The HR management congress in Berlin, or rather the „Personalmanagementkongress“ as it is called officially, first took place in 2010 and has grown to be one of the „must attend“ conferences for HR professionals in German-speaking countries. However, in the past few years, efforts have been made to make the congress more international. English speaking speakers have been invited, and this year, it was the first time that you could attend a session in English in each time slot.
I don’t know how many non-German-speaking participants attended the congress, and I guess it won’t become a fully international conference, but I quite enjoyed listening to talks in English and also giving a talk myself. I have lived in the UK for a while and have also used English as working language and on a daily basis for many years now, so it doesn’t feel „strange“ or „foreign“ to me.
In my session, I shared games, ideas and tools to enhance cultural awareness. When I’m talking about intercultural competency, I mean a combination of awareness and knowledge:
Awareness + knowledge = skill
Often, trainings and workshops for intercultural collaboration concentrate on the knowledge. Awareness is something that people think is already there. In my experience, this is not necessarily the case. This is why my session focused on awareness.
Being able to change perspective, to take up another point of view, is crucial if we want to understand other cultures and ways of thinking. A simple experiment: take a piece of paper, and a pen, and write the letter W, a „double-u“, writing two Us joined together. UU.
Then turn the piece of paper. You can do this several times and see not only the W, but also an E, an M and the number 3. And it’s still the same piece of paper. So if a colleague keeps talking about the M while you mean the W, it doesn’t mean that he’s wrong and you’re right. You’re looking at the world differently, that’s all – and that’s also the core of many misunderstandings.
Over time, I will share more content from my session here on the blog.
Stephen Frost talked about inclusive leadership and encouraged the audience to make diversity happen not because „we have to“ or because „it’s the law“, but because it’s a reality and, at minimum, it can help us make better decisions. As leaders, we can flex and adapt our role without changing our personality or sacrificing ourselves.
Angelo Vermeulen shared his experiences of leading teams and collaboration in a limited setting: the simulation of life on Mars. When he talked about swapping roles with his team members and letting others be the leader for a while, quite a few people around me had an irritated look on their faces, but I think this is a brilliant idea and should be done more often. Especially in settings where you can actually walk away. 😉
The final speaker on the final day of the congress was Yannick Kwik, the CEO of Fuckup Nights. He talked about failure and innovation and why failure isn’t as bad as one might think. Failure can and should be celebrated, unless it resulted out of unprofessional behaviour, laziness or sheer stupidity.
What failure is to me, might not be failure to you. What failure is to me today, might not be failure to me tomorrow.
A very inspiring session and a good conclusion after an overall impressive conference. I had a great time, met great people, got food for thought and will definitely try to be in Berlin again next year.