This post is part-8 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction and overview of previous posts, check here.


This time, I invite you to look into the mirror, and watch the scars in your face, the arrows in your back, and the experiences that can’t be unlearned.

I invite you to make contact with the emotional and physical footprint of your work.

To make contact with those projects where you went really deep, where you chose your own path, where you challenged all existing conventions.

The ones that completely exhausted you, but where you are left with the deep and satisfactory warm feeling of having done the right thing.

In many cases, these are the projects that you chose to be part of, which you initiated.

In the same way it is better to be in a position to choose the clients you want to work for, in the same way you’re better off when you create a interdependence in life that allows you to chose the projects you want to be part of.

When projects become your projects. Where you know that you shaped the project and the project would never have become what it is without you having been part of it.

Those projects, you know, where you do the skunk work whatever it takes.

Those projects where you feel home, where you are meant to be, and that feel like your own – sometimes messy – creative studio.

Sculptor studio

Sculptor Alexander Calder's studio, 1964, photographed by Pedro E. Guerrero

For many years now, I follow and get inspired by the work of Jan Chipchase: he used to be the executive creative director of global insights for Frog Design, took a sabbatical, came back, and created in April 2014 his own Studio-D, a research, design and strategy consultancy.

You really have to read everything on the Studio-D site: the annual report, the project reports, the way to think of a company as a pop-up crew that comes together to serve a customer and then disbands when the job is done, the ethical ways of choosing projects and clients.

His own webpage opens with:

“Everybody needs space to do truly interesting work.”

That resonates with me.

It reads like a dream to me, and it’s how I would like to be, a beacon: I just don’t have the courage (yet) to make the choices Jan made.

More dreams

Building more dreams – By Hugh McLeod @gapingvoid

Studio-D has a page about “those projects”. This page did something with me at a level beyond the cognitive. It resonates very strongly with me. I have been part of and initiated some of those projects…

There are projects.

The ones that shape, mould and refine what we do, allow us to iterate on what we know – the operational things that help us get stuff done better, faster, smoother.

And then there are those projects. 

Those projects shape us and our team, they expand our world view, open minds to new ways of thinking, bring our short existence into sharp focus – they remind us that our time on this planet is too fleeting to devote to things that are no sooner done, than forgotten.

Those projects make us question our beliefs, our career goals, who we work for, who we work with, who we want to work with, and where we want to devote our energies for the next few years.

It’s those projects that rapidly evaporate any tolerance for bullshit.

They remind us of what we’ve let drift, and provide a rough hand to steer us back on track.

They are the essence of a life worked well.

Everyone has their own criteria for what makes one of “those projects”. They can include heart-in-mouth, will-we-or-won’t-we-make-it moments where the cost of failure is absolute, where fear stalks and somewhere along the line hearts leap, and tears are shed. They generate experiences that can’t be unlearnt, are in no danger of being forgotten.

“Experiences that can’t be unlearnt, are in no danger of being forgotten”!

Isn’t that great?

Is that not what life is about? Or was I discussing work? It is the same if you look at the essence of work this way?


Picture from Burning Man 2015 – I was not there ;-)

The danger to be forgotten is in the eye of the beholder.

At one level of consciousness, the fear is about being forgotten as a person in the organization, and what you think you meant and mean for the organization. Why you think you and your work matter. Why you think you made a dent in the organization you work for. When that gets forgotten, that hurts. It is the stage where you wonder if you still matter.

At another level of consciousness, you have internalized that fear. You acknowledge what has been, and you don’t care anymore about being forgotten.

Because you now think in terms of experiences that can’t be unlearned and made you that unique human being that you are, with your own history and timeline of experiences.

The previous post was about the next 10 years. And the fear of not having enough time left to do what you were meant to do. In that post I also invited you to look back and interrogate the progress you made in the last 10 years. You probably can see the milestones and progress of your previous last 10 years.

But the trap is when you start worrying whether others have seen it too. When you let others decide whether you matter or not. When you wait to get picked, because you live in the illusion that the organization has internalized your last 10 years in the same deep way as you did yourself, and that the organization cares.

The organization does not care.

And your history trace evaporates a little more every year with the apparent mandatory half-yearly or yearly re-organizations, killing existing connections (and creating new ones), cutting-off the historic trails, and the milestones you were part of.

What re-organization do you work for?

The older you get, the more you witness how the wheels are re-invented over and over again. Testosterone, rivalry, positioning and ambition drive projects and organizations, not purpose. It has become standard practice to ignore history, to forget “those projects”, their lessons learned and the warm bodies that were behind them.


