For 20 years, Alexandra Osmers headed Network PR, one of the best-known communications agencies in the German-speaking world. During Corona's heyday, of all times, she decided to turn her back on the agency world and is now launching a new company, The Communication Architects. We talked to her about change and dealing with new situations.
FCG: Isn't a new start in the middle of a crisis a risky undertaking?
Alexandra Osmers: A not uncommon reaction to my new venture was actually something along the lines of "chapeau, that you dare to do that", which honestly surprised me. After all, the real risk is the crisis itself and not the new start. It's about a simple weighing of staying in a situation against the opportunities that arise from a change.
FCG: So it was a good time?
Alexandra Osmers: I would say it was even ideal. Any concerns about the industry or what we were doing I had well before Corona. So when the crisis came, it was more like a drumbeat and confirmation that all these issues are now going to pick up significantly in intensity and transformation. High time, then, to set sail anew and take a different direction.
FCG: Change as a response to change?
Alexandra Osmers: Absolutely! It's not a question of being drastic by hook or by crook, but if there's a creak in the woodwork, it doesn't help to hammer in a few more nails. All too long hesitation or half-baked innovations do not change the actual grievances and prove fatal at the latest with the next storm.
FCG: But isn't it advisable to wait until the storm has passed?
Alexandra Osmers: Certainly, but our storm is more like a hurricane, which has already ploughed up our beautiful order and brought with it a multitude of changes that can no longer be reversed. Much more decisive, however, is the fact that in the long term we will not be able to get out of the low pressure area at all.
FCG: But with the upcoming relaxations and advancing vaccinations, surely there could now be a turnaround and a return to a new normal?
Alexandra Osmers: That's right, but we have to understand that the new normal will be accompanied by corresponding innovations that may have a negative impact on my business model or the security of my job. And we have to accept that change itself will be an integral part of the new normal.
FCG: That sounds drastic?
Alexandra Osmers: Not necessarily, it's basically the sum of all the current trends and forecasts. So the real question is only how I deal with it.
Alexandra Osmers: The first step is to accept the changes. Of course, you can believe that changes won't be so massive and won't come so quickly, but that is a way of thinking that is driven by fear and not based on logic. And: it costs much more energy than getting into action yourself. It is better to face your fears and become aware of the worst case scenarios: what does it mean if people only consume sustainably tomorrow? What are the consequences if brick-and-mortar retail is increasingly replaced by digital platforms? What is the consequence if the demand for my service decreases in the future and I lose my job? Being aware of what the worst case scenario could be gives greater peace of mind and enables you to plan and act in a new way. If it doesn't end up being (quite) that bad, great, but should even one of the scenarios occur, I can either react immediately or, at best, have already initiated all the necessary changes beforehand.
FCG: But people are aware of the different levels of change and are working on them. Is there any time pressure at all?
Alexandra Osmers: If there is one thing Corona has taught us, it is clearly how quickly and massively change can come and take effect. It may be that we will have more time in the end in some areas, but relying on that is an unpromising strategy.
FCG: And what is the strategy for generating growth again in the medium term?
Alexandra Osmers: I believe that companies need new business models, and that these models must above all be more independent of growth. In the future, it will be more about exchange, materially as well as sociologically, and about balancing people and the environment. It is undeniable that many areas are in disarray and that the respective problems have been simmering for some time. So the likelihood is high that we will face several more issues in the coming months and years, so dynamic change must become a natural part of successful organizations.
FCG: How does that define success?
Alexandra Osmers: Success will come to those who are able to remain relevant in terms of content, sociology and economics, and who can adapt quickly to changes. In view of the large number of businesses and companies currently operating, however, this will only be achievable through appropriate innovation. The topic of innovation should therefore be given the highest attention, but at present cost reduction and increasing productivity are often still the predominant factors. In my opinion, in order to achieve sustainable change here, less management and more leadership and visionaries are needed.
FCG: But what if you fail, despite all forethought and effort?
Alexandra Osmers: Then you just get up again! And try another direction or turn somewhere else on the way. The fear of failure is also just another worst-case scenario, the horror of which dissipates once you've played it out. Failure is an essential part of trying things out and we need - especially in Germany - to finally get away from this perceived shame that isn't one. Whoever fails has at least tried something and that alone deserves recognition! And the more I push and change, the greater the chance that I will not succeed on all levels. So what? The good news is that change is like a muscle that gets stronger and better the more I exercise it.
FCG: Then everything gets better the more we change?
Alexandra Osmers: Nobody knows, but there is a quote by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg in this context that I would subscribe to in exactly the same way: "I don't know if it will get better if it gets different. But it must become different if it is to become better."