Why – The core changes of digital disruption

Why – The core changes of digital disruption

Digitalization is a global mega trend that forces almost all companies to change significantly. But what are the main characteristics of those changes around us? If we understand better, what is changing in our environment, we have higher chances to work on the right adjustments within the organization in order to reach a better fit with the environment.

The starting point is technological progress: Binary code, microchip, internet, big data, internet of things, artificial intelligence, physical products (combi of digital and reality), intelligent personal assistants etc. have and will continue to change our day to day life.

This technological progress led to some main changes in how we work and live together. On the basis of Khan’s* work we identified 6 core changes:

  1. Interconnectedness
  2. Abundance of information
  3. Increased complexity
  4.  Increased transparency
  5.  Less hierarchical, more empowerment
  6. Man Machine cooperation


1. Interconnectedness


Billions of smartphone users can interact with each other without time delay. Experts are forming worldwide research networks, crowdsourcing allows to receive many ideas, financial resources etc. with little cost and time investment.


2. Abundance of information


It can be a blessing and it can be a curse. We can access most relevant info in our vicinity or from the other side of the world. Some people rather look at their Smartphone in order to see, how the weather is than looking outside the window. Highly paid software developers are pretty good in seducing us to spend more and more time with applications and to activate the push notifications.


3. Increased complexity


With the increased speed of change and more and more people sharing the same space, complexity goes up. In most cases, organizations need to increase internal complexity in order to get along with external complexity. E.g. a retail has to build up an online shop and blend the physical and online world, find a way to balance classical retail management with the agile world of online development …

speed of change in the digital disruption

With the increasing speed of change, the complexity goes up as well

4. Increased transparency


Nowadays it is very difficult to keep a higher level of privacy. Cameras everywhere in the city, iPhone search function, Google earth, Facebook etc. make our day to day life very transparent. If somebody wants to find out, whether the spouse has an affair, this should not be too difficult anymore 😉. At the same time, you can run a business on other continents with e.g. using Google docs, Yammer, Trello and many other kinds of cloud software.


5. Less hierarchical, more empowerment


In a knowledge economy, people want to have a say. And they also need to be empowered to make decisions close to the client or the technical challenge. Hierarchy is too slow. Laloux’s reinventing organizations, holocracy, lateral leadership etc. point at democratic alternatives. Hierarchy loses influence but will not fade totally.


6. Man-machine cooperation


Anorganic entities with some digital steering (programs, bots, robots) and humans work side to side. We find thousands of example in industry, medicine, business, travel etc.

In the metaphor of the Disruption Surfer, these 6 core changes describe, what the waves are made of. Each wave is unique. Nevertheless, waves have common patterns. If we know how to read them, we will be successful in picking and surfing the next wave.


Article written by Dominik Etzl und Gunther Fürstberger

*Shayan Khan/Tikkanen (Stockholm Business School 2016)

What serves you next?

Leaving the comfort zone - More courage for more training results

The disruption surfer

How should we respond to the waves of change? The world we live and work in has become more and more fluid over the past few years. As leaders, we have to react to these changes to lead our business successfully through this time of disruption. Gunther Fürstberger explains in this article how to perceive the opportunities and the creative potential of the waves of changes.

Read article

International leadership development with Mondi

Purpose & Engagement in digital times

Many leaders are asking themselves the same question nowadays: Why do I do what I am doing? What do I contribute and what is the point of all of this? Anita Berger is MDI Managing Partner and accompanies international organizations for many years already. For her, one of the most important things in this context is the purpose. So what should you, as a leader, keep in mind when answering the questions above?

Read article

Boosting innovation by developing experts

How to lead a business through the digital transformation

What are the consequences of the digital revolution for leaders? Due to the changes in our business world, a lot must change on the leadership level as well. In short: a new leadership approach is needed. Therefore, we need a new leadership mind-, tool- and skillset.

Find out more

The disruption surfer – how to respond to the waves of change

The disruption surfer – how to respond to the waves of change

The world we live and work in has become more and more fluid over the past few years. Changes are happening so fast that we can barely build on a solid ground. In the past, most companies worked like this: an industrial company, for example, built a factory that would work and exist for a few decades. Today, the most valuable companies, have – in comparison to the past – little-fixed assets. Current ideas, connecting resources, and a constant adoption became much more important. If we are looking for a metaphor for the modern leader, we should start with the underground. Nowadays, the underground of the modern leader would rather be water or air than a solid underground. Waves in the sea are a good metaphor for the waves of the disruption.


Waves instead of a solid ground


Often, these waves arise far away before they come to the coast, where their size is only predictable at short notice. Therefore, they can either be a threat or a great chance for the surfer. An experienced surfer observes the waves and chooses the right one for him. If the waves are not strong enough, you can’t really do a lot with it.

Waves of the disruption

Is the wave a threat or a great chance for the surfer? An experienced surfer observes the waves in the first place and chooses the right one for him afterwards.


As a leader in the digital transformation, you should definitely keep an eye on the approaching waves of change. Many companies are drowning because they ignore the changes, which are often coming from an unexpected side. If they do not ignore them, they often only recognize them when it is already too late. In the meanwhile, others could perceive the opportunities and the creative potential of the changes and are often surprised by the unexpected possibilities which suddenly arise.


