Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zappa progress

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

But many of us are hit with emptiness.

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

But I sensed there was more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daring to dream big and kill mediocrity and simplistic goals.

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

milan kundera

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

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


Own artwork, Black Ink on old book page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Back to Academy

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

I still have architecture drawing and sketching in the fingers.


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

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

IMG_4345    IMG_4348



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

Stay tuned


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Inside Outside

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


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

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

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


Picture: Solsbury Hill via Barnflakes

Drone cameras,

Intensity of Solsbury Hill

The artist

With fascination, Mystique and Commitment

Get outside

For inside rest by solitude

His heart is in Belgium, and his fantasy in England

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

White page for content, space design and experience design

With performers, craftsmen and artists, 

Reinventing once more

To unleash the unknown self in me

This is autumn,

Point of light in the depth

Creating intensities

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

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

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

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

There is no usage for it…

No efficiency games, nor pragmatism, nor KPI’s

Just for the beauty of it.


But music is without words

I am tempted to make another composition without words.

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

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Dream #2: Flying

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

Standing on my tips

Slowly softly jumping

Then stepping

Then running to take speed

Sometimes straight from stand-still

Go airborne like a balloon

And then taking direction

Sometimes taken very high into stratosphere

By thermals’ forces

Then just in time back to earth

Before I get too cold or without air

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Just found this awesome 27 min talk by Joi Ito on the 9 principles of open innovation. They are not that new – first version appeared in 2012 – but they seem to have matured, like good wine in well kept cellars. Almost every sentence he speaks is tweetable ;-)

To help me concentrate on the content, I usually make a lot of notes, and before knowing I almost made the transcript of this talk, so i can as well share my notes.

So, I have no credits on the content. I just did some mix and matching with some other material from others. Like Joi, I have been a DJ, and I have fun in mixing and weaving different themes into some form of new carpet. Highlights are mine.

joi ito


Joi Ito is Director of the MIT Media Lab and many other things (check out this Wikipedia page).

Here is the sort of transcript, more or less ordered around his 9 principles.

But in his intro, he says also loads of interesting things.

The MIT Media lab 30 years later: Media is plural for Medium, Medium is something in which you can express yourself. The Medium was hardware, screens, robots, etc. Now the medium is society, ecosystem, journalism,… Our work looks more like social science.

Before the Internet (BI) and Post the Internet (PI): Post the Internet, it is about participating responsibly in a system that you can’t predict and whose outcome to your intervention is almost random.

We are moving from “demo or die” to “deploy or die”. It just costs some “sweat equity” and some kids in a dorm room to get things done. Kids are competing with the incumbents. The innovation cost – the cost of trying something – went to nearly zero. Now you can innovate without asking permission, pushing innovation to the edges, and allow grassroots innovation.

Note: I believe “grassroots” innovation is very important in organizations. Last week I was on the judge panel of an internal innovation channel. I saw quite some things that our innovation team explored before, but never succeeded to get out there. With grassroots innovation, you have the buy-in from the fabric of the organization from day-1. It is very “swarmwise”.

Before, the guys who had the money had the power. Now, because the space of startups is so crowded, the VCs have to sell themselves.

Note: I heard something very similar recently in the context of innovation motivations: corporates looking for innovations have to sell themselves to startups.

Diminishing cost of innovation makes those having the money behave a little bit better. Who is thinking about those ideas that don’t start small? Thinking about it as a community. This is less about empowering the individual, more about empowering the community.

Note: “empowering the community”. Wow! Big ideas are usually shared ideas. In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the great Diego Miralles with his story of the Janssen Labs as a story of shared infrastructure. I believe the time is ripe – more than ever – for cooperative structures where we can form “coalitions of the willing” to solve the big community challenges.

Twitter was not a company, it was a feature. It only became useful when linked, when in a system. Can the ecosystem solve the big problems, a complex system with nobody really in charge? In stead of designing that one thing, in a system design is more like growing, giving birth to a child, you don’t know exactly where that child is going, it has your DNA, but hopefully turns into something that you are going to be proud of. Think of it like a gardener: the open internet is the water, the openness, the air that you need, and all of us are the organism that live in that system, to make this thing vibrant.

