Building Sustainable Legacies

Recognizing the need to unlearn

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We need to recognize that unlearning is equally important as learning. What we have learned in the past may represent a serious impediment to being able to become the kind of leaders the world needs. As a result of fractioning business out of its context and separating business functions into separate divisions, we have created operating modes in business that represent serious limitations to a more holistic approach, whereby business defines its role as contributing to the well-being of society and, by extension, to all living beings in this world. We have learned to negotiate hard, of winning through cut-throat competition, of either rendering our consumers dependent or seducing them to consume more “stuff”. We have learned to pay employees, suppliers and partners as little as we can get away with and to charge our customers and clients as much as we can. We thereby have created a cage which prevents us from connecting to any desire to do good or to offer our energy and efforts to a greater good. Freeing ourselves from the many written and unwritten rules in business is an essential starting point to enable leaders to connect with their hearts and souls, to stop and to listen, and as a result to liberate their desire to do well by making a positive and relevant difference.

Above and beyond these rules and regulations, we have created important walls of protection. We are so scared to be touched (more figuratively than literally) that we have created very strong mental control mechanism that allows us to go through a day without getting too overwhelmed with everything we are confronted with and are asked to digest, starting with the news in the morning, to mildly dissatisfying personal relationships at work to sorting out kids back home. Most of us are in survival mode. We have shut down everything within us, besides the few vital areas that are required to get us through our daily life. If we expect future leaders to address their fears and deconstruct these walls of protection, we need to offer them an alternative that works. Such a process starts by recognizing the fear within the person in front of us. It requires us to see where the other person stands and to acknowledge his fear by offering a hand to take a step outside of it by providing the needed support. Without this support personal transformation will not be possible. Daring to be touched and knowing how to enter into resonance with himself and the world, are the key fundamental ingredient for any future leader that will act for the world and the societies it includes.

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Author: Dr. Katrin Muff

Dr. Katrin Muff is a thought leader in the transformative space of sustainability and responsibility at Business School Lausanne, where she acted as Dean from 2008-2015 until self-organization made such a title redundant. Under her leadership, the school focused its vision on entrepreneurship, responsibility and sustainability in education and research. Her business experience includes 10 years at ALCOA (GM in Russia, Industry Analyst for Global M&A in the U.S. and Business Analyst Europe), 3 years as Director, Strategic Planning EMEA at IAMS Europe (Procter&Gamble), and 3 years as a co-founder of Yupango, a coaching consultancy dedicated to start-ups and training management teams.

One thought on “Recognizing the need to unlearn

  1. Hello Katrin,

    Good thoughts (again)! but I doubt whether ‘business’ as you describe it in its aspiration “defines its role as contributing to the well-being of society and, by extension, to all living beings in this world.” If you mean corporations – I have not seen many having such as their prime goal.
    In a recent European Public Health conference we debated about the role the ‘industry’ could make in stemming the tide of chronic or non-communicable diseases (cancer, heart disease, diabetes and the like) and Dr Stig Pramming was giving a rather skeptical and critical outlook on that…I try to get the link to his presentation, because his emphasis was to look closely as what defines the corporate model, and it wasn’t “contributing to the well-being of society” in the first place…
    So in short, yes I agree with the direction you want to take business and leaders, but it would require questioning the very foundations…