Archive for the ‘Personal Values’ Category

Every now and then, we are reminded that life is not eternal. I am typing this during a lazy Sunday afternoon: the first real day of spring after a way too long winter. Yesterday, it was still cold, windy and humid: i was attending the funeral of my uncle Gustave who passed away at the age of 82 after a long disease.

Death, birth and marriage are probably the only occasions i come into a church. Like at the funeral of my uncle Roger, the holy mass was sober, simple, and bringing back plenty of memories of my childhood.


My uncle Gustave was bold. He was about one head smaller than me. I remember how we had fun every time we met and I bended forward to kiss him hello on his bold forehead.

Gustave was a man of “Joie de vivre”, liked a good glass of wine or spirit, and could enjoy from time to time a good quality cigar. He got in love with France, Paris, the French Riviera, the Cote d’Azur, the big French chansonniers in the 60′ies. It was therefore no coincidence that his goodbye included this classic from Joe Dassin “Et si tu n”existais pas” (subtitles in French and English in below video)

I started dreaming away to this “Vive la Fête” and “Vive la Vie” crazy period. And could lively remember the scandal atmosphere of Saint-Tropez, Brigitte Bardot, Serge Gainsbourg, many others…

brigitte_bardot_medium map.of.riviera serge gainsbourg and brigitte bardot

Every of these memories reminds me that we only live once, and we should remember every day the “Carpe Diem” mantra. We plan and live as if there never comes an end to it. Until we are hit by a disease, accident, or one of our loved ones passes away.

But we should not wait until mourning knocks on our door. Every moment can be one of wonder and marvel. Even in the darkest winter times.

My 7 year old daughter reminds me everyday of the sparkling discoveries of life. She starts to play with words, at times feeling like poetry. Just a couple of weeks ago, winter had created a thick snow carpet in our garden; it was a bright sunny day, blue sky. She looked out of the window with he clear brown eyes, and whispered softly: “Look daddy, it’s white summer”. Wow! White Summer…

white summer

Seeing the white summer through darkness. I would like to be in that state of wonder every single moment of my life. Remind me when i don’t. It’s probably the best tribute to my uncle Gustave.

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Many organizations are in pain. I am just back from the Front-End of Innovation conference in Copenhagen where I met several friends, ex-colleagues, relatives, business partners, and it seems that change and re-organization are the new normal in our organizations these days. These days, one could jokingly introduce her by saying “what re-organization do you work for?”. But that may be too cynical a start for a blog post.


It also seems to be a constant these days that organizations retract into the comfort zone of their core business and are tuning down their innovation initiatives. I have heard it from at least 4-5 large organizations this week. What remains is a lot of innovation rhetoric but no action on the floor other than political power games.

More importantly, what remains as well is a lot of pain of colleagues seeing their best working mates (have to) leave the company in the worst case, or being re-organized into other departments at best. In Copenhagen, I have seen the pain, fear, and desperation in people’s eyes.

This blog post is about those re-organization pains, and some possible avenues to deal with them.

  • One way to react is driven by emotions: getting in a state of perpetual frustration, blame, gossip, under the skin fights, and self-service. It’s a state of mind that only aggravates the situation, alienates people and teams more from each other than ever.
  • Another way to react is the flee into the comfort zone of tactical actions and quick hits and extrapolating or creating quick and dirty variations of the tricks and processes we are familiar with, without any level of intentionality.
  • The third way – which I would like to promote – is to look deep under the skin of our professional and private way of being. To get to this insight, I was influenced by three books that I was reading more or less in parallel.

The first book I would like to recommend is “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni (Amazon Affiliates Link).


The author explains razor sharp that trust is the essential foundation of highly effective teams (and organizations). As can be seen from the layered pyramid below, lack of trust in the end leads to inattention to results.


I have taken a the following really good summary out of another book “Search Inside Yourself”, that I will refer to later again in this blog post.

The five dysfunctions, in order of causality are:

  • Absence of trust: People do not trust the intentions of their teammates. They feel the need to protect themselves from each other and tread carefully around others on the team. This leads to the next dysfunction.
  • Fear of conflict: Without trust, people are unwilling to involve themselves in productive debates and conflicts, the type of good conflict that focuses entirely on resolving issues without involving character attacks or hidden personal agendas. Without such healthy conflicts, issues stay unresolved or are unsatisfactorily resolved. People feel they have not been properly involved in decisions. This leads to the next dysfunction.
  • Lack of commitment: When people feel their input has not been properly considered and that they have not been properly involved in decisions, they have no buy-in. They do not commit to the final decisions. Ambiguity about priorities and directions festers, and uncertainties linger. This leads to the next dysfunction.
  • Avoidance of accountability: When people have no buy in about decisions, they avoid accepting accountability. Worse still, they do not hold their teammates accountable to high standards. Resentment festers, and mediocrity spreads. This leads to the final dysfunction.
  • Inattention to results: The ultimate dysfunction of a team. People care about something other than the collective goals of the team. Goals are not met, results are not achieved, and you lose your best people to your competitors.

It all begins with trust. The absence of trust is the root cause of all other dysfunctions. Specifically, the type of trust Lencioni talks about is what he calls “vulnerability-based trust.” That is when team members trust the intentions of each other enough that they are willing to expose their own vulnerabilities because they are confident their exposed vulnerabilities will not be used against them. Hence, they are willing to admit issues and deficiencies and ask for help. In other words, they are able to concentrate their energies on achieving the team’s common goals, rather than wasting time trying to defend their egos and look good to their teammates.

Do you trust your team members enough that to expose your own vulnerabilities because you are confident that your exposed vulnerabilities will not be used against you? That you will not be presented sooner or later with the emotional bill? Or is the trust and alignment in your team of a very superficial and low-quality nature?

I fully buy the trust argument in the book. What the book unfortunately does NOT explain is how you get to this level of trust.

My premise is that it starts by looking at people as people, not as objects. By developing a very high standard of empathy for the others. Looking at the other person not as the team member of this or that department (that would be looking at the person as an object, and attaching value to that object based on its hierarchical of functional power or non-power). This is of course very much related to the topic of “LeadINGship” and “Leading from the Edge” that I have shared already at many occasions on my blog.

“Looking at people as people” means looking at people in their wholeness, their full being, with all the aspects that that person brings, like cultural baggage, family situations, vulnerabilities, issues, motivations, concerns, etc

When I look at people as an object, I am “living IN the box”. When I look at people as people, I am “Living OUT of the box”. This living in/out of the box is very well described in “Leadership and Self-Deception” by The Arbinger Institute (Amazon Affiliate Link).


“We have to develop a culture where people are simply invited to see others as people. And being seen and treated straightforwardly, people respond accordingly”

But the book goes much further than that, and brings the subjects of self-deception and self-betrayal in full frontal view, and that can be quite confrontational.

Self-Deception and its consequence Self-Betrayal happen when you see a person in need, you feel you should act, but you don’t. What happens then are a couple of behaviors that I recognize with others and myself; I get into a defense mode:

  • I start blaming (maybe not vocally, but for sure internally) the other, the system, the management, and/or the company for all the things that don’t work. Yes, of course the problem of all evil is out there, not with me.
  • I start minimizing or ignoring my own faults, failures, and weaknesses
  • I start inflating the faults of the other persons or teams or departments.
  • I start inflating my virtues: it is because the others don’t have the same virtues as myself that of course things don’t work as they should.

“I just mean that in acting contrary to my sense of what was appropriate, I betrayed my own sense of how I should be toward another person. So we call such an act ‘self-betrayal.” And “I focused on and inflated her faults when I needed to feel justified for mine.”

This is about anger and frustration but at the same time feeling deep inside that “I was aware of the hypocrisy in my anger”.

What is even worse, this sort of in-the-box behavior for sure does NOT solicit the desired counter-behavior in others: it’s a disease that is infectious and viral in nature.

“In the box we provoke others to get in the box — both with us and against us. Our allies and we withhold information, for example, which gives others reason to do the same. We try to control others, which provokes the very resistance that we feel the need to control all the more. We withhold resources from others, who then feel the need to protect resources from us. We blame others for dragging their feet and in so doing give them reason to feel justified in dragging their feet all the more. And so on. Collusion spreads far and wide, and the result is that coworkers position themselves against coworkers, workgroups against workgroups, and departments against departments. People who came together to help an organization succeed actually end up delighting in each other’s failures and resenting each other’s successes.”

“But gradually I came to see the lie in my defensiveness. I saw in myself a leader who was so sure of the brilliance of his own ideas that he couldn’t allow brilliance in anyone else’s; a leader who felt he was so ‘enlightened’ that he needed to see workers negatively in order to prove his enlightenment; a leader so driven to be the best that he made sure no one else could be as good as he was. I was carrying the disease I blamed everyone else for. I infected them and then blamed them for the infection. Our organizational chart was a chart of colluding boxes. We were a mess.”

So key messages here are:

  • Stay away from self-defensiveness
  • See people as people not objects
  • Develop a superior awareness whether you are in/out the box of self-betrayal

And then I got hit by “Search Inside Yourself” by Chade-Meng Tan (Amazon Affiliates Link), also known as “Jolly Good Fellow” from Google.


Meng also refers to “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” (see summary above) and it was at that moment that the pieces of the puzzle starting falling together and make sense. The “Search Inside Yourself” book is in essence about self-awareness.

Self-awareness depends on being able to see ourselves objectively, and that requires the ability to examine our thoughts and emotions from a third-person perspective, not getting swept up in the emotion, not identifying with it, but just seeing it clearly and objectively…. We are not our emotions. Emotions become what we experience in the body, so we go from “I am angry” to “I experience anger in my body”

And also:

“We have the tendency to feel bad about feeling bad. I call it “meta-distress,” distress about experiencing distress. Also recognize that feeling bad about feeling bad is an act of ego” and “Success and failure are emotional experiences. These emotions can give rise to grasping and aversion, which can hold us back and hamper our ability to achieve our goals.

But there is hope, says Meng: we can become emotionally resilient to grasping onto success and aversion from failure.

The sentence that really blow me way and could become the cornerstone of our new renaissance, our new way of responding to whatever we encounter in life was:

“Imagine the kindest, most positive response” to whatever comes your way.