Then Joi started introducing and commenting some of the 9 principles.

A lot of people disagree with them, but I don’t care. I care about the arguments, I don’t care that they are disagreeing.

Joi Ito 9 Principles2

Pull over push

You pull from the network as you need it, rather than stocking it and centrally and control it. And agility is what comes out of that. If you have printing presses, and lines of code, and IP, those are all reasons not to shift course, to stick to your map, rather than the compass. All the things we think are assets are in fact liabilities, if you think about it from the perspective of agility.

Compasses over map

Often the map costs more to build than it is worth, because the complexity is so high and it is so unpredictable. Dependence on planning is a weakness.

Practice over theory

When I was looking for funding my first ISP, the investor spent 3M USD for consultants to advise not to invest 600K dollars. If it costs you more money to think about it than to do it, it’s better to do it. And if you do it, it turns out that you get a fact, not a theory. It is important to do things, especially if the cost of doing things is cheaper than talk about it. A lot of times it works in practice and not in theory, you can figure out the theory later. Most of the world deals with things that work in theory, but not in practice, and they try to discredit reality in order to fit with their theory. But “in theory” they say, “theory and practice are the same”

Disobedience over compliance

You don’t win a Nobel price by doing what you are told. You win a Nobel price by questioning authority and thinking for yourself. You want to build an organization that is resilient to disobedience

Emergence over authority

In communities, authority seems to be emergent. Open Source project leaders, tend to be somewhat quite people, with a lot of EQ, how are not naturally trying to grasp power, but end up in power because the followers (@petervan: I would say the fellowers) push them there. In an investment firm with a hierarchy that is based on function and title, you just need a stick to keep the troops aligned. But when you are in a system where you are paying to participate, then you want emerging authority.

Learning over education

Education is what people do to you, learning is what you do to yourself. About degrees and “finalizing my eduction”. I don’t want you to be at the media lab, because you want to get out.

Resilience over strength (part of the Q&A)

In stead of bulk-up and resist failure, invest the same money on recovery and resilience. You tend to try to minimize failure, rather than trying to work on resilience. It’s also kind of a Zen thing too. If you are extremely present and ready for anything, your are in an extremely resilient state. And it you are not present, you are always focused on the future, or the past, you try to build up walls and trying to make sure that you don’t get choved. And it is hard when you are surrounded by other planners in an institution like this (Knite Foundation) you tend to focus on structure, strength versus resilience, the structure vs this bounciness. Again on the Internet, a lot of the pieces are very resilient, when you are in an institution that uses a lot of planning; it is hard to create that interface

Also the Q&A part of this talk was interesting.

On how to share knowledge:

The conference model is a great system. A lot of people have experimented with ways to try to share knowledge, but it seems to be one of the hardest problems because everybody has a day-job, they are very busy, and people are talking sort of different languages, and when you are face to face you can coordinate your language in real-time

On how to you get people who are working on things coordinated?

At the Media Lab we have several approaches: we have this sort of big data, data mining, machine learning, predicting things through causalities and patterns vs something where people are more in charge and people are more active.

There is another version of this talk at TED talks:

The more I listen to Joi, the more I become aware that he is talking about leadership features to navigate our companies in this more then ever unpredictable fast moving world. It was a pure coincidence; right after Joi’s talk, I spotted this great post from John Maeda, about Creative Leaders versus Authoritative LeadersJohn Maeda was the President of the Rhode Island School of Design from 2008 to 2013. He is currently a Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

This chart represents a summary of the kind of creative leadership that is rising — and needed — in the face of our increasing interconnectedness due to global economies, mobile devices, and social media. In an age where anyone can “friend” the CEO, and where complexity and volatility are the only constants, what should leadership look like? I often say we are now operating within a “heterarchy” though I’ve also cleverly seen it called the “wirearchy.” In any case, it’s a world where I believe the natural perspective of artists and designers — who thrive in ambiguity, fail productively, and rebound naturally — will be become more and more useful in leadership contexts.

