One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes … and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.
–Eleanor Roosevelt

Facing tough situations in life, it’s always easy to blame the difficult circumstances, the bad world, and all the people surrounding us. “How could that ever happen?” “How could they treat me like this?” “I didn’t do anything wrong”, “It’s their fault” or “It’s not my fault.”We all know these statements, and the list goes on and on…

Let’s be honest: Blaming other people, blaming the circumstances, the entire world or both for our experiences, for specific situations we may find ourselves in, doesn’t help anybody. It’s only creating and distributing negative energy. It doesn’t bring us any closer to a solution or a better future state. Blaming shows that we are in a victim mode and that we don’t take responsibility for us, our life and our past choices. But that’s our Responsibility.

We made the decisions in the past that are root causes for our today’s situations.  Even if we made a decision that seems to be wrong from today’s perspective – it was exactly the right one when we made this decision in this specific situation in the past. It was exactly what we wanted at some point. We cannot live our life backwards, but we can change the direction today for the future. We always have choices – and the most important one is the choice to look inwards, to listen to our heart to get a deeper understanding, to learn more about ourselves and about others – before we make our decision, before we move on, in a conscious, responsible way.

Situations, however painful they might be, have always one element in common – our individual and unique perception. Other persons involved may have another perception, that’s their unique view-point. Let’s not lose time and energy in judging other people’s individual perception and criticizing their view points. They are as they are, and nobody sees the colors as you do. But we all see colors. And we all name those colors, but sometimes slightly different. There will always be differences, at least nuances. Accept it and don’t judge other people’s perceptions. It doesn’t help us to get out of a painful situation, it only takes energy we could spend more wisely elsewhere to make a different choice next time. Additionally, judging another person’s individual perspective as wrong takes us also the possibility to remain open-minded and to gain a deeper understanding about their individual view-point.

Let’s be aware that our situations in our lives are the results of our conscious and unconscious choices we made in the past. Even if at some point, our decision was not to decide anything. Then, the decision was made for us, probably not as we expected it to be.

Let’s be aware that we always have choices and that those choices are unlimited. If we perceive them as limited, then we defined some limits, didn’t we? Limits we may perceive are often other people’s values, beliefs and principles how we should live our lives. Let’s be conscious, that this is not necessarily our story. If those values and beliefs don’t serve us anymore, let’s get rid of them. Living a responsible and conscious life requires that we define our values, our core beliefs and our ethical principles in a conscious way.

The past is over and the future didn’t yet begin. Today, you have the choice to change situations or you have the choice to accept them as they are. Today, you can choose to go another way, you can choose to develop new concepts, new life and work situations. Or you will choose a specific current situation again – as it is – and accept it completely.

The more conscious we make choices in our lives, the more conscious  we live our lives. We have the right to choose our way of living, and we respect other people’s right to make their own choices, too.

  • Believe in yourself.
  • Follow your heart.
  • Trust in your courage and strength.
  • Enjoy the freedom of creativity.
  • And Make your choices – built from love.

“We need to teach the next generation of children from Day One that they are responsible for their lives. Mankind’s greatest gift, also its greatest curse, is that we have free choice. We can make our choices built from love or from fear.”
–Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross


“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”
― Alan Wilson Watts

“Realize it is play” – let’s think about that for a moment. Let’s become aware that all our actions are a play. A play, a game is defined by principles and by rules, as any sport. Principles could be for instance fairness and appropriateness. Rules define what it takes to win, what winning means and how winning looks like. Principles are the foundation of rules. If principles are not respected, there are rules that make you follow those principles next time.

One of the basic characteristics of a play is, that we don’t know the result beforehand. We don’t know who will win and who will lose this time. Our curiosity, our enchantment only remains alive, if we keep this level of uncertainty. Imagine you would know the results in the beginning. That wouldn’t be a play, it would be a boring happening instead. Knowing the results in advance leads to stagnation, to situations without any potential to learn and to grow.

Both, winning and losing are essential parts of our plays in life, of our personal learning and development process. Winning and losing is what shapes our own journey, sometimes it pushes us directly on the next plateau, sometimes we need to take another loop to get there. No right or wrong, it’s just our unique journey.

