked quite well. The teachers (Ausbilder) in the three companies mostly managed to keep all the recruits alive (regardless of recurring suicide attempts). They even made tame soldiers out of them in three months. As a general rule, we delivered the soldiers to their new companies, where they then patently served their time (usually fifteen or twelve months) as sentries or office service persons for German barracks.

We always were within the limit when it came to the number of recruits who were declared unfit. Once in a while, we even discovered a talent who later went to serve at the musical unit of the air force, and the same is true for some top players that we found for the company and battalion sports teams.

We also never starved. To be sure, the quality of the food that was served to the recruits was abominable, but we of the staff were luckier than that. That was definitely something the procurement units managed very well.

So what exactly was the task of the top management?
The company commanders had a fine life and were able to focus on the important things. They often changed (as I said, the battalion had a very good reputation). The only one who stayed long was the commander, the major. He waited for his retirement money.

We occasionally saw the decorated officers when big events were scheduled (solemn oaths, final manoeuvres, celebrations). Other than that, they were not much of a hindrance to us.
But the officers were also quite industrious and diligent. The company bosses and the battalion commander often had long meetings in the battalion mess. They worked late into the night. Once in a while, higher officers from the regiment and from higher up were also among the participants. Occasionally, even a general came, which always caused a disruption in the normal barracks procedures.

And our highest bosses were often on business trips. That was when they had to leave the barracks and the officer’s mess and travel to important Armed Forces or NATO meetings. In military life, international contacts are extremely important. And since they were leaders, they had to attend numerous courses, because, as we all know, leading is not at all easy. And when they wanted to relax, they sometimes flew. After all, the airplanes of the air force had to be moved around.

There are many questions our officers had to answer:

  • How can we make sure the world remains at peace?
    Again and again, they tried to find a good reason for the existence of the German Armed Forces (and, basically, to this day, they never found one).
  • What can we do to promote the reputation of the German Armed Forces?
    That was particularly difficult in our case. Among the teaching persons – especially if they were non-commissioned – we had quite a few tough fellows. Again and again, some of them made the local news because of misconduct. But mostly, they were only mentioned anonymously. However, since we were so important when it came to taming the recruits, we had nothing to fear. 
When the German Armed Forces had huge events, the community of Ulm also was very interested.
  • How can we create a feeling of corporate identity with other units?
    I remember a visit of the Bavarian Mountain Soldiers (Gebirgsjäger) from Mittenwald. It ended quite badly. What I mean is: “some of the equipment was lost, but luckily, with the exception of a few injuries, none of the soldiers became casualties.“
  • How can we become friendly with the other NATO states?
    To me, this seemed to be a particularly important task.
  • Once in a while, they had to approve our decisions.
    Mostly, they did that without reservations. However, it always took time, which caused emotional disputes among the parties concerned.
  • Special attention was given to the athletic activities in and beyond the air force.
    For instance, every company had a soccer team and a handball team. We specifically chose and kept recruits that were a precious gain to the teams. And whenever you have one of these athletic competitions, you have reason to celebrate.

I remember a soccer match against the US Army. At the time, no American was able to play soccer, so we won by 21:1. It was the highest win I ever actively witnessed in field soccer. In fact, it turned out that the biggest challenge was how to get them to score their one counter goal. Imagine all the things you do in the name of peace among nations and brothers in arms.


 

Why do I tell you these things? Because, with the German Armed Forces, I experienced a huge stage where big military theatre was playing. However, it was no more than what I would have expected from the German Armed Forces.

After my service time, when I continued studying and working at Siemens, I also experienced business theatre. It increased all the time and that really did surprise me.

These days, I am also perplexed when I see that many small enterprises are no longer there for the people (employees and customers). With all the business theatre, there is no time left for anything else.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
Only two pictures of me were taken during the entire time I served (April, 1, 1970 until September, 30, 1971). Both of them were taken during my first visit home; the first in front of the parents’ house and the second at the dinner table.

P.S.1
For more articles in my entrepreneur’s diary, click here: Drehscheibe!

Roland Dürre
Tuesday November 27th, 2018

The CIO

Giving support only when there is a puncturen.

I always like helping people who are looking for a job. Actually, I even developed a small strategy. I call it “alternative job application”:

We sit together and draw up an “alternative job application“. It is a text where the person who is looking for a job offensively describes his or her strengths and develops a vision that outlines what extra value he/she can and would like to bring to the target enterprise with all his/her enthusiasm and courage. This sounds simple, but demands from the applicant that he thinks a lot and accepts many ideas, besides being creatively open.

As soon as this document is finished, we use the story as a text for our “alternative job application”. Additionally, we might also do a video recording that shows how the applicant can convince any audience with his personal attributes – including a link for responses – as a substitute for the commonly used gangster photos.

? All of this will be individually adapted to the job and the enterprise the applicant feels he/she would like to become part of and work in. My underlying idea is that the one thing an entrepreneur is most interested in is how the applicant can “be beneficial to his enterprise” and how and if said applicant can follow somebody’s train of thoughts.

And, as a general rule, the “alternative curriculum vitae”, will usually be followed by job interview invitations quite quickly. Naturally, these interviews, too, will have to be prepared thoroughly. After all, success mostly is not the consequence of passivity.

More often than not, the people I coach have wonderful classical curricula vitae where they describe many details in the common classical way in tables. You will read what they did and what their roles were during the last (20 !?) years, full of workshops, trainings and certificates. All these lists have been written well and with diligence.

However, these applications are not too much of a success. The applicants get negative replies all the time, which will be quite frustrating for the poor applicant. To me, this sounds totally plausible, because how are you supposed to prove to anybody how competent (knowledge + competence) you are?

