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  • Writer's pictureflorian hoefling

#thIMPULSE - EDITION 07.2020 - Madiba's Birthday

thoughts & impulses about change & progress.


Why Today?*

Today is the 18th of July.

It is Madiba’s birthday.

Initially I wanted to send this article and publish thIMPULSE on the 4th of July.

The notion of “all men are created equal” resonates a lot with me. Especially the great promise of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

But then I stumble upon a twitter post by Chris Rock: “Happy White People Independence Day. The slaves were not free but I am sure they enjoyed the fireworks.”

This made me think!

I dug deeper and found out that also woman were not yet allowed to vote (until 1920 actually).

Difficult to say all men are created equal.

I am sure when the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 the founding fathers (white males) tried to do whatever possible and tried to be as progressive as possible (me being optimist or maybe naive), but well…

So I decided to look for another memorable day in July.

The universe conspired for me…

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on the 18th of July 1918 in Mvezo South Africa.

He was a Xhosa, born to the Thembu royal family.

In South Africa, Mandela is often referred to as “Madiba” his Xhosa clan name and is described as the “Father of the Nation” (South Africa).

He was a social rights activist and philanthropist and the leader of a campaign of peaceful, nonviolent defiance against the “white” South African government and its racist policies. This protest brought him a 27 years prison sentence from 1960 - 1987.

But he never gave up.

In 1993, Mandela and the South Africa President F.W. de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to dismantle the country’s apartheid system.

Nelson Mandela was serving as the first South African’s Black president, governing the country from 1994 – 1999.

He died on the 5th of December 2013 and will always be remembered as an inspirational leader, as a change maker for civil rights and the good in the world.

Two specific aspects of Madiba’ thoughts I like very much – his thought about change and about leadership.

“One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.” Nelson Mandela

“Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.” Nelson Mandela

Simon Sinek illustrates this: why leaders should be last to speak in meetings.

As the story goes Mandela accompanied Jongintaba, the tribal king who raised him, to tribal meetings. It was always the same procedure. The tribal king gathered his men in a circle and the men spoke. Jongintaba was always the one who listened first and spoke last. He summarized the main arguments, subtly concluding the meeting. By this he lead his tribe with understanding, empathy but also direction…always from the place of a listener first.

“The chief’s job, Mandela said, was not to tell people what to do but to form a consensus. ‘Don’t enter the debate too early,’ he used to say.”

So for all the leaders out there: be humble and waaaaaaaaiiiiittttttt…

Happy Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness on Madiba’s birthday!



Business Tools for Free

The “health” coach

Only when your health is in check, you can create something that lasts.

The Business Tool is rather a research platform for health:

Meet the Chopra Library – for integrative studies and whole health (

Basically it is a collection of studies and research done on complementary / alternative and integrative medicine. It emphasizes on a holistic, patient-focused approach to health and wellness.

Typically these approaches are evidence based, whereas observation is also considered to be evidence (not only double blinded placebo studies).

Examples range from Ayurveda to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) from homeopathy to mindfulness. In this library you can find all studies available within the integrative / complementary medicine world responding to symptoms / illnesses. 

Integrative medicine is most effective and sometimes the only approach to taking care of issues like chronic pain, stress, systemic inflammation, mental health and improvement of the quality of life.

Check it out to become more health savvy!


Business Idea for Free

The Corona Suit

Social presence and care for the ones consider at “RISK”

My vision: nobody must suffer from lack of human touch!


Currently there are lots of senior citizens and very acutely sick people that are considered high risk within the COVID-19 pandemic.

This means there are people out there that are in absolute quarantine and sometimes NOBODY is allowed to visit. In my family and extended acquaintances there are several cases of severe illness and loved ones are not allowed to visit. This hardens there burden by so much more as they are not only suffering from sickness but also from loneliness.

“Loneliness is a strong predictor of premature death”.


Design a 100% anti-germ suit. A suit that enables human interactions anywhere and also the possibility to touch and hug safely. Create a service around renting these suits. So the suits are always inspected and cleaned and safe to use for anybody.

Commercial concept:

It would be a rental service, possibly also to sell suits. This can be advertised in senior citizens residences and in hospitals. Why not to make a social enterprise out of it.

If the idea resonates with you and you would like to exchange further, e.g. scalability, commercial concept,…I am happy you contact me:


A Though about Culture

Chinese Culture - 8 lessons I learnt from living and working in China

#3 chabuduo 差不多, just about right.

Prepare yourself for 1 cm easily being 1.5 cm.

Once upon a time in a random 5 star hotel in China (business trip of course), I sat on the toilette and I was carefully inspecting the luxurious bathroom.

The first time I got stuck when looking at the shower cabin where the isolation rubber of the door did not close the door properly (which was confirmed later when I took the shower and the whole floor got wet).

Another thing I noticed were the draws, which were installed in a way that you could not open them completely when the shower door was open.

In my thoughts I played it out, eventually China will be a super power (of course, now is a superpower), but these little details might make a difference (for the moment, in the long term??).

The luxury 5 star hotel of an international chain is – cha bu duo – the same in China as in its home market.

But just cha bu duo!!

Cha bu buo translates into “difference not much”, but it actually means “close enough” or “just about right”.

There is an amazing essay about this by Hu Shih ( ending with the death of Mr. Cha Bu Duo:

“As Mr. Chabuduo was dying, he uttered in an uneven breath, "The living and the dead are cha.........cha........buduo – just about the same – and as long as everything is cha.........cha........buduo, then things will be fine. serious?" After these final words, he took his last gasp of air.”

This notion of no “no big deal” is something that might help to be kinder towards situations you do not understand or be more tolerant when things do not work exactly as foreseen.

On the other hand when it comes to manufacturing products or the delivery of a service cha bu buo has the potential to cause quite some trouble.

I can remember when prototypes where requested in China, some competitors had prototypes which all of them were completely different, “just about” the same specification.

In one of my first weeks when I started in China I was responsible for finalizing a reporting presentation for the divisional board of management (important stuff in my world at that time). I created the framework and the templates and asked for input from my colleagues. We had a specialist in our team who was solely responsible for reporting, so I was confident.

He assured that until Friday 5pm he will send me the complete presentation that I then can make the final touches and send it out.

I was happy about the commitment, pro-activity and engagement so I did not worry too much – the guy knows what he is doing.

When I then received the presentation at 5:15pm on Friday and I opened it, I thought the guy sent me the wrong version as the last 5 slides where completely missing.

The presentation was finished...cha bu duo.

Unfortunately the company bus left at 5:30 pm so I was not able to re-connect with my team member.

So I was stuck by myself with the finalization which of course took me a lot longer not knowing the details and specificities of the subject matter.

As the recipient of the presentation was sitting in Europe, it was unimaginable to send him a management presentation cha bu duo finished.

This was a tremendous first cha bu dou lessons learnt.

But of course all of that also has to be seen in the perspective of Chinese culture.

There are the people with power which request and there are the people bellow who execute. As there is typically no close exchange between the two layers and as the loss of face (for more details see my earlier post on #mingzi is the big risk, cha bu duo gives a solution for everyone.

And of course, it keeps the so important harmony within the group.

Be prepared, you will encounter cha bu duo everywhere.

For all perfectionist approaches and 100% specification, this will be something challenging, I can assure you.

But please do not be mistaken and get it negatively, by all means no!!!

Cha bu dou is a way of approximation…

  • It also speeds up things

  • It also assures that your statement has the permission to also be slightly wrong without lying

  • It also enables a great upside of improving something

Of course we in the west might interpret it as negative but from my point of view it is a very smooth and polite way of approaching proximity where precise measurements are not possible, not possible yet or unknown (or unfortunately sometimes just not taken care of).

I am personally a big fan of cha bu duo as it takes away pressure of correctness and strictness and it makes the interaction far more playful and dynamic.

But regardless, it is something you will very frequently encounter and I can only recommend to get used to this character trait.

Note to myself:

  • Use it as a way of continuously creating a shared opinion or understanding.

  • Set proper check marks before the deadline: small steps at a time.

  • Assure appreciation and valuation throughout the process.

  • At the beginning, do not manage by targets and outcome, manage by subtargets and quality gates.

  • Assure as much personal involvement in the delivery process as possible.

  • Consider what is very good, tolerable, acceptable and unacceptable. Make this clear and transparent. Set these boundaries.

  • Do not negotiate to the bottom, consider the best price not the lowest price, you might experience cha bu duo quality.

  • Set your own high cha bu duo standards and live them continuously. Everything always starts at the top.

  • Cha bu duo can empower kindness and tolerance in situation you do not understand


An Impulse for Leadership

Natural born leaders


A month ago on a Friday my 7 year old son came to me and asked: “Hey dad can you please do one day without phone and computer? Just for me.”

I was flabbergasted.

I was amazed.

And I said immediately: “yes of course.”

So three weeks ago it was my digital detox Sunday requested by my son (since then he actually reminds me every week:-).

What an amazing reflection of a seven year old kid, who of course, sees his father everyday sitting on his computer and being on the phone (home office).

Inside of me I asked myself: How does a 7 year old kid have the notion that digital detoxing is good for his father…or has he?

So I thought about natural-born leadership skills.

Here my hypothesis:

Leadership skills are instilled in kids naturally we just have to conserve them (and not to overwrite and format them).

In order to test my hypothesis I use the leadership framework of Emma Benameur, Head of the Global Leadership Institute; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum.

Her approach to leadership is inspired by Tim Brown’s Book Change by Design (which I did not read). She feels great resonance with great design as being intentional, purposeful, impact-oriented, relational, influential, inspirational and at times, radical. Inspired by design she defines four leadership archetypes that will be essential for future-ready leaders.

So let’s check:

The Architect

“The Architect” collaborates with different stakeholders and shapes environments and structures that empower and engage people. There is a great vision and navigates and curates complex systems.”

If you observe kids on the playground this occurs naturally. There is a constant integration and dis-integration of players. There is no discussion nor dispute (most of the times). They just take, give, assume the role of the leader, follower, the one who leaves or stays. It looks complex but works smooths and natural. They hand the leadership baton from one to another flexibly depending on the situation.