Winning is a confirmation of our actions. Losing are our stimuli to learn, to unlearn, to relearn and to grow. Losing also incorporates a great potential to reinforce and to push our own creativity to the next level. Consequently, winning and losing are equally important. Seriously, both are equally important.
Based on this view point, we are always winning. We can win the play, or – if we lose the play – we gain experience and we can leverage our own potential.

The only way to lose is not to act at all. To avoid an action, because one is driven by fear, because one doesn’t want to make a mistake and one doesn’t want to take a risk. That’s the best way to make the biggest mistake ever: Not to act at all.

Inhale these ideas with every breath you take. You will lose fear as your permanent companion. Instead, your mindset will change over time to wisdom, ease and inner peace. That’s your foundation to inner happiness, to act in a positive way, driven by curiosity and courage, driven by the willpower to learn and to grow. Fear won’t stop you any longer.

  • Keep your playfulness
  • Keep learning, unlearning and relearning
  • Boost your own creativity
  • Integrate that in your leadership style and transform your world to a more compassionate place.


“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.”
—John C. Maxwell

“Responsibility” according to Merriam Webster is defined in different ways: First, as the state of being the person who caused something to happen. Second, as a duty or task that you are required or expected to do. Third, as something that you should do because it is morally right, legally required, etc.

When we take total responsibility for ourselves, it covers a lot of different things. It means being responsible for our own thoughts, our own emotions and our own actions. Consequently, it also means that unaccomplished expectations, we may have about specific situations and/or other people are a main cause for our (perceived) problems and disappointments. The other side of the coin: It’s our choice and our responsibility to solve those issues.

We cannot change the weather and we cannot change other people. But we can inspire them to change themselves, which is one dimension of leadership. But it’s always our responsibility to decide how we respond to our environment, how we respond to situations we find ourselves in, how we deal with other people’s behavior. Let’s accept the fact that other people’s behavior has often much more to do with them and their story than it has to do with us. Don’t judge other people for their behavior, even if it’s hard not to do so. You didn’t walk in their shoes, so you will never completely understand their story, even if you know their story pretty well. And vice versa, they didn’t walk in your shoes, which is why they will never completely understand what their behavior really means for you.

Not judging others is an absolutely worthwhile journey – for yourself. Because it doesn’t help you to blame others for their behavior. That’s only assuming no responsibility for yourself and shifting responsibility on to somebody else. Once you have arrived in a non-judging mode, you can see much clearer how a situation really looks like from different perspectives. And you gain a lot of freedom – freedom to decide on your actions and reactions and on your behavior. That’s your responsibility! This is where the buck stops.

Responsibility is the price of freedom
–Elbert Hubbard 

It’s up to you to stick to your behavior or to change it, slightly or radically. It’s up to you to decide on your actions and reactions based on your values, core beliefs and life principles. But don’t ignore your values, core beliefs and life principles. Be authentic, be yourself.

This principle of responsibility is not only the key to success for our private issues and our business challenges. It’s also true for the bigger picture, to master the challenges of the 21st century.

Accepting full responsibility for your own actions and reactions, for your decisions, behaviors and attitudes means being able to lead yourself. This is the prerequisite to lead others, in a changing economy, in a constantly changing world, in a complex environment, where the only stable element is – uncertainty.

Be responsible for your own playfulness
Be responsible for your own creativity
Be responsible for leading yourself

Lead yourself. Lead others. Drive transformation.


There are times in life, when you have to make tough decisions and big changes to live your vision, to do what you really want to do.

Big changes are never easy. Everything that’s worthwhile doing, is not easy to do. Big changes need time to figure out what it really is you want to achieve in your life. That requires time for yourself, time to be alone, to be in silence and to be in nature.

There is no linear process to get to these answers. It always happens in iterations. The answers you will get will also change over time, depending on your current situation and your current state of mind.

Living your vision may need many different steps and loops to get there. Along your journey, you will figure out that all these different steps are an opportunity to learn, to unlearn and to relearn. Even if life puts you in pretty dark places, from time to time. These are gifts, too. For different reasons. Maybe you needed these experiences to make your next step or to get more clarity about yourself or to step away from keeping things calm and safe. Often these experiences pushed you directly in the right direction.

