Alumni dialog from 09.11.2023: "Successfully through the crisis - and afterwards: What exactly has Corona taught us?"

23 Nov 2023

Our alumnus Dr. Rudolf Lütke Schwienhorst and Prof. Dr. Martin Högl provided the topic of the evening: "Successfully through the crisis - and beyond: What exactly has Corona taught us?"

Dr. Rudolf Lütke Schwienhorst, who has held the role of President of the gfo - Gesellschaft für Organisation e.V. in an honorary capacity since 2018, surprised the participants with the insight that you can learn from a crisis. This was one of the most important findings from a research project that he conducted together with his co-author Prof. Dr. Heike Nettelbeck from Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences on the topic of "Leadership in crisis situations". In in-depth interviews with almost 20 top managers in the German economy, the two explored how they have led their companies through the pandemic crisis. In comparison with leadership logics from emergency organizations such as the fire department, police, military and medicine, they found that the best organizations learn before the crisis, the second-best during the crisis, the third-best after the crisis and too many never learn. They do this in particular by establishing a crisis organization with suitable structures (e.g. crisis teams), processes (e.g. reconnaissance and decision-making routines) and cultures (e.g. crisis is a board topic).

If it is possible to learn about crises, it could be a natural consequence that "crisis management" becomes a natural part of business education in the future. In addition, the two researchers also asked the question of why so many people are so afraid of the crisis. Presumably, it is not only due to the potential threat to their existence posed by the crisis, but also to the fact that in a crisis situation, most individuals declare themselves to be responsible for what Kahnemann calls "System 1" ("Think fast, think slow"), which acts quickly, unconsciously and therefore also thoughtlessly. In today's crises, system 2 is usually applied, which enables a systematic and thoughtful exploration of options, as is usually necessary in today's complex situations.

Another reason why crises are so strongly associated with fear is probably that most people are not aware of their own extensive wealth of experience in overcoming crises. This is probably also due to the fact that after experiencing a crisis, people generally feel little desire to take the step of reflecting on the crisis experience, which is the prerequisite for transforming the experience into one that they can subsequently draw on in a targeted manner. Without this reflection, which is associated with a renewed immersion in the sometimes painful thoughts and feelings of the crisis situation, those involved miss out on important experiences that could help them to reduce their fear of the next crisis. In this way, reflecting on one's own crisis experiences could become a key competence for effective leadership in challenging times for individuals as well as for teams and organizations.

Prof. Dr. Martin Högl, Director of the Institute for Leadership and Organization at LMU, continued the dialogue and addressed the challenges of the post-Covid era. Under the title "Working from anywhere - opportunities and risks of the 'Anywhere Organization'", he posed fascinating questions about the future of the working world. Opinions on working from home certainly differ - many think it's great, while others rate meetings as less productive than in the office. Prof. Högl clearly highlighted the advantages and disadvantages and emphasized that communication has a decisive influence on the world of work. The central question remains: Under what circumstances and how can I afford an "Anywhere Organization"? This is a question of degree, with work performance being the top priority.

The event was concluded by a lively discussion round with intensive participation by alumnus Prof. Dr. Herbert Henzler, in which participants took the opportunity to share their thoughts and questions. This was followed by an opportunity for networking, where guests were able to deepen their knowledge of the evening and make new contacts.

The evening was characterized by expert perspectives and lively discussions. We would like to thank Dr. Rudolf Lütke Schwienhorst and Prof. Dr. Martin Högl as well as all participants for an informative evening!