Archive for January, 2010

When i was attending Le Web in Paris in December 2009, i attended one of the Google sessions.

To the question “what is your roadmap”, the Google speaker answered:


“As you probably know

we do not use

any roadmaps anymore”


Just last week, i found this interesting blog from Don Dodge on how Google sets goals and measures success. Yep, that’s the same guy that wrote that article on Failure is not an Option, and that i reproduced and commented on my blog here.

Don knows what he talks about. Like me, he was at Microsoft, and if there is one thing that you learn at Microsoft is to work with numbers and living through the “rhythm of the business”. When i was there, you had in essence YEARLY planning sessions, complemented with mid-year reviews. It’s way more complex than that with lots of consultations back to the field, but for this moment remember one-year plan and mid-year reviews.

Some countries (Russia, China, etc) go through much longer planning cycles. Who does not remember the Russian 5-years plans and strategies ?

Some corporations still apply 5 year strategies, especially companies of a co-operative nature. 5-year plans with yearly operating plans.

Here comes Google: 90-days plans ! It’s not only about the timing, it’s also about the aggressively setting the objectives.

OKRs are Objectives and Key Results. I submitted my Q1 OKRs with what I thought were aggressive yet achievable goals. Not good enough. My manager explained that we needed to set stretch goals that seemed impossible to fully achieve. Hmmm…I said “This is just a 90 day window and we can predict with reasonable accuracy what is achievable. Why set unrealistic goals?” Because you can’t achieve amazing results by setting modest targets. We want amazing results.

We want to tackle the impossible.


Don is then adding some meat to the Failure is not an Option discussion.

“Taking great risks, pushing innovation, and striving to achieve the impossible will never happen at companies like that have a culture of FNAO”

Don has also some words on rewarding success at Google:

Financial rewards are significant, but they are not the primary motivator. Working with the best people in the world and achieving greatness is the ultimate reward.

At the next strategy meeting, ask yourself:

  • “do we have the very very best people on board to achieving greatness and innovation ?”
  • “do we have the very best people on our leadership and executive committees to celebrate experiment and innovation?”

A lot of companies have every day discussions and big statements that innovation is important and about how innovative we should become. A lot of it is theory.

The only reality check is when you actually “ship” something innovative.

Ask yourself: “What is the last time we shipped something innovative that added substantial NEW value to our customers?”

I have tried to input some “sharper” vocabulary like “radical” innovation vs. “incremental” innovation into numerous consultation rounds. Same about innovating in “the Core” and “Beyond the Core”.

It is surprising to see how through these consultation/review process all the sharpness gets deleted, to end up with something very grey. The “best” argument i have heard recently was “you bring too much new terminology into the company, you have to express your ideas in a language they understand”.

  • I am convinced leadership IS open for this new vocabulary. It just gets filtered out before it reaches them.
  • I am convinced that the age of consensus is over.

I have not given up, on the contrary. I am becoming more vocal, beyond the “resistance” that one has to play the blueprint, that one has to remain invisible and behave.

You need more polarized discussions, and dare to go for the ideas that cause this polarization.

Don’t go for the obvious, go for the impossible.

I was quite proud that in my recent 360° review my polarization was seen as something negative. It encourages me that i am on the right track.(see also Guy Kawasaki’s speech at Sibos 2009).

  • I have a strong opinion that you can NOT innovate without polarizing
  • I have a strong opinion that you have to bring in new young blood
  • I have a strong opinion that innovating also includes bringing a new culture of “celebrate failure and experiment”.
  • I have a strong opinion that we have to explore the edges of our natural eco-system
  • And that innovation comes with a new vocabulary.

Innovation is about agility. By making decisions fast. By planning 90 days ahead not 5 years. By daring to take risks and celebrate the experiment.

It’s about radical innovation. It’s about polarizing. It’s about strong language. It’s about kicking ass.

Innovation is about following your own daemon (or “genius” as Seth Godin calls it) and about breaking through the resistance of “behaving normally”

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Broken Foot

From the top of my broken mind to the bottom of my foot !

Yesterday i fell over a wet spot in the company’s parking garage. I could immediately see it was serious. My right foot was hanging loose in an angle of 90° !

Ambulance, hospital, x-rays, etc

Result: triple fraction of ankle, shinbone, calf bone. Needs to be operated. Will take me deep into 2010 to fully revalidate.

Positive: gives me more time to read and blog.

Just started Seth Godin’s Linchpin.

Fantastic read so far. As Seth Godin suggests, you definitely have to read the chapter “Resistance”.

The book is a lot like Leading by Being, but then in a modern version. A recommendation.

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Good morning, Vietnam !

Bad start of the day. Have a terrible cold. Did not sleep well. Outside; it’s 1°C, windy, humid, and dark. Again, i woke up angry.

