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Archive for the ‘Corporate Rebels’ Category

“Métier” is usually defined as: profession, craft, craftsmanship, and workmanship. I already touched on this in my blog post on Craftmanship (Sep 2015).

Craftsmanship, Historical Coherence, Musicality, Authentic Observation, and Creating The Dance between host and guest are critical components of the Essence of Work.

Tradition is about building on the shoulders of giants, to “craft” deep into the meaning of tradition, to internalize tradition, and to pass it on in your work and onto next generations.

Tradition is not seen as non-authentic, but a source for energized work.

What is driving these people to strive for unconditional excellence?

I was reminded of this when discovering last week’s edition of the Belgian TV Art programme “Tout le Baz-Art” on the RTBF Channel that focused on evolution, tradition and art that is “academically right”. The programme was curated around Belgian super-star musician Ozark Henry.

ozark_henry_2013

Ozark Henry – cover of his album “Stay Gold”

One of Ozark’s guests was my good friend Peter Hinssen, as apparently Hinssen introduced Ozark Henry to 3D as an additional dimension to his superb musical expression. But the other guests included Sam Dillemans – one of the recent hypes (well, since 2010 or even before) on the Belgian art scene. Sam’s discourse also made me think about the essence of work of Michaël Borremans, the other big name in contemporary Belgian art.

All three have to say a lot about their “Métier” – their profession – and the intensity and clarity they have in creating extraordinary art-work. I found it highly inspiring: the way they stand in life and the mystical qualities they aim for.

Below some extracts/transcripts of what they shared in different videos:

Sam Dillemans

“I’ve always compared myself to the great artists. I’ve always done that. I am constantly healthily frustrated. That’s why I will always continue to work. Compared to modern artists… Victory is easy if you have an eye for it. You have to compete with the greats. That’s why I always work like crazy”

rembrandt

Rembrandt – Self Portrait – 1659

“If you show me Rembrandt, I panic because there’s still so much work. They say Rembrandt was before. He is tomorrow. That’s the difference. Rembrandt wasn’t before, he is tomorrow.

“A white canvas is the worst thing an artist can face. I did not say that. Picasso did. And if he says so… you can imagine what that means for us.”

“I have the ambition to continue painting till I’m 90. I still have so much work to do. If Picasso painted for 80 years, I’ll need 320 years. I don’t think I’ll succeed.”

“It’s my ambition to grow as old as possible. I don’t want to see others growing old and decaying with me.”

“But I’d like to realize my plastic dream as much as possible.

I’d like to get as far as possible.”

eddy_merckx_the_cannibal_3

Eddy Merckx – most successful cyclist ever

“The thing people lack nowadays in my opinion is veneration. People don’t often see others as gods anymore. They do like to idolize them. Merckx is a better cyclist than Sam Dillemans. I won’t point out the weak points of a god. To say he’s as small as I am because of his human side. The distance isn’t that great.

“Michelangelo also had to go to the bathroom. But put us in the Sistine Chapel and we don’t make it up the scaffolding.”

“That’s what’s important.

We have to be able to be in awe.

Of something or someone”

“Everything is fragmented. Everyone does everything, but nothing well. Everybody is an artist. If you ask someone on the street what he or she does in their spare time – apart from a lot of rubbish – one bakes pottery, another one paints, a third one plays guitar. We’re all wonderfully creative.”

“A lot of people are creative,

but not many are artists”

“I don’t mind. I support that democratic system. This is the problem: this 93-year-old crone, who baked two pots, wants twenty exhibits. That’s tiresome.”

“A part-time painter is the worst. People who are partly something are the worst. You have to try to be whole. That demands sacrifice. The worst sacrifice is being half.”

“Many people choose it freely. They compromise.

“Life is full of compromises, but art is not”

“You always have to question yourself during your ongoing studies. You don’t need to become self-centered, but you discover your inner self. Without psychedelics and philosophies.”

