Becoming innovative is difficult – staying innovative is harder – and when it fades it is almost always too late to change the cultureread more
The broken Family in Europe
Imagine you belong to a big diversified family in Europe, where each part of the family lives in different places, do different things for a living, have different political perspectives and belong to different social groups. When you all meet up 3 – 5 times per year you all have a good time together because you value being a family more than your personal political point of view or your ability to show off financially or intellectually. Well – it could have been like that if it wasn’t for aunt Bessie who is always negative and do whatever she can to split the family in order to promote her own point of view. She has no respect for other people’s opinions or values and she doesn’t refrain from telling everybody how stupid and untalented they are.
She used to be wealthy and she and her husband were the wealthiest in the family. But after her husband died 20 years ago she started to spend a lot of money on gambling making her broke at record speed. The rest of the family tried to help her back on track, but she became more and more angry and obstructive.
The other family members often talked about how much of a pain in the neck she was and how she has destroyed the good ambiance in the family. “I wish we could trust each other like in the old days” her brother said, “we have become so ego-centric and hostile towards each other” a cousin said and added “maybe we shouldn’t get together all of us anymore – we just argue all the time over the smallest details instead of valuing what we actually have”
Then one day uncle Ben called. He tried to sound sad, but he didn’t succeed very well: “Bessie died last night” he said. It was quickly agreed to get the funeral done as soon as possible. 4 days later she was buried.
The family decided to spend an extended weekend together, now that they could finally heal the wounds and move forward. It went very well and over the next year the relationships across geographies, education levels, financial wealth, professions developed rapidly. As time passed it became a very strong family. Not that they didn’t have their fights and arguments but no one took them to a stage where the family ties were jeopardised.
The future for Europe
Now that UK is leaving the family it is time to think about the impact it will have. Most people who have expressed their opinion about brexit have only focused on the economic factors, which in my opinion are secondary to the real benefits of a committing collaboration across culturally diversified entities in Europe. The real benefit we have had in Europe despite Britains numerous attems to spoil its peace. A peace most people today shamefully take for granted. But the fact is that since the coal and steel union was founded after World War 2 we have had a fairly peaceful continent because we have agreed on toning down nationalism in return for bilateral collaboration.
As the complexity of our lives has increased the model for collaboration had to adapt as well beyond the original ideas. Globalisation changed the competitive landscape completely – and will continue to do so. USA’s promotion of instability in the Middle East has lead to international terrorism for which Europe is paying the highest price. Pollution is killing more than 6 million people per year and global warming is going to have a huge impact on the way we live. None of these challenges can be solved on a national level and I don’t think it will be wise to leave the drafting of the solutions to USA, China and Russia.
Now that Aunt Bessie is leaving it is time for Europe to heal the wounds. As you can see from the chart on the right United Kingdom is by far the most nationalistic country in Europe, so it isn’t really surprising that they didn’t want to be a part of the family. I just wonder why it took them so long to find out to leave.
The European Cultural re-integration
In Gugin we have helped more than 600 companies around the world leveraging cultural diversity and reconciling cultural conflicts. One of the most fundamental things you need to remember if you want to reconcile a cultural conflict is the awareness of your own attitude.
In all conflicts you have a choice. You can choose to focus on the differences and spend all your energy emphasising how you are different (better) than your counterpart. Most people, companies,countries do that. The huge disadvantage of this approach is that it becomes almost impossible to identify the similarities, the common values and goals in life. They get burried in your flow of statements how you are better than “them”.
The other approach you can take is to start by focusing on what we have in common; common goals, common values, common dreams etc. If you do that you will find that the differences suddenly become a lot less significant and much easier to overcome. Unfortunately big egos, low cultural intelligence and low self-esteem often prevents us from taking that productive and fruitful approach.
Now that Aunt Bessie has left the family I believe it will be a lot easier so that we together can address the issues that really matters. Before we can launch the European cultural re-integration process there is one question that needs to be solved. How do you make things work with 28 member states? Should they all have a say or do we have to accept that the big countries take the lead?
In my opinion it will make a lot of sense with a 2-tier EU. as it is today a lot of the small countries are putting down too many road blocks just because they can. EU has to find a model where the speed of decisions increases and yet provide a platform for the smaller countries to be heard.
I will later write about how this cultural integration process can take place, but in the meantime let us do each other that favour not only to look at how we are different but instead look at what we have in common.
EU is not perfect, but taking into consideration the challenges that have been put on EU I think they have done pretty well. Lets develop it from the inside with a positive attitude instead of leaving with a spoiled child attitude.
Dr. Finn Majlergaard
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