If you want to make corporate culture fit for digital transformation, you should focus on the employees. 

7 reasons why the personal development of employees has a positive impact on corporate culture – a plea for the self-development of employees and managers as the bedrock of a successful corporate culture.


1. There is personality development after the age of 25

Contrary to popular belief, the human personality is not fully developed by the age of 25. People can continue to evolve their personalities as well as their mindsets. This process follows a specific sequence, as illustrated in the graphic below (read more about this and its influence on corporate culture in this blog article (in German). The six mindset model shows how the personality develops from the mindset of victimhood to that of a creator and its impact on corporate culture.

Simply acknowledging that personalities can develop qualitatively throughout a lifetime leads to a more optimistic and open-minded view of humanity. 
This also applies to management and thus to the corporate culture it shapes. These development opportunities are validated by research findings. Jane Loevinger’s ego development model, for instance, has been verified in hundreds of studies worldwide. In the course of vertical ego-development, people become more flexible and multidimensional in their thinking and feeling, and thus in their behaviour, because they have a greater capacity for thought, compassion and being, and also perceive themselves as a fluid part of a fluid relationship structure. The ego literally “continues” with every stage of development, as this diagram shows.

In the inner circle there is only a small spectrum of options to think, feel and act. In the outer circle the spectrum is greater because all options are integrated.

Even a developed person can, for example, behave in a self-centred and selfish way, but will probably only choose to do so when all other options no longer work. However, if this is the only mode of behaviour available to someone, they have no real choice and therefore behave more predictably.

“Assertiveness” as an example

The development of the understanding of “assertiveness” in the different stages of development is shown below. As ego development progresses, more perspectives can be included. And this has a sizeable impact on leadership and corporate culture.

As development progresses, people have more internal and external choices, and are therefore less subject to internal pressures to think and act and be able to make better, more balanced decisions. This is a trait that increasingly determines whether management in modern companies succeeds or fails. The potential to become happier increases, because a developed person experiences themself more as a creator and less as a victim of their reality and less as a victim of the circumstances that others supposedly created.

Conscious self-development is therefore a step out of feeling powerless towards your own creative power – in private as well as corporate life.


2. Developing people can cope better with complexity

Digital transformation is making the world around us more complex. There’s no doubt about that. Many questions no longer have simple answers, because the interrelationships between different systems are also becoming increasingly complex. In order to navigate an increasingly complex world – whether in companies or society as a whole – a more complex “I” is needed. Only then will it be possible to act on your own responsibility – as contemporary corporate culture demands.

In other words, an “I” that is able to think in multiple dimensions and at the same time to include other levels of perception (intuition, empathy) in decision-making processes. Managers and employees with simpler ego structures, on the other hand, tend to find simpler answers to complex questions, which can themselves again become a source of difficulties.

For example, in his book “Ich Entwicklung für Berater” (Ego Development for Consultants), Thomas Binder demonstrates that more developed managers tend to be more successful than managers who look to solutions from rudimentary mindsets, and can thus have an impact on the corporate culture. 


3. Developing people like to take responsibility

Many companies experimenting with agile methods find that not everyone accepts the personal responsibility that comes with it. This is partly due to the systems themselves – to a corporate culture that often “unconsciously” fails to reward and sometimes even punishes self-responsible behaviour, and openly encourages nothing but conformity and compliance within the company.

On the other hand, it can also be due to the fact that many employees still find themselves in an earlier mindset as regards ego development, e.g. the group-centric-conformist or rationalistic-functional mindset. A conformist and rational-functional corporate culture attracts people with these mindsets like a magnet.

In the earlier stages of development, thinking and behaviour tends to be more competitive and less cooperative or co-creative. In such a corporate culture, a shift in mindset is obviously much harder.

Scrum and Kanban are great tools for developing teams towards self-responsibility, but if the mindset of the employees and the corporate culture has not been developed and expanded accordingly, we have to remember that unfortunately…

… a fool with a tool stays a fool.


4. Developing people have more opportunities on the market

Today, everyone has to be their own entrepreneur. Jobs where employees stay with the same company until retirement are becoming increasingly rare and are also less and less desirable. People are more interested in maintaining and enhancing their “market value” in order to safeguard their professional success.