“We have lots of possibilities, but hardly anyone stops to look at a tree and to admire it and say “That tree is beautiful!” That is over. It happens but rarely, and even then only on Sunday, with the kids, and a giant buggy. “Today we will watch trees”.

“They go to Walibi (a sort of Belgian Disney Land), or to an exhibition of modern art, as modern as possible. Then they are hip and trendy. They don’t want to seem old fags. But of course they are. A young fag would look at the world like Jacques Brel, eyes wide open. They are obsolete. But they think they are trendy.”

“Being trendy is dying a little.”

“You don’t have to be hip, you have to know poetry or anything which is not influenced by time. Then you have a chance to approach godliness. In conclusion, what do people do with their free time?”

“They fuck it up.”

Michaël Borremans

Jan Hoet, who was the founder of the Museum of Modern Art in Ghent (SMAK) said about Borremans:

“Studious, pleasingly, nicely painted, it all looks so perfect. On the other side he is a bit unruly, recalcitrant, also a bit morbid, a little austere…” and Ann Demeester commented: “Michaël’s works is very subdued, mysterious, vs. bombastic.”

His paintings are cinematographic. He also launched himself into video and cinema. Using all senses to resonate with his audience at some many additional levels beyond the pure cognitive. Borremans continues:

“My work has no documentary value whatsoever. It is all imagination. That’s why I am painting. Cinema also has a lot of this. But a film is not my sole merit, you work with other people, who each have their own contribution”

Michaël is a difficult person, rigorous and strict for himself, with a greater technical maturity then many of the other contemporary painters.

prince_philippe_prosper_-_diego_velasquez

Prince Philippe Prosper by Diego Velasquez - 1659

You really have to listen to Michaël Borremans explanation of the above painting at minute 33 of the documentary.

“The resounding “éclatant” aspect of Velasquez’ work, it always remains fresh.

“The accents being made, the structures,

almost like notes and chords in music,

a very sensual pleasure”

“Painting with a long stick, to keep the spontaneity. Unrivalled technical virtuosity”

“I want to stay professionally focused, and remain faithful to what in want (in the artwork). A painting is a suggestive construction. Getting better, and more sophisticated in the painterly technique. Capacitate myself to make the best paintings. It is not pleasant to make so many paintings that are almost ok”

Back to the RTBF TV programme. Sam Dillemans continues here:

Embracing Rubens – Leaving Rubens – by Sam Dillemans

“That’s where I left Rubens. Most important is that you first embrace Rubens, you get deep under his skin, and you study him. That’s what I did when I was young: the thigh muscles, the calf muscles, the calf bones, the ankle joints, etc.”

“I was drawing like crazy on Rubens, and Holbein, and all old masters, to be able to leave them when I really knew them.”

anna-pavlova

“Like Anna Poplova – the great dancer – said:

Master technique

then forget about it

and be natural.

cezane-apples

Paul Cézanne – Still life with apples

“The most important is how you paint, not what you paint (Jesus or Maria, etc). You can do the same with apples or radishes. Cézanne changed the history of art with just some apples. “

“For me form is the most important.”

“I started very realistically, and ended in a very abstract way. I have the tendency to always start very faithfully to reality. Not goody-goody realistic, but very recognizable. But always with a certain “schwung”, my own “schwung”, my own signature.”

“And then I leave that realism. After five years that then ends in structured chaos. It ends in calculated arbitrariness, quite chaotic. And that happens in a very natural way. I never have to force myself. I just follow my nature.”

Then Ozark and Sam in a conversation on trends:

“These days, you don’t need to be able to read musical notes. You don’t need to know anything. You make music by intuition.”

“You have to be creative as from the age of seven. How can one be creative without “métier”? It is métier that makes you free. If you have a lot of métier, and you have suddenly an idea, then you don’t need to think “how do I make this?” or “What am I doing?”.

