— Cultural Sources of Newness

A typical day?

What does a work day look like for a member of the unit of Cultural Sources of Newness? We are so different in this team that I cannot say what typifies the days of my colleagues, but I can review one of mine. Yesterday, for example, I worked through emails before coming to the office and checked facebook for new posts from colleagues and friends around the world, saw updates from Creative Clash colleagues after the conference in Warsaw I had not been able to attend, promised to comment on a text by BMM. While riding the bus to work, read a beautifully written article by my friend DG, a retired professor of psychology, about his reflections on an art exhibit.  

Arrived at the WZB and took the elevator with MBK, who clapped her hand over her eyes when she saw me, remembering she owed me a contribution to a collection I am compiling. Stopped off at the office of MO, learned that she had lost empirical data she had on her computer–and much, much more when her home was robbed last weekend. Was followed into my own office by IF, kindly reminding me that the deadline for submitting an abstract for the edited volume he is preparing on “Studio Studies” and creative production had actually passed. Saw his eyes light up again when I described the case material I intend to write about and I promised to deliver by the end of the weekend. SM stood at the door to update me on arrangements for another book in the making that I need to act on, and I responded with information from my email exchanges late last night and early this morning with the editor.

Delightedly opened amazon deliveries that had arrived while I was travelling: Christmas shopping progress at all times of day and night.

On the way down to the ground floor to have our group photo taken, de-briefed with the RL who is compiling and analysing material on evaluations of artistic interventions. After group pictures, spontaneous decision to add a few individual professional pictures in the sunshine and green grass we would not expect to enjoy in Berlin in December. And shots capturing the great working relationship with CN.

Back upstairs: explained to KM how to extract new case material for our data base on artistic interventions from a book I had read while flying to and from France during the week, asking her to copy the pages and return the book to me so that I can write about it for the culturalsourcesofnewness blog in the coming days. CN reminded me to focus on reading the student papers she had printed out for me because class will start in a few hours: She asked if there is anything more I need for the upcoming trip to Copenhagen for the Creative Clash project, handing me flight and hotel information she has prepared. My head was spinning too fast to answer any more precisely than “yes, there most probably is, but I do not know what!”

Started to read the papers from my 25 students, each having written ca. 3 pages, happy that they have taken the assignment seriously. Found my notes from previous runs of this course in my computer, as well as the handouts to print out for the students. Printer is at the other end of the hall, good to have a reason to move a bit between bouts of reading. Met CR at the printer and asked whether he will need a walk outside soon, before my class starts. Speed read more student assignments to get a feeling for how they are thinking about the material.

Walked around a few blocks with CR before it started to rain, reviewed developments at the WZB (letting off steam in the fresh air), discussed whether a contract extension needs to be applied for before Christmas, bumped into colleagues from the personnel department and agreed on how to proceed in another case as well.

Read more student papers, responded to urgent emails, printed out attachments to read later. Discovered that a page was missing from the reader I had compiled for the students, searched frantically for the original, CN got help from the library to replace it.

Talked with JH about her work as a member of the parliamentary inquiry commission on “Internet und digitale Gesellschaft”, and the stress of juggling attending the next meeting there with the need for her presence at the Board of Trustees meeting at the WZB next week. MH stopped by on his way out, touching base about his trip to Copenhagen tomorrow and mine next week, and about issues at the WZB. Two minutes before class was scheduled to start downstairs, rapid conversation with CN and BS about one of the books we are preparing, a project that is giving us extreme pleasure.

Downstairs 25 students from all around the world awaited the beginning of the block seminar on cross-cultural management, many chemical engineers, some economists, two arts students. Three days now, five hours each, focused on making sense of the literature. Three more days in January, again five hours each, to apply the literature to personal cases. The course I had originally been asked to teach for the “Management im Gesundheitswesen” of the TU has been discovered by students from many different departments at the TU and also from Humboldt, making for a stimulating mix of participants. The room filled with curiosity and laughter. Texts by Schein, Hofstede, Trompenaars and, yes, also Berthoin Antal came alive. Other authors to follow on Friday and Saturday.

During coffee break, back upstairs to cancel an evening meeting with an artist, sadly, but after late return from France yesterday, my body and soul crying out for time at home. Talked with AS on the phone about her progress writing her thesis and meeting tomorrow. More email checks and responses, promising I will give feedback on a questionnaire design and a draft article before the end of the weekend.

Class ended at 19:20, a bit later than planned, the feedback from group work had led to more discussion, I had not noticed the time. Back upstairs, typed up my notes from the course. Called home and learned that D was still hard at work, so I had time to wrap up a few more things on my desk and on the floor…

Ended the work day writing a list of what needs to be done tomorrow, over the weekend, and before Christmas break. Noticed that JH’s door was open and reminded her that we both should be leading lives beyond work and get home before we have no energy left to take us there.

A typical day? No, because I do not teach regularly and the photographer comes only once a year. Yes, because every day is filled with multiple projects, and a great deal of communication in person and via emails. A good day? No, because no time to write. Yes, because progress on many projects, and most of all because I saw the students eye’s light up as they discovered how talking about the literature on culture and applying it to their own experiences helps make sense of things in new ways.