Archive for May, 2011

This is probably the most important blog post I wrote since the start of my blog in April 2009.

It’s about a “big bad idea” that started simmering during Le Web 2010, when listening to Shai Aghassi of Betterplace.com




Shai Agassi was the number two of SAP in 2009, responsible for a budget of more than 1 Billion dollar, but in the CEO succession battle (a finite game, see later) he got bored, resigned, and set his minds on a much bigger thing, now called Betterplace.com

At LeWeb 2010, he told a story on how he took the Japanese challenge to run a 24/7 taxi service in downtown Tokyo for 128 days, without any other power that electric power from batteries, reloaded or switched when needed in “battery stations” in less than 59 seconds each time.

Agassi is very inspiring. Reflecting on his words after his talk during the coffee break, I bumped into one of his strategy guys. I am a strong believer of unplanned encounters and the serendipity that can result from such encounters. I understood Betterplace had a healthy funding of more than 750 Million USD, and I learned that some of the main funders were some of the biggest financial institutions.

The idea started simmering…


What if we with OUR community

could get a fund of 1 Billion dollar together

for a better world?


At first people looked at me with unbelief and wondered “1 Billion Dollar?”

But it is really not that crazy: if you now that our daily traffic is about 18 million messages, it would mean +/- 50 dollar for each message of ONE day. This calculation on a napkin is in no way intended as a “tax” on each message, it is just meant to say that in the end 1 Billion is indeed a lot of money but not unreachable for a community like ours.

I first mentioned the idea in my blog post on “Pump up the (Innovation) Volume”. And I started talking about it at almost every encounter.

People love it.Everybody I talked about it gets sparkles in their eyes and gets excited. Nobody thinks it’s a bad idea.


You know you have a good idea

when suddenly everybody

wants to own and run with it


This is a big bold idea. This one is in the category of:

  • "Change depends on unreasonable people" (Mega investor Vinod Khosla)
  • "If you don’t share your ideas, you’ll remain anonymous and powerless" (Google Evangelist Vint Cerf)
  • Number one, great ideas matter. Number two, find passion. And number three, be tenacious, be irrepressible (Steve Ballmer)

So what is it ?

It’s about a 1 billion non-profit fund and framework for supporting sustainable and responsible businesses for a new type of wealth creation.

It would also lead and propel the community forward into a modern thinking about capitalism, rethinking value, and waste that we produce for the next one in the value chain (for ex bail outs) or even pushing debt towards future generations. It would also help us better understand and articulate what a “better bank” would look like.


It will stimulate a conversation

about a new wealth paradigm

centered on

new type of value services,

instead of

money and cash services only

What sort of sustainable and responsible businesses do we have in mind ?

  • Business that create and/or enable a new type of wealth, based on the full value chain
  • Social entrepreneurs that create financial inclusion solutions
  • Experiments in social and sharing economies
  • Ethical businesses
  • “Better” Banks.

However, the idea is about “Banks for a Better World” and not or not only about “Better Banks for the World”. It does include “better banks”.


But I don’t like “better banks”


Because “better” also means somebody else is “worse”. It’s related to the old game, the finite game where there are winners and losers. I believe we have to shoot for infinite games, where we all together go for the big bold goal, where we have set a direction, where the game does not end when there are winners or losers.

In this context, I really want to recommend a little booklet, written by James Carse in 1986, titled “Finite and Infinite Games – A vision of Life as Play and Possibility” (Amazon Affiliate Link)




“There are at least two kinds of game. One could be called finite, the other, infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.”

“If finite players acquire titles from winning their games, we must say of infinite players that they have nothing but their names.”

My strength

does not come from my title

but because I am me


So, because “better bank” is like a title, I don’t like the concept.

