A pink tracksuit with a little yellow sun on the stomach: that was the outfit I was wearing the first time I ever saw the Berlin wall – or rather what was left of it. Shortly after the wall fell, we – my parents, my older brother and I – wanted to do our bit to help tear down the last remnants of dictatorship and oppression.
So, armed with small hammers, we set about smashing the cold, hard stone, which were now no longer grey and imposing but piled up in colourful and chaotic heaps. By the time we had managed to drive our way up to the capital from sleepy Dresden in our brand-new Trabant, the people had already taken the opportunity to paint and spray the wall, turning the ruins into a colourful symbol for this new-found freedom.
The fall of the wall
A fair few years have now passed since the wall came down in 1989, and it feels as if the clocks have been set to a completely different time ever since. Time is moving on at a rapid pace, bringing with it a whirlwind of changes that seems to be loosening all ties to this old world, detaching it from its roots. And it even seems to be affecting our everyday working lives.
It’s not just that the wall is no more or that my brother no longer wears a vokuhila haircut (front short, back long). No. In this relatively short time, driven by the rapid pace of freedom and globalisation, almost everything has changed. Back then, I was born into a land of limitations where I likely would have followed whichever career path I was allowed or assigned to do. Today, I’m part of a global company where I’m in constant contact not only with colleagues from the ‘West’ but from all over the world. It makes no difference at all to my colleagues at MANN+HUMMEL whether I’m from West or East Germany.
In actual fact, I have little memory of this ‘old’ world I inhabited as a three-year-old. Nonetheless, I’m aware that the working world of today has little in common with that of yesterday and that this brings with it a wide range of challenges. These challenges not only relate to technical knowledge but also to an individual’s attitude to work and flexibility.
Workers need to have the flexibility to question their own ideas and to be open to other people’s. After all, when it comes to communication the ability to adapt is crucial, in order to keep your feet on the ground when the whirlwind hits, and even use it to your advantage. This does not mean jumping on the bandwagon when new trends arise but simply being willing to try new things, keeping an open mind, and pushing all of your personal prejudices to the back of your mind as you do so.
The time for unflinching vanity is over. In a world that doesn’t stand still, and like it or not is constantly changing at a rapid pace; ideas and solutions matter. There is little room for outdated or rigid working processes, even if we want so badly to cling to them out of some sense of loyalty. At least not for those who put collective success over their own individual success.
Some may see this as a threat, and I can understand that: after all, change can be daunting. Nonetheless, I must firmly disagree. For me, change doesn’t just mean the ‘loss’ of things gone by – change also means freedom. Namely, the freedom to create something new together and, in doing so, not only drive your company forward but perhaps even change the world, in however small a way. All things considered, if the last years, and above all the Berlin wall itself, have shown us anything, it is that anything is possible and nothing is insurmountable so long as we share the same goals, dreams and ideas.