I spent last weekend in the wonderful city of Lisbon, under a blue sky, lots of sunshine and an pleasant spring-like 18°C! The atmosphere in the city is super-relaxed, the best description I heard was “like Barcelona on tranquilizers”.
A couple of months ago, Venessa Miemis pointed me to the website of SandBox, a movement/network of young entrepreneurs < 30 years old. I am almost double that age, and was very pleased and humbled when the organizers accepted me as one of their elderly guest at their first Sandbox Global Summit.
A few weeks ago, I had a Skype call with Laura Merling from Alcatel Lucent in San-Francisco in the context of our crazy Corporate Rebels United initiative, introduced her to the organizers, and she was accepted as well to attend. Here we were: two corporate rebels together enjoying the energy and enthusiasm of 200 highly energized young folks.
Sandbox is all about incubating people versus incubating projects: I love the idea of building a strengths based society on the energy of this young generation. Sandbox is now a community of 700 young leaders. About 200 of them were present at Sandbox Lisbon (twitter hash tag #lisbox12).
The event site suggested something that would be anything but a traditional “conference” and without any “keynotes” as most of the participants were each keynoters on their own right. I was indeed quite impressed with the quality of the audience.
The event formula was in essence a un-conference format, but where the session owners were pre-listed with their subjects before the event.
The event was really very well executed: personalized welcome for all participants at the airport, great catering, breakfast you don’t even see at sibos, excellent ice-brakers for speed-dating, many ways to mix up groups, well managed serendipity, trips in town, speed dating, collective raising hands to call for silence, and at the end a crowd-produced playbook: a post-event testimonial guidebook for change-makers, with Bloomberg Businessweek co-production.
All this smells very Innotribe of course, and that’s great! We have a bit different emphasis on design, facilitation, immersive learning experiences and performance and it would be great exchange ideas and to explore with Sandbox some sort of co-production at one of their or our events.
Some other ideas of collaboration that crossed my mind were:
- Having some Sandbox representatives in our corporate rebels united group (see later)
- Let some Sandboxers present at Innotribe Sibos, topics abundant in anything that has to do with corporate culture and innovation
- Co-produce Innovation Gardens for our customers: some Sandboxers already do this ad-hoc for corporations
What was really very cool at Sandbox was the decoration by cardboard company Oupas! Design: its amazing to see how many shapes in cardboard one can built in no time. The whole event took place in the former HQ of a Portuguese bank, now Museum for Fashion and Design of Lisbon, close to the Plaza di Comercio.
Sandbox had “occupied” the third floor, which was just an empty space 5 days before the event.
During the opening session, the core group of Sandbox explained what they were all about: young do-ers with a passion for change, a passion for impact, and together on an “expedition” to become the leaders of our world in 20 years. What if they would meet and connect now when they are <30, and not when they are in leadership positions when 50+.
What could happen in terms of
and deep circles of trust ?
The organizers made clear that this event was NOT about networking or exchanging business cards. They also had a “no-wifi” policy to maximize real people connections:
connecting by disconnecting
They also had some big name sponsors: Bertelsmann, Siemens, and Bloomberg Business Week. It was a nice coincidence to see that the edition of Business Week where our Innotribe DAG incubation project was covered, was one of the giveaways at the event.
I have rarely seen such a concentration of young brainpower, and any smart company interested in recruiting from this well should not hesitate in sponsoring this organization.
And the core-group is quite ambitious for 2012:
- Growing the community from 700 to 2-3000 members: in my opinion they will have to monitor very closely the quality of their members, if not the whole concept will dilute very quickly.
- They want to increase the focus on incubation of projects
- They think about a venture fund. It was indeed interesting to see how many of the Sandboxers were entrepreneurs and start-ups with strong ties to VC and Angel community. Some investors already “infiltrated”
I don’t know: it seems to me difficult to maintain the deep circle of trust concept when commercial and investment interests start to mingle. And I would like to see some of the “un-polished-ness” and “free-flow” nurtured and maintained for some time. The risk of wanting to grow too fast, you see?
Over the 2 1/2 days, there were 4 times 14 parallel sessions, all interesting and inspiring! Here is a couple of sessions I attended:
What if robots take over, and all jobs disappear?
- My biggest learning was about how to lead a session. One participant made a great move. In stead of cutting if the creative flow he asked for your first name, and then asked a clarifying question, really inviting, and with great sensitivity for relationship building
- It seemed to me that the participants in this session were in search for “better”, for “the unnamed quality”, something that resonates with the shift from finite to infinite games, the shift from money to wealth, the shift from having to produce something to the search for deeper relationships. It was as if they all wanted to grow on the Spiral Dynamics tornado of Don Beck.
- The greatest question came from Lina:
“What makes you so afraid?”
Looking in the eyes of the session facilitator,
I saw the fear for loss of power,
not being part of the elite,
the fear for the loss of the ego.