“Métier makes it possible to follow your impulse. Because your whole body is trained for it.”

“Métier is the great luxury

to be a free human being.”

“When Picasso draws seven lines at the age of 85, then those lines are building on 75 years of study and knowledge”. If we draw those lines, we risk missing the ball.”

“The three great artists are Dostojewski for literature, Van Gogh for painting, Mozart for music. But Mozart can again be considered as cliché, and that’s not considered alright anymore.”

“These days, you have to come up with a strange name from Georgia or whatever, somebody nobody ever heard about. You are not allowed anymore to be normal in your taste or preferences.”

The programme ends with a musical pairing with the famous Krug champagne.

caves_couleur-krug

Kruge Champagne cellars

“The creation of Krug is very musical. It is a house where the founder had a dream. He wanted to create every year the richest symphony of champagnes. The approach of the house is a musical approach. We listen to each little vineyard, like a musical director listens to the orchestra.”

“A grand cuvée is like a music score”

“The art is in the experience: you enter the ballroom, the orchestra is getting installed and starts to play, everything is there, and there it is, and you live the moment. Like Tsjaikowski’s 6th symphony in b-minor: the way the music score opens all the colors of the orchestra and you discover. Like a room that opens, and you discover all the colors, all the nuances, and a total experience.”

It made me think about a comment by Fabian about the last Innotribe Sibos edition: “Peter created his 9th Symphony, and day-1 was his Allegro”. But creating one’s 9th symphony is at time a lonely place.

“But what makes you lonely,

makes you radical.”

What if in our professions, in our “Métiers”, we would all adhere to these highest standards? And be radical in the quality and total experience we aim for?

What if we would always compare ourselves to the great artists, and get motivated through a constant healthily frustration?

Instead of putting the bar of mediocrity to the best common denominator, as illustrated in so many industry “benchmarks”.

What would happen then?

We would delight the customer with mastery and mystery.

Like great art can put a knife in the eye.

Building on the shoulders of giants,

With your own signature.

petervan-signature_transparent_black_version2

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A couple of weeks ago, Pim de Morree and Joost Minnaar contacted me to check whether their Corporate Rebels idea was related to Corporate Rebels United, our movement to unite change agents worldwide to ensure that true change happens virally from deep within the fabric of our organizations.

There are several other organizations that have similar objectives as Corporate Rebels United:

Last June 2015, we organized our second Rebel Jam, this time as a co-production of Corporate Rebels Unites, Rebels at Work, and Change Agents Worldwide. The recordings of that Rebel Jam are available here:

rebels

The work of Pim and Joost is different, with a focus on employee (dis)engagement and happiness, and in the longer run, Pim and Joost hope to develop a business out of their research about corporate heroes. There is nothing wrong with wanting to develop a business, as long as you are transparent about your intentions, I suggested Pim and Joost.

I also invited them to write an essay about their work and ambitions, and that I would be happy to share it on my personal blog and the blog of Corporate Rebels United.

They followed suit, and sent me their essay, which I am happy to reproduce below, without any editing from my side.

+++ Start essay

Pim de Morree and Joost Minnaar, Corporate Rebels, travel the world to meet their employee happiness ‘heroes’. They want to learn what works best and share their learnings with everyone.

pim and joost

Joost Minnaar (L) and Pim de Moree (R)

They believe the way most organizations are run nowadays is outdated. Gallup’s research reports show this time and time again; 87% of employees are disengaged with their work. Once you realize that we spend roughly 40 hours a week on this activity then you can only conclude that it’s time for a radical change.

They themselves made a radical change once they both faced major demotivation after working for only 2.5 years. They quit their jobs and decided to start a quest for the happiest organizations around the globe. For a year (starting from January 2016) they dive into the world of employee happiness as Corporate Rebels. It’s their profound believe that work could and should offer much more satisfaction than it does nowadays.

