#23 Let’s remove the wall!

Image of Berlin Wall

I have recently travelled across the northern hemisphere (other side of the pond) to five countries surrounding the Baltic Sea and of course some much needed time in my (other side of the world) favorite city London. During this time I was most struck by Berlin a city of much interest not only due to its history of World Wars 1 and 2 but the current contemporary debates that exist within Berlin. These debates are primarily around Berlin’s progress since these times and how the memories of events are best celebrated and/or best forgotten. I hope the message of this Blog pays suitable homage to the powerful impact of removing barriers, silos or even physical walls for society to fulfill what the new paradigm and purpose economy can bring.

At times of travel I am always reminded of the myriad of opportunities in Australia but such positives are not endless and therefore the time to act is now. Through this Blog #23 I hope to share more than the stamps gained from checkpoint Charlie in Berlin but the similarities of the contemporary debates within Berlin that I was introduced to.

You do not have to look too hard in the history archives to learn or be reminded of the unscrupulous actions of the first and second world. The role Germany played particularly through its leadership – Hitler’s reign, its management of people – prisoner camps, treatment of Jews and its physical impact – the displacement of many buildings (almost everything in Berlin other than the Brandenburg Gate). This Blog is definitely not going to be a journey into the history of Berlin but more about how it has coped with the duality and tensions between its post war demise and current day vibrancy.
I use the word vibrant not because of the architecture in Berlin which is definitely not built on the terms of brightness (although the glass dome of the Reichstag Building is definitely a contemporary icon). It is more the willingness to do what I refer to as STRADDLE™ the tensions between speaking of a negative history (such as keeping elements of the Berlin wall and the cobbled stone strip of no man’s land between the East and West Berlin wall) with trying to forget a past whilst agreeing that such unpalatable actions must never be repeated. The former brings tourists and is/could be a reminder of what must never happen again with the later being the desire to move on and forget such memories of sadness.

The stimulus for these discussions and my bringing a link back to STRADDLE™ is in recognition that to be successful in the next paradigm (purpose economy) it is necessary to find the balance between tensions such as celebration vs closure and/or structure vs spontaneity. In my opinion success lies in the balancing of such dualities. For example, it was necessary for the wall to be brought down bringing both the east and west together to form a unified city of Berlin (including such action being an extended and important national and global model). Almost in equal measures it was important that some reminders were kept and not only as a form of explanation but more importantly to prevent the same behaviours from ever occurring again (a topic bigger than this Blog but such a global sentiment makes me pause for thought).

Bringing my thoughts back to Australia and the Australian context we have some similarities, particularly with the need to deal with complex societal issues. To do so effectively it requires risk, yes it requires a bold and enabling leadership style and yes it requires the ability to embrace ambiguity. I propose STRADDLE™ as a navigation tool to better equip the pathway to change for complex social issues. This was most evident in Berlin’s STRADDLE™ between celebration vs closure and the answer will always be a bit of both.

Berlin has been most successful in taking this new paradigm to another level. Accepting that they cannot make the past right and such learnings must not be forgotten. In equal measure to look forward to the future and to constantly embrace the ambiguous scenarios that evolve – this is the vibrancy that pulses through Berlin and makes you feel very alive. What makes our lucky country stay vibrant and what can we do together to keep it alive?
Its great to be back – I hope you enjoy my post holiday thoughts!

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