How can we make the world a better place? Part II

Interview with Davit Mulugeta

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Photo: Davit Mulugeta

Part 2 of our Interview Special with the Managing Partners of the DO TANK becomehuman, who moderate collaborations between project participants and companies in the role of conceptual strategists and thereafter implement the resulting solutions in structural reality.
We spoke with Kristina Kalisch, Executive Director and Creative Consultant with a focus on »Transformation« and founder of DO TANK becomehuman and Davit Mulugeta, Creative Director with a focus on »Brand Spaces« and partner in becomehuman.
How does your approach differ from those of traditional consultancies, and what techniques do your apply? What can we do to become more human in a high-speed world geared to design, digital networking and growth?
Now it´s Davit Mulugeta´s turn!

Davit, you both have your origins in the field of corporate and brand design, and in various roles you have acted as strategic consultants to major brands such as Telekom, Mini and BMW and helped to develop their brand architecture.

Tell us briefly what you appreciate most when you look back on those times.

We were able from our perspective to immediately recognize, attribute and evaluate the results of what had been decided. And it also gave us the opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary fashion and in so doing identify a variety of KPIs and what these meant and whether they were generally suitable as a metric of success. We define success here not exclusively as a monetary value, it is also apparent in the quality/rate of interactions or engagement.

We recognized that this presented us with a significant lever which offers far more potential for the development of an organization than just the creation of brand concepts.

It was not only the quality of the decisions taken that had an impact. Of equal importance for the ultimate quality of results was the organizational/structural make-up of the company and the values practiced in day-to-day business. We were also able to precisely record how results (design, budget, interaction and engagement) derived from silo or hierarchical structures differed from those that derived from networks or more agile teams. We are incredibly grateful for the degree of trust we received from companies and people that allowed us to tightly integrate into these processes. The experiences we gathered were of inestimable value.

If you had to describe this stage of your working life in three words, what would they be?
Eventful, adventures, questions.

The first thing that faces a visitor to your website is a question: How can we make the world a better place?
Let us assume that our visitor also first reads about your basic motivation: Is that the engine that drove you to change your professional direction, and in how far does this mindset feed into your daily lives?

In the case of transformations in particular, a large number of consulting, design and change management agencies are regularly employed. Each one is keen – as usual – to secure a slice of the budget cake. As a result, a task that should be resolved holistically becomes fragmented among the individual interests of those involved. We cannot expect that to yield a coherent answer to a complex question. What we have instead are individual components of a solution which are of themselves correct but are devoid of any superordinate coherence. Typically, with unclear interfaces and often at a theoretical level.

Our overriding concern is to listen, understand and provide genuine support where it is meaningful to do so.

We are convinced that in times of digital transformation, this approach leads to agile structures and surprising solutions in equal measure. It calls for courage to query the common business practices of recent years and follow new paths. We regard ourselves as a platform uniting “those with the knowledge and those who need a solution”, navigating complex teams through “dynamic design processes” and providing active support for the implementation of results. We use “branding” as a means by which to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

Can you think of a specific situation or a particular moment which triggered this desire, or was it a gradual process?
Over the years we immersed ourselves ever deeper in these issues. Why is the result different when the planning accounted for the relevant needs? At what points do ideas and reality become diluted? What causes that? Where are the missing connections, what needs to be done to take account of needs that in the beginning were not apparent, but which are relevant to the result? In the same way we also experienced projects that developed along incredibly dynamic lines. We saw the “positive spirals” that were generated and the incredible agility with which individuals and organizations emerged as a result. More than that, surprising things happened without any input from us. It became clear to us that we need a new culture of solutions, and we would like to pass this on to others.

In our extensive experience, the results could be condensed into a principle that is as simple as it is effective: Instead of breaking down a complex task into individual parts, our approach is to solve it as a complex team.

