Archive for August, 2015

Week-34 of Delicacies: Max 5 articles that i found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy!

If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan

Read Full Post »

This post is part-4 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction, check here.


Innovators and Change Agents are probably the most frustrated people in a company’s workforce.

That is because they care. That is because they refuse to look at their work “as a job”, and refuse just “to live with it” or “get over it”

seth godin

Seth Godin recently posted a short post “In search of your calling” in essence about “What is your caring?” in stead of “What is your calling”

I don’t think we have a calling.

I do think it’s possible to have a caring.

A calling implies that there’s just one thing for you, just one thing you’re supposed to do.

What we most need in our lives, though, is something worth doing,

worth it because we care.

There are plenty of forces pushing us to not care.

Bosses, systems, bureaucracies and the fear of mattering.

None of them are worth sacrificing something as important as caring.

And elsewhere on his blog

Caring is unpredictable, hard to command and regulate and sometimes expensive in the short run.

When your organization punishes people for caring, don’t be surprised when people stop caring.

When you free your employees to act like people (as opposed to cogs in a profit-maximizing efficient machine)

then the caring can’t help but happen.

Caring is about making interventions at a dimension of societal progress, the dimension of meaning making, the dimension of societal context, and the dimension of sense making.

Ocean Atlas Jason deCaires Taylor

Artwork: Ocean Atlas Jason deCaires Taylor

Caring is the higher and deeper dimension after purpose, objectives and tactics.

Caring gets closer to needs.

Purpose is closer to intention and beliefs, and values

Objectives are closer to outcomes

Tactics are closer to building to spec, read instructions and apply them

The ambition is to find a “Life worked well”, where needs, purpose, objectives and tactics of the individual and the organization are maximum aligned and self-enforcing. A “Life worked well” is growing on the ladder of:





Once your reach the caring dimension, you don’t want to go back. Design serendipities with others who care. Avoid the people who try to reduce your caring back into thinking about your work as a job. They are in a different belief system. Have empathy, take note, but move on and continue on your path to greatness.

Read Full Post »

Week-33 of Delicacies: Max 5 articles that i found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy!

If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan

Read Full Post »

This post is part-3 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction, check here.

Alexa Meade Art-1 - Aligned with Alexa (2010)

Artwork by Alexa Meade - Aligned with Alexa (2010)

In Part-1, we learned how my needs inform my beliefs. My beliefs inform my actions. My actions result in effects. And those effects confirm or adjust my needs. We ended Part-1 with the promise to dive deeper into values and needs and how they are the fundamental building blocks of the essence of good work.

There is much taxonomy of needs, and I just picked this one by Shasta Nelson in Huffington Post some years ago. The needs are nicely grouped in the following categories: Connection, Physical Well-Being, Honesty, Play, Peace, Autonomy, Meaning.

How does your work allow you to progress on these dimensions? I tried to highlight below for myself some of the needs that are not fully met, where I could use some stretch, where there is room for progression and growth.

  • Connection: affection, appreciation, belonging, intimacy, safety, warmth
  • Physical well-being: air, shelter, touch
  • Honesty: presence
  • Play: joy
  • Peace: beauty, harmony
  • Autonomy: space
  • Meaning: awareness, clarity, discovery, self-expression, to matter

This list I share here is not an exhaustive list of my met or unmet needs. They are just some examples. There are other ones that are too personal, and don’t feel right to share on a public blog.

The bottom-line is that we have to be honest and sincere about our needs, and definitely not try to change them, or to lie to yourself about them, as Dave Gray suggests in Liminal Thinking:

“There is nothing you can’t lie to yourself about very convincingly, including covering up that you are lying. You do this naturally and unconsciously.”

“This is self-sealing logic at work. New information from outside the bubble of belief is discounted, or is distorted, because it conflicts with the version of reality that exists inside the bubble.”

So what is inside/outside of our bubble?

I believe it is common knowledge that happiness at/in work happens when your personal values and the values of your employer/customer are aligned. Values are part of the bubble.

The areas of alignment are much broader and diverse than just “values”. We have to align at the level of beliefs; and because our beliefs are informed by our needs, we have to look into whether your “job” is satisfying your needs.

