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festival-girls

Picture from Tomorrowland Music Festival, Boom, Belgium, by imgkid.com

During the last summer, there was a sort of house-festival organized in the small village where I live. A sort of Tomorrowland, but then very small scale and for the local youth only.

The organization looked professional, I had been listening to the soundchecks during the hot summer afternoon, and I decided to check it out, very much aware that at any moment one of the millennials may ask “hey granddaddy, what are you doing here?” ;-) That did not happen. More interestingly, I started to wonder what inspired these young folks here.

Maybe the weather had something to do with it. After a hot summer day, a thunderstorm had transformed the ground into a muddy spectacle. The moisture was still very much in the air and in the clothes of people, and I could smell a sickening mix of boredom, mud, booze, and a general lack of style and class.

Disappointed back home, I switched on the television set, and stopped zapping at an old Frank Zappa concert on Channel 12. In stark contrast with the boredom on the mud fest earlier that evening, I saw a concert full of technical mastery and pushing the bar in all aspects.

A delight for 2 hours of pleasantly (dis)ordered madness and artistry

And after concert, Frank Zappa back alone in his caravan, exhausted, but with a face full of satisfaction and pleasant mischief.

Zappa progress

It made me dream away about work becoming an artistic performance, which is more and more the intention and ambition I have about work and contribution.

But many of us are hit with emptiness.

Not so long ago, I had a chat with an old acquaintance. I knew him for being sharp, original, and fresh, somebody who had found his freedom. Now his eyes were dim, faint and dull. He was a bit pale, and he said it was because of the year-end reflections after a heavy year. And he needed some headspace to think about what’s next.

But I sensed there was more.

He seemed to have become infected by the corporate viruses and antibodies against innovation and change in big dysfunctional organizations he was serving as a business.

There was a need for recalibration, a desire for seeking, a hunger for quality headspace, reaching out for a purification process for body and mind.

I met several folks the last couple of weeks who are all in search for deeper and more meaningful work. Not that we are unhappy and unfulfilled. Writing this makes me at times think it is just a luxury problem. Or is it?

The luxury that it’s more or less all there, but some dissatisfaction with the general flavor of our corporate contributions, goals and ambitions still being very tactical, a list of to do’s, with no or little intention, or what it enables…

Maybe that is a sort of language that is difficult to grasp for some more cognitive and tactical minds on our modern (sic) organizations.

But is still think such a quality language and narrative is important. The internal friction comes when I notice that I have come to a point that I don’t want to convince anymore the others of this new sort of language. I content myself to just use the words they use and understand, and live in an illusion that we are aligned. At least at the tactical level. But I can’t help myself thinking that is not good enough anymore.

We should invite each other to reflect and be self-critical – not necessarily about our individual contributions and the corporate reactions to them – but about our collective company culture in general:

  • Where do we want to stop or should we go the full way and really let others look into our soul?
  • We should be disappointed if we only get buy-in on a tactical list and not on the bigger “story”, or better “narrative”, that withstands the signs of the time of being fashionable and “street-cred” without credibility
  • I know, maybe that’s what the current short-attention-span-culture is able/unable to digest or even give attention. Nicolas Carr just wrote a whole book about it called “The Glass Cage”
  • I know, we may get comments about the need for being more pragmatic, not getting too philosophical, etc which is more or less the same as saying “shut up, I am not interested in your depth”

It is precisely that lack of depth, context and intention, looking for a higher ideal and potential, making something memorable and worthwhile, and even having the ambition of offering some moral compass that me and many others are deeply missing these days.

It makes me nervous: having so many ideas and the sensation of something really ambitious coming together in redefining myself. The sort of ambition of the Foo Fighters in putting together their last “Sonic Highways” album and documentary.

At 2:50 “the making of our most ambitious album”. That great spirit of making of your next gig the most ambitious thing you have ever done.

Daring to do complex things. Dare to do ambitious things.

Daring to dream big and kill mediocrity and simplistic goals.

Begin of the 80ies, Milan Kundera wrote a book “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”.

milan kundera

“Challenging Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence (the idea that the universe and its events have already occurred and will recur ad infinitum), the story’s thematic meditations posit the alternative: that each person has only one life to live and that which occurs in life occurs only once and never again — thus the “lightness” of being. In contrast, the concept of eternal recurrence imposes a “heaviness” on our lives and on the decisions we make (to borrow from Nietzsche’s metaphor, it gives them “weight”). Nietzsche believed this heaviness could be either a tremendous burden or great benefit depending on the individual’s perspective.”

I feel I am on a crossroads of doing something with this only-one-life. Unshake the bag of heaviness. To do something where I can leave my full and authentic Petervan “signature”.

IMG_4468

Own artwork, Black Ink on old book page

Away from the illusion of depth on/at/in the surface, where “It is all good” but where the fire of ambition extinguishes, quenches.

A place where we can play “freeform Jazz”, where nothing repeats or scales, a new operating model indeed. Away from the emptiness of scribed facilitations, away from the tricks, the manuals and the templates.

What if we would – for once – NOT try to facilitate our way out of a given problem.

What if our agenda is not one of facilitating a solution for a given problem?

What if our agenda is one of being in what Nilofer calls our “Only-Ness”, in my case my “Petervan-Ness”?

What if we would go beyond this Unbearable Lightness of Tactics?

Back to Academy

Way back in the seventies, i studied architecture at Sint-Lucas School of Architecture in Brussels and Ghent. Apparently – after 150 years of existence – the school is since 2012/2013 part of the LUCA School of Arts in association with the Catholic University of Leuven as the “Faculty of Architecture”

2pu04er

At the time the Ghent campus was located at the Zwarte Zusterstraat (picture) above, an intimate included safe zone between walls, trees in the middle the old city centre. I still remember the smell of paper and ink of the old attic where the architecture courses and practice labs took place.

Anyway, i dropped-out after  4 out of 5 years study, because i did not like the admin/legal part of the studies. I come from a normal middle class family, and paying for these studies was not just a tick-box for my parents. When i decided to quit, they were not happy and they “encouraged” me to find a job and an apartment and live as a big boy paying for his own cost and living.

Last year, after almost 35 years of professional career, and 7+ years fighting the battle for innovation at SWIFT, i felt physically and mentally exhausted, I requested a sabbatical leave for 6 months, which was kindly accepted by my employer – thank you.

IMG_4347

I wanted to get in better contact with my other self, not the cognitive part, but the more un/sub-conscious part of myself. I wanted to inject other forms of expression in my work. One of the ambitions was to go back to Art School, to give some counterweight to that cognitive part of my professional life. Unfortunately by that time of the year, it was to late to get registered and i just messed around a bit on my own.

But this year, i was early and got registered early. So, i started Art School in Sep 2014 at the local but quite well equipped and staffed academy “BKO” (link Dutch only) of my home town Overijse.

bko

It’s relatively intense: 9 hours practice per week on Tuesday morning, Wednesday evening and Saturday morning. For the Tuesday morning, i just take 1/2 days off. It’s practice, not theory. Not too much fuss, just try and experiment with materials, and some good honest coaching.

I still have architecture drawing and sketching in the fingers.

IMG_4349

But that is about straight lines. I found it much harder to do curved lines. Of human bodies for example. It probably says more about how my brain is wired than i dare to admit.

The coaches encouraged me to “let-go”. Here are some early experiments. Let me know what you think.

IMG_4345    IMG_4348

IMG_4346IMG_4350

IMG_4344

The above is all small format: A4 or A3. At a drawing table. It’s a bit hiding. We will soon start experimenting with big format, and working on easels. Did some early try-outs last week, and the big format and standing drawing position are so unnatural for me, it really pushes me out of my comfort zone.

Stay tuned

@petervan

The Battle for Beauty

This blog post is about beauty, about excellence and uniqueness in their battle against efficiency, scale and functional Lego bricks.

oil paint

Oil Painting by Adam Brooks

It’s about my hunger for systems that add value to society versus systems and environments that only suck value out of society.

It probably all started many years ago with Cradle to Cradle, the 2002 pivotal non-fiction book by German chemist Michael Braungart and U.S. architect William McDonough. I learned how reducing waste is not good enough, because at the end of reducing waste, there is still waste left. What if we would design systems that are regenerative, and add value and not waste at the end of the process cycle.

beauty

And of course there is my all time favorite architect-author Christopher Alexander with “The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth: A Struggle Between Two World-Systems”, and Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, again about two world systems/views competing with each other.

I got my final kick when getting in to Brainpickings’ post on “Beauty, Quality, Poetry, and Integrity: Anaïs Nin Meets Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. (1947)”, with some great insights in the world of art and role of the artist.

anais ninn

It was about architecture that had been taken over by businessmen, and artists not being allowed to carry out their rich hunger for beauty. A bit like Evgeny Morosov’s fight against “solutionism”, where the world is taken over by VCs and commerce in stead of asking the real big questions related to ethos and quality of life.

“Strength was obvious in him, but sensitivity and imagination were in his drawings. A universe of lyrical beauty in total opposition to the sterile, monotonous, unimaginative ‘box’-buildings now seen all over the world.”

“In Lloyd’s work there was space, invention, poetry, a restrained and effective use of the romantic, surprises always in the forms, new and imaginative use of structural parts, rooms, windows, and materials. He has a gift for involvement in many-leveled lives, for the variations, caprices, and nuances necessary to the human spirit. Every stone, every roof-tile, every window, every texture or material was designed for the consistent development of his building, its environment, and designed to elevate the quality of people’s lives. Uniformity and monotony kill individuality, dull the senses.

Lloyd designed his work to reinforce individuality with poetry, beauty, and integrity. It was planned to create a more beautiful and satisfying human environment. Architecture as poetry.

If he sounds like a moralist, it is because beauty, quality, and ethics are inseparable. Beauty and integrity. And for them one has to be willing to make sacrifices.

Many months ago, I had a chat about this with REXpedition friend Tom LaForge (Global Director, Human & Cultural Insights at The Coca-Cola Company), in 2011 an Innotribe speaker at Sibos Toronto. He inspired me with contextualizing our preferred system-1 as one of “drawing, flow and music”, where one “drinks from the fire hose of beauty”.

What if we would found a new collective of inspired thinkers, creators and sensemakers, the collective of QWAN (Quality Without A Name)? Surfing on the idea of “standing in your onlyness” as coined by Nilofer Merchant. A collective where we could connect with the other nodes, create another sort resonance with other nodes, a QWAN cohort as a way to connect with other quality nodes in tune with our true selves, allowing ourselves to to loose ourselves: in stead of “collective” we may want to call it the “connective”…

Loosing yourself…. Here is Brian Eno about loosing yourself:

“Sex, drugs, art, and religion—those are all activities in which you deliberately lose yourself.  You stop being you and you let yourself become part of something else.  You surrender control.  I think surrendering is a great gift that human beings have.  One of the experiences of art is relearning and rehearsing surrender properly.  And one of the values perhaps of immersing yourself in very long periods of time is losing the sense of yourself as a single focus of the universe and seeing yourself as one small dot on this long line reaching out to the edges of time in each direction.“

Steering away from “in-group mentality”, and nurturing the ability to flow in/out other groups, and creating “permeable barriers” between the inner and outer self/shell referring to Jung’s dualism. Building lives in currencies that matter: respect, dignity, and kindness. With exchange rates and markets for these value currencies.

Using un-words like music, art, performance and poetry to access access the true self, buying into something experiential, loosing yourself.

In architecture it’s about the battle for beauty, against the “commonplace, shoddy, temporary movie-set houses around him were painful to see. He called them ‘cracker boxes,’ shabby, thin, motel-type homes for robots”

robot

Marc Andreessen, well know for the phrase “Software is eating the world” also made a plea for saying he did not believe that robots will eat all the jobs”.

“Since our basic needs are taken care of, all human time, labor, energy, ambition, and goals reorient to the intangibles: the big questions, the deep needs. Human nature expresses itself fully, for the first time in history. Without physical need constraints, we will be whoever we want to be.”

“The main fields of human endeavor will be culture, arts, sciences, creativity, philosophy, experimentation, exploration, and adventure.”

“A planet of slackers you say. Not at all. Rather than nothing to do, we would have everything to do. Curiosity, artistic and scientific creativity have full rein resulting in new forms of status-seeking (!).”

“Imagine 6 billion or 10 billion people doing nothing but arts and sciences, culture and exploring and learning. What a world that would be. The problem seems unlikely to be that we’ll get there too fast. The problem seems likely to be that we’ll get there too slow.”

All this is about – in my opinion a new quest for romanticism, also in business. I can’t wait for Tim Leberecht’s upcoming book “The Business Romantic, Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself”, scheduled for release in Jan 2015.

Business Romantic

In the meantime, we have to do with his slide deck of his @MLove talk some time ago:

leberecht slide 12

  • Check out slide#12 about Romance, Un-Reason, Mystery, etc
  • Slide #14 on Job Profile for Business Romantic
  • Slide #18 on Suffer a Little, Keep the Mystique, Take the long way home
  • And the fantastic slide #51 with the Traditional, Smart, Romantic matrix

leberecht slide 50

And in slide#19 Tim quotes Aldous Huxley:

“But I don’t want comfort.

I want God, I want poetry,

I want real danger, I want freedom.

I want goodness.

I want sin.”

I wrote already in my Uberization blog post on 28 June:

  • What if exponentially and scale are not relevant?
  • What if the future model would not be based on exponentially, speed, scale, and efficiency?
  • What if uniqueness becomes more important than functional Lego-bricks and efficiency?
  • What if beauty becomes more important than function?

Like art, where the primary objective is to make something that is beautiful and resonates deeply at a non-cognitive, sub-conscious level and created happiness and fulfillment at a whole different intensity and quality. Where we want to resonate at an emotional level with each other, with a well-measured level of sharing, beyond legality and morality, but at a level of human intimacy.

Inside Outside

I just saw a very nice documentary on Belgian Television Channel CANVAS about the making of Novastar’s latest album ‘Inside Outside”, released in March 2014.

????????????????????????

None other than John Leckie produced the album, the legendary producer who earned his spurs in the Abbey Road studios with Pink Floyd and George Harrison. Leckie was also behind the buttons for the monumental albums of The Verve, The Stone Roses and Radiohead.

The documentary reconstructs the musical influences, inspiration and obsessions of the bandleader Joost Zweegers, a quite intense Dutch-born Flemish guy who started as a street musician, and who perfected his style, and got noticed by Neil Young who invited him for his support act.

The program resonated strongly with me; I made some notes, and got in some sort of poetry mood…

silbury

Picture: Solsbury Hill via Barnflakes

Drone cameras,

Intensity of Solsbury Hill

The artist

With fascination, Mystique and Commitment

Get outside

For inside rest by solitude

His heart is in Belgium, and his fantasy in England

My heart comes from a Flemish Primitive, and my fantasy is in Spain

White page for content, space design and experience design

With performers, craftsmen and artists, 

Reinventing once more

To unleash the unknown self in me

This is autumn,

Point of light in the depth

Creating intensities

Everything has to be perfect, rehearsed, must be right.

But leaving room for happenstance and personal emotion and interpretation in the moment,

“Right” like in Music: the art of getting all the notes out within the constraints of the right tempo and with my very personal interpretation

“Right” like in Poetry, just for the beauty of the language, the rhythm,

There is no usage for it…

No efficiency games, nor pragmatism, nor KPI’s

Just for the beauty of it.

Romanticism.

But music is without words

I am tempted to make another composition without words.

Just images, light, sound, songs, poetry, …

Dream #2: Flying

Having a week off, and found some time to look back into my dreams-book (see introduction to the concept in #Dream-1: Breakfast). Here is another dream, called “Flying”:

Standing on my tips

Slowly softly jumping

Then stepping

Then running to take speed

Sometimes straight from stand-still

Go airborne like a balloon

And then taking direction

Sometimes taken very high into stratosphere

By thermals’ forces

Then just in time back to earth

Before I get too cold or without air

There is a fantastic talk on the 99u site by Mark Eckō titled “Embrace the mess”

Mark Ecko

Entrepreneur, media mogul, and designer Marc Eckō tell us that, if we’re not careful, we can let others label us and define our career, robbing us of our natural potential. The solution?

 

Stand up for yourself!

 

Mark Ecko book Un-Label

It’s a great talk, one of those that I listen to second by second, making lots of notes almost leading into a full transcript of the talk. Somewhere halfway the talk, it seems there is a book about this by Mark Eckō titled “Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out”. I bought it right away after this talk. I have no credits for any of the ideas in this blog post. It’s just a transcript. It’s just some re-ordering of somebody else’s great ideas.

Mark Eckō has 3 messages for you:

  • Embrace the mess
  • Create wealth that matters
  • Be an Un-Label

Embrace the mess

The talk starts with the famous quote by Thomas Edison “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”

Edison genius

99% perspiration as if

 

You manage the PAIN of the grind

You embrace the RIGOR

Your hard work is THE HEART of genius

 

1% inspiration as if

 

Inspiration needs to be dosed carefully

Inspiration is ROMANTIC and perhaps distracting

And IDEATION can be a rabbit hole

 

You are so busy

You are so busy grinding

You are so busy perspiring

 

That perhaps we have forgotten to imagine

 

Are you’re an entrepreneur, or a creator and an artist?

 

Sometimes we think being an artist/creator

Is indulgent

Self-indulgent

 

About self-philosophical people

That get dressed in all black

Lean back

 

And get moody,

And self-loathing

 

Sloppy and right brained

 

Or maybe this is just not for you?

Maybe you loose some of that swag or that freedom?

 

Where when you were in second grade

You would just raise your hand and say:

 

YES! I am an artist!

 

Some think that this notion of creator/artist is divine

And we struggle with that

We believe there are a holy war between creative and art and commerce

 

This inhibits us in our relationship with our art

 

So I challenge you folks who don’t necessarily fancy themselves as artists

That just because you can not manipulate paint, sculpture or music

Doesn’t mean you should not problem solve like an artists

 

Learn to embrace the messiness of creation

Give yourself more than the 1%, chill-on the dosing, ok?

Create wealth that matters

 

Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t always tell the truth

 

We are obsessed with accounting,

Accounting for our money, our grades, our wins, losses, time, likes, followers, fucks, KPIs, the quarter, page views, etc

 

Count count count

 

Quit counting

 

Big data matters

But Being human even matters more

 

You can’t loose sight of the qualitative intent

 

Qualitative excellence cannot be hacked

 

Wealth that matters cannot be counted

 

Be an un-label

 

One used to say “perception is reality, you have to control the room”

 

But no,

 

Reality is reality

 

We try to give a taxonomy to everything

The perceived versions of ourselves

We focus on the outside only

Attempting to remain in fashion

Hopefully from value to the skin

Instead of skin to the world

 

Fash-ion: group of people acting together

Fas-cism: a way of organizing a society rules by dictatorial controls, a very harsh control or authority

 

The gospel of streetwear

 

All these gatekeepers in my office

 

A BLIV-IT

 

blivit

 

I was so busy to round off my edges

 

I was so busy assigning so much value to this 3rd party infrastructure, these gatekeepers,

 

Divergent ideas breed independence

 

I was looking for their approval

And letting me frustrate by this

 

When you ask for change

It is going to be with friction

It’s going to be work

Perhaps you going to ask for enemies

 

Apologising for your square edges does not make sense

 

Gatekeepers breed groupthink

 

How much energy in my life did/will I give to those gatekeepers?

 

Don’t loose sight of the GOAL-keepers

 

Who care more about what you are making

Even care about how you make them FEEL

 

When you refuse to be labeled

Suddenly you play by your own rules

Not theirs

 

When rules start to look like BLIV-IT s

Defy them

 

Measure yourself up to your own standards

 

Versus the gatekeepers’

Abstract and often irrelevant compliance metrics

 

Just saying:

There are some compliance standards

That are rather old

And not really relevant anymore

 

No one has a monopoly on validation

 

It’s about your body of work

 

The talk resonates strongly with me.

