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Confused by Beauty

The Sweeper - Marc Chagall

The Sweeper – Marc Chagall

I am deeply emotionally touched by the beauty of Dries Van Noten’s “Inspirations” exposition at the Fashion House in Antwerp and Marc Chagall’s Retrospective in Brussels.

They brought me back in contact with a part of myself that I had neglected since my Leading-by-Being days in 2007-2009, the quest for purpose that lead to the start of this blog in April 2009 titled “Singing my own song”.

First, the fantastic Dries Van Noten expo in Antwerp. Not a retrospective: Dries is too young for that (he is about my age :-). But an amazing overview of his work since the Antwerp Six till today.

The whole expo breathes passion and perfection.

Rebel Entry Dries van noten

From the Rebel entry, to the unique vitrines per collection, the well documented sources of inspiration, the pancartes with beautiful texts that read like poetry, the perfection of the clothes themselves, the tissues, the lightning, the contextual artwork, the cohesion of the collections.

Vitrine 1 Dries Van Noten

Here is the text of the pancarte introducing the collection inspired by The Flemish Masters:

“Framed faces and portrait necklines. Majestic understatement. A whisper of paganism underpinned by noble restraint. Opulent textures: silk velvets, silk jacquards, duchesse satins combined with leather embellishments for a modern twist. Jewel colored embroideries and encrustations translated from Jan Van Eyck’s rich palette. A sinuous and covered silhouette, at once languid and austere. The whole and its parts.”

Some more visual impressions:

Hand and Skulls Dries Van NotenNurejev Dries Van Noten

It made me look into the work of Dries Van Noten. And I found this amazing video of what I call his “Chandelier Show” for his Spring/Summer collection 2005:

I found that the shows are produced by Etienne Russo from Villa Eugenie (yes that is the name of the production company)

To capture the spirit of the times, and to enshrine it within an exceptional house and with the singularity of its team. It is also a concern for exigency and for an insatiable perfection, and a fully comprehensive pragmatism oriented towards the imaginary. No element is left to chance, because the smallest of details is not fortuitous, because the random is impossible and the unforeseen a challenge, each event becomes an exceptional moment.”

Walking out of the Antwerp Fashion House, I felt deeply touched and moved by so much beauty. Next-door was an Art-Book Store. I hang out there for an hour, dreaming away in wonderfully produced books about architecture, artists and craftsmen.

On my way back home, Klara (the Flemish Classic Music radio station) played Bach vocals. I felt the softness of my heart and the perfection of the moment at 120km/hour in the privacy and comfort of the car.

Chagall

A couple of days later, I went to the Marc Chagall retrospective in Brussels. I was early, and the museum was not crowded yet. I took the audio guide and started the tour.

2 faces Marc Chagal

The first painting was a small self-portrait from 1921. The guide whispered that it were in fact two faces: the masculine and the feminine, the Yin and the Yang. I was touched by the synchronicity: why was this the first painting in my search for artistic identity?

Marc-Chagall-De-verleiding-1912-Saint-Louis-Art-Museum-Schenking-van-Morton-D.-May

Second painting. Adam and Eve 1921. I preferred the Dutch title “De Verleiding”, or “The Seduction”. Don’t ask me why ;-)

Two big impact expos in a couple of days. It left me dazed and confused. Yes, I could do a quote from Led Zep here, but it seems I already did that in an earlier post.

I shared my confusion with some friends over a couple of calls.

One good friend introduced me to the concept of “Liminal state”, the being in-between two states. Adolescence is such a liminal state.

“Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”[1]) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold”[citation needed] between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liminality

I am exploding of creativity.

I have more than 60 posts in the queue. Paintings. Music compositions and soundscapes. Video trailers. Transmedia productions. Poems. Fairytales. Night stories for children. Book illustrations. It’s all sitting idle here on my hard disk and my sketchbook.

What if I’d give more space and attention to that piece of my real me? What if I’d give exclusivity space to this? Not a side activity but get it into my core? I feel an obligation to also give that part of myself as a gift. Maybe it is THE gift. Maybe this is what I was meant to be.

Bringing “events” to a level of artistic performance. Where to set the bar? Well, Dries Van Noten’s capacity to make me dazed and confused is an interesting bar to set for my own work.

What if the result of my work leads my audience in a state of enchantment, reflection, silence, a first step towards a possibly passage as well.

The bar is to put a spell on you.

To sweep and get us back to purity. To melt in symbiosis and deliver each other to the other side of the passage. That is the movement.

IMG_4977

Own artwork “The Movement”, Petervan 2015, Soft Pastel on green paper, A2 format

My friend told me: “A passage. A rite. You get through the other side or you stay in it and acclimatize. Passagework is deeply energetic. Make sure you surround yourself with energetic help and support. Like yoga, Reiki, or other energy work.”

