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September is here. The parts of the day where I can work without the aid of artificial lighting become shorter. Either because the sun rises later and sets earlier than in the summer months or because more and more days are starting to turn grey. So I become accustomed more and more to that kind of light. On the one hand for me that includes a process of mourning. I like natural light. I react sensitive to artificial light. And I also like how at the same time the sun goes the same way every day, but it looks different every time, depending on the layer of clouds the rays have to pass or the angle of the sun to the earth. On the other hand I notice how it is easier for me to get out of bed, when it's still dark. And with the sun setting earlier and the world being darker longer during the night my body actually is ready to go to bed at a reasonable time. So although the world is preparing for hibernation mode and calmness, I indeed am blooming and full of energy. So I am looking forward to the time to come. The colours of the vine leafs that will change into a fiery red. The maroons that will lie on the ground and waiting to be turned into a tasty Creme de Maron and, most of all, my turquoise hot water bottle that has been neglected in summer but will nevertheless continue to spread her radiating heat. Fall is waiting - I am ready!

What we wrote

Lucy in the Sky with Zoom meetings

Lucy in the Sky with Zoom meetings
Lately I came across a rumor about the famous Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. The song, so the rumor goes, actually references to the substance Lysergic acid diethylamide – better known as LSD. Although the Beatles denied the rumor for that particular song, they never made a secret of the fact that hallucinogenics were involved, especially in the production of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

Browsing around a bit I fell into the rabbit hole of research around therapeutic use of LSD for psychotherapy of PTSD or depressive and anxiety disorders. One of the most important requirements to keep in mind, so the overall opinion, is called Set and Setting. Set is the mental state you yourself should be in if you undergo this form of therapy. The intrinsic motivation, if you want. It basically means that if you are not open and receptive for the experience the best trip won’t bring you any relief. Setting on the other hand is the environment that you are in while tripping. It’s all the extrinsic factors. The room you are in, the company you are with, the clothes that touch your skin and the scents your nose smells. If one of these or other things are not right, your trip might go terribly wrong.

When you think about some debates you had lately, don’t discussions about Zoom meetings sound a little like a trip as well? What is going on in front of me? Where does that sound come from? Your background cuts out your hair! Where are you guys? I can hear you, but I can’t see you! So I played around a bit with the rules of Set and Setting, put them out of the hallucinogenic context and applied them for online meetings. Turns out: It works!

Let’s start with the setting. Imagine yourself sitting in a Café in a train station. You are waiting for your train to take you somewhere and you use the time to catch up with your colleague. But something doesn’t feel right. The internet connection is not super stable, there is always someone passing with their luggage behind your bag and the constant noises of the coffee machine producing coffee after coffee make it hard to understand what your colleague is saying. The headphones can only do so much… How comfortable do you feel in that setting? How much can you really concentrate on the other side?

But let’s, for one second, imaging all these distractions weren’t there. You are in a perfectly predictable and quiet environment. Everything around fits your personal needs perfectly. You are not distracted by any external factors. And then you go into a video conference call and you don’t get the results you wanted. It was too distant, you say. It was too impersonal, you say. There was no established connection – although the WiFi worked perfectly. Where does that come from? Here’s where Set comes into play.

Humans are highly social animals. We need the connection to other people, the feeling of belonging. If we don’t get that, we might get ill or even die. If you break it down, we all strive for love and acceptance. Some more than others, some differently than others. But in the end this is where we are all going for. Depending on different factors, such as interpersonal relationship, hierarchy or status, these connections are sometimes deeper or more superficial. Determined by how deep the connection is and how we want to present ourselves, we carry ourselves differently.

Most of us have really experienced the power of digital relationships during the COVID crisis. Staying in touch with your loved ones, working together apart with colleagues or getting to know people all over the world in you online sports class. The digital age has changed, how we see relationships. We can now be friends with a person on the other end of the world, although we never met them! It has become way easier to find one’s own tribe. The people who get you. Who understand you. The people that are like you. That bring the basis for a connection with them. But Digitalization has not changed how we establish connections in their core: with curiosity and the willingness to connect. Digitalization is so successful because it enables connection on such a grand scale.

So how do we evaluate the value and the benefit of the tool for our connections? One criteria is our exposure to it. How much, how often, which context. What use case do we mostly connect it with? Most people were thrown into the world of online connectivity through their workplace that handed them a laptop with a camera and asked them to work from home. To stay in touch, companies came up with the wildest ideas – from being online on Zoom for eight hours straight so your supervisor can see you, to celebrating online cocktail mixing classes as a team event to keep the culture. What most of the interactions we had while sitting in the discomfort of our quarantine homes have in common is that they originate from a professional setting. And most people act differently in a work environment than they would at home.

Set and Setting is not just reliant on your own situation and preparation. The organizer’s set is the participant’s setting. So, if we don’t like work zoom meetings, because they don’t allow for connection, chances are, your workplace setting was never built for deep and meaningful connections in the first place. Being asked to have your camera on and having everybody else see your safe space aka your home is not really a comfortable feeling when you don’t see your work environment as a safe space. And not having the freedom to deny a meeting request when your homeschooled kid is throwing a tantrum doesn’t really help to relax either.