Once you made a big step, a big change, it will always impact your entire life – regardless if the change was primarily made in your professional life or primarily in your private life. Be aware, that there are no isolated lives and therefore no isolated changes. Whatever you change in one area, it will impact all other areas of your life. But the degrees of impact will be different, of course. We are as human beings complex systems and we are living in a complex world. That means that everything is connected to everything. We have to accept this uncertainty and to get familiar with it. Trust yourself, your capabilities, your inner voice and your journey. Everything else is not under your control.

Whatever your specific change is, it will always be a lot of work. Once the decision is made, focus all your energy on that change. Ideally, you will experience an energy flow that helps you to achieve the first big milestones. If you feel this kind of flow, you know that you made the right decision at this point in time. Focus on immersing yourself into the situation you changed. Be a linchpin, be creative, be innovative, be passionate and challenge the current state. Always. Come up with better ideas and even smarter new approaches. Think differently. Act differently. Lead differently. Don’t re-create. Create new. Take it to the next level. Never forget to ask the question “why”. Always question what you see, learn and experience. It will take all your energy in the beginning and that’s exactly what it needs to make a difference, a significant difference.

Being very focused on the first big milestones and achievements is key to success. It’s important for your own state of mind and for your inner happiness. Take time for yourself, observe yourself and listen to yourself. If you don’t do that, life will eventually force you to take this time. For example, you will miss your flight for whatever reason and you will be forced to stay one more day wherever you currently are. Don’t be angry. Be grateful. Recognize the bigger picture and the gift in this situation. Be grateful for the gift and take your time – to say THANK you to yourself for the decisions and the changes you made and the first milestones you achieved.

Whatever your specific change was, there are always different things that could be improved, that could be better and be even more perfect – if you look backwards. But we cannot live our lives backwards, only forwards.
Don’t let these thoughts win. Not today, that’s for tomorrow.

Today, say thank you to yourself, be grateful that you made decisions and started a change. Be grateful for your courage, your boldness, your passion, your compassion, your focus and the first successful steps along your journey.

Say thank you to yourself.
Celebrate yourself. You are worth it.


Enjoying beautiful and very special trees, that’s always balm for my soul. It opens a space for deep awareness, for another level of connectedness and inner happiness.
Exactly what I needed today…

I was looking for trees in literature and suddenly – I stumbled upon this absolutely beautiful and brilliant piece of art on the beauty and the wisdom of trees from one of the best writers ever:
Hermann Hesse.

I hope you will enjoy the story as much as I did – listen to Hermann Hesse’s amazing art:

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” 

― Hermann HesseBäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

Related post:

A few playful thoughts on trees and connectedness

It’s early in the morning. The gentle darkness surrounding you is awaiting father sun.

I love this very special time, the time between night and day, between darkness and light, between silence and thoughts. The time between silence and thoughts, shapes, sounds and words.

Observe your thoughts this morning. Thoughts are the act or process of thinking. Thoughts can be an idea, a plan, an opinion or a picture that is formed in your mind, something you are thinking of. Or thoughts are about somebody you are thinking of. Look at these thoughts, accept them as yours, but let them come and go. Don’t judge your thoughts. In no way. If any kind of negativity comes up in your thoughts, let those go first, and invite positive thoughts.

Thought has shape. Shape is known as the form or outline of an object, the condition of something or someone. Look at the shape of your thoughts. How does it look like, and how does it feel – the shape, the outline, the form of your thoughts?

Listen. Shape has sound. Sound is a sensation perceived by the sense of hearing, it’s a particular auditory impression. Sound is transmitted in a material medium such as air or water.
How is the sound this morning, your sound, mother nature’s sound?

Enjoy the sound of the harp. Enjoy the sound of your own toning. This morning’s unique sound.

Now father sun is on its way, it’s getting brighter and brighter. Look at the trees, connect with the nature surrounding you. Connect the dots between thoughts, shapes and sounds. Connect the dots between your world and the nature surrounding you. Make it one world. In nature, there is nothing that’s not connected with each other.

Listen to nature’s sound, listen carefully and be fully present. No need to answer. Just listen with every cell of your body.

Sound has a word. What’s the word that’s crossing your mind first? What are all the words crossing your mind? Word is more than sound. Word is a sound or a combination of sounds that has a meaning. Word is something that is said, spoken or written. Word is a brief remark or a series of speech sounds that symbolizes and communicates a meaning.

