Archive for June, 2013

On 10-12 June 2013, I was invited as a panel participant to the ISACA Insights World Congress. It was the second time in two weeks – the previous time was during a session at the Amplify Festival – that the panel was asked by the moderator what the future would look like in 2040. At Amplify the question was around the future of work. At ISACA, the question was even more open ended.


Although nobody of course knows what the future will hold, and everything I say on this topic is almost wrong by definition, I believe I surprised my audience with my very dystopian view on the future.

Many seem to believe that the future will be “bright”, with lots of possibilities for hyper-collaboration, in open and shared spaces, where serendipities happen every minute, where hierarchies don’t exist anymore, sort of love-and-peace in a sharing collaborative back-to-Woodstock environment.


That may be the case in 2020, but I think the picture will be less rosy in 2040. Already today, algorithms trade in matter of milliseconds, a real-time world that we as humans can’t even grasp, let only survive. Where those algorithms now work for stock trading companies, by 2040 we will most probably be “augmented” – at best – by our personal algorithms.

It will not be a nice picture to look forward to: by that time, we will be totally ruled by robots and algorithms, and we will have to fight – assisted by our “devices” – for that very last minute of work in a crowded world marketplace where we will have to compete at rates of 1.5$ per hour. And this for probably high-skilled tasks, as the rest will be taken over by robots: a “Present Shock” of technological presence, a world undone of human presence, a very disturbing place where we are ruled by algorithms working on our behalf, where betting on peoples future is the new normal, where siren server masters raise interest fees on the mortgage of the personal success/failure of the data slaves.

The Singularity will have happened, but in quite a different way, in a way that technology owns us, eats us, swallows us, not a singularity of jolly happy people being more intelligent or augmented. A world of technology versus machines, where technology will dictate what it wants from us (See also Kevin Kelly “What Technology Wants” – with Kelly being the technology optimist he is – and Jaron Lanier “Who Owns the Future?”).

What we have witnessed during the last weeks’ revelations represents a true tipping point. Where we still may have had the illusion that we could empower ourselves, take charge, we will be at best be empowered by other powers: a new dystopian world where authoritarian technology rules, an authoritarian singularity, where we are reduced to data slaves of the new data masters.

As part of the Digital Asset Grid (DAG) project (an Innotribe project stopped after its incubation phase, and given back to the community), I have written in the past about the “Catastrophic Complexity” that is emerging right now through the explosion of the number of nodes on the grid, ànd the explosion of data. Where these data are more and more stored by “Siren Servers” – a metaphor used by Jaron Lanier – and where the DAG proposed a 100% distributed model of data storage in personal or corporate clouds, but with a choice of appropriate Trust Models, so that we don’t end up in another worldwide west. Indeed, with the advent of trillions of nodes on the grid, we will require a new kind of species, a new kind of architecture, but more importantly a new type of governance.


I am also getting more and more disturbed by a sort of “over-glorification of technology. This may be surprising as a “Techonomist”, where the belief is that technology will enable a new philosophy for progress – I still believe that – but we need some solid healthy criticism in the debate.


When I read this week in The Guardian – a quality newspaper, right? – about the “gadgetry and behavior concepts for the 21 century” and the related comments that these are “super important” new behaviors, I believe we are missing the point; we need to counterbalance all this excitement with way more attention for humanizing our businesses.

I am afraid we are slipping into an “Authoritarian Surveillance State” as described in Washington Post, or even a “Techtarian State” as articulated by Stan Stalnaker in The Huffington Post.

To understand what’s really going on, let’s looks at some understreams that cause the waves of change at the surface. I have split them in technological and more societal changes:

  • Technological:
    • SMAC: Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud
    • Platforms and APIs leading towards the end of highly vertically integrated organizations, and where the new skill becomes horizontal sourcing of pin-point functionality
    • Explosion and loss of control of data.
    • Explosion of Cyber-threats
    • Our identity schemes not keeping up with the sheer explosion of nodes, hampering our security, as the internet was never built with identity in mind
    • Disintermediation through hyper-connectivity (example Über)
  • Societal
    • Erosion of Privacy
    • Platform, everything as a service
    • New economies (P2P, Sharing, Reputation,…)
    • New expression of value, currencies, assets, cred, influence, reputation,
    • Crowdsourcing everything (credit cards, funding, investing, lending, mapping, reputation, …)

We probably most underestimate this trend of crowd-everything. There is something deeper going on: this is really about the use of external power to scale; think platform, using crowds as change accelerators, like developers for building on your APIs, but now through users. Google recently acquired Waze for 1B$ !.