In terms of the skills and strengths employees and management need to be successful, ego development is understood as a meta-skill. Somebody’s ego development level is, as it were, the invisible lens through which they look at the world and other people. Less developed people are not yet able to see this, because they believe “that’s just the way the world is”. Only later does the domination of this lens in the shaping of personal reality become apparent.

We can all easily check this by looking at our earlier perspectives and ways of thinking and comparing them with our current, possibly more differentiated views.

The way people think, reflect and classify changes and challenges can be crucial in making the right decision when choosing management staff, for example. Why not ask yourself this question:

If you had the choice, would you prefer a manager with a larger or a smaller spectrum of thought and action?

A corporate culture that promotes flexible, solution-focussed and systemic thinking and the ability to communicate in a positive way is becoming increasingly relevant, especially in the context of agile working practices.
Moreover, sought-after specialists attach more and more importance to working in a corporate culture that is appreciative and offers opportunities for development.


5. Developing people are less likely to cling to their egos

With increasing ego-development, what we generally call “ego” becomes smaller and smaller, because we identify less with certain groups of thoughts that we consider to be “ourself” and thus which we identify with.

Instead, employees with more mature “ego” mindsets develop a higher “construct awareness”. They are therefore more aware that they are not their thoughts, but that they are constantly constructing their thoughts, their feelings and their “I” anew. They become more flexible inside and are less attached to their own egos.

They experience their ego more and more as a consequence of their own intellectual constructions and thus achieve greater inner freedom, becoming a neutral observer of these constructions. In literature this is also often called witness consciousness.

Dealing with people who have such a developed self-awareness can be nicer, more interesting and also less strained because they can more easily modify their communication and behaviour according to the situations and people, i.e. they are more flexible in dealing with change. By implication this also has a positive impact on the corporate culture. However, this does not mean that they are easier to manipulate, but rather that they choose their behaviour with awareness and according to the situation and follow less stereotypical patterns of behaviour and thought. These skills become more and more important in a future-oriented corporate culture.

They hang less on to the “old“ and stretch their minds towards the “new “.


6. Developing people are freer inside 

The idea of Ego Development potential, together with neurobiological support and experiences that can help us go through the mindsets more quickly, is a further incentive to escape the often constricted neuronal network grid. It is both a network of chains of thought and a prison of chains of thought. If, however, there is a construct awareness, i.e. a part of the mind that perceives and observes how groups of thoughts come about and are connected, a way out can also be initiated. If this inner observer is constantly active, more inner freedom and tranquillity are created. We are no longer slaves to our automatic thoughts.

A skill that is becoming increasingly important, especially in management.


7. Developing people tend to be happier and more independent

With growing “construct awareness” inner freedom also grows and with it the ability to experience an “elevated state” as per Jens Corssen. This is epitomised in a line from “Invictus” by the Victorian poet William Ernest Henley:

 “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”

Developing people experience themselves more as creators of their inner and outer worlds. This poem was Nelson Mandela’s source of strength during his 27 years of political imprisonment. He read the poem over and over again to remind himself that he was the “captain of his soul” and the creator of his inner and outer perception. From this inner mindset he developed a strength and grace that convinced even his opponents to work with him. The rest is history

The observing part – the witness, the “captain of my soul” – becomes the true identity of the developing human being with ongoing ego-development and dwells in an elevated state of inner freedom. This elevated state of the true captain is not a whim or mood, but the unchanging and yet constantly renewing quality inherent in being. A person who inhabits this mindset is happier and also more independent. They have a lesser “need” to be happy and, from their own position of elevation, try to “uplift” themselves and those around them.

Management and employees with such mindsets strengthen a cooperative and co-creative corporate culture. They are also more likely to master the challenges posed by the digital and global transformation of the economy.

Frankly speaking, such a mindset cannot be acquired in a weekend workshop. However, through constant reminder you can realign your inner navigator over and over again and find and fortify the captain of your soul, steadily giving him/her more space and creative power.

Conclusion: Companies that want to open their corporate culture to digital transformation are well advised to focus on the personal development of their employees as the backbone of cultural change within the company. Companies seeking to have self-responsible employees and managers should allow, foster and strengthen ego development. When choosing managers, they should look for employees who possess a mindset that is expansive and mature enough to allow them to act successfully as managers in this uncertain age of digital transformation.