From ME to WE and the other way round – TEDxBG

TEDxBG in Sofia was a very strange experience for me. Maybe because I just flew in the night before from Brazil and I only got 3 hours sleep. When I arrived at the venue, I didn’t had any schedule, I didn’t know what time my talk was – I didn’t know anything about the others topics and speakers. There was nothing available in English and the 3 organizers were too busy to give any translation. So I wasn’t able to get anything out of all these talks, except some questions I asked some people after the event. For this I really felt sorry. It was somehow a waste of time.

Except one thing – I’d really like to pick out: There was a young girl, Daniela, 11 years old, she sang on stage beautifully to Samba rythmns. I invited her spontaneously to come with us next time to Brazil and to join the volunteer team in the favelas. Besides theatre we will now add music to the program we are going to do there! Daniela seemed to be very happy …

And I was pleased to back up with Georgi Kamov, a young Bulgarian entrepreneur, who just launched his own company Nextdoor. I met him at a Transformation Thinker event a year ago. We enjoyed Bulgarian food and red wine with his wife and her 2 sisters. Lovely! Thanks for that!

The TEDxBG event was followed by a so called “volunteer-day”. Alek, one of the TEDx organizers described it as: “We are dividing the TEDX-audience in groups and sending them to different places where they can volunteer. It’s important, since Bulgaria is dead last in volunteering per capita. We’ll have a dog shelter; an urban transformation group, which will refurbish an underpass; a visit to a couple of children shelters; an annual bird count at a nearby lake and many other things …” A good initiative.

Other things I liked to mention:

  • the Betahaus, Bulgarian’s first co-working space just opened its doors, and yes, it is related with the Betahaus in Berlin
  • Air Bulgaria – not all a recommendation to fly with
  • the mountains surrounding Sofia looked really inviting for a ski tour
  • very good food and wine
  • smell of corruption is in many place
  • besides some shopping malls, IMAX cinemas and “western” company buildings, Sofia still has this “socialism” look and feel
  • taxi, food, drinks are really, really cheap
  • the young people at the TEDx event are excited as all the other young people I’ve met around the world. One of the participants said, that there aren’t too many people willing to drive change in BUlgaria. It’s only a small grope. I have no idea if this is true or not.

I definitely will be back!

For those who are interested in, here is my talk.

I started with our trailer for we-the-movie …..

.. followed by these slides:

And here is a transcript of the text:

———–How to trigger this greater WE?

AND how to build something which suits all our needs! Something we all care about and something in which we all have trust in.


The “WE” became mainstream with Obama!


Who doesn’t remember?
He made the Americans believe hat HE together with them will drive change! with social media in its core!

Obama did mobilize the masses, he triggered the WE with the web.
But did he change the way to govern ?
Did he foster transparency, openness and participation ?

… I am not sure …


What the Obama example also clearly shows, is :

that WITHOUT a ME – without Obama – acting according to this WE,
if his policies aren’t committed to this WE –
no fundamental change and no new ways to govern will emerge!

So both is needed :

– the movement itsself, the mobilization of the masses (THE WE)
– and the personal commitment from each and everyone of us to stand up for our values and to practice them in daily life! (THE ME)

And both of them have to be in a balance. I am not talking about replacement – I am talking about finding the right balance. Sometimes more ME is needed in our actions, sometimes more WE!

And this is true for all following examples!

———–ledership ME


You all knew this guy, don‘t you?

As a leader, does he stand more for the ME or for the WE-type ?

what would you say?

———–ledership ME (with ME on the glasses)

Absolutely the ME type: ME, ME, ME!

– classic top-down approach
– downgrading citizens to followers
– no participation
– no transparency
– no empathy
– he kept the people from Lybia isolated.

he paid a very high price at the end.

So what is the WE-model for leadership?

———–ledership WE

it‘s very much like the swarm of starlings in this picture.