The surfboard – a tool of agile leadership


Basically, a surfer only needs the right surfboard as a tool. The material entry barrier for this sport is very low. This applies to the digital economy as well. Many of today’s largest Silicon Valley companies were founded by students with little equity. As an agile leader, you have a variety of tools at your disposal. We’ve already worked out the most important key tools, you should have as an agile leader in a previous blog article.

Surfboard as a tool for disruption

As with the digital economy, the material entry barrier at surfing is very low – all you need is a surfboard, basically. Some of Silicon Valley’s top companies were founded with little equity as well.

Next to the tool-set, the associated skills want to be developed as well. A surfer’s main skill is the ability to balance on a moving surface which can only be achieved by a constant and balanced movement. This is cognitively difficult. As a surfer, you develop a sense of balance through a lot of practice. The same applies to an agile leader. The key to stay on track is the ability to react quickly and adequately to the many and rapid changes. Doing this by himself is quite difficult. Therefore he needs additional collaboration skills, such as creating transparency and visualizing things.


Attitude and skillset


Both, the surfer and the agile leader, are only able to gain mastery when tapping into creative potential.

Even more important as a tool-and skillset is the right mindset: the disruption surfer sees a change as an opportunity, acts with others at eye level and with much openness. Even if the disruption waves look threatening to many people in the first place, the disruption surfer says, with brightness in his eyes: “Wow, this wave I’ll take!”

Article by Mag. Gunther Fürstberger, CEO of MDI Management Development International.

What serves you next?

Leaving the comfort zone - More courage for more training results

How to lead a business through the digital transformation

Modern technologies have changed our working conditions. Digitalization has become the number one leadership challenge and many leaders ask themselves how to lead their company through this digital transformation. What is important is, to have an agile mind-, tool- and skillset. We summarized what you need to lead your company successfully through this digital change.

Read article

Boosting innovation by developing experts

What's the big deal about digital transformation?

Personal computers have been in our workplaces for 30 years. We’ve been using e-mails and the internet for 20 years. So why are we only talking about the digital transformation now? Armin Bonelli is a trainer and coach and works in the area of tension between identity and brand for almost 20 years. We talked with him about the digital transformation and made clear if it is just a buzzword or much more than this.

Read article

International leadership development with Mondi

Purpose & Engagement in digital times

Many of today’s leaders are asking themselves the question of meaning: Why do I do what I am doing? What do I contribute and what is the point of all of this? Anita Berger accompanies international organizations from all sectors as a consultant in organizational development. She told us more about what it means to be an (agile) leader, how to motivate your employees and why it’s all about purpose.

Read article

How to successfully use the cynefin framework [Quick-Info]

How to successfully use the cynefin framework [Quick-Info]

The framework – its origin and background


The main idea of the cynefin framework was developed by the Welsh management consultant Dave Snowden, who has worked for IBM for many years. The knowledge management system is supporting us in identifying and understanding different situations based on their complexity. In this way, suitable ways of acting can be derived. The framework detects in which situation agile management tools should be used and when it is better to refer to classic management methods. Not every problem requires agile solutions and methods. Therefore the Cynefin framework should always be applied BEFORE deciding which management method to use.


The four domains of the framework and their fields of application


All in all, the framework can be divided into 4 different fields:

  • Simple: in this field, the relationship between cause and effect is clear and obvious for everybody. Simply said: “if you do this, you can expect this response”.
  • Complicated: there is a clear relationship between cause and effect, but an analysis and/or expert knowledge is required.
  • Complex:  the relationship between cause and effect can only be identified afterwards, which is why it is not possible to make predictions about the future but only about the past.
  • Chaotic: there is no relationship between cause and effect.

With this framework, situations can now be divided into this four different domains. This gives me a clear and situation-specific instruction on what to do. The framework helps you to quickly analyze situations and to find the right management style. It makes a huge difference, for instance, if I am in a complicated or complex business environment.

In the complicated environment (classic management methods), an analysis should be carried out, whereas – in the complex environment – agile methods should be used. This helps companies not only to find the right management tool in a quick and efficient way but also explains why problem X, for instance, should be solved with agile methods, whereas problem Y shouldn’t.

Uschi Cynefin Framework Trainer
About the author

Ursula Weixlbaumer-Norz is always looking for new solutions for leadership challenges of our time. She is working as a trainer and coach for many years already and is specialized in team development, negotiation techniques, conflict and crisis management, intercultural competences, communication, motivation, change management and management strategies.

Since when are you working with the cynefin framework?

Ursula: About 1 1/2 years ago I came across the cynefin framework and immediately liked the idea of the framework really much. This year I was attending a further education in London on this topic.


What are your experiences with the framework?

Ursula: Nowadays, you get the impression that agile methods are everywhere. During my coachings and trainings, I often deal with leaders who do not know where and how to use all those new agile methods. This is exactly where the cynefin framework can support them, which makes the decision which problem-solving method to us, much easier.

What serves you next?