To understand the meaning, we need more than just a word, we need to understand our thoughts, their shape and sound in a specific situation. Then, we connect a word or a number of words to them. Now, we have meaning. Now we have context. Our specific context.

Word has power. Power is the ability or the right to control things or people. Let’s use this ability to control ourselves, to control our own thoughts, their shapes, sounds and connected words.
That creates power. Power, we need to make a difference, to make the world a better place.

If there is any kind of negativity – stop and invite positivity in your life.

Change your thoughts, change their shape and their sound. Choose positive words. The only way to change a negative situation is to invite positivity, to change your negative thoughts into positive thoughts, to change their shapes and their sounds and to connect positive words.

Words have power. Words have a tremendous power. Positive words have even more power to change for the better.

Welcome a new day!
Make it a great day and make a difference.
Make a huge difference.
Follow your journey, fulfill your purpose on Earth.

The day is yours!

“Shamanic journeying is the inner art of traveling to the ‘invisible worlds’ beyond ordinary reality to retrieve information for change in any area of your life – from spirituality and health to work and relationships.”
Sandra Ingerman

Imagine you are lying on a few blankets in a comfortable position. You relax your body, waiting for the journey to begin. The Shaman explains the ritual, the topic and the question to focus on during the journey. “Move yourself to a place in nature that you love very much, where you feel safe and happy. Focus on all the elements of nature. Look inwards and ask yourself if there is one specific element you need to focus more in your life at this point? Ask the spirits for guidance and allow them to receive their feedback.” 

Then, the drumming begins, you get used to the rhythm, you start to enjoy the sound and the rhythm, you feel the essence of the drum in every cell of your body. You relax deeper and deeper. Here it is, your favorite place in nature, next to a beautiful river in the mountains, surrounded by a number of beautiful, old and wise trees, you find yourself next to the fire place, very close to the river, sitting on the ground, feeling mother Earth, looking around, inhaling and exhaling with deep consciousness, enjoying the beauty, enjoying every breath of energy, every breath of harmony, feeling every element of nature around you. You love the beauty of this nature in harmony, it’s touching your heart, your soul, every cell of your body.

Is there a specific element that needs more of your focus than the others? At this point of your life? Inhaling and exhaling for a while. Listening, feeling and enjoying the drumming with every cell of your body:

“Remember that drumming opens portals to the spirit world, draws spirit in, and opens you up to receive it.”
― Michael Drake

This time, the harmony and the beauty of the elements of nature, interacting gently and carefully with each other is the feedback from the spirits. There is this gentle playfulness between the elements of nature you are enjoying so much. This deep joy, this lovely playfulness is exactly what makes you feel a very deep connection between you and the elements of nature and between each single one of them and you as well.

A new level of inner peace, of unconditional love and gratitude is spreading out. Beauty, harmony and playfulness, that’s what the elements are radiating and that’s how they are surrounding you. It’s a new balance, a new harmony on another level – your guiding principle for now.

Deep happiness opens your heart, a beautiful smile changes your face. You are shining from the bottom of your heart to the outer world.

The drumming softens, the Shaman brings you back from your favorite place in nature to the workshop room where you are still lying.

Open your eyes, grab a pen and draw a picture of your shamanic journey. The best memory you can make for yourself.

Your journey will be different. Every journey is different, because every single situation is different and the specific context is always unique and different.

It’s not so much the specific answer you get, it’s about the ritual that deepens your spiritual journey, one step at a time. Every time.

Let’s walk in beauty
Let’s walk in gratitude
Let’s walk in harmony

There is playfulness in each single element and there is playfulness in their interactions:

  • Playfulness opens a space for gentle connections
  • Playfulness is a prerequisite for creativity
  • Playfulness is a prerequisite for innovation
  • Playfulness is a prerequisite for leadership and transformation

Play, create, lead and transform – with passion and compassion.

“Every thing or living being that exists in this world, be it trees, flowers, birds, grasses, rocks, soil of the earth, or human beings, has its unique manner of existence – its essence, its spirit that makes it what it is. That is what is meant by connectedness.”