Happily, there is reason for hope. Various pioneers (they call them ‘heroes’) around the world have found a solution. Organizations, academics, entrepreneurs and business leaders’ illustrate that they are achieving amazing results by increasing their employees’ happiness. They show that once people are happy at work they perform better and go the extra mile. An obvious win-win situation.

rebels time line

The Corporate Rebels visit the world’s happiest workplaces and try to discover what we all can learn from them. What do the pioneers do different than traditional companies? How did they made a successful transition? What works well? What doesn’t work? How can their approaches be spread across the world? A lot of questions as you can see.

In order to answer all those questions they have compiled a ‘Bucket List’ with the heroes they visit. The Corporate Rebels travel the world to expose their secrets. By checking off their ‘Bucket List’ they learn what works and share it with everyone that wants to listen. Only then, boring work can become a thing of the past.

rebels logo

The Corporate Rebels spread their learnings and experiences through their website (http://www.corporate-rebels.com), blog, newsletter, press, social media, inspirational talks and workshops. This is how they pursue their mission to make work more fun. To inspire employees and organizations to make a change. A change towards more happiness and more success. The Corporate Rebels hope to make the world a happier place; one employee at a time.

+++ End essay

 

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RebelJampot

On Friday, June 26at noon Central European Time, we will kick off our 24 hours of speakers sharing stories, observations and emerging practices about creating change and reshaping the future of work.

We will be using WebEx for this on-line event

Log-in information

Link to schedule of speakers and topics

We only have a few speakers slots available. If you are interested to share your change/rebel story, go to the link of the schedule and reserve your 30 minutes, or contact corporaterebelsunited@gmail.com

Kickoff times for 24-hour online event

  • Europe (CEST): noon
  • United States (EDT); 6 a.m.
  • United States (PDT) 3 a.m.
  • Australia (EST): 8 p.m.

Twitter handle: #RebelJam15

Questions?  corporaterebelsunited@gmail.com

Produced by:

Corp Rebels United jpeg

Print

Change Agents Worldwide

Proudly sponsored by RELEVENTS, committed to enacting a movement of positive change in the business community.

Relevents Logo

Mark already your calendars: together with RELEVENTS we will organize our first live event:

Rebel Jam LIVE!

Friday 18 Sep 2015 in Sacramento, California. 

Innovate Relevents

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As many of you know, my “night-job” is Corporate Rebels United, a movement to unite Corporate Rebels worldwide to ensure that true change happens virally from deep within the fabric of our organisations.

Every month we celebrate a Corporate Rebel who went the extra-mile: in helping our movement, in completing a hack, in pulling together a value practice, or doing something really awesome in the organisation they work for. “Rebel of the Month” is recognition for a Corporate Rebel exposing the sort of behaviours we would like to encourage in our movement.

Our “Rebel of the Month” for April 2015 is Steve Jennings from Malmö, Sweden.

IMG_1944

I got in contact with Steve in July 2012 when Tom La Forge, Global Director, Human & Cultural Insights at The Coca-Cola Company – and like myself member of Jerry Michalski’s REXpedition – suggested me to get in contact with Steve. Since then we had regular Skype-calls to chat about our rebellious ambitions, our doubts, our difficult moments, and when needed energising each other to keep fighting for the good cause.

Steve is high-energy. He walks and talks fast. He acts fast. He dares to be great and take on big bets. He is for good and for better.

Most people associate Steve with business and social entrepreneurship, but in reality he’s probably more of an artist and adventurer, who most of the time just happens to be creating art and adventuring in a business context.

Steve’s background is varied and original. On the surface it may appear as if he’s had 9 different careers. The one constant in everything that he does is that it’s an extension of who he really is deep down inside. For Steve, it’s never been about a job or a career, it’s more about a calling.