But I do want to share some of the ideas and characteristics that popped-up when discussing the concept of better bank. In no particular order, better bank characteristics would include:

  • Experiments for better corporate culture in banking, based on open mind, open heart and open will
  • Playing an active role in enabling new value transactions – exchanging social reputation for cash, money for social currency?
  • Moving from a money bank to a digital bank
  • Transparent
  • A bank that lets other build “on-top” through API’s
  • Scam advisors, sensors
  • Leveraging personal knowledge of the person in the context of his/her community/ies
  • Digital Asset Stores, info-banks, Social graph bank, community risk Assessment, Values based organized, helps you do your job, exchange social currencies in real dollars and the other way around, offer better picture of my wealth and analytics, an organization that helps me guide my wealth decisions into the future, behavioral economics,

Mind the gap:

this could be new type of organizations,

other than the traditional financial institution,

once known as “bank”


Somebody even suggested to weave in here a new fabric, a new concept of the Digital Bank, where the bank not only is our trusted repository and exchange-enabler for money, but also offers similar services for digital assets, such as social graphs, personas, and even payment intentions in a Vendor Relation Management (VRM) scenario.

Doc Searls (who will be with us at Innotribe Sibos as part of our Digital Identity Incubation project) says about customers using VRM:


“A free customer is better

than a captive customer”


We also can get inspired by folks like  Kevin Doyle Jones? (on twitter @Kevindoylejones). He is the founder of Good Capital, an investment firm that increases the flow of capital to innovative ventures creating market-based solutions to inequality and poverty. He is also involved with Hub Ventures, an innovative funding and support program for early-stage for-profit social ventures – officially launched on January 18th. And cofounder of Social Capital Markets, a multi-platform organization dedicated to the flow of capital towards social good.

It just seems that this guy and his community "get it."


I also asked my friends of the REXpedition (a think-tank on relationship economies, under the leadership of Jerry Michalski) to give me some feedback.

Another example where sharing your idea makes it better.




Here are some of the messages I got back.

  • The "better banks" memetic is a known issue globally – something people really want / reform of finance.


“What is being discussed here

is a larger idea

It is a transcend-and-include-idea”


  • Some REXers suggested me to drop the resistance to the “better bank” twist and maybe to ask “why” we are all so tempted to fall back on this. Maybe we should let go, and let the discussion happen this way, and through putting banks in contact with this sort of new thinking to create a transformation of the banks.
  • Some said that existing banks act as incumbents. As incumbents they probably easier embrace “better banks” as they don’t have to re-invent themselves

One of the deepest and profound thoughts came from Jerry Michalski himself, who planted the seed to go back to the primitive level of our understanding of a bank.


The word “Bank” comes from “Banca” which means “Bench”.

People used to sit on a bench, and had a conversation. It was relationship building avant-la-letter, it as about wealth creation for everybody, it was a community play. The metaphor also applies to “stocks” which originally was a “stick” with carves indicating what values where loaned between parties.

Jerry Michalski will be with us at Innotribe Sibos 2011 in Toronto on the topic of New Economies.


Maybe this whole idea is a discussion

about new forms of wealth,

about a world

where we are not so dependent

on fiat currencies,

where wealth is separated from money.


Check out this Money & Life video:



This video has some very strong messages for our community:

Money has “evolved” from a means to transfer wealth to uplift the poor but overtime money took over not as a means but as a measure of wealth and became a human obsession.


The system is systemically unstable

We need new and different types of governance.


Where the sum of the commons


our collective wealth,

and is not the sum of

individual wealth.


Where we talk in terms of community-asset-mapping. With baked-in resilience in the system, like you can have baked-in resilience against floods by allowing mangroves, swamps, etc to overflow.


This is a story about

scarcity versus abundance


Our money was created with a scarcity model in mind. Sharing was not part of the thinking. In fact, it was about anything but sharing. It was a way to protect the already rich and powerful.


This is probably the deeper thought

that led to

“Banks for a Better World”


I still carry some of the naivety that Bankers not want to be greedy, that there are powerful and influential individuals in those organizations that still want to change the world for the better.

Sometimes I think that the ideas we’re discussing here might be too much for the targeted audience, like last year at Sibos, where Venessa Miemis introduced GEN-Y thinking into the Future of Money debate. She was not understood by the financial community.

