Archive for July, 2010

There has been a lot of coverage on the net about Prince’s statement “The Internet is Dead” and the responses “Prince is dead”. For me, Prince is never dead, as he left me with memories to the best concert I have ever seen during his Purple Rain tour, indeed quite some time ago ;-/

The master of funk – aka His Purple Highness – just has a new CD “20TEN”, and it seems to be a good one, and it is btw given away today for free with Newspapers in Europe.

I found this review of 20TEN in the Belgian Newspaper De Standaard. It’s in Dutch, but if you turn on Google translation, it’s quite readable in English.


I blog about it for the following (auto-translated) paragraphs:

We give Prince creative freedom and we understand that he does not want to live in the past. The most pressing question that loomed when we 20Ten in the CD-changer was explained: the album will be as good as Sign O The Times or Parade? Equally exciting as 1999 or as viciously as Controversy?

Well … (Drum roll) … No. Not really. More importantly, we find that bad? Because let’s be honest: you really expect the 52-year-old Prince a plate opinions so urgent, as controversial and as innovative as his work from the 1980s?

Maybe we should ask whether it is the responsibility of someone like Prince to remain the major role of innovator to take on. That role he has not already played out with fervor when it was needed? Charts when artists do not dare to take risks, but only when blacks were allowed to play funk and disco, when explicit sex or gay and bisexuality have been stashed away in the bright pop music?

The question – or statement if you want – was already raised by Guillaume Van der Stighelen during an interview with business TV Channel Kanaal-Z some years ago at the occasion of the launch of his book “Heldenmerk” (the brand as a hero) somewhere end 2008, begin 2009.

He said something along the lines that creativity (and innovation) should be left to the young generation, and that he – as a 50+ year old – should give room to the young generation where the real creativity sits, and that his role should be one of mentorship.

I am 50+, so that quite resonated with me. But I think he is right. Since then, I try to make others win, younger people than me, who still have to proof something.

It is actually fun to disappear backstage, and enjoy the show being delivered by others, and knowing you were a substantial part of getting it where it is right now.

That’s a different – and in my view “better” – type of satisfaction, fulfillment and motivation.

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Great book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.

Summary here.


  • Multipliers are Talent Magnets: They look beyond their own capabilities to see the deep capabilities —or genius—of others. And then they utilize people at their highest point of contribution.
  • Multipliers are Liberators: They eradicate stress and fear from their organization and instead create an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work. They keep the pressure on but make it safe to make mistakes. The result is a climate that is intense without being tense.
  • Multipliers are Challengers: Instead of telling people what to do, they show them what they can do. They seed opportunities and let people discover needs for themselves. Then, they lay down challenges that cause people to stretch beyond what they thought was possible.
  • Multipliers are Debate Makers: Instead of making isolated decisions that leave others in the dark, they engage people in debating high-stakes decisions up front. This leads to decisions that people understand and can execute efficiently.
  • Multipliers are Investors: Instead of getting things done by micromanaging, they give other people the ownership for results and invest in their capability and success.

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Big Bang Big Boom

Great video fully hand-painted. Amazing.


BIG BANG BIG BOOM – the new wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

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Stumbled upon this great blog post by Gary Hamel in the WSJ. Extremely relevant if your business is a service business run by first-level employees.

It’s based on the work of Vineet Nayar at HCL Technologies (HCLT).

It’s now all documented in this great book Employees First Customer Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down

If you thought I was sometime being a bit extreme in challenging existing ways of doing things, have a look at following recommendations:

  • We must destroy the concept of the CEO
  • Employees First, Customers second
  • Exalt those with hierarchical power rather than those who created customer value
  • Turn sober-suited executives into rabid management heretics
  • “reverse accountability.” Managers should be accountable to those in the value zone
  • Give every employee a detailed set of financial metrics for their own team and other teams across the company
  • A non-censored censored “U&I” site, taking also the dirty questions
  • Install a web-based “Smart Service Desk” and SLA’s with powerful corporate departments, like HR and finance, who often seem more interested in enforcing blanket policies than in making life easier for employees.
  • Rate the performance of any manager whose decisions impact their work lives, and to do so anonymously
  • Crowdsourced review of divisional business plans
  • Employee First Councils: to help employees connect with team members who shared similar interests and passions

The last two concluding paragraphs are enlightening:

The world has become too complex for the CEO to play the role of “visionary-in-chief.” Instead, the CEO must become a “management architect”—someone who continually asks, “What are the principles and processes that can help us surface the best ideas and unleash the talents of everyone who works here?” Today, as never before, the world needs leaders who refuse to be seduced by the fatal allure of the familiar.

It really is possible to change the management DNA in a large, established company. When you dig into “Employees First” you’ll learn that it’s possible to reinvent management without blowing up the existing management system, without having a detailed master plan at the outset and without taking inordinate risks. If you’re a would-be management renegade—this means you’ve just run out of excuses.