Steve grew up in Hull in the north east of England in the 1960’s and 70’s. His journey has taken him from studying to be an engineer, to realizing his boyhood dream of becoming a professional road racing cyclist, to working as an investment broker with Lloyds – TSB, to founding Maxim one of Europe’s leading sports nutrition companies, to helping found the Canadian open-source non profit organization Bicycles for Humanity, to becoming one of the founding members of PepsiCo’s global good-for-you nutrition innovation team, to founding the youth empowerment initiative zyOzy Foundation, to developing GoodCred a complimentary currency platform, to co founding Better Ventures a company focused on bringing crowdsourcing innovation, marketing participation and intelligence commercialization to companies and brands with a global footprint.

Steve is very excited about ethical use of personal data and wonders whether we we can democratize data by igniting a crowd powered global movement with the aim of building a collaborative social fabric-enabling layer across diverse cultures and markets. Here is his talk of last November at Oredev Con 2014.

There is also a great recent write-up about Steve here:

Steve Jennings Young Biker

Steve is the entrepreneur in residence at Lund Universities Open Innovation Center, where he’s focused on developing new models aimed at bringing about the radical change in attitudes that are needed during times of unprecedented social, economic, environmental, demographic, and political uncertainty. In addition to this role he also mentors students enrolled on the Masters of Entrepreneurship program at Lund University.

Steve’s personal mantra is; build paths for others to follow, share what you’ve learned and think like a pioneer.

“I create moments that give me a lot of freedom; physically, emotionally and creatively. The only way for me to remain relevant is to consistently help other people and companies to create value. For this to happen, I need to be out and about in the world, travelling, meeting and talking with a wide range of different and highly diverse people. It is a way of thinking, and a way of being as a person.” – Steve Jennings 2015.

When he is not travelling, you can find Steve in his home in Malmö in the south of Sweden, or online at the following destinations.

Please join me in congratulating Steve for being chosen as Rebel of the Month.

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As many of you know, my “night-job” is Corporate Rebels United, a movement to unite Corporate Rebels worldwide to ensure that true change happens virally from deep within the fabric of our organisations.

Every month we celebrate a Corporate Rebel who went the extra-mile: in helping our movement, in completing a hack, in pulling together a value practice, or doing something really awesome in the organisation they work for. “Rebel of the Month” is recognition for a Corporate Rebel exposing the sort of behaviours we would like to encourage in our movement.

Our “Rebel of the Month” for March 2015 is Steve Chapman from Esher, Surrey, United Kingdom.

Steve Chapman - March 2015 (Hi res colour)

Steve is fascinated by human beings, how they interact, fall out, make up, change and create stuff together. Before becoming an independent consultant, writer and coach he spent 20 years in the corporate world, his last role being Director of Leadership and Organisation Development for a large global blue chip. It was during this time that he became intrigued by the difference between what is supposed to happen in organisations versus what actually happens. He started to notice how many of the unquestioned corporate traditions (such as strategy, structure, change management, governance, meetings etc.) actually constrained the very things that organisations need to survive and thrive in the future – imagination, creativity, spontaneity and innovation. He decided to dedicate his work to making sense of all of this and thereby transformed his corporate career into creative adventure.

can scorpions smoke 2

Steve’s book Can Scorpions Smoke? Creative Adventures in the Corporate World (Amazon Associates Link) invites those who work in these things we call organisations to pause, look around and become more curious as to what extent day to day habits, norms, behaviours and beliefs stifle our own creativity and that of others. At its heart it encourages experimentation and playfulness in the belly of corporate life and offers a number of personal and organisational practices that gently dampen the psychological and social fear that keeps everything rather stuck, dull and grey.

Six Creative Practices at the heart of “Can Scorpions Smoke?”

  • Mad, bad and wrong: Letting go of our need to be perpetually seen as sane, good and right.
  • Say “yes” (to the mess): Letting go of saying “no” to novelty and brave new experiences.
  • Be obvious/be altered: Letting go of a need to be perceived as clever, original and impervious to the influence of others.
  • Fail Happy: Letting go of our need to perpetually succeed and our habit of avoiding the unknown through fear of messing up.
  • Embody it: Challenging the dictatorship of the logical brain and building a deeper trust with our physical and emotional instincts.
  • Make others look good: Championing and nurturing the creative spirit of others.