It brings me all back to my Leading by Being days: a transition, a passage, a rite not finished. A connection with the deep self not fully completed.

Now, I feel I am so close to passing the rite. Dries Van Noten and Chagall have unfrozen me. So much clarity now in intention, ambition and purity to jump into the warm pool of real contact, uncertainty and vulnerability.

Oh Lord, please deliver me into the other side.

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IMG_4798

Artwork Petervan 2015 - Thinking Man - Pencil and watercolour

Since a couple of months, I am chewing on a couple of themes that feel interrelated. Themes like scale, uniqueness, and beauty, eternal, ephemeral, one-ness, and only-ness.

I started wondering:

  • What if scale is not the answer?
  • What if I would start focusing on my uniqueness?
  • What if beauty becomes more important than function?

I was on a track where I believed that scale and uniqueness where opposites, and I only wanted to do things that were unique, one-time, never repeating, and NOT trying to create efficiencies. NOT trying to create economies of scale and/or scope.

I spoke to many people about this, and every time I saw their eyes glazing, wondering what world I was living in, and whether I was completely disconnected from business reality, or from reality full stop.

I was more or less told to conform, to behave, to try to do what everybody else was doing: running around at being very busy and being hyper-efficient in doing and scaling things that in my mind were not very meaningful.

During a walk-n-talk months ago with Nilofer, she hinted that uniqueness and scale are in different categories.

Some others hinted me at the concept of doing something that is NOT designed to repeat and permanence made them also think about the opposite, when one created with the objective of only happening once, designed to be ephemeral. Like making a drawing on the beach that is washed away by the waves. If you were not there, you have not seen it. At best it’s documented on video. But the performance itself was unique, only happened once.

Like the snow Art by Simon Beck: working hours on one snow drawing, enjoying the ephemeral beauty of it, but with the certainty that it will be gone with the new thaw of the next snowstorm

Snow Art

I took all the advice, and kept thinking.

I thought I landed on something named

Un-Scale

But that started smelling too fast like slow food or some other sort of new fashion. It was also a different “unscale” than Hemant Teneja’s https://hbr.org/2013/10/economies-of-unscale-why-business-has-never-been-easier-for-the-little-guy/ .

It was also a different “ephemeral”, different from the ephemeral messaging like Snapchat who were just valued at 10B USD.

Doctorow

I was reading Amanda Palmer’s foreword in Cory Doctorow’s latest “Information does NOT want to be free”, where she mentioned there will always only be one Grateful Dead.

grateful-dead-608x417

They realize that companies won’t be manufacturing millions of identical things, but will need to make hundreds, perhaps thousands, of slightly different things

Learning how to do that—how to make an evening interesting for an audience, with just me and a stage and things I’d written, partly because it seemed to me that one day it might not be as easy to make money from selling stories in the traditional way

Many of us became authors in order to avoid getting up on stages in the first place

I started looking in to the concept of “One-Ness”, which is about integrated meditative consumption, unity, even Greek mysticism.

I started reading some of Nilofer’s first articulations of “Only-Ness” http://nilofermerchant.com/2013/01/17/onlyness-the-topic-and-the-talk-at-tedxhouston/

Onlyness is that thing that only that one individual can bring to a situation. It includes the journey and passions of each human. Onlyness is fundamentally about honoring each person: first as we view ourselves and second as we are valued. Each of us is standing in a spot that no one else occupies. That unique point of view is born of our accumulated experience, perspective, and vision. Some of those experiences are not as “perfect” as we might want, but even those experiences are a source for what you create. For example, the person whose younger sibling has a disease might grow up to work in medicine to find the cure. The person who is obsessed with beautiful details might end up caring about industrial design and reinvent how we all use technology. The person who has grown up under oppression might end up advocating for freedom of speech and thus advance the condition of his country. This individual onlyness is the fuel of vast creativity, innovations, and adaptability.

Embracing onlyness means that, as contributors, we must embrace our history, not deny it. This includes both our “dark” and our “light” sides.

Each onlyness is essential for solving new problems, as well as for finding new solutions to old problems. Without it, people are simply cogs in a machine – dispensable and undervalued – and we’re back to the 800-pound gorilla approach in organizations (and our economy). With it, gazelles [employees, community members, and partners] are singularly unique and able to contribute meaningfully.

And then it suddenly dawned on me: I was mixing up several dimensions.