This was an incredible session with +/- 20 participants, lead by @marcpbernegger.
I was truly amazed how much they knew about this subject. One guy even made a PHD dissertation on banking/finance 2.0 in Switzerland. Some salient points of this session:
- Most of the innovations spotted in financial services fall in one of these categories:
- Front end innovation
- Moral banking (Triodos, etc)
- Financial crisis leading to more transparency
- Alternative currencies leading to a redefinition of value/wealth
- I also heard some very relevant statements/observations:
Why is it such a hassle
to care where your money is invested?
Why is it so difficult
to open a shared account?
This group was so powerful that I invited the session owner to open their closed Facebook group to the Innotribe Community.
Pirates session by Peter (@petervan) and Laura (@magicmerl)
As mentioned before, Laura, Mike Maney, myself and several Innotribe team members have been playing with the idea of “Rebels United”. During Sandbox, Laura and myself animated a session on this that was well attended by about 15 young people, 3 of them from a large corporation.
We asked the 3 ladies from Upash to make some cardboard props to announce our session. Here is Laura and me with our Pirates outfit:
Below the input we received:
- Everybody thinks its a very cool idea
- To succeed, we will need an inspiring vision, a shared belief system versus a generic and fluffy “we are going to change this place”
- A good way to get to that vision is to answer the question: “What needs to change in big corporations to get these young people willing to come to work for them?”
- We should be looking for processes and best practices for efficient pirating in corporations
- We have to be clear whether we want a “Movement” or a “network”
- We need a budget to experiment
- The metaphor of “How to make Babies” was very much appreciated and lead into a discussion on co-creation and ownership
- In terms of ownership we should evolve from “my vision” towards “our project”
- We have to get OUT physically of your normal corporate environment to meet in outside environment
- Any movement of this kind will need executive sponsorship, but there is a reciprocal value of offering reverse mentorship: how can rebels inspire the current executive leaders?
- We have to recognize and reward rebels’ success, show it can be a career to move up the ladder
- We also introduced the concept of “The Castle and the Sandbox (or the Garage)”.
There was a lively discussion that still resonates with me. Is it really such a good idea to isolate innovation projects in a separate “garage” location? I got even more inspired by the Lisbon City tour that brought us to the “Villas”. The “villas” were actually houses for the poor that were build INSIDE the patio of houses of very rich people. Below picture of the inside of Villa Sousa that was part of our tour.
It got me thinking and I was getting more and more confuzed by the polarization effect of the castle/sandbox pitch we like to use so much in Innotribe.
Instead of separate innovation ghettos, we might be better off thinking about incubation “floors”, zones, islands, meeting points, plazas, patios, “Villas”, planets, etc, where anybody of the company can look over the shoulder, get interested, and get infected by the innovation virus.
The same way we should plant and nurture innovation angels/flowers/rebels deep in the fabric of our company to create innovation from within and thus
creating viral waves of change
To push the metaphor of “babies” even further: once the rejected baby comes out of the incubator, find an adoption family or zone that going to take care as if their own baby, in stead of creating special-character camps – garages – ghettos, where the kids will come out like non-adaptive aliens, prone to development of criminal behavior and ending up in jail (exaggerated pun intended, but you get the idea 🙂
Other suggestions from our crowdsourcing session included:
- Make failure affordable: organize “failure-fairs”
- Create “safety nets” for Corporate Rebels
- Offer case studies
- Declare and organize a “Worldwide corporate rebel day”
- Reward and celebrate corporate rebels
- Rebels competition
- Exchange programs to inject rebels in organizations wishing to experiment with the idea
- Go undercover, build in some secrecy, have a little pin, a secret code
There was also some discussion on the word “Rebels”
- It has connotations with subversive, disruptive
- Better would be to talk about the “Supreme Head of Internal Innovation” (pun intended J
- Don’t be shy, don’t try to hide from the start: just call what it is. Certified corporate rebels
- Go further: provide formal corporate rebels training
- Check out “The Unreasonable Institute”(see closing dinner speaker Robyn Scott)
- Organize a “Rebels Bootcamp”
- Don’t get hang-up on the word “rebel”: allow for different styles adapted to the specific situation: rebels, shakers, igniters, instigators, champs, angels, corporate tree shakers
Lots of the throughts about Corporate Rebels are captured in my Prezi on the Soul of Innovation (which since begin Jan 2012 almost got 1,000 views) and Jennifer Sertl’s post/reaction on Google+:
“I sense some
tipping point moments
due to your curation”
She also contextualized her feedback with a quote from Malcolm Gladwell from The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference:
“A tipping point is that magic moment
when an idea, trend, or social behavior
crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”
A wildfire, I love it. While we are getting organized to more formally set up our movement, get further inspired by a curation of resources I have been compiling for a while now via Scoop.It
By @petervan from Innotribe
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