– they seem to be self-organized.
if one of them is suddenly changing direction, no accident happens,
they seamlessly switch … as if it was planned

Once JP Rangawasami asked: why would I hire a super smart person and then tell him/her what to do?

I think is is absolutely right asking this question.

The WE-model it‘s about trusting each other,
enabling each other. It‘s about transparency and
letting others participate

A leader in a networked model doesn‘t need followers. Those who lead are chosen by reputation.

Is this reality yet?

In the political world there aren‘t so many great examples. Serious participation projects are still rare – greatest example for me is Iceland.
Their new constitution was written by its own people! On a wiki!

Very often though participation is promised, but it doesn‘t happen. In Germany we have this Enquete Commission – the 18th voice is reserved for the citizens. but there is no commitment from the government, that the voice will be taken into account.
So, what is this good for?

In the enterprise world CISCO changed the rules of leadership.

John T. Chambers spread the company’s leadership and decision making far wider than any big company has attempted before, to working groups that currently involve more than 500 executives. The bumpy part was that the leaders of business units formerly competing for power and resources now share responsibility for one another’s success.

What used to be “me” – Chambers said in an interview – is now “we.”

The result: Cisco got more products to market much faster!

———–innovation ME

As a heavy Mac user it breaks my heart – but I have to admit – one of the „closest, ego-centric companies“ in the world is one of the most innovatives.

what shall I say? It‘s just the way it is.

But Steve Jobs was exceptional. Wasn‘t he?
But it is a ME-model. Very closed.

———–innovation WE

Innovation in a networked world, in a world of WE, is an open ecosystem.

Since the costs of collaboration dropped down so significantly it‘s no longer a big deal to bring in the best resources from all over the world!

For example Procter & Gamble succeeded with its platform connect. They started in 2008 and meanwhile 50 % of product initiatives involve significant collaboration with outside innovators … and the numbers are growing.

You’ll find other examples in the pharma industry, automotive industry – all over!

On a smaller scale, but with great local impact – especially in the development world – Open Source Ecology from US is a great example. Their Global Village Construction Set is a modular, DIY, low-cost, high-performance platform that allows the easy fabrication of 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts.

And not only in the business world open innovation rocks. Open data government has triggered many innovations in the public sector – often run by young start-ups. You can think of health care, transportation, traffic flow, weather data ….

And if governments fail in making data available, private initiatives will show them how to do it!

After this horrible earthquake in Japan, the Japanese government never ever published data on radiation. in less than 4 weeks, a private company was founded: Safecast. A global sensor
network for collecting and sharing radiation measurements to empower
people with data about their environments.

And the Japanese people appreciated it.
No matter how bad the data was …
They want to know about their situation.
They were hungry for this information.
And I think, it’s their right to get it!

———–Media ME …


Another personification of ME: Rupert Murdoch!

Very powerful … He used to decide what becomes public, who could participate, who got access.

But finally he is loosing stakes …

———–Media WE …

This is we-media.

Citizen media. DIY.
Enabled by the internet.
Powered by twitter, facebook, youtube, wordpress.

What we‘ve seen during the Arab Spring is how „traditional media“ is more and more embracing citizen media an collaborating with them to build something new, something bigger and better.

Al Jazeera and The Guardian have clearly taken the lead.

Both of them include citizen media in their news stream.
In their stoytelling.
And in the production process.
They understood that a story has a life before and after it‘s been published.
ANd they let citizen participate in this entire process.
They also understood the new meaning of LIVE.
Their liveblogs and live video reporting mark the beginning of a new reportage era.

———–education ME …

Last but not least: education

This model – teachers teaching and preaching in front of the class – will be the model of the past.

Even in countries like Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is known as the country with the worst education system on this planet. There is a lack of teachers – leave alone their qualification – and a lack of schools.
90% of the population is illiterate!

This picture is taken in Parouan, 3 hours north east of Kabul.
To see these young girls at a school is a miracle at all. In many areas, especially in rural areas and Taliban controlled areas – there is no chance for them to go to school.