The chart was originally created for a workshop at the Davos World Economic Forum in 2009 and became the basis of my book Redesigning Leadership, written with Becky Bermont. In my own observation, there are authoritative leaders and creative leaders everywhere — it’s not something wholly determined by industry, generation, or position. And every leader will need, on any given day, a little bit of both types of leadership.

John Maeda principles

Makes me think about principles for Leadingship vs. Leadership. See also my post “The End of Leadership” of 1 ½ year ago. Like Joi’s talk makes us reflect on the openness of innovation, Maeda adds the openness of leadingship.

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I am just back from the #disruptiontour with tour leaders Peter Hinssen https://twitter.com/hinssen and Steven Van Belleghem https://twitter.com/StevenVBe, and flawlessly put together by tour organizer Ilse Debondt from Connected Visions (https://twitter.com/ConnectdVisions ).

The PDF of the full program can be found here: http://www.connectedvisions.eu/pdf/cvdtour_program2014.pdf

I have made two blog posts about this excellent study tour:

  • “Highlights Disruption Tour” with a sequential overview of highlights per company visited (that post)
  • “The Uberization of Everything”, a more holistic analysis and sensemaking effort of what I believe are the disruption understreams (this post)

The tour started in the Bay Area on Monday 2 June 2014 with a visit to Google and ended on Friday 6 June 2014 at Scripps Research in San Diego.

Hereafter 8 “clusters” of transversal insights, with my very personal subjective sensemaking for which I am the sole responsible ;-)


Brand Identity and what the company stands for


We visited Tesla after Google. The Google campus of course looks great, but one starts to wonder whether all this is real. How much is theatre and drama? Somebody made the remark whether some of the folks on the campus were not hired as actors ;-)

Tesla Model S

What was more striking are the much higher enthusiasm and true engagement of the Tesla folks. In comparison, the Google people felt tired and at time un-interested. The Tesla tribe was full of fire and energy.

The Google portfolio looks more and more like a patchwork of apps and acquisitions. Even the Google presenter acknowledged that he did not know anymore what their brand was standing for. Something similar happened at Singularity University, where the presenter did not believe the singularity was going to happen, at least not in one “big bang”.


Companies need a “Collective Coherent Corporate Consciousness”

ànd clarity in their intentions and associated narratives.


Relating this all back to financial services, one may ask what a bank stands for or not. “When is a bank not a bank?”. When we see Paypal making payments invisible and blurring the online/offline worlds, what is holding back a Walmart, Amazon, and vibrant startups of offering these services under-the-hood, and elevating what they stand for at a more ethical level?


From Platform to Distributed and payload agnostic

On my blog, I have already many times hinted at the importance of peer-to-peer networks and business models. See also my post “The Revolution of the Data Slaves” http://petervan.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/the-revolution-of-the-data-slaves/

What was new for me in this tour was the power shift towards “fan-base” and “peer-base”. And the difference between platform-thinking and peer-thinking.

In the Uber scenario, it was the taxi dispatching company that was the friction in the system. This opened opportunities for newcomers like Uber to create a platform (to quote @sanguit, a combination of “magnets”, “matchmaking”, and “tools” like APIs, to let producers and consumers of “seeds” interact directly. But there is still a platform owner, server, “siren-server” that holds the power in the system.

While many enterprises are hesitantly making their first moves into platform-thinking, trying to avoid the Uberization of their own business, we are already witnessing the appearance of full peer-to-peer networks, where the infrastructure and business frameworks are owned by the peers, by the commons.

Have a look at newcomers like Ripple and Ethereum, very early days of organization moving from “company” towards “Distributed movement orchestrators” where the power lies in the end points, the nodes of the grid. It will be very interesting to see how governance and regulation will evolve in these 100% distributed environments.

But maybe this vision of infrastructure owned by the end points – owned by the commons – is all just wishful thinking, ignoring the fact that more of that infrastructure lands in the hands of massive new private infrastructures, replacing public goods and services. Where the worker becomes an “entrepreneur,” and assumes the entrepreneur’s risk

See more on this in this great Rhizome article on Internet Subjects: http://rhizome.org/editorial/2014/jun/20/sharing-and-solidarity/?ref=fp_post_title

“Such networks are in effect anti-communities, as Horning asserted with dystopic alarm, where users and independent contractors are pitted against one another, with the only unifying aspect being their use of digital technology to seek the best opportunity to exploit each other’s labor for the lowest rate. But at what cost?”