I tried to articulate my insights in a Powerpoint slide:

uniqueness and scale

There are 3 dimensions in this slide. I was balancing in the zone between uniqueness and ephemeral. But found it difficult to integrate the 3rd dimension of Scale/Scope. In fact, the slide was two-dimensional only. I needed a sphere. I decide to hand draw it:

Scale Unscale

Dimension-1: the spectrum from Permanent to Ephemeral

  • Permanence, the same tone as “Long Now”, “Many-Ness”, things that are designed to last
  • Ephemeral, the same tone as Short Now”, “One-Ness”, things that are designed to disappear, not to last, like the snow art

Dimension-2: the spectrum from Uniqueness to Commodity

  • Uniqueness, the same tone as Nilofer’s Only-Ness
  • Commodity, the same tone as “Multi-Ness”

Dimension-3: the spectrum from Scope to Scale

  • Scale: what everybody seems to focus on. Investors don’t invest if it does not have the potential to scale, to be viral. The tone of “economies of scale”. For some sort of efficiency game. Still don’t like it, even if I can imagine something when Only-ness starts to Scale
  • Scope: what seems to count when one thinks platform business or platform economics.

I don’t want to scale nor scope my Only-Ness, my Petervan-Ness.

I want to create unique performances, multi-media, trans-media experiences, where I touch my audience at another (additional) level than the pure cognitive. I’d love to resonate at a subconscious level, with very unique storytelling and narratives. All build up from my own writing, artwork and self-composed music, sound and light landscapes.

I am entering a period in my career of “multiple gigs”.

I have installed a small studio at home. Maybe the embryo of Petervan Productions. Trying to master new tools. Trying to have the first story ready for dry-runs by March 2015. And a first live performance around summer. For small audiences only. Not to scale but to un-scale my Only-Ness.

Let me know if you want to be part of one of the dry-runs.

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This blog post is about beauty, about excellence and uniqueness in their battle against efficiency, scale and functional Lego bricks.

oil paint

Oil Painting by Adam Brooks

It’s about my hunger for systems that add value to society versus systems and environments that only suck value out of society.

It probably all started many years ago with Cradle to Cradle, the 2002 pivotal non-fiction book by German chemist Michael Braungart and U.S. architect William McDonough. I learned how reducing waste is not good enough, because at the end of reducing waste, there is still waste left. What if we would design systems that are regenerative, and add value and not waste at the end of the process cycle.

beauty

And of course there is my all time favorite architect-author Christopher Alexander with “The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth: A Struggle Between Two World-Systems”, and Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, again about two world systems/views competing with each other.

I got my final kick when getting in to Brainpickings’ post on “Beauty, Quality, Poetry, and Integrity: Anaïs Nin Meets Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. (1947)”, with some great insights in the world of art and role of the artist.

anais ninn

It was about architecture that had been taken over by businessmen, and artists not being allowed to carry out their rich hunger for beauty. A bit like Evgeny Morosov’s fight against “solutionism”, where the world is taken over by VCs and commerce in stead of asking the real big questions related to ethos and quality of life.

“Strength was obvious in him, but sensitivity and imagination were in his drawings. A universe of lyrical beauty in total opposition to the sterile, monotonous, unimaginative ‘box’-buildings now seen all over the world.”

“In Lloyd’s work there was space, invention, poetry, a restrained and effective use of the romantic, surprises always in the forms, new and imaginative use of structural parts, rooms, windows, and materials. He has a gift for involvement in many-leveled lives, for the variations, caprices, and nuances necessary to the human spirit. Every stone, every roof-tile, every window, every texture or material was designed for the consistent development of his building, its environment, and designed to elevate the quality of people’s lives. Uniformity and monotony kill individuality, dull the senses.

Lloyd designed his work to reinforce individuality with poetry, beauty, and integrity. It was planned to create a more beautiful and satisfying human environment. Architecture as poetry.

If he sounds like a moralist, it is because beauty, quality, and ethics are inseparable. Beauty and integrity. And for them one has to be willing to make sacrifices.

Many months ago, I had a chat about this with REXpedition friend Tom LaForge (Global Director, Human & Cultural Insights at The Coca-Cola Company), in 2011 an Innotribe speaker at Sibos Toronto. He inspired me with contextualizing our preferred system-1 as one of “drawing, flow and music”, where one “drinks from the fire hose of beauty”.

