Insights

Now is the time of transformation

[Translate to Englisch:]

"Covid19 could be our real entry into the 21st century. A farewell to old patterns of thought and action. Whether we have achieved this, they will be able to tell us in 100 years. In any case we should not let the Corona crisis go unused and not think small, small and above all too short-term. Now is the time of transformation to tackle something really new."

How are decisions made, which networks are at work?

Katzmair: Sovereign is who decides on the state of emergency. We have seen how governments around the world have declared a state of emergency and how governments, together with expert teams of virologists, economists and security forces, have made decisions of the greatest importance concerning economic activity and personal liberties.

Many of these measures have obviously been useful and successful. Now that the spread of the virus - at least in some countries - has been brought halfway under control by these measures that have been adopted, we are entering a new phase. Because those in power are facing a complex, damned tricky and dangerous reality.

There is no one, I stress no one, not here in Austria or anywhere else in the world, who knows the full nWay out of the economic, social and psychological wreckage left by Covid 19.

This is where every power is currently reaching its limits. This path into the future cannot be decreed, but it requires the collective intelligence and creativity of each individual to find this path - the paths are created as they are walked, never before has this saying been truer.

And let us not make too much of forecasts. All extrapolations and projections will probably not be correct anyway. Things will always turn out differently than you think. And we should therefore not be surprised that there will be some surprises - both positive and negative - in the weeks, months and years ahead.

How will we make decisions? How do we get the right information if nobody knows anything?

Katzmair: If you don't know the way into the future, you do two things. First, bring the brightest minds you know: scientists, entrepreneurs, pioneers, doers, artists, lateral thinkers, people from civil society and get a common picture of the situation with them. The more diverse the troops the better, because the different points of view are like medicine. A doctor also has not only one medicine for all diseases. So we need different types and characters to find a cure for our problems.

The second thing you do when you have such a platform of creative minds together: Initiate experiments, run hackathons, encourage networking and innovation. How do we make schools, nursing homes, sports events, concerts, how do we make cinema "new" in the future? How do we make Europe new, like our social systems? How do we make our systems more resilient?

If we do not know how to do it, we have to find out, we have to learn. Mistakes must not be punished, they are necessary.

And importantly: give the individual targets, guidelines as to the objectives, but within these guidelines give the individual autonomy, empower and encourage them to use their own minds. The solutions for the schools will be different in the Bregenzer Wald than in the densely built-up Vienna. The small gym will develop different solutions with its customers than a large gym chain. The only important thing is that the players are networked, learn from each other, so that the schools in the Bregenzer Wald can exchange their experiences with the schools in Vienna via platforms and benefit from each other.

Every day now, politicians' statements are being dug up, which have meanwhile turned out to be false. How do we move from this error-picking to a culture of learning?

Katzmair: It is in the nature of the crisis and the unknown that we make mistakes. Especially in February, we had all misjudged the situation. There is an enormous amount of learning going on at the moment, also in medicine. It makes little sense to act with reproaches. Conversely, it is nonsense to say "Everything was right, everything was perfect, we always had everything under control". Much more meaningful would be an open, active and common maneuver criticism: What did we learn from the first wave? What do we do differently and better when the second wave comes? These are the right questions in a situation like the present one.

Are you working on a think tank of think tanks to get out of the crisis?

Katzmair: In a situation in which the future is unclear, it is crucial to create a common picture of the situation in the here and now, a distinct culture of a common presence across all camps and milieus - starting with the virologists and health cracks, the social partners and extending to the brass band and voluntary fire brigade.

If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. The virus will keep us busy for many years to come, so we have to walk the path together.

What we don't need is a ruthless dispute between experts about air sovereignty in the interpretation of the crisis. A think tank of think tanks should help to invite the best minds in Germany, Switzerland and Austria and beyond to develop common situations in a close rhythm and to synchronise themselves so that they themselves become smarter and the decision-makers get better information. In doing so, we use technologies for decision making as they are also used by engineers. These are completely new techniques and ways in which we bring together the intelligence of the individual in such a way that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I am not naive here - the power struggle for the true, only correct interpretation and action will continue, but we want to create a coalition of those who do not want to take part in the fight for know-it-all, but who want to break out of the old ways of thinking and acting of the past.  

Will our lives go back to the way they were?

Katzmair: We all catch ourselves these days in what we call the sentimentality trap: It somehow becomes the same again. The world didn't end in 2008.

In 2008 we had 600 companies in short-time work, today there are already more than 42,000. That is a completely different order of magnitude.

This is not a standard crisis that leads back to the status quo before the crisis. We will live with this virus for years. The hairdressers, the gym, the schools, the nursing homes, the cinemas, public transport, tourism, the authorities. There will be massive transformations.

Our social systems, our federalism, even Europe will be different. If they are not different, they will not survive, quite simply.

Can our economic system continue at the same time?

Katzmair: The economy is like a bicycle. When it loses momentum, it falls over. The important thing about an economy is flow.

Never before have all countries in the world said: We are now bringing our production back into the country, we want to be less dependent. Never before has everyone said: We want to concentrate more on ourselves again. We are now taking a holiday at home again.

  • What does that mean for an export-oriented country that earns 6 out of 10 euros in exports?
  • What does it mean for a tourist country that depends on guests coming from abroad?

What does it mean for the costs? The things were produced abroad because they were cheaper there? If we do that now: does that mean that everything becomes more expensive and many people can't afford things anymore? Or that the wages have to go down in our country? What are the implications of: now we become self-sufficient again and do everything ourselves.

This is a systemic crisis of a worldwide system. A systemic crisis can only be solved systemically, that means together. For us, at least, this means European, since 80% of trade takes place within Europe.

If we lose Europe now, if we do not become European now, our economy will look bleak.

Will there still be money and energy to deal with the climate crisis?

Katzmair: The way out of the climate crisis is also an unknown path. This is the common one between Covid19 and the heating of the earth. And while we are talking here it is drier outside than ever before, we had the warmest winter in the history of measurements. Climate change isn't gonna stop just because we're sitting at home not flying.

We are forced by Covid 19 to learn things that we need to learn in order to prevent the total overheating of our planet. It is the same virtues and the same mindset that we need:

  •     A culture of shared learning and development platforms across the board
  •     A culture of the ability to develop common situations.
  •     A culture of curiosity, courage and innovation
  •     A post-ideological culture that strengthens the state, the economy and civil society equally and makes them capable of learning.
  •     A culture in which we meet as companions and not as enemies.

Should we become dwarfed and the coexistence slide into a conflict of wild, ideological distribution struggles, we should all withdraw into our micro-regions and the Neusiedler See should remain accessible only to the Neusiedlersee inhabitants, and the Bodensee only to the Bodensee inhabitants, we have lost.

We cannot solve the economic and ecological problems if we are fragmented, polarised and divided and fight each other. By the way, this is also a challenge for the social partners to reinvent themselves and to develop a new culture of joint innovation.

We must have the courage to think big: let us imagine the end of this century to be the year 2100, the year when our children or grandchildren reach retirement age. In order to prevent the most disastrous effects of global warming, the European Commission estimates that 20% of GDP must be put in the hands of the people.

The money we are investing now should be seen in the context of this whole century. This should be our discount period. And it would therefore be unreasonable not to use this investment to renew our energy and transport systems, our infrastructure, our cities and regions towards more resilient, sustainable, climate-neutral systems and solutions.

Covid19 could be our real entry into the 21st century. A farewell to old patterns of thought and action. Whether we have achieved this, those after us in 100 years will be able to say. In any case, we should not leave the Corona crisis unused and not think small, small and above all too short-term. Now is the time of transformation to tackle something really new.