Member Spotlight | Barbara Flügge PhD
An Ambassador, Mentor and Member of the Leadership Circle of WomenH2H, an Adviser on digital value creators and Safety Net Builder.
I am a painter, writer, and traveller consuming everything I see, hear and observe. Travelling inspires me, be it in Spain, Canada, USA, or Taiwan. I call myself a positive expressionist dedicating paint and canvas to new colour compositions following Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, feeling the connection to Magnelli. On my art trip crossing the polar circle to Lofoten Islands, I captured the pure nature, mountain scene, and secret beaches. I like to engage with locals, learn how they live, what motivates, what challenges them. That leads to my other passion: I am an author. #MobilityMovesMinds will be my first book as a publisher, where my interviewees and their digital, mental, and physical mobility stories will shape the format and design of the book.
A German, yet cosmopolitan entrepreneur, leader and enthusiast who connects tech trends, industrial heritage, consumers, and ecosystems. PhD in Management & Economics, former Chief Solutions Expert with SAP, Leader in IoT, Service Marketplaces, Smart Cities and Mobility, Consulting Manager in US-Startup Ariba and Strategy Consultancies. Now as Founder & CEO of Swiss-based digital value creators (DVC), she identifies new markets and designs smart, healthy living, learning and workplaces. She designs personal and organizational safety nets through ecosystems, social & business model innovation, and interdisciplinary transformation. Growth and Resilience Build are the cornerstones of her work. Her upcoming Book Project on digital, mental, and physical mobility is open for crowdfunding #MobilityMovesMinds.
When it comes to the role of women at work today, what inspires you and what keeps you up at night?
What inspires me is being more out there speaking up, leading, innovating, and driving on – regardless of bumpy roads and hard winds.
What inspires me is that there are hidden female champions that will come up to the surface at the right time in the right momentum – like male innovators did when preparing the scene and being focused to face the storm.
What keeps me up is that despite all the efforts we undertook in our personal and business roles, we still have to argue about qualification, competences, and answer all these “why”s: Why are you interested in a senior position? Why are you looking into both roles, motherhood and being a businesswoman? Why are you quitting a job to look into the next trends though not knowing what is around the corner? These “why”s are typically not being addressed to men. So where is the difference?
What’s your goal around that and why is it important to you? Why is that a priority for you right now?
My goal is to contribute to equal opportunities driven by talent, expertise, creativity, spirit and passion, and facilitating the chance for every woman in the world to take and live her own decisions.
In any of the roles, I work in or engage with, as a manager, team lead, expert, adviser, coach, speaker, my goal is to be a contributor and influencer, a supporter to ignite the development of the individual: I look into talent discovery, job enrichment, orientation seeking, personal and career development, into feedback from the audience that reaches me afterwards. It comes naturally along with my dedication in the assignments.
My goal is to always contribute with my expertise and experience, and share. Having said so, this includes the development of myself. I look into what others are doing differently and where I can learn.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve personally had as a woman at work? How did you try to overcome them?
Challenges are always good. You need to know that I have been the first woman many times in the technology and strategy management sectors – let me give you two examples: I finished applied sciences studies as the first woman in a novel study program among six other students. I was the first female manager at SAP outside the boardroom that hired the utmost qualified assistant and it happened to be a male assistant.
Did I face challenging times? Yes – not with the subject, nor with the roles or environments as such. Challenges come across when own speed and drive and competences do not match with the organizational system.
These organizational systems are characterized by settled habits, structures, buddy networks, and established comfort zones. Unless comfort zones get questioned by the establishment itself, chances are not always accessible to be taken for us as women - despite experience, expertise, professional qualifications, and personal drive! Coping with challenges asks for a good self-esteem, confidence in yourself, and looking into chances as alternatives! There are so many opportunities out there, not all of them are visible nor reachable, others are.
Who or what would have made it easier? What do you wish you would have done then?
I am not a person that is looking back. There is a tendency to say “what if” – honestly, “what ifs” are fine for future options. Having grown up so to speak in a male-driven organizational environment, I aimed always to follow my instinct – being it a topic, a trend, driven by my female instinct. I guess what I could have done more often is to ask, “what to do differently”.
Many women are overwhelmed by the constant changes at work, frustrated with conflicts or disheartened by office politics, drama and draining emotions. What have you done in the past to help you get through such moments?