Just a couple of days ago, my colleague Jerry Kickenson made the following comment to my post “The Revolution of the Data Slaves” http://petervan.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/the-revolution-of-the-data-slaves/

“I wish I could agree with your view of a distributed, decentralized future. But on the contrary I see many examples of a trend in the opposite direction:

  • Software defined networking moving to replace the decentralized routing of the Internet with centralized, top-down policy enforced by a “controller”.
  • Bitcoin is fundamentally at risk due to consolidation of mining resources in a single pool.
  • Peer-to-peer music sharing being replaced with streaming services hosted by mega-corporations.
  • The most cutting edge software running on massively parallel, closely integrated oceans of compute nodes hosted in giant data centers owned by those same mega-corporations.

Perhaps these trends can be reversed – more powerful microprocessors and storage returning cutting edge computing to individuals, private clouds that are not just affordable but easy to set up and maintain, the type of networks you describe here.”


Regulation came back many times in our conversations. We all have seen the protests of taxi drivers against Uber in Boston, London, Brussels, Paris, and many other cities around the world. Diego Morales (Global Head of Innovation at Janssen Lab, part of J&J) hit the nail when he said:

The regulator is not evolving:

too much focus on preventing harm vs. enabling progress.


I listened to the painful efforts of innovators like 23andMe, Scanadu during the tour, and reflected on the regulatory FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) tactics with respect to crypto-currencies. The lesson learned in this tour is that innovators have to embrace the regulation but that you need deep pockets to sustain that effort for several years.


Blending On-line and Off-line, and the risk of becoming invisible

On-line is not trying anymore to just mimic off-line. On-line is supporting off-line experiences. Being part of a stream starts blurring into the four walls of the shop. The best example was PayPal, showcasing some use cases in their showroom.


Suddenly commerce started feeling like streaming music.


I would call it the Spotify-cation of everything. But with sensors assisting you in your brick-and-mortar shopping experiences. We see the same happening in education, like at Coursera. Students are assumed to take responsibility, and hang on-line on the knowledge fire hose, while being assisted and coached in very 1-1 real world experiences by their educators. The knowledge flows are on-line, the coaching off-line.


We have to start thinking into intentions


“I want to bank” is not an intention. It’s a supporting function to commerce. “I want to buy something” or “I want to do commerce” is probably also not an intention. It’s more about satisfying immediately a need, with all the reflections I could make about commerce and advertising as propaganda and mass manipulation of the unconscious. The point I am trying to make is that horizontal functions like payment become invisible. Think about your business: can it be commoditized so much that it becomes invisible?


Data Ethical Companies

I have already written so much on my blog about the exploitation of personal data through big data, government and corporate mass surveillance. I condensed most of my thinking in my recent “The Revolution of the Data Slaves” post. What surprised me during this tour was the naivety, the indifference and the shoulder shrugging of most of the companies proposing apps and services that leverage personal data from their users, with comments like: “Yeah we all know it feels a bit creepy, but it is just a matter of time before you get used to it”.

All, except Palantir Technology, who starts to talk “beyond legal” and about the ethical role of the coders and designers. We start to become aware that we are developing an algorithmic bias defined by the developer and the designer without understanding their intentions or motivations. And @changist recently tweeted that we are seeing the appearance of “the slaves of the algorithm”, a play of words on Grace Jones famous 1987 hit.


Breathe to the rhythm,

Dance to the rhythm,

Work to the rhythm,

Live to the rhythm,

Love to the rhythm,

Slave to the rhythm.


The platitudes on the ethical debate are numerous. We seem to forget that ethical norms can be and are different (not right/wrong) in different countries. This is spot-on the subject of the book “Moral Tribes” where the author Joshua Green calls for a meta-morality, bridging norms of tribes and countries.

morality phase change


Societal Impact and Vested interests

Diego Miralles, Global Head Innovation at Janssen, blew me away with his holistic vision. I would like to get him one day in front of our banking audience at Innotribe, because there are so many parallels with the financial industry.