One of my heroes: Pablo Picasso – by Yoo-Hyun – Hand cut paper

Our conversations become tweets, at best. There is no time for a quality in the essence of our work. We are getting fragmented, and become shrapnel of our own identity.

We become irrelevant.

The essence of work is about relevancy.

But relevancy for whom and in what context?

Being forgotten is only in the eyes of the beholder.

The essence of work is that you were part off, where you were instrumental to one of those projects. They are engrained in your physical and emotional DNA, and make who you are. Nobody can take that away.

So look back, and interrogate those projects that made you who you are. That gave you the scars on your soul, and the arrows in your back. Those projects are those projects because you cared. You cared for yourself and the organization that you were part of. This relationship is different from doing your job, different from the employer-employee relationship.

The madness is many of these relations are un-even, unequal. In many cases the performer cares for the organization, but the organization does not care for the performer.

As in so many of the essays in this series, the only one way to survive this madness and is to choose and adhere to your own norms and standards for an essence of work that is after superior qualities and experiences.

That is what our next essay in the series will be about: ethereal qualities.

This is the last post in a series of four about the Innotribe Sibos 2015 programme.

In a play of words on Kevin Kelly’s book “What Technology Wants”, we have four major themes this year, one theme per day:


Day-4 is all about Machine Intelligence. We will showcase highly immersive demonstrations of cognitive analytics for a real-time world. The day will include sufficient critical voices on the impact of machine intelligence on the future of jobs and human / machine interaction.

Our anchor-person for the day is our own Jay van Zyl, Founder & CEO, Innosect.


Jay is all about Social Based Innovation: unlocking value in the social ecosystem requires a renewed look at how machine and human interact. He is involved with ground-breaking work in Silicon Valley, for example the Innovation for Jobs community lead by David Nordfors and Vint Cerf. His latest book “Built to Thrive, making your mark in a connected world” was published in 2011 focuses on the social aspects of innovation.

Usually, by day-4 of Sibos, folks get a bit tired, so we thought opening this day with something really cool. Starting at 09:15am – 10:00am on the Innotribe stand, our session “Accelerating and scaling expertise with cognitive computing from IBM Research and Watson” will showcase these new promising technologies in 360°! We will use the full real estate of our big LED wall to immerse you in mind-blowing demos of cognitive assistants, a financial sentiment aggregator, psycholinguistic features, and deep learning techniques. And yes, we will have the IBM Watson robot.

Video IBM Watson Engagement Advisor – check out robot at 1 min

After a short break, we’ll continue on the Innotribe stand at 10:15am – 11:15am with the “Voice of the customer 3.0”. In the old days, organisations tried to understand the voice of their customers through so-called customer focus groups. We have evolved a lot since then. In this session we’ll show you three examples of the 2.0 and 3.0 generations:

  • Fidor Bank operates a highly participatory platform for customer and developer engagement in almost real-time
  • Better Ventures will showcase how creating participatory experiences and at scale is now within reach of any financial institution.
  • Innosect looks at the intersection of innovation and human capacity as our work on the idea-graph seeks to create the ultimate human-idea network.

The Innosect piece is a nice segway in to the next session at 12:45pm – 13:45pm, Innotribe stand “Thinking machines and jobs: How banks can respond to the opportunity”.

robot pepper

You will be welcomed by Pepper, the Aldebaran robot

Will robots steal your job? Check out this site from BBC news, to assess the likelihood that your job could be automated within the next two decades. But it is probably the wrong question. It’s a question grounded in a faltering narrative of a task-centered economy. We can do better.

That’s why we have invited David Nordfors, CEO and Co-Chair, i4J Innovation for Jobs who together with his partner Vint Cerf at Google are already thinking about the next stage: “If computers are going to do what people do today, what can people do?

We will quickly change the dystopian “robots will kill our jobs” conversation into a “disrupting unemployment” perspective and weave in the views of Millennials from Wharton FinTech and the Singapore Management University.

At 14:00pm – 15:00pm, we’ll get a little more relaxed with a session labelled “Analytics for a real-time world” on the Innotribe stand.


Nevermind, we wanted to create a real demo nirvana, and have invited four data analytics and machine intelligence firms who will give amazing demos of applications that are currently in the market related to real-time financial services. I have seen some of the demos and how we are planning to stage this with the full real estate of our circular big LED wall, and this is something you don’t want to miss.