Wow! Read that again:

“Imagine the kindest, most positive response”

What would happen in our organizations if:

  • Stay away from self-defensiveness;
  • We would always look at the other person as a person and not an object;
  • Develop a superior awareness whether you are in/out the box of self-betrayal
  • And in all occasions, try to “Imagine the kindest, most positive response”

Kindness is the engine of empathy; it motivates you to care, and it makes you more receptive to others, and them to you”

The first time that the word/feeling/attitude “kindness” entered like a bomb in myself was when listening to Jeff Bezos during the graduation speech Princeton, where he says, “it is harder to be kind than clever”. I have posted the link to this speech before, but here it is once more, as so good. Full transcript here

The second time the word/feeling/attitude “kindness” resonated deeply in myself was when reading that book “Search Inside Yourself” (see above).

The third time was later in the same book, where Meng extends the self-awareness to organizational and political awareness.

“Political awareness is a more difficult skill: the ability to read an organization’s emotional currents and power relationships. Political awareness is the generalization of empathy from an interpersonal level to an organizational level…  The ability to empathize on an organizational level, not just an interpersonal one… Distinguish between your own self-interest, the interest of your team, and the organization’s interest—everyone has all three of these interests. It is very important to understand which is which.

SIY Institute

This is such a powerful message, that Meng and his friends made an “Institute” out of the book. Since March 1, 2013 all the curricula are available for free on the website of the SIY Institute:

“Any company that truly values the employee as their most valuable asset should do Search Inside Yourself”

“It’s a great way to develop and grow teams that can work together”

Kindness is associated with friendliness, gentleness, courtesy, kindliness, affability, goodness, tenderness, kindliness, benignity, sweetness. Meng focusses a lot on “goodness”. This empathic/kind self is probably the golden key to unlock and defuse the re-organization pains in our companies and institutions. One of the big shifts we have to make is the transformation from “I” to “We.”

That need for “I” to “We” transformation became also so evident in the talk of The Coca-Cola Man this week in Copenhagen, where Vince Vorne highlighted the need for “respect” for all your partners and stakeholders in and outside your organization and the need to make others win based on their merits and metrics.

It is too easy to fall back in blaming. Yes, we have to keep challenging the status-quo (or in some cased the regression), but we need also to do so in respect for our colleagues, partners, hierarchies, and bosses. Yes, we also have to have to look at them as persons not objects. And yes, we also can even drop our pride and hubris, and “kindly” forgive them for their perceived or real errors, even when it seemed like they were in self-service mode, taking the easiest and safest way out and leaving their teams in the cold. When we look at them as whole persons, they also bring context, pressures, and constraints that we may completely be unaware of.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Dan Rockwell @leadershipfreak wrote a fascinating post “13 Powertips for Leading through Uncertainty”; with a tip to ensure your boss support:

“Pull with – not against, higher ups. Grab the rope and pull, even if you disagree. Everyone who pulls in his or her own direction dilutes potential success. If you can’t pull with, jump ship, now.”

A bit along the same theme, there also was Regis Hadiaris @regishadiaris who posted this week “Martin Scorsese: Leadership lessons for Project Managers”.


A very good read from which I retain the following quote:

“You have to first ensure you understand your bosses.  After that, use their view as a “lens” with which to see your project and yourself.  By doing this, you’ll be able to ensure the project executes on their vision as well as yours.”

I deeply hope that applying these principles will make me/us more humble and soft (soft in the sense of soft looking eyes of kindness). If we all could at least give it a try, maybe we all get less cynical and frustrated, judgmental and control addicts; and we can recalibrate towards a renaissance of open mind, open heart and open will; more human and cultural and erudite.


I have made (and probably still will make) so many errors in my life against the principles of seeing people as people, helping when I see somebody in need, imagining the kindest, most positive response to whatever comes my way, and being respectful and getting buy-in from my leadership/leadingship.

But this time, I may have found a framework and context for greater awareness and the insight that I always have an option: the option to change and to turn the switch towards more kindness and forgiveness.

Maybe this way we can make the transition from “I” to “We” and positively impact the trust between ourselves, our teams, our departments, our companies, our society, our world.

In essence using Meng’s kindness  as the input to the trust layer of Lencioni.

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One of those days off, in the middle of the week; with nothing on the agenda than just hang around, do nothing; just getting inspired by what presents itself that day. One of the presents was a tweet this morning about daydreaming and wandering brains.


The picture of the wondering girl intrigues me. I am back in high school. My mind takes the time-capsule 30 years or more back in time. When I was a DJ of a traveling gig called “The Celebration”. Led Zeppelin’s “Celebration Day” inspired that name.

“I’m gonna join the band,
We are gonna dance and sing in celebration,
We are in the promised land”

I open up iTunes, start the HD video version of Led Zeppelin’s concert “Celebration Day”. Magic happens.

Mmmm… this is really very very good. Enjoy it very much, especially loud with quality headsets on and Mac wide 27 inch screen. Next time, I have to experience this on IMAX in a high quality cinema…

This concert performance makes me think of the magic of great bands, the magic of big teams. What they are going through when they form, when they storm, when they norm, when they perform. When they disband or get disbanded, get together, stay apart; investigating the energies and emotions that glue the human fabric in something magic and powerful that can not be articulated in hierarchies or organograms.

I take some notes of my reflections, and without knowing it on a rant about the making and breaking of bands, of teams. The metaphor is powerful.


Checkout the history of Led Zeppelin on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Led_Zeppelin > and read it as if this was not about a rock band, but about a team in an organization. How much do you recognize?

“As soon as I heard John Bonham play”, recalled Jones, “I knew this was going to be great … We locked together as a team immediately”

Suddenly, destiny brings people together. There is chemistry; sounds and creativity start flowing. We look for a group identity: something that bonds us as a team, as a tribe; a bond, a deep human need.

One account of how the new band’s name was chosen held that Moon and Entwistle had suggested that a super group with Page and Beck would go down like a “lead balloon”, an idiom for disastrous results.The group dropped the ‘a’ in lead at the suggestion of their manager, Peter Grant, so that those unfamiliar with the phrase would not pronounce it “leed”.The word “balloon” was transformed into “zeppelin“, perhaps an exaggeration of the humor, and to Page the name conjured the perfect combination of heavy and light, combustibility and grace.

Heavy, light, combustible and gracefulness. The metaphor of a well-oiled band: playing as united, with deep mutual respect for each other, no egos at play. The look in the eye, the smile of “well done”, “this rocks”, “that was fun”. Also a little bit “dying” in full performance, giving every little bit of you.

Mastery of your instrument, not any more about playing, but expressing yourself at the emotional level, touching others through word, sound, light, and all senses by letting howl your guitar from deep within your belly, but it also can be a weeping or whispering guitar: when my guitar gently weeps (The Beatles 1968, The White Album)

“I wrote “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at my mother’s house in Warrington. I was thinking about the Chinese I Ching, the Book of Changes… The Eastern concept is that whatever happens is all meant to be, and that there’s no such thing as coincidence - every little item that’s going down has a purpose. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was a simple study based on that theory. I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book – as it would be relative to that moment, at that time. I picked up a book at random, opened it, saw ‘gently weeps’, then laid the book down again and started the song.”

“I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps.”

The magic of Duos and Triads and Tribes, where cohesion and conflict emerge from randomness and live peacefully next to each other. Where there is no fear, and it is 100% safe to express your opinion, to make art, unique experiences that make you smile softly in bliss. Like the smile of the young woman in the audience of the Led Zeppelin concert; a smile of joy.

“Joy” as described as “Search Inside Yourself: Increase Productivity, Creativity and Happiness” (Amazon Associates Link) by Chade-Meng Tan from Google, with foreword by Daniel Goleman.

search inside yourself

“Especially the type of joy with a gentle quality that doesn’t overwhelm the senses. For example, taking a nice walk, holding hands with a loved one, enjoying a good meal, carrying a sleeping baby, or sitting with your child while she is reading a good book are great opportunities to practice mindfulness by bringing full moment-to-moment attention to the joyful experience, to the mind, and to the body. I call it Joyful Mindfulness”

Bands and teams go through the cycles of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing as so well described by Bruce Tuckman, already in 1965.

“These high-performing teams are able to function as a unit as they find ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or the need for external supervision. By this time, they are motivated and knowledgeable. The team members are now competent, autonomous and able to handle the decision-making process without supervision. Dissent is expected and allowed as long as it is channeled through means acceptable to the team.”

Most teams never get beyond forming. Some get at storming and norming. Very few reach the stage of performing where the “we” supersedes the “me”.


But bands split. So do teams. Some teams disband when the work is done. Other teams get disbanded. The “best” way to disband teams is to first cut them of resources, of budgets, of purpose. What also works well is to disperse the team members over different business units, to break the bonding through dis-location.

But in today’s on-line world, place and location matter less.

True bonding is a quite another level.


When bands split or teams get disbanded, something strange happens. It feels a little bit like a shrapnel bomb hit by surprise. You loose some of your loved ones. Yes, there are direct casualties, and also collateral damage. It hurts seeing people hurt, bleeding, weeping, crying. The team gets on a roller-coaster of emotions. They are touched in their essence, their flow.

It feels like mourning. You feel alone, dazed and confused (another Led Zeppelin classic)

Every day I work so hard, bringin’ home my hard earned pay
Try to love you baby, but you push me away.
Don’t know where you’re goin’, only know just where you’ve been,
Sweet little baby, I want you again.

Re-Make and Succeed

But then it’s time to get over it and to restart, to reboot. To explore what is our true purpose, where we can make a real difference.

“First they ignore you,

then they laugh at you,

then they fight you,

then you win.”


Mahatma Ghandi

It goes back to the principles of “leadingship”, that I described in my posts “The End of Leadership” and “Leading from the Edge”.

Great teams work on the principle of “interdependency”; interdependency from each other, interdependency from the ecosystem; the holistic/”wholistic” environment they operate in.

Great teams never give in. They have some form of pride, not hubris; every team member is standing-up, like “grounded” in full spirit, head-up, facing, forthcoming. Forte, inspiring others to dream and play like a band, rocking the place like it never had been rocked before.

Was the bond strong enough or is it over, over and out? Can we individually re-boot, re-bond across different departments? If so, we can start multiple fires, multiple tribes and set the house on fire. Not a fire of destruction, but a fire of care, love, energy, expansion of the self and the group and the company and the ecosystem at large.


