There was a time when Berlin was surrounded by a wall that made the city an island. At some point, you hit in West Berlin in all directions the wall, with only a few loopholes. Even today, the nocturnal journey through the former Checkpoint Charlie is still a noticeable border crossing, even without control and the wall. One dives from the white light of the West Berlin mercury vapor lamps and fluorescent tubes into the warm light of the East Berlin sodium vapor lamps. Even the attentive pedestrian notices that the traffic light man suddenly wears a hat. That’s what border crossings are about.
All kinds of systems live from the fact that something belongs to them and a lot of others do not. Often these boundaries are not so clearly marked. For this reason, it is important to be attentive to notice a passage from one system to another. The following aspects provide a simple grid to facilitate border crossings in a way that nobody takes any harm.
The space offers many recognizable boundaries – rivers, mountains, roads, walls, etc. Not every limitation automatically leads to an area with new regulations. However, it is very likely that something is changing, when you are exchanging the environment. Anyone who lives close to a river, on the left or right bank, knows these differences. Time also divides incessantly. Be it the past from the present or the present from the future or the before from the after. A border crossing also takes place when you enter a country after a long-haul flight by crossing the passenger boarding bridge – many passengers return home and others become aliens.
You become aware of the context through these questions: Where am I? At what time?
Especially diverse systems set up fields of activities or professions. Each type of employment creates a closed system with determined conditions, where those who belong to it understand each other. The others are excluded. This can be recognized by the clothing, the tools or the technical jargon – kick-off, throw-in, penalty, header, off-side (who might this be?). For outsiders, it is a kind of foreign language that must be learned.
Quick access to the meaning could be achieved by asking: What is being done? What’s it called?
Over time, the abilities have become more and more specialized. However, it is possible to define areas of knowledge that together form a closed subject area, which in turn consists of specialized subsystems, which in turn … etc. This leads to different abilities between electro and thermos dynamicists or quantum physicists as well as to barriers of understanding between branches. The associated languages form further boundaries that demarcate or ostracize. Access to a different culture is made possible above all by the corresponding language competence – if Europeans speak of thinking, they point to the head, while Japanese tend to point to the heart.
Overcoming this border is made possible by questions like – How do you do it? What do you have to learn?
The mental models of the members of a system are difficult to explore, because they only have an effect in the minds of the people. They become visible in the context, the actions and the demonstrated skills. The convictions form the mortar that connects groups of all kind. The crossing of the border is recognizable by the reactions of the people. If one violates their beliefs, like certain rituals or behavioral norms, then one is sanctioned without delay. At the same time, one is trapped in one’s own mental buildings – if, for example, justice is determined unilaterally. For some, a prison sentence is the worst, for others a flogging – although the need for punishment is common to both..
The edge of convictions can be determined by cautious enquiries: How do you say that? What do you have to do?
A special form of border exists between roles. These are exceeded daily again and again – once you are an employee, then a boss, then a colleague, then a spouse, then a father, then a friend, then a member of the association, etc. In business life, roles are sometimes described in writing with task, authority and responsibility. The previous aspects (see above) are also different for each role – e.g. the different languages of the boss, the spouse and the association member.
That’s why all the questions that were mentioned so far are raised here, as well as: What role is this? Which AKVs are included?
The affiliation is the most difficult border because it hides fundamental aspects. Here the superordinate context of meaning and basic questions of life find deeply anchored answers. Fundamental borders, which are difficult to move, are formed by religions as well as economic and political systems. They are based on the personal belief and the bonds with one’s own roots.
In order to cross these borders, respectful questions are necessary: What does that mean? What do I have to pay attention to?
Bottom line: We are constantly crossing borders unreflectively. Any border crossing can lead to a conflict. For this reason, it is important to be continuously aware of the limits. For this purpose one observes the context in which one finds oneself, the actions that happen, the abilities that become visible, the convictions that become recognizable, the roles that exist and the affiliation that characterizes the other side of the border. Borders lead to demarcation and ostracism, sometimes intentional and sometimes unintentional. Crossing borders is unavoidable, but can happen with the respective awareness in a way that nobody gets harmed. These are some aspects that border crossings are about.
Everything follows the path from the cradle to the grave. This applies to life cycles of products, styles, corporations, technologies, cultures and nature. The life expectation of a TV is almost eight years, a video game nearly six years, and a smartphone just over four years. Cars have an average life expectancy of 18 years and an airplane of roundabout 30 years. Technology cycles change the entrepreneurial business models every 40 to 60 years. Roman culture survived for 1000 years, while the Spanish asserted themselves as a global superpower for 500 years and the United States persevered since its entry into the First World War just 100 years. The Neanderthals became extinct about 30,000 years ago, after an estimated 170,000 years of populating the world. There is nothing that can escape being and passing away.