Diego Miralles 2

The story of the Janssen Labs is a story of shared infrastructure. In this need for infrastructure in a highly regulated industry, there are of course so many parallels with financial sector. Like healthcare, many businesses are in essence highly dysfunctional.

But the powers in these businesses will try at all means to keep the status quo. Like the traditional taxi companies, they are at best aware that their own institutions are the friction in the system, a friction that they exploit for their own benefit, by monopolizing the frictions, making sure that the barriers for entry for newcomers are very high.

These are the models that try to suck as much value out of the system for their own benefit, without giving back to society. These are the models that privatize the profits and share the deficits with the citizen.

These powers will pay lip service to innovation, and in reality try to fight it as much as possible newcomers to safeguard the monopoly.

To me this sounds like a lack of ambition. A good example in financial services would be the holding-on to the correspondent-banking model. The ambition could be to re-invent the model in a world of hyper-connectivity, as already suggested by Heidi Miller during her fantastic speech at Sibos 2004.

Existential questions don’t have ready answers. But how did we get to this point?

Despite the financial crisis, not much has changed in the levels of ambition and having the courage to ask and answer difficult existential questions. Many institutions seem to content themselves sustaining the current system and its related services fee model for as long as possible.

The current system of medicine is based on the healer having all the knowledge and the recipient almost none. This asymmetry is again valid in many industries, especially data exploitation services. But hyper-connectivity is changing that.

I would love to see these institutions embrace the phase change that is in front of them. A phase change of a new meta-morality and the phase change of the system where we have the ambition to create physical and mental spaces where people come alive.

system change


What if exponentially and scale are not relevant?

All the companies and models we have seen are based on exponential growth, on creating economies of scale. We seem to take for granted that future models will be based on exponential growth, speed, scale, and efficiency. We seem to forget that the exponential growth also leads to and exponential decrease of price. This could be a dead end street, with prices trending to zero.

What if the future model would not be based on exponentially, speed, scale, and efficiency?

What if uniqueness becomes more important than functional lego-bricks and efficiency?

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


What if intimacy would be the new black?

Intimacy is the new black


Dreaming Away

At many moments during this tour, I became uncomfortable with the lack of critical conversations to balance of the over-glorification of technology. I became more and more hungry for depth and humanism in all this. And taking time to digest, reflect, synthesize and making sense.

Quest for depth

I am on a quest for depth. My purpose is “To inspire other people to dream” (see many other posts on this blog). Move people from the depth of their oceans to the surface of the sea of insights.

In that context, I would like to close with this picture of one evening tour that week on a catamaran in San Francisco harbor.

sailboat at night

Dreaming away… fog rolling in, when silence and critical self-reflection becomes more important than hollow words.

When mind goes beyond platitudes and copycatting like a parrot what other have written in books, TED talks, and beyond the abundance and exponentially of Singularity University.


When beauty becomes more important than function

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I am just back from the #disruptiontour with tour leaders Peter Hinssen https://twitter.com/hinssen and Steven Van Belleghem https://twitter.com/StevenVBe, and flawlessly put together by tour organizer Ilse Debondt from Connected Visions (https://twitter.com/ConnectdVisions ).

The PDF of the full program can be found here: http://www.connectedvisions.eu/pdf/cvdtour_program2014.pdf

I have made two blog posts about this excellent study tour:

  • “Highlights Disruption Tour” with a sequential overview of highlights per company visited (this post)
  • The Uberization of Everything”, a more holistic analysis and sensemaking effort of what I believe are the disruption understreams.

The tour started in the Bay Area on Monday 2 June 2014 with a visit to Google and ended on Friday 6 June 2014 at Scripps Research in San Diego.

In chronological order, please find below some highlights in telegram style with my 100% subjective views for which I am 100% responsible ;-)

Google https://www.google.be/intl/en/about/

Google Play marketplace is cross platform. Focus on avoidance fragmentation Android platform. Focused on monetization developers, OEMs, Carriers, HW device manufacturers with “lead devices” launching new versions of android. “Interesting” to see that focus and monetization is on ecosystem, and not end customer. Trends: everything going mobile and multi-screen


  • Android beyond phones and tablets’, TVs, cars and wearables
  • Voice based search, and not only one way search but also leading into CONVERSATIONS
  • Car display as remote display for your phone
  • OS for the rest of the car, cars have much longer life cycles, how do we keep innovating?
  • Wearables: same strategy of platform, specific versions of android, skimmed down versions
  • Enterprise, “android at work”, with specific focus on security

Brand: speaker acknowledges that he does not know anymore what the Google brand is standing for

Google Glass https://www.google.com/glass/start/

We had opportunity to “play” with Google Glass. Some disappointment as far as I am concerned. Needs much more value prop. Baffled that some folks pay 1,500 USD for this.

YouTube https://www.youtube.com

Metaphor Switzerland vs India: Switzerland, cost of entry high, lots of barriers, everybody follows the rules; India, the opposite: low cost of entry, less barriers, no rules. Video is like India. Astonishing volumes of videos on YouTube. YouTube is the new search for Millenials. Little control what is watched. Organize for variation. Cost of production and distribution drastically down. Biggest learning: from “audience” to “fan-base”However, still talking in terms of “targeting the right adds to the right “audience”, not fans (sics) > not eating their own dog food

Khan Academy https://www.khanacademy.org

Khan logo

Mainly focused on math courses, some other categories emerging. Interesting: more focus on non-cognitive aspects coming: fear of math, fear of success, how to build confidence. Disrupting education: teachers become fellows/coaches

Tesla http://www.teslamotors.com

teslo plant

Wow! I was almost in a shock when entering the industrial the open office space (no pictures allowed inside) of Tesla in the ex-Toyota manufacturing plant. Really feels like pigeons in open cubicles. Before complaining about your open office space, first have a look at this one. From 600 to 6000 people in 3 years, and 6000 more this year. Presenter and head of supply chain: “The first 18 months were brutally tough”. The vehicle is a software platform, every car is a connected vehicle, over the air software upgrade of the vehicle. Burning 100m USD per quarter!!! Mission is about “transporting human beings” and caring about the customer: “somebody is looking after you” > we call them pro-actively in their car… We want to transform the automotive industry into sustainable practices”

The key thing for Tesla is driving he revolution, self driving vehicles are coming much much faster, and the future is one of no combustion engines, self driving, full connected vehicles.

Biggest eye-opener: the people at Tesla are more proud and more engaged than the Google folks. Also here: fighting regulation of retail structure of dealerships, and fighting regulation requires deep pockets

23andMe https://www.23andme.com

Who gets money of making sure people do NOT getting sick. Towards “data ethical organizations” and personalised medicine. Google-like big data principles applied to genetics. FDA update: “FDA was more concerned with The INTERPRETATION of The data”. Embraced the process of FDA regulation > will be very beneficial for us!!! The only one standing FDA approved one… going through the regulation process makes you stronger, but required deep pockets”Research: ONE big aggregated database: shared (against fee) with pharma research, even with P&G > makes me feel very uncomfortable. Do I have the right to be forgotten in the aggregates data pool of 23andMe?

Paypal http://www.paypal.com

Mobile, mobile, mobile. Target, target, target. Get in, get out, any currency. Next target, move bodies and shopping. In shop cameras, sensors, real time, creepy. Fascinating how easy they say “what the heck, it’s cool…” shop more efficient, immediate satisfaction. Making payments invisible. ONE hour delivery in Manhattan.

Cross “method of value”, anything in, anything out. They were avoiding my question about supporting crypto-currencies, although their (now ex-) CEO Marcus seemed to open the door. Marcus is now with Facebook….. Online and offline. Blurring into the OFFLINE physical world

PayPal Beacon: It’s a tracking and checking device handsfree. “You have been “tagged”

Cross merchant payment profile: “It’s creepy but we will get over this”

Very nice showroom/lab: User experience looks more and more like Spotification” of commerce information streamPayment becomes invisible aspect of commerce experience

Palantir Technologies http://www.palantir.com

Had very high expectations. Awesome opening presentation by Ari Gersher, #9 non-founding employee of Palantir


  • AI and chess: “weak human plus weak machine plus better interface beats the grandmaster”
  • Human machine symbiosis
  • Engineering all the friction between human and machine
  • A “synergistic system” for decision making
  • “Just works” experiences for enterprise, like what Apple did for consumer
  • We can build Facebook in one day
  • HR: Seniority does not encompass competence
  • 40% is government work
  • Data integration in 8 weeks in stead of 5 years, anecdote of McKinsey brain just incapable of taking in this sort of time disruption
  • “Nuanced analysis” > love the vocabulary
  • Have a philanthropic engineering team
  • Do things not because the law, but because it is the right thing to do
  • Working on changing IT purchasing in government
    • “We have learned that you don’t sell to a government, you sell to a budget”
  • Great metaphor, comparing Hadoop to engine block and LeMans car race with team of 120 people…
  • Doing UX is always hard: have team of 20 product designers for UX > UX is major capability for 21st century

Demo section of visit was disappointing. A lot of the demo videos on their website are much more convincing. A missed opportunity for Palantir.

  • Cyber crime demo, Turn around exploits in 4-6 hours, 1-2 TB per day digital exhaust
  • Credit card processor demo: 100 billion data points, “fluid” data exploration, showing their Valhalla application

Palantir Valhalla

Singularity University http://singularityu.org

On NASA Research Park, Moffet Field. Old building. Glasses, drones, genome, and other over glorifications of technology and abundance. Missing the critical dialogue here. Referring to CIA TED video about ethics > how cynical can you get post Snowden? Interesting: spokesperson herself does not believe in a singularity one single moment… “Singularity University is not about the singularity and not a university”, another brand identification issueSingularity University is also and incubation space for startups/companies. “lots of ethical stuff about all that, but… Anyway…

Scanadu https://www.scanadu.com

Quick visit and chat with Samia from Scanadu, who have office in incubation space of Singularity University. Lots of issues to solve with regulators. Almost forgot the story/narrative of why Scanadu was started > narrative is so important

Coursera https://www.coursera.org

Coursera Logo

One of the highlights of this tour. Very impressive track record in only 2nd year of existence. Quality education at scale. Peer assessment is as good as teacher assessment

  • From lectures to high quality feedback loops
  • From audience to fan-base
  • From audience to peer-base

Specializations: Capstone project, apply in real world project. Sponsorships by corporates for specific curriculum possible

Stanford Faculty Club panel discussion http://facultyclub.stanford.edu

About corporate Labs/Outposts in Silicon Valley. Btw: Vodaphone just closed their InnoLab in Silicon Valley

Panel discussion introduced by Mark Zawacki http://www.650labs.com/team-member/mark-zawacki/ of http://www.650labs.com with Todd Schofield from Standard Chartered Bank Studios and Ursula Oesterle from Swisscom

  • Todd also spearheads a group of 20 banks that have presence in Silicon Valley
  • Swisscom have 4 people, most rotating, projects-based, looking into foresights, insights, actions

o   Common themes

  • Corporate needs to sell to startup and not the other way around
  • Stop, go, stop, go,….you lab activities: the worst things you can do to your brand and reputation
  • Remote silicon valley labs only work if you have high quality alignment at exec level

Ripple Labs https://www.ripplelabs.com

ripple labs logo

Presented by the awesome Patrick Griffin, who was at Innotribe Sibos 2013 in Dubai last year.

Excellent presentation:

  • Peer to peer exchange of currency
  • It is a settlement system, it is not a payment system
  • Bitcoin is single currency Ledger (the currency is Bitcoin), Ripple is multi-currency

Ripple is attacking the correspondent banking space.

ripple slide correspondent banking

Ripple super-sweet for SWIFT, talking about “complementarity” although difficult to believe this is not disruptive for SWIFT. Positioning Ripple as “complementary” to SWIFT. Sending swift messages on top of the ripple layer.

StockTwits http://stocktwits.com

Founder (now Chairman) Howard Lindzon was already at Innotribe Sibos in Toronto in 2011. I know it’s a great company, but our presenter was Chris Corriveau (CTO), who apparently just left the company.. Interesting to see other end of spectrum of somebody who has run out of energy and motivation. Had lot of funding: “4M here, 4M there….”, Lots of funding, but no clear direction: “Throw stuff and see what sticks “. New CEO comes from media, stock tweets seen as media. Personal aha moment: “Social IS media”

EvoNexus http://www.commnexus.org/evonexus/

No strings attached high tech incubator Www.commnexus.org. 30 startups now in incubation. “Wet lab, dry lab” > only dry labs. Started in 2009.

Feeling of me too old, they too young

Too young

Here is their International Business Development Manager

What’s special? Free for startups. Tough to get in. No board seat, no equity, and no legal oversight. Can kick you out if no progress shown. All buildings owned by Irvine Company, largest property owner in California. Provide this completely free, growing next generation of tenants. “An engineer can always reinvent himself, a banker not”

Liked the Timeline for managing the startups

Evonexus Timeline

Janssens Labs (Johnson and Johnson) http://www.janssenrnd.com/our-innovation/partnerships/janssen-labs-at-san-diego

Without doubt the absolute highlight of this tour.


Wow, what a campus!!!! Corporate Credo in welcome hall. See PDF version here: http://www.jnj.com/sites/default/files/pdf/jnj_ourcredo_english_us_8.5x11_cmyk.pdf Here is an extract:

Janssen Credo extract

Our host is Diego Miralles, Global Head Innovation at Janssen. Very impressive. Walks into room, says hello, and gets right into the subject, and entertains audience for 1 ½ hour without slides. Absolute magic!

Diego Miralles 2

  • Story of Janssen Labs is story of shared infrastructure
  • Life sciences is very different from tech, you need a lot of infrastructure, highly regulated, etc > so many parallels with financial sector
  • “we should all be humble , there are a lot of smart people in the world”
  • Money in healthcare is almost exclusively made in the presence of disease > this business is highly dysfunctional
  • The current system of medicine is based on healer having all the knowledge and the recipient
  • The system is so vested, the problem is not technical, it is societal
  • The idea of fee for service in this business is the problem, based in volume, based on keeping the status quo of the system > a lot of parallels with financial services
  • The regulator is not evolving: too much focus on preventing harm vs. enabling progress
  • We a getting old too > you have to refill your organization with mentally young healthy minds for sustained innovation
  • Beware of entitlement

Qualcomm http://www.qualcomm.com

This was new territory for me. Huge campus, huge company. Qualcomm can best be summarized as the Intel for Mobile”5B USD last year in R&D. Vibrant partner ecosystem, like Microsoft, but for device design. 4 focus areas: energy, infrastructure, transportation, government. Look at things that are IP-addressable8B smartphones to be shipped 2014-2018. Smart Cities Connectivity has to be heterogeneous. Thinking through the longevity of connectivity. Decision making in cities is a mess: 40 different city departments making decisions about city connectivity. Also in Cars and in metering. Cities getting afraid of being punished for NOT doing anything with the data collected. Interesting how longevity of infrastructure is so important in this business 

Qualcomm Museum Tour http://www.qualcomm.com/about/buildings/museum

Qualcomm Museum

First Kindle is in museum as item #30. In overview of smartphones, the timeline starts in the year 2000

kindle in museummobile starts in 2000

Scripps Research http://www.scripps.edu

When we came in, we all got a copy of the book “Creative Destruction of Medecine”, just to set the scene ;-)

Creative Destuction of Medicine

First part of presentation was relatively basic with Airbnb, Uber, Mobile, etc. Surprised to hear that 40 USD for a 15 min doctor appointment is seen here as progress. Key message: monitoring you see today in hospital emergency room will soon be available on your wrist: blood pressure, ECG, Physical exam, house calls can now all be done with mobile device.

scripps body sensors


This was just a chronological overview of the Disruption Tour. See also my blog post “The Uberization of Everything” for some transversal sensemaking.

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