Chapman himself endeavours to practice what he preaches and continually tries to push the boundaries of his work through experimentation on the boundaries his own comfort zone. To this end he has run masked corporate innovation workshops, delivered off the wall, highly participative keynote speeches (one dressed as a pirate for example), taken his coaching clients on spontaneous ‘inexpert’ tour guide experiences and he launched his book by going busking on the banks of the Thames.

His current research interest is “The Failure Project” which aims to deconstruct the concept of failure through studying the rich experience of screwing up in excruciating slow-motion!

Steve is Chief Adventurer at Can Scorpions Smoke Change a Creativity Ltd. He has worked with a wide range of organisations and individuals helping them through times of change by nurturing their imaginative, creative and spontaneous talents. He is a regular speaker on change, creativity and innovation and is visiting faculty at Ashridge Business School and the Metanoia Institute. He is the author of “Can Scorpions Smoke? Creative Adventures in the Corporate World” – an acclaimed book on personal and organisational creativity. He is a blogger, a runner, an improviser and Daddy to Maya, aged 8, who is his Chief of Imagination and illustrator of the book.

Steve is based in Esher, Surrey, UK

Please join us in congratulating Steve for being our March 2015 Rebel of the Month

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A couple of months ago, I was at Techonomy 2014 and I am still digesting a fantastic interview with Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman. Interview done by David Kirkpatrick from Techonomy Media.

The full interview (about 38 min) is worth every second, and the full transcript is available here.

Thiel and Hoffman

There is a great section about innovation and innovation teams in big corporations, and Reid says:

I think the challenge in practice is, I often think of the people that are able to drive innovation in one way or another as being quite weak at the political games, and the political processes—the more political processes you set up, it always seems to empower the wrong people.

To a question from the audience on how innovations teams can avoid this, Reid Hoffman says at minute 28:40 something that made me fundamentally rethink how companies should get organized around innovation, or disruption, or whatever the latest buzzword of the year is.

Well, the short answer there is, having a head of strategy, a head of innovation and a small group is almost always—I’ve never seen it work, it’s usually a disastrous failure. The question is, you actually have to be, we’re going and building this product, we’re going and doing this, and it has to be essentially funded, and as an isolated group.

And there’s a lot of different ways of doing an isolated group. I don’t know them all, throughout all the industries. One was how Jobs did it, which is, he basically said, okay, he pulled people into a project and put them in a room where only their badges would work. He would go work with them. Part of a thing that happens at Google, and, you know, there’s variation, like there’s when Andy Rubin was building Android, only the Android folks’ badges were working, going into the Android, and basically Larry was like “Look, Andy, just go, this is important to do, just make this happen.”

I think the common pattern is, it has to be a product-oriented group, it isn’t a group that says we’re producing a strategy, or we’re producing an innovation plan.

We’re building something, we’re making it happen, and it’s empowered by the CEO, and it is completely disconnected from any political process from the rest of the organization.

And I think thus far, those are the only patterns I’ve seen work. The CEO often has to have an opinion on the product, on the merits of the product, so it’s not a portfolio, it’s not a financial portfolio, a hundred different innovations without any details on any one particular.”

This is something very different than the so called “experimentation sandboxes”, or “innovation labs”, or “customer innovation centers”, or “accelerators”, or “incubators”.

Leandro Herrero recently writes:

Carve out space and time, protect them, and free them from the standard corporate rules. You can do this with a small team or a big one, a few rooms, one room, or a building. Do it forever, or for 3 months. Experiment with your own version of Lab126. Social engineer the environment until you see the fruits. Kindle ideas! We shape the spaces so that spaces may shape us.

