As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexander Sascha Wolf.
German Alexander Sascha Wolf is a European authority on networking. He learned the fine arts of building professional relationships in 10 years as CEO of Berlin’s embassy network, 8 years as a producer of several radio programs and as a founder of over a dozen business networks. Alexander wrote several books about networking and community building, founded his own networking lab, the Institute for Dictyonomy, and is now engaged by NeXR Technology as a Scientific Advisor for the development of VR training courses.
With innovative networking seminars in Virtual Reality, Alexander takes you on interactive journeys, giving you the essential knowledge of how to easily build your own powerful networks and how to have fun doing it.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
To make it fast and easy: I came to Berlin just after the wall had fallen. Everything was possible in these years. Since then, broadcasted the Love Parade live, I founded my own DJ radio station, organized entrepreneurship-festivals, initiated art exhibitions, founded the Berlin embassy network, and started my own scientific institute for Networking: Dictyonomy.
I love freedom, new ideas and inspirations. And I love Berlin, where all of this is still possible.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
It was more stupid than funny: I was 24, when I had my first investor-negotiations. Since the investor was a big fish from Hamburg, I thought I was very smart to get a lawyer from Hamburg for me, too. I guessed, coming from the same background like the investor, my lawyer would save me from dirty tricks. I didn’t know about the power of networks then. Therefore, my lawyer rather worked for the other side. 2 years later I was kicked out of the company by my new partners.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Actually, I am reading it at this moment: “Human kind” from Rutger Bregman, proving that human nature is not evil, but rather kind. Gives me hope and motivation to connect people.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Our main problem in this world is: We don’t talk WITH, but ABOUT each other.
If we connect better, understand each other better, there won´t be conflicts anymore.
We have to build larger networks.
Therefore, I help people to understand how to connect with others — I train humans how to prosper and to help others to grow — by building networks.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
In 10 people there is always one asshole. Don’t let this one idiot destroy your trust in the other 9.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Regarding my private life: I was ok for a while to focus on work that I can do from my terrace at the lake ;)
But, I make my money with seminars and building networks. Both were set to zero when Corona hit. Networking is a difficult thing in times of social distancing. And it is a time of great chances, too. I was forced to look into innovation. I got involved with NeXR Technologies to speed up their development process of transforming seminars online, and we created a VR use case of my B2B seminars. The NeXR team based in Berlin actually already had everything in place to create VR seminars — the finalization of the product was truly driven by the urge the pandemic brought with it. They took a body scan of me, created a lifelike avatar that perfectly mimics my gestures and movements, and created VR worlds that would support the content I am lecturing about. Now I can forget about PowerPoint, thanks to Corona. My participants receive their VR glasses in their home office, and join a VR journey without limitations in times and places to learn about networking from me.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
In the first 8 weeks, during the lockdown, there was no work for me at all.
Then, when Germany opened up again, all of a sudden, I had too many requests on how to connect people in times of disconnection — Companies realize that video meetings don’t do the job. I am grateful for this challenge, and it’s a very positive problem to where I found the solution during lockdown in VR — it is a highly scalable solution.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
My mother is 83 years now. And she says: “As long as nobody throws bombs at you, it’s no real crisis.”
The best action against anxiety, uncertainty and fear is to keep in mind that this is only a temporary situation. Difficult, but ending soon. And if you want to survive this at ease, do your best to stay relaxed. We have the responsibility to react smart and calmly. We have to be good examples for others.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Besides all the negative things connected to Corona, I see this as the greatest chance for mankind since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989:
We are all confronted with the same problem, worldwide. For the first time, we see that we are one.
We are forced to cooperate, to connect, globally. We are forced to find solutions fast.
This is like a crash course in global responsibility.
We will enter a new era of technical innovation, social progress and better global governance.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Every challenge brings personal development. I believe that we will act more responsibly, and considerate towards each other. Traditional companies will open up to new technological developments, as we see from my example with NeXR seminar.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
For me, the Post-Covid time is the start of Virtual Reality networking, giving me the chance to work from my terrace, close to the woman I love. I firmly believe that the ones who find solutions using the latest technologies will be the ones who prosper in the next years.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Be bold, be brave, invent and innovate like crazy. Search the horizon for new ways, dare to do things you never dared to before. This is the time for great ideas.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
How can our readers further follow your work?
Find out more about my VR use case with NeXR Seminar at nexr-seminar.com.