There was a great paragraph 6) in James Altucher’s 2013 post “10 reasons why you have to quit your job this year”:

I will define “needs” the way I always do, via the four legs of what I call “the daily practice”. Are your physical needs, your emotional needs, your mental needs, and your spiritual needs being satisfied?

The only time I’ve had a job that did was when I had to do little work so that I had time on the side to either write, or start a business, or have fun, or spend time with friends. The times when I haven’t is when I was working too hard, dealing with people I didn’t like, getting my creativity crushed over and over, and so on. When you are in those situations you need to plot out your exit strategy.

Your hands are not made to type out memos. Or put paper through fax machines. Or hold a phone up while you talk to people you dislike. 100 years from now your hands will rot like dust in your grave. You have to make wonderful use of those hands now. Kiss your hands so they can make magic.

One can argue, “not everyone is entitled to have all of those needs satisfied at a job.” That’s true. But since we already know that the salary of a job won’t make you happy, you can easily modify lifestyle and work to at least satisfy more of your needs. And the more these needs are satisfied the more you will create the conditions for true abundance to come into your life.

Your life is a house. Abundance is the roof. But the foundation and the plumbing need to be in there first or the roof will fall down, the house will be unlivable. You create the foundation by following the Daily Practice.

Aha! The Daily Practice! James must have been reading Integral Life Practice 😉

IFL Book cover

A good starting point indeed to look further into our needs – starting point is a little bit of an understatement here – is the work of Ken Wilber on Integral Life and the use of the AQAL (All Quadrants, All Levels) model for personal growth.

ILF the 4 AQAL quadrants 2

From Ken Wilber’s Integral Life Practice

And within each quadrant, you have many lines of growth possible. Let’s have a look where Ken Wilber puts “needs”:

IFL needs in quadrant

From Ken Wilber’s Integral Life Practice

The curvy lines/arrows labeled “needs”, “values”, etc are specific areas in which growth can occur.

Levels are higher-order structures that reflect different altitudes of consciousness. In the quadrant above, the concentric circles give an indication of those different levels growth. The more to the outside of the quadrant, the more you have progressed. Sometimes those levels of progression are indicated in colors (more on that later in this post).

The point I am trying to make here in the context of the “essence of work” is that alignment of personal values (the “I” quadrant) with the values of the organization (the “Its” quadrant) is limiting our experience.

For work being rewarding, satisfying, and meaningful, we have to do the same mapping/alignment between the “I” quadrant and “Its” quadrant for other lines of growth such as needs, but also morals, cognition, self-identity, interpersonal relating, emotions, aesthetics, kinesthetics, and spirituality.

Each line is unique in that it can develop relatively independently from each other. In other words, you can have progressed a lot on the interpersonal relation line, but be mediocre on your needs- or value-consciousness. This is very similar to the work on multiple intelligences by Howard Gardner at Harvard University and his work on Project Zero. From Wikipedia:

The goal of his research is to determine what it means to achieve work that is at once excellent, engaging, and carried out in an ethical way.

Project Zero’s mission is to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines at the individual and institutional levels.

Alexa Meade Art-5 - Hesitate (2012)

Artwork by Alexa Meade - Hesitate (2012)

In that sense, the well-known Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is just one particular lens on our needs, and only on our needs.

Wilber’s book does a great job in putting Maslow in context, and comparing different lines of development and related models and research.

ILF levels together

From Ken Wilber’s Integral Life Practice

Across the different lines of development, the levels of consciousness/awareness are indicated in colors of the rainbow, from infrared at the bottom up to ultraviolet and clear light at the top. Most readers will recognize the color code from Spiral Dynamics, the Teal Organization, etc.

Picturing your own more integral self-image of yourself is called a psychograph. Here is an example of a partial psychograph an Environmental Activist.

Psychograph example

From Ken Wilber’s Integral Life Practice

You can decide to focus on your strength-lines or your weakness-lines of growth.

Good work – not only the end result, but also the journey of making/creating it – is work that allows you to stretch your lines of development and to become an integral human being.

The essence of work goes beyond fulfilling your needs. The essence of work is to inspire yourself and others to produce work that has those eternal qualities of life.

The essence of work is about systems alignment.

Read Full Post »

This post is part-2 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction, check here.

