Archive for February, 2018

Poem 21418

Ik wou dat ik jouw schilderij was

Gestreeld worden door je penselen

Geslagen door je vodden en lompen

Overspoeld met kleur als door een zacht deken

Rough translation

I wished I was your painting

Caressed by your brushes

Beaten by your rags and tatters

Washed with colour as by a soft blanket

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There were some interesting posts the last couple of weeks; all indicating that there is something fundamentally wrong with how organisations measure people’s performance.


Petervan artwork – detail of 2016 painting on performing
Acryl on Canvas


Some examples:

I could add numerous examples of other organisations I met where the people are merely serving the system, not the company or its customers anymore.

Whether it is lean, daily standups, filling the boxes of an archaic ERP system, personal improvement programs, re-orientation processes, competencies management, performance appraisals, or innovation ideations, acceleration and incubation programs.

Niels Pflaeging used to have a slide he called “the bullshit slide”:

Niels bullshit slide

Niels Pflaeging “bullshit” slide from 2014


In his recent blog post “Change is like adding milk to coffee”, Niels continues:

Take a step back and you will see that people act consciously and intelligently (overall), to other things than the change itself. They may resist loss of status and power – which is quite intelligent. They may resist injustice, stupidity and being changed. Which is also intelligent. The change may also cause need for learning that is not properly addressed. And these are the things that we have to deal with in change: power structures, status, injustice, consequence, our own stupidity, top-down command-and-control, and learning.

In other words, people don’t resist change, they resist bullshit.

As Niels’ slide shows, the bullshit is omni-present and something structural that needs to be fixed. Only structural change will change the behaviour and culture in your company, all the rest is tactical and innovation theater.

People have good antennas for this; they all feel deeply that they have become self-made self-imposed inmates of the golden cage, forced more than half of their working time doing the wrong thing: filling the forms, the quarterly updates, pushing up and watering down information and ideas upwards the hierarchy and doing nothing else but complying with the organisations’ processes. We are getting audited you know! It’s the process, stupid!

They all share that disjoint between one’s personal expectations of success and impact and corporate or even individual metrics.

I recently had a catch-up call with a friend in the Bay Area, and she was worried she’d become too conservative, she was staying too long with one company (18 months now, 2 years in a job seems to be a career in Silicon Valley…), and worrying all the time whether she was making the most significant impact.

We seem to have been brainwashed that our happiness, fulfilment or whatever you want to call this nirvana state is all about “realising your full potential”, some decades ago the mantra of one of the big tech companies.

I think this is exhausting. You will never reach your full potential and you will always be out for the next big thing. It will never stop. You will never be satisfied.

IMO, maximum impact is the wrong metric. We have to get rid of (comparative) scores in general: they are not real anyway – always ready to trick or comply with the system – and they are always about ticking the boxes about past performance. They don’t add value, at best the measure past value.

We need something that measures our individual progress – individual as opposed to comparing with others. Measuring our progress in building new, future capabilities. Measuring future value potential. Am I better at this than last month? Have I learned something new this week? Etc.

Scores are after the fact. They are confabulating. They are past-performance indicators.

IMG_0023 cropped

Petervan artwork – Left overs of tape cutting – Feb 2017


We need some future capabilities indicators, showing our own individual continuous learning and cultivation of new skills. Our capacity to making-the-right-cut for the future.

Haydn Shaughnessy once coined the term KCI – Key Capability Indicators. I liked that a lot. At that time, the term was in the context of organisational innovation indicators. I wonder what individual learning indicators would look like.



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In my Mid-Jan 2018 swan song post, I invited my readers to start a conversation on “Let’s do something interesting”.

Tourists stroll on a pier in the Black Sea town of Balchik, Bulgaria, on August 25, 2017. # Dimitar Dilkoff : AFP : Getty

Tourists stroll on a pier in the Black Sea town of Balchik, Bulgaria
August 2017, Picture by Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP / Getty


A couple of Skype calls later, I stumbled upon a number of criteria that I would use to assess whether proposed work is interesting of not. The five criteria fit into a handy acronym A.F.E.A.R. that of course has nothing to do with fear but all with continuous learning opportunities.

A.F.E.A.R. stands for: Advancing, Fun, Edgy, Alertness, and Risky

  • Advancing: the work has to have a good level of humanistic advancement. End 2017, I condensed my sabbatical thinking into five trends for humanistic advancement.
  • Fun: not much to add here, other than that it is not about entertainment. Fun is about meeting interesting people and novel insights, lots of laughs, a good meal, a good drink. Joyful would equally qualify.
  • Edgy: the work has to be edgy. Like “at the edge” of comfort and trends. In Dutch there is an expression “Er moet een hoek af zijn”, meaning a bit “dotty”. Many synonyms here, I particularly like: absurd, odd, unconventional, weird.
  • Alertness: The work must include the creation of situations and interventions where people feel slightly at sea, because that’s the place of highest alertness.
  • Risky: as in not yet done before, an experiment. I never do something twice. I have no templates, starting from scratch for every new project. There are no best practices of the past. I live in the present.

I could have added another “A”, the “A” of Art. Because I have a deep belief that only by using art as support to content – aka not art as entertainment – we can resonate with our guests at a level beyond the cognitive.

In a recent intro letter for a gig, I wrote:

“I am not in the event-production or entertainment business. I am in the business of creating immersive learning experiences. I am an experience architect, and work with professional production companies and facilitators. My work is edgy and risky. I believe that the arts are a limitless and untapped resource that can bring experiences and content to new levels.”

So, my work is “Edgy and risky”: do you still want to play?


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Edition-117 of Delicacies. As usual, 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

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