I am not so sure this works. Austin Carr wrote in Jan 2015 a great post in FastCompany about the Fire Phone debacle that was developed in that same Lab126.

Yet is there something new going on with Amazon, something dangerous on a whole new level? Or is this the latest installment in what Bezos has always been selling about his company: that it is so different in its outlook, its operations, and its potential that it should be judged differently, too? The criticism this time goes beyond the fact that the CEO prefers to invest heavily in what might drive business tomorrow rather than reap profits today. This time, say the critics, Bezos has lost his focus. This time, they say, he is pursuing global domination at the expense of his historic drive to improve the customer experience.

To make a long story short, I don’t believe anymore in open innovation, and I don’t believe anymore in sandboxes.

Many sandboxes are “me too” versions of a hype for being perceived or associated with the next Google or the next Apple. Let’s be realistic, the chance that your company ever gets close to those top players is close to zero. Same for the incumbent turning around itself for the next paradigm: there is historical evidence that the chance to succeed is also close to zero. If you disagree, please give me 1-5 examples of companies who did succeed.

But don’t get me wrong. Innovation is needed, especially in incumbent large organisations. To create real lasting innovation in big corporations, you need:

  • High quality alignment about the strategic options and the innovation agenda at the level of the board, and the executive committee. All organizations struggle with this. It creates illusions of innovation busyness and quasi satisfaction of having ticked the box
  • Willingness to invest in several real options, and actually do something beyond analyzing and prototyping to death.
  • You need to SHIP product

Let me say that again: you need to ship product.

It’s about focus based on quality alignment. The focus to put the energy of a multi-disciplinary team through the full A-Z process of designing, creating, marketing, distributing a product service in the hands of the customer who gets value and is willing to pay for it.

Let’s apply this to FinTech. Fintech is red-hot.

  • With 3-6 Billion dollar investment per year in startups, depending on the source.
  • Investments by VCs, Corporate Venture Funds, pooled resources in accelerators, bootcamps and incubators.
  • And with almost every major bank having their own innovation outpost or lab or accelerator in Silicon Valley, and increasingly also in APAC, Tel-Aviv, London and Berlin.

Their challenge is to find the best startups. Depending on the source, more than 3,000+ FinTech Startups compete for the money and the attention. Investors are looking for the best ones. Banks are looking for the best ones. But their motivations are different. From pure ROI and fast and profitable exit to complementarity of the existing portfolios.

One way to find the best ones are FinTech Startup competitions. We at Innotribe run one ourselves quite successfully. Nothing wrong with Startup Challenges.But I believe the industry needs to move beyond competition and prize money. Beyond the searchable database or heat map. Beyond the hackaton. Beyond the prototype, the sandbox, the accelerator or the lab.

The keyword is embedding and creating deep, sustainable, repeatable relationships on the long term.

Accelerators, Bootcamps, Incubators, and Sandboxes: I get it. It’s all super cool there, it’s fun, young, dynamic, exciting, etc but show me the results from an innovation point of view, aka actually shipping of actual innovations by big corporations/banks. I am not asking for investment results, etc. I am trying to find systemic evidence that sandboxes help companies innovate in or outside their core.

My discomfort is that the motivations of the different players are not aligned:

I do see the value for the sandboxes, accelerators, incubators. For the startups joining, in many cases some form of cheap equity or other string is attached. Cheap for the investor that is. The startup immediately loses 10% or more of its shares in return for this generous gift.

I do see the value for the startups. Investment, visibility, mentors etc.

  • But that is just the start, that is just the sandbox.
  • When – and if – they come out of an incubator etc, the journey just begins.
  • The only thing they have learned is to pitch better and to better iterations of MVPs, at best.

But I do not yet see what meat is left on the bone of those who invested in these sandboxes?

  • Did any ever succeed in actually shipping a new product/service?
  • Indeed, I am looking at this space from the standpoint of the organization who owns the sandbox/accelerator/incubator and what value it provides to that organization in better serving its customers.