What if we would found a new collective of inspired thinkers, creators and sensemakers, the collective of QWAN (Quality Without A Name)? Surfing on the idea of “standing in your onlyness” as coined by Nilofer Merchant. A collective where we could connect with the other nodes, create another sort resonance with other nodes, a QWAN cohort as a way to connect with other quality nodes in tune with our true selves, allowing ourselves to to loose ourselves: in stead of “collective” we may want to call it the “connective”…

Loosing yourself…. Here is Brian Eno about loosing yourself:

“Sex, drugs, art, and religion—those are all activities in which you deliberately lose yourself.  You stop being you and you let yourself become part of something else.  You surrender control.  I think surrendering is a great gift that human beings have.  One of the experiences of art is relearning and rehearsing surrender properly.  And one of the values perhaps of immersing yourself in very long periods of time is losing the sense of yourself as a single focus of the universe and seeing yourself as one small dot on this long line reaching out to the edges of time in each direction.“

Steering away from “in-group mentality”, and nurturing the ability to flow in/out other groups, and creating “permeable barriers” between the inner and outer self/shell referring to Jung’s dualism. Building lives in currencies that matter: respect, dignity, and kindness. With exchange rates and markets for these value currencies.

Using un-words like music, art, performance and poetry to access access the true self, buying into something experiential, loosing yourself.

In architecture it’s about the battle for beauty, against the “commonplace, shoddy, temporary movie-set houses around him were painful to see. He called them ‘cracker boxes,’ shabby, thin, motel-type homes for robots”

robot

Marc Andreessen, well know for the phrase “Software is eating the world” also made a plea for saying he did not believe that robots will eat all the jobs”.

“Since our basic needs are taken care of, all human time, labor, energy, ambition, and goals reorient to the intangibles: the big questions, the deep needs. Human nature expresses itself fully, for the first time in history. Without physical need constraints, we will be whoever we want to be.”

“The main fields of human endeavor will be culture, arts, sciences, creativity, philosophy, experimentation, exploration, and adventure.”

“A planet of slackers you say. Not at all. Rather than nothing to do, we would have everything to do. Curiosity, artistic and scientific creativity have full rein resulting in new forms of status-seeking (!).”

“Imagine 6 billion or 10 billion people doing nothing but arts and sciences, culture and exploring and learning. What a world that would be. The problem seems unlikely to be that we’ll get there too fast. The problem seems likely to be that we’ll get there too slow.”

All this is about – in my opinion a new quest for romanticism, also in business. I can’t wait for Tim Leberecht’s upcoming book “The Business Romantic, Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself”, scheduled for release in Jan 2015.

Business Romantic

In the meantime, we have to do with his slide deck of his @MLove talk some time ago:

leberecht slide 12

  • Check out slide#12 about Romance, Un-Reason, Mystery, etc
  • Slide #14 on Job Profile for Business Romantic
  • Slide #18 on Suffer a Little, Keep the Mystique, Take the long way home
  • And the fantastic slide #51 with the Traditional, Smart, Romantic matrix

leberecht slide 50

And in slide#19 Tim quotes Aldous Huxley:

“But I don’t want comfort.

I want God, I want poetry,

I want real danger, I want freedom.

I want goodness.

I want sin.”

I wrote already in my Uberization blog post on 28 June:

  • What if exponentially and scale are not relevant?
  • What if the future model would not be based on exponentially, speed, scale, and efficiency?
  • What if uniqueness becomes more important than functional Lego-bricks and efficiency?
  • What if beauty becomes more important than function?

Like art, where the primary objective is to make something that is beautiful and resonates deeply at a non-cognitive, sub-conscious level and created happiness and fulfillment at a whole different intensity and quality. Where we want to resonate at an emotional level with each other, with a well-measured level of sharing, beyond legality and morality, but at a level of human intimacy.

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There is a fantastic talk on the 99u site by Mark Eckō titled “Embrace the mess”

Mark Ecko

Entrepreneur, media mogul, and designer Marc Eckō tell us that, if we’re not careful, we can let others label us and define our career, robbing us of our natural potential. The solution?

 

Stand up for yourself!

 

Mark Ecko book Un-Label

It’s a great talk, one of those that I listen to second by second, making lots of notes almost leading into a full transcript of the talk. Somewhere halfway the talk, it seems there is a book about this by Mark Eckō titled “Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out”. I bought it right away after this talk. I have no credits for any of the ideas in this blog post. It’s just a transcript. It’s just some re-ordering of somebody else’s great ideas.

Mark Eckō has 3 messages for you:

  • Embrace the mess
  • Create wealth that matters
  • Be an Un-Label

Embrace the mess

The talk starts with the famous quote by Thomas Edison “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”

Edison genius

99% perspiration as if

 

You manage the PAIN of the grind

You embrace the RIGOR

Your hard work is THE HEART of genius

 

1% inspiration as if

 

Inspiration needs to be dosed carefully

Inspiration is ROMANTIC and perhaps distracting

And IDEATION can be a rabbit hole

 

You are so busy

You are so busy grinding

You are so busy perspiring

 

That perhaps we have forgotten to imagine

 

Are you’re an entrepreneur, or a creator and an artist?