Quite frequently, the “classical” curriculum vitae is something nobody is interested in. Consequently, we make it more concise and then only use it as an additional attachment. As such, it shows that there are good reasons for making yourself look optimistic in your “alternative job application”.

More often than not, the first thing I have to do is give the depressed applicant some hope and belief in his own value.

Some of the people I coached were women. After having spent several years educating their children, they now wish to get back into work. And I must say that, whenever we together manage to be a success, we are extremely happy. I share all of their joy and belief in the future.

A short time ago, I accidentally worked with a true “top-class” person. He had been manager of a very good medium-sized IT enterprise. Now he had given notice. His reason for giving notice – which was absolutely rationally acceptable – lay in the fact that the owners had sold the enterprise and the new masters had decided on a policy and goals he was not at all prepared to agree with.

Quite courageously, he gave notice without having found a new job. Now he is looking for a job as CIO (Chief Information Officer) with a well-established medium-sized company. And then, at least that was my perception, he was surprised that, regardless of excellent formal qualifications, he did not find it easy at all to land a new job.

When we talked, he turned out to be an extremely nice person in the prime of life. He also said many rational things. In many respects, he came pretty close to perfection. His personal record in life, too, looked absolutely a success to me. He also had a wonderful classical curriculum vitae.

In some way or other, I got the impression that he was not only depressed but also no longer quite up to date. Especially when it came to the internet and the turn of the era that has perhaps been initiated by digitalization. For me, his rather negative and relatively one-sided verdict on twitter, which he himself (naturally) does not use, was somehow significant.

After our conversation, I accompanied him to his car. And I was eager to see what kind of car I would see. I won the bet – it was the biggest Audi SUV available in Europe.

I had offered to support him during his application phase and said that I would also listen around in my network. All he would have to do is come back.

He never came back. Perhaps he did not think it possible that someone who rides a bike can actually help him.

Well, that is fine by me. It gives me more time to help those who perhaps need my assistance more. And perhaps I should have given the CIO the book on “The U Tactics” by Otto Scharmer?

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Tuesday November 20th, 2018

Communication

A few decades ago as steersman on our houseboat in France.

For me, successful communication is a very central issue. Without it, human life and cooperation is not imaginable. Whenever a team strives towards more knowledge, whenever new ideas are born and something new is developed, whenever you want consensus, the ability to communicate is of the highest importance for the people who work in a team.

Leadership, “ (the use of the term is already inflated anyway and I start getting fed up with it), too, can only work if communication is intact. Participation in a shared enterprise can only be lived if communication works. And so on … Except – it is nowhere near as easy as it sounds when it comes to communication.

In my model, I distinguish between two basic kinds of communication. They are totally different.

The first kind is the easy chat as we know it in Smalltalk. That is typically the communication you have, for instance, on cocktail parties. It has quite some value, because once in a while you can havevery good ideas during such an exchange. Sometimes, you luck out and discover shared interests that you can make good use of.

Smalltalk is the art of exchanging ideas with people you know and people you do not know in an informal way. For instance if you celebrate something. However, smalltalk is usually not goal-oriented. All you do is listen to others and tell them what you think. And if you open up, you usually create trust.

Whenever you are into business, smalltalk is not goal-oriented enough. But goal-oriented communication is quite difficult.   
? You will notice this even if you communicate with yourself. If there are two of you, it does not get any easier. And the more participants you have, the harder it is to get a consensus and enlightenment.

Even the ancient Greeks had the same problem. That is why they came up with dialectics. It is a communication technique that, for instance, the Jesuits made use of until the end of the last millennium – often talking ancient Greek or Latin, just to overcome language barriers. And because they wanted to practice the classical languages.

Communication is not easy. It starts with listening und the ability to focus on the other party. This sounds easy, but that is not at all what it is.

Business developed its own communication culture, so did philosophy. There were lists of participants and agenda that had to be worked on professionally. This was in order to make the efficiency of communication more goal-oriented and to improve it. I learned the classical and modern formats and I love them:

  • Dialectics of the ancient Greeks, including dialogues, debates, ars construendi vexilla with its sub-categories such as the creation of syllogisms.
  • The honest discourse (Habermas)

I think it makes sense to use such formats in goal-oriented communication. However, these formats have a disadvantage: all the participants must either know them or learn them. That takes time and energy. If you have neither, you will need a competent moderator. And they are few and far between.

The internet brought us a new era. The appearance of Web 2.0 is the latest date you can set as the start of a change: passive participants have become active participants. Self-responsibility and self-organization get priority over a passive lemming existence. And consequently, totally new communication formats developed at the end of the last millennium.

Here are a few examples:

You can read  a lot about these and several other communication formats on the internet. Lean coffee is very easy and works quite well for small teams. The three others are more to be recommended for bigger teams.

The fishbowl  is a particularly hilarious format.  I think the Wikipedia description is not ideal. Basically, there is an inner and an outer circle. The outer circle is for those who listen, the inner circle are the currently active debaters. Inside, you always have to have a vacant chair. Listeners are allowed to move to the inner circle at all times. Then, one of those sitting in the inner circle has to vacate his seat and sit in the outer circle. Also, everyone in the inner circle can leave it whenever he or she so desires. My personal favourite is the rule-based version. And as soon as the inner circle is empty, you have come to an end. Naturally, this will not always work. Consequently, you set a timebox.

Just to repeat it: whenever someone from the outer circle moves towards the inner circle and wants to take a seat, one of the current discussants has to vacate his seat. I always find it remarkable how well this works, even if there comes a time when they start lamenting in the inner circle.

