"Think big, act small" – three perspectives on new ways of working

Hamburg@work Women's Club and Hamburg Aviation WoMen highlight cultural shift
27 November 2019
New Work Event von Hamburg@work Women’s Club und Hamburg Aviation WoMen

Around 150 women and three digital experts – all women – gathered Wednesday (November 6, 2019) at Airbus in Hamburg Finkenwerder to mull the brave new world of work. A new kind of flexibility is opening up in the era of globalization and digitalization in terms of time, space and organization. Workspaces are changing and traditional corporate structures are breaking up. Collaboration in the World of Work 4.0 needs to be rethought. Against this backdrop, the Women’s Club of Hamburg@work put on a New Work Special in the south of Hamburg, along with Hamburg Aviation WoMen.

Christiane Brandes-Visbeck (Ahoi Innovationen GmbH), Kristin Scheerhorn, Digital Transformation Office Procurement Manager at Airbus Operations GmbH and Melanie Kuhlmann (Presentationpower and friends at work) demonstrated how they were getting on top of the shift to digital and provided ideas on structuring the digital transformation. Hamburg News reports on the most important lessons conveyed at the event – from collective intuition, the right mindset and dealing with errors.

3 women, 3 presentations, 3 perspectives

Professor Monika Bessenrodt-Weberpals, Vice President of HAW and Executive Board Member of Hamburg Aviation, Petra Carlsen, Head of Changemanufaktur, initiator of the Women’s Club and Hamburg@work Management Board member, provided the guidance through the good-humoured event. Brandes-Visbeck used five acts en route to New Work to convey her message. She has moved in the digital cosmos for more than 25 years, currently working as consultant, speaker and author (e.g. Fit für New Work).

  1. We are brave: Change never stops. The first step is the hardest, but “together we’ll do it”. Think big, act small.
  2. Let’s start with the Why: Our work has to be meaningful. This statement is the interface between passion, mission, calling and profession.
  3. Together we can change the culture: From the egoistical to the ecological. Everyone must do their part. Digital leadership instead of boss culture. Leadership is a role not a job.
  4. We tell stories about our future: The future belongs to us all. We need positive narratives to cope with fear of the digital age. Let’s highlight the opportunities of digitalization.
  5. We make mistakes – nobody’s perfect: Learning from our mistakes. We have to be prepared to make mistakes when we start something new.

“Collective intuition” is the key to transforming a team successfully, according to Brandes-Visbeck. “Questioning habits and humanizing work processes is only fun, if everyone realizes that they are better equipped for the challenges of the future with a changed mindset and innovative methods.”

Airbus: How initiatives can drive cultural change

From the perspective of a large company, Scheerhorn sketched how digitalization is changing standard work processes. She has been working for Airbus for the past 25 years and “wherever people are undergoing change”. Her motto is: “Let’s make digital more human!” Scheerhorn believed initiatives accelerate the cultural shift, with employees pursuing a major joint goal, while making their own small contribution by testing themselves and experimenting. Skills, for instance, that cannot usually be shown on the job can be made available to others. Numerous initiatives are underway at Airbus along the lines of “Think global, act local”. One example is the Airbus BizLab Hamburg, a global accelerator for the aerospace sector. Scheerhorn is active in the local branch of the global initiative Airbus Transformation Valley in Toulouse. In this context, she has introduced flex-desks to encourage contact between employees, who would not have much to do with one another otherwise. Commitments to each other, a level playing field, a joint strategy and co-operation from management are important criteria for success, she noted.


Scheerhorn, Brandes-Visbeck und Kuhlmann
© Hamburg@work/Stefan Röhl
Scheerhorn, Brandes-Visbeck and Kuhlmann

WOL – mindset for new world of work?

Kuhlmann, a founding member of the Hamburg@work Women’s Club, is now working as an executive mentor and coach in Munich, using the Working Out Loud (WOL) method to equip companies and their staff for the digital transformation. Launched by the American, John Stepper, WOL aims to help staff to learn with and from each other in a more open and networked way by building relationships and changing mindsets permanently. “Digital change is less a question of technology than a question of mindset,” Kuhlmann believes. Airbus, Siemens and Deutsche Bank already use WOL, she said. A so-called “WOL Circle” works as follows: Five workers meet for an hour every week for 12 weeks. The three phases – developing a personal goal, e.g. making WOL known to the board or generating new assignments, drawing up a list of contacts and establishing and maintaining contacts – are carried out one after another using Stepper’s official Circle Guides. Five principles are involved: Relationships, Generosity, Visible work, Purposeful Discovery and Growth Mindset.

Apart from that, the question of meaning in reference to a person's own work is fundamental. Making mistakes is both right and important. Many large companies hold so-called fuckup nights, for instance, and similar events. Lastly, the three digital experts called for an end to so-called "bullshit bingo". New-work terms like agile working etc. should always be queried.