But even there we discussed in a one week workshop with pupils and teachers
the possibilities of mobile learning .

Tough job
– girls are not allowed to have a cell phone, unless they are married.
– no electricity in the schools to charge the equipment.
– no place to storage all the stuff.

Nevertheless during our 1 week workshop the boys and girls together with their teachers came up with wonderful examples of what can be done. Their imagination was challenged.
And the sky seemed to be their limit.

As far as I know the first program is running today and more than 80 pupils and teachers are using mobile phones, mainly for sms communication between teachers and teachers, teachers and pupils.

Technology has arrived even there to build a better society!

———–education WE …

In the future we will see more and more situations like this where students learn self-organized. Informal.

This project is called: A hole in the wall. Sugata Mitra started it 12 years ago. He wanted to know what kids will do, if they have access to a computer.

His first experiment was very simple:
he installed a computer, running an english menue, in the slums of Dehli, made a hole in the wall, put the screen in there and made only keyboard available. A few simple programs were installed. Without any further instructions he left.

When he came back 2 month later, the kids were playing around with the computer and complaining, that the machine is too slow … they were asking for more memory and a faster processor.

He repeated this experiment in rural areas, left the computers with more sophisticated programs and came back 2 or 3 month later. Again the kids were able to get the computer going and they’ve even learnt from the programs installed.
When Sugata asked them questions they answered correctly and in proper english.

He has expanded his research over the years.
and what they found out is simply incredible.
the kids are able to teach themselves highly complicated stuff: from chemistry to biology to physics …

Today they have more than 35 „stations“ in rural areas in india. and Sugata Mitra is asking seriously: do we need schools at all?

I think the answer is still: YES, we do need schools. But we have to re-think the ways we are teaching and educating our kids.

———–what does it take to build …

Let me summarize.

All these example have something in common.
they stand for a new modus operandi, for our companies, governments and educational institutions which is determined by the following organizing principles.


The Web has reduced the cost of collaboration to almost zero. This allows US to collaborate over boarders … boarders of companies, institutions, nations.
Collaboration – even with competitors – becomes a necessity.
Failure to collaborate puts you at a strategic disadvantage.


Very often you find the creative potential for your business OUTSIDE of your organization – among your partners, clients, customers …
So open up.
Use this potential.
Let your boundaries become permeable.
Develop your organization towards an open system.
And as a consequence: Perform better!


Participation is no longer a pick and chose option. The Internet is a continuous invitation to participate.
People want to join in.
So let them participate.
Enable them to do so. Encourage them!

If you don’t do so. They will show you how to do it!


Reputation is no longer defined by the “title” or “functions” printed on your business card.
Reputation in these new systems is defined by competence – no matter who you are, where you come from or what field you are working in. If you’ve gained competence in the system – you will lead!
But remember:
Reputation built on resonance doesn’t come with a life-long guarantee.
It has to be earned over and over again.


With the advent of the Web institutions and people are scrutinized like never before.
Citizens and customers put them constantly under the microscope.
Their tools: instant communications, whistle-blowers, inquisitive media …
Their motivation: honesty, balance of power, trust.
So why not turn this “thread” into something positive?
Create value out of it. Become transparent.
And by doing so you reduce complexity.
You clamp down on unwanted dynamics!
And you become less liable to attack.


And last, but not least: Empathy!
To get an idea of what is going on in these systems you have to become part of it.
Just to look and gape at it is NOT enough.
You have to feed it in order to be fed.
Don’t control! Go with the flow.
This is the only way to find out about “mindlikes” and “counterparts”.
Who they are. Where they are. How they argue. What they do.
You have to emphasize.

———– END

Let me conclude by saying:

We might not know what the challenges will be and how the solutions will look like but

– if we on a personal level
– and if we on a community level

act according to these principles, we can manage safe passage and come up with the right solutions for the challenges the 21st century has ready for us.

Thank you!

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