The industrial scale application of crowd is very much a “Singularity University Meme”, says Haydn Shaughnessy in Forbes.  Crowd-recording, crowd-sensing, crowd-data collection, more eyes and ears and sensors, through Waze, through Glasses, etc. It’s clear some parties want way more data to be available,  searchable, to be monetized, with us working like slaves to provide all these data for free. We evolve from democracy to “crowdocracy”.

Our near future will witness the “fragmentation of everything”: the fragmentation of work, of applications, of hierarchies, and states giving in to power data houses, data guerillas, pods, and cells.

We will see the “asymmetry of everything”: asymmetry of transparency, of search and computing power, of concentration of data. This will lead to power unbalances, to surveillance mania, to loss of freedom of speech. Already now the recent developments makes me more selective on what I tweet and share. The only way out is a 100% distributed system, but I am afraid that it is already too late for that and that our future is already owned by Jaron Lanier’s “Siren Servers”

We already see the “exceptionalism of everything”, where the exceptions become the norm: events such as stock exchange black swans become the norm. We take for granted the exceptional qualities of uber-people like Marissa Mayer, Zuckerberg, and other “heroes”.

We are “attacked by everything”: our secrecy is attacked by Wikileaks, our privacy by Siren-Servers, our security by cyber-attacks, our value creation by thousands of narrow innovations at the speed of light. All this happens at the speed of light, at “Un-Human” speeds, runs on a different clock, lives in another world.

We seem to live in a “perpetual crisis”, jumping from one incident to another, where there is no room anymore for building a story with a begin, middle, and an end; no room for reflection, no room to assess and scan the waves of change on the surface of the data ocean.

The world enters into a complexity

that cannot be addressed anymore

by conventional binary linear thinking.


We need new tools, capabilities, and ways of thinking, more non-linear, be prepared to open up for more options. These new tools are about forecasting and assessing in different ways (scenario thinking), decide our options in different ways, design thinking in context with intent and within constraints, and richer ways of expressing our options through visual thinking and other techniques more leveraging the human senses of color, sound, smell, trust, sensuality, presence.

We have come at a point where our only options out are a revolution of the data slaves and evolving as a new kind of species in the data ocean, trying to preserve what makes us human.

I have no clue how we can avoid this dystopia, but we will need a new set of practices for value creation; where data slaves dare to stand up and call for a revolution; where value creation and tax declarations go way beyond being compliant with the law; where we see the emergence of ethically responsible individuals and organizations. But it will be very difficult to turn back the wheel that has already been set in motion several decades ago.

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Some days, stars are perfectly aligned, and sudden insights create these wonderful aha-experiences. A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting together with Philippe Coullomb and Charles Collingwood-boots, co-founders of www.wheretofromhere.asia and initiators of the Sydney chapter of Corporate Rebels United.

They shared their work about “Patches and Nodes”, a G+ Community of change agents determined to nurture and drive systemic transformation in Asia Pacific.

We aim to inspire inclusive transformation by facilitating the emergence of new models for value creation, new mindsets for doing business, and new behaviors for the workplace”

They had prepared a deck (the same one they used for the Rebel Jam on 30-31 May 2013 > WebEx recording here). The key slide in there is the following:

system of systems

It’s a fantastic slide that helps us understand that big change in systems requires “systemic innovation” and a sort “graph thinking”. The circle with the colored dots represents your company. Within that company, different silos work together in some form or – in some cases – not at all.

But companies do not operate in isolation. They are part of a system, and when other actors in the system have counterproductive behavior, which may neutralize completely the efforts you are doing in your own box.

My epiphany happened, when I started looking at this drawing not as a “flat” 2D map, but as something 3-dimensional, like a galaxy of stars, where there is no middle. Every point in the graph is the starting point of a journey.