This video is the record of a talk by Santiago Ortiz at EYEO Festival in 2014. Santiago is a visualization artist, and that is what triggered my attention first, but listening to the talk, I realized if was about the essence of work.

The description of the video starts with:

“Six Months – The last 6 months of 2012 happened to be the most stressful and creative of my life. Here’s the story.”

It’s a great way to create perspective of where you are now, your last six months, and to see why you were meant to be here, and what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. It’s a great way to re-assess what the essence of your work should be for YOU.

The first 6 minutes is a fantastic way on reflecting what is boring or not, whether you are boring or not. A narrative that is first looking at “before the 6 months”, then looking at “after the 6 months”, and then looking at what really happened “during his 6 months”.

It’s a different form of curriculum. In the case of Santiago’s talk, the real core of the curriculum of the last 6 months starts at min 11, where he shows how his visualization work lead to a different visualization of a curriculum.

It is called the “Ross Spiral Curriculum”

Ross Spiral Curriculum

It makes me think about “Spiral Dynamics” of John Beck. It makes me think of the “Teal Organizations” by Frederic Laloux, who got inspired by Spiral Dynamics and Integral Life Practice of Ken Wilber (Ken will come back in Part-3 about “Needs”).

But instead of the Spiral Dynamics of an organization, a culture, a worldview, it feels like the Spiral Dynamics of a person, documenting the specific evolutionary complexity of the narrative of a person, beyond any specific grade or self-aggrandizement.

At minute 10:30, he gets into the fundamental questions:

“I am alone, I am living in Argentina, and I have to build something. In order to create a work-life, a business”.

It’s a deep reflection:

the essence of work is to create a work-life.

Think about that…

What are his assets at the start of the 6 months:

Assets 6 Months

There is an interesting one under reputation. “My company was well known, but not my name, my reputation”.

The essence of work in the very near future (if not already here) is working your personal brand.

The isolation topic is interesting as well, as it is about having “access to the opportunities” that are of interest to YOU, not your company.

Thinking about it, with the six categories above Santiago invented a great way of making your personal assessment, and – maybe without knowing it – Santiago created a framework and model for self-assessment and personal growth, where you stand and want to be in terms of:

  • Your financial savings
  • Your personal brand
  • Your access to opportunities
  • Your existing portfolio (like a artist’s portfolio, or a model’s portfolio – quite different than your LinkedIn profile that is more about bragging then anything else)
  • The toolkit that you currently master
  • Your contextual environment

Next is to look into what can I do in “the next 6 months”, to improve yourself dramatically on all of these axes to create a place where you can “live a life well worked”. In the case of Santiago, that was:

What can i do 6 months

What is yours?

How will you improve dramatically

on the axes of the self-assessment framework

to get to your “essence of work”?

You have – like Santiago – ask yourself these fundamental questions:

what i love

  • “What I deeply love to do?” should be answered with action not with thought!!! It is really asking the question what gives me dopamine, what makes me happy when I am DOING that. It is probably in the realm of developing new techniques, and the pure joy that doing something from zero is very good.
  • In the “What I am exceptionally good at?” the keyword is “exceptionally”.
  • “What makes social sense?” is asking the question “What could be a business for me?”. In the sense as mentioned above: “what could be a good work-life?” But first make sense. Once you made sense, it is easier to make a business out of it.

It is all about meeting yourself, seeing yourself in the mirror of the magic tension of stress, fear, health, and fun.


Map art by Fairburn

Santiago ends by saying that what he does NOT want to do is ART. He wants to work with people who have real problems, not just experimental stuff that is food for thought, inspiration, etc. That is his choice. All respect.

But it seems that for me, the “essence of work” is almost becoming the opposite of that:

  • I want to create an environment for my clients where we deliberately stay way from the day-to-day problem solving, as that is what you already do all year long.
  • I want to create an environment where we make deeper connections with our purpose, our caring in life, and the deep underlying narratives of our personal and corporate mission statements and intentions.

It’s “basically” connecting with each other at another level than the pure cognitive, staying away from the unbearable lightness of tactics.

At the end of the talk – really in the epilogue at minute 36 – there is the short appearance of the “System Maps of Life”. I love it: reflecting about your life, not as a linear curriculum, but a dynamic spiral of many narratives that come together in one person, that make that person unique.