Leaving the comfort zone - More courage for more training results

Development approaches: how to lead a business through the digital transformation

Modern technologies have changed our world and working conditions. For many leaders, the digitalization has become their number one leadership challenge. What do you need to successfully lead your business through this digital transformation? One thing for sure: a new leadership approach is needed. One possible approach is agile leadership. We summarized what tool-, skill- and mindset you need as an agile leader.

Read article

International leadership development with Mondi

Video: Agile leadership - orientation and basics

Scrum, Design Thinking, Kanban, Lego® Serious Play® & more. There are so many different agile leadership methods, that it can be difficult to keep on track. Nevertheless, it seems that everybody is talking about agile leadership. But what exactly does this mean? And how do I know if the implementation of agile methods in my company is really necessary and useful? Alexandra Sock is a trainer at MDI and an expert when it comes to agile leadership. We asked her to give us a quick overview of this topic.

Find out more

Boosting innovation by developing experts

Scrum & Agile leadership

Scrum is probably one of the most known and oldest agile leadership methods. It was already implemented in the 1980s whereas other agile methods are pretty new. We talked to Susanne Spath, who is a trainer at MDI and Scrum Master, about the agile method, its background and asked for some tipps and practical examples how to successfully implement Scrum in your own company.

Read article

How to lead a business through the digital transformation [Development approaches]

How to lead a business through the digital transformation [Development approaches]

Modern technologies have changed our working conditions. Digitalization has become the number one leadership challenge. In order to succeed as a company in times of this digital revolution, a new, agile leadership approach has become a matter of survival.

Whereas the business world used to be rather steady and predictable before the digitalization, it is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA).

Nevertheless, many leaders still employ practices, strategies, and tools that were common in times before digitalization, where leadership was long-term, bureaucratic, hierarchical, directing and instructive.

But – this leadership model is no longer up to date due to the changes in the business world. Specifically, this means that

  • the “internet of things” is real
  • information is accessible to everyone instead of a small group only
  • old businesses close down and new ones open up every day
  • former constants now underlie regular change
  • expertise shows in a well-developed resource-network rather than mere theoretical knowledge


 What are the consequences of the digital revolution for leaders?


Due to the changes in our business world, a lot must change on the leadership level as well. Leadership must be adapted to constant changes and keep track with the latest technologies and trends. But what are now the specific consequences for leaders?

  • Traditional development is expensive and time-consuming
  • Teams need to be empowered; collaboration is essential
  • Development often requires customers to be involved in the process
  • Requirements are constantly changing
  • No clear conclusion, development continues


In short: a new leadership approach is needed.


We need a leadership approach that is natively adaptive to change – and does not build upon past conditions. An approach that does not assume that the world is stable and predictable – but rather is aware of the fact that the fundamental conditions have to be questioned again and again during a project. After all, the future of business-success belongs to those, who know how to use the changes for themselves and to turn challenges into opportunities.


Agile leadership as a new leadership approach


Agile leadership originates from the IT industry, which is an industry that is constantly changing. This leadership approach is designed for fast changing cycles and is using shorter sprints, iteration cycles, and continuous feedback. Agile leadership is driven by transparent processes and developments and supports team-collaboration, communication, and interaction within the team.

What do you need as an agile leader to be successful in today’s world?

agile leader in digital transformation
  1. A new mindset, to see change as an opportunity to create an agile organizational culture, to communicate the „big picture“ and to always be one step ahead of the competition.

Individuals & interactions instead of processes & tools

Working software instead of comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration instead of contract negotiation

Responding to changes instead of following a plan

2. A new skillset, to create the framework and infrastructure for an individual development of each employee.

Skills, an agile leader needs to have


  • Entrepreneurial thinking
  • Strong customer focus
  • Employee focus
  • Teamwork
  • Self-leadership and reflection
  • Tolerance for ambiguity
  • Flexibility
  • Change management competencies
  • Solution competency
  • Leading virtual teams, leading from distance
  • Knowing agile work and management methods
  • High communication competency


3. A new toolset, to successfully implement the theory into practice and maintain an agile organizational culture.

What are the concrete consequences for you as a leader?


Due to the digitization, roles and responsibilities have changed within companies. The market is changing daily and the world is becoming increasingly uncertain. Agile leadership is indispensable in order to be able to assert itself as a company on the market in the long term. However, the successful transition to an agile leadership model requires the full support of everyone involved.

What serves you next?

Boosting innovation by developing experts

Blog: What's the big deal about digital transformation?

Personal computers have been used at our workplaces for already 30 years and we all have been using e-mails and the internet for the past 20 years. But why are we only talking about a digital transformation now? And what’s the big deal about it? Is digital transformation just a buzzword?

Read article

Agile leadership

Video: Agile leadership - Orientation and basics

The digitalization has changed our business world in the last years. To master the challenges of the digital transformation, new leadership approaches are needed. MDI trainer and agile leadership expert Alexandra Sock gives a brief explanation about the need for agile leadership and different agile tools.

Read article

Leaving the comfort zone - More courage for more training results

Blog: Implementation of OKR [experience report]

We are working with the agile OKR (Objectives and key results) method since the beginning of 2017.Gunther Fürstberger, CEO at MDI, is talking about the implementation of OKR, the procedure of the different meetings and the current results evaluation.