–Larry P. Aitken, CHIPPEWA

Whenever I was asked, what I wanted to achieve in my life, I always mentioned – amongst other things – that I wanted to grow like a beautiful tree, to learn everything about myself, to unfold my potential in many different dimensions, to create my life in a meaningful and creative way, to achieve great wisdom, to feel deep connectedness and to love unconditionally. I also wanted to become strong and independent like a tree, but keeping my sensitivity, my vulnerability…

Trees in many forms and shapes were always my visualization for my life and for life in general. Even today, asked to visualize my visions, I use a tree. It comes so naturally to me. “Weird, but wonderful!” may sum it up pretty well…

Trees were always very close to my heart. In my parent’s garden, we had a few beautiful trees, and the big, round maple tree was my favorite. Later in my life, I found “my” trees, additionally to the one in my parent’s garden. Trees, I always come back, I enjoy staying close to them, to connect with them, to feel their energy and their wisdom. It’s “grounding” myself. It feels a bit like coming home for my soul. Extremely healing and eye-opening, too.

That’s part of my experience that all things and beings are connected to each other. For me, it opened a completely new dimension in my thinking, feeling and living.

Most amazing for me is, that scientists are now on the same page. Finally! There is nothing more important for human beings in our well-structured and analytical culture – that science can prove what many people already experienced and what Elders told us since hundreds of years – that we are all connected to each other, that we share one planet.

Neill de Grasse Tyson, astrophysicist, sums it up perfectly – what he calls the chemistry of life:

“We are all connected to each other, biologically, to the Earth chemically, and to the rest of the universe, atomically….That makes me smile…It’s not that we are better than the universe….We are part of the universe, we are in the universe and the universe is in us.”

There is another dimension that is part of connectedness – the mirror function. We all know patterns and structures that are the same in nature and that repeat itself in larger scales – fractals. These are typically self-similar patterns that show up everywhere around us in nature and biology.

Nature is a mirror for you. Especially trees are an excellent mirror for you.
It’s the same what people, who are deeply connected to each other, feel even if they were out of touch for a while:
They are a mirror for each other, always. It only needs open hearts to notice that…

Take a question, a challenge in your life, you are looking for answers. Focus deeply on that question. Then, take your question with you and go out in nature, play with the questions, connect with the beauty around you in a playful, childlike manner. Walking in nature, being focused on your question, you will find the answers in nature, you will find your tree, your bushes or your stones, whatever it is. What you will find based on your intuition, will mirror your challenge in different patterns and provide an answer for you. Decoding this answer is again an interesting challenge…a playful and a creative challenge, too.

Whatever we are looking for, it’s already here. It “only” needs to be discovered. As we are the universe, and the universe is in us, all the answers we need are already here – in the universe, within us.

It may need some time to discover the answers we are looking for, within us. The journey to do so is never an easy one, but it’s absolutely worth it. Those journeys have often many bends and curves. Embrace them, play with them and consider them as plateaus. Which is why you never find yourself in the same place again. It’s always another plateau where you meet the same patterns again, but with a slightly evolved consciousness. So, it’s not the same place, it’s a new one, another plateau.

Enjoy the bends and curves along your journey, even if they hurt at a certain point. That’s sometimes necessary to push you on another plateau…

There is no light without darkness. There is no connectedness without trees.

Countless articles and posts on complexity all over the place – it seems, that everything is complex or is getting even more complex…is there something that remains just complicated? Just saying…

What’s the main message you take away from most of these articles? Basically, it’s how to reduce complexity. That’s it. But is that really a creative approach to master today’s challenges? And, is it actually possible, to reduce complexity? If so, in which cases?

Do you know what I admire the most about the Dalai Lama? His childlike curiosity, happiness and playfulness, his humor when it comes to complicated and complex challenges and questions. Playfulness, playful thinking starts with questioning, so…

Why do we always think in one direction? How to reduce complexity? For me, it sounds like cutting costs. It’s what we are doing when we have no other idea, right? Reducing complexity doesn’t sound like being in a playful, creative environment, where ideas and thoughts are flowing to be put into innovative, unique solutions to create value for customers, to help others?

