Nothing new in the East?

by Prof. Dr. Timo Meynhardt | July 14, 2020
The Chair of Business Psychology and Leadership at HHL and the network „3te Generation Ost“ invited to discuss from a management perspective to what extent East Germans can contribute with their rich experiences to master future challenges in Germany.

Chair of Business Psychology and Leadership co-hosts Digital Talk “Wendekinder im Gespräch”

30 years after the German reunification there is a lot to be said and celebrated. Due to the Corona crisis, celebrations are on a much smaller scale and there is less opportunity for public debate on the next steps in growing East and West closer together, a process that is far from complete. After all, along the old national borders material and mental differences are still too wide to be simply narrowed down to regional gaps.

“Diversity opens up opportunities, as dealing with the conflicts and tensions creates something new for the entire country.”

Diversity opens up opportunities for discussion

Who would argue otherwise? However, different perspectives on the situation within Germany cannot be summed up in a single phrase. To put it positively: Diversity opens up opportunities, as dealing with the conflicts and tensions creates something new for the entire country.

The future is determined by what has already happened

According to the writer Ingeborg Bachmann, the 30th year (Link in German) is a special one for every one of us. One realizes that some things in life have already taken place and will guide everything else, and that the future will be largely determined by what has already happened. The same applies to the German reunification. The 30th year is full of questions that can’t be asked in year 20, and that perhaps can no longer be asked in year 40. There were 30 years of time to get to know each other and to come closer together.

What has happen? What is to come?

This is what the Digital Talks “Wendekinder im Gespräch” (children of German reunification in dialogue) were discussing recently. The Chair of Business Psychology and Leadership at HHL and the network „3te Generation Ost“ invited to discuss from a management perspective to what extent East Germans can contribute with their rich experiences to master future challenges in Germany.

Prominent female leaders among participants

With Prof. Dr. Dagmar Schipanski, Dr. Adriana Lettrari (both honored with the “Women of Europe Awards – Germany”) and Prof. Dr. Karola Wille (General Director of the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR)), three prominent personalities took part in the discussion among 70 participants, most of whom were born between 1975 and 1990 and who belong to the so called “3rd generation”.

As the Corona crisis is dominating debate the virus seems to set aside the much needed discussion on the internal German situation.

Need for constitutional initiative was raised

This does not apply to the participants of the recent digital talks. One of the thematic groups discussed whether and to what extent a constitutional initiative would be appropriate to fulfil the mandate of Article 146 of the German Grundgesetz (“constitution”) to draft a joint constitution after the completion of unification.

There are evidently plenty of topics: sustainability as a national objective, equal opportunities for men and women, fewer barriers to European integration, more responsibility for the common good in companies, children’s rights in the constitution, strengthening parliamentarianism in crisis situations, deleting the notion of race, etc.

“Wendekinder” are no longer just focusing on their parents or where they come from, but are now taking on responsibility for themselves and others in a new stage of maturity.

Digital Talks to be continued

The other two thematic groups, had to be rescheduled for technical reasons. Adriana Lettrari was concerned with a deeper understanding of what “transformation competence” could mean and how the specific East German experience can be used to benefit the whole country.

This ability is deeply rooted in special form of growing up, in which another country came into one’s own, resulting in a “double socialization”, similar to that of the children of diplomats (‘Third Culture Kids’). They can move effortlessly between different worlds. Recently, East Germany and especially the parents’ generation have been delighted with the high rates of return migration of the Wendekinder.

The discussion about what advantages East Germans have on their career path or where the particular challenges still lie will also be continued at a later time. Prof. Dr. Karola Wille will be talking about her career path to the very top of the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk.

Wendekinder are taking on responsibility

So there’s something new in the East? Certainly there is. I would even argue that the generation of the Wendekinder is growing up. They are no longer just focusing on their parents or where they come from, but are now taking on responsibility for themselves and others in a new stage of maturity.

In September, the Chair of Business Psychology and Leadership at HHL will co-host a so-called generation summit to find out what drives this 3rd generation and what they want to achieve. It is worth a try!