 

Sometimes we think being an artist/creator

Is indulgent

Self-indulgent

 

About self-philosophical people

That get dressed in all black

Lean back

 

And get moody,

And self-loathing

 

Sloppy and right brained

 

Or maybe this is just not for you?

Maybe you loose some of that swag or that freedom?

 

Where when you were in second grade

You would just raise your hand and say:

 

YES! I am an artist!

 

Some think that this notion of creator/artist is divine

And we struggle with that

We believe there are a holy war between creative and art and commerce

 

This inhibits us in our relationship with our art

 

So I challenge you folks who don’t necessarily fancy themselves as artists

That just because you can not manipulate paint, sculpture or music

Doesn’t mean you should not problem solve like an artists

 

Learn to embrace the messiness of creation

Give yourself more than the 1%, chill-on the dosing, ok?

Create wealth that matters

 

Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t always tell the truth

 

We are obsessed with accounting,

Accounting for our money, our grades, our wins, losses, time, likes, followers, fucks, KPIs, the quarter, page views, etc

 

Count count count

 

Quit counting

 

Big data matters

But Being human even matters more

 

You can’t loose sight of the qualitative intent

 

Qualitative excellence cannot be hacked

 

Wealth that matters cannot be counted

 

Be an un-label

 

One used to say “perception is reality, you have to control the room”

 

But no,

 

Reality is reality

 

We try to give a taxonomy to everything

The perceived versions of ourselves

We focus on the outside only

Attempting to remain in fashion

Hopefully from value to the skin

Instead of skin to the world

 

Fash-ion: group of people acting together

Fas-cism: a way of organizing a society rules by dictatorial controls, a very harsh control or authority

 

The gospel of streetwear

 

All these gatekeepers in my office

 

A BLIV-IT

 

blivit

 

I was so busy to round off my edges

 

I was so busy assigning so much value to this 3rd party infrastructure, these gatekeepers,

 

Divergent ideas breed independence

 

I was looking for their approval

And letting me frustrate by this

 

When you ask for change

It is going to be with friction

It’s going to be work

Perhaps you going to ask for enemies

 

Apologising for your square edges does not make sense

 

Gatekeepers breed groupthink

 

How much energy in my life did/will I give to those gatekeepers?

 

Don’t loose sight of the GOAL-keepers

 

Who care more about what you are making

Even care about how you make them FEEL

 

When you refuse to be labeled

Suddenly you play by your own rules

Not theirs

 

When rules start to look like BLIV-IT s

Defy them

 

Measure yourself up to your own standards

 

Versus the gatekeepers’

Abstract and often irrelevant compliance metrics

 

Just saying:

There are some compliance standards

That are rather old

And not really relevant anymore

 

No one has a monopoly on validation

 

It’s about your body of work

 

The talk resonates strongly with me.

 

Because it resonates with who I am deep inside.

 

I feel like the artist/creator in his atelier below.

 

Fig_Sculpture_Fischl atelier

Thinking– Creating – Sensemaking.

 

The messy space of creators

Not the clean-desk policy of clerks

 

Away from the counting

The accounting

The efficiency

And making the numbers

 

And much closer to being human

Taking time

Let emerge

And creating uniqueness.

 

Without the GATE-keepers

But with the GOAL-keepers.

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Peter Thiel is always good for some controversy. Usually, I am a big fan of him, despite his libertarian opinions. But this time I have to disagree. Because it seems that he hates business suits, to a point that he does not want to invest on startup CEO wearing a suit. In Business Insider he says:

“Maybe we still would have avoided these bad investments if we had taken the time to evaluate each company’s technology in detail,” Thiel says in his book. “But the team insight — never invest in a tech CEO that wears a suit — got us to the truth a lot faster.”

But look at what he wears himself in that article!

Peter Thiel in Suite

Maybe it’s just a promotional stunt for Thiel’s new book, “Zero To One,” but even so, I believe it re-enforces polarization and avoids inclusion.

Indeed, what do vestimentairy aspects have to do with content? I even saw a post (hopefully jokingly) suggesting that at next FinTech innovation events no suites would be allowed. What a joke! I don’t think this works.

I am more and more convinced it is our responsibility to build bridges, and create inclusions instead of accentuating the differences.

I have heard similar vestimentairy comments about people within the FinTech innovation community saying things like: “he/she has not enough “streetcred” to be part of our community.”

What a crap, this whole “Streetcred” versus “Suites”!

The beauty is in the diversity and being able and willing to go beyond simplistic categorization of exclusion. Old world is about exclusion. New world is about inclusion. The new world is all about building bridges. About staying away from polarized positions. Because I believe the beauty is in between the extremes.

Somebody reacted to me: “but then you will end up with grey!” and I replied: “No, I don’t think so, I think we will end up with a rainbow of colours”.