Was thinking about my previous post “Emotional Zombies”, where i wrote about Open Mind, Open Heart, and Open Will.


Open Mind, Heart, Will is based on the work of about Theory “U” by Otto Scharmer.

It’s a book about presence, and how – if you dive deep to the level at the bottom of the “U” – you will discover your true purpose. The subtitle is “Leading from the future as it emerges”. Now you know where i got the title of this blog.

In “Emotional Zombies”, I also wrote about the golden cages.

I recently discovered it can get worse. Much worse.

It can get to the stage of BROKEN Mind, BROKEN Heart, and BROKEN Will.

It remember somebody quoting about education just 50 years or so.

In the family instruction books of that time, the general sense was that the parent had to break the will of the child as early as possible in the education of the child, to ensure that the child would be fully under the parents’ and teachers’ control. Luckily, education has evolved, but you get a sense what it means to break somebody’s will.

To further explain that feeling of Broken Will, i will tell a true story. When i was studying architecture (yes, building houses and so) at the art school in Brussels, one year we had to design an art exposition space. We also needed to make a maquette of it.

I worked on mine for days and nights. It was made of the finest balsa wood, and the construction was made of hundreds of mini balsa pillars. Oh boy, was i proud !

Then the jury comes along. The judging was a session in full public where the other 200 students could follow the judgment of the pros.

Professor Jonckers – i even remember his name after 30 years ! – looked at my piece of art. He smiled dangerously and said: “Let’s see if this thing is also as solid from a construction point of view as it looks like” and then he demolished the whole thing by shooting with his fingers all 100 pillars into pieces. I could have kicked him in the face (i should have done it).

That hurts. It hurts when your piece of work gets demolished. It hurts when your contribution gets ignored. It brings me in my state of “Broken will”. Its an emotion beyond broken heart. It cuts deep.

This week, i mourned my broken will.

And what about the cage ? I suddenly remember a line of a poem: “she smiled gently when she discovered that the door of the jail was already open for some days”

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In the current economic climate, one restructuring follows the other. In my country there are some notable examples like AB Inbev, Opel (GM) Antwerp, HP, etc.

At the time of writing this post, the counter of lost jobs in Belgium since January 2009 stood at




lost jobs


And this is “only” from structured and collective redundancies. The following table comes from quality newspaper De Standaard. The visualization also represents what sectors “contribute” most to these redundancies.


It’s therefore “normal” that i see/meet/mail more and more friends and (now ex-) colleagues being hit by the recession, crisis, or whatever you prefer to call the current economic climate and resulting restructuring or transformation programs. It happens everywhere. Except at the one employer i ever had that still today shows double digit growth.

However, some of these friends were living in Golden Cages for years but were bored to hell. The shame is that they let this happen over them. Others indulged all sorts of manipulations, political maneuvers, and other techniques that did not take them for full or were just ignoring them and their ideas. Others just had the courage of sticking out there neck, but not being appreciated by the blueprint and/or differing too much with the “normal way of doing things here”.

Indeed, it seems recurring many companies that diversity in thoughts is not always welcome, despite all the window dressing about values etc. That is of course a pity, because this diversity in thoughts and ideas is fundamental to being innovative.

And it happens everywhere. Except at that one record retailer. They seem to be some kind of Tribe. Have always been since the 60’ies, with self-development programs and alike. They also continuously innovate. With green IT and own windmills etc already 10 years ago. “Cradle-To-Cradle – Remaking the Way We Make Things” applied before the book was written.


So it’s all about sustainability, made possible through R&D and Innovation in new sciences and technologies. And being part of a tribe that has innovation in its DNA. See also later in this post when we discuss the jobs and trends of the future: science and technology are at the heart of the sustainable development debate.

However, if you’re not part of such a tribe, and you get fired where you were bored, then there is light at the end of the tunnel. Getting fired could really be a fresh start of your professional life, although somebody else made the decision for you.

Have a read at “The Living Dead: Switched Off, Zoned Out – The Shocking Thruth about Office Life” by David Bolchover.

Joe read the book and here is his review:

This book is about – the millions of talented and bored to tears people rotting away in large offices, completely disconnected, disenchanted, disengaged, shuffling papers away, staring at screens, writing memos and Powerpoints, sitting in meetings deliberating in jargon that means nothing, and generating serious pretend-work….

and how our world and organizations have made this a taboo topic, refuse to recognize its existence and aggravate this problem through inadequate structure and processes (specialized business jargon, office politics, hierarchy, etc).






This is one of the most blunt books I’ve ever read – a Dilbert with the sharp facts substantiated! And you will not find one business jargon word that can qualify for a b-sh**t bingo in there.