Read article

Leadership development in South Africa – Insights from a trainer

Leadership development in South Africa – Insights from a trainer

South Africa – also called the rainbow nation – is famous for its beautiful beaches, an impressive wildlife, the warm hospitality of the people and much more. The country doesn’t have an easy past though. Uncertainty and intercultural conflicts are still noticeable. We talked to Gerard Le Sueur from South Africa, who is working as a trainer for almost 20 years about the current challenges, differences to Europe and the being a trainer in times of digitalization.

The current situation: a challenging environment and the Seta system


According to your opinion: What is currently the biggest challenge for organizations in South Africa?


Gerard: There are a few: the political uncertainty/turmoil, corruption and ethical issues involved in that, economic climate and uncertainty, including uncertain and changing economic policy, a political economic atmosphere that is unfriendly to business, navigating the volatile and the uncertain environment every day.


“Nice to have” or a strategic factor of success: How do you experience that South African organizations view (international) leadership development at the moment and how will that be in the future?


There are different levels or hierarchies. Multinational companies, like European ones will very often follow the global trend to focus on their core business and outsource product and service delivery. This delivery is mostly global and from one or few sources; one global delivery. The same is true in South Africa, where multinationals will drive delivery of leadership training from a single point, often outside of South Africa. Large South African organizations follow the trend in that they will follow the Leadership technology that is trending and they don’t fall far behind. Here these South African organizations will often use Business schools or very well-known consulting companies to delivery programs. The fact that in South Africa there is a system for delivering training that is acknowledged officially via Seta’s (points), which can collect towards an official qualification or access to university programmes, means that there is often collaboration with business schools or officially recognised Seta providers. Locally there is is also a tendency to developing leadership skills in levels, basic management (upskilling people who have little “technical” management experience), where one would say the leadership is not new or sexy, but as the leadership level and experience increases there is more strategic and personal process side of Leadership that is found, like you do globally.

Training designs in South Africa & “African leadership”


As we all know international leadership development is a lot about intercultural awareness and empathy. For a training professional doing a leadership program in South Africa: What would you as the expert recommend and are there important things he/she shall pay special attention to?


You are never an expert, just another person in the room. We are different and the same. Don’t pretend to be the same, when you aren’t and don’t be totally different (better or not from here). When you engage deeply in South Africa it stretches you. Concepts like VUCA are everyday real experiences, you need to be able to feel totally uncertain, listen deeply and say you are sorry without losing your center. A friend says, “It’s the choice between being right or happy.” In Africa, this choice will confront you!


People from many different cultures are living in South Africa and there are eleven official languages which are probably not always easy: Are there any typical challenges when it comes to the cultural differences of the participants of a leadership program and did it change a lot in the last couple of years?


In South Africa, there is a huge discussion going on about “what is African leadership?”  This comes from the colonial inheritance, which involves EVERYONE, even Europeans coming over to work in South Africa. So we need to be very open to questioning and discussing what works for South Africa. Even if you agree to come up with the same result, the discussion and questioning are important. Don’t bring your powerpoints and say this is how the world works.

There is a higher level of volatility and dissatisfaction, this between cultures. Meaning that the sensitivity and “aggression” is higher, but the energy generated by openness and warmth is also much higher. So never be afraid, unless you think you know better.

Design tips for your international leadership program

In South Africa, the rainbow nation, people from many different cultural backgrounds are living which is not always easy

People from Europe who don’t know South Africa may underestimate how developed South Africa actually is – in your opinion: are there any major differences between leadership development in South Africa and Europe for instance and if yes, can you tell us something about them?


We are talking about African leadership (maybe a more globally accepted form of leadership), inclusivity and equality on a very deep level. Europe is not really anywhere near the same depth of this discussion. The Status quo in Europe is very strong to the point that nobody really recognizes it, “They don’t see, that they don’t see what they don’t see”, whereas in Africa there is real disruption here. Chaos and lack of clarity too, but rigorous discussion and challenging.


Being a trainer in times of digitalization


What do you think of the following: In times of unstoppable digitalization – Are classroom trainings – which means face-to-face – still up-to-date or will they vanish soon? And why/why not? Can you think of any differences between Europe and South Africa?


The University of Stellenbosch Business school has been doing very advanced virtual classrooms for many years, including people who sit “in the room”. Running webinars, online (with presence via media tools) is very common and developing itself very professionally, using IT technology to engage and connect in very practical ways. Here I would say Europe is actually behind in some ways, partly because it’s closer and easier to bring people together, geographically and economically. This, however, does not take away the need for “presence” programs but drives the ingenuity required to deliver impactful programs that are a mix, holding the engagement over longer periods of times, using a variation of technology.


Let’s talk about international leadership trainings in general: what is the most important thing when working as a trainer on an international level and what are the typical challenges? Can you give us any tips?


An Old bushman told me, “You white people (meaning westerners) are really stupid. First, you dig/build the hole you want, then when you lie in it, you cry that it isn’t right and you need to change it. He said, “There’s nothing to change. Everything is exactly as it should be.”

