What is creative leadership

Co-creative leadership - How digitization and Industry 4.0 affect corporate culture - and how to deal with it.
05/07/2019 Edition: DDIV DIGITAL 2019

How can companies master the challenges of digitization and changed market conditions? It is often not easy to see what practical changes in company management are required for this. Concentrating on technical and commercial aspects usually falls short and tends to create new problems if personnel management and cooperation are not redesigned at the same time. Specializing in processes in team collaboration, we rely on an approach that activates the skills and resources of all people in the company - instead of focusing on deficits.

More courage to change!

From our cooperation with companies in the real estate management industry, we know what enormous competence this profession requires for a very diverse and demanding field of activity, and at the same time we observed a certain inflexibility or reluctance to embrace changes and innovations. This basically corresponds to what customers expect from administrators: Reliability, consistency and protection of interests tend to be positive-conservative values. Now our world is turning a little faster and less predictably than before; Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity have made their way with globalization and digitization. One tries to arm oneself: Cooperations and mergers of companies should achieve synergy effects. And there is always a weak point: Both digitization and such mergers & acquisitions are primarily understood as more IT or financial topics. Here is an example from business: The Board of Management of a large company invites its department heads to announce: “We are repositioning ourselves and establishing the 'Digitization & Innovation' department. We will provide financial and human resources for this. ”Everyone agrees that this is an important step for the future of the company. However, questions are also asked: What effect will this have on the collaboration? How do we deal with employees' fears and concerns about this issue? What are the consequences for me as a manager when we digitize processes? Over the past few years, we have calibrated our employees to comply with standards and efficiency, now they should suddenly work more agile and think more innovatively, how can that happen so quickly? What influence does the new area have - do we have to implement everything that comes from there?

In the subsequent review meeting of the board, people reacted angrily to the questioners and wiped the aspects off the table - a mistake, as it later turned out to be. Today, a year and a half later, the company has learned something new: workshop dialogues take place in which managers learn how they have to change their management in order to implement digitization and a culture of innovation. The employees are taught methods of more agile and co-creative work. Instead of arguing about position and influence, the Board of Management has introduced the “principle of eye level”. What has been developed in the digital innovation area since then must first win over people in the relevant departments of the company before it can be rolled out for the entire company. Conclusion: Under new framework conditions, a new management and a new type of cooperation are required so that a company understands the necessity of changes and masters necessary transformations together with the workforce.

What managers should be able to do

Executives who make decisions alone without talking to stakeholders such as It will be difficult for the workforce, bosses, the works council, colleagues, customers, etc. to try it out in advance. They all want to be valued in their respective roles as part of the whole. If they feel understood, they are certainly ready to give more for the joint project and to support upcoming changes.
Listening and understanding are key competencies of good managers, which are also an essential factor for employee loyalty. In times of a shortage of skilled workers, good leadership proves to be an advantage in the competition for good personnel.

Co-creativity and agility

Co-creativity describes the synergy effect that arises when a team achieves more or better results in constructive cooperation than those that would all have achieved individually. Managers can ensure that such a way of working is possible. This requires the appreciation and recognition of each individual team member and their skills. Other perspectives and ways of thinking are recognized as helpful and mistakes are seen as a learning opportunity. When everyone in a team works on an equal footing, everyone can do what they do best to contribute to the joint project.
Work processes are agile when teams also network with one another, individual members sometimes here, sometimes there independently contribute something to the collective task - and thus constantly learn. It is particularly important here that you meet and communicate on an equal footing. Agile teams mainly organize themselves and need the manager above all, but not only, as a facilitator, the process facilitator who initiates and promotes change.
Co-creative executives stabilize uncertainties in a complex environment and provide general direction. They enable participation, relinquish responsibility, trust in the team's performance and reflect on themselves. Co-creative executives are enablers who provide the necessary resources, act as coaches for the team and each of its members and as mediators between team activity and corporate strategy.


The new WHAT of digitization needs a new HOW of leadership in order to shape the transformation not only technically, but together with people. Co-creative entrepreneurs and managers have understood that they have to work less in the system and more on the system. You will now focus on sharpening the saw instead of sawing. In view of the current challenges, they pave the way and empower managers and employees to take this path self-confidently and co-creatively, i.e. together. The decision-making power remains with the manager, only the path to the decision and how to implement it changes, as interested employees are co-creatively involved. This changes corporate culture and wins people over to tackle challenges together.

Photo: © Sashkin / Shutterstock.com

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The corporate and business communications specialist works as a systemic consultant for personnel and organizational development and is a co-founder of the CoCreative Facilitation team.