I don’t expect you to love Zoom meetings. Some people always did, some people never will. But with a bit of willingness to approach each other with respect, decency and an open mind, video conferences can be less draining and more fun for everyone involved.

In the Beatles song Lucy invites the listener to follow her into a world where everybody you pass smiles. You are invited to climb in the back of a newspaper taxi with your head in the clouds. Maybe we should approach our Zoom meetings with the same energy. We assume, everyone is approaching us with well intentions. And we can fully immerse in the experience. Maybe our digital connections become less of a bad and exhausting trip, but more of a deep, meaningful and connective experience. Because every party involved cared about establishing the right Set and Setting.

What others wrote

No text I ever write just comes out of my brain from some form of abyss. I am not that genius creative. I read a lot of stuff that forms my opinion. Not all of it makes it into my articles. Some things are just a brain tickler. So I will share good pieces with you, so maybe they also tickle your brain.
When governments start collecting biometrical data about their citizens it is very often justified, that it is for the safety of everyone. And we don't have anything to hide, do we? This argument only stands true, if your government really acts in your best interests. For most western democracies that might be true. Although, even with the western fetish of surveillance for "security reasons" that is at least debatable. Since the takeover of governmental power in Afghanistan by the Taliban, suddenly for a lot of people this does not stand true at all! The data collected by military forces can now seriously threaten the lives of people, whose only crime is to have worked towards a more modern and more democratic future of their country. And even if these data points were not collected by the NATO forces: The Taliban has full control now of all governmental areas in Afghanistan - including national intelligence. This should serve as an expressive example why we should always carefully consider if we really need all these information in the hand of governments - or anyone for that matter.
There is this thing out in the world every business person has to do one way or another - Networking. For me personally, it was always dreadful. I hated it. I still don't like it. But I found a way around it. When it comes down to it, networking is about establishing a connection with each other. So, of course I can go out into the world and tell everyone my story - or, I could just sit in the quietude of my own home and write about it. Basically exactly what I do here, right? I don't do it for the fame, though. I don't want to be the next newsletter star. But I like writing, organizing my thoughts through that and sharing myself with the reader. And maybe, there is someone out there who likes what I am writing, can identify with what I think and then, one day, makes a connection.
Why is it that humans, a species where some individuals are only able to survive with the help of a microwave, run the world when, looked at it from an individual point of view, we are so much inferior than other species? Well, there's a very simple explanation. We can combine two things very well the rest of the animal world can only do either or of. We can cooperate in large numbers, but also flexibly. This flexibility asks us to establish intimacy. And we have mastered one thing very well that allows for this intimacy in large numbers: We can tell fictional stories rising from our imagination. And with this skill we have done something extraordinary: We have created whole fictional worlds. We create systems and entities, such as nations, corporations and families. And as long as everybody believes in the same fiction, we can create extraordinary things. It's not our individual skillset that makes our world go round - it's our collective storytelling capability!

A word from...
Ed Catmull

"The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think" - Harper Lee
This month I want to recommend you "Creativity Inc." by Ed Catmull.
How much money can you make with fostering creativity? A lot of managers would say, that there is no room for creativity in the board room. Ed Catmull will show them differently. He co-founded the Pixar Animation Studios, now part of Walt Disney and until his retirement in 2019 he led both Pixar and Walt Disney as President. You could say, fostering creativity is crucial to his business model. And this is what Creativity Inc. basically is about - how do you create an atmosphere where your employees thrive and grow, where they feel safe and welcome and how this will contribute to the success of your business. If you now think, this is not for you, you don't work in a creative field - think again. This book is a management guide for leaders who are dependent on the creativity of their employees. If you deal with a fast changing environment, where creative solutions to arising problems is key - so basically everybody who owns a business right now - then this book is for you!

The Good News

We tend to surround ourselves with people we like and that are similar to us. It is a innately human trait to do so. Communication becomes easier, understanding each other becomes easier, building a tribe becomes easier. But a lot of things also get harder. Being open for the life realities of other people for example, being empathic or showing compassion. So called Human Libraries are challenging our bubbles with the concept of renting a human and their story to listen to and "unjudge someone".
Starting off in Denmark, the concept is now capturing the world with more and more human libraries opening up to help people get in touch with each other, hear their stories of others and stop "judging a book by its cover".

What's new?

I updated my "Now" page so you can see what else is going on.

What is a Now page? It's "a page that tells you what this person is focused on at this point in their life. Think of what you’d tell a friend you hadn’t seen in a year." So find out what I am focussed on and what is going on.
That's it for this month.
Thanks for reading the fourth Edition. And please let us know what you think of the newsletter so far. All feedback welcome!
We actively want to bring in colours, not just lighten the place up! We want to create the space, where ideas from other dimensions are included, where thoughts outside of the black and white realm find a touchpoint with the spectrum. We want to explore possibilities how our society can be a better one when we don’t fight the unknown but embrace it with open arms and a curious mind. It is an offer to think differently. It’s an offer for different views, opinions and insights so that the “One Size Fits All” story of technology becomes a range of various stories that show us the immense beauty of digitalization.
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