The fishbowl  is especially to be recommended if an expert system gives a short overview and you want to make the listeners part of the discussion. There is no need to carry microphones and the items of discussion are self-organized.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Klaus Hnilica
Thursday May 18th, 2017

Falling Down

I no longer remember who told me this story. Perhaps it was the tourist guide when we drove to the ’Manrique Museum’? Or that female professor of geology from Brandenburg? She has been coming to the ’Lanzarote Park Hotel’ in Playa Blanca in March for eight years now and also reads Spanish Daily Newspapers, not just this stupid island magazine Lanzarote 37°. Or was it maybe Pedro who told me this story a one of his inimitable ’language cocktail’ variations at the pool?

I simply cannot recall exactly …

But it was always about that toothless street musician!

He is a true disgrace on the never-ending boardwalk close to the ocean in the south-west of Lanzarote. With his dirty and unappetizing appearance, he should not be permitted to sit there. This is simply not tolerable! Not on this fantastic EU-financed boardwalk! After all, hundreds of people pilgrimage here until late into the night.

Besides, this ’music-playing pig’ does not restrict his appearance to his rusty folding chair in front of the last stretch of fallow land, where hardly anybody would notice him anyway. Instead, he can now be almost exclusively seen on the stone boardwalk balustrade.

What an exhibition: a ’music-playing rubbish heap’ in front of the eternally sparkling, sunny ocean! With a greasy hat lying on the floor and a cap on his sun-burned head! And two watery eyes that look like puddles …

Mostly, he dribbles into his melodica – which is some kind of key flute – from which the same melody is released at all times. But it is strangely alluring! You have to give him that. Perhaps it is even by Mozart? Even if it is perhaps a little too sad? Unfortunately, I was never able to really find out.

Seven years ago, when the concert building Lava-Bubble in Jameos del Agua was closed due to stones falling down from the ceiling, this disgrace had already been playing on the Playa Blanca boardwalk. In those days, he allegedly had a rather rich musical portfolio.

And while the volcano rocks were being glued together with special resin above the roof, he also sat there every day. Perhaps even the occasional cent out of all those six million euros this roof cost found its way into his shabby hat. Who could know? Definitely not the ’music-playing rubbish heap’.

And the inauguration concert given when the renovated concert hall in Jameos del Agua  was ceremoniously re-opened will definitely also have been something he was totally unaware of. As must have been the fact that the famous English conductor John Miguel Smith was going to be at the baton and that even representatives of the Spanish Crown had accepted the invitation.

However, he did notice that the rather pompous John Miguel Smith with his much too young female companion had had a stupid accident where he stumbled right in front of the ’music-playing heap of dirt’ on the day before the concert and fell fully on his nose; yes, that was something he had definitely noticed.

And the Spanish cursing of the noble Brit was probably also something he noticed!
Mind you, Betty had even cried out “attention John“, because apparently he had recognized a strangely alluring melody and consequently only had eyes for the shabbily dressed source of the melody. But at that moment, it was already too late! He fell full-length onto the dignified brown cobbles of the boardwalk here in Playa Blanca…

Ranting, he immediately jumped up, was appalled when he inspected his atrociously grazed hands and elbows, moved his badly ailing fingers like a maniac and kept shaking his head while he smoothed the damaged, bloody t-shirt over his stomach.
He only noticed that he had also torn his rough silver Greek Knot Cross from his neck during his fall when Betty tearfully offered it to him. He gripped it like a bird of prey and threw it into the greasy hat of the street musician, who was totally appalled.

He was quick to pull Betty after him in order to get away from this upheaval among the nosy masses of people as fast as possible. Probably his only remaining worry at this time was tomorrow’s inauguration concert at the “lava bubble”! In Jameos del Agua! And his wounded arms, his injured stomach, his bloody hands and his lacerated chin. And he certainly hoped that nobody had recognized him – the famous John Miguel Smith, when he kissed the boardwalk lying on his stomach like a fallen frog …

What mortification!

However, in at least one case, this hope seemed to have been in vain; because when the ’music-playing rubbish heap’ had overcome his shock paralysis and fished out the cross that lay between the few coins in his hat, there was suddenly a strange sparkle to his alcohol-marked face. A sparkle that even continued when he opened his toothless mouth out of which came a questioning “Miguel?”…

And then again “Miguel – Miguel, is it you?“

The street musician got more and more excited and even panicky. He dropped the soiled melodica and started using his left paw, too, for squeezing the silver cross – and again and again, he croaked: “Miguel !…Miguel !!…Miguel…!!

But John Miguel Smith was far beyond hearing and being seen. In fact, he hurried like a wounded animal along the boardwalk accompanied by his totally hysterical companion. All he wanted was crawl into his lair at the Hotel Vulcano as fast as possible!

Since, as everybody knows, the famous conductor Smith strictly forbids all attempts at finding out about his life and mercilessly deplores even the smallest public assumptions, the desperate calls of an old man, too, were lost in the rippling of the ocean that ran along the lava coast near the boardwalk balustrade.

But still, as I said, I heard somewhere that this incident is the reason and the only reason why the street musician, since that time, only plays this one ’endearing melody’ that, to this day, I could not identify. It is because he still hopes that his Miguel – whom he could not have cared less about when he was a child, in fact whom he even gave away for adoption – might one day pass by and invite him, his alleged father, to drink a brandy ’Carlos III’ with him…

Well, I am not sure if it is really the ’Carlos III’ this rubbish-like musician dreams about, but I would like to invite everyone who can tell me something new about John Miguel Smith to have a ’Carlos I’ with me in the pre-warmed glassed of the Café ’Gilbert’ on the Playa Blanca boardwalk. As I see it, the old ’music-playing piece of dirt’ should get some help, so why not through a good brandy?