The following phases are the basis for a holistic life cycle.
Everything starts small scale, with a seed that is planted in the fertile soil. It matures something new and the first versions are evolving that do not have much in common with the final specimen. It requires openness and creativity to achieve viable results. The first mobile phones, the so-called „brick phones“, were only mobile to the extent that they did not need a telephone cable. Otherwise, they were much more bulky than today’s smartphones. The step of the development takes advantage of the existing leeway to reach the final shape. The results are diverse and at the same time very similar. In the end, the most practical solutions are implemented and build the basis for future variants. The tree also grows using the available light and water. After a certain time, it has conquered its place that can be seen in its form. The nature is generous in this phase and spreads a huge number of seeds, since only a small number have a chance to survive. Since this is also true for man-made things, it takes a large number of attempts so that individuals can make it.
The so-called disruption is a recurring decision point. This raises the question as to whether the chosen path has proven its worth in daily business. You probably see this blog post on your tablet computer. When these PCs were introduced to the market for the first time in the eighties, they were not ready, since the broadband networks were not yet available. Only in 2010 the IPAD prepared the way for the current devices. As soon as you reach this decision point, criteria for the assessment are needed, which help in the choice whether or not to continue. A tree must also deal with disturbances. In addition to its annual active phases (see below), it goes through a natural life cycle that depends on the long cycles of climate change. If the conditions of the climate are changing that much that the livelihoods of the tree come to an end, then the degradation begins. While the nature can react robustly to the fluctuations, missing nutrients in products and services, like demand and resources, lead to a rapid initiation of the phase-out.
Activity is the ongoing operation. It works until the disruption is decided. Let’s think of today’s programs that run on smartphones, the apps. They are frequently updated as long as there is a corresponding demand. Afterwards, they simply disappear from the market. The continuous improvement extends its existence. The „operation“ of a tree follows the cycle of the seasons. In springtime, the blossoms sprout, which allow the tree to enlarge and replicate. In summer the leaves use the sunlight for growing. In autumn, the leaves are falling to save energy and to be less vulnerable to cold and ice. In winter, the tree rests by squeezing as much water as possible out of its trunk so that the cold can not affect it. And then the productive cycle begins again from the start. Every change of the season means stress that is compensated by natural measures. In business life, everything is a matter of simple objects that have little flexibility. These products and services are used as long as they provide benefit without difficulties. Instead of adapting to new circumstances, simply new solutions are created. Therefore these technical solutions have a much shorter life than a tree.
After the decision is taken to decompose, the selected choice is implemented unswervingly. In some cases, this sun downing can take years. Today major computer programs that are written in Cobol, a programming language from the 1960s, are still running. On the other hand, Microsoft decided to not continue to develop the operating system Windows XP after 13 years. Nevertheless it will still be found until the last XP computer is scrapped. The phase-out announces the end and leads to a steady deterioration. The inertia of the organization and the people involved require a strict disclosure of the reasons for the dissolution as well as hopeful prospects for the affected employees. The removal of a tree takes much longer. At first, fewer leaves sprout, then moss evolves, and eventually it rots from the inside to the outside until it tumbles down and dissolves – even though the oldest tree has already survived ten thousand years.
Although solutions are no longer used, they are still subconsciously available. The computer mouse is such an example. It was developed in the sixties of the last century, but it was not used extensively until the eighties because of Apple. The graphical interface that is controlled with a mouse had not been developed by Apple, but Xerox. However, because Xerox was specialized in copying, the idea disappeared in the drawer – in the latency. Through an open dealing with latent ideas, you can get faster to new things with former functioning solutions. This means that the wheel has rarely to be reinvented. Even if trees disappear as soon as the climate changes, the nature make it possible to grow them out of nowhere, as soon as the required climate reigns and sufficient water is available. The path to the latent solutions goes via open, nonjudgmental brainstorming.
Bottom line: The longevity of a tree impresses. And it regardless follows always the same process: development, disruption, activity, phase-out and latency. Since everything starts at different moments and takes different lengths of time, all life cycles generate the chaos that we have to deal with in everyday life and business. Just as many trees create forests and let them disappear, technologies enable new fields of business and disappear after a certain time. Becoming and fading with the entire phases make the tree an ideal metaphor for life cycles.