A German living in Austria. Journalist, author of more books, ‘Wieso arbeiten wir eigentlich hier?’ (Why the hell, are we working here?), just published by ‘Edition KONTUREN’ publishing house, traveller, culture designer for business and state customers, involved in more projects bound to the refugee crisis … and an incredible storyteller. Michael has a story for every discussion. But not just some story; from his deep knowledge he brings facts from the history or the world of nature that give you inspiration for the current issues. As the one about the Old Elephant.
In a natural park in South Africa young elephants were brought to the park to attract more visitors. Visitors came, but elephants were very disruptive; ruining everything and killing other animals. What to do? The authorities wanted to kill the young elephants, but then the Wise of the local Zulu-tribe suggested to bring an old elephant. And an old elephant was brought. Everyone expected it to put younger under pressure, to ‘adjust’ them, but it did nothing of that. It was on its own eating grass and conducting life of an elephant. Nothing else. People got nervous, but after some time they noticed that young elephants were getting less and less aggressive and found a coexistence with the ecosystem.
Not teaching, judging, trying to change … just being an example. A good example.
Is there necessary to add anything?
How do you live innovation in your every day life?
As far as I’m concerned, innovation is the task of life. It’s life itself. Life is about innovation!
That does not mean necessarily technical innovation. Rather I’m speaking about finding solutions for changing everyday problems. When a problem appears, whatsoever, we have to find a way to cope with it – and we usually do. That’s what innovation is about.
Since technical solutions tend to face standardised problems, I am not so sure about their general usefulness. Real problems are singularities. They may be similar, but never identical. Standardised problem-solving, as a consequence, may cover some aspects, but seldom all of them.
What is in your opinion the role of the innovation in the development of our society?
Frankly: we need it urgently!
But one has to be careful about what this means. As human beings, we are in urgent need to get an overview of our situation. As we see, every day that passes, the solutions we have, work less efficiently. So, what shall we do now?
It would be fatal to just improve speed.
All our technical equipment provides us with superpowers. Communication, transport, production, all these surroundings were unthinkable only some decades ago. But – to be blunt – at the bottom line we still are nothing else than naked apes! And apes with superpowers are quite a ridiculous thing, as developed shortly the Irish writer Julian Gough.
Our natural speed has not changed. What has changed are devices and applications. They change constantly and speed us up. Being ‘Speedy Gonzales’ may be fine for a cartoon-character, but not for us. All those developments that enhance speed, disconnect us from our nature. More and more.
In order not to be misunderstood: I am far from being against the technological development! I am just convinced that we do not need more speed. We need stop the tendency to bring us beyond our capability of understanding, because we badly need to understand what is happening around us.
I have the impression that just the opposite happens. There are many of so-called solutions, called innovations, that promise us to be of some help for coping with all this acceleration. None of them helps to understand and slow down.
Being human means to reflect situations. That requires calmness. At this moment a real innovation would foster reflection and calmness.
Do you think that the current situation in Europe is a chance or a threat?
All the crisis we are living at the moment include the chance to rethink our mindset as Europeans and Westerners.
All those financial crisis of the last 15 years (starting with dotcom and Enron), as well as the actual topic of the refugees show us the weakness of the assumptions we are used to. We thought and taught in school and at the university that those assumptions were a stable truth. We see now, that they are not!
The situation seems to be even accelerating by the hour. We are not fit for it but have the chance to change our mindset and to become fit.
Changing a mindset is always a difficult task. But it is indispensable. All those peaks knock at our door: peak-oil and gas, peak man, peak fish, peak soil, even peak sand! We are running out of resources of which we thought that they would never end. Now we see that they will do exactly that: run out! And still we do not have a valid answer. The alternative to develop adequate answers would be to go in defence mode and ignore the problems. But I don’t even want to think of this scenario.
So let’s take the chance and let’s go back to field one: what is life about and where do we want to go to?
How do you think that we can benefit from modern migrations and use it to solve our challenges?
We have to become curious about other cultures. They have developed other solutions. We will not solve any problem as long as we stick to our traditional way of thinking. As Claude Levy Strauss put, there is no culture superior to any other. Each one has exactly the solutions for problems given at their environment.
I do not really believe that we could find directly applicable solutions for our situation in any given culture. But what we can do is to connect us and try to find together new solutions that neither of us could find alone.
The solutions we have are made for a world outlook whose time has come. If we want to find new perspectives, we have to use the differences between cultures to open a discussion.
That’s what evolution is about!
This is not an easy step. It means:
- to recognize the relativity of any given way, even our own traditional culture,
- to respect the way others have found through their history – without superiority feelings and without neglect of our own traditions,
- to surmount the fear of an uncertain future, and
- to develop and foster courage and ardor.
What do you suggest as the next step for the development of Innogees?
What a huge question! Allow me take a brisk „tour d’horizon“:
The game is about changing the game.
This may sound a bit weird, but nonetheless it’s what it is about. First of all we have to understand the dimension of what is happening around us. It is not just kids revolting against their parents, as any generation does und as Saint Augustine already described during the decay of the Roman Empire.
What we see and what we ere living in is a gigantic cultural disruption. It is the biggest one since the 14th century. That was the time of the big plague! Then death and chaos forced our ancestors to believe, that the divine order was too weak. Consequently they developed the idea that men-defined order would be better. This idea was the birth of the modern era.
For seven centuries we evolved a very strong narrative, the narrative of men-given order. And it worked well. It empowered us to fly to the moon, to develop wealth and to produce the comfort of the smartphone.
But now this narrative weakens. Every day another bit. Nobody believes any longer that economy or politics could be able to arrange things well. On the contrary: we blame them, to have fucked our life and the entire world! And this is not completely wrong.
Seen from an eagles perspective this means that our central believes of modern age shrivel. We are loosing faith at high speed!
What is needed now is the change of the narrative. As we cannot explain what is happening around us, we need other stories. We need other role models. And – last but not least – we need other narrations about what a fulfilled life could be. Since we’ve lost faith in authorities and experts, hence they will not be able to provide solutions. A broad discussion will be needed. To me, that’s of upmost importance.
Innogees is a wonderful platform to produce such discussions, to publish examples and – overall – to encourage. Courage to think the other way, courage to help other people and courage to try to understand others. But most of all, courage to take a step aside and have a critical look at our own believes.
Photo by Rainer Friedl