Why is there almost nobody out there who says „I love complexity“, „I see so many opportunities in my complex world – what a gift, that I can play with all these dimensions, create new opportunities in all areas of my life and choose how to transform and how to lead differently“.
I’m one of these rare persons…. I hope, others will jump on the bandwagon and admit the same!
Yes, I’m absolutely happy with my complex life, and I’m happy that it’s much more complex than five years ago. I’m absolutely grateful for everything I’m learning, enjoying, experiencing. Rainbows and sun shines. All that’s part of my journey. And that’s a pretty complex one ;-)

First, let’s define* what I mean with „complex“ and „complicated“, because there are fundamental differences.

That’s, when we have to deal with multiple dimensions, many diverse and autonomous, but interrelated and interdependent components that are linked to each other, through many interconnections. There is no single rule how to describe a complex system, and the outcome has always to be defined. The different characteristics cannot be reduced to one level of description. Also important for complex systems – the small degree of predictability due to the constantly changing environment. Measuring progress in a complex environment is a challenge, because not only the elements are changing, also the environment itself. So, defining several check points that cover many dimensions could be helpful, if we want to measure progress.

That’s when you can operate in a sequenced way with step-by-step, well defined and optimized processes, that run very smoothly to achieve defined outputs. Work in a complicated system is often highly tailored and gets delegated to different units. Additionally, sophisticated planning procedures are part of a complicated system, because they can predict forecasts. Measuring progress is pretty easy, because here we have a direct link between cause and effect.

Now, we need bit more color on the pure theory:

Complicated – that’s the final assembly line of a car manufacturer. Every detail is planned, the bill of material for every single car is calculated with all the specific modules and components that are delivered just-in-sequence, car by car. The predictability of such a system is excellent, you will get the outputs that were planned. There are different planning levels, weekly, daily, from shift to shift, for every specific car. The different layers are organized pretty well, often in a hierarchical structure. In such an environment, the most sophisticated math as well as state-of-the-art engineering and production expertise are used to map out detailed process flow charts. Then, these processes can be conducted as efficient as possible.
Thinking is focused on how to design and how to optimize the processes to get the desired outputs in the most efficient way and then, it’s about following the process.

Complicated – that’s a cockpit of an aircraft. Many dimensions, many different displays to be aligned, but pretty predictable. The output is also predictable. The pilots can calculate precisely how long it will take to fly e.g. from Frankfurt to San Francisco. Processes are pretty well-defined, the related processes with the tower and with the cabin are pretty well aligned and strongly connected. Also, in critical situations, decision-making is defined on a very detailed level.

Can we reduce something in a complicated system? Yes, everything that’s not adding value will be removed. Car manufacturers are again a great example. You won’t find anything along their assembly lines, that’s not adding value to the expected output – cars. They are optimizing permanently.

Complex is different, perfectly explained by my friend and leadership guru Walter H Groth „an environment of which you neither know all of the variables at any given time, nor all of the possible interactions of such variables. Situations in complex environments have the inherent faculty of transforming, since each variable, therefore also you, can potentially change everything. The sequence of events is incoherent, yet following certain principles. Hence, critical thinking, thinking for yourself the scientific way … knowing how to think is indispensable.“

What’s a perfect example? In my opinion, „The European Union Explained“ is just brilliant.
Take these five minutes to watch this video, you will enjoy it – promised! You could also think about the health care system in your country. Not a single one which is not pretty complex. I think I stop to add other examples here…
Those complex systems aren’t based on a single process, many processes are changing and are connected at the same time. Keeping balance in a complex system is always a main challenge. The outcomes are not defined beforehand in all the details, but the journey how to get there. Then, the outcomes have to be defined in detail with many stakeholders over time, along the journey. The challenge is that there are many processes involved and sometimes, they seem to disturb each other. Especially in a complex system that was created by human beings. Sometimes, people who assume to be in a complicated environment, just connected complicated processes, but in a complex environment – and the perception is then, that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Knowing HOW to think and critical thinking is really essential and will make the difference regarding the functionality of the complex system and regarding the expected outcomes.

Can we reduce complexity? Sometimes, it depends on the system. In an aircraft, probably not, that’s already well optimized. In the European Union, why not. You can decide what to cut off, nations, central banks, and so on. But the impact of doing so isn’t very predictable, due to the character of a complex system. So, „reducing complexity“ has to be well thought through – critical thinking, here we go again!

Enough ruminating for today – the first step is done. We have defined what we are talking about and we have put some color on it – hopefully in a playful way!