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Check out Raw Dawson’s blog post of today with superb video

TURNING INTO GODS – ‘Concept Teaser’ from jason silva on Vimeo.

Indeed today it is entirely appropriate for us to be thinking in terms of human transformation, and the power we have at our disposal. The cycle has swung back, and once again there is the promise that we have what it takes to change who we are… for the better. Whether human nature will allow those changes to be fully positive we have yet to discover. But that promise is – once again – part of the zeitgeist.

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Last week we had a great team off-site.

We arrived late afternoon in the fantastic location of Chateau de la Poste, close to Namur, Belgium. Built in 1895, the Château de la Poste was the residence, for more than forty years, of Princess Clementine, daughter of King Léopold II. It later was sold to the postal services, who used it as a vacation resort for the children of the employees of the Belgian Post (times have changed). It recently was refurbished completely by a French wine maker, and it houses now a wonderful hotel, meeting centre and quality restaurant.

The amazing landscape, the silence and the soft welcome on the summer terrace set us all in the right mood. We all felt our physical and mental muscles relaxing, winding down.

Don’t know where I read it anymore, but I recently found a quote: “If you are not able anymore to take some time out for an off-site team gathering, you’re cooked”

For once, we did NOT have a packed agenda, and plenty of time for  real Quality Time Sessions.

We even made an acronym for it (QTS) to joke a bit with the “acronymitis” of the lean methodology.

More seriously, we invented QTS because we felt that the pure lean method was too much focused on a problem-mindset, and not enough on an opportunity-mindset, opportunities to develop some deeper quality thinking on subjects relevant to our business and team.

One of the items on the agenda was about “how to tell bad news”. In the subsequent discussion, one team member reflected on some sort of “fear” and “If I do this, then this and that may happen, and then…” thinking. Being in the acronym mode, we had a good discussion on


FEAR = Fantasy Experienced As Real


and how such behavior leads to blocking, status-quo situations.

Almost “emergent by design” our team culture principles unfolded, and we articulated them along the themes of “old” and “new” game.


  • Old game = fear, tricks, manipulation, raising stinky fish, machiavelism, creating and maintaining negative energy in general

  • New game = solution oriented, integrity and authenticity, fast correction (like Guy Kawasaki used to say”churn baby churn” a variation on the famous 1976 disco song “Disco Inferno” by the The Tramps), the holy fire, positive energy, who is the owner of the idea, who cares ? It’s about focusing on believers, and investing heavily in those VIP followers that will help us create a viral innovation infection/storm, like a raging holy fire that cannot be stopped anymore. Burn baby Burn…


We replaced “raising stinky fish” by regular update and feedback sessions, focusing on polishing rough idea diamonds, focusing on what works vs. what does not work, focusing solutions vs. problems.


If you think deeply about it, all this is about

the major cultural shift

from pushing towards pulling your ideas,

it’s about a strengths based society and team,

it’s about connecting ideas

and excel in making them real.


Another correction we made to lean was our understanding of a skills matrix.

We were very inspired by Venessa Miemis’ blog post “Framework for a Strengths Based Society” that included following diagram.

We decided to add these skills to our existing lean skills matrix that was too focused on identifying and solving problems and tools mastery. “We are not the tools, the builders are us” is another quote from one of Venessa’s presentations.

The subtle nuance is that we did NOT implement these skills as comparative/ competitive skills of different team members but


in terms of personal areas of

strength and potential

for each team member individually.


Our little team is SWIFT’s “Innovation Team”. Some time ago, we shared the details of the mission here and in summary it goes like this:

Build the Skills , Tools , Processes, Metrics , Values , Network , required to support collaborative innovation and transform SWIFT in an agile company, able to succeed in a changing environment.

I often make reflections on how real our innovation work really is. And although we are having lots of fun and some sizeable impact on how the company little by little opens up for innovative behavior, I always seem to be in search for that little extra in life and work.

Too many of our innovation experiments and proof-of-concepts remain just that: proof-of-concepts and prototypes. They never get into production. Worse, some outcome are just ‘filed vertically” or even never get the any executive attention.

I would like to hear from other innovators what is the secret sauce to get beyond the prototype stage. Because staying in prototype stage sometimes makes me wonder if I am in some sort of “busyness” therapy.

And I have come at an age where I cannot content myself with busyness.

I could sit here till my pension, having a good pay, and living honestly speaking in a quite luxurious working environment. But I am in search for more. I am in search for


meaning and significance


With the couple of years still to go, I still have the arrogant (?) ambition that I want to leave a legacy. On a personal level in my family. On a professional level that my passing in this company has substantially changed something. It’s about a deep sense of motivation, beyond pay and perks.

There is something heroic, even heretic about all this. That’s why the title of this post is Heretic Team Glue.