PS:
Please note that all persons and activities in this story are fiction. But still, I will continue to look for this melody that caused the famous conductor to fall down. I have to find out more about it …
KH
(Translated by EG)

Here is the last part of my report with some information, comments and advice, giving you the gist of the trip.

The Caribbean

The ocean and the sun, a wonderful climate, warm water from above and below, an exotic world – all these things have been a dream of mine, especially in December – and that was the most important reason for making the trip.

Travelling by ship

Going by ship is ideal for the Caribbean.  MeinSchiff 4 is a hotel that covers distances at night and mostly lies in the harbour in the day. This is how we were able to leisurely visit eight countries and ten harbour cities. We did not need a single visa. The only passport controls were when we entered and exited Germany and when we departed from the R.D. (Dominican Republic). All you need for mainland visits is the ship identification. Our passports remained in the strongbox of our suite.

The ship

Mein Schiff 4 is a German speaking ship. It is modern and well organized. The crew emanates a positive atmosphere. However, it also seems to be a product of convenience, following strict processes that are probably the same on all cruisers. You probably cannot do it any other way with 2,000 guests. The safety drill is good, but the question arises if it would actually work in case of an emergency.
The suites are spacy and functional and make a good impression. Most of the suites have a balcony. In former times, cruise ships were built in a more horizontal style. The lower decks were, for instance, reserved for the huge communal areas, such as restaurants, theatres and shops, along with the crew cabins and utility rooms like kitchen, laundry and much more. The upper decks used to belong to the passengers. Since the ships were rather broad, there were several corridors with outside and inside cabins for the passengers.

With ships now becoming broader and broader, this concept is changing. On the vertical level of modern ships, there are now the crew and service areas in the inner part of the ship at almost all central levels. That is a separate area with its own staircases and lifts. This makes it possible to have even larger community halls in the lower decks. Now the passenger area is exclusively at the outside, quasi built around the crew tower.

Consequently, almost all the suites now have balconies. We very much enjoyed ours. Whenever we stayed in our room, fresh air from the ocean drifted through the open balcony door. That was especially appreciated at night, when we were able to taste the air of and listen to the sound of the ocean without having switched on the air conditioning.

MeinSchiff 4 has two swimming pools. They are both on deck number 14 (there is no deck number 13). One of them is external and surprisingly large with 25 metres. Unfortunately, they are both operated with sweet water, rather than with ocean water. Naturally, the water used on board is won through osmose and/or distillation from ocean water. Consequently, it is not very good for the mucous membrane and the rest of the skin. That is why I hardly ever used it.

The gigantic reclining chair deposits on the diverse sundecks and inner decks are quite impressive. They almost reminded me of refugee camps. Having to service more than 2,000 passengers, you probably cannot do it any other way. Regardless of the multitude of reclining chairs, however, the German towel syndrome was ever-present. Even early in the morning, most of the reclining chairs held towels and other small supplements such as books, sun-blockers, caps or similar things to signal that they were taken. Apparently, nobody was bothered at all by the fact that the on-board instructions clearly said you should not do this kind of thing.

“Welcome back in Germany“

After a long day on the mainland, it feels good to be back on board. The crew will then say: “welcome back in Germany”. On the ship, it is also very much the same as in Germany: at least at first sight, everything seems to be well-ordered and clean – and that is probably true for normal circumstances. All the advertisements clearly follow the “German mainstream”.

But even more than in Germany, the service is provided by people from all over the world. For instance, I meet many service persons from Eastern and Southern Europe, but also from Asia. But you can look wherever you want: room service, restaurant or bar – you will never meet a German employee.

The persons working on the ship mostly do not have a German employer, either. Mostly, they are employed by agencies, for instance in Switzerland (officers), in in Cyprus (service) or in Manila (nautical). As on Meinschiff, they will then be body-leased by the holders. Naturally, this procedure is not TUI specific. The entire sector is doing it in the same way.

The work schedule, too, can only be considered in accordance with German work law if you interpret it very lavishly. They work ten hours a day and seven days a week. If necessary, extra hours are a matter of course. They only have a few days off. If someone’s work was exceptional, they get a special day off – which then, as a rule, is used for mainland visits.

The employees are happy with their jobs and their salaries. There are no deductions for social security. The countries where they are employed have very tax-friendly conditions for seafaring men. Additionally, they offer a surprisingly cheap health insurance for the mostly young persons, even if it only covers the absolutely necessary medical costs. Incidentally, this is the reason why there is no other European country that employs more seafaring men than Switzerland.

Basically, everyone who is employed on the ship is a seafaring person, regardless of where exactly they work: in the nautical, hotel or tourist sector. Consequently, they enjoy a fair net income, even though the pre-tax income is not really high. The cost of living is low, they also get tips, and they see the world. What more could you want?

All inclusive

For cruises, the TUI has an all-inclusive business model. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this concept. You often consume more than you wanted to (or should?). To make up for it, the procedure is rather simple and you really save money if you consume much. On the MeinSchiff 4 , the “all-inclusive” is actually honest. (Almost) Everything is included in the price. Even at the bar. Be it the excellent quality cocktails, the long drink, lots of beer and wine, there is a huge selection of market products, all of which is included in the price.

Only few things cost extra, for instance the specialties in three restaurants. At the bar, only very few and particularly famous spirits and wines are not included. It is true for freshly pressed orange juice and champagne.