It suddenly reminded me of the great graph thinking we had done during the Digital Asset Grid (DAG) project. It revived the thinking of “We are all nodes in the Grid”.

The lens of the DAG and the lens of Patches and Nodes started to align. Focal lenses getting aligned, like stars line up in a constellation.

Starting to form “formations” and “digital maps”,

almost like network cartography

Where had I heard this sort of things before? Oh yes, it was during our work on “Network Insights”, where Kimmo Soramäki from www.fna.fi showed us another type of network cartography for financial network analytics.

fna graps

Like in the demo on the FNA site, I imagined how I could zoom in and out of the graph, to get deeper insights and greater levels of detail, like a spiral crawling itself through richer and more complete quality experiences and ambitions. The spiral reminded me of myself as a 7 year old – the same age as my daughter now – drawing of spirals on the chalkboard of my class,…

a form of creativity

that was forbidden

and consequently punished 


And from a far distant memory, the inspiration from Don Becks “Spiral Dynamics” came back into focus.

spiral dynamics

From the spiral swirl on the chalkboard, via the spiral zooms into 3D graphs, it suddenly felt that I was where I always was meant to be. Not in a fatalistic way, but as a natural evolution and maturing during the different steps of my life.

Spiral Networks, Spiral Dynamics, and Dynamic Fluid Systems were all terms that made me realize that change programs don’t change anything substantial unless it systems change.

With thanks to Fabian Tilmant (@fabnet_be) for pointing me to this video on The Fibonacci Spiral in the song Lateralus by Tool

I had evolved, spiraled out…

…from the polarizing, poor and static discussions of black vs. white into something that felt more like a trajectory, from passively undergoing change to influencing and (co)-creating my own future. I had realized that we needed quality time for reflecting and – like a surfer – scanning coming waves of change and pick the best ones for a great ride. I had realized that to survive in this perpetual crisis, we needed quality time for scenario thinking, where it is about imagining some – not necessarily all – possible futures, hypothesizing, and defining what to do if those futures would happen.

The “Patches and Nodes” drawing suddenly started to make a lot of sense, not only as a way to solve ad-hoc problems in the system, but as a way of making viral change happen system wide and pro-actively, powered by the group pressure of credible and influential system partners.

All sorts of concepts started to spread themselves like viruses through my brain:

Could this be a way

to propel us forward

into a state of collective progress and prosperity?

What if we could seed “activism” into the patches and nodes, a different type of “creators of change”, from solvers of problems and answering known questions to creating a new reality/framework for deep system value creation? Could it lead to “Spiral Network Activists” like agents in “Systems of Endearment”?

Suddenly Corporate Rebels took a whole new dimension of System Rebels, Change agents for society, for systems, System Activists, a powerful group of “Unreasonable people”, together stronger than alone, like the components of Bucky’s geodesic domes.

“How can we catalyse a number of tangible and distinct but yet consistent and convergent initiatives across the board to initiate a self-reinforcing movement?”

book unreasonable

I double-checked the “The power of unreasonable people” by Jon Elkington (Amazon Associated Link), and I noticed that that other Corporate Rebel – Laurent Ledoux – had a summary slide of Jon’s “unreasonable people” in his Rebel Jam talk.

unreasonable copy

But I wanted to go further than trying to measure the un-measurable, and go on a quest of what is worth measuring, measuring that which makes life worthwhile. Like Robert Kennedy 40 years go in his speech about the GDP, that does measure everything but what makes life worthwhile.

To create sustainable deep system change like in Nike’s Launch2020 initiative, using my advocacy and advancement of ideas toward a state of prosperity.

I suddenly realized we could use this model as a way to create deep viral behavior change, not only on companies, but also in systems of patches and nodes.

cultural dynamics

Where we go from spiral dynamics to cultural dynamics, as so magically described in the milestone post about Consumer Activism by Gunter Sonnenfeld (@goonth), describing new types of movements, archetypes, cohorts, and industries. Where Jennifer Sertl added this wonderful dimension of “frequencies” to the mix of nodes on the grid, where each of us is liberated to sing their own song, in our own frequency and at our own rhythm,

to make reverb and resonate the system at large

And where the pleasure comes from pure sharing of your mind-spins, without wanting to make a statement. A form of digital poetry just for the pleasure of play of words; and like in “Mavericks in a corporate world”, finding pleasure in just being human and developing and nurturing the capability to be touched by beauty, a picture, by mastery and harmony; developing a richer palette of responses, judgment, choice and appreciation. And to accept and enjoy that we are incurable romantics, and act from that true self.