The most interesting part is that the book is written already 5 years ago – and looking at Peter Van’s blog and the book gives a clear indication of a very alarming trend. Not for the weak-hearted! Contains some seriously ego-busting words on our Great Leaders ( the big companies CEOs) and Even Greater Gurus (the Management book writers).

What would you do if you got fired ? What would be the one thing that you would like to do for free for the next 10 years ?


Could give you a real good indication

of where your true

passion and purpose is.


But where to look first ? The report FastFuture.com report “The Shape of Jobs to Come” (Final Version January 2010, you can download the PDF here) would be a good starting point.


The report lists the 100 most likely jobs to emerge and be successful by 2030. Some of these jobs will already see the light as soon as this year 2010.

And if you have the luxury to take first take a couple of months sabbatical, then the report has in Appendix-3 an excellent time-line on what will happen when, what skills you need to master by when, and what the most probable and most looked after jobs of the future may be.

The outcome may be that you may want to follow some course on NIBC convergence technologies. (NIBC = nanotechnology-biotechnology-information technology-cognitive science) or to study Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese if you want to mean anything in the economies of growth of 2015.

Some extracts with – as usual – some personal comments.

For the longer term, the centrality of science and technology in helping to tackle the most pressing planetary challenges from poverty to clean water, environment to human health, climate change to energy supply and housing to transport are ensuring that science and technology are at the heart of the sustainable development debate

Finally they are expected to help us survive and thrive in the cyber world, whether through legal protection, counseling or management of our virtual data and ‘personal brand image‘. As a result, the survey suggests that many of these roles will be popular, well-rewarded and aspirational.

The ten key patterns of change identified in the report are:

1. Demographic Shifts

2. Economic Turbulence

3. Politics Gets Complex

4. Business 3.0 – An Expanding Agenda

5. Science and Technology go Mainstream

6. Generational Crossroads

7. Rethinking Talent, Education and Training

8. Global Expansion of Electronic Media

9. A Society in Transition

0. Natural Resource Challenges


Looks like the list we suggested for our Think Tank on Long Term Future 😉

Under “economic turbulence, we find:

Further economic turbulence and potential downturns between 2010 – 2020, followed by a more stable period to 2030 as excessive risks have been removed from the financial markets and most economies have repaired their finances

Out of the list of 100 future jobs, i personally liked very much: the body part maker, the teleportation specialist, the currency designer, the non-military defense specialist, the director of responsible investments, the mind reading specialist,

Take the Body Part Maker (possible emergence as a profession: 2020, that’s only 10 years from now !):

Due to the huge advances being made in bio-tissues, robotics and plastics, the creation of high performing body parts – from organs to limbs – will soon be possible, requiring body part makers, body part stores and body part repair shops.

While a typical organ such as a liver or kidney might be grown, other parts such as an arm would involve the complex integration of a nano-engineered skeleton, high performance robotic joints, fibre-optic nerves, artificially grown skin, synthetic flesh and muscles.

Or the Memory Augmentation Surgeon (emerging profession in 2030). It really reads like Ray Kurzweil’s “The Singularity is Near” (book written in 2005 !)

This is a new category of surgeons whose role is to add extra memory to people who want to increase their memory capacity. A key service would be helping those who have literally been overloaded with information in the course of their life and simply can no longer take on any more data – thus leading to


sensory shutdown


Although the job descriptions are somewhat funny and even “cute”, the real value of the report is in its Appendices: they hide a wealth of trends for 2030.

Truly amazing. If only 10% of this becomes true, the world in 2030 will look quite different from 2010. Especially Appendix-2 is a summary of all things you should be aware of as 2015 approaches. Appendix-3 shows a very comprehensive timeline per trend.

It is in these Appendices that you can learn for example about Generational Cross-Roads:

The challenge for employers will be to create an environment where each group can feel valued and be effective. Indeed, a Randstad USA survey found that 51% of baby boomers and 66% of the generation that preceded them reported having little to no interaction with colleagues from Generation Y.

What is your company doing to get these young generations

deeply into your workforce’s DNA ?

And about Society in Transition:

Higher ethical standards and a sense of the greater good are two of these evolving trends. Increasing expectations are concurrent with a decline in trust of key institutions.

“Higher ethical standards…”  See also my previous blog post on Ethical Re-Boot.

About Evolving Technological Ecosystem, the appendices reveal that:

Handheld devices expected to become the control centre of a rapidly expanding personal ecosystem – where projection / pullout screens and keyboards could accelerate laptop replacement. Key enablers include augmented reality, intuitive interfaces, semantic computing and the increasing embedding of intelligence in a range of devices – often known as ambient intelligence or IP Everywhere.

What is your company doing to get these technologies

deeply into your innovation DNA ?