Of the food, caviar and spiny lobsters are not included. But then, you can get caviar every week as part of your normal breakfast. Freshly pressed orange juice and the water on bottles labelled “Mein Schiff” cost extra. In the restaurants, however, both sparkling and non-sparkling water are included. There are water fountains on all decks where you can fill the carafes that will be found in your suite.

Food

The food was good quality. It is the same level as in good German cafeterias. More like Münchner Rück (MR) or Allianz than like Siemens AG.
In the (also included) “fine restaurants”, such as the big main restaurant, a several course meal is served on “posh” dishes. The food is the same (good) quality but made up to look good, too.

Self-service and service are well balanced. In several restaurants you can have both in neighbouring or secluded areas. The service does not cost extra, which means it is included in the total price, which is also true for GOSCH at the rear of deck 12. We liked staying there, especially because they had a huge open-air section. The grill bar, one deck up on deck 14, exclusively open-air, was our second favourite place. Along with the two bars nearer to the bow on the swimming pool and one deck up with their really exquisite cocktails, also all open-air.

Exercise

If you want to have enough exercise on the ship, there is a simple trick: only use the stairs and never use the lift. If you stick to that rule, you will, due to the 14 decks, the reception area on level 3 and the exit at water level on deck 2, remain in shape.…

Entertainment

The on-board entertainment is like everything else. Well organized, of acceptable quality, German mainstream like Helene Fischer. To be sure, this is not necessary my favourite, but most of the people on board seemed to like it. The same is true for the band – all of whom were certainly good musicians, but they did not seem to enjoy their own music very much – at least that was my impression. Local music – and also local food –, however, is not something you will get on such a German ship. I am sure it would not have been too hard to, for instance, take a reggae band on board between the two Jamaican harbours.

I must not forget the German Soccer League. They have public viewing on a huge screen with English comments in the open-air arena as well us under deck. Consequently, we had between one and two German Soccer League matches on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, which actually makes sense on days at sea. Of course, you get beer along with it – in huge bowls, the iced three-stripes beers from Jamaica is sitting there for you to take. The rule is: get one and drink it. If you do not like the three-stripes beer, you can also get Korona (from Mexico – my personal favourite) or one of the InBev brands (Becks, Franziskaner …). All free thanks to “all inclusive”.

For me, however, the most cherished entertainment on the ship was the great view from the top. Especially when we lay in the harbour or driove into or out of it, I was able to really collect my “great views” and spend hours just looking.

This is not what you saw from the big ship, but from the ferry after crossing the Panama Channel from the Pacific Ocean to Panama City.

Hier der Blick nicht vom großen Schiff sondern nur von der Fähre nach Durchfahrt des Panama-Kanals vom Pazifik auf Panama City.

Internet

From past experience, I know that, on board a ship, the internet access is usually via satellite and consequently not acceptable for an intense user like me. I never tried it on MeinSchiff, which means I have no idea if it was good or bad. But it was definitely rather expensive.
Consequently, I recharged my mobile phone whenever I was on the mainland. One possible way of using it are hotspots near the harbour that take a few USD for hour passes. However, I would recommend you go into the towns and either use public free hotspots or look for a coffee house where you get WLAN as part of the deal.
Digital

MeinSchiff 4 is a rather digital ship. You will find huge touch screens all over the ship. They inform you about the ship, the restaurants and the current program. The pictures showing the crew are displayed digitally and only printed after you order them. It is easy to use the ship App. Using it, I can also book trips and see how much money is on my on-board account.

Bicycle

There are no bicycles you can rent for mainland trips on MeinSchiff 4 . That was a special MS Europa service I very much appreciated. On MeinSchiff 4, you only get bicycles for specially organized tours. But you can have those both as normal trekking bikes and e-bikes. They even had e-rollers on board. But then you have a huge number of persons riding in single file on those trips, which is not an idea I am in favour of.

Renting a bicycle was possible only once at the harbours we arrived at. It seems like in Central America this is not a very popular thing to do.

Mainland trips

Everything is on offer – hiking tours, bicycle tours, bus tours, tours with boats of different sizes. You can book a jeep tour and a monster truck tour, even plane tours. In Cartageno I noticed that there was a city tour on MeinSchiff  with simple electronic scooters on three tyres.

The focus is on getting to know the country and the people, as well as cultural, historic, geographic and geological sightseeing. Many trips include the visit of an adventure or amusement park.

The trips are well organized – which, of course, always depends on local agencies. They also explicitly state this in the terms of business. The tour guides speak German or English. More often than not, the linguistic competence of the local guides is less than satisfactory. The tours are not cheap, but then the countries you visit are not cheap, either.

During our private tours, we often had nice and very positive contacts with the local population.

Day and night

Due to the time of year, the sun is in the south in December. Since the Caribbean is north of the equator, we had eleven hours of sunshine and thirteen hours of darkness. However, that is not a problem, because ten hours of sun every day are absolutely sufficient.

The guests

We probably had a good average make-up of passengers, which means we saw a representation of our society. Basically, we are talking those persons who can afford to go on a long-distance vacation. In that category, MeinSchiff  is actually quite an economical option. Regardless, I got the impression that some of the vacationers must have been saving money for quite some time in order to treat themselves to this trip, or perhaps some of them even had to borrow money for it.

Barbara said she saw a lot more tattoos than in the Unterhaching swimming pool. For me, that is not a problem, even though, personally, my attitude towards tattoos is a little on the sceptical side. Consequently, there is no tattoo displayed on my body, not even the beautiful IF logo.

