“Great concept, but this would never work here because our culture is so different!”
This is a sentence that unifies all cultures! Both in the 'national state' context and in 'organisational contexts'. It's funny when you hear it everywhere you go, with the same arguments:
“Principles like 'sharism', 'collaboration' and 'openness' only work in Western European Berlin-based StartUps. People here are different!”
People tend to be very judgemental about their own people and culture.
Colombians doing great things in Bogotá claimed they needed to learn more from highly innovative Europe or US. Although they were already intuitively running startup accelerators, coworking spaces and maker spaces since 2005 and their Universities had interdisciplinary curricula - which is a huge bureaucratic challenge in Germany.
In Japan, while coworking spaces were successfully opening up in Tokyo, a sociology professor in Kyoto was telling me how Japanese people were too shy to communicate - so the model would never work in his culture.
In Lisbon, Portuguese people were convinced that their fellow citizens would never embrace a culture of sharism because the 'Portuguese people steel ideas'. Funnily enough the Romanians said the same about their fellow citizens and of course the Brazilians – and it was not a Latin trait. The Arabs said the same thing in Egypt and Algeria.
So one big challenge is to make people understand that there is no such thing as 'cultural barriers' for collaboration. The lack of trust and empathy is a universal and personal challenge that we all need to work on.
Of course “designer-ly, startup-y kind of people” aka “hipsters” or digital nomads already exist in every country in this world. They feel connected as one culture and it is very tempting to communicate with them as 'door opener', but that might make the movement inaccessible and unattractive to 'normal' people or other subcultures. That is the second challenge.
Someone told me about an “adultery dating website” that has been hacked. Apparently the hackers were romantics who thought adultery was something bad. So they asked the platform provider to close down the platform, otherwise they would publish all personal data of the users. The provider did not conform to the requirements of the hackers so the data has been published. Some of the affected partners apparently committed suicide after they found out their beloved one was cheating on them. Maybe it is a rumour. No idea!
But would that be hacking for good? Who is the ethical arbitrator? Who decides what is good or evil?
In my work I've often observed how mindsets that are associated to hacker's mindsets are becoming more popular amongst people that work in public administration or other highly bureaucratic institutions or complex networks:
In Colombia we run a workshop with Innovators from within the governments called GovHack. The starting question was: When was the last time you hacked the system? In Africa my friends from GIG (Global Innovation Gathering) successfully set up an event called 'Makers meet Ministers'. KidsHackdays are very successful all over the world so it has become socially acceptable to educate your kids to think like a hacker!
I wanted to do the job I am doing right now. But I did not have a name for it back then.
Neither do I have it now.
I like people who show backbone, are authentic, empathetic, reliable and optimistic.
But I am most impressed by people who know how to listen - they are so rare.
There is more than one - the world is such a big place.
I would introduce 'common-sense' as a mandatory class in all types of schools, five times a week. That would challenge many other classes and create a small revolution.
“"انت بتدور ف صحراء؟" Enta betdawar f Sahara” - is an Egyptian proverb that students in Alexandria taught me. It means something like “Why didn't you find it, were you searching in the desert?”
We had been doing a joint digital workshop with a group of Egyptian and a group of German students about the 'Future of Work' for two months already. While I was in Egypt my German students sent me an email saying they were desperately looking for Egyptian interviewees in Berlin, but could not find any. So they could not complete the task I had given them!
The Egyptian students then had the idea to answer back with a picture of them with this proverb, saying: “We are right in front of you! One click away! Most solutions are right under your nose!”
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