In the second part of this little series, we will discuss management and leadership and what does it mean in complicated and in complex situations in order to drive transformation towards the 21st century – Play, Create, Lead and Transform!

Stay tuned!

*For all bloggers not mentioned so far – thank you very much for your inspiration:

Learning for sustainability
Mike MacDonagh’s Blog
LarryCuban On Schoolrefrom And Classroom Practice 



“What gets measured, gets managed”, from Peter Drucker sounds very familiar, right? You might also know this quotation from W. Edwards Deming: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

Think about business: Maybe, you manage like this, because you learned it this way. Maybe, you are measured and managed yourself like this. If so, how do you feel? Comfortable? Probably not…

Think about art: How much structure and detailed planning is necessary? When is it just too much? Because it might kill the necessary playfulness, which is so important for creativity. On the other hand, how much planning and structure do you actually need to keep a creative processes going (we all know the hard times, the resistance…), and when is it just important to relax and to unwind – because then, the most creative ideas come to your mind and you often can’t be quick enough to capture them.

I often have the best ideas when I’m cooking, when I’m walking at the beach, when I’m at my favorite spiritual place, when I’m enjoying a farmer’s market, when I’m observing people, sitting in a café – or when I’m sitting in a plane, not reading and not watching movies – just letting thoughts come to my mind.

Albert Einstein stated perfectly: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

I truly believe that we have to rethink and to figure out, what’s still relevant and what makes no longer sense in the 21st century – in all parts of our lives, that are more connected than ever. So, it’s much more than looking at the growing creative economy, it’s about discussing our role as an artist in all areas of our lives.

An artist is according to Seth Godin “someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally.” Consequently, “art is the work of a human being – something a person does with generosity to touch someone else to make a change for the better.”

The above mentioned Drucker and Deming quotations on measuring and managing are from the industrial age, last century. The focus was producing goods, the more, the better and the cheaper, the better. It was all about products, produced in a standardized, repeatable, efficient way along an assembly line. That’s how people got measured and managed. It was all about tangible things – the more, the better, the cheaper. People had to fit into this system. Artists as defined above were not the preferred workers – not at all. And art was about paintings.

But the world has changed. There is no longer a focus on producing more and more goods with questionable value. This century, especially the growing creative economy, is more about creating sustainable value (outcomes) in all parts of our lives. This fundamental change means also, that this kind of sustainable value is based on creative ideas, that lead to innovations which make a difference. Ideas and innovations are based on human minds.

Human minds are not only the most important element when it comes to art, they are now also the most important element when it comes to creating services, solutions, products with sustainable value. We need human minds with creativity, passion, curiosity, courage and insights – human minds who are all “in”.

Those human minds – artists, linchpins – are the ones who make a real difference – in all areas of our lives, whether they are engineers, waiters, cooks, sellers, entrepreneurs, film makers, writers, IT specialists, coaches, community leaders, consultants, analysts, bloggers, etc.

Artists aren’t afraid to address unpopular issues, but they know how to do it in a smart way, how to build a community and how create more artists and more leaders. Whenever they fail, they are grateful for the experience, take the lessons learned, move on, keep going and try again.

It doesn’t matter where artists are creating their art – we are all connected anyway. It only matters THAT artists are creating their art. And that’s what matters now in the 21st century:

  • Artists focus on how to nourish their souls, their hearts and their minds to keep their playfulness, to be most creative.
  • Artists are working in a specific, sometimes pretty structured way, but only to create better art.
  • Artists are planning, but only as much as necessary to create better art and to overcome resistance, to achieve another plateau.
  • Artists are leading, because they have a vision, a mission and they know their specific role on this planet at this time.

What does that mean for our initial question on managing and measuring?

  • Artists are focused on doing the right things first
  • Artists only “manage” the necessary activities to create their art, to achieve a desired outcome, to achieve the next plateau
  • Artists coach people to enable them to create better art, to achieve a desired outcome
  • Artists measure results as a consequence, but they never try to “manage” results and to “manage” their art.
  • Artists are often in “non-sales selling” (Dan Pink): They influence, convince, persuade, move others to create better art, to achieve a desired outcome, to change the current state.

Artists are the creative leaders of this century.
That’s how they drive transformation.
That’s how they make a difference – a huge difference.