Hey game-changer,

long time. no read from us. But here we are with a brand new episode of game-changer’s delight. We have used the break to develop a new interview format: The Century 21 Files and to move into our new home: Our Studio 21. In this newsletter we will look at what passion and persistence can bring about together, we will learn why imagining dystopian futures can be a good thing, and talk about “Safety First!” measures when we want to risk and break things. Enjoy the read and be inspired by quotes from Maria M., Benjamin F, and Vera S.


(a little different editor’s note strictly guided by serendipity)
Think slow, act firm.

Even though VUCA has been my business for years, it is sometimes quite hard to tolerate. Even for such die-hard change fans as me. At first glance, everything seems to be going according to plan again. But the ongoing crisis mode is actually poison for transformation.

It’s true that a lot has changed, but only as a result of pressure from outside. The circumstances may well be different then, but our attitude has by no means changed. On the contrary! Those who fight crises make as few risky decisions as possible and always fall back on existing, already learned behavior patterns.

All in all, not good ground for transformation and new leadership models. Addressing this is not easy. But I am all the more grateful for the open exchange with many colleagues and customers who are struggling with the same challenges.

And of course, this very situation also offers plenty of opportunities. If we accept that we can’t change the circumstances. And instead focus on what we can really influence. Then we find new freedom to see things we wouldn’t have seen before. Only then we look at adversity as an opportunity to find out what we are actually capable of.

This has little to do with ‘better done, than prfect’. Rather, it has to do with composure and discipline. Decisive action is only possible if we take the time to think things through beforehand. Only then

1. we find the right entry point.
2. we develop the necessary patience to experiment.
3. we can challenge conventions and create something truly unique.
4. we find ways to minimize risk.
5. we can value the process as much as the result.
6. we keep going, even though behind the mountain we have just climbed, the next one is surely waiting.

With this attitude (in mind), we have been extraordinarily productive, despite all the difficulties. We’ve built a new home for SHIFTSCHOOL, launched a new portrait format for transformational role models, and tested the first prototypes for the SHIFTSHAPE Club. We are very much looking forward to everything that is coming – no matter what may happen around us. cto



(a refurbished book club for transformative leaders)
How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything ― Even Things That Seem Impossible Today

by Jane McGonigal

When I first stumbled across a book by Jane, I was writing my thesis and wanted to understand how gamification works in app development. Now, almost everything is gamified, and game researcher Jane McGonigal has become a futurologist. In her new book, she now gets to the bottom of the question of why it can be useful to become an oracle and imagine the impossible in order to better cope with the present. It’s a question that seems tailor-made for our SHAPE® program. We all know what VUCA feels like now. But how to make good decisions and remain capable of action under VUCA is something we don’t yet know. 

One way is to vividly imagine certain scenarios, that is, to have been there before and to have mentally lived through them. So that our brain can adjust to them. And we are prepared when the future really comes and throws a stick between our legs. 

Imaginable also describes new neuroscientific findings, some of which are certainly more convincing than others. However, we at SHIFTSCHOOL have often seen that this approach really works. Even though we can often only simulate things in the workshop, we still make experiences that our brain can then remember later and we can adjust better to new and unknown things. Many of our participants suddenly noticed after the program that they were better able to deal with uncertainty and crises. Even if they had never thought this possible before and had certainly cursed our experience-based methodology a time or two beforehand. Often you don’t learn in the moment, but only in retrospect, and then you suddenly feel quite comfortable despite uncertainty. 

If you will, Imaginable is a kind of self-help book about becoming more open to an ever-changing world. If our minds travel into the future for a while, we’re apparently better prepared when that future arrives. This applies to both utopias and dystopias, by the way. And probably Jane wants to give us a little encouragement at the end when she writes: “If you’re not the heroine of your own future, then you’re imagining the wrong future.”

Keen on this book? Let’s buy local, like here.