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On 6 June 2013, I presented “Open Innovation Systems – Maverick Ventures in a Corporate World” during the Amplify Festival in Sydney. The Livestream of the talk is available here:



This blog post is documenting the genesis of that talk, therefore not really or only a transcript, but passing the same messages through the medium of writing rather than speaking, hopefully even improving the clarity of purpose and intention of the talk.



Thanks to @cjdelling for this wonderful scribe, made live during the talk.

There were many triggers for this talk, but the two most important ones were Douglas Rushkoff’s latest book “Present Shock” (Amazon Associates Link) – a book that left a deep impression on me – and a conversation with Haydn Shaughnessy, that I already somewhat documented in my blog post “The Bridge”


Rushkoff hits the nail when he says “Time Divides” and “Time is digital in character”. Just try to sense the different human experience when looking at 15 seconds of digital time vs. 15 sec on of analog time. In the analog world, there is flow, continuity, and formation. But we have started to accept a new normal where we have to make choices between extremes: black/white, On/Off, Digital/Human, etc. When being presented with the options left/right, we forget we can also go up and down.

“The lack of options is the opposite of freedom of choice,”

says Rune Kvist Olsen.

In an innovation context the limited choices presented are incremental/disruptive, core/non-core, internal/external, castle/sandbox.

There must be a richer better way to have conversations about innovation. I am getting sick of the 1-2 minute conversations where you have to make your case in a tweet. Sick of the 18 min TED talks, where there is no critical dialogue but only glorification of technology as the sole source for progress.

I am hungry for depth

For intimacy and human connection. I am on a quest for depth. A quality space in time and location where free deep thinking is again appreciated. Where we discuss not in limited silos about limiting options. Where life flows like water in oceans, in currents and rhythms, in waves of pendulums with different amplitudes influencing each other as Perpetua Mobile, spiralling as convergent systems into beauty and harmony with a direction of progress.

A space with doors wide open for new world-views  where we create knowledge and resource flows (are they the same?), with new thinking: visual thinking, design thinking, systems thinking, and scenario thinking.

A space where bravery and maverick behaviour are not merely tolerated but accepted and encouraged as the new norm for deep viral change. You may call them whatever you want: mavericks, outliers, beyonders, rebels, catalysts of change.

With Innotribe we have created an end-to-end framework, based on the Open Innovation principles of Prof. Henry Chesbrough. That it is an end-to-end framework is not always fully appreciated. Sometimes, the work of Innotribe is reduced to its most visible component, the “events”. And also there, the superficial world with lack of depth and intimacy only sees the externalities of the events, the cheerleader-feel of the facilitators and masters of ceremony, thereby completely ignoring the deep immersive learning experiences and techniques applied and intended.

Superficiality kills depth

But even if the full breadth of the Innotribe work would be appreciated, we are not done. There is more, much more to be done. I would like to re-set the bar. I am getting convinced we have to move into systemic and systematic innovation. It was Haydn Shaughnessy who opened my eyes and gave me the first insights that there is an evolution of Open Innovation possible, way beyond corporate garages, towards a model where innovation is deeply baked-in into the fabric of the organization. Haydn has just published a report on this on GigaOm Pro titled “Rethinking innovation: how to manage ideas systematically” (registration required). There, Haydn introduces “lean innovation”, “algorithmic innovation”, and “radical adjacencies”, which we already knew from his book “The Elastic Enterprise”. (Amazon Associates Link). Haydn will be with us at Innotribe Sibos in Dubai in September to share the results of his research in the domain.

Where “systemic” assumes system-wide approach. Not only within the silo of a department, or in non-communicating black/white, internal/external innovations vessels, but across silos, across vessels. If not, failure is almost built-in, because the two camps engage in finite games, whereas we should play infinite games where we do not look for a winner (and by definition also loser), but where the journey of the whole systems towards progress is the goal (read also James Carse’s “Finite and Infinite Games” – Amazon Associates Link).