She was infuriated by our deputy chairman’s reaction: “I wonder, are those convictions strong enough to overcome the realities of what makes the financial industry or system tick today………. My own take on this is that the prevailing values may be stronger than the new values.”

Me too, I feel today like preaching in the desert, like an alien naïve idealist in this world of power games and testosterone. I feel like Venessa after Sibos 2010. Her words still resonate like a furious storm in my head, that makes we wake up angry every morning. In Venessa’s words 2010:


But if “the financial industry” at large, (whoever that is), doesn’t understand that there is a new mindset that is spreading around the planet, how can they expect to tap into it?

It wasn’t lost on me that I got looks of skepticism and cynicism by some of the bankers that week. I also got plenty of looks that made me feel like someone was going to pat me on the head and say “Awwww, well that’s a cute idea! But you obviously have no idea about how the world works.”


I do get it. Everyone gets it. The wheels are barely being held onto the cart to keep the grand illusion of this dog and pony show going.

The word “vision” means seeing beyond what is. It means a fundamental shift in the way we choose to interpret the world and our place within it. Everything about “the way things work” is, and always has been, an evolution of socially constructed realities. What happens when we change the meaning of reality?

This isn’t a recession. It’s the growing pains of a transformational evolution in how humanity functions.

People are waking up, consciousness is evolving, and the infrastructures are being built to make it easy for people to communicate, connect, collaborate, and build a world that is mutually beneficial FOR ALL. Beyond a zero-sum game. It’s possible. It’s a choice. We can all be a part of it, and everybody wins.

Join the party.


Marti Spiegelman is helping leaders in our culture come awake via the principles of consciousness and restore their businesses to powerful centers of creation, exchange, and distribution of value for the greater good.

She was spot-on in the recent REX call when she said about “Banks for a Better World”:


But maybe the new ideas we talked about are just new expressions of principles that are common to the system we already have, that are common to life and thriving and value creation.

The thought here is that we have to remember that principles are core to what we create, consciousness works through a network of principles .

What if we presented those common principles as a resource – as knowledge people already have about value and abundance and exchanges core to commerce?

And then restate the challenges everyone is familiar with, explaining they are expressions of those principles.

This would shift the atmosphere so when we invite creative discussion to bring forward new expressions of those principles we don’t get the fragmentation that occurs when new ideas are just tossed into a highly structured arena.


This is about trust and reputation, how do you manage such an organization, about organizations with modern governance.

If you want, it’s like an Ashoka for sustainable and social innovation in financial services and wealth creation.




We partnered with Ashoka for this week’s Innotribe Mumbai on 1-2 June 2011, where they bring a couple of Ashoka Fellows to The Mixer on day-2 of our conference. If it makes sense in the flow of the discussions, we will float the “Banks for a Better World” idea, and see where it goes.

We also partnered with Askoka for their Changemakers’ week in Paris on 21-22 June 2011, where our facilitation crew will lead some Innotribe Labs introducing the subject of Banks for a Better World to see if the idea has any wings to fly and to collect feedback on how you want to shape it.




Here are some draft descriptions of the Innotribe labs we are going to run there:

Banks for a Better World, Part I

Imagine that we had a way to value wealth not just in return on investment, not just in money, cash flow and balance sheets, but in the worth we bring to society. Imagine if our financial systems were able to provide a platform to transact with, transform, deal in different kinds of value: social benefits, reputation, ecological footprint, etc. Together with several inspiring speakers we would engage you, the audience to create a vision of what Banks for Better World may mean. Be part of this change by joining us for a highly interactive dialogue on scoping this vision and thinking of how we could make it a reality.

Banks for a Better World, Part II

As follow-up to the morning’s banking session, this workshop will provide an interactive platform for diving deeper into some of issues involved in reimagining our banking sector, such as R&D, infrastructure, reaching unbanked populations, and more. Break-out groups will enable participants to design the beginning blueprints for banks for a better world.