Most of the persons we came in contact with were very agreeable. It only happened once that I had to suffer through a few AfD slogans during a meal …

Miscellaneous

  • Sun blocker:
    Always a good idea, although the many cloudy hours made it easier to avoid sunburn.
  • Protection against mosquitoes:
    Not necessary.
  • Diamonds:
    Can be bought all over the place, even in blue, with money returned. But they also cost a fair penny. I do not have the know-how to judge if buying jewellery would be profitable.
  • Cigars:
    Smell nice, but are also quite expensive – but I no longer smoke (except once in a while, unfortunately).
  • Coffee:
    Can be bought all over the place – but it is always rather strongly roasted and consequently not necessarily the right thing for the German mainstream taste.
  • Rum
    Can be bought all over the place – plenty of it. And it tastes rather nice.

This is it as far as IF blog.de in the Caribbean by ship is concerned until my next trip comes up.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Monday December 26th, 2016

Touring Central America

An “Alien” on a Huge Ship.

We returned from our ocean trip on Christmas Eve and already spent two wonderful days in our “home sweet home”. The repercussions of the trip are still with me – now I reflect all those many adventures that happened during fourteen very intense days.

In the last two weeks, we visited eight countries. From La Romana in the Dominican Republic, we went to Jamaica, then Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia and back to La Romana via Santo Domingo.

Just as we had hoped and anticipated, it was pleasantly warm in the Caribbean. Whenever clouds showed up, they were welcome, because the prevented us from getting sunburn, regardless of us basically always staying outside and enjoying the fresh air. The rest of the time, sun and rain switched places frequently, with advantages in favour of the sun. Once in a while, there was quite some wind.

It was night for almost thirteen hours, and I mean a rather dark kind of night. That meant there was always enough time to really get enough sleep. Keeping our balcony door open, we enjoyed the sound of the water at night. More than eleven hours of the day, the sun shone really bright – which was enough time fill with intense adventures.

To be sure, it was a typical “all included” trip on a huge ship with more than 2,000 passengers. There were plenty of animations on diverse big and small stages. As often on cruisers, they tried to make the passengers feel that theirs was a glamorous world of luxury.

As far as we were concerned, we defined the boat trip a little differently and did not organize it in the same way as the majority of passengers. Consequently, we always stayed outdoors and did not eat in the big or small restaurants inside the ship a single time.

Instead, we always ate in one of the two small beer-garden-like open-air restaurants. And it almost went without saying that we never attended one of those many shows that actually fascinated many of our fellow travellers. This is how it became a very simple vacation, just for Barbara and me.

A private “crusader” in Roatán (Honduras).

In the daytime, we spent each day in one of six countries and two days in various places in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Dependent on the situation, we spent six out of ten days away from others, hiking privately and once riding rented bikes. We took up offered trips twice. At night, we were always on the ocean. The same is true for the four ocean days during which we let our souls relax and digested what we had experienced.

Two gigantic ships meeting in Cozumel (Mexico).

During the next few days, I will relate what went through my head in all those days. For instance that we actually visited three countries that do not have their own armies and how we saw that the majority of people living in those countries were very happy and proud of this fact.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

About stand-by-jobs, facilitation and driverless underground trains. And about Uli.

I short time ago, I was introduced to Ulrich Sendler. Uli is an “Independent technology analyst” and musician. He writes books (that are even translated into Chinese, where they are best-sellers), gives presentations (judging by what I saw of him, I assume his presentations are rather competent and entertaining) and he also works as a counsellor and moderator. When we met, he told me that he will soon be speaking in Gütersloh on the keynote topic: “Automated Society”. You order a service via internet and the delivery or service will be carried out automatically.

For me, “automated society” and “self-service society” are also “buzz words” often used when people characterize our “new digitalized society” in our “post-fact everyday life”.

These expressions immediately triggered a few association and ideas:

Technology is there to make life and work easier for humans. There is a nice and nowadays often used buzz word for this:
Facilitation!
In Wikipedia, you find the definition: 
Facilitation is any activity that makes tasks for others easy, or tasks that are assisted.

In everyday life, this is responsible for the fact that work humans used to do is now easier because of technological advances. We might even end up having to do nothing at all.

Just think of Lufthansa pilots. Currently, they are often written about in the press because of their passionate attitude towards strikes. Your average poor pilot will only be allowed to actually become active for ten minutes of a long-distance flight, for instance to the Caribbean: when initiating and realizing the start and landing phases. He spends the rest of the time watching the plane fly. The poor pilot is not allowed to relieve his boredom by playing computer games. Presumably, alcohol is just as forbidden as visiting ladies – like stewardesses – in the cockpit. All that remains is boredom.

Wecker1In my vocabulary, these jobs are “stand-by-jobs”. Since I used to be a programmer, this would be like having to watch the computer programming itself and then being allowed five minutes to evaluate if the resulting program is what it should be. To me, such a job description sounds rather cruel. It is quite possible that such a stand-by job will cause depressions.

Two decades ago, there was a phase of about two weeks after I had switched to a new employer during which there was nothing to do for me. I sat in my office from morning to evening, was terribly bored and tried with all my might to do something meaningful. And the digits of the clock seemed to really, really creep.

Never again in my work-life was I as unhappy as then.

Münchner U-Bahnhof Dietlindenstraße (U6) - Urheber: FloSch - Eigenes Werk unter CC BY 2.5 (2005)

Munich Underground station Dietlindenstraße (U6) – by FloSch, under CC BY 2.5 published in Wikipedia (2005)

One of the systems the Stadtwerke München (SWM) supervise is the Munich Underground Network. The SWM are intelligent employers. They know that humans do not appreciate “stand-by-work”. Underground train drivers, too, have become “stand-by-workers”.