In the first case – the finite games – we may be seduced by the means, but I am for sure not attracted by the end-game. We have to move across the corporate boundaries, and become “system activists”. My next blog will describe this new form of corporate activism in more detail.

nike launch

A great example is Nike’s Launch2020 Project, creating system wide transformation, in partnership with MIT, NASA, and Government.

Where “systematic” stands for planned, organized, designed, focused, and not random. Repeatable. Scalable. The best example I have seen so far is Vodaphone: they have deeply investigated the trends that impact their business; they have documented the needs (not the asks) or their (potential) customers, and made solid customer segmentation. Then they apply pattern recognition across these three layers, and are hyper-focused on where they want to spend their innovation efforts, resources, and budgets.

In general, it also seems to be that many organizations are very focused on product, service, and process innovation, or the latest buzzword “business model innovation”. Probably because that is what we know, what we feel comfortable with. It’s our comfort zone. We have been trained for years in thinking rationally about our businesses, decomposing, fragmenting every process in sub-tasks that can be mapped, followed, and measured. Up to a level that we don’t see the forest for the trees.

3 engines

What we need are 3 type of engines:

  • A communication engine, with the ultimate goal of being a serendipity machine, an evangelization machine, and a knowledge flow platform;
  • An execution engine, with a good balance/portfolio/consistency between internal and external innovation
  • But all those changes are lipstick on a pig, if they are not deeply embedded in sustained behavioural change in every vain of the company.

What we really need to focus on is the third engine of behaviour change. Deep viral behaviour change. Because behaviour drives culture and not the other way around. And let that change spread like a virus through our organizations and systems. So it is getting copied and amplified through our hyper-connectivity networks. Where leadership becomes leadingship, and backstage leaders act as distributed coaching nodes in the corporate grid.

In the end, it is about being human and developing and nurturing the capability to be touched by beauty, a picture, by mastery and harmony. And to develop a richer palette of judgment, choice and appreciation.

Yes, there is some form of romanticism here; shall we call ourselves business romantics? It’s the nature of this beast, to be an incurable romantic.

Incurable Romantics

It’s what I am as human. I cannot and do not want to settle for the sterility of digital zeros and ones, for cogs in cubicles executing standard processes that anyway do not match anymore our fast changing world.

I want to send, propel and amplify positive vibes and frequencies to all the nodes in our grids. I want to reverb and resonate, and inspire you all to dream. To dream big and be unreasonable and go for the impossible. I want to me and you to get alive and get a life. I want us to be mavericks and rebels in a corporate world.

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The fantastic Amplify festival in Sydney has just come to an end. What a week! The curation for this event by Annalie Killian (@maverickwoman) from AMP was just outstanding. It is very rare to such a rich set of speakers coming together for one week.

Amplify logo

This is even more exceptional if you’d know that this is a bi-annual fest exclusively targeted at employees from AMP. What a great innovation effort to bring the outside in, to expose corporate staff to the vibrant world of innovation at the edges of their own ecosystem!

Every company should copy-cat this approach.

As I listened to the different speakers talking about technology breakthroughs, innovation efforts, transformation efforts, and behaviour change programs, i felt a growing discomfort inside myself with the seemingly over-glorification of technology as a cure to solve all world problems, and the un-balance with business humanising insights.

At the same time, I started wondering how much of all this really lead to substantial changes and actual products and services shipped, with real value add reaching the customers on a sustainable basis.

Every time I meet innovators in a corporate environment, I ask the question: “what is your biggest innovation challenge?” Most of the time the initial answer is an embarrassing silence, and at best the answer is foggy and lacking clarity of vision and intention.

It made me think: what is it that makes companies’ innovation real? What is it that lets people with the holy fire flourish or die in our organisations? What is the authenticity of all this innovation work?

authenticity for sale

Illustration by @gapingvoid

With some very rare exceptions, all companies have innovation in their annual reports, part of their corporate branding exercise, even part of their mission. And many companies have actually dedicated central or distributed innovation resources and budgets in place. The happy few have even started or are starting with Corporate Garages (see “The New Corporate Garage” by @scottdanthony).


Image courtesy Apple Computer

However, in many cases this is window dressing and innovation seems to be mere “lipstick on a pig”. This creates disappointment, frustration, and a sense of illusion, and leads to disengagement of the staff at large.