The Innotribe Sibos week comes to an end on the Innotribe stand with our closing session “Machines are not the answer”, starting at 15:15pm. We are very proud to have with us Andrew Keen, Author of “The Internet Is Not The Answer”.

internet not the answer

There are many positive ways in which the Internet has contributed to the world, but as a society we are less aware of its deeply negative effects on our psychology, economy, and culture. Andrew Keen will debunk some of the enthusiasm surrounding what we take for granted in our on-line lives, and reflect on all that artificial and machine intelligence we have seen on this day-4 of Innotribe Sibos 2015.

Right after the Innotribe closing session, we all head for the big Sibos Closing plenary, with Ravi Menon, Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). And later in the evening you are all invited to join the annual big Sibos party.


We hope you enjoyed this little series of posts familiarizing you with the Innotribe programme for this year.

We look forward welcoming you on-site and to see you part of our immersive learning experiences on platforms, society, innovation, and machine intelligence.

Other resources:

Each day the Innotribe programme will focus on a specific theme, throughout which both Millennials and Power Women in FinTech will play an important role participating in all sessions. Last week, we already gave an overview of day-1 and day-2 of this year’s programme. This week, we will cover what happens on Wednesday and Thursday 14-15 October 2015.

In a play of words on Kevin Kelly’s book “What Technology Wants”, we have four major themes this year, one theme per day:


Day-3 is organized around the Innotribe Startup Challenge Finale. It will be preceded by a highly interactive session with seven FinTech Hubs.

Our anchor-person for the day is our own Kevin Johnson, Innotribe’s Startup Challenge Manager.

During our Innotribe day opening on the Innotribe stand (from 09:15am – 10:00am), we’ll share some of our current and future Innotribe plans in a conversational format: we are happy to announce that our CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt will be part of this session.

We’ll continue at 12:45pm on the Innotribe stand with the session “Why banks need FinTech hubs”. The plan is to understand the offerings and approaches of FinTech Hubs in different regions of the world, and how we can learn from each other and collaborate across cities, countries and regions. We’ll have some good infographics to compare, and a playful “show me your best card” gamification element as well.

We have an impressive line-up for this session that will be moderated by Bernard Lunn, Founding Partner, Daily Fintech Advisers:

The Innotribe Startup Challenge Finale will take place on 14 October from 14:00 till 17:00. Given its success in previous years, we move to a bigger room: Conference Room 2 has a capacity of about 350 people, and we hope we’ll be standing room again, also in this big room.

This year over 370 companies applied to the Startup Challenge, with 60 companies selected to enter the programme. During four regional showcases in London, Cape Town, Singapore and New York, these companies presented their business ideas to an audience of more than 800 industry experts, VCs, representatives from leading financial institutions, and bank decision-makers who selected the 20 finalists – 12 early-stage and 8 growth-stage companies – advancing to the Finale at Sibos.


Please click here to access all details about the 20 finalists who advance to the Finale at Sibos.

As in previous years, the 12 early-stage finalists will pitch and showcase their business ideas to Sibos delegates who will select this year’s winner. A cash prize of USD 50,000 will be awarded to the winning early-stage finalist. For the first time this year, the remaining eight growth-stage finalists will host individual exhibition booths on the Innotribe stand at Sibos and have the opportunity to give live product demos to Sibos delegates throughout the week. They will be joined by some Startup Challenge alumni: EssDOCS, AMP Credit Technologies and Matchmove.

The Innotribe Startup Finale is open to all Sibos participants and is sponsored by Deutsche Bank, HP, IBM, Invest NI, Level30, Luxembourg for Finance, and Wells Fargo.

Following right after the Innotribe Startup Challenge Finale, we will announce this year’s winner around 17:00 in the foyer area close to Conference Room 2. The winner will receive their cheque of USD 50,000 out of the hands of Christian Sarafidis, SWIFT’s Chief Marketing Officer. A reception will give you the opportunity to network with the various companies who were selected as finalists and congratulate this year winner.

And on Wednesday evening we’ll mix even further with the vibrant local FinTech scene of Singapore for a Networking Event in town.


250 invitees will have the chance to network at BASH, the new startup hub in Singapore, for a joint event organised by Innotribe and the following Singapore’s FinTech communities.

LogoPanelEventbrite_small (1)

This FinTech Meet-up is kindly sponsored by Wells Fargo and Standard Chartered Bank.


Register for the FinTech Meet-Up via this link. Innotribe Sibos attendees will get an invitation card on-site. Busses will pick you up at the conference centre to drive you to BASH (and bring you back).

Don’t stay too late, as the morning after, we will be back on the Innotribe stand at 09:15am for an awesome session on machine intelligence with IBM Research and IBM Watson ;-)


In the coming days, we will familiarize you further with the program for the last day that will be all about Machine Intelligence and the participatory economy in financial services.

Hope you will find ample time to join us in these immersive learning experiences.

Other resources:

Week-37 of Delicacies: Max 5 articles that i found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy!

If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan

This post is part-7 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction and overview of previous posts, check here.


Picture – Cirque du Soleil – Amaluna 2015 Show

This post is about the legacy of your work. It is not about your legacy. It is about the legacy of your work.

A couple of months I took some time off to reflect on my never-ending mid-life crisis that started when I was 35 ;-)

I suddenly got the shivers when I start thinking how little time I had left. I started wondering what I would do with the rest of my life.

In the better case scenario I would remain “professionally active” till I am 70. I suddenly realized I only have +/- 10 years left to get there. Luckily my coach helped me put things in perspective, sort of. She said: “Just look back at your last 10 years, and how you have progressed (or not) in that time frame. And now think how much more progress you could make in the next 10 years”.


Picture – Hindu Holy Men

When I say “professionally active”, I did not necessarily mean it as “having a job”, the whole purpose of this series on The Essence of Work.

So, what would be the essence of being “professionally active”?

Mike Kruzeniski @mkruz, Design Director at Twitter came help me with his post about Jonathan Ive’s patience.


Picture: Jonathan Ive – Hypebeast.com

Don’t just think about that one product you need to design in the next 3, 6, or 12 months. Consider the skills, relationships, and tools that you and your company will need for the next 2, 5, 7, or 10 years and start working on them now.

Don’t just measure yourself by the output of your very next project; Measure yourself by how you’re improving quality over the course of your next 10 projects.

Your job is to be the shoulders that the next generation of designers — and perhaps your future self — at your company will stand on.

I found another hint to my question in “Your Work is Your Work” by John Wenger @JohnQShift


Picture: Sochi Enlightning People Pascal Le Segretain - Getty Images

Developing greater reflection on self is about asking those deeper questions about our beliefs, values and orientations.  For some, it is best done when in nature, in silence or in solitude.  These are questions that get to the heart of who we are. 

  • What is it about the work I do that is related to the capabilities I need to grow in myself?
  • How do I delude myself?
  • How does my internal picture of “me” differ from how I actually am with people?
  • How do I use my power?
  • What kind of leader am I?
  • Am I living a wonder-full life?

Developing these practices gets us a significant way towards knowing ourselves and shining a light on our real “work”.

Or more recently, Kevin Kelly in reply to a question about the kind of mindset with to approach life and work that enables you to create at high quality and velocity:

young kelly

Picture – The young Kevin Kelly – Almost casted to act in Star Trek

My “work” is usually the kind of thing that also gives me deep pleasure, so I could say I also play a lot. I am a big do-it-yourself believer and I still do a lot my self, but more and more I also hire the best expert or professional I can as well. That really ups one’s productivity.

Kelly again:

“Your job in life is to discover your job, and it usually takes your whole life to figure this out.”

This re-confirms my ever ongoing mid-life crisis and the realization that it take a whole life to search the truth and in the end probably not finding it.


It tells me not to wait for others to pick me, to praise me, to give me permission. It tells me that the whole enterprise appraisal system is completely screwed up because it measures the past and not the future potential. It only measures the output and not the input. Its measures are based on antiquated standards of maximizing efficiency, without realizing that the value creation and ethical norms of work – not jobs – have moved on to higher levels of quality and awareness.

Seth Godin was pitching recently “Don’t wait to be picked” in his keynote at Inbound 2015:

Go pick yourself. You decide. I will also talk about this in next post in this series, when we have the opportunity to be part of projects that change our lives. This way, your next 10 years will be more satisfying, as you adhere to your own norms and standards.

Each day the Innotribe programme will focus on a specific theme, throughout which both Millennials and Power Women in Fintech will play an important role participating in all sessions. In the next two weeks, we will produce a more detailed blog per theme of each day.

In a play of words on Kevin Kelly’s book “What Technology Wants”, we have four major themes this year, one theme per day:


Day-2 is about what society wants from financial institutions, covering topics from Millennials who are born digital and mobile, to refugees who are forced to be on the move and have no access to financial services, and financial inclusion for the 2.5 billion unbanked people. These issues will be intersected with a ‘what if’ session on re-inventing regulation for the digital era.


Our anchor-person for the day is Akhtar Badshah, PhD, Chief Catalyst, at the Catalytic Innovators Group. Akhtar will be with us the whole day, and will wrap up the findings of this society day. He is also an active speaker in some of the sessions. I met Akhtar at a Giving-conference in Minneapolis earlier this year, and besides the fact he has been Senior Director, Citizenship and Public Affairs, Head Corporate Philanthropy at Microsoft, Akhtar is also an artist and architect, and a wonderful and deep person to engage with.

Akhtar artwork

Artwork by Akhtar Badshah – Untitled - Acrylic on Canvas - 36"x48"

We have prepared and designed six sessions for you on Tuesday, including our Innotribe day opening at 09:15am in the Innotribe Space.

After our Innotribe day opening, we’ll kick off at 10:15am with a session about digital natives. During the session “Engaging with the millennial generation – A hands-on workshop for banks”, Claro Partners and Anthemis Group will share the key insights of research done with a consortium of financial institutions in six markets. The session will also feature key tenets of a whitepaper (PDF link) produced by Millennials from Wharton Fintech in collaboration with Innotribe. The circle will be powered by Millennials from Wharton FinTech and students from the Singapore Management University.

After the Big Issue Debate at 11:30am, we’ll continue at 12:45am in the Innotribe space on Financial Inclusion. Kosta Peric, Deputy Director, Financial Services for the Poor, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will continue the conversation that was started by Bill Gates during the closing plenary at Sibos Boston 2014.

video leveloneproject

Video 1 Level One Project overview

Kosta will describe his work with the Level One Project and articulate the opportunity for banks to engage in financial inclusion, not as a CSR or philanthropic project, but as a very scalable business. He will be followed by Udayal Goyal, who will illustrate his work with Apis Partners, a catalyst capital for Financial Services in Growth Markets aiming to have a net positive impact in the communities they invest in. The session is set up as fully interactive session with audience polling, audience exercises and a call for action.

Just stay on the Innotribe stand for the next session about Re-Inventing Regulation starting at 14:00pm sharp. Risk and innovation don’t always go well together. Imagine what regulation would look like if we could start from scratch? Most of our regulatory frameworks are based on industrial era models. What if we could re-design regulation based on digital era models, and how would that inform our conversations with the regulators today. The three igniters from Anthemis Group, Silicon Valley Bank and Transferwise will plant some provocative seeds that will grow like trees on the big LED wall, and lead you into a conversation about the key tenets of a re-invented regulation landscape. We have powered our “circle” with thought leaders on regulation from leading institutions and new entrants. Again, a fully designed and facilitated session with audience exercises.

At 15:15pm, we have made our circular workshop space available to the team lead by Jesse McWaters from the WEF (World Economic Forum) Project on Disruptive Innovation in Financial Services: in 2015 the team explored the drivers and potential implications of innovation across core function of financial services. This invitation-only session will also give feedback on regulatory models for innovation, applications of decentralized systems, blueprint for digital identity, and the impact on society at large.

WEF poster

Graphic from WEF report on Disruptive Innovation in Financial Services.

Where we started the day with Millennials who are born digital and mobile, we will close the day with a session about refugees: people who are forced to be on the move and have no access to financial services.

The session “Leveraging modern payment platforms for accelerating social impact” (starting at 16:30pm on the Innotribe Stand) will be lead by Christine Duhaime and Sam Maule, who started The Banking and Refugees Project to address financial exclusion for refugee populations by devising or applying financial technology for refugee situations. They will be joined by Akhtar BadshahKosta Peric, and Daniel Marovitz as instigators in this interactive session with audience exercise.

UN VR film poster

Image: The United Nations has collaborated with filmmaker Chris Milk to make its 
first virtual reality film

The session will include the United Nations virtual reality film Clouds Over Sidra bringing viewers closer to the Syrian conflict by transporting them into the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan – currently home to 84,000 refugees. The session is about refugee crisis in general, not zooming in on any particular region or population. We hope we can challenge you to become part of the solution of this pressing world problem.

refugees VR

Check-out this TED talk video with Chris Milk at minute 7 and imagine how this 
could work on our LED Wall.

In the coming days and weeks, we will familiarize you with the program for the remaining two days. We believe we have a fantastic line-up of speakers, igniters, instigators, contrarians, Millennials and Powerwomen in FinTech.

Hope you will find ample time to join us in these immersive learning experiences.

Other resources:

Week-36 of Delicacies: Max 5 articles that i found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy!

If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan


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