The key question of this all is of course how to create a “life well worked” around the essence of you as a person, with that rich spiral dynamic. How you create the essence of work for your “onlyness” (a term coined by Nilofer Merchant)

Read Full Post »

Week-32 of Delicacies: Max 5 articles that i found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy!

If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan

Read Full Post »

This post is part-1 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction, check here.

How many times does it happen to you that you say/think:

“They don’t get it,

they really don’t get it!”

This happens to me when sharing ideas about my work as an event creator, or should I say “créateur d’expériences”, like Renaults famous advertising tag line: “créateur d’automobiles” which is quite different than “car manufacturer”. The elegance of the French language of course helps.

I keep on trying to explain that we are not in the events business, that we are in the business of creating high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning experiences, and my employer keeps calling what we do “events”. I have come to a point where I stop trying to explain, and just do.

Part of this “not-getting-it” is probably due to a different (therefore not better or worse) vocabulary used by business people and creative people. But most of the non-connection is there because we live in, are inspired by a different belief system.

The subject of belief systems really started resonating with me when I discovered a video of Dave Gray’s presentation “Liminal Thinking: Sense-Making for systems in large organizations”, his closing keynote at Enterprise UX 2015 Conference.

Dave Gray is author of the fantastic “The Connected Company” and many more, and there is a fair chance that his next book will include “Liminal Thinking” in its title. Dave is a good fried, and he shared with me a preview of his next book.

I read it and gave some feedback, so I believe I really have internalized his message. In respect of Dave’s work, nothing in this post is a cut and past from his preview edition, I just distilled it from the public video.

The core message in the video/book is that of the “Self-Sealing Bubble”. The bubble of a belief system, the bubble where one is only receptive to the obvious, the belief system, the DNA that the organization has been trained for, and sometimes like in religions, brainwashed for.

Belief systems and self sealing bubble

Where it becomes even more interesting is when Dave starts connecting needs, beliefs and actions.

To be more precise:

“Needs create beliefs that create rules for action”

And if my need is not fulfilled, I will create a belief, a story that will give reason for my actions, also called rationalising.

needs inform belief systems

“Why are we here?”

asks Dave, and his answer is the mind-blowing “To meet our needs and to help others meet their needs”. Wow!

Say that again.

“To meet our needs and to help others meet their needs”

The model presented, can also be used for reverse engineering of needs in case of conflict of belief systems: what would I do if I believed in the belief system of the other party? What would happen if I act as if that belief system were true? What if I would adapt, even fake my behaviour to give the other belief system a chance.

To give the other belief system a chance

is sometimes also called

an “experiment”

But giving the other belief system a chance, is very different than changing your needs. Dave does not recommend you change your needs.

On the contrary. And he  leads to a very interesting reflection whether security is at all possible at work.

For me security at work would mean to have

“an environment where nothing needs to be protected”

An environment where the quality level of “being a group”, being a team is such that there is no competition between team members, where there are no egos, where there are no posers, losers, clueless and Sociopath pathologies as described in the magic post by Venkatesh Rao “Executive Engagement”.

Where there no classes and hierarchies, and where everybody is respected for the value and insights they bring to the table. And classes is not only about hierarchies. A class could also be associating people with the past, and isolating them deliberately from the future thinking.

An environment without organizational pathologies or self-conforming belief systems.

“Most enterprises are not emotionally safe places”, says Dave Gray, and he is unfortunately so damn right.

In many organizations, people are encouraged to leave their emotions at the door.

“But that is impossible”

It even is more impossible when you get promoted in senior leadership positions, where it really gets schizophrenic, and nobody dares to challenge you. Where most will say yes or whatever latest buzzword to please and charm and schmooze you.

“The more senior, the more difficult it is to leave your emotions at the door, because everybody else will conform to your self sealing logic, and your needs will always get met”

But the key lesson learned from Dave Gray keynote for me is to go and search and discover my deeper needs for a healthy functioning of myself in and outside the organization.

Because needs inform my beliefs. My beliefs inform my actions. My actions result in effects. And the effect confirm or adjust my needs.

That is why in part-3 we will dive deeper into value and needs and how they are the fundamental building blocks of the essence of good work.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: