Ulrich Schoop is the Co-Founder of The Dive, a combination of a consultancy, community and movement for social innovations. In an interview, he talks about what makes it so difficult for leaders to change, the totalitarian potential of Silicon Valley giants and the right attitude for organizational evolvement.

I attended one of his workshops on Spiral Dynamics, a brilliant model developed by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan. Based on the view that humans are part of systems in the form of tribes or organizations, the model explains how systems evolve dynamically across different stages. It can be perfectly used to understand where teams, companies and entire societies currently are in their development. Depending on in which frequency a system is, decisions and actions will look totally different. Especially for an individual wondering why there is hierarchy in place or why there is resistance against change, the model is very helpful to put things into perspective.

One of the reasons to found The Dive, Ulrich Schoop says, “was that I realized when I was a management consultant that our mindset and attitude are extremely important in a complex world. Technologically we are pretty much advanced, but our mindsets are not. Hence, my purpose is to help synchronizing these two by developing our mindsets, our “internal” software.”

Here are his thoughts on the future of work.

Which aspects of the future of work do you consider most essential?

I see a trend towards higher consciousness and this is not an elitist phenomenon. I am concerned about the wider impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) with an enormous potential but also threat. I am also concerned about political disruptions. We have to see the future of work as a societal topic, not just as an economic topic happening inside companies.

What needs to change over the next 10 years to create not just economic but also societal wealth?

We have an economy from the 20th century, we have the challenges of the 21st century and we have organizational structures from the 18th and 19th centuries.

To bring all of these together becomes more and more important.

Given our worldwide connectedness, climate change and terrorism, we need global answers, which only make sense if there are enough individuals and organizations to take responsibility. In the past, it did not bother you when something happened in your neighbor region but today as the world is so intertwined, you cannot ignore what is happening in China, Syria or South America. We need a systemic way of thinking and clarity on where we can act.

Many people in power positions strongly feel as victims, and this makes it difficult for them to take responsibility.

The question is also how democracies will develop. Will frustration and anger dominate with totalitarian answers, or will be we able to activate other frequencies – such as the green frequency in Spiral Dynamics, which I consider necessary to solve global issues? The reality is that our current global mindset is dominated by regression.

What will make decision-makers change their attitude and go a different path?

I do not deal with the world’s decision-makers. As for the ones I deal with, I try to make them go out of their comfort zone, open up themselves as humans and go through their own transformation process. Leaders need to understand that they are part of the change and cannot command change top down.

The other important aspect is to show appreciation for the existing. It is crucial to build upon what people have accomplished and which has been the right thing so far. But the revolutionary part is when destruction comes from the inside as opposed to change coming from the outside.

Resistance is high when change comes from the outside.

So, working on oneself is part of the process. You need to face your dark sides and blind spots. Executives are just humans with their own fears and sorrows. My experience is that they open up based on trust, if you do not have a political agenda.

What is your wish for the new generation joining the workforce in 20 years from now?

My wish for the new generation is that they find conditions in which they can thrive freely. This is not trivial. For a long time I have taken this for granted but I see it more fragile in the meantime.

Totalitarian surveillance already exists at a country level. This is will eventually have an effect on companies as they cannot take themselves out of the trend. The impact on the area of work will be immense. Therefore, not only countries but also companies including

Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Google need to deal with totalitarian aspects as they carry totalitarian potential.

It is crucial that companies reflect on their mindset and culture at a deeper level rather than using it as a fitness program for leaders. Especially in Silicon Valley I see a significant discrepancy between a focus on purpose and value on the one hand, and partially very rigid business models on the other hand, where it is about advertisement and attention at the cost of ethical values. These companies are rarely sensitive by themselves. So far, they tend to react when their customers complain.

What makes an ideal type organization from your perspective?

There is not an ideal type of organization as there is always a price you pay for any type of organization, even agile ones. What helps is when people have advanced social skills and awareness of the price. We at The Dive do not suggest any specific form of organization or leadership model. We are very much focused on building circles. Circles can be built in different ways. They can be egalitarian or authoritarian.

An agile organization ideally has the maturity to know what it needs.

As in Spiral Dynamics there is a menu of models and it is important to know which model to choose from the menu and to be aware that you need to iterate again and again, with a positive attitude. For me these are the ingredients of a good organization.

Interview by ASLI TOKSAL.


Check where you currently are as an organization…

Has your organization ever received mindset consulting?

If yes, what was the outcome and what has changed in the meantime?

If no, which activities do you perform at any level to view your organization as a system and as part of other systems?

Considering teams and organizations as systems has helped me and many of my colleagues find holistic solutions addressing root causes rather than reactively curing symptoms. I found The Dive’s workshop on Spiral Dynamics very insightful. If you enjoy learning about new work topics, check out The Dive’s own magazine Neue Narrative, a resource full of critical thinking in the field of leadership and organizational change.