“Love it – Change it – Leave it” is my credo, driven by instinct and observing the scene. However, the further up the career path is, the longer the instinct takes to come through to develop a strong voice. And we start to weigh in what we are trading in when giving up a position or opinion. And this again comes back to “what to do differently”.
Frustration and disheartening are happening – I experienced it when working as a change manager and consulting manager simultaneously, experiencing a colleague who addressed me like a minor, another one who diminished my work anonymously at the upper management – I always ask myself first if there is anything I did wrong – an impression, a statement. If that is cleared, I withstand.
Learning to say “no” and not falling into the traps, that others build are the two key elements. Have good faith in yourself and be aware that in most of the cases it is not about you, but about the one who is misleading, conflictual.
Examples are many: a senior colleague attacked me verbally saying “this did hurt you now, right?” In another case, I asked the unit leader what the problem was: the problem was his private matter and had nothing to do with me.
Who do you follow on these subjects? Are there authors, influencers, leaders, sites, blogs you follow?
I follow other disciplines, including physical science and literature. In my private life, I am an artist, a painter.
I study contemporary female artists and the artists’ wives in the expressionist era for example where they inspired, co-created and influenced their spouses or life partners but did not have the chance to become visible.
Sophie Täuber-Arp is a rare exception of making herself visible during her lifetime – I am a big fan of her artworks and the way how she dedicated her life to being herself.
Do you participate in other women groups or communities? What have you seen work in such communities and what was missing for you?
I have been engaging mostly in entrepreneurial communities. When looking into women groups or communities, I watched out for the can-do attitude and drive to shape the future. That is what I found in WomenH2H when Natalia talked to me about it!
Why is it important for women to be surrounded by other women and what is the role we play in each other’s lives?
Inspiration, dedication, and creativity are leveraged best when being in a multi-diverse environment. Respect for the position of others and manoeuvring between the lines (of business fire) can get easily lost in a business world driven by “average” and not “outstanding”.
The managers and executives that opted for me, the teams, and peers I have worked with were encouraging and focused on the topic and the competences!
I have only encountered a few female setups throughout the first 20 years of my career. Per default the sectors I worked in and the settings, my business world was mostly male-driven. That has changed over the past years to foster diversity in every dimension. I created a shakeup through the hiring process of my assistant. My interest is the mindset, the creative and intellectual capacity of individuals rather than skin color, sexual orientation, or appearance for example.
We as women need to keep moving on to supporting any individual’s talent and pathway – including female talents and female experts. I believe that our lives are inspired by the ones we meet, we engage with, we have fun with. These are the memories that help me carry on.
What activities could we do so that we master together how to get back our zest, thrive on change, lead with grace and confidence and co-create the beautiful workplaces we all long for?
You already named it.
Confidence is what needs to be won back – we lost confidence in our capabilities over time surrounded by political or tactical or distracting games being played by others.
Grace is an attitude that asks for being mastered and not just said – my speed is a different one than many others and there are occasions I need to reassure myself and for the others 😊 that I am waiting and they are joining and vice versa – so I am here on a constant learning curve, too.
Thrive on change asks for clarity: clarity about trends, clarity where the hotspots are and how to turn ourselves into the ones that co-create and lead.
Looking into the chances rather than combating old fashioned systems. Changing existing workplaces asks for connecting everyone by confidence, grace, thrive, expertise and a can-do-together attitude.
How do you see your role in building this community? And is there anything else you want to add that you think would be helpful for us to know as we are building this community?
I am here to share, influence, and give back – as mentor, coach, adviser. Based on my business experience in digital marketplaces, business model innovation, and community operations, I see my role in helping to design the business foundation of the community and make it even stronger. Stronger in the sense of establishing an education program around personal and organizational safety nets, digitized business, and WomenH2H brand building in every country and region of the world. Stronger in the sense to exchange and learn from you, being an individual, an organization, and a local community.
My initiative and my new book on #MobilityMovesMinds are the output of multi-cultural personal and business-related experience and pathways that evolved throughout my latest efforts on intelligent mobility services and solutions. #MobilityMovesMinds focuses on a novel social business framework dedicated to serving mental, digital, and physical mobility of everyone. Herein, the initiative asks for crowdfunding to give back work assignments to homeless people and the initiative gives back to any funding individual and organization by a unique editorial format: covering your story, ideas, and your contributions and gives back the efforts of homeless people.