And about Quantum Cryptography that:

In “traditional cryptography” the data itself is encrypted using complicated mathematical functions. In “quantum encrypted communications”, a key is sent by beaming a string of photons, representing a code, from the source to the target. If it gets to the other end and matches what the target expects, then the data gets unencrypted. The Guardian notes that if anyone tries to intercept or break it, thanks to the laws of quantum physics, the mere act of observing the stream of photons changes it – and so it fails

If you company is doing something related to internet security

your strategy for the next 5-10 years

should have some bullets and focus on this.


And it is not always about throwing another GUI at your application. Have a look at this article that suggest that Mind and Square are NOT innovative and the true meaning of innovation in financial services lies in the plumbing, not the UI.

Remember my discourse about Innovation at the Core vs. Innovation beyond the Core ?

And then there is a section on R&D and Innovation trends. Most countries and regions seem to invest more in Innovation:

R&D Takes Centre Stage: Germany is investing EUR900M by 2010 to fund R&D projects commissioned by medium-sized business and EUR65M to expand and develop research infrastructure. Norway is set to increase its Research and Innovation Fund capital by EUR685M and create over 200 new research positions each with EUR90,000 funding. France is committing EUR731M in 2009-10 to refurbish universities and research institutions. China’s 10Tn Yuan 2009-11stimulus package includes major investments in science and technology, including "key research projects related to enlarging the domestic market.‖ (University World News).

And where is Flanders ? The Flemish Government decided to REDUCE the budgets for Innovation and R&D for the next couple of years ! And some companies plan to do the same in reaction to the economic climate.


Reducing your innovation budgets

means the beginning of the end

It means that you don’t believe

in the future

of your region, company or project.


Calling in a bus of consultants to tell you how to innovate will not work. First check out How real your Innovation is. And start from there. Especially if your company has a culture of incremental innovation.


We have to invest now. As mentioned before, i believe this requires a private (non-public) initiative. Many public – government driven – initiatives seem to lead to lots of consensus and compromise, often leading to a watered down vision, or no vision at all.

I was – and still am – hoping that our Think Tank on Long Term future can kick-start this private process.

Let’s also watch-out for the Belgian Presidency of the EU for the second half of 2010. I heard they bring on board some really smart people that can make the difference. Hopefully we get in the news because we really could make that difference, rather than through scandals about drunk MP’s.

If not, we may have to start imagining a miserable future in 2030 where we will be feeling like in 2010 without Internet (kicked into our lives around 1995 for most of us).

So, if you are/get fired, the next best thing to do is probably to look into the direction of your purpose and to surround you by the people of the right tribe. Those that make you live longer not shorter. Those that truly bind not seek conflict. Those that want you to succeed, not fail. Those that are capable of saying yes, and have not been trained to find the “no”.

For further inspiration about being mentally healthy and finding the right tribe, have a look at this TED talk by Dan Buettner on “How to live to be 100+”. With thanks to the friends in Iceland for spotting this one.

Or you may just not even make it to 2030 !



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This week, our small innovation team got the opportunity to design and animate the department’s “All Hands”. In stead of doing the boring “we-tell-you-and-you-listen death by PowerPoint” session, we split the group in 8 break-out sessions. Each team was randomly selected, and the managers were NOT allowed to lead the discussion.

Each team had 45 min to come up with a 5 minute pitch of one of the 2010 priorities of the department. As if they would have to sell that opportunity/idea to a Venture Capitalist. A bit like a short version of the Innotribe Labs at Sibos last year.

Before this meeting, some managers were skeptical whether all folks would be able to fully participate, contribute and let their creative juices flow.

But – as you all know – creativity is a bug that is implanted from birth in every human being. And getting back to this feeling of “playfulness” is oh so important and enjoyable.

There is playfulness and there is purity.

It’s the purity of my 4 old year daughter. Full of energy, creativity and fantasy and anything is possible.

It’s the purity of your true self. If we can tap into that energy, unbelievable things happen.

It’s all about passion and drive, and what motivates us

“Drive” is btw the title of Daniel Pink’s latest book.



It’s about “the surprising truth about what motivates us”. And Daniel Pink explains it’s NOT measurement, KPI’s, bonuses, perks, etc. It’s about belief and being believed. And knowing that management does never doubt people’s abilities.

So, we got 8 idea pitches of 5 minutes followed by a Q&A of 2 minutes by the audience (not by the managers). I can assure you, i saw a lot of fun and smiling faces, and people getting energized.

And it is something very infectious.


The day after, I got a chat from another Cubicle on the other floor:

It feels good to be able to think out of the box. Really refreshing ! If you guys succeed in changing only a little but the “sub-culture” of the company, and wake up gently the people from their winter-sleep, that alone would be a big success ! And that will be needed, if we want to keep our company relevant on the long term.