But the Stadtwerke want happy underground train drivers who are motivated to do their jobs. A short time ago, I learned that all underground train drivers have to exit at every station to control how full the train is. And after this has been done successfully, they have to signal that the train can continue. That is an important task.

This activity was introduced to make the platforms safer. Above all, however, it is a measure that serves the driver, because in this way his job gets more responsible and diverse, and he even gets a little exercise. That is good both for the body and the soul.

Except that in Nuremberg, the underground trains have been moving without a driver for many years now. And those in Lyon have been doing so for decades. And in both cases, the model seems to work quite fine, actually even better than with a driver.
May my readers come to their own conclusions.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
Yesterday, I used the MVG Bus number 210 from Neuperlach Station to Ottobrunn, Jahnstrasse. The driver sat in his dark cabin and was rather isolated. All contact between vehicle and passengers was automated: the display and announcement of stops. The driver is reduced to being the one behind the wheel. He will stop the bus whenever he can see someone at the bus stop or if someone has pressed the button inside the bus. On this evening, I was lucky, because the driver drove very sensibly. He never accelerated too abruptly or stomped on the breaks with too much force. I found that rather agreeable. But there are also some drivers who really let their hair down. That is when you think a self-driven bus might have its advantages. Technologically speaking, I am sure it is already possible.

Roland Dürre
Monday November 7th, 2016

Entrepreneur’s Diary #118 – Employee Involvement

A short time ago, I received an email from a young man who is also an entrepreneur and a friend of mine:


During the last two years, a lot has happened and our small IT company now has seven employees. For next year, we are again seeking new employees. We are also wondering how to improve salaries in general without threatening our financial situation – in case matters will at some time not be so rosy.

Now I would like to ask you if you have experience with employee involvement or if there is somebody you could refer me to. Since we do not specialize in one product, generate a lot of cash flow with custom-made goods and also do not wish to sell our company, the question might be a little more complicated than it initially looks.

Would there be a chance for you to feel like and have time for coaching us in this matter in the near future?


Naturally, my answer was YES. But it was not because I wanted to coach them. That is something I refuse to do as a matter of principle. I also do not like to give advice. After all, advice can turn vice. Instead, I share my knowledge and ask questions.

Hoch die GREAT WALL mit Käppi nach hnten.

Once in a while, being an entrepreneur is like climbing the GREAT WALL.

First and foremost, I checked If I had ever before written anything about employee involvement in my entrepreneur’s diary (Unternehmertagebuch). Since the answer is no, I will relate the results of my discussion here in the blog.

Let me start with my own experiences:

As a matter of facts, fairly shortly after the foundation of the InterFace Connection GmbH (for us, the name Connection was more than just a name, it was programmatic) in 1984, Wolf Geldmacher and yours truly decided that we wanted to offer all employees (and even in 1986, we are talking around twenty) shares of the enterprise.

At the time, we were four partners in the firm. The “active” ones were Wolf and I. We were both employees of the Connection as managers and both owned 30% of the capital. The two “passive” partners in the firm were Dr. Peter Schnupp (a man who had written IT history) and the InterFace Computer, represented by Claus M. Müller. They had 20% each. At the time, our capital was as much as 100,000.- DM and our legal status was limited liability company.

Dr. von Hase was “our” counsellor-at-law. He accompanied our enterprise during many years. In retrospect, I can certainly say that his advice was always very good advice for the company. It did not take long for him to convince us that the limited liability company status was not the best possible for an enterprise with several partners. Especially if some of them are also employees. Conflicts that, for example, might arise from the enterprise-employee relation might easily have a negative effect on the partnership level.

Consequently, 17 employees of the IF AG founded a share association that took 10% of the capital (10,000 DM) out of the entire sum (100,000).

The sales price for the 10% was 60,000 DM (10,000 DM for the shares plus an extra rate of 1:5 , i.e. 50,000 DM). At the time, our enterprise was easily worth 600,000 DM. The money remained in the company as backup, which improved the capital situation (from 100,000 to 160,000 DM). The total shares situation changed as follows: Wolf and I now held 27% instead of the 30% we held before the transfer. InterFace Computer and Peter Schnupp now had 18% each instead of the 20% they had had before. And 10% were now owned by the shareholder association of employees who then mathematically held a share of 1/170 each of the enterprise. It was a good example for a successful employee involvement.

For the employees, one disadvantage was that they could not directly own shares of the enterprise, instead “only” indirectly holding shares as an association. This limited the fungibility of the shares. When, in the late 1990ies, the InterFace Connection GmbH became the InterFace AG, the shares of the employee association became stock of the InterFace AG, which meant this limitation was no longer active. Whenever I meet InterFace AG employees today on general meetings, they tell me that the employee involvement was the best investment of their lives.

In the 1980ies and especially in the 1990ies, many persons worked with option models in Germany that were rather dubious affairs as far as tax was concerned. The procedure was particularly attractive for young and quickly growing enterprises that wanted a speedy entry into the stock market. I have a few scattered friends who actually – to their own surprise – became millionaires because of these models. Mostly, however, the persons I know who did it tended to lose money, rather than profit.

Today, I believe cooperatives are probably something to keep in mind when this is your purpose – especially if you want to think sustainable and long-term. Even though originally the cooperative model was not intended to be beneficial for employees. Initially, they wanted to share the use of production machinery and buy said machinery. But it will also work if you want to make it possible for employees to share the success.

To me, partner models such as those used for entrepreneurial counselling look rather innovative. Especially the varieties where you can buy shares upon entering the firm and have to hand them on as you leave sound exciting, With them, you will profit from the success and growth of the shared enterprise in all the time you are part of it. If I were ever to found a new company, I would probably try the BGB company partner model.

