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How to use this crisis for radical change

Christoph Magnussen, Germany's #1 expert on New Work, about how to build a better company culture in your startup

“Work can make people stronger instead of weaker”, that’s the core idea of New Work, says Christoph Magnussen, CEO of Blackboat and Germany’s #1 expert on the topic. And motivating people is not achieved by setting up a kicker table or a smoothie bar in the office – but with the right kind of leadership, he points out: 

“When you realize during this pandemic that your people are not motivated, everyone is in a crisis.”

Christoph usually gives paid workshops with companies or keynote speeches about the ideas of New Work, which he shared for free at the recent Bits & Pretzels Live event.

He also demands more personal introspection by the company management: Leaders should reflect on the way they treat the team and be open to admit their own bad behavior and change their leadership principles – best before a crisis happens, because in the middle of it is very often too late. 

If done well, challenging times can lead to better company culture, if the team shares the same goals. “The strongest changes can be made in times of crisis and when we have a shared enemy”, says Christoph. 

In Magnussen’s view, a better company performance doesn’t come with more pressure or control, but with giving employees freedom, personal responsibility and room to develop their own ideas. 

The principles of New Work evolved during a crisis as well: In the 1970s a lot of US employees in the automotive industry got fired due to automation. The Austro-American philosopher Frithjoff Bergmann was asked to limit the damage as a negotiator. 

He started the “Center of New Work” to help these automotive workers on the way to find new professional perspectives – while just working part-time in the factories moving forward. His core idea was to boost flexibility, individuality and agility amongst employees – without taking too much of people’s life and energy. 

And just like Frithjoff did back then, Christoph thinks everybody in the startup market should ask the question: “What do I really really want to do?” 

Christoph surely knows what he’s talking about since he spent the last couple of years as an entrepreneur. After graduating from St. Gallen University, he co-founded a mobile phone reCommerce company which grew from 1 million to 31 million in revenue in less than 5 years, also by increasing individual productivity through New Work methods, which eventually led him to establish Blackboat. 

Christoph is also the co-founder of the ‘On the Way to New Work’ Podcast – one of Germany’s top podcasts in the business category – alongside Michael Trautmann.