Yes, this is about passion. Yes, this is about enthusiasm. Combined with purity, this is a very contagious, irresistible cocktail.


This is not new. It’s off all ages. It works for young and older humans. Have a look at this TED Talk from November 2009 TED India, just posted on the TED web-site. Kiran Bir Sethi from the Riverside schools explains how contagious the “i can” bug is.




It’s about children taking charge of their own destiny.




Its about


being aware and feeling the change


enable to be changed


empower and lead the change


leading by being


At the end of the TED Talk you see how children teach their parents to read and write. In professional life this is called


reverse mentorship


All this is VERY relevant to Innovation and how “real” your company is about innovation. You need to inject the purity of young people. New blood. Let them rethink the strategy for the next 5 years. And then take it to the next step. And let those young people reverse mentor the older generation.

Next time check out the average age of your employees. And ask yourself the question: do we have the open mind, open heart, and playfulness to indeed radically innovate this company ?

  • It’s about maturing from the stage where “the teacher told me” to “i can lead this myself”
  • It’s about not waiting anymore and following your own compass.

Like Joe told me after the meeting:


“I am not waiting anymore


to be called”




When are you going to wake up and recognize your full potential ? Your potential, your team’s potential, your company’s potential ?

When will you start protesting, because you know your company sits on a goldmine, and every day that passes, it gets suffocated in end-less political debates with many off-sites leading to no conclusions.

How much longer are you going to waste your time ?

How much longer are you going to take this ?

Open your hearts and minds to the purity of the children and go ! Who will follow ?

Are you ready ?




If  not now, then when ?


If not us, then who ?


The bug has landed. It has infected our company and the infection spreads.

Big time, i believe this time

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If you want to have a really good 23 slide summary of where the web is heading, check out Nova Spivack’s Web Evolution slide deck.


There are some really good positioning slides as from slide #9 and following, to get a feel for the difference between for ex Delicious, Google, Powerset (now Microsoft), Twine, and Wolfram Alpha.


I was quite lucky having a 1-1 with Nova Spivack during Web 2.0 Summit in October 2009. He showed me a much elaborated slide deck than this one, but I feel that since then he really condensed the subject to the essential.

Enjoy !


PS: He was ok to join Innotribe @ Sibos 2010 in Amsterdam 😉

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I was just reading my Sunday newspaper online,


and found this great summary by Gilbert Roox about Matthew Stewart’s book “The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting it Wrong”

The article is in Dutch, so i decided to use Google Chrome’s Translation extension.


So, here are some translated extracts, SLIGHTLY edited as the Google translate result was quite accurate. Impressive.

The management myth is a hilarious review of ten years in the Belly of the Beast. All the tricks of the fair will pass in review. For a client to win, you hunt him the fright. Then make themselves so indispensable that you no longer can think independently, and then they press the lemon patiently. “You should compare consultants with parasites” says Stewart. "I talked and talked, and meantime the meter ran,"

In all these years, the sensation that I sucked everything from my thumb never left me." Bruce Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group, once described the consultant business as "the most incredible business on earth:"

Successful and leading companies hire school leavers to tell them how they should be run. And those companies are also prepared for those millions of opinions count down? "

Stewart called the pundits of McKinsey & Co “Modern shamans” : in the highly uncertain world of global competition drive them to fear the magic of their spreadsheets and charts. "If you can not manage, measure it," writes Stewart – a sneer to the home of McKinsey motto: "If you can measure, you can also manage".

Among the most successful CEO’s of Fortune 500 does not have an MBA fourth title. Success in business is simply not a hard science. Roughly revolves around three things: luck, you work hard and seize opportunities. Even then it can go wrong. But with such wisdom farmer earns a living not a management expert.

Management gurus such as Peters and Jim Collins(Good to Great) posing as prophets like, but after closer inspection they appear mainly to be the specialists of the past. They promote experimentation and out of the box thinking, while their best sellers but only document worn paths. A good advice: if you want money, then do just the opposite of what management gurus say, advises Stewart.

Management gurus seem more like religious preachers. The world they paint is invariably chaotic and uncertain, because fear sells. Bureaucracy is the great evil, and they call for a white collar revolution to overthrow that. Repetitively, they tell the poor middle class to thunder, because "you have the power".


Success is about passion;


and perseverance


With his plea for excellence the guru paves the path of a crazy work ethic that “starts with the notion that work can be meaningful, and that thought is stretched to the point where outside work is no longer significant”.

While most people only work

for a good bit to live

Hence the remarkable opinion of Matthew Stewart to youth who want to get an MBA:

"Stay away from the business schools

to study philosophy rather

to know the real life"

"In business, experience is the great teacher. We deceive ourselves if we think that an MBA makes you an energetic manager. Managers learn to manage not very different from teaching people how to live in a civilized world.

