Afrika kommt!_Boehringer Ingelheim
21 June 2017
Sarah Pfeffer

“Afrika kommt!”

Does diversity recruitment mean hiring different people with different backgrounds, or does it mean creating a work-place with different gender workforce? It can be both and more. At Boehringer Ingelheim we believe that diversity with its different forms unlocks innovation and drives the growth of our organization. For us, ‘Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is making the mix work’. A high performing, balanced team is composed by differences and similarities to achieve the same goals. We focus on fostering an inclusive environment which allows diversity to flourish. This is what “Afrika kommt!” is about. Manuela Pastore, Global Manager for social entrepreneurial initiative Making More Health at Boehringer Ingelheim, shares her thoughts on the relation between Diversity & Inclusion and Innovation. A guest feature by Taiseer Kuzbari.

How can you describe “Afrika kommt!” initiative and what is the added value behind training young executives from Saharan countries at Boehringer Ingelheim?


“Afrika kommt!” is an interesting initiative that allows Africans young specialists and executives, but also traditional business managers in huge Corporates to interact and to co-create. It trains personal skills (e.g. leadership, teamwork, diverse thinking and awareness) and it’s a way to make social innovation happen. In addition, it is an opportunity to know about the own values, share different points of views and learn from each other.


Besides the official definition of the program as a joint-initiative for capacity building by German industry, it is a win-win activity that empowers social innovation and allows to think business differently that can lead even to innovative business models or at least business models with innovative elements.



How Diversity can drive the innovation at Boehringer Ingelheim?


We do a lot of things and activities, because they are part of our culture and values. We are used to them since years without realizing that they are not normal for others. Then, suddenly, these same things and activities are questioned, not “true” any longer. While working together on projects, different questions will come up. The lack of the same value system and how we look at the things, the different usage, look and feel of items forces us in a positive way to be creative, to think about processes and ways of doing which are learned since many years.


At “home and under normal conditions” these deeply held beliefs on how things are done are extremely difficult to surface and even harder to discuss and change.


In this, diversity and inclusion are a clear win-win for business managers and the African executives.



How can we link social entrepreneurship with Diversity and inclusion?


The direct contact with the outer world and especially Changemakers – e.g social entrepreneurs or people who put the social need and not the profit only in the focus of what they do - has another big advantage: These stakeholders really understand how to make their message resonate with their audience. They get immediate feedback for what they do. They interact from human being to human being and develop not just based on agency research and statistics, but put values in the focus. Inclusion means to think also about intended and unintended positive and negative effects, about impact making and performance management



Does inclusiveness or an inclusive organization allow diversity to flourish? And how?


Business as usual normally is a short-term approach on how we think and do projects. It is probably the best and easiest way to make profit – as much and as quick as possible, but it is just a short-term win. Because it is not inclusive, it does not care about what happens next and it is not a real change driver, but builds again and again on the same processes. This might work for many years. However, in the last years many companies failed, just because they trusted too much in what they had for many years and they had forgotten about adaptation, different needs and to ensure to develop together with the society.


Inclusiveness and an inclusive system ,including also the idea of being able to take risks by trying innovative ways,leads mid- and long-term wise to innovative business models and system changes. These changes are essential for the business of tomorrow.



What were the learnings from this program and how can they be shared and built upon for the rest of the company to truly create diverse and inclusive organization?


The program is one out of many other opportunities to make a different way of thinking and doing business happen without taking too many risks. It is a very pragmatic and simple way of testing, sharing and communicating in a different way. While doing so to practice new ways on how to lead and work in teams.



How to build upon?


The program alone is not sustainable enough. We need people in the companies who take care and support the program in a way that, also at the official end, there is a next step and a way on how to continue in a meaningful co-creation.


This kind of program ideally should be part of a larger process change or initiative and be linked not just to a few individuals only, but become part of the business strategy at different levels. It has to become not just a project among hundred others, but to be positioned as a value for the company and the partner.



What can you say to encourage other German companies to support “Afrika kommt!” initiative?


These learnings are essential – for all who want to make a better world and those who want to make sure that they and their business will be successful even in the future! Multiple challenges need multiple solutions. Complex issues (health, education, sustainable development goals etc.) cannot be solved by one player, one project or one single sector only.


Business has arrived in the social century. It's not about running some social activities apart from business and it is not about digital and social media only. But it is about acting in a different way by bringing business and social worlds back together. We have to learn to run business also like that. The social element has to become a part of our daily business! One way to gain experience and to learn is, without doubt, “Afrika kommt!” as long as you empower it and make it part of your values’ system.

"Business has arrived in the social century!, says Manuela Pastore. "
Sarah Pfeffer

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