In order to help organisations self-assess how real their innovation is, I started pulling together 10 questions. Depending on the number of 1) and 2) answers to the questions below, you will be able to find out for yourself where you stand, and hopefully will allow you to start a “straight talk” conversation within your organisations on the best way forward. The more I think about this, the more i am getting convinced that the key to succes is based on high quality alignement of vision and intention at all levels, and the irradiation of “stories” that seem to perpetuate in corporate environments.

The questions are organised per influence group of your organisation or give some insights in your real appetite for change and experimentation. Just tick 1) or 2) for your answer and add up the numbers at the end of the exercise.

  1. Board level
    1. 80%+ of your Board is really – in a pro-active, visible and public way – supporting innovation, or
    2. 50% of your Board are in essence against innovation and want you to focus on the core and the other 50% just “tolerate it”, close their eyes and trust their CEO not to do too disturbing things that can harm the company’s reputation.
  2. Strategy level
    1. Is innovation a dedicated chapter at the beginning of your strategy documents, or
    2. Is innovation merely a paragraph at the end?
  3. CEO level:
    1. Does your CEO deeply embody the desire to change and disrupt in an integer, consistent and authentic way, or
    2. Do you notice in the tone during the all-hands sessions almost an embarrassment when she takes the word innovation in her mouth?
  4. Executive Committee level: Are your executives aligned on innovation or not? Just do this mind-experiment: What do you really think would happen if you pop-in by surprise at the next Exec Meeting and ask each Exec to list the top-3 alignments on innovation:
    1. Would you hear one strong consistent message of alignment and genuine enthusiasm, or
    2. Many voices of disagreement and vagueness, and an urge to move on to the business of the day?
  5. Level-1 / Level-2  (Senior and Middle Management)
    1. Do they see innovation as the instrument by excellence to make bridges between the edge and the core, to transform your industry, brand, and network with the deep desire to challenge the status quo, or
    2. Do they look at innovation as the people who burn money, travel a lot, do not innovate in the core, a special bunch that never blends in, and is always “out there”?
  6. Your colleagues in general:
    1. Are they looking at the innovation team as a group of people that brings value, creates excitement, infuses new energy, creativity and enthusiasm, or
    2. Are they complaining about having to stay in their cubicles while the innovators have fun?
  7. Sandbox projects
    1. Do you have a process in place to force forward consciously at least 1-2 “big bad ideas” per year into the mainstream business, in other words do you have an innovation portfolio approach, or
    2. Are more than 99% of sandbox projects killed before ever getting a chance to get materialised in real products and services, because not fitting the strategy or no immediate revenue potential?
  8. Sandbox or playground
    1. Is your sandbox considered as a real space for experimentation and organizational learning, or
    2. Is your sandbox just tolerated as a children’s playground as long as it does not disturb the core and does not challenge existing power balances?
  9. When the going gets tough – in time of cost cutting:
    1. Do you observe a conscious choice to remain flat or even further invest in innovation for the long term, or
    2. Do you observe random flat cost cutting across all departments or – even worse – bigger cuts in innovation?
  10. Daring to be great
    1. Is their a process to identify your Corporate Catalysts and to plant them into the fabric of the organization to create viral change from within, or
    2. Have most of those that dared to be great, and had the courage to stick out their necks during the last 2 years been made silent or laid-off as part of cost-cutting, efficiency or other re-organization initiatives?

Let’s be conservative or even kind in your self-assessment:

  • If you have answered more than half of the questions with 1) there is a chance that your innovation is real. Focus on the execution of your innovations, and the shipping of value adding products and services into the marketplace;
  • If you have more 2) answers, you probably live in an innovation illusion and it means you have more work to do in laying a solid foundation of belief across the organisation  Avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Push for clarity in the vision and intention of your innovation efforts, and focus first on deep bottom-up viral behaviour change activities, as behaviour drives culture and not the other way around. And remember; you will need passion, perseverance, and patience to succeed.

In other words, turn on the B.S. detector and ask yourself the question: is your innovation a real strategic choice or just a tick-box to satisfy your feel-good-moments. And plan your actions accordingly.

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