Managers do not need training,

they have educational needs

I just ordered the book. Looks like some good counter-weight for the other stuff i am reading, and will prepare me for the Lean exercise that our Innovation Team will go through as from begin February 2010.

The balance is probably somewhere in between.

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UPDATE: Cool ! It seems that my site has been blocked from Myanmar 2 hours after posting this article. Now i really feel what freedom of speech means.

UPDATE-2: added some other interesting links at the end of this post.

I fully agree with Robert Scoble that Google’s threat to withdraw from China is a world changer. A huge milestone.


Image courtesy WSJ

I believe that – when we will look back some years from now – this move will be seen as the “tipping point” in Corporate Ethical Re-Boot.

In this post, is will share some of my personal views on the Google-China event, and some other ethical old game/new game type of events i observed recently in my country.

There is a tsunami of responses to Google’s position. Some good recent blogs on the subject can be found here: Wall Street Journal’s overview and clearing up the confusion/myths, Scoble’s push/pull article, Kara Swisher’s China’s Internet Behavior, and John Paczkowski U.S. State Department to complain article.

UPDATE-3: another interesting one is from Christopher Meyer “Why is Google doing Government’s Job ?”

Walter Wriston (CEO of Citicorp in the 1970s) , in his 1992 book The Twilight of Sovereignty, predicted that business institutions would take over many of the roles of the state. He had a front-row seat — maybe the whole front row — as private financial institutions became more powerful than every central bank in the world save the US Fed (until now, at least). Governments’ power in shaping world affairs wanes as access to information broadens. As another affirmation of this, Carne Ross, a former UK diplomat, now does business as an "Independent Diplomat," offering professional-class diplomacy to state and non-state actors.

A new thesis by Miranda Meyer of the University of Chicago (umm…yes, relation) asserts that non-sovereign organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah belong to a class of actors that have important impacts but are not recognized in the Political Science literature.

Miranda Meyer’s thinking is very much in line with Joshua Cooper Ramo’s book “The age of the unthinkable”

Back in 1993, Wriston’s subtitle was "How the Information Revolution is Transforming Our World." Indeed, 17 years on, who can doubt that it has? One of his favorite observations was that "information about money is more important than money itself." Google’s influence is a sign that information about information may be more powerful still.

I found two other blog posts remarkably interesting.

First there was Fred Destin’s blog on Communist China, the misbehaving superpower.

The global outcome of a fast-growing command economy has been the government-determined explosion of asset bubbles all over the world – not because China is growing, the cause assumed by most economists, but because the government is buying resources (and their future options) on the global market, forward for 5-20 years. The result: instant commodity asset bubbles, worldwide, and further destabilization for non-Chinese consumers of these commodities. Of course, if the Chinese play the bubbles wrong, they will lose even more as prices collapse.

Could the Chinese create a global catastrophe by commanding all of this leverage into the wrong assets at the wrong time, by deflating the value of high-IP goods, by forcing global competition against unsustainable cost bases, and destroying non-Chinese business infrastructure? Sure. In fact, this is almost a “when,” and not an “if,” question.


What could possibly be more

dangerous to the world than a

command economic system run

on a global scale?


This is one view, a bit driven by




Fear is also coming into the picture when you see that US Government is starting to take position, with all it’s possible impact on the US-China relations, the world economy and the quite fragile balance in world peace (at least between the super-powers).

But there is also the view driven by the opposite of fear:




Translated into hope for an ethical reveille, beautifully articulated in Umair Hague’s MUST READ post “Google, China, and the new High Ground of Advantage” and you start seeing a pattern:

But the high ground has shifted. The new high ground is an ethical edge. It’s not about having more; it’s about doing better. It’s not about protecting exports, pressuring buyers and suppliers, price discriminating against the powerless, and programming consumers to buy, buy, buy — it’s about making people, communities, and society authentically better off. It’s not about caring less — but caring more. It’s not about ruthlessness. It’s about mindfulness.

The 20th century high ground might let China build a few dozen Microsofts, Fords, and Gaps: industrial-era companies that make industrial-era stuff — and play by industrial-era rules. Yawn. We know how that story ends, because we’re living it: an economy, polity, society, and natural world in stagnation and decline. Dear Wen Jiabao: want fries with that Zombieconomy?

The only way to step past the industrial era’s zombified endgame is the new high ground, because only an ethical edge can do all the good stuff above. The old high ground was built for 20th century economics: sell more junk, earn more profit, "grow" — and then crash. An ethical edge operates at a higher economic level.

It is concerned with

what we sell,

how profits are earned, and

which authentic, human benefits "grow."


It’s a concept built for the economics of an interdependent world.