Quo Vadis, team? Once more the gas throttle full speed, and going were we have never been gone before? For what purpose? With what intention. Why?

To find out, teams have to re-ground. As a team. Even if they don’t exist as such anymore in the organogram.

Like Led Zeppelin, who retreated in Bron-Yr-Aur, the Welsh cottage to which Page and Plant retired in 1970 to write many of the tracks that appeared on the band’s third and fourth albums.

ledzep house

“On 10 December 2007 Led Zeppelin reunited for the one-off Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at The O2 Arena in London, with Jason Bonham again taking his late father’s place on drums.

Wow! The son of the original drummer? Where is my son? Where is our offspring? Who will be the new drummer of the band and make the magic of team cohesion happen again? The drummer can make a big difference as described by Tim Kastelle in “Culture provides the beat for your organization”.

This is about managing interactions and connections. 

“In complex systems, emergent properties arise through networks of interactions.  Building an understanding of your networks is crucial to improving innovation outcomes.  Network weaving is a more effective management tool than organizational restructuring.”

So how can we have both focused and open attention for network weaving? By focused and open attention and presence.

Again from Chade-Meng Tan’s book:

Focused attention is an intense focus on a chosen object. It is stable, strong, and unwavering. It is like sunlight focused with a lens shining intensely on a single point. It is like a solid piece of rock, majestically unmoved by the distraction of the wind. It is a mind like a closely guarded royal palace where only the most honored guests are allowed to enter and all others are courteously but firmly turned away. Open attention is a quality of attention willing to meet any object that arrives at the mind or the senses. It is open, flexible, and inviting. It is like ambient sunlight, lending itself to anything and everything. It is like grass, always swaying gently in the wind. It is like water, willing to take on any shape at any time. It is a mind like an open house with a friendly host, where anybody who walks in is welcomed as an guest

One of the great challenges of new teams is indeed how you welcome new team members and their emotions. Do you unconditionally welcome them and their emotions as guests, without prejudice? With the real intention to make each other succeed?

Somewhere in the middle of the concert, Roger Plant says something about “Creating a dynamic evening”.

For me that “dynamism” translates in playing my song, a real song, with harmonics, with structure, with ebb and flow, with meaning. Not just a list of great speakers that are great soloists on stage, but creating a magic welding of human energies. It is about indivisible and complete immersive experiences, the same way Led Zeppelin preferred the “album” as an indivisible piece of art:

“After changing their name from The New Yardbirds, they signed a favourable deal with Atlantic Records that allowed them considerable artistic freedom. Led Zeppelin disliked releasing their songs as singles; they viewed their albums as indivisible and complete listening experiences.”

This is not about TED, but as Umair Hague so well described in just one tweet: the difference between TED and the something else with the un-named quality that we are after.

“Not a kind of heat death of thought: all gurus, no teachers; all sound bites, no depth; all positivity, no criticism.”

ledzep wholelottalove

 What we need is a “Whole Lotta Love” in everything we do!

You’ve been coolin’, baby, I’ve been droolin’,
All the good times I’ve been misusin’,
Way, way down inside, I’m gonna give you my love,
I’m gonna give you every inch of my love,
Gonna give you my love.

Let’s rock on!

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My post “The End of Leadership” was one of the most read posts on my blog ever. But i owe the spark and the essence for this post to Rune Kvist Olsen, who keeps fine-tuning the concept by sending regular comments to that post. Here is one of these comments

As individual human beings we must learn to practise our free will in taking and making personal choices, and practise responsibility towards our self and each other as trustworthy, dignified, reliable and accountable humans.


The post also triggers comments in Google+ communities like this one by Leland LeCuyer:

Leader-ship puts the emphasis on the person, in particular upon the role that person is playing. Thus the title and the office give an individual certain powers, prerogatives, and duties. Certain other individuals are subordinate to the leader and are expected to execute what the leader commands.

Leading-ship emphasizes the action that is taken. It requires initiative mixed with talent, skill, and commitment. Instead of issuing orders to be carried out, it draws upon the ability of the person who is leading to inspire, teach, and motivate others to join her or him in acting. Most important of all, it doesn’t require an office or a title, just talent, skill and a commitment to act.

The differences are night and day. Carpe diem!

For others to join her or him in acting. That ties in wonderful with my updated “about” where i suggest:

“I love connecting with the experts,

the musicians, and artists of all kinds,

to bring out the very best in them,

to love to work & live with them

to show personal intent and integrity,

so that others want to join our projects too.”

But nothing better than the master himself ;-) Just a couple of days ago, Rune sent me his February update, and asked me to share it with my community and followers. It’s wonderful and deeply enlightening. Highlights are by your humble servant. Enjoy!

+++ Start Rune’s February 2012 update +++

1. Understanding the conceptualization of “Leadingship”

The ultimate core in the vision of “Leadingship” is the principle of self-determination at work. Subsequent that the individual human being is self-deciding within a defined area and field of work based on her or his individual competence. This principle should be the natural and self-evident choice in designing organizations regarding managing and leading working processes. “Leadingship” is a substantial humanistic principle by design and is stating the value of “Leadingship for Everyone”.

The contracting principle to “Leadingship” is that someone is leading and deciding over others and someone is led and decided over by others. The superior authority in subjugating people to subordination is designed by position and rank (contrary to competence). The design principle of “Leadership” authorizing the superior person in charge, is depriving the persons below their innate sense of being personal responsible of one owns contribution and performance of work. The relationship between superior people and subordinate people is legitimating the design of someone above who is worthy trust and responsibility and others below that is unworthy the dignity as equals and peers in the workplace. “Leadership” is definitive an anti-humanistic principle by design and is stating the value of “Leadership for Someone”.

In sum the natural design principle at work is to grant competent people their human right of self-decision. Depriving people their right of self-determination, is to devaluate their competence as authorities within their personal field of expertise. And that choice is both unnatural and anti-human.

2. Understanding the incomprehensibility and unintelligibility of the unknown matter of reality, through our adapted perceptions of beliefs and values.

To become able of understanding and learning anything that comes to us as a matter of something unknown, strange, different and perhaps controversial in challenging our ingrained beliefs and truths, we are dependent of an ability and a will force to think the unthinkable in understanding the unbelievable substance of the unknown matter at hand.

Unless our capacity of transgression beyond our force and power of mind exist, we will surely be stuck with our old beliefs and truths surrounded by ignorance, prejudice and convictions – as protective shields against challenges perceived as threats to our known measures of reality.

The journey of mind from Leadership to Leadingship, is an example of such a provocative, controversial and challenging test for our ability and will to move beyond the unthinkable of the common reality of theory and practice in organizations to day.

3. The pedagogical core of Leadingship

  • As individual human beings we must learn to become independent responsible human entities interacting with each other on mutual and equal ground.
  • As individual human beings we must learn to practice our free will in taking and making personal choices, and practice responsibility towards our self and each other as trustworthy, dignified, reliable and accountable humans.
  • As individual human beings we must learn to convert our learning’s to personal competence by practicing our independence and responsibility through the adaption and application of our learning’s in real life.
  • Being independent and responsible human beings at work. When we have become truly independent and responsible individual human beings at work by taking care of our self and each other, we have gained the personal ability to practice Leadingship in the process of leading our self together with others based on our competence and enabled by mutual trust and personal freedom.

4. Fear based relationship powered by Leadership versus trust based relationship powered by Leadingship

A relationship based on fear (of rejection, exclusion, punishment etc.) and managed by control, command and domination over other people in the organization, is an expression of a deep and intrinsic personal need, urge and desire of being in charge as a superior person ranked above others as subordinates ranked below. By being in charge the person has gained the superiority and the enforcing power over others. The nature of Leadership is to lead others by deciding over them and by subjugating others to be led through obedience and loyalty. The notion of being subjected to others mercy, is in it self a source of the threatening emergency of fear.

A relationship based on trust (of appreciation, recognition, acknowledgement etc) and managed by personal freedom, mutual respect and social responsibility, is an innate expression of a devoted and compassionate engagement between people who are regarding themselves as equal, peers and partners in either working alone or together. The social mutuality is practiced through the respect and appreciation of each person as a worthy, competent and valuable contributor in the integration and coordination of work. The nature of Leadingship is to lead one self together with others in taking personal responsibility for decisions within one owns field of work based on the shared trust in performing independence and responsible actions.

+++ End Rune’s February 2012 update +++

It should make us think deeply what we do with our organizations and the people working in it, for it, or even better from it. The “organization” is not anymore a objective in itself, but rather a tool, a platform for moving the needle of progress in the world. As mentioned before in this blog, I strongly believe that “Organizations are becoming Movements for Greatness”.

The old model has failed and is obsolete.

But we keep on training our young potentials based on the old-style model. Like the overall financial system has failed and is obsolete by only taking value out of the system but never giving back. The old model showcases perseverance in repeating the same greed errors over and over again. The old model fails to see the deeper ecological values beyond transactional relations based on raw power and money. The old model has failed because the power of leaders is based on hierarchical position, title and entitlement.


The old model has failed, and a new generation of leaders is standing up, protesting against the end-less and clueless forms of (re)organizations where people are still considered by “leaders” as pieces on a chessboard that can be moved as resources that are owned in a slavery type of relation, a power by leaders exercised on “subordinates”. These organizations are becoming toxic environments, where people are getting mentally and even physically sick, because they are deprived of genuine sharing and leadingship oxygen.


These new empowered employees are making a big plea for a more humanized workplace and call for actionable movements for greatness and inspiration. For a place where they are no longer seen as cogs in a machine, doing mindless repetitive work, soon to be taken over by machines

Ross Dawson and John Hagel recently elaborated in “Our future depends on the humanization of work“:

However perhaps the most important perspective is that work must be humanized.

As Hagel eloquently described, the problems we face have largely arisen because of the dehumanization of work. As we have built processes and structures that have made people into cogs in machines, it has indeed made them eminently replaceable.

In fact one of the great promises of the increased mechanization of work is that in a way it it forces us to be more human.

We are continually being pushed into the territory that distinguishes us from machines: emotion, relationships, synthesis, abstraction, beauty, art, meaning, and more.

Part of this is in designing jobs that draw on our uniquely human skills, and for all of us to bring our humanity to bear in our work.