At Innotribe Sibos 2014 in Boston (29 Sep – 2 Oct), our tagline is “Building Bridges”. In our facilitated sessions, we will use voting/scoring cards labeled “Ties” and “Tattoos”. But not to accentuate the differences, but to bring people together, help them understand each other’s point of view, and agreeing and documenting our intentions for progress.

The secret is in the inclusion of Ties and Tattoos

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Just found this awesome 27 min talk by Joi Ito on the 9 principles of open innovation. They are not that new – first version appeared in 2012 – but they seem to have matured, like good wine in well kept cellars. Almost every sentence he speaks is tweetable ;-)

To help me concentrate on the content, I usually make a lot of notes, and before knowing I almost made the transcript of this talk, so i can as well share my notes.

So, I have no credits on the content. I just did some mix and matching with some other material from others. Like Joi, I have been a DJ, and I have fun in mixing and weaving different themes into some form of new carpet. Highlights are mine.

joi ito

 

Joi Ito is Director of the MIT Media Lab and many other things (check out this Wikipedia page).

Here is the sort of transcript, more or less ordered around his 9 principles.

But in his intro, he says also loads of interesting things.

The MIT Media lab 30 years later: Media is plural for Medium, Medium is something in which you can express yourself. The Medium was hardware, screens, robots, etc. Now the medium is society, ecosystem, journalism,… Our work looks more like social science.

Before the Internet (BI) and Post the Internet (PI): Post the Internet, it is about participating responsibly in a system that you can’t predict and whose outcome to your intervention is almost random.

We are moving from “demo or die” to “deploy or die”. It just costs some “sweat equity” and some kids in a dorm room to get things done. Kids are competing with the incumbents. The innovation cost – the cost of trying something – went to nearly zero. Now you can innovate without asking permission, pushing innovation to the edges, and allow grassroots innovation.

Note: I believe “grassroots” innovation is very important in organizations. Last week I was on the judge panel of an internal innovation channel. I saw quite some things that our innovation team explored before, but never succeeded to get out there. With grassroots innovation, you have the buy-in from the fabric of the organization from day-1. It is very “swarmwise”.

Before, the guys who had the money had the power. Now, because the space of startups is so crowded, the VCs have to sell themselves.

Note: I heard something very similar recently in the context of innovation motivations: corporates looking for innovations have to sell themselves to startups.

Diminishing cost of innovation makes those having the money behave a little bit better. Who is thinking about those ideas that don’t start small? Thinking about it as a community. This is less about empowering the individual, more about empowering the community.

Note: “empowering the community”. Wow! Big ideas are usually shared ideas. In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the great Diego Miralles with his story of the Janssen Labs as a story of shared infrastructure. I believe the time is ripe – more than ever – for cooperative structures where we can form “coalitions of the willing” to solve the big community challenges.

Twitter was not a company, it was a feature. It only became useful when linked, when in a system. Can the ecosystem solve the big problems, a complex system with nobody really in charge? In stead of designing that one thing, in a system design is more like growing, giving birth to a child, you don’t know exactly where that child is going, it has your DNA, but hopefully turns into something that you are going to be proud of. Think of it like a gardener: the open internet is the water, the openness, the air that you need, and all of us are the organism that live in that system, to make this thing vibrant.

Then Joi started introducing and commenting some of the 9 principles.

A lot of people disagree with them, but I don’t care. I care about the arguments, I don’t care that they are disagreeing.

Joi Ito 9 Principles2

Pull over push

You pull from the network as you need it, rather than stocking it and centrally and control it. And agility is what comes out of that. If you have printing presses, and lines of code, and IP, those are all reasons not to shift course, to stick to your map, rather than the compass. All the things we think are assets are in fact liabilities, if you think about it from the perspective of agility.

Compasses over map

Often the map costs more to build than it is worth, because the complexity is so high and it is so unpredictable. Dependence on planning is a weakness.

Practice over theory

When I was looking for funding my first ISP, the investor spent 3M USD for consultants to advise not to invest 600K dollars. If it costs you more money to think about it than to do it, it’s better to do it. And if you do it, it turns out that you get a fact, not a theory. It is important to do things, especially if the cost of doing things is cheaper than talk about it. A lot of times it works in practice and not in theory, you can figure out the theory later. Most of the world deals with things that work in theory, but not in practice, and they try to discredit reality in order to fit with their theory. But “in theory” they say, “theory and practice are the same”

Disobedience over compliance

You don’t win a Nobel price by doing what you are told. You win a Nobel price by questioning authority and thinking for yourself. You want to build an organization that is resilient to disobedience

Emergence over authority

In communities, authority seems to be emergent. Open Source project leaders, tend to be somewhat quite people, with a lot of EQ, how are not naturally trying to grasp power, but end up in power because the followers (@petervan: I would say the fellowers) push them there. In an investment firm with a hierarchy that is based on function and title, you just need a stick to keep the troops aligned. But when you are in a system where you are paying to participate, then you want emerging authority.

