BY EDWIN WINTER
Last week I was in Istanbul for business. With our Turkish associate Bahar Kayserilioglu I visited several companies, mainly companies in financial services, energy and the chemical industry. I didn’t visit Taksim Square, I didn’t even come close. Istanbul is a city with 15 million inhabitants so the chance of coming across a water cannon is extremely small.
But Taksim Square was everywhere. People talk about the clash between citizens and the police all day long. They don’t agree with the plans to transform the open Taksim Square into a building and shopping mall. So they argue. But what really put the fuse in the powder keg was the attitude of the government led by Prime Minister Erdogan.
In the streets I’ve heard people say that Erdogan has brought a lot of prosperity and economic growth to Turkey and people are very happy with that. But at the same they say Erdogan is an authoritarian. They say that he doesn’t listen to the people, that he doesn’t want any dialogue. The tension on the streets has been growing for days and the trees that have to be taken from Taksim Square merely were the straw that broke the camel.
Erdogan’s power cannot stop the need for openness, the need for involvement of the people. Exemplary for the seriousness and solidarity among the Istanbul citizens was the protest march of football supporters from Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray who brotherly marched together. Also people from different religions walked hand in hand. These people will not be oppressed. Our Turkish associate Bahar Kayserilioglu concluded that the real Turkish spirit has returned.
The need for transparency, supported and facilitated by the rise of social media, is forcing the government to reach out. The funny thing is that in a way, the same development occurs in the companies we visited. Employees want meaning and so leaders have to mobilise people and involve middle management and employees in the vision and strategy of the company. Sure, companies are no political democracies but meaningfulness is starting to become as important as organisational structures. Taksim Square is everywhere.
One of the reasons for this transition is that 1 out of 3 current and future employees are generation Y or Z. There are a lot of young people. And young people have the potential and the energy to speed up business. They are very ambitious. But they have different needs. They want to be involved, they want to feel they really belong to a group of people or to a shared vision, a meaningful vision. They communicate in different ways and are more independent than people from older generations. Companies struggle to connect with these youngsters.
A good example of this search for connection with young people is Personal Vision. Every time we told about our concept of Personal Vision – a personal development tool that clarifies on an individual basis your higher goal (why do I exist?), your audacious goal (what am I aiming for?), your core values (what do I stand for?) and your core qualities (What do I excel at?) – the people we talked with were very interested to hear more. They were also very interested in the way we initiate participative change processes in which we involve all managers and employees in building a vision and strategy for companies. This country seems to be ready for a different approach.
It was amazing to feel the presence of Taksim Square without even having been there. At the same time it was very inspiring to feel the energy of ambition. Hopefully Prime Minister Erdogan will find a way to connect with the people. Because Turkey still has lots of potential to develop.