Yet the broader frame is an economic structure that has made work inhuman and readily replaced by machines. We need to fundamentally change the nature of organizations and how we work together to create value. The systems must be humanized in order to allow the work to be humanized.

That is our challenge, our task, indeed our imperative if we wish our collective future to be happy and prosperous. Let us work hard to humanize work.

There is a huge role for independent and inter-dependent leadingship grounded employees to virally change the system from deep within, sticking out their neck for this good cause and leading from the edge.

living on the edge

I look forward hearing your comments. Have an inspiring day!

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My colleague Ian from South Africa recently wrote me a private mail in reaction to my “Help, I failed” blog post. Below some edited extracts (Ian was happy to let me share from his mail on my blog), as I wanted to share the full picture where Ian is coming from when suggesting the concept of “The Bridge”.

the bridge

Ian writes:

“Your post got me thinking of Kosta’s famous analogy of the Castle and the Sandbox and I wonder if we are missing a “bridge of common understanding and respect” between our Castle and the Sandbox. You are probably thinking by now what is Ian talking about and has he had too many good bottles of South African Red Wine :-) Well let me try explaining it in a slightly different way. I have two young kids, aged 7 & 4. We live in in a nicely sized home but it is very clear that we have very different needs in the form of what TV programs I like to watch versus what they like to watch. I like quiet space to read my books and recharge my batteries, where they like a noisy space to play their Wii and play with their friends. So we have created our own Castle and Sandbox so as to speak. The place in the house, called a playroom, for the kids to do what they need to do and a quiet study type den for me to do what I need to do. There is something additional we have in our home, which I believe is missing within the Castle and Sandbox scenario. We have a place where mutual respect prevails. It is called the dinner table. I guess you could also refer to it as a bridge between our diversified needs. We make a conscious effort to sit together during the week where we enjoy dinner together. The rules are simple. No distractions from ‘daily lives’, such as the TV on during dinner or iPods or iPhones at the table. Everyone has a chance to share something uninterrupted, they learnt or enjoyed during the day. Everyone feels included, safe to speak their mind and most importantly respected. So what I am saying is perhaps what we need is to create a ‘bridge’ between our Castle and Sandbox. I am not talking about a gating-process. We need to create a ‘bridge’ where colleagues from the Castle and the Sandbox can come together and feel mutually respected for their views and feel safe and comfortable to engage with one another. No one should feel threatened for questioning the status quo and everyone should feel proud to be a part of our great and diversified organization that makes our company what it is and what it will be irrespective of whether you are in the Castle or Sandbox. I don’t know concretely what this ‘Bridge’ looks like but it should be place for celebrating successes and failures. What do I mean by celebrating failures? We should celebrate that we were bold enough to take the risk and try something that was rebellious and unique and share confidently what we learnt along the way and to proudly say we will continue to walk the edges of corporate accepted behaviours and continue to Innovate.”

Two weeks later, Ian also had a chat with Kosta on this idea of “The Bridge” during our annual sales convention. And another two weeks later I bumped into Haydn Shaughnessy, who gave a whole new dimension to this meme.

Ian’s idea got me thinking. I was already somewhat unsatisfied by existing innovation models. Innovation has become an empty buzzword. Every company is doing open innovation in one size of form. Everybody is doing start-up competitions, VC-funds, prototypes, boot camps, sandboxes, etc. And Kosta has explained at numerous occasions what the Innotribe sandbox is all about. He even wrote a whole book about it (Amazon Associates Link)!

castle and sandbox

The advantage of the “castle and the sandbox” is that is a simple metaphor.

“The sandbox is an “incubator” – a protected place where people with ideas can “play”, or to try out their ideas, without impacting the castle. The “castle” is the metaphor for the mothership, the core of the company. The incubator is the place where you can try, experiment, fail, try again, fail again, and eventually learn and succeed.”

In our incubator sandbox approach, project teams are even located in a separate building. It was an empty platform in one of the side-wings of the campus, and as innovation team we jokingly said that we were going to highjack that space. Which in the end we more or less did ;-) With minimal budget, some paint and beanbags from IKEA, we transformed the office space in a loft-alike start-up garage, where end-to-end project teams were co-located.

With hindsight, the separate building approach may need some fine-tuning. Maybe it needs “The Bridge” that Ian was talking about. Working separately without much transparency creates tensions, suspicion and jealousy. It would probably be better to physically create the sandbox “within” the castle, like a sort of patio, so that people can look over the shoulder, feel confident that real and cool works is being done there, tempting their curiosity so they are looking to join our projects too. Then there may even not be the need for a bridge.

Another disadvantage of the castle-sandbox metaphor is that it polarizes; it creates the perception that the castle is the serious thing, and the sandbox the playground. Innovation projects are just perceived/positioned to the inside/outside world as “Oh, thàt project? Don’t worry, it’s just some experiment/research by the innovation team”.

And before you know it, the problem is becoming one of credibility. The problem is one of execution and scale.

The challenge is NOT to have ideas, or to prototype those ideas, or to incubate those ideas. The real nut to crack is: how do I get projects out of the Sandbox, back into mainstream, back into the castle? As I have already shared many times on my personal blog, this question is for me becoming an existential question. What am I really doing here, if all these great ideas are only play-worthy, but are never allowed to hit the mainstream, the mainstreet?

This is getting into purpose. Personal purpose, team purpose, and company purpose. Purpose and meaning.

“The Bridge” could be one way to tear down the virtual or perceived walls between the castle and the sandbox, and to re-create that meaning.

serendipity machine

“The Bridge” makes me also think of “The Serendipity Machine – a disruptive business model for Society 3.0”. It is the “3rd Space”, where two worlds meet, not only in mutual respect, but also in a gift-economy lifestyle, where our expertise and knowledge becomes an asset to share between equals.

3rd space

But “The Bridge” is in my opinion just the start of a much broader discussion on how we can re-invent innovation.

Haydn Shaughnessy – Forbes/HBR blogger on RE:THINKING INNOVATION, and author of “The Elastic Enterprise – the New Manifesto for Business Revolution” (Amazon Associates Link) for which I wrote a foreword a year ago – has some ideas about this.

Elastic Enterprise

Haydn happened to be in Brussels and invited me for a coffee, as we never met in person before/after the foreword. I shared this idea of The Bridge, and my search and ambition to re-invent innovation. It happened that Haydn was doing a research on a similar topic in preparation of a new book.

The conversation got my head buzzing, and I felt I was onto something: a menu, a mind map, and/or the ingredients of a re-invention of innovation.

  • Lab explosion: the one castle and one sandbox will be replaced by many mini “labs”, at times subversive and in guerilla mode, deeply embedded in the fabric of our organizations, creating a viral effect of systematic and systemic change.
  • The Bridge, or Bridges, or many 3rd Places where we can blend (see above) and respect each other.
  • Integral Innovation: our organizations will require a much bigger focus on external symbiosis and innovation, where we not only suck value out of the system for our own benefit, but we give back to society as equal contributors/fellows, way beyond many master-slave relationships. Focusing only/primarily on the inside or the core will not do it anymore.
  • Functional Integration: In the same realm, check out this article related to the announcement of FastCompany’s 2103 world most innovative companies. The article is titled Death to Core Competency: Lessons from Nike, Apple and Netflix”“In a world of rapid disruption, the idea of having a core competency–an intrinsic set of skills required to thrive in certain markets–is an outmoded principle”. It is very much related to the end of horizontal or vertical integration, and the advent of “functional integration” as wonderfully explained by R/GA CEO and founder, Bob Greenberg, and Barry Wacksman, EVP, Chief Growth Officer, discussing how to grow and thrive amid the chaos and the future of the industry and beyond, and explaining how they re-invent themselves every 9 years (click part-3 under the video stream to get right to the hart of the matter)
  • People Innovation: we need a different type of person, more vulnerable and more human. With other strengths and skills. People with a creative life&work style: people who can experience and digest self-validation, risk and peer rejection, risk and peer validation, failure and triumph.
  • Peer-to-Peer Innovation. P2P is changing everything. Not only technology-wise but also in the way people interact with each other without intermediaries or hierarchies. It even puts in question the need for any form of central organization to filter and dispatch ideas.
  • Uber-Innovation: what if we would apply the Uber-taxi concept to innovation itself? And arm the participants in the innovation demand-and-supply chain with mobile devices, so that ideas can flow freely from the idea-generator straight into the last mile of the one who materializes the idea in a desirable product or service? Is this sort of “Uber-Innovation” just a wet dream, or is it exactly what P&G is doing with P&G-Connect+Develop ™, a first incarnation of this dream becoming reality?

“The Bridge” has also a special meaning in music. There is a whole Wikipedia page about it. I like the description for a “bridge” in a fugue:

“… a short passage at the end of the first entrance of the answer and the beginning of the second entrance of the subject. Its purpose is to modulate back to the tonic key (subject) from the answer (which is in the dominant key). “

But I am not such a classic guy ;-) I lived my youth in the 60ies, and 70ies and 80ies. I could refer to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge over troubled water”, but I don’t want to go there ;-), especially with the people I invite to dance at the end of this post.

Then I prefer from far “Taking them to the Bridge” and shake the tree and the body with the famous James Brown song “Sexmachine”, here in a 1971 version with Fred Wesley.

James Brown and Fred Wesley are “taking you to the bridge” somewhere around minute 1:15. So while you are having fun and shaking your body, try also to think about the bridge and other ingredients for re-inventing innovation.

I also now just realize I made full circle to my blog post “My Boss asked me to dance!”, sharing that way my 2012 company objectives.

But this time, it’s me who is inviting Kosta and Haydn to join me in this dance, and have a collaborative, shared, and joined post on re-inventing innovation.

Let us take you to the bridge!

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We have all been reading the books and hearing the innovation experts and gurus speak and preach about the need for experimentation and failing wisely in innovation environments. All that is good in theory. What about the real life? What happens in your organization when you fail? How does your leadership assist you in this transition? What happens in the team dynamics? What happens with you?


I failed big time recently. And it traumatizes and immobilizes me. It gets me on a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s difficult to deal with the abrupt changes between being celebrated the one day, and being the pariah the other day. Or should I find solace in the fact that at least, I still have highs (and lows) in corporate life?  Some friends and colleagues don’t even have that luxury: they are being beaten up all the time.