I understand that it is a huge arrogance and disservice to humanity, to think we know what to do and what must change. Don’t go to a leadership training thinking you are going to “fix” something or somebody. Rather stay at home and plant some veggies, if that’s your attitude.


According to your opinion: What will be the biggest challenge for the training & development industry in the next 5 to 10 years?


Global roll-out, that suits the local requirements, including finding the right level of collaboration to make this work for both the central organization and the localized.

Our interview partner

Gerard Le Sueur is living close to Cape Town, South Africa and has more than 18 years of experience in Consulting and Organisational change development, including topics such as Agile Leadership development and development of teams. He loves to be a development guide because it is his way to stay in a relationship with the world. His personal preference regarding development fields? “Whatever moves me and pulls me towards it. I love coaching at present.”

What serves you next?


Leadership development in Serbia

Only a few years ago, leadership trainings were seen more as a punishment than an opportunity to improve and develop. Even though the situation has changed a lot, many companies are still offering trainings just because the others do so. Darko Tot was telling us more about how organizations view leadership development at the moment, the current challenges for companies and much more.

Read more

Leadership development in Brazil

Leadership development in Brazil - Insights from a long-time consultant

Silke Körner was born in Germany but have worked and lived in Brazil for many years. She talked to us about how she experiences leadership development in Brazil as a trainer and L&D consultant and how digital leadership influences the country, which has the largest economy in Latin America.

Read article

Leadership development Greece

Leadership development in Greece

The financial recession that has resulted in shrinking household incomes, ambiguity, and pessimism is only one big challenge for Greek organizations at the moment. We talked to Sotiris Karagiannis, who has more than 20 years training in consulting experience in Greece, the Czech Republic and wider Balkans about the challenges and future trends of leadership development in Greece.

Read article

Leadership development in Serbia

Leadership development in Serbia

Interview with expert Darko Tot

Darko Tot has more than 10 years of experience in leadership development. We wanted to know more about the biggest challenges for organizations in Serbia at the moment, intercultural awareness and empathy and the future of classroom trainings.

According to your opinion: What is currently the biggest challenge for organizations in Serbia?


I would list two.

Due to quite low average salaries and high unemployment rate, it is quite easy to find new employees for the majority of positions. Very often the approach is that it is easier (and less expensive) to replace someone than to invest into his development, to dedicate time and effort, to coach etc.

On the other side, due to the opening of new positions, we were eye-witnessing that some positions were having extremely fast expansion. Someone started as a salesperson in one company, then the new company entered the market so s/he applies for a supervisor position and, due to some experience, got it. And then a new company came looking for a sales manager, so s/he appeared to be a good candidate. Soon after that, that person became, for example, sales director (similar can be applied to HR, etc.), with just a couple of years of experience. Now, being there it is difficult to acknowledge that development was too fast (actually I hear that only from one person in my about 15 years of experience). And this situation creates a lot of difficulties…


“Nice to have” or a strategic factor of success: How do you experience that Serbian organizations view (international) leadership development at the moment and how will that be in the future?


When I started to work in leadership development, back in 2003, participation in trainings was seen more as “punishment” and a sign that “I must be doing something wrong” than an opportunity to improve and develop.

The situation has changed a lot ever since.

However, my impression is that most of the companies are still on the level “nice to have it” or “when others do it, then we will do it, too”. Although it is not necessarily the wrong starting point, it appears in many cases that development programs are not well prepared, goals are not clear, everything is done in the last minute, just to tick the box. The selection of the participants is either too narrow or too wide. As a result, occasionally, in some companies, you might hear “training, oh not again please”.

The future will depend on a couple of factors out of which I would highlight the two: quality of HR people in the companies and quality of providers. The first one plays the key role in preparation, development of internal processes, creating a proper climate, understanding costs of both training and non-training and available options. The second one is interlinked very much with the first one. Simply quality on the demand side will set up the quality of the supply side. Or, to paraphrase famous Lewis Carroll quote: If you don’t know what you want from the training, any training will get you there.


You are a trainer and professional for many years already. According to your experience: What are the differences between development measures (trainings, digital learning etc.) in Serbia and, for example, in Austria or Germany?


I would say that it is the approach, attitude and consequently impact. My impression is that when working with participants coming from Austria or Germany investment into development is seen as critical for their personal success and therefore they are showing a higher level of commitment. This might be also linked with better understanding and existence of wider opportunities on the market and better preparation of development measures. At the same time, there are also bright examples in Serbia, so everything is having a strong cultural component.


What is most important when working as a trainer on an international level and what does it take to be an international training and development guide? What are typical challenges and do you have any tips?


Readiness to learn and constantly develop, openness to new experiences, flexibility to understand and approach different personality styles, the capability to motivate people, to help them in becoming better persons and professionals.

And all these elements have their positive and challenging side. The biggest risk is to think that you know it all and to stop focusing on the people in front of you. All in all, you simply have to love it, to enjoy working with and for the people.

Leadership development

The most important thing when working as an international trainer? Motivate people, help them in becoming better persons & professionals: you simply have to enjoy working with and for the people

International leadership development is a lot about intercultural awareness and empathy. For a training professional doing a module of a leadership program in Serbia: What would you as the expert recommend? To what shall he/she pay special attention and what is important? What are your tips for success in order that the training is really beneficial for everyone?


