We talked to Florian Hoffmann of The DO School about how they empower people and companies to lead in a purposeful economy and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Florian Hoffmann: I am blessed that family and friends are healthy and fine so far, and those who had the virus managed to get through it. I am in Berlin at the moment with my family, and we are juggling work, homeschooling, and trying to enjoy the recent snow a bit.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded The DO School.
Florian Hoffmann: It is obvious that our economies need to become smarter and more innovative in order to solve the environmental and social challenges that we see around us. I was always curious about what entrepreneurial people and companies need in order to succeed and also have a positive impact on their surroundings – so basically, how good business can be business for good. The DO School grew as a global training and innovation platform from that inquiry with Nobel Peace Prize winners, business leaders, and entrepreneurs. We started out in 2014 with a campus in NYC and Germany. Today, most of our team is based out of Berlin with a campus in HK and an office in NYC.
How does The DO School innovate?
Florian Hoffmann: That question goes straight to the core of what we do. We teach the DO Method, which helps businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate – and we also use it internally, of course. We realized that too often, an organization brings the same people together again and again in order to solve new problems. So diversity is a key driver in complex times. We thus built a global community of young innovators and entrepreneurs as well as leading experts from over 100 countries to come together around challenges and co-create new solutions. Secondly, we all know the feeling of having a great idea and then getting stuck, especially in large organizations. Our method focuses on empowering people to take an idea and turn it into action. We innovate rooted in a global community with a radical focus on action and a clear north star that is about using business as a force for good.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Florian Hoffmann: Luckily, we were not as affected as many other organizations in the training and innovation space. As we are working globally, we were hardwired to run programs and challenges online since our inception. As a result, it was not difficult for us to take our work entirely online in 2020. But we are aware that the pandemic took a huge toll on the personal and professional lives of many of our colleagues, advisors, partners, and the many amazing early-stage entrepreneurs that are part of our community. We quickly partnered with various governmental agencies to create support programs, especially for social entrepreneurs, to help create resilient business models and people. All in all, we are extremely thankful to our partner companies and organizations as well as our incredible community for the strong partnerships that took us through 2020 and towards an exciting 2021.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Florian Hoffmann: The crisis showed us first of all that we have an incredible team that really came together to support each other and the organization. That was a huge moment. From it, we also learned how important it is to put a lot of effort into employee health and psychological safety and put that in front of any type of performance concern. The year showed us how important it is to create a joint team purpose and a joint understanding and transparency of the situation. I have the feeling we got a lot done since the start of the pandemic, and the team is closer than before.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Florian Hoffmann: Taking even more aspects of our work online obviously needed a few tools. But our core concern was to really strengthen the human dimension – to be there for our clients and community, to create open and honest moments of listening and sharing and talking through the difficult moments. In 2020 overcommunication was definitely needed, and I am so proud of the human relationships that resulted from our work. I believe they will also carry us into the future.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Florian Hoffmann: Yes, we benefited from the German government grants. The mechanism subsidizes the salary of staff that have their work reduced so that employers don’t have to let them go. Being active in various locations around the globe, the pandemic, in my view, showed again that a functioning welfare system is a huge prerequisite for a healthy and innovative private sector.
Your final thoughts?
Florian Hoffmann: Over the course of last year, we brought together over 1000 leaders to explore concrete actions of how we can emerge stronger together from this health and economic crisis. I strongly believe that we can use this terrible situation to change the way we manage employees, impact our environment and drive innovation in our businesses. I urge any leader not to let this chance pass!