The birth of Banks for a Better World is probably very similar to the birth of Ashoka itself. Check-out the video below, by clicking on “Everyone is a Changemaker”


We’ll keep on seeding the idea in our build-up towards Innotribe at Sibos, and are closely in synch with our colleagues of CSR at SWIFT.


I can’t help it,

but to me there seems to be

some sweet spot where



and sustainable business

come together 


It’s probably the corporate structures and silos that withhold us of tapping this full potential of passionate people coming together and doing really bold things. But by now, you know this guy, and corporate structures is the last thing that is going to stop us 😉

Maybe it is time for me to move on beyond Innotribe event content curator, or technology watcher. Maybe this is my thing. Maybe this is how I can leave a legacy. Maybe this is my purpose in life. Maybe this is what will me lead by being. Raising the question is answering it.

So, what do you think ? Do you get excited by the idea of “Banks for a Better World” ? Do you want to join our Infinite Game ?

Let me know your thoughts, observations, criticisms, suggestions. I am hungry and curious to read your reactions.

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Recently had a good discussion with Tony Fish, author of My Digital Footprint, and entrepreneur/investor with AMFventures. The discussion was in the context of our digital identity incubation project (more about that project in an upcoming blog post).


Not sure who invented it, but he came up with a really good metaphor based on the railway systems, that we could use very well in a lot of our discussions on innovation and how we have to position new services on top of or adjacent to our core messaging infrastructure.



There we have it


With credits to Tony, a classic railway system is made up from:

  • Infrastructure (rails, connection);
  • Enablers (signaling and control);
  • Ticketing (collection of money, the market place/ exchange);
  • Platforms (access – something to get customers in and out the service), and;
  • Trains (the service – what I am actually paying for in the mind of the customer).

SWIFT in this model already delivers critical parts of the international payments infrastructure.

  • From an innovation point of view, I believe the core of our innovation focus should be to extent our current remit to offer industry wide services that will enable Banks and Corporates to offer new services to its customers (signaling and control)
  • The Banks will provide the services (ticketing, platforms and trains)

In that sense, the SWIFT 2015 strategy is spot on by stating there is still enough juice and room for innovation in the core.

But I believe a lot of thinking in the industry about innovation at SWIFT is “limited” to the messaging paradigm, and anything that goes beyond messaging seems to make some of our shareholders nervous, as it may be the space where they compete for business with each other.

The railway system metaphor is in my opinion a great help to get rid of the pure emotions in this debate, and to well articulate the roles of the different players in a “system”.

In other words

to do some system-thinking


And metaphors always help in system thinking.

Another metaphor is the operator of a horse-track: you offer the infrastructure, and the horses (or rather the horse owners) compete on the horse-track.




The worst thing the horse-track operator can do is to have horses of his own and put them in the race in competition with the other horses.

Better is to think of the horse-track as something exciting with lots of new enabling services giving horses a better experience, and enabling new merchants to offer new services to the horse-owners. And the ticketing: you can run it yourself, or outsource it.

Just one more thought. Railways make me think of old, messy, noisy, rusty environments and coaches.




Unless you take the Thalys/Eurostars in First class, or Shanghai Maglev train that propels you forward at 431 Km/hour.

I’d prefer something that “smells” like the infrastructure and ecosystem described in the book “Aerotropolis” by John D. Kasandra. (Amazon Affiliate link)




Most of my readers are probably familiar with my addiction to cities. Because they never die. They create “intencities”. Platforms of intensities where ideas can flow freely.


we add the city transportation

to the mix,

and how that can be

a real catalyst

for systemic growth


Some quotes from the Aerotropolis book:


“Look for yesterday’s busiest train terminals and you will find today’s great urban centers. Look for today’s busiest airports and you will find the great urban centers of tomorrow.”

“Cities are always created around whatever the state-of-the-art transportation device is at the time.”

“The shapes and fates of cities have always been defined by transportation. Today, this means air travel”.




Aerotropolis. It’s just sounds so much better than railway station or infrastructure:








So, is SWIFT a Railway Station ? You should be able to cook up the answer yourself now.

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