See full size image

Heretics are the ones that were expulsed from the Catholic Church because they did not follow the rules and challenged faith and established dogmas.

There are several dictionary definitions of “heretic”. The one I have in mind here is “anyone who does not conform to an established attitude,doctrine, or principle”.

I think we in our team are all some sort of heretics in the castle. It’s something very special in our team, that creates a very strong bonding.

At times it even has some masochistic flavor. Why on earth do we keep on trying again and again ? Even if the odds are against us. Why are we prepared to go time after time through the innovation pains over and over again ?

I truly believe it is because we do it for the right reason. Not for the pay. Not for the glory.


Because we believe there is a chance

we can succeed 


And believe we can create a tribe of followers in the same belief. It’s for some of us the only reason why we stay !

Are the above reflections caused by my age and my 3/4 life contemplations ?  Don’t think so. We invited some GEN-Y colleagues to join our off-site. And see: they too are driven by honesty, they too want promises to be kept, they too look for meaning and fulfillment in their lives.

But it was shocking to hear how some of them have been seduced to join a company based on huge expectations and promises that they would work soon for 3 years in the US, and have rapid accelerated career paths, and deep young graduate immersion programs. It’s unacceptable to make such promises if you know you can’t realize them.

And this is their first contact with corporate life !

How can we ever correct this ? How on earth can we regain the trust of these young people ? Our generation has planted the seeds of suspicion in these long lives. Big mistake.

Me too I have been mislead several times in my life, and I recognize the power-less emotion of trust that was betrayed. Lessons of life ? Normal life injuries ? The way it is ? Why do we need to accept that ? Why do we repeat the same errors over and over again ? Sooner or later, these young people will present us the invoice.

These folks actually think. Think deeply. Some GEN-Y people are for example  insulted when calling them “GEN-Y”. Because they see themselves as individual human beings, with their own identities and values systems, not prepared to be tagged as a category. And they have great ideas. We organized some sort of Innotribe Lab with them: more than 20 ideas on how to improve quality of work came out. I am honored that I can channel these ideas into the People & Culture “movement” team of the company.

Last but not least, we had a great discussion about “reverse mentorship”.

Instead of older experienced professionals mentoring new young people joining the company, why not letting young people mentor the already older – sometimes (mis)formatted – generation, and teach them how to use new technologies and apply 21st value systems ?

We had a fierce debate: how can one say that the young generation is the future, and five minutes later challenge reverse mentorship by not accepting that one can learn an awful lot from these fresh and well trained minds.

Maybe that’s where my future is ? In being mentored by a GEN-Y ? It will ask of course an attitude of



It’s also part of a give-ànd-take culture that includes transparency and openness. Especially give. Like a gift, where you don’t expect something in return.


When is the last time you made a Gift ?


How can we create an environment where we encourage learning from each other (in normal and reverse mentoring mode) ? An environment where we celebrate confidence building on your own rhythm, dare to be vulnerable, asking for feedback that is clarifying, supporting, challenging.

I am convinced I can learn something from every human being. Especially young people who have a renewed and fresh sense of civic responsibility, transparency, honesty, openness.

I have committed to take the challenge and invite one of our GEN-Y’s to monitor me during 6 months and give me feedback on my behavior and to keep me honest.

So that I walk the talk. Every manager should do this.

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Yesterday – in one of those uncontrolled mixed moments of vacation, winding down, browsing, boredom – I did a health check on one of those “how-old-will-you-get-if-you- keep-this-lifestyle” sites.


The answer was 75


The test told me that I could extend this by probably a year or so, if I gave up all the negative stuff in my lifestyle. Only one year ?

75 ! It put me in some strange mood. I really never had a mid-life crisis (my wife will vigorously argument against that :-), but this hit me into a 3/4 life crisis/reflection.

It meant that I had a bit more that 20 years to make the right choices.

And then I discovered by pure luck this wonderful Jeff Bezos speech. Thanks to the tweets of digitalwaveride

Check out this fantastic 2010 Baccalaureate remarks by Jeff Bezos. The whole story is moving, but the last part should be a mantra for every human being that has the luxury to have choice.

Sine parole

Tomorrow, in a very real sense, your life — the life you author from scratch on your own — begins.

How will you use your gifts?

What choices will you make?

Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?

Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?

Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?

Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?

Will you bluff it out when you’re wrong, or will you apologize?

Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?

Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?

When it’s tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?

Will you be a cynic,

or will you be a builder?


Will you be clever at the

expense of others,

or will you be kind?


I will hazard a prediction. When you are 80 years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story. Thank you and good luck!

With that as a background, I reflect back on some great conversations I had recently with some GEN-Y people, who can spent their whole day in studying human behavior and values like strengths based society, collaborative innovation models, and other cool and exciting stuff.

How much would I like to go back to high school and study. Just study for the pleasure of the mind.

Or shall I finally start writing that book ?

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