Interview with Werner Stein : Navigating amidst Uncertainty- Endings & Rebirth



Rethinking the purpose during times of great turmoil

In an analogy with the song “The wind of change” from the Scorpions, which for me represents the leitmotif of times immemorial, we are now entering a phase where the wind is coming and is starting as a storm. And the corona story is inviting us to heighten our awareness that we have to change the world, by first and foremost transforming ourselves, because otherwise the planet will be more doomed.

In addition to the need for change, another question emerges dramatically, and it relates to the purpose. How can we change if we don’t have a clear purpose? What is the mission of our lives, of our doing, of a company? The answer might not come easy, but both on a collective and individual level we cannot ignore the feeling that something has to transmute. We may ask ourselves every hour of everyday what is our direction, but only a long-term answer will be profoundly meaningful. Eventually, it’s an individual journey, something we need to seek to answer for ourselves by shifting the perspective inward in order to manifest change outward.

And the same applies with the economy and companies today, which need to reevaluate their purpose, culture, values, mission and this moment should bring more clarity, because we cannot go further with the same old habits, causing harm to our planet.

We’ve seen that the quarantine time period, which put the economic activity to a halt, restored the nature’s equilibrium, with bluer skies, less pollution and animals returning to their natural environment.

Indeed, it is normal to want to go back to how things used to be before, to our comfort, to our jobs, to our money, but at the same time how can we go back without a new healthy purpose for the future?

Even before this period, I had experienced many cases where very successful people in their 40s or 50s came to our consulting firm looking for a new purpose in life, and not a new job. It seems that material abundance and status are not a condition for that sense of fulfillment we are all longing for.

From a business point of view, I would like to outline some key points which I deem as being mandatory for a new way of life.

Quality over Quantity

First of all, we need to discard the idea that financial growth is a long-term condition and that it should be regarded as the sole purpose. Why do we have to grow as a company every year? Who tells us that? Sure, growth is important in the first stages to lay the foundation, but a company needs to grow in values, in character, in quality, in supporting the people and only then the material abundance is implicit.

Healthy Motivation

Why do we do something? What is our motivation as organizations, as individuals?

Now, more than ever, companies need to reflect on that. Our incentive should strive towards supporting the community, the people, the employees, with a focus on quality. Industries also need to think in terms of ecosystems, adapting their production methods and locking in practices in respect to a more sustainable environment.

Cancer is one of the most spread illnesses in the world, and businesses do create cancer in a metaphorical way, which only serves as a mirror which reflects back a dysfunctional growth pattern. Growing and motivation go hand in hand, as long as the intention and impact are aligned with a healthy core set of values.

Competition vs. Collaboration

Then, another key aspect is competition. We need to find ways to work together as a whole, rather than separate units, during and after times of crisis, developing relationships built on trust, not only on transactions. The adaptability for the future lies in cooperation, not competition and the best model to find solutions for our planet, for our organizations, for ourselves is to support one another, laying out the design of a new mindset for the future.

So, without the need for materialistic growth, without competition and with the right kind of motivation we can build the foundation.

Every cloud has a silver lining

With all the unemployment that keeps on rising, we also need to reconsider adaptability when it comes to achieving financial security. The situation is a critical one and it will not be easy to find solutions for unemployment – but the possibility of considering non-traditional collaborations, as well as embracing a more digitalized approach, could generate a new outcome.

We should also start focusing on leadership, a new type of leader needs to arise, a leader with courage to approach things differently, a leader who takes responsibility, who can reassess the targets of a company and who knows how to create social value as opposed to generating financial value. But this implies qualities such as character, ethics, empathy, compassion, flexibility.

Consumer habits need to change, by addressing them more in green terms, embedding sustainability and making environmental management a core business/individual strategy. By setting targets to reduce the use of natural resources we could end up saving significant amounts of money.

Businesses with a strong culture, a shared sensed of purpose, with a clear set of values that work together to be good individuals create superior value and they can weather the storm better than most. The focus is on collaboration, flexibility and accountability and the massive change associated with the COVID-19 crisis should accelerate changes that foster these attributes.

This is my message, and it is not something new, it’s something that I have been already discussing with people for a very long time.

Finally, my last piece of advice would be to reflect on the interconnectedness of all that is, because everything is spiritual and we have a responsibility towards nature, and maybe when we would stop letting fear guide our choices, we would truly manifest a new consciousness.

Content by Ana Maria Popescu