Learning over education

Education is what people do to you, learning is what you do to yourself. About degrees and “finalizing my eduction”. I don’t want you to be at the media lab, because you want to get out.

Resilience over strength (part of the Q&A)

In stead of bulk-up and resist failure, invest the same money on recovery and resilience. You tend to try to minimize failure, rather than trying to work on resilience. It’s also kind of a Zen thing too. If you are extremely present and ready for anything, your are in an extremely resilient state. And it you are not present, you are always focused on the future, or the past, you try to build up walls and trying to make sure that you don’t get choved. And it is hard when you are surrounded by other planners in an institution like this (Knite Foundation) you tend to focus on structure, strength versus resilience, the structure vs this bounciness. Again on the Internet, a lot of the pieces are very resilient, when you are in an institution that uses a lot of planning; it is hard to create that interface

Also the Q&A part of this talk was interesting.

On how to share knowledge:

The conference model is a great system. A lot of people have experimented with ways to try to share knowledge, but it seems to be one of the hardest problems because everybody has a day-job, they are very busy, and people are talking sort of different languages, and when you are face to face you can coordinate your language in real-time

On how to you get people who are working on things coordinated?

At the Media Lab we have several approaches: we have this sort of big data, data mining, machine learning, predicting things through causalities and patterns vs something where people are more in charge and people are more active.

There is another version of this talk at TED talks:

The more I listen to Joi, the more I become aware that he is talking about leadership features to navigate our companies in this more then ever unpredictable fast moving world. It was a pure coincidence; right after Joi’s talk, I spotted this great post from John Maeda, about Creative Leaders versus Authoritative LeadersJohn Maeda was the President of the Rhode Island School of Design from 2008 to 2013. He is currently a Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

This chart represents a summary of the kind of creative leadership that is rising — and needed — in the face of our increasing interconnectedness due to global economies, mobile devices, and social media. In an age where anyone can “friend” the CEO, and where complexity and volatility are the only constants, what should leadership look like? I often say we are now operating within a “heterarchy” though I’ve also cleverly seen it called the “wirearchy.” In any case, it’s a world where I believe the natural perspective of artists and designers — who thrive in ambiguity, fail productively, and rebound naturally — will be become more and more useful in leadership contexts.

The chart was originally created for a workshop at the Davos World Economic Forum in 2009 and became the basis of my book Redesigning Leadership, written with Becky Bermont. In my own observation, there are authoritative leaders and creative leaders everywhere — it’s not something wholly determined by industry, generation, or position. And every leader will need, on any given day, a little bit of both types of leadership.

John Maeda principles

Makes me think about principles for Leadingship vs. Leadership. See also my post “The End of Leadership” of 1 ½ year ago. Like Joi’s talk makes us reflect on the openness of innovation, Maeda adds the openness of leadingship.

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Corporate Rebels United is a movement uniting innovation- and disruption-catalysts and instigators worldwide to ensure that true change happens virally from deep within the fabric of our organisations.

rebels mathias 1

The organisations we have in mind can be any size/form of organisation (Fortune 500 company, SME, NGO, non-profit, Network, Peer-to-Peer, Cell, System, Context) and we aim to be truly cross industry (industrial, tech, health, government, financial, pharmaceuticals,  educational, ….)

 

The Only Rule Is That There Are No Rules

 

We Trust That You Are REsponsible

 

We don’t do screening or certification of our activists: our movement is designed by and for trust in the first place. We welcome any inspired individual from any organisation that is subscribing to our manifesto and is willing to implement the 20 principles of our movement in the way that makes most sense in their individual and group context:

  • If You are a principal champion of a program or cause or action
  • If You do not wait for permission to lead, innovate, strategize
  • If You are Responsible, Do what is right
  • If You aim for Greatness, Healthy Fire, Worthiness
  • If You name things others don’t see yet
  • If You point to new horizons
  • If without You, the storyline never changes

Then Corporate Rebels United is something for You!

When we started in 2012 with Corporate Rebels United, we had no idea that 2 years later we would be a group of +/- 800 protagonists/instigators, from San-Francisco to New-Zealand and anything in between, truly cross-industry. Our web presence was sober: with the help of Mathias, we created a super simple one-page-HTML site with our Manifesto, and at the bottom of that page a simple “JOIN” button.