Ethical edge is advantage reconceived for the 21st century. It’s an institutional innovation: the institution of "advantage" rebuilt for a threadbare, fraying, global economy. It’s a radical new definition of "advantage" that blows past the stale, tired idea of competitive advantage.

For me personally, i am on the hope side, and what’s going on here is really opening the Ethical Firehose.

I have always been inspired by the work of Peter Singer, especially his books “One World” and “Writings on Ethical Life”, but had somehow lost hope due to being confronted with the sad and disappointing realities of corporate life. I guess we all got our wounds as we lived our professional lives.

Umair Hague already pointed at it: one of the cultivated behaviors in corporate life is cynicism. As i have mentioned at several occasions before, cynicism is applied by folks who have lost the ability of "opening their heart”.

The other corporate disease is “Machiavellian" behavior. I have met recently professionals who even seem to be proud of their Machiavellian “skills”.


I think it’s wrong, very wrong


I looked up in some dictionaries what Machiavellian really means.

Being or acting in accordance with the principles of government analyzed in Machiavelli’s The Prince, in which political expediency is placed above morality and the use of craft and deceit to maintain the authority and carry out the policies of a ruler is described. Characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty: He resorted to Machiavellian tactics in order to get ahead.

And in the Business Dictionary, i found:

Conduct or philosophy based on (or one who adopts) the cynical beliefs of Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) whose name (in popular perception) is synonymous with deception and duplicity in management and statecraft. Born in Florence (Italy), Machiavelli was its second chancellor and (in 1531) wrote the book ‘The Prince’ that discusses ways in which the rulers of a nation state can gain and control power. Although The Prince contains some keen and practical insights into human behavior, it also displays a pessimistic view of human nature and condones opportunistic and unethical ways of manipulating people. One of its suggestions reads, "Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature."

It’s fundamentally about dishonesty and manipulation. It’s about trust (or the lack of it) . Would you be able to trust Machiavellians ? Do you trust your leaders if they don’t apply the basic ethical principles ?

Some shocking examples come from my own country.

Last week we had our Minister of Pensions Michel Daerden showing up drunk in Parliament. It even made BBC News. I am so proud of our leaders (hmmm. this is cynicism again).

Or our ex-prime minister Jean-Luc Dehaene whose famous arrogant answer to journalists was usually “no comments”: he is now on the board of AB Inbev as “independent” advisor. We have in Belgium an “ethical code of conduct” called the “Code Lippens”. 

The Corporate Governance Committee was established on 22 January 2004. Maurice Lippens was appointed chairman. The Committee was created at the initiative of the Banking, Finance and Insurance Commission, the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium and Euronext Brussels.The Committee issued a single reference code for listed Belgian companies. The Code is to set out principles of good governance and transparency, which will contribute to the development of companies and to the quality of their image among investors and the general public.

Guess what ? based on the information in Belgian quality newspaper De Standaard, Directors of the Board get a yearly fixed compensation of 70,000 to 80,000 EUR plus a variable compensation, let’s say a bonus. How can you be an independent advisor to the board in these circumstances ?


Who does still trust these people ?


Getting closer to the business of financial services i am working in – and the importance of trust in this new decade – there was this related article in the Confused of Calcutta titled Musing about Trust.

There’s something very human about trust. Something more related to the Age of Biology rather than the Age of Physics. We’ve seen what happens when we rely on mathematics for ratings and values and decisions. Last time round it was called the Credit Crunch. A decade earlier it was called LTCM. Whatever.

Some of us believe passionately in the power of what’s happening today, in terms of democratized tools and access and community-based approaches to many things, from home to work to government and beyond. In fact, I’m personally somewhat at a loss as to why no one has really put together the right community-based vehicle for “climate change”, built as an open and transparent platform, on open source principles and in a global inclusive manner.

Trust is about covenant relationships, not about contract relationships. In a contract you await breach and effect recourse. The question answered is “who pays?” In a covenant the question that’s answered is “how do we fix it?”

I think we’re going to spend a lot of time in 2010 learning about covenant relationships and their role in society. At home. In the community. At work. As a nation. As the world.

Which brings me to Michael Moore’s recent film “Capitalism: a love story”.


I was chatting with a colleague in Cubicle 3B23 about this.

The person’s reaction was:

I am ashamed to work

for this industry

I think i am going to watch the movie too. Because, somewhere somehow it all starts feeling wrong and not in line with my true compass.

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On the previous post Cubicle 3B23, I got a comment that i really want to give more visibility on the front-page.