I have learned with one of my first clients that you are not the expert just because you say so or because you have some internationally recognized certificates. One of the things I have learned during my study at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) in London is that as a professional trainer you need to “enter into their shoes”.

Being able to establish head-to-head and heart-to-heart communication with an individual and a group is the prerequisite of the success. And always to be aware that you are there for them and not the other way around. It is not about you being smart but helping them to do what they are doing faster and better.

Once people recognize that, you are on your way to succeeding.


What do you think of the following: In times of unstoppable digitalisation – Are classroom trainings – which means face-to-face – still up-to-date or will they vanish soon? And why/why not? How to deal with that situation?


My humble opinion is that we should invest in the new forms, without abandoning the traditional ones. Technology development is faster than evolution dynamic. If, just because we have new modern ways of communication, we stop meeting people in the real world, having coffee with them etc. – then we will face many psychological challenges that a training or coaching will hardly be able to solve.

As new modern cars should not prevent walking, possibility to see every corner of the planet from our sofa shouldn’t replace visits to new places or computer sports games shouldn’t stop real sports activities, also digitalisation should not lead to the end of face to face trainings. After all or before all, we are social beings and ultimately we like meeting other people, discussions, interaction etc.


According to your opinion: What will be the biggest challenge for the training & development industry in the next 5 to 10 years?


In the era in which we are receiving so much information per day everybody knows or have read something about almost any topic no matter if this is climate change, economic development, time management or leadership.

Although superficial, such knowledge creates the impression, yes I know that. And as a result, I believe that we will have more and more of this “I know it all” approach. Overcoming that and motivating people to really invest in themselves and go beyond the first page on Google or  2 minutes video on YouTube will be more and more difficult. Already today we have to deal with “I want it all and I want in now” and we all know that training is not that sort of the game. It is not a short sprint, it is rather a marathon.

Darko Tot leadership development in Serbia
Our interview partner

Darko Tot has more than 10 years of experience in international leadership development. His passion is to meet new people, hearing their personal stories and learn more about their jobs. He likes to work in the leadership development field because it gives the biggest opportunity to influence in a broader context, to provoke people to make changes and to achieve some impact.
His motto? When started to work and opening my own consultancy business the motto set up was “Your success is our mission!” And that’s how I act ever since then (And, by the way, it sounds much better in Serbian)

What serves you next?

Leadership development in Greece

Leadership development in Greece

International training and development expert Sotiris Karagiannis tell us more about the current situation of leadership development in Greece, the typical challenges at international leadership trainings and much more.

Read article

Leadership development in Brazil

Leadership development in Brazil

Silke Körner is originally from Germany but worked in Brazil as a trainer and L&D consultant for many years. In this post, she reveals how she experienced leadership development and training in Brazil and how digitalization and leadership 4.0 are influencing the country.

Read article

International leadership development with Mondi

International leadership development with Mondi

Mondi’s new leadership training program will be launched in the fall of 2017 and will focus on intercultural leadership and the preparation of leaders for international challenges. We talked to the head of The Mondi Academy, Birgit Höttl, and our MDI Training & Development Consultant, Helena Gutierrez about the program.

Read article

Implementation of OKR – Experience report from a CEO

Implementation of OKR – Experience report from a CEO

Experience report from Mag. Gunther Fürstberger, CEO of MDI Management Development International.

At the end of 2016, a big car manufacturer invited us to help with the implementation of the OKR system – objectives and key results. It is important to us that our work is based on personal experiences. Therefore I decided to implement OKR at MDI from the beginning of January 2017.

2016 was not a very successful year for us anyway. We did not achieve our sales target and had a higher staff turnover than wanted. Responsibilities were not clear, employees were overstrained, the productivity was decreasing, the conflict culture was aimed at prevention and the management was not very happy about that.

Together with OKR, we introduced a new team structure and a rolling budget. The new team structure contributed to the reduction of complexity as it reduced the number of contact persons for the employees and trainer at MDI. The “rolling budget forecast” helped us to get rid of this rigid annual plan, which is usually out-of-date after the first quarter already. It gives us the possibility to adapt our resources to current developments.

At the same time, there are different kinds of views on the realization of OKR. I opted for an agile 80% approach: even though not everything was prepared yet, we started nevertheless. I visited a one-day-seminar, watched a series of YouTube videos, for instance about the implementation at Google, and defined some important cornerstones to start with the implementation of the OKR system.


  1. Organization level,
  2. Individual OKR’s with the people who report to the managing level,
  3. Individual OKR’s of all other employees with their executives

Amount of the objectives: 3 – 5 objectives, max. 4 key results per objective

Ambition: achievement of objectives: 70%

Transparency: Google document and a poster with all the OKR’s in our kitchen: everyone can see each other’s OKR’s and grading, as well the achieving objects of the management.

