State of Research

State of research: the state of knowledge at a specific point in time, as found in scientific or academic literature, including all agreement and disagreement. The first step in the study of any subject is to understand the current state of research.

Trajectory

Germans view the past and the present as two points along a continuum. They establish a Weichen or course, path, trajectory. But not unchangeable. Neither automatic nor preordained.

Although people can affect real, even radical change, the Germans are realistic about the possible range of change. Every path has its past, where it came from. Seldom can people suddenly move in a totally different direction. Seldom do the Germans want to. Seldom are they persuaded when it is proposed.

Sich bewähren

sich bewähren means to prove one‘s worth or value, to be reliable, to have worked. From Middle High German meaning to turn out to be true, right, correct.

In Germany there is no higher testament to quality than something which has proven itself over time. Das hat sich bewährt, that has proven itself, is very persuasive to German ears. Over generations, decades, even centuries. Solid, known, established, predictable, tested.

In German literature and movies, the harking back to family, tradition, home region is a constant theme. The ideal, idyllic world is to be protected against the corrupting forces of modernity.

German companies, time and again, advertise their solidity, quality, reliability by stating their longevity and tradition: Established 1885. Above the entrance doors of German Fachwerkäuser – half-timbered houses traditional in the Middle Ages, also called gingerbread houses – one can read Erbaut 1375.

Heimatfilme

For Germans the past is present, relevant, of great importance. The past explains who we are, where we come from, how the present has become the way it is. For them the past is not history in the sense of gone, over, goodbye, irrelevant. History is present and future, a part of their identity.

Old buildings, with their stairwells and staircases, ceilings and facades, and many other kinds of cultural monuments are protected in Germany by Denkmalschutz – laws requiring their protection and preservation – even if they are in dire need of reburbishment or reconstruction.

Entire sections of German towns can be placed under Denkmalschutz. History is heritage. Heritage is identity. The battle for and against Stuttgart 21 – a modernization of Stuttgart‘s main train station – went on for several years and became the prominent issue in recent state-wide elections in Baden-Württemberg.

Outdoor museums in Germany show how people of past epochs lived and worked. Castles from the Middle Ages with their fascinating guided tours are popular daytrip destinations. In every German village, town and city one finds remnants of the past. Town gates, walls, even moats, and chapels are integrated seamlessly into the modern.

In elementary schools children learn Heimatkunde – history of their local region. The Heimatfilm – movies set in a specific region such as Bavaria or the Black Forest – remain a constant in the German media landscape, keeping alive regional customs and traditions. Many detective tv series are regionally based, one week in Hamburg in the north, the next in Leipzig in the East, the one thereafter in Cologne in the Rhineland.

Academic Papers

For Germans, all new knowledge is based on previous knowledge. Before Germans accept new knowledge, they need to see how it flows from current knowledge.

Academic works in Germany, including Master‘s and Ph.D. level theses, almost always begin with a full account of relevant context information: definition of terms, lengthy description of topic, current status of research, methodology applied. The context can amount to as much as one-third of the length of the paper. Some universities expect that it exceed one-half.

Bestandsaufnahme

The German term Bestandsaufnahme – baseline survey, appraisal, taking stock, taking inventory – is the critical first step in any kind of analysis in the German context, whether it be in consulting, project management, or a localized problem solving measure. The goal is to give the participants an overview, to establish a common understanding of the current situation.

Starting Point

The present is always the starting point for any action. The present is current, a result of what was decided, of what has been done, of action taken. To understand the present means to first understand how it became what it is, to understand its history.

Before Germans can be persuaded by any future action, they have to be convinced that the presenter has understood the present – the starting point – via its past.

Lebenslauf aka curriculum vitae

German resumés (curriculum vitae) are written chronologically. The potential employer is given a complete overview of the applicant’s background, from the beginning to the present.

Germans reading a resumé look closely not only at those areas relevant to the job, but at all information which might give them a full picture of the applicant.

Most importantly, and critically, they look for Lücken (gaps) in the Lebenslauf – the German word for resumé or curriculum vitae. Leben life + lauf from laufen + to run: how one’s life has run, proceeded, moved forward. And if they spot any Lücken, they’ll be sure to address them in a face-to-face interview.

Based on what the applicant reveals in the interview the employer can gain even deeper insight into work experience, degree of reliability, motivation, ambitions. The goal is a realistic assessment of the job candidate.

As early as in high school Germans students are told: “Take seriously what you do after high school. Gaps in your resumé are not good!” German university students fill gaps between semesters with internships, language classes or travel abroad.

“Let’s be realistic!“

FC Schalke 04 – one of Germany’s best professional soccer teams, located in Gelsenkirchen in the famous Ruhr Industrial Area – and its coach, Felix Magath.

Shortly before their match against Hamburg, that city’s newspaper Abendblatt printed an article with the title “Meisterschaft? Nein! Wir müssen realistisch bleiben” – Championship? No! We need to be realistic.”

At that point FC Schalke was in third place, theoretically a possible contender for the German soccer championship. But when one of his players, Benedikt Höwedes, used the word Meisterschaft – championship – in an interview, his coach Magath reacted immediately.

“It is absolutely correct to set high goals”, Magath said to this team, “but they have to be realistic. Otherwise they will tear us apart, and then we will not even reach normal expectations. Getting to the championship this year is not a realistic goal. We are not yet a top-performing team. We have a long road ahead of us.”

Among other qualities it this “Sinn für Realismus” – sense of realism – which explains why Magath is so highly respected.

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