Nicole Kopp: «We Humans Have a Limitless Capacity to Learn»

AI, hybrid and agile working. The new worlds of work will continue to occupy us in the new year. It's about dealing with the principles of New Work and finding a personal connection to the new reality of work, says occupational psychologist Nicole Kopp in the interview.

Now that we've had a few days off over the festive period, what does it take for employees to look forward to going back to work?

Nicole Kopp: There are various factors that motivate us at work. It is important that employees know what drives them. This can be the exciting, meaningful task that the job offers. The interaction with the team. Or the creative opportunities. A working environment that is characterized by appreciation and psychological security is key. If people have the confidence to express ideas and criticism, they are happy to go to the office.

And if none of this is the case?

Life is too short to be unhappy. That's why I actually see quitting a job as an option in such a case. But it's also OK if the job serves purely there to earn money. However, I think it's important that it does so only for a short time. It's more fulfilling when people do work that they really want to do.

What is New Work?

There are various ideas about the new world of work. Nicole Kopp sticks to the definition by authors Joana Breidenbach and Bettina Rollow: «New work is the transformation of the world of work that focuses on employees and their skills, in which hierarchies are flattened or even completely abolished and replaced by shared leadership or self-organization».

Agility is often mentioned in the same breath as New Work. Agility is originally a principle of software development and is the ability to react to change. The agile manifesto contains clear guidelines: four principles, twelve values, various methods. In comparison, New Work has no binding values and principles. The principles of New Work can be implemented with agility.

The world of work is changing: what can I do if I am overwhelmed by these changes?

The most important thing is to talk about it and face up to your fears. I am convinced that we humans have a limitless capacity to learn. Today, every elderly person has a cell phone, which was not a given a few years ago. Change is part of life, but you don't have to go along with everything. Not everyone has to be active in the metaverse.

And what if my working environment is still hierarchical or, for example, the boss or older team members refuse to accept and implement the new reality?

There are two approaches for employees here: Firstly, point out the advantages of the new model. For example, that flexible opening hours lead to longer service hours and better customer service. Secondly, show how the company's existing difficulties can be improved. For example: hybrid working increases the radius of applications, is an important solution to the skills shortage.

«Hybrid working increases the radius of applications, is an important solution to the skills shortage.»

Nicole Kopp, occupational psychologist

Nevertheless, not every industry is suitable for the new working world models.

It's not about implementing everything 1:1, but about companies looking at the principles of "New Work" and asking themselves what can be applied in their industry. I know the example of a bakery that has moved the start of work from 2 am to 6 am. The employees work better that way. Fresh bread is available in the afternoon.

Because artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly important, employees should strengthen their soft skills, their personal and social skills. What exactly does that mean?

Internal structures are becoming more important than external ones. In particular, this means relationship skills, critical faculties and communication skills. It helps if I develop an awareness of what is needed in my working environment. Then I look at who is already doing this well, who could be my mentor, or where I can continue my education with courses, videos or blog articles. Of course, personalized coaching is great, but you can also learn a lot in a standard course. The good thing is that you can work on soft skills and progress is clearly visible. The most important thing, however, is good self-reflection: it helps me understand what I can improve.

Nicole Kopp

As a consultant and coach, the occupational psychologist supports managers, teams and organizations on their way into the new world of work. She co-founded the consulting firm GoBeyond in 2020.


Manuela Donati

Manuela Donati