It’s not the first time this happens to me: failing big time. Being awarded and congratulated for stellar performance in one fiscal year and then being dropped a couple of days later due to changed priorities in the new fiscal year. So where is the pattern? What can I learn from it? How don’t I get “trapped” in the same mechanism of self-defense over and over again?

When the failing hits, I indeed tend to “protect” my vulnerability and myself by avoiding contact, by being silent, not expressing myself, while at the same time feeling deep anger inside. I am turning in circles, can’t concentrate nor focus, and become cynical. It damages my performance. How can I voice my soul, my emotional state and psychology of failing, the human emotions, and the intimate collateral damage that go with all this? How can I resurrect from failure?

It happens that Adam Dachis (@adachis) just wrote a post about this, titled “The Psychology Behind the Importance of Failure”, and quotes Heidi Grant Halvorson (@hghalvorson), shared with me by Jennifer Sertl (@jennifersertl).

The problem with the Be-Good mindset is that it tends to cause problems when we are faced with something unfamiliar or difficult. We start worrying about making mistakes, because mistakes mean that we lack ability, and this creates a lot of anxiety and frustration. Anxiety and frustration, in turn, undermine performance by compromising our working memory, disrupting the many cognitive processes we rely on for creative and analytical thinking. Also, when we focus too much on doing things perfectly (i.e., being good), we don’t engage in the kind of exploratory thinking and behavior that creates new knowledge and innovation.

So here you are: you have read all the books, seen all the greatest speakers, got the best personal coaches, followed all the personal development journeys you can imagine, you even preached yourself to others the benefits and adrenaline effects of going for your true self. And then you get hit. And you don’t know what to do, how to react, how to stand-up, how to reboot, how to get alive again.

Here are a couple of questions for all you innovators out there. Some areas where I would like to know how YOU coped with that situation, and what we all can learn from it.

  • You have a project of a lifetime. You stick out your neck big time and after lots of blood, sweat and tears, corporate priorities change, and your project is stopped from one day to another. How do you cope with that? Do you have examples of how you turned that sort of failure into a success? A crisis into an opportunity? I don’t know yet a good way how to do this, other than sweating out your time and hoping for the better.
  • Igniting change and innovating also means being a corporate rebel. You walk the edges of corporate accepted behaviors  in 95% of the cases, you succeed keeping that balance. But sometimes you go over the edge. How does that behaviour impact the perception others have of you? Does it impact your performance reviews? How can you avoid paying the price?
  • In innovation, the pedestal of success and the bin of the pariah are oh-so-close. On the pedestal of success, you are full of energy, even arrogant at times, sometimes preaching. But always with your heart at the right place and a deep intention for doing good for your company and the folks who work for it. Some people call it “irresistible enthusiasm”, and get energized when they hear your voice and they see the sparks in your eyes. Others – the criticasters – believe you are member of the “ego-tribe”. You sense jealousy from those who don’t have your opportunities, who don’t have a flexible boss like yours, who don’t enjoy executive sponsorship, some call it executive “protection”. When you fail, all that positive juice flows away. You’re empty handed. It’s time for revenge, for presenting the emotional invoices. Nobody comes to sit at your table at lunch; nobody wants to be seen with the one who just failed. You have been burned. What’s your experience with that? How do you cope with that?
  • What is your experience and reaction with abrupt changes of priorities, change of guards, change of budgets? What do you do when your marching orders change from one day to another? What if you don’t feel aligned with the new directions suggested or imposed? Especially when you just failed and are super vulnerable? Should you just brace for a while and hope for the turn of tides, of keep acting based on what your intimate true self tells you about what is right or wrong for yourself or for the organization you work for and deeply care about? Who has ever done and experienced something like that? Please share your wounds and healings.
  • Corporate world has the reputation of being a world of extroverts. But at least half of the workforce is introvert. I am and never was superman. I am not the vocal extrovert; I am more the reflecting introvert. Many of us are sensitive human beings. Many men have more feminine energy than women and the other way around. Where do you go when you fail? Where do you find a shoulder to cry on? When and how do you deal with pretending to be untouchable in formal settings and/or as team leader? Should you dare to show your vulnerability with trusted colleagues or friends?  Can we look through the crack in you and wonder at the light inside?
  • Is there überhaupt something like trust in business, or is it indeed like one of my first managers in my career told me “never trust anybody in business”. Have I become old and cynical? Judgmental? Control freak? In other words have I become all the things I never wanted to become and ended up on the flip sides of my ideals “Open Heart, Open Mind, Open Will” inspired by Otto Sharmer’s “Theory U”?

The bottom line question really is: how do I keep being present and aligned with my true self, when the going gets though in periods of failure? And who is holding a space for me when I long for help in healing my injuries?

“Life of a frontrunner is hard one; he/she will suffer & many of these injuries will not be accidental” ~ Pele

I know that many Corporate Rebels struggle with this. We can support each other by sharing what works and what does not work in these circumstances. Because I have the deep belief that resurrecting from failure is one of the core elements of creating a practice for value creation.

Credit: Fallen picture by Kerry Skarbakka http://www.skarbakka.com/

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I am coming to a stage in my life where I discover that most if not all of the knowledge, models, methods, and principles I learned at school and the last 30 years of my career are completely outdated and irrelevant for the new reality we live in.


That also applies to the concept of leadership. We’ve all learned about heroic and charismatic leaders.  That leaders are leaders when they have followers and when they can create the conditions to engage her followers in a new direction, a place where no one has ever been before, to make 1,000 flowers blossom, etc, etc

With some notable dropout exceptions (Jobs, Gates, Bezos, etc), “leaders” all have the “right” attitude and have MBAs or other impressive certificates. They have the right profile. They went to right schools and the top universities like Harvard, Stanford, INSEAD, etc. Career progress and evolution is systematically reserved to this elite. Even upon today, I see companies that reserve certain professional or personal development programs to those who have the right certificates. How sad.

Most of these “leaders” fit a certain “style”, and most have been moulded in the same factories. Well-dressed, always smiling, ready to help, forthcoming, making it in every aspect of the professional and private lives, always reserved, never angry or upset, in control of their emotions, etc. They make impressive careers, mainly by pleasing their hierarchies, by staying in the blueprint and taking no risks.

But over time, I have become suspicious and bitter about these perfectly casted people. In many organisations I have seen how cheer-“leaders” joyfully smile in the face of their subordinates and at the same time put a knife in the back of the same human beings.

Some “leaders” have even “developed” an almost sadistic pleasure in ignoring and destroying well-crafted pieces of work. I would like to illustrate this with a story from during my studies as architect.

We got an assignment to build an exposition hall and the creation of the space had to be based on some repeating element of construction. As part of the coming-out we had to make artistic sketches, draw the precise floor plans and construction details, and work out the whole thing as a model on scale, including the repeating construction element. I think a worked 3 weeks day and night to make the deadline, and I was quite proud of the result. The model was made out of fine balsa wood. During the review session, my “leader” – the professor and coach, I still remember his name – found an immense pleasure in shooting apart with his fingers the fragile construction. I was not amused; in fact I felt deeply hurt and humiliated.

This is of course quite extreme and even psychopathic behaviour  but I am sure each of us can find one or more examples in their career where their project-of-a-lifetime was shot in pieces apart. If it would happen again, I would probably kick and scream, or no, be subtler and present a glass of purifying water, as in this great advertisement from Spa Reine.

Some of the perfectly trained leaders also never take the pain to reach out to those who are more introverts who hunger for depth and they only listen to the extroverts who are most vocal that reach out to them. Decisions about subordinates are made in secrecy.

But the secrecy-trick does no longer work out in this hyper-connected environment, and news that is supposed to be kept confidential in the catacombs of the power hierarchies is dripping through the more and more porous walls of our organisations.

This new self-emerging transparency leads of course to a huge credibility crisis for the leader, as she does not know that you already know, and her “in-control” pose becomes painfully revealing of the true nature of those so called leaders.

Of course, Pepsodent, Spa Reine and the external look-and-feel vestimentary attributes are only metaphors for something deeper going on.

The problem with this sort of leadership is that it is leadership based on what you are (your power position in a hierarchy) versus who you are, your true internal power as a human.

A monkey in a suit remains a monkey in a suit.

We need a more humanistic approach, inspired by meaning and purpose; an “eudaimonic” economy as so well described by Umair Hague in “Is a Well Lived Life Worth Anything?”

That’s an alternate vision, one I call eudaimonic prosperity, and it’s about living meaningfully well. Its purpose is not merely passive, slack-jawed “consuming” but living: doing, achieving, fulfilling, becoming, inspiring, transcending, creating, accomplishing – all the stuff that matters the most. See the difference? Opulence is Donald Trump. Eudaimonia is the Declaration of Independence.

We have too many Donald Trumps in our organisations  We need a culture that is based on deep respect and dignity for the human being. In this context, I recently had a conversation with a very senior businessperson of a multi-billion-technology company, who told me the parable of the Indian King.

The king had hired a consultant to advice him on the performance of the kingdom. The expert told the king to fire ½ of his workforce, as they did not have the same performance and added value to the kingdom as the top performers. The king responded “And what will those people do, once they get fired?”. The consultant answered, “Is that our/your problem? Your kingdom will be more efficient, that’s what you hired me for, no?”. The king did not follow the advice of the consultant, as he deliberately chose for a societal role in giving his citizens an job, a meaning, and a future, even if that meant a little bit of overhead. His choice was driven by people’s dignity.

The leadership that we all learned about starts smelling like a myth: the myth of charismatic leadership. But don’t blame them. That’s how they have been trained and educated. And the “training” or “brainwash” already started at those business schools, provided that you were lucky enough to be born in a family with wealthy parents that could pay the bill, or you were prepared to put yourselves in life-long debts as slaves to the financial institutions of this world.


The first thing I notice about the Harvard Business School campus is the way people walk. No one ambles, strolls, or lingers. They stride, full of forward momentum. The students are even better turned out than their surroundings, if such a thing is possible.

No one is more than five pounds overweight or has bad skin or wears odd accessories. The women are a cross between Head Cheerleader and Most Likely to Succeed. They wear fitted jeans, filmy blouses, and high-heeled peekaboo-toed shoes that make a pleasing clickety–clack on Spangler’s polished wood floors.

Some parade like fashion models, except that they’re social and beaming instead of aloof and impassive. The men are clean-cut and athletic; they look like people who expect to be in charge, but in a friendly, Eagle Scout sort of way.

I have the feeling that if you asked one of them for driving directions, he’d greet you with a can-do smile and throw himself into the task of helping you to your destination—whether or not he knew the way.

“This school is predicated on extroversion,” and “Your grades and social status depend on it. It’s just the norm here. Everyone around you is speaking up and being social and going out.” “Isn’t there anyone on the quieter side?” I ask. They look at me curiously. “I couldn’t tell you,” says the first student dismissively.


These are extracts from “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” a fantastic book by Susan Chain. The book is an eye-opener in itself about the lost and untapped energy/potential of introverts in organisations.

The essence of the HBS education is that leaders have to act confidently and make decisions in the face of incomplete information. HBS was once called the Spiritual Capital of Extroversion” where Top of Form “Socializing here is an extreme sport” and where verbal fluency and sociability are the two most important predictors of success.” writes Susan Chain, and goes on: “It’s so easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent. Someone seems like a good presenter, easy to get along with, and those traits are rewarded. Exceptional CEOs are known not for their flash or charisma but for extreme humility coupled with intense professional will: quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated. We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.”

Leadership as we know it does not work anymore. We need something else. We also need a language to articulate what this new “thing” is. Some are starting to look into that.


The MIX http://www.managementexchange.com/ was co-founded by Gary Hamel and Michael Zannini (ex-McKinsey). They have set up a platform to share best practices on innovation, management and leadership. “It’s time to re-invent management” is their tag line, and Gary Hamel has written several books and rants on the subject. And as part of the M-Prize competition series, they just launched a new challenge on “Innovating Innovation”. I will write more about this and the related M-Prize where both Innotribe and Corporate Rebels United will make a submission before the end of the year.

But if you look carefully, many of the contributors are from mainly male-driven organisations with very extrovert people. They fit the HBS mould. We seem to keep on tapping into the same high-testosterone pool of resources.

That becomes very challenging for those who do not fit that mould: the ones who are introvert, and who are rarely listened too (if they ever get the chance to be heard); the ones who don’t have the right MBA or certificate; the ones who have a more feminine rather than masculine energy (some man have lots of feminine energy, like some women hive high doses of testosterone); the ones of the other gender, race, religion, age, education, etc


Nilofer Merchant, author of  “11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra” (Amazon Associates link) rightly pointed out to me:

I hope our future economy is also about including the people who are unseen today. Those who are right in front of us, creating value but then ignored when it comes to be included as leaders, or thinkers to shape the future. No one does this out of bad intent, but out of blindness. Few people will realize that while Hagel and Kelly and Gray etc are mentioned, many well-respected best-selling women management thinkers were not. Our thriving systems HAVE to be open enough to include those that are currently blocked out. Blindness shifts when we start to be more conscious. Instead of perpetuating talking about the change, we have to embodying the change. 

Indeed, something deeper is going on….


Bob Marshall (aka @FlowchainSensei) is addressing a somewhat similar dimension of “leadership” in his post “Leadership of Fellowship” and especially the section about dysfunctions of leadership.

The concept of leadership introduces a number of dysfunctions. Rarely are these discussable or discussed in our romanticized conception of the mythological leader:

  • Leadership inevitably produces implicit (or even explicit) Parent-Child relationships. “Just one of many examples of this type of parent/child exchange is the unwritten pact that if employees do whatever their bosses ask of them (regardless of whether it makes good business sense) the boss will take care of their next promotion/career move.”

  • Leadership validates “followership” and thus increased risk of “social loafing“

  • Leadership cultivates “learned helplessness”

  • Leadership can increases alienation, tribalism and the formation of in-groups

  • Leadership often encourages favoritism, patriarchy, deference, sycophancy and obsequiousness, with a consequent reduction in both the quality and quantity of meaningful dialogue.

  • Leadership compounds and perpetuates the Analytic mindset

  • Leadership subtly undermines systems thinking, by breaking the social body into discrete parts (leaders, followers), and focusing attention on those parts rather than on e.g. the relationships between them, and the whole itself.

But the master of language and insight is for sure Rune Kvist Olsen from Norway. Checkout this excellent article “Leading-Ship: reshaping relationships at work”. Rune’s work is inspired by Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933), a visionary in the field of human relations, democratic organization, and management. The tagline of the Mary Parker Follet Network is:

Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim

Rune’s s elaborated thinking blew me away: he is rethinking “leadership” into “leadingship”. It cuts deep in what motivates people. Rune challenges big time all our preconceptions about leaders and followers. I felt deeply inspired by it. So, I got into a conversation with Rune.

During this post-Sibos period of the year, I take off every Friday of the week to create some space for myself to reflect, to catch up on some reading, at times just being there and sitting in silence and trying to make contact with myself again, and then – in that moment of awareness – getting inspired by books and art. One could call it a personal retreat in silence and/or reflection and/or depth.

It was during one of those Fridays that I had scheduled a very long Skype call with Rune so that I could give him my full attention and listen in full presence to the rich language and set of concepts Rune had developed over the years. Since then Rune keeps on sending me wonderful essays and manifestos: describing what is really going on under the hood of human beings in leadership context. It’s very fascinating, and I all encourage you to dive in and discover Rune’s work.

The biggest outcome of Rune’s work is in my opinion that he has developed a language to express this new type of being as a leader in your organisations. It is so new and refreshing, that it needs its own language and vocabulary. Only then you can engage in a conversation trying to understand each other.

A good example of this language is in the following slide (a small extract of a very long presentation)

slide rune

That language is further elaborated in an essay called “Extracts from Humanistic Management Responsibility in the workplace”. It is about Imposed Responsibility (forced upon from outside) versus Chosen Responsibility:

The practice of “taking control” is a significant way in stimulating and inspiring self-esteem and self-confidence in the art of becoming a responsible and independent person.

Receiving and getting control from managers above implies that the person who is giving, still has control and can withdraw it at any suitable time.

Giving or delegating authority creates and sustain a superior/inferior relationship between the people involved.

This practice of giving as a form of domination is easily encumbered with the feeling of humiliation from the receiver’s point of view. The receiver could suffer the humiliation of not having personal control and not being able to take personal responsibility for the specific action at hand.

By granting power to people in gaining personal control and in becoming personally responsible for their actions, we are at the same time granting them real freedom to become true equals and fully human beings.

It is not difficult to understand that being an object of delegation and a recipient of giving (as a token of shared power), a person can naturally feel the humiliating bitterness engendered by being a powerless and subservient receiver and not having the authority in exercising personal freedom.

The result of this type of submissive role-behaviour, would possible entail the undermining of self- esteem, self-worth, and self-respect.

The most obvious flaw in the context of power concentration in the hands of persons in charge of others is the assumption that delegated responsibility is analogous to a commodity that can be shared among individuals or groups.

Giving or delegating responsibility can be conceived as a disguised way of pretending that people below will be empowered by the person above when this person is handling out some responsibility occasionally.

This is a deception in the sense that managers of other people are not actually entitled to give away any power because their power is connected to the managers’

Rune also signed up for Corporate Rebels United. We are btw now a worldwide group of about 200 people now and counting. And several pods being started up worldwide. More about that later.

rebels website

As his contribution to the rebels’ story, Rune produced the following essay “The Story of a Corporate Heresy”.

rune heresy

The full version in PDF is here The Story of a Corporate Heresy, but to whet your appetite here are already some salient extracts:

These types of corporate activist movements emerges as a result of profound crisis in the way corporate communities are organizing, managing and leading their organizations. Corporate Rebel United is pointing out the problem:

“Our companies no longer serve our needs. They cannot keep pace with a high- velocity, hyper-connected world. They no longer can do what we need them to do. Change is required.” Corporate Rebel Manifesto 2012.

Why, what and how can offensive, progressive and constructive actions be a part of the solution and not the problem?

“You never change things

by fighting the existing reality.

To change something,

build a new model

that makes the existing model obsolete.”

stamp fuller

Buckminster Fuller.

The next and last question of the solution in reinforcing engagement and passion amongst everyone in the corporation is: “How can we unblock and reopen the free flow of creativity and innovation for everyone, and create engagement, enthusiasm and passion amongst one and all?”

The resolving answer could be lying in removing the factors that institutionalize the system of vertical power, and in replacing this system with a model that are granting everyone personal authority in exercising power through individual competence, ability and capacity.

All the above are useful reflections about our future leadingship models. But how do we get to that ideal model of leadingship?

As Einstein once said:

“A problem can not be solved

with the same methods

that created the problem”.

Rune – and Bucky, and Einstein – indeed indicated, that part of the solution is to get rid of the leadership that has brought us where we are today. But this is dangerous territory, as those are the leaders who still are in the hierarchical power position to eradicate the subordinates that do not fit the HBS blueprint, and try to challenge the existing system. It makes me think of recursive loops, or the drawings of M.C. Esher. At what point does the transition between night and day really happen?


“Day and Night” by M.C. Escher

Rune started sticking out his neck many years ago, in a period where he could not yet amplify his message through social media. Because he attacked the powers and hierarchies without defence, the system expelled him, and he ended up somewhat isolated, albeit in a beautiful self-built house on the borders of a beautiful Nordic lake (the story is correct, the picture below not)

house by lake

It is not my ambition to get expelled, and I am trying to walk on thin ice every blog again to get your attention for being your true self.

It is in that context that my questions to you are:

  • How can we get these new practices out of the reflection room and into the daily value creation practice?
  • Who has already implemented these principles?
  • What worked and what did not work when rolling it out or letting it emerge?

Let’s share and learn from each other. Let’s document this practice for value creation. This practice of Leadership. Jump in.

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Last week, I was attending my third Techonomy conference.

Techonomy explores “the role of technology in business and social progress.”

I love the word “progress.”

It has that gentle flavor of positivism; in the direction of better. I am more and more convinced that we don’t need innovation; we need progress.

How is progress reflected in a modern company? What does a 21st century company look like? Or maybe we should start thinking about what a 22nd century company would look like. (22nd century indeed: somebody born in 2012 will only be 88 years old in 2100. If Ray Kurzweil’s predictions are realized, it will be a piece of cake by then.)