 

Because it resonates with who I am deep inside.

 

I feel like the artist/creator in his atelier below.

 

Fig_Sculpture_Fischl atelier

Thinking– Creating – Sensemaking.

 

The messy space of creators

Not the clean-desk policy of clerks

 

Away from the counting

The accounting

The efficiency

And making the numbers

 

And much closer to being human

Taking time

Let emerge

And creating uniqueness.

 

Without the GATE-keepers

But with the GOAL-keepers.

I have been relatively silent on my blog, tweets and other social media. The reason is focus. Focus on preparing with the team another exciting experience at Innotribe Sibos, this year in Boston from 29 Sep till 2 Oct 2014.

Less than 2 months from D-day, we are in full build up. We are in good shape, and preparations are in full swing. We are now at a stage where we have detailed minute-by-minute session scripts for all sessions, and are at a rate of several speaker preparation calls per week. And we have for each of our 17 sessions a detailed floor plan like this one:

SESSION 002 Future of Money

 

Here are some numbers: 4 days, 17 sessions, 2 locations, 50+ speakers, 10+ moderators, 10+ instigators, 9 startups, 6 innovators, 7 coaches, 4 Sponsors, 7 technical crew, 6 facilitation crew, 12 cameras, 7 screens, 3 stages, 2 bridges, 4 pieces of artwork, 1 bitcoin ATM machine, 1 skyline.

When it all comes together, it will look a bit like this:

Camera 04b

I have some other surprises that I will document in a later blog post.

But don’t be mistaken: Innotribe Sibos is about content, content, and more content.

For the content some of the main subjects covered, see my previous post http://petervan.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/innotribe-sibos-2014-building-bridges/ To summarize:

  • Day-1 is all about cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ripple, ColoredCoins, etc) from all angles: vision, regulation, disruption, and transformation.
  • Day-2 covers “Network effects”: networked organizations, platform thinking, eco-system thinking
  • Day-3 gets you into Innovation Capabilities and the exciting Grand Finale of the 2014 Innotribe Startup Challenge
  • Day-4 articulates our ambition to convene all significant players of the FinTech Innovation Ecosystem

Since my last post several new speakers and moderators have been added, for example:

  • Yoni Assi (CEO eToro and Board member Israel Bitcoin Foundation)
  • Dirk Haubrich (Head of Consumer Protection and Financial Innovation, European Banking Authority EBA, via Skype)
  • Dan Marovitz (CEO Faculty of 1000 Ltd, former Managing Director, Head of Product Management, Global Transaction Banking Deutsche Bank)
  • Anne Shere Wallwork (Senior Counselor for Strategic Policy, Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes – U.S. Department of the Treasury)

And on day-4 we have gathered the top captive funds in one session starting on 2 Oct at 09:30 am, and moderated by Tony Fish, Founder AMF Ventures:

  • Vanessa Colella, Director Citi Ventures
  • Christophe Chazot, New Group Head of Innovation, HSBC
  • Derek White, Chief Design Officer, Barclays
  • Matteo Rizzi, General Partner, Sberbank SBT Venture Capital
  • Julio Faura, Head of R&D and Innovation, Banco Santander
  • Manual Silva Martinez, Vice-President BBVA Ventures

I will do a separate blog on day-4 later, as that will be a very exceptional day.

Our speakers are thought leaders and top innovators. We have 7 out of the FinTech top-40 http://thetally.efinancialnews.com/2014/06/fintech-focus/ and 3 out of the Bank Innovation “top-30 innovators to watch” http://www.bankinnovation.net/2014/07/2014-innovators-to-watch-30-executives-shaping-the-industry/ secured for this yearly gathering.

And in addition, we are building bridges and sharing speakers with Technology Forum, Investment Management Forum, Markey Infrastructures Forum, Standards Forum.

Full detailed program, with all speakers confirmed is now available on sibos.com here: http://www.sibos.com/conference/conference-programme/2014?field_session_stream_tid%5B%5D=203&op=Filter

Super-excited with big kudos to the Innotribe team, the event producers GPJ and facilitators Collective Next.

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