I am getting convinced that sandboxes “out there” – as an outpost that is – don’t work. Work in the sense of getting products shipped with the core. I am getting convinced that organizations don’t need one sandbox but thousands (ok, ten’s) of sandboxed deeply embedded in the organization.

The sandbox then is not just about experimenting but about actually shipping a product, and show/inspire the others in the company in a super-transparent way how that is done, so that next time they want to be part of the project too.

However, in many cases sandboxes are lipstick on a pig. I love this Financial News article about everybody cool and running hackatons:

“So they are engaging with the outside world for new ideas and inputs. They really, really want to look like a cool place to work at. They seek to be perceived more like large tech companies.”

In many cases it’s all about perception, only.

But perception is not good enough. It is needed, but not good enough. In my opinion, if a company cannot innovate in its core, it has a problem. Innovating without the complexity of the core is relatively easy, especially of you can throw 100M at it. But does it leave innovation meat on the core bone? I doubt it.

Innovation by committee does not work. The false certainty of the committee kills it.

Real innovation happens when you have a dedicated multidisciplinary team going after a big bet. Real innovation does not happen in sandboxes. I have seen it in my SWIFT life several times. Some were successful like Alliance Lite and more recently the Real-Time Payments win in Australia. Others failed to deliver or got killed (the death and killing of innovative projects and the lessons learned will be the subject of another post in this Innovation 201 series).

To come back to the start of this blog post and the insights of Reid Hoffman. The successful innovations are not the credit of a central innovation team. They are the credit of a dedicated core team.

But a team alone won’t cut it. This team, the “execution engine”, is only one of the 3 innovation engines needed in an organization. The other two are 1) the behavior (culture) engine and 2) the catalyst engine. More on them in a subsequent post.

3 inno engines

One thing is for sure: ALL organizations struggle getting stuff out of the sandbox. Maybe the problem is with the whole idea of sandbox in the first place. If it never gets in, you don’t need to struggle to get it out.

Embedding or Sandboxing: I think embedding is the answer. So let’s get out of the innovation sandbox and let’s get some real stuff shipped?

Some modesty is at its place here. I have been working as a change agent – sometimes rebel – in many organizations in the last 30 years. And still, I don’t know the perfect answer. But I think I have a little clue on what does not work, and what could work. I would love to open the conversation with the Heads of Innovation to share what sticks and what not. I am so curious to hear your voices, comments, insights and your lessons learned.

This blog post is part of my series “Innovation 201”

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There are plenty of actionable items on our Corporate Rebels United (CRU) website. Most folks don’t explore the website. They like the manifesto and that gets them going.

The going so far is mainly sharing of posts, articles and sometimes experiences. And that sharing is great. Continue doing that.

But I would love to see 2015 becoming more actionable and more about DOING.

In these regular callings to our movement, I will invite you to actually DO something and I will seed some ideas that may get you inspired.

Kid pirate thinkstock

This Feb 2015 Calling is for Corporate Rebels out there who are Creatives / Artists / Creators: photographers, graphical artists, visual artists, video hackers, musicians, writers, poets, choreographers, coders, etc who can help us with:

  • Creating a new Corporate Rebels United logo that could be used consistently on buttons, flags, t-shirts, social media, etc
  • To create a set of consistent visual elements (picture, icons, typography, colours, etc) that we can use on our website and publications.
  • To make a powerful teaser video on Corporate Rebels United that could go viral
  • To create/compose the Corporate Rebels United song
  • To make a RSA animation (or other, use your creativity) video of the Corporate Rebels United presentation at Enterprise 2.0 Summit, 10-12 Feb 2014, Paris. See also our events page.
  • Any other crazy idea you may come up with

So roll up your sleeves and enlist as a CRU creative on the candidate form at the bottom of our helpers page.

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