Please, in your own words describe for us what you see as the particular features that define a think tank or do tank in comparison with conventional consultancies.
The knowledge and the potential required for co-evolution and co-creation in large measure lie within the company and the users. And it is precisely at this point that another difference becomes evident relative to traditional consultancies. We create a neutral space in which time and resources are available to design new approaches / ideas.

We work in hybrid, multi-disciplinary teams in which users are likewise included. In this way the potential of these groups of people becomes part of the solution.

But we don’t just leave it at that. We actively support the implementation of proposed solutions in order to ensure that these stand up in day-to-day use and in a best-case scenario even continue to develop of themselves. Principles such as human-driven, user-centricity and co-creation define the foundation and the framework of our shared process.

What specific levers do you apply to implement your visions and fulfill the tasks set by your clients?

The difference between these two approaches lies in the fact that “Design Thinking” emphasis the creativity aspect, whereas “Theory U” is based on the hypothesis that the inner attitude of a human being has the ability to influence results. The “Theory U” process, just like “Design Thinking”, aims at creating human-oriented solutions, but more strongly integrates sustainable and ecological perspectives. Common to both is the need for the participants to open up to enable these approaches to be successfully implemented. In practice both approaches automatically question the usual patterns and familiar ways of working. For most people that initially means stress and inner resistance. Which is an entirely normal reaction. Inner resistance finds expression above all in thoughts and emotions. It is essential to approach these internal issues with an open mind and support both the individual and the team.

In order on a day-to-day basis to create the necessary balance between IQ (intelligence) and EQ (emotional intelligence), we employ another method: “Mindful Leadership”. We support people within their teams to enable them to holistically deploy their inner potential; and we do this by dismantling internal and external blocks. As a result the entire process becomes progressively more fluent and is able to generate positive strength. The resources, or rather knowledge, that we here specifically employ is somewhat unusual in a business environment.

We use methods – some of them tried and tested over millennia – derived from Buddhist philosophy to promote awareness and mindfulness.

These can be much more helpful than MBSR, etc.. Many of these techniques are being investigated in psychotherapy practice and personal development. We integrate them as “translators” in a new playing field. These methods are not aimed at spiritualizing our daily lives, they simply help people to act appropriately in every situation without fear or resistance. They help to give us sufficient inner scope to react freely in complex situations outside of our usual behavior patterns. We have summarized this combination of methods in six stages which we would pass on in the course of collaboration.

What must we do “to become more human”?

The first step is entirely our own responsibility. For us it was a question of querying quite precisely how success and failure are defined in our life. That includes trusting oneself to let go of accustomed pigeonholes and identification. Let the things that cause much resistance within us come to the fore. Only in this way can we see them for what they are and understand where the resistance comes from and what triggers it. Just by doing this, we add fluency to our work and to our life.

Another precondition to “become more human” is to know what is really important to us in life, what qualities we wish to experience and live up to.

One method that Vera F. Birkenbihl described as an aid comes particularly to mind. It is a mode of contemplation in which we imagine asking death for advice on the matter. In our imagination death could take the form of a bird sitting our shoulder. This metaphor is easy for people to visualize. let us imagine death asks us in turn, “If you only had two days to live, what would you do in these two days? … If you had three weeks, what then … and how would you shape your life if you had five years?” We take plenty of time to answer these questions. Everything that comes up spontaneously is noted. Without attaching a value. We try to answer these questions at least once a year as part of our “inner hygiene”.

Only when we know what is really important to us and are aware of what matters to us inside can we build up enough energy to achieve our goals. Whereby energy should not be interpreted here as a compulsion or some banal pressure, it is an almost automatic stamina. Pursuing what really matters costs no strength in the proper sense, in fact it gives us a lot of creative energy. And to us that means to become more human!


becomehuman is a DO TANK –

We see ourselves as a strategic, conceptual unit responsible for moderating collaboration between project-relevant groups of individuals, specialist departments and companies on a value-oriented basis, and implementing solutions in a structured manner.