Frequency: every quarter

All hands OKR meeting

Monthly meetings give employees the chance to talk about their individual objectives and to see where everybody stands at the moment

Meeting structure


OKR meeting:
  • Frequency: every quarter
  • When? Just before the new quarter starts (4th Thursday before the end of the quarter)
  • Duration: 6h meeting (from 10 am – 5 pm with a lunch break)
  • Purpose: to assess the company’s OKR’s from the quarter and define new ones
  • Who: one representative of all divisions: all in all 6 people


All hands meeting:
  • Frequency: monthly
  • When: 4th Thursday of a month at 10 am.
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Purpose: every employee talks about their OKR’s and where they stand at the moment
  • Who: every employee


Individual OKR meetings:
  • Frequency: every quarter
  • When: last week or first week of the quarter
  • Duration: 1h
  • Purpose: check and definition of your personal OKR‘s
  • Who: every employee with his/her executive


Jour Fixe:
  • Frequency: every or every second week
  • When: agreed individually
  • Duration: 30min
  • Purpose: check of the OKR’s and support for your everyday working life
  • Who: every employee with his/her executive

In December I wrote a temporary strategy for 2 years and invited the representatives from the most important divisions at MDI to the first company OKR meeting. We did not have an OKR-master back then (role as driving force, meeting moderator), therefore I was the presenter of the first meeting.

The meeting was planned to last 6h and we needed every single minute but we achieved quite a lot in the end:

  • We had one “volunteer” who wanted to take over the role of the OKR-master
  • We worked together on a concept “how OKR should look like at MDI”
  • We defined 4 objectives with each 4 key results
  • About 60% of the final OKR’s were suggestions from the team, the rest was suggested by the management

Even though we were quite exhausted afterwards, we were convinced that the OKR’s can help us to focus on the essential things. We put a poster in our kitchen with the OKR’s, which we wrote down on 4 flipcharts, our mission-vision-value-statements and our 2 years strategy. From January on we started with our individual OKR meetings. We only had one hour to define individual objectives but it worked out in the end.

To set priorities and to formulate ambitiously, measurable key results was quite an effort but saved us valuable time in the end because we knew exactly what our focus was.

We wanted to know more about OKR and therefore our OKR master attended a 3-day OKR-master-training at another institute and came back with a lot of new ideas.

Some of them were for instance:

  • A preparation template for the “all hands meetings” to increase their relevance.
  • Team OKR’s instead of individual OKR’s for every employee
  • Starting with the second quarter, we defined 3 objectives with each 3 key results instead of 4 objectives and 4 key results.

My colleague will explain more about this in another blog article.

Current results evaluation:

It looks like 2017 is going to be the best year in the company’s history. The incoming orders rose by 26% compared to the previous year. The profit has more than doubled and the staff turnover has decreased. However, the challenge now is the expansion and development of the team to keep up with the current growth. Let’s see how the journey continues.

What serves you next?

Benefits of OKR

What are the benefits of the OKR system?

What are the benefits of the OKR method and how does it work exactly? MDI trainer and OKR master Susanne Spath gives us an introduction and a story to visualize the OKR method.

Read article

Agile leadership orientation and basics

Agile leadership - orientation and basics

There are plenty of agile methods – but what are the benefits of each method? MDI trainer Alexandra Sock talks about her agile leadership seminar, which gives you an overview of different agile methods.

Read article

Scrum& Agile leadership

Scrum & Agile leadership

Scrum is one of the oldest agile methods and is the mother of all agile methods in many people’s opinion. Susanne Spath is OKR master and Scrum certified gives us an introduction to this method and tells us for whom it makes sense to implement Scrum.

Read article

Mondi’s Global Leadership Training Program (Customer story)

Mondi’s Global Leadership Training Program (Customer story)

Mondi’s new global leadership training program will be launched in the fall of 2017. The program will focus on intercultural leadership and the preparation of leaders for international challenges. We talked about the program with Birgit Höttl, head of The Mondi Academy and Helena Gutierrez, MDI Training & Development consultant. They explained the benefits for the company, the complexity of the topic and gave some tips for the successful transfer of intercultural content.


What were the main reasons for the development of the Global Leadership Program?


Birgit Höttl: As a globally operating company we often send out our managers to other countries, for example as part of the integration of new plants. It is important that managers who come to a new country have a sense of what intercultural leadership means and what risks are involved. With our new training we want to create awareness for cultural differences and show the participants what they have to keep in mind when they come to a new culture, one which is maybe completely different than the own one – especially when it is about leadership. An integration phase is already a stressful time. If a leader doesn’t have a feel for the new culture, particularly during such a stressful time, many things can go wrong – such as loss of time, friction loss and in the end can lead to something like financial loss.


So does it mean that the program is a preventive measure?


Birgit Höttl: Yes, prevention is one focus of the program. We want to help our managers to better understand others cultures and their ways of working. We want to support the global mind-set of our managers in general. Mondi is globally operating and we all work in a world that is growing together. This is why we want leaders with a broader view and who have intercultural sensitivity. In relation to their leadership mind-set they should have a holistic approach to leadership and think globally.  “Think global, act local” is a good example of explaining it.


Intercultural competence is an important skill at Mondi and at the same time the core of the new program. What makes a manager at Mondi culturally competent?