During our discussion, we also looked beyond the “pure earnings”. To be sure, a market-oriented income plays an important role when it comes to the employees’ motivation. In fact, salaries and continued education are the most important costs in service companies. It goes without saying that enterprises find it easier if they only need to pay part of these costs if they are actually successful.

However, money is only one (even if an important) part of what constitutes the relationship between the enterprise and its employees. The entrepreneurial culture and the values lived in the firm are just as important. Catchwords are openness and transparency, the possibility to participate, as well as respect and appreciation of all the persons in the firm being a foregone conclusion.

In an enterprise, you should feel that all the employees share the courage for the future and find pleasure in doing what they are doing. “Strategy” should be something like a shared feeling, rather than just words. The enterprise should not just create value for the shareholders, but also for all the stakeholders. That includes the families of the employees. For partners and children of colleagues, the enterprise should be something they can “touch”.

And also – this is very important:
Success should (as often as possible) be celebrated together!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
For more articles of my entrepreneurial diary, click here: Drehscheibe!

Modern enterprises want their employees to “actively participate” in the company. The participation of the employees when things are developed and their actively being part of decisions is considered a positive asset and a necessary requirement for a secure future. Terms such as “democratic enterprise” are en vogue. Some even get enthusiastic about holocracy (Holokratie), which is a term I like to intentionally misspell as “holocrazy”.

Yet I have all the respect in the world for the underlying intensions. Just as I also very much appreciate the ideas about “Common Good Economy” (“Gemeinwohlökonomie” – for instance as initiated by Christian Felber). But how is an enterprise supposed to manage the necessary change?

Meine Twitter-Fenster.

My Twitter Windows.

As I see it, social media play an important role when it comes to trying to establish the culture of an enterprise – both internally and externally.

For change and modifications, communication at eye-level and an internal intranet that works a little like the well-known social media systems à la Facebook are an important requirement. Today, we also call these concepts “Corporate Social Media (CSM)“. Perhaps we will soon have an “SMO” on top of the SEO (search engine officer who is responsible for the search engine optimization) – with the SM, naturally, not being short for sado-maso, but for Social Media (Social Media Officer).

I am a little sceptic about a CSM who has been appointed from the top. The employees should initiate the transformation. The same is true for the very popular term CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). It is about how an enterprise can live up to “ethical expectations”. This is also one of the tings the basis must want and work towards.

You will immediately understand my scepticism about CSR initiated by leaders after, for instance, having read the books by Mr. Otfried Höffe. His books have become standard literature at universities in the ethics faculties. I have no idea why this is so, because, as I see it, the books contain poor material all the business students have to learn. They do not satisfy any philosophical requirements.

But then, I am an evil sceptic who even considers the valuable term BGM (company health management) ridiculous, regardless of it not even beginning with a “C”. Incidentally, I distrust abbreviations that start with a C as a matter of principle. This is not only in politics and not only when the C is for “Christian” or “Corporate”. I am also very cautious when it comes to all combinations and abbreviations that contain terms such as management, manager or officer.

But now let me write the constructive part of this article. I would like to show with the example of twitter how you can actually manage to make people inside an enterprise really enjoy the meaningful use of corporate social media addressing the world outside the firm. The motivation of the employees is joy and intrinsic, without any special incentives or such.
How to make an entire enterprise twitter and thus authentically demonstrate its strength in the network, at the same time showing its nice collection of great individualists and presenting them to the market?

As you can easily imagine, this cannot be done through centrally controlled marketing strategies that follow ancient concepts. The role of marketing is among the things that need to undergo drastic change. Virtues – and I do not mean new virtues – such as the subsidiarity principle that is based on trust and error tolerance must also be re-established.

Before I elaborate on the details, I would like to point out the difference between “collective enterprise twittering” and the “functional twittering” as it is done by the National Railway (Die Bahn@bahn) or the Telekom with their twitter accounts (“Telekom hilft” @Telekom_hilft – I tried it myself when I was in an emergency situation and it helped me a lot). It makes a lot of sense and is often a good way to get the attention of these enterprises when you have problems. And it is also often the only chance a user has of being heard when the hotline or other “normal” channels that should connect you with the enterprise fail.

For the enterprises, the use of these social media channels is quite beneficial, because it helps to release the burden of the expensive hotlines that by their constantly being busy already annoy the customers. And, as a general rule, good social media services can be offered much cheaper than the classic help desk.

But this has nothing to do with “corporate social media” as in “here, the employees twitter”.
In order to twitter collectively as an enterprise, the first thing you need is a shared twitter account that is used by many, ideally all, employees. Initially, a defined team should do the exemplary twittering for the enterprise on this account and maintain the account. In the long run, it is, of course, desirable that all the parties concerned share the maintenance work and responsibility for the account.

Perhaps such a team should also help with some advice and organizational assistance as to what sort of communication is supportive of the enterprise and what is not. But then, most employees have quite a good instinct when it comes to this issue.

Also, all office buildings should have a screen installed in rooms such as the entrée, meeting halls and kitchens. On these screens, a twitter wall (here is the example of the ActMobCmp-Twitter-Wall) with current tweets is running at all times. Because reading the tweets your friends and colleagues have written will whet your appetite and encourage you to do some twittering of your own. This is how activity and shared directing will start happening by itself.

In this article, I used “twittering” as a kind of metaphor (pars pro toto) for social media in general. With Facebook, Google+ or also a Corporate Blog, it is not much different. Thus, Corporate Twittering is a good way to start more social media activities. As soon as (almost) everybody is enthusiastic, you can also try “Corporate Blogging”.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
For more articles of my entrepreneur’s diary, click here: Drehscheibe!