Leading in Hyper-Complexity

Line Jehle, Marcus Hildebrandt and Stefan Meister
Foreword by Susanne Seegers
ISBN: 978 1909818 77 4

Today’s leaders and managers have to operate in an environment characterised by complexity. What does coping with this ever- and faster-increasing degree of complexity require of them? It means that if they are to deal successfully with all the challenges they need to reconsider their leadership approaches.Leading in Hyper-complexity is dedicated to all experienced managers and leaders who lead across space and time while simultaneously operating in ‘conventional’ structures. It takes a closer look at how to lead, and how to navigate in today’s complex and sometimes unpredictable business environment. Anyone experienced in tackling today’s complexity will know that you cannot expect to find easy-to-follow recipes for success. But we are not powerless, as is shown by the ten in-depth interviews with top managers from different cultures featured in this book. These describe in very practical terms their personal and professional struggles with complexity.
Based on decades of consulting and coaching experience working with such leaders and managers, the authors describe seven modular ‘Apps’ which they have developed to assist in dealing with complexity in the work environment. These Apps enable readers to get a better understanding of the ‘complexity mix’ in their own environments and then make a positive impact with the results they create.
But just a word of warning! There is still a lot to understand in order to be fit for the next leadership generation. To foster further work and inspiration in this direction the authors have shared a lot of their ‘work in progress’ in the extended Appendix.

Closeness at a Distance

Dr. MarcusHildebrandt, Line Jehle, Stefan Meister – with Susanne Skoruppa
Foreword by Jessica Lipnack
ISBN: 978 1 90981800 2

How do you write a book…with a virtual team?
Closeness at a Distance is a product of such a virtual venture. Having hit the market in Nov. 2013, the book has been described as “a groundbreaking approach to the challenges so many teams, and team leaders, face today” (Libri, 2013).
Closeness at a Distance provides real and relevant case studies; transferrable insights and concrete advice are extracted and explained. Professionals working in virtual teams, groups and networks can read about—and realize—solutions that will work within their own contexts. Its authors, Dr. Marcus Hildebrandt, Line Jehle and Stefan Meister—with Susanne Skoruppa—are a team of management and intercultural consultants with a simple and effective “secret” to virtual performance improvement. The Foreword of the book is written by Jessica Lipnack, a globally-recognized leading expert on virtual teams and networks.
Consider the following statistics along with your own experiences working with virtual teams[i]:
• 70% of virtual (remote) groups tend to perform more poorly than co-located groups
• Those 30% of virtual groups that perform well, actually out-perform co-located groups by 30-40%
Considering the performance of most virtual groups, the area of opportunity for improving virtual performance is wide. And fortunately, the “secret” that our co-authors have developed to virtual performance improvement is the very solution they share in their book. Two words: Virtual Closeness. As Line advocates, “Don’t just bridge the distance, but start creating the Virtual Closeness.”
In an August 2013 blog post moderated by Hochschule für Tecknik und Wirtschaft Berlin (University of Applied Sciences), Marcus revealed official language from the book, stating:
“Virtual Closeness describes the perceived closeness between two or more group members and their perceived closeness to the context and space wherein they interact (what we chose to call “Purple Space”) after a period of little or no face-to-face contact.”

This official definition—and ample explanation around it—is included in Closeness at a Distance. Like other aspects of our physical world, Virtual Closeness is a concept made real by a belief in its existence.
The co-authors experienced Virtual Closeness even as they wrote about it; Virtual Closeness was both their process and their product. “Writing this book was a major learning curve for all of us,” shared Susanne. “In many instances, it represented directly the challenges we engage with in the book. We were a virtual group working together at a distance.“
Another innovative concept introduced in the book is that of Purple Space. It is a “glocal” construct negotiated by group members, and intimately connected with Virtual Closeness. In Closeness at a Distance, Purple Space is said to denote “an advanced level of maturity in working virtually, which is achieved through the reduction of complexity of that new interaction space in which groups meet and collaborate.”
Imagine, for instance, that two groups located in different parts of the globe have their own, local, context-effective cultures. We’ll call one culture “red” and the other “blue”. Recently, the two groups have been merged into one global team. Then,
“Consider a German manager who is part of [that] global team. He works from his local ‘blue’ space (or any other color) and is used to making preferably ‘blue’ decisions that benefit his local community. Overall growth, however, happens when organizations create an additional, new space of belonging in which people feel close to each other and start taking responsibility on a more global scale, thereby creating benefits for the whole group, project and / or organization…In our example, the organization will thrive once the German manager starts to facilitate ‘purple’ choices and decisions that benefit the entire group (‘blue’ and ‘red’) rather than only his local organizational interests” (Closeness at a Distance).

Thus, “Purple Space is a collaboration space that is intentionally created for the purpose of virtual collaboration of a group. It is characterized by a certain degree of frictionless communication and collaboration processes in a global environment and is thus an artificial social innovation that has to be built on purpose” (Closeness at a Distance). Purple Space is a conceptual innovation that makes practical space for virtual performance improvement.
Ample examples are provided in the book of various organizations and how they have—or, can—achieve Purple Space and Virtual Closeness between their virtual working groups. The following are select examples of those case studies provided:
• Creating an Online Community within RWE
• Improving the Virtual Communication of a Global IT-management Group: The Importance of Process Quality
• eBay: Improving Cooperation and Communication in a Global Team Through a 4-Step Program for Virtual Team Development
The business case for improving the virtual performance of teams is clear: virtual teams are to represent a cost-effective and time-efficient means for necessary global collaboration so that they create business opportunities—and not cost liabilities. However, experience and research show that virtual teams are not fulfilling their potential.Closeness at a Distance may be considered a guidebook for virtual teams, groups or networks seeking strategic advantage within our global business world.