I think that it is important to get some information about the foreign country in the first place and to compare your own values with the values from the foreign culture. This makes someone cultural competent. Another thing is to recognize and reflect your own learning fields. This gives you the chance to work on them and enables you to meet your own expectations as well as the expectations of the company and your future employees.  Self-reflection is therefore something that is important in a culturally competent leadership.


Does this mean that cultural competence is more a mind-set than a toolbox?


Not only – I think that it definitely starts with a mind-set because you have to be open for the new culture and start to compare their values with your own. It is important to show openness for new cultures, perhaps as well a healthy curiosity for how things work in the foreign culture and what you can learn from the people there. An open mind-set is not enough. You need a toolbox you can go back to as well, tools that help you to apply and implement things. The right mixture of mind-set and toolbox is therefore important for cultural competence.



Intercultural competence can be a sensitive topic in terms of stereotypes. How do you avoid clichés?


I think that in training like this – you may not necessarily use stereotypes – but you must emphasize certain things. However it should not remain on this level – it is important to provide the participants with practical examples such as exercises to get them out of their comfort zone as well as personal experience reports from participants. This creates a truly practical work environment. In the pilot training, employees from many different cultures were involved as well as managers who already gained international experiences as expats. This was a very valuable and important contribution that made the training work and implementable without sticking to stereotypes.


Keyword comfort zone: the new program should get the participants out of their comfort zone to develop new skills. How does this work exactly? 


You need practical exercises to get out of your comfort zone. I can especially remember the exercises which had insecurity as their basic motive. The good thing about such exercises is that you get out of your comfort zone relatively fast because you do not know what is going on and how to react. No basic rules were made in the beginning – the participants were thrown into the deep end. This reflects very well what can happen when you are not informed about the habits and values of the new culture. Exercises like this demonstrate how misleading and dangerous it can be to go unprepared into such situations.

International leadership development

Exercises which have insecurity as their basic motive get you out of your comfort zone very quick – which is a very good learning effect

How did the participants like the pilot training?


They liked it very much! They particularly enjoyed the exchange of information with other participants who have already gained international experience. But of course – and that is the reason why we have a pilot training – there are some things we have to refine a little bit. Perhaps we must even add more of those “uncomfortable” exercises to the training – our employees like hands-on exercises such as the ones we had in our training. All in all the feedback was very positive. One sales director liked it even so much that he is now offering the training to his team – apart from the training we offer.


What would have been different without the pilot group?


This is hard to say because we always have a training with a pilot group before the complete roll-out. The participants of the pilot training are people with a lot of experience. In this way we are able to get really good, critical and constructive feedback.


Is this a measure you would recommend?


Yes, definitely. The training can be designed by a professional training provider and can be in line with the shareholder’s expectations: the practical implementation will always differ from the actual plan. This is why I would always make a test run first – it simply enables quality assurance.


What has to be done until the launch in September?


We will advertise and change and adapt certain things – based on the feedback from the pilot group. Afterwards we can start with the international roll-out.


In the end a look into the future: what must happen that Mondi considers the program as successful?


Well, it is successful when the participants recommend this program to their colleagues afterwards – positive word-of-mouth is always a sign of success.

We asked our consultant

Helena Gutierrez is MDI Training and Development Consultant for Mondi’s program. We asked her some questions as well.


From a training provider’s point of view: What was the most challenging task in designing this new Global Leadership Training Program?


The most challenging thing was to come up with the right learning transfer strategy, mostly because the employees of Mondi are very well equipped with a lot of soft skills and a lot of training in their pockets. We wanted something that would not only take them out of their comfort zone but also offer them a deeper look into culture and to show them what it really takes to be an outstanding leader in the global environment. It was not an easy task but because we are not dealing with ‘rookies’, success was achieved.


How did it work out? Would you say that there is a key to really developing and strengthening such skill as “intercultural competence”?


I think it worked out really well plus the feedback was clearly fantastic. The key: Mondi’s got it!  People at Mondi are willing to get out of their comfort zone, they are open for challenges and growth. That is the success factor: Mondi goes the extra mile. They act with global understanding and they want to learn from best practices. That’s one key success factor why this training is so successful.

What serves you next?

Leaving the comfort zone - More courage for more training results

Training evaluation: More courage for more results

Nobody likes to give insights into fields, where problems exist. And due to a mutual comfort zone everybody tends to avoid questions about it. We’re talking about trainers and organisations designing development programs together. For real trainings results as well as positive and direct contribution to business-goals it takes courage – on both sides.

Read article

Boosting innovation by developing experts

Key competitive factor: International leadership development

The ongoing internationalisation of the economy – first and foremost conditioned by technological progress – entails the necessity of international leadership development. In addition to individual country cultures international and global company cultures gain a more and more important role.

Read article

Ingredients for your next leadership program design

Ingredients for your next leadership program design

Targets and expectations are clear, you gained the commitment of all relevant stakeholders and up to board level everyone is aware of the importance of your planned international leadership program. Now it’s time for the actual design of the program. We identified the four most common pitfalls on the way to hazzle-free design of an effective leadership program and added helpful “ingredients of success” right om the practice to avoid them.

Read article