Anthropomorphic assignments always happen, when we deal with things as if they were enlivened – the dialogues with the computer, the jollied pat on the steering wheel or the encouragement to the water pump that is supposed to pump the cellar to clean for one more time. It seems that we are seeing in things a submissive spirit at our service. Let us remember Goethe’s sorcerer’s apprentice “Lord the need is great! The ones that I called, I now cannot get rid of the spirits”. However, the spirit is not only assigned to material things, but also to disembodied organizations of all kinds – the state, the government, the political party, the enterprise, the market, as well as social communities and fringe groups.
Obviously, this has proved to be the case, as blame is being laid on such groups everywhere: Facebook spies on us; the right-wings endanger the state; Amazon exploits the employees, and so on. Nobody mentions the responsible persons. What causes this view on organizations?
- The tangibility of entrepreneurial personality
Personification begins when the attributes of a role are assigned to a company. This includes the tasks of the company, which are not limited to the provision of services, but also include social functions, such as supporting the health of employees and events of all kinds. The impression of the AKV is not only created from the outside with the external image. In these days of media, companies do not leave their image to chance, but work on their standing, their self-image, by spreading their engagement in the media. This works as long as there is no Maximum Credible Accident (MCA). A good example of a face loss was the attempt in 1995 to dump the Brent Spar in the North Sea. The bad guy was Shell, not the responsible chairman Cor Herkströter.
- The lived out convictions
The advantageous convictions are emphasized through public relations. This includes a hopeful outlook onto the future and goes from values, concerning what is right and wrong, to strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks. Thus, the company gets the attributes that we use to describe ourselves. To make these soft aspects tangible, there is the ISO Guideline 26000 that brings the social conscience to a common denominator – concerning governance, human rights, labor practices, the environment, fair business practices, customer problems and societal commitment development. And then one proclaims on its website Corporate Social Responsibility by KIK – without signature or mentioning of names.
- The competitive key skills
The corporate skills are defined by the knowledge and proficiency of its workforce, the management style and the existing infrastructure. By focusing on core competencies, the company bundles its strengths. As the vertical range of production becomes flatter and more and more services are provided in combination with a lot of different companies, the self-image needs clarity with regard on one’s own focal points. Do the strengths lie in the selection of the right emphasis? Or the appropriate implementation? Or the ability to quickly exploit trends? Or the strength to develop something new? Or in the skill of effectively allocating one’s own resources? We can imagine the service provider as a person, who, for example, helps large corporations to better align their IT to their business success with software – his name is Alfabet Inc.
- The visible actions
When looking at what is happening in the enterprise, the actions become visible – which goods and services are offered? How are the processes designed (especially at the touchpoints)? How is it controlled? What is disseminated through the media and how? How does the management level appear in public? We are measured by our actions. If a private individual evades taxes, he is publicly pilloried and sentenced to prison. Companies such as Microsoft, which divert the vast amounts of profits pass the tax office, are not tangible and get away with it – who is the responsible CEO?
- The recognizable context
The published image provides evidence of the perceived affiliation of a company. In addition, the business scope and the choice of partners allow drawing conclusions about how the company sees itself. How uniform does the company appear in different regions? Are the values adapted to local morality or do global standards apply? That can go as far that one loses the national bond and instead of Made in Germany introduces Made by Mercedes Benz. And then there are companies where the brand is also represented by an entrepreneurial personality consider Trigema and you think of the sole owner Wolfgang Grupp.
Bottom line: In summary, you recognize that the qualities attributed to a company correspond to those of persons. This begins with the corporate identity that is used to present yourself as young, sedate or creative personality. In the absence of differences, the values become important – those, who once damage the environment, will …. As in sporty matches, companies compete against each other in an effort to attract the customer’s attention. It is not enough to be the first, but you also have to cross the finish line with style. After the pendulum of globalization swings back again into the nation, identity becomes important again – no matter whether with “Buy American” or “Make America great again”. The personification of large groups makes it easier for the public to deal with abstract companies. That makes the human being the ideal metaphor for organizations.
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.