The Learner

“Like any great design entrepreneur, this type of leader fails and learns fast. They are playful, creative and open-minded.”

Put anything new or unknown on the floor, do not say anything and let kids circle around the item. They will naturally observe, touch and start engaging. They will try to manipulate, adjust, use and build in a playful and sometimes extremely creative manner. If things do not work, sometimes there is disappointment in the moment, but even then, if there is no one to console them, they will move on and try again and eventually succeed.

The Steward

“He / She believes in shared and sustained value creation and works to connect the organization and people to a purpose with a long-term mandate of creating social value. This type of leader takes responsibility for understanding the outcomes they are designing for.”

Once Tao and myself we had a great mission, to build a bow and arrow. So we took the saw and a pocket knife and went into the woods. Not after long we found a nice hazelnut bush. This bush had a perfect branch for the bow, so I was about to start sawing when Tao asked me all of a sudden: “Will this harm the tree?” Kids are incredibly sensible for social values and naturally take over responsibility to protect, nourish and make things flourish. 

The Mentor

“Like all great designers, this leader puts people first. They seek to unlock the potential of others, leads with empathy and energizes and develops the next generation.”

When you observe kids in mixed age groups and you just let them be, you can often see that the older naturally take care of the younger, support them, assist them... Especially if kids have just acquired new skills, they are very proud and eager to share and teach. They want to share this knowledge with the whole world. This phenomenon has nothing to do with the terrible business management attitude when people hold back information as some sort of power handle or hierarchical divider. 

All in all the more I observe and think about it the more I am convinced that kids can be great leadership role-models.

They come naturally with the most important leadership traits. 

My digital detox Sunday prescribed by my son went really well. I had a great day.

It was actually one that stood out: I really felt happy, light and playful.

Thanks Tao!


A Thought on Change

Change typologies

…the barometer how comfortable you feel with change.

I thought I am a big changer.

But finally when it comes down to changing:

  • I get nostalgic about the past.

  • I feel comfortable with the status quo.

  • I am afraid of what the future will bring.

My biggest learning field.

Otto Scharmer: Change-guru with his famous book Theory-U distinguishes three change-types:

  • The activist of the retro movement: “Let us go back to the order of the past.”

  • The defender of the status-quo: “Let’s go on like that.”

  • The protagonist of change: “How to step out of the past patterns and realize the future potentials.”

He obviously identifies the last type as the one needed right now to master today’s challenges and to set the right intentions and priorities to push for change.

But let’s wait for a minute…let’s exhale…

If I look at the retro movement, the nostalgia of the past, I see an immense possibility to foster positive patterns of change out of the past. When it comes down to the notion of stillness, nature, the knowledge our ancestors possessed about food, about spirituality and wisdom. When looking at Ms. Yin (see my article on Yin in comparion to Yang, I can see that she is smiling when mentioning the past.

Looking at the trends: meditation, mindfulness and spiritual practices, we are basically celebrating ancient traditions and wisdom…To change backwards and integrate these elements into our daily life will probably enhance the quality of our life tremendously. 

The defender of the status quo, is something I inherently reject…but of course, I find myself often trapped in not wanting to let go of the status quo.

Also here I see a lot of change potential.

In all manifestations, the status quo is the present. Staying and living in the present is certainly something to aim for as we can not bring back the past and the future has not yet occurred.

Being present is also being content with what is, being proud what we have achieved and celebrate the notion of “here and now”.

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” ― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

One thing is clear: life means change and this also means the status quo is changing all the time. However if we interpret the status quo as a fluid state which only manifests the “now” newly every time, I think we are on the right track. Let’s be humble…

But of course…

Coming to the protagonist of change, we need these people in order to progress. They have different names in different contexts: change-agents, change maker, innovators, first-mover…

We need people who innovate, who think outside the box and take risks to challenge the status quo in order to move forward (and to move the world forward).

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Henry Ford

Otto Scharmer has a very special take on the notion of learning and initiating change.

As we all have a tendency to reflect on the past and use these reflections to decide for the future.

He challenges this notion and argues that in order to grasp a future possibility, it is far more important for us to connect to this future possibility in order to sense its potential and opportunity:

"In order to rise to the occasion, leaders often have to learn how to operate from the highest possible future, rather than being stuck in the patterns of our past experiences. Incidentally, when I use the word “leader,” I refer to all people who engage in creating change or shaping their future, regardless of their formal positions in institutional structures."

Otto Scharmer

I am sure also Henry Ford would have agreed to this approach, and so do I.


Quote of the month

“I used to think the top global environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought with 30 years of good science we could address those problems, but I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy – and to deal with these we need a spiritual and cultural transformation and we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

Gus Speth


Journaling Question

To dive into one aspect very common for us these days that causes fear – MONEY.

What do you believe about money?

Take 20 minutes to free-write on everything that comes to your mind. No structure nor correct grammar nor a real thread.

Happy progress!!



Thanks for reading until the end...I feel humbled and grateful!

You have feedback?

Please leave me feedback in the comments or send me an email: .





Why today?

Business Idea for Free

A Thought about Culture

An Impulse about Leadership

An Impulse to Change


Journaling Question

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