(a Shiftshaper’s guide to the 21st century and beyond)



\ ˈspir-ə-təd \

According to Meriam Webster, the term spirited describes people who are full of energy, animation, or courage. In other words, they have the right spirit to drive things forward. But where does the courage to get started and the energy to stick with it come from? The hasty answer to this question would be: you have it or you don’t. On closer inspection, we realize that these two categories are not immutable character traits, but attitudes toward the unknown. Within my comfort zone, I need neither courage nor energy. However, I need a lot of courage and energy whenever I consciously want to change.

Therefore, spiritedness is needed at the beginning of a change process. You need the famous first step to take the initiative. When you start running, you become more courageous over time. It is illusory to completely block out fear, it will always be there. We have to accept that. And we must make sure that fear does not force us to turn back. Courage is when you do it anyway. Once you have set yourself in motion, the ideas will follow. It is a myth that you must have a precise idea of what you want to achieve before you start your journey. Innovation is always a process. The ideas come as you go. 

Science confirms this. Psychologist Angela Duckworth has demonstrated many times in her research that the secret to outstanding performance is not so much intelligence and talent, but a special blend of passion and perseverance, which she calls “grit.” When we develop passion for something and consciously move into action, vague ideas become measurable experiences that, whether positive or negative, make us bolder and bolder over time. That’s why Spirited is the first of 5 steps within the SHIFT® Framework.



(Troublemakers’ statements to provoke good thought)
When Maria met Ben

Learning how to learn is the prerequisite for wisdom. We connected the passionate advocate of scientific pedagogy Maria Montessori with the jack-of-all-polymaths Benjamin Franklin. Two great divergent thinkers pondering about education.

Maria: “To aid life, leaving it free, however, that is the basic task of the educator.”

Benjamin: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Maria: “Education is a work of self-organization by which man adapts himself to the conditions of life.”

Benjamin: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”



(eclectic didactics for everyday life)

To risk a lot, you need a safety zone. Or what modern leadership research calls Psychological Safety. An area where trust can develop so that risk can be taken. In other words, an atmosphere where there is no need to be perfect. It is a state-of-mind where people always remember that failures are temporary. This gives rise to the conviction that learning in the process always helps us to move forward.

In other words, Psychological Safety is the sure feeling or belief that we will not be punished or ridiculed for expressing wild ideas, raising difficult questions and concerns, or admitting mistakes. The leadership expert Amy Edmondson defines Psychological Safety as “a trusting atmosphere in which all team members can openly express themselves without being shamed, rebuffed, or otherwise negatively sanctioned.” Moreover, we feel more comfortable asking for help or challenging the status quo in such an atmosphere. Without the fear of negative social consequences, teams are more likely to innovate more quickly and adapt better to outside change.

However, for this to become reality, organizations and their leading personnel need to overcome the Tayloristic world view of “thinking at the top and doing at the bottom.” Along with the notion that an idea is based on a single ingenious flash of inspiration. A successful innovation is rather a series of mistakes that eventually led to success. Only if we value ideas independent of the social status of the person uttering it, are we able to unlock the benefits of diversity fully.

As the following example shows, this is also true in times of crisis. Imagine you are young co-pilot flying on your first flight with a very experienced pilot. The pilot next to you is, by law, the final authority to make decisions. Imagine, that this pilot has also the reputation of playing off formal power.

How would you react, if the pilot is about to make a fatal error that could lead to a crash of the plane? Your first impulse probably is: “Of course you would tell her, I am not suicidal!” If we always reacted like that, that would be great. However, research shows that many subordinates do not dare to contradict their superiors. In fact, an experiment at the University of Texas, showed that co-pilots did not dare to intervene, even if the pilot made serious mistakes. The same happened in the so-called Hofling hospital experiment where doctors ordered nurses to overdose medication. This demonstrates that people are very unwilling to question supposed ‘authority’, even when they have good reason to.

Even if our everyday situations rarely contain life and death questions, these examples teach us a lot about how important a safe and open atmosphere can be. Groupthink and authority can kill innovation from the start. Only if all team members can express their opinions openly can we really use the potential of teamwork.

Therefore, 21st century leadership must make psychological safety an explicit priority. Leaders must learn how to establish norms for how failure is handled and facilitate the creative space for new ideas (especially the wild ones). Creative discourse can only thrive in a safe environment.

Please visit our Leadership Guidebook for Century 21

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