People might grow older, but companies will die younger.

John Hagel proves with the Shift Index that the firm performance (based on Return on Assets) has declined systemically over the last 50 years.

Most companies don’t last longer than 40 years. Most of today’s companies will not exist in 2100.

The question is: What are the characteristics of sustainable companies?

Here is a list of some memes I’ve come across in recent months: the Adaptable Company, the Decentralized Company, the Sharing Company, the Participating Company, the Collaborative Company, the Connected Company, the Connecting Company, the Coherent Enterprise, the Elastic Company, the Human Company, the Learning Company, the Living Company. I could go on.

I propose that there are at least seven characteristics that will be typical in the 22ndcentury company:

1. Peer-to-Peer Networks

Decentralized organizations with peer-to-peer networks of highly skilled knowledge workers will best create and sustain knowledge flows and enable employees to self-organize. The jury is still out on whether knowledge workers will most often be hyper-specialists or hyper-generalists, but the successful company of the future will behave as a living organism where peers organize themselves in “cells.”

In The Connected Company (Amazon Associates Link) Dave Gray calls such organizations “pods”: Hyper-connected cells building relations with other cells based on a common principles, a common set of values, a common pattern language.

2. Architects of Serendipity

Being an architect of serendipity is about creating connections and providing opportunities for collisions between nodes in a network that learn from the collisions and continually adapt. The collisions are not random. Instead, this is designed serendipity, which might sound like an oxymoron.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, the shoe company acquired by Amazon last year, is setting the scene for architected serendipity with his Downtownproject.

Instead of venturing in yet another luxury corporate campus with everything on-site from shops, restaurants, doctors, and central idea-incubation, Hsieh sees the value in integrating the Las Vegas fabric to catalyze collisions. He is investing about $350 million in local startups, small businesses, education, arts, culture, and residential and commercial real estate.


This campus of the future

starts to look more and more

like a complex living organism


Forget the old alliteration, the 4 P’s and 5 C’s of Kottler and Drucker. The C’s of this new era are those of hyper-connected learning organizations: Curated content, Community, Culture of openness, Collaboration, Creativity and optimism, Co-Learning, Co-Working, Co-Creation, Collisions, Connections. 

3. Empowered Radicals Instigating a Corporate Spring

Some call them Corporate Catalysts, Catalyst Peers, or Corporate Rebels. Steve Johnson described these instigators in his excellent new book Future Perfect: The Case For Progress in the Networked Age (Amazon Associates Link):



the most striking thing about these new activists and entrepreneurs was the personal chord that reverberated in me when I listened to them talk about their projects and collaborations—and their vision of the progress that would come from all that work.”

In September, I wrote a blog post called Companies Are Movements of Greatness. Catalyst peers in our organizations instigate these movements, whether these organizations are hierarchies or peer-to-peer networks.

The point is we have to unleash the energy of these “positive deviants.” I joined with a group of enthusiasts around the globe to put together a Corporate Rebels Manifesto. It’s all about a common set of principles, a pattern language for helping our companies succeed in the Hyper-Connected economy. It’s about creating a new global practice for value creation. It’s about progress.

4. Empowered Platforms

Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook are celebrated for their platform approach, exposing their core functionality through application program interfaces (APIs) so that other players in their networks–customers, partners, developers–can create new value on top of their platform.

We are only at the beginning of this trend, which will encompass all trade and commerce supply chains. In the end, I believe a wide variety of entities, including people, businesses, devices, and programs will have their own clouds and APIs.

What should come next in this evolution is an interoperability among clouds, a layer of services, protocols, and standards that let a Cambrian Explosion of Everything share data in real time, securely and with the appropriate governance and trust.



Every company may have to carve out

a role as a platform player


5. Empowered and participative customers

Doc Searls has written extensively about The Intention Economy (Amazon Associated Link) and customers taking back control of their data. Many organizations have implemented Open Innovation techniques, calling upon the intelligence in their networks to discover and develop new ideas.

The motto “We know more than me” applies the principles of Crowdsourcing. Barclays Bank recently launched BarclayCardRing, a crowdsourced credit card that empowers customers with highly transparent services and shares the program’s profits and losses and monthly financial statistics. In simple language, the data explain how the program is performing. Customers become producers, in partnership with the companies that serve them. 

6. Deeply Digital and Human

It’s been almost 20 years since Techonomist Nicholas Negroponte wrote Being Digital.

We now swim in a sea of data and the sea level, so to speak, is rising rapidly. Billions of connected people, far more billions of sensors, and trillions of transactions now add up to create unimaginable amounts of information. This new environment will require extraordinary adaptability: It is as if we are a species from dry land that has to learn to live in the ocean.

The digital age environment requires a new design for companies, which presents both threats and opportunities. Companies will be disintermediated, will see the erosion of their market share as new entrants muscle in, and technology companies will threaten the position of incumbents in more and more industries, threatening profitability.

But there are also opportunities: sources of rich information are multiplying, and more information is being digitized all the time. Every business is becoming a digital business.

However, the potential benefits of the explosion in number of nodes and the volume of data is being squandered due to low levels of trust, concerns about security, and barriers to monetization. That’s why my employer, SWIFT, has launched a project called the “Digital Asset Grid.” The Grid is a research initiated by Innotribe, SWIFT’s Innovation initiative for collaborative innovation.

With the Grid, Innotribe proposesa new infrastructure for banks to provide a platform for secure peer-to-peer data sharing between trusted people, business, and devices.

7. Diverse Contribution and Leadingship in the Social Era

My initial post on Techonomy only included six ways organizations can survive. Nilofer Merchant kindly drew my attention to the diversity aspect. What follows is an edited version of an e-mail she sent me:

We are all talking about thriving, being more deeply connected in community and thus allowing our organizations to be more adaptive. And my question is… is this system of change more about the same or about something fundamentally shifted in who is allowed to contribute.

I hope our future economy is also about including the people who are unseen today. Those who are right in front of us, creating value but then ignored when it comes to be included as leaders, or thinkers to shape the future. No one does this out of bad intent, but out of blindness. Few people will realize that while Hagel and Kelly and Gray etc are mentioned, many well-respected best-selling women management thinkers were not. Our thriving systems HAVE to be open enough to include those that are currently blocked out.

And we will be surprised by what we create. I remember the story of Fold It. The original inventors of that “game” imagined Phd students more like them than not would be the ones creating value. But in the end, it was a woman who was an admin during the day and the best protein folder at night. If the system had first vetted, she would have been screened out, but when all the rules are evened out… she contributed valuable stuff because she could. (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/04/just_how_powerful_are_you.html).

Blindness shifts when we start to be more conscious. In stead of perpetuating talking about the change, we have to embodying the change. 

Nilofer stroke a cord.

Her new book “11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra” (Amazon Associates link) indeed offers new rules for creating value, leading, and innovating in our rapidly changing world. These social era rules are both provocative and grounded in reality—they cover thorny challenges like forsaking hierarchy and control for collaboration; getting the most out of all talent; allowing your customers to become co-creators in your organization; inspiring employees through purpose in a world where money alone no longer wields power; and soliciting community investment in an idea so that it can take hold and grow.



The Industrial Era and the Information Age are over

and their governing rule are passé


Leading in the Social Era requires a rethink and re-imagination of what can be.

During the same period, I discovered Rune Kvist Olsen in the following YouTube video (1 hour video, you need to be present to fully appreciate the message from Rune)

There is also the excellent article “Leading-Ship: reshaping relationships at work” His thinking blew me away in rethinking leadership into “leadingship”. It cuts deep in what motivates people. There is also an associated slide deck here http://goo.gl/Ds1Qd . Rune   challenges big time all our preconceptions about leaders and followers. I feel deeply inspired by it.

I really enjoyed the 2012 edition of Techonomy. The conference convenes discussions among leaders focusing on the implications of technology change. Kevin Kelly put technology “in charge” in his seminal work What Technology Wants (Amazon Associates Link) challenging the notion that humans control the direction of technology. I look at it more and more as a form of symbiosis.

It happens that I met Kevin Kelly face-to-face later that week at Defrag 2012, where he delivered an awesome talk on “The Emerging Technological Superorganism” but that is the subject for a future blog.

The Internet – with it’s built-in peer-to-peer network architecture – made new forms of peer-to-peer collaboration possible. The creative energy unleashed by the edges of our network represent a transformative change and challenge in how we organize our intelligences in a mix of peer-to-peer intensities, supplemented with some structured “companies” that orchestrate some of the overarching memes in our society.

The rules have changed. To quote Robert Safian (Editor-in-Chief, Fast Company) in his Oct 15 blog post “The Secrets of Generation Flux”:

“Business today is nothing if not as paradoxical. We require efficiency and openness, thrift and mind-blowing ambition, nimbleness and a workplace that fosters creativity. Organizational systems based on the Newtonian model are not equipped for these dualities.”

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A couple of weeks ago, I was attending #BIF8 conference, organized by Saul Kaplan and his team. I was there 2 years ago, when Keith Yamashita from SY Partners did his fabulous talk on “Should I Dare to be Great?”

With hindsight, I found that that 2010 edition of BIF was better curated and had a more consistent level of high quality of speakers or “story tellers” as they are called at BIF.

Whereas 2010 was great, 2012 was good. This year, I was missing that consistency in quality. But there was clearly a theme emerging from the different talks. Initially it was a bit blurry for me what the theme was: companies are communities, creators of serendipity, human community movements, platforms for movements,… ?

In any case, it was clear that something deep is changing about what a company is all about. It made me think about the 1997 (yes, 1997!) book “The Living Company: Growth, Learning and Longevity in Business” by Arie De Geus (Amazon Affiliate Link).

The foreword by Peter Senge highlighted the big shift that is described in this wonderful book:

“The contrast between these two views – thinking about a company as a machine for making money versus a living being – illuminates a host of core assumptions about management and our organizations”


“Seeing a company as a living being leads to seeing its members as human work communities”

Most decision makers in our organizations have and still are trained in the model of the organization as a money making machine. Because this model almost completely ignores the fact that organizations are made out of people, human beings of flesh and blood and emotions and not “human resources” that you can just move around on the check board like physical resources, this has created in many companies an almost toxic environment with little room for happiness.