Here it goes:


Cubicle 3B21 is just across the corridor from 3B23; when both doors are open, we could see each other and talk (a bit loudly and to the annoyance of our colleagues) without getting off our chairs. 3B21 is also visited by people. Usually different people. For different reasons. They come for a joke and a laugh – look at the latest silly toy or Dilbert cartoon, or some obscure droodle on the wall – for 3B21 has a bit the kindergarten look (playful, nearly silly, messy, surprising). They come as well to talk – not to get advice but to be listen to, searching for empathy, acceptance, and a sympathetic ear.

3B21 is the office of the Happiness officer (a self-adopted title which would be well-suited to Atlas carrying the whole world on his shoulders :-)). It is also the office of Joe.

3B21 and 3B23 are connected – the yin and yang of the same thing. While one is frequented by people looking for solution, advice, inspiration the other is the place for people searching for warmth, comfort and simple human connection. Often the same people. And the subject of impact is also the center of the universe in 3B21 – but impact one person at a time in a small but personally significant (to them) way.

When I considered first writing this, I kept thinking about the ripple vs the wave that Peter mentioned: what causes one and what the other, and how are they different; do I want to make a wave or a ripple?

And they are basically the same thing – many individual molecules moving in a synchronized way. It’s quite a small imperceptible movements but because they are many it accumulates (excuse the science vulgarization – the goal is not accuracy but a visual metaphor)…

What’s different is the scale (a wave has tons more of these guys pulling all in the same direction) and the independence – how long the movement can last once the force that caused it is taken away. And as I was reading about waves and how they work, I found out that what we really want to make is a rogue wave (also know as a freak wave) – a very rare phenomenon, which happens when the energy of all the water molecules gets amplified, to an unbelievable level – a kind of resonance that creates a monster of a wave, that sucks all energy around it and piles it into a powerful wall of water. And what this is caused by is 2 factors: a force above and a force below  – a strong wind and a deep current working together. That’s what cubicles 3B23 and 3B21 are about – a wind and a current stirring the murky waters of a sea and letting go, so the power of it can emerge.

And if that’s not full contact, what is?

Wonderful !

Looks like we’re building a tribe here 😉


Who joins the wave ? We need you to lead us. Send a comment. Let yourself know. Come to Cubicle 3B23 or 3B21.

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At the end of my post “How real is your innovation”, i added a list of 29 typical idea killers that should be eradicated from a company culture claiming to be innovative.


A couple of days ago, i came across #30:


“And what are your metrics ?”


Those Idea Killers really cut-out the last bit of creative juice and energy from the poor guy daring to stick out his neck and coming up with a new idea.

It’s now a real coincidence – really, this was not planned and is pure synchronicity – that Adam Hartung from The Phoenix Principle posts a blog item called Overcoming metrics to grow – Motorola, Xerox, Kodak, Six Sigma, TQM, Lean.

You can read the full article for yourself, but as usual i will select some salient points:

Measurements are good control tools.  Measurements can help force a focus on short term improvements.  But measurements, and the concomitant focus,reduces an organization’s ability to look laterally

They lose sight of information from lost customers, from small customers, from fringe customers and fringe competitors 

Measurement often leads to obsession, and a


deepening of

Defend & Extend behavior 


Regular readers of my blog will have noticed my preference for radical innovation and innovation beyond the core.

Measurements are created when a business is doing well.  In the Rapids.  Like Kodak during the 1960s and Xerox in the 1970s. 

Measurements are structural Lock-ins that help "institutionalize" the behavior which makes the Success Formula operate most effectively

And they help growth


But they do nothing for

recognizing a market shift, and

when new technology comes

along they stand in the way 


That’s why a powerful Six Sigma or Total Quality Management (TQM) or Lean Manufacturing project can help reduce costs short term, but become an enormous barrier to innovation over time when markets shift. These institutionalized efforts keep people doing what they measure, even if it doesn’t really add much incremental value any longer.

To overcome measurement Lock-ins we all have to use scenario planning.  Scenarios can help us see that in a future marketplace, a changed marketplace, measuring what we’ve been doing won’t aid success. 

And even more so if the organization is not capable of keeping itself honest in measuring what his has been doing and/or recognizing past failures. If that would happen, the whole exercise of looking back into the past is just futile and a marketing exercise. Not an honest assessment.


And because we don’t yet know what the future market will really look like, we can’t just swap out existing metrics for something different

As we proceed to do new things, in White Space, it’s about learning what the right metrics are – about getting into the growth Rapids – before we tie ourselves up in metrics.


I have a question for you:

In the weeks to come, our Innovation Team goes (like any other department) will go through a Lean exercise ? I am really interested in maximizing the knowledge of the Lean Navigators and to make the best out of it.


So, to help my team’s preparation for Lean, I have the following questions:

  • Who has experience with Lean and Innovation ?
  • How can Lean help us delivering better Innovation ?
  • How can we avoid that Lean will become a barrier to innovation

Thanks in advance for sharing your experiences.

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