“Corporate health is experienced as work stress, endless struggles for power and control, and the cynicism and resignation that results from a work environment that stifles rather than releases human imagination, energy and commitment. The day-to-day climate of most organizations is probably more toxic than we care to admit, whether or not these companies are in the midst of obvious decline”

In addition, most of our marketing and strategy managers have been trained in fundamentals like the 4 P’s, the 5 C’s, etc by management gurus like Drucker and Kottler.

Andrew Stein recently posted a blog in defense of Kottler and Drucker, in essence claiming that the marketing fundamentals have not changed.

I tend to disagree, and here is why.

An important piece of the why argumentation came my way during the #BIF8 conference, by two storytellers:

  • The first was Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, the shoe company acquired my Amazon last year (one of my other heroes companies)
  • The second was Susan Shuman, CEO of SY Partners, yes the same company that Keith Yamashita from “should I dare to be great?” is working for

I was really blown away by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos (Shoes) acquired last year by Amazon.

Tony was talking about Zappos’ Downtownproject and the slide deck he used was more or less the same as what is on the slideshare here

The story kicks off when Zappos was considering building a new HQ Campus like Google, Apple, Nike, Microsoft etc,

Instead of venturing in yet another megalomaniac luxury campus with everything on-site from shops, restaurants, doctors, and central central incubator garages, he decided to become deep integral part of the city fabric and to create collisions and serendipities. He is investing about 350 million USD in local start-ups, local small businesses,  education, arts, culture, and residential & real estate.

It is an amazing story circling and hovering over what are probably the five or ten or whatever number of C’s of the hyper-connected and learning organizations of this new era:

  • Curated content
  • Community (Culture of openness, Collaboration, Creativity, and optimism)
  • Co-Learning, Co-Working, Co-Creation
  • Collisions (Colliding communities, serendipity, etc)
  • Connections

As in a real roller-coaster, Tony Hsieh took us from one sensation to another:

  • “We are creating a space where innovators, dreamers, doers, and though leaders from around the world can come to share ideas to enrich the community, to inspire us all. Call it a residency program”
  • “We want to make you/us smarter”
  • “Culture is to a company what Community is to a City See”
  • “Vibrant, interesting and community focused”
  • “Short term ROI vs long term ROC Return on Community”
  • “A learning community” aka “A learning organization” aka “An agile community”

And then it suddenly crystalized for me:

“Companies are Movements”

The sort of movements to change the world.

I reached out to one of the books in my library; very recent one about change management.

Or should I say transformation management?

The book is by Jurgen Appelo and is titled How to Change the World: Change Management 3.0 where he proposed four dimensions for change:

  • Dance with the system: Plan, do, check, act
  • Mind the people: Ability, Knowledge, Desire, Awareness, Reinforcement
  • Stimulate the network (instigators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards)
  • Change/Transform the environment: Information, Identity, incentives, infrastructure, institutions

It’s all about being part of the system you are trying to change. But change or incremental innovation is not good enough anymore in this fast moving world. The keyword is “transformation”: bringing into a new state where there is no option back, a risk to fall back into the old toxic habits. It is about a humanization of our organizations; a transformation at deep people level.

This is where my other #BIF8 hero comes in: Susan Shuman @susansyp, CEO of SY Partners.

She did not talk about the executives and the middle managers.

She talked about

the forgotten middle

the people who actually do the work in companies.

Some participants to the conference found she was too much in pitching mode, pitching her company. That may be true, but the story of what her company does is a very strong one.

I love the tagline “we help companies design their future”. This is a transformation story of Seeing, Believing, Thinking and Acting in meaningful and impactful new ways:

  • See = Fore-sighting, seeing the options vs constraining the options
  • Believe = deep sense of what is possible
  • Think = new solutions, prototyping, fail fast and wisely
  • Act = liberated in pursuing value driven opportunities

It’s about transformation management (not “change” management). It’s about a new way for creating strategy, grounded in complexity thinking and opening the options versus closing them, seeing through the lens of possibility not the lens of constraints, making visible and enabling options for collaboration.

The sort of collaboration and learning experiences that enable greatness, viral change from the top and from deep in the company fabric. It enables a modern way to look at strategy, an emergent strategy, where we not only look at short term revenue streams, but also for new capabilities and strengths. A different way of content curation, facilitation and design, leading to new collisions of expertise, and long lasting transformations.

The sort of collaboration that exists in great team where “duo’s” or “triads” of highly complementary people create greatness. Teams don’t just happen.

Teams are designed

You have to design for team magic

That’s also why moving around “human resources” from one team to another does not move around the greatness with it.

It’s about a new set of tools to let teams perform at their very best, a network of individuals dedicated to each other’s success, a tribe of humans that envision, believe in, and fight for greatness. It’s about a new practice for value creation.

It is not a coincidence that Innotribe’s updated mission statement includes a couple of these key components for the modern organization: To enable collaborative innovation for the financial industry and create new value for the people it serves

Companies are movements

Movements for greatness

Innotribe enables those movements and transformations.

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Since my initial post “Corporate Rebels United – the start of a corporate spring?” of 17 March 2012, and the subsequent “A New Global Practice for Value Creation”, the core team has been working on fine-tuning  our mission.

UPDATE: we are now also present on other social media channels:

I am very grateful to the whole team for getting us where we are today, and especially for initial instigators Laura Merling and Mike Maney, and our advisors/mentors Nilofer Merchant, John Hagel, Mark Bonchek, and Dave Gray.

A special word of thanks to Dave Gray (author of the just released “The Connected Company”), who inspired us with his concept of “Pods”:  independent self-organizing cells who act autonomously but in context of shared platform of common, core, connected principles. Dave was also the person who landed the first version of this manifesto, based on previous culture-hacking work by the core group.

Mathias Vestergaard is the first Corporate Rebel from the core group starting the a Corporate Rebels Pod in New-York City. Who’s next?

Some of us will be present at the CultureCon2012 (co-organized by fellow rebel Dan Mezick and author of “The Culture Game”) and at BIF-8, the fantastic story tellers event by Saul Kaplan and team. Let’s continue the conversation there or online.

The release of this Corporate Rebels Manifesto coincides magically by the release of “The Labor Day Manifesto Of the Passionate Creative Worker” by John Hagel, mentor and my source of inspiration for many years, who writes:

We celebrate the passionate and dedicated individuals in all fields who have both led us to where we are now, and are creating and shaping the future. They are explorers, pushing back the limits of our current understanding. They pioneer new ideas, discover new truths, and tirelessly innovate. They actively seek out new challenges and connect broadly with others to solve them. Though they come from every occupation and background, they are unified by the sincere belief that they can leave the world a better place than they found it

So, without further due, here is our/your Corporate Rebels Manifesto:

+++ start manifesto

What is the problem?

Our companies no longer serve our needs. They cannot keep pace with a high-velocity, hyper-connected world. They no longer can do what we need them to do. Change is required.

What is the vision?

We love our companies and want them to succeed. We want to reboot our corporate and organizational culture to install a 21st century, digitally native version, to accelerate positive viral change from deep within the fabric of our organizations, and to reclaim our passion for work.

What is Corporate Rebels United?

We are building a global network of change catalysts that act from deep personal awareness and presence, and an irresistible enthusiasm. Our actions will lead to new product and services and new global practices for value creation, agility and velocity. We are architects and scouts into the future, and we want to guide our organizations in navigating a safe path from now to then.


Challenging the status quo

Breaking the rules

Saying the unsaid

Spreading the innovation virus

Seeding tribal energy

With no fear

With a cause to do good

Leading by being from our true selves

Going after the un-named quality


We are holding a space.

We are making and holding a space where everybody can have a voice in service of value creation. The DNA of our movement is a platform of core principles that are the basis for us to connect, to practice, to embrace, and to inspire other to dream and make our dreams come true.

How do we define success?

When we have a community of 10,000 pods worldwide, with a good distribution across industries and regions. When we feel whole at work. When the DNA is established, when the pods start to divide, enabled by the lightweight space we are holding. Holding a space is a about context; the job is done when the space is holding itself, when people start saying: “I suddenly feel free to be awesome.” When our practice gets the same attention in annual reports as efficiency practices such as Lean and SixSigma.

Help us articulate the principles.

We are now defining the DNA: A platform of common principles that define who we are and what we stand for. We could use your help.

  • Principle-1: We love our companies and want them to succeed in this high-velocity, hyper-connected world.
  • Principle-2: We dare to be great.
  • Principle-3: We have the mandate to be brave and to challenge the status quo.
  • Principle-4: We will reboot our corporate and organizational culture to install a 21st century, digitally native version.
  • Principle-5: We accelerate positive viral change from deep within the fabric of our organizations.
  • Principle-6: We enable and empower the rest of our organizations to move at rapid pace, but with room for patience and reflection.
  • Principle-7: We unleash the enormous potential that lies within every human being within our organizations.
  • Principle-8: We re-ignite the passion in our organizations.
  • Principle-9: We are not just talkers, but doers.
  • Principle-10: We are building a global network of change catalysts that act from their true selves.
  • Principle-11: Our actions lead to new product and services and new global practices for value creation, agility and velocity.
  • Principle-12: Our community acts from deep personal awareness and presence, and an irresistible enthusiasm opening up old rusty structured.
  • Principle-13: We are architects and scouts into the future,
  • Principle-14: and we want to guide our organizations in navigating a safe path from now to then.
  • Principle-15: We are very well intentioned individuals.
  • Principle-16: We are united people with shared purpose, starting with our own being.
  • Principle-17: We maintain integrity and relevance..
  • Principle-18: We keep our community a safe environment, where you can become who you want to become. Where you are not alone in being a catalyst.
  • Principle-19: Our core values are integrity, clarity of reason, brightness and great positive energy.
  • Principle-20: Reflection, reporting back and adding-on to each others input and opinions is our natural way of collecting and discussing opinions.

Join us.

Start a pod. Organize yourself. Decide on your own activities, your own resources, and your own relationships. And link them back to the mothership, the DNA platform of common, core, connected principles.

+++ end manifesto

If this Manifesto speaks to you, we ask that you become a “signatory” by indicating your support in the comment section below.  We’ll add you to the growing list of Corporate Rebels. And we’re in the process of creating an online holding space for our common principles and convictions. Stay tuned.

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