Manifesto Rebels Pic

The Manifesto (PDF available on the new site)

We also created a Facebook group, a Google+ Community, a LinkedIn Group and a Twitter account (@corprebels). Every day, one or more people joined, and shared suggestions. And we got some cool speaking opportunities at TEDx events and in some corporate environments.

End 2013, i got a mail from Nadja Petranovskaja from Hamburg asking:

 

“Are we going to DO something here?”

 

Indeed, although several folks already had set up a Local Chapter, and there was some good sharing going on in the online communities, i agreed with Nadja that we wanted to be more actionable. We wanted to be more than just another echo chamber of the Internet.

We connected via Skype, and had several hack sessions to prepare our action plan for 2014. As we have a great group of silent advisors, i suggested to Nadja that we’d have a call with them to do some sound boarding of our initial ideas. Not really to my surprise, that call ended up as a personal coaching call for myself. It was a period where i felt exhausted, mentally and physically tired. Anyway, the advice i got was to first create clarity for myself before messing around with the Corporate Rebels United movement.

I took some time off (a sort of mini-sabbatical), slowed myself down, did almost nothing, except reading a lot, taking my bicycle when sun was out, trying to stick to the plan of not having a plan. I was taking lots of notes and keeping some sort of journal – I think i have enough material for 50-60 blog posts or maybe a book, and will start gradually releasing the new material in the coming weeks/months.

In the meantime, Nadja and myself kept exchanging ideas, themes and action plans. Then, a couple of weeks ago, i decided to walk my talk, booked a cheap flight to Hamburg, and spent a hacking day with Nadja to lay the foundation for our new website and action plan. Some time before, i had asked several people for help with a basic WordPress site, but nobody really delivered. In Hamburg, we just started working on it, did some initial white-boarding and post-it hacking, and Nadja teached me some WordPress basics. In about half a day, we had our site up and running with some basic content, and Nadja had produced a nice PDF version of our Manifesto, a video illustration our first Hack, and an fantastic foldable flyer on our “I am Responsible” theme for 2014.

IMG_3567

Nadja working on the video for Hack#1

It was awesome. I went back home – completely energised – and worked out some details, created more content, polished a bit, and… here it is, the brand new site of Corporate Rebels United.

We still want to keep it relatively basic: our website is a quite straightforward WordPress site. It allows for basic collaboration where you can comment on every page and post. We added some forms to post ideas and artwork. Of course we are aware that more powerful collaboration tools exist such as Jive, Microsoft’s Yammer, Salesforce’s Chatter, SocialCast, Lithium, SocialText and many other Wiki environments. But before we move to one of those Rolls-Royces, we first want to test the appetite and needs of the Corporate Rebels as we go. In the meantime, we suggest we default to a couple of de-facto standards for online collaboration, without full integration within our website (See the tools section on our new site).

We hope that the new environment will encourages you to actually DO something.

And we made some suggestions:

  • Celebrations for the Corporate Rebel of the month
  • Helpers: there is a lot of creative power in the movement, so we decided to outsource some of the work for visual artists, creatives, PR people, etc
  • Hacks: not the heavy lifting work, but some small tips, tricks and practices to help you coming out of your protective shell, and make more powerful connections within and across your organisations.
  • Value Practices: we invite all Corporate Rebels to start forming small teams (“pods” as Dave Gray would say) to hack out Practices for Value Creation that can be shared inside and outside of our community as sources of inspiration, practice, and reflection.

Our main theme for 2014 is “I am Responsible”

I am responsible

We’d like to encourage you to be responsible human beings. Being a Corporate Rebel is NOT about kicking and screaming around like crazy. It is about daring to be great, about daring to step forward, about taking personal leadership.

It is about being responsible and actionable. Corporate Rebels are responsible for:

  • Themselves: their mental and physical well-being
  • The teams they belong to:
  • The organisations these teams belong to;
  • The ecosystems these organisations belong to;
  • The whole world these ecosystems belong to

Since the start we loved the idea of being a actionable group of people, not just a think-tank or an echo-chamber of the internet. With the new website, we try to create some conditions to enable online group collaboration, and to suggest some initiatives where everybody can apply his/her talents for the great cause for our movement: to make of our organisations places where people come alive!

Corporate Rebels United is a movement. It’s a culture, emerging from some specific behaviors. It’s a tribe of enthusiastic protagonists hungry for change. Positive change. Not an anarchist tribe, but a tribe of people who care for the companies they work for and want them to succeed in the 21st century of hyper-connectivity. Corporate Rebels United soul is about people taking agency, people stepping forward and taking responsibility, self-empowering themselves.

Corporate Rebels United is deeply value and purpose driven. We have an ambition for progress, looking forward. We fight mediocrity, and applaud critical thinking.

We invite you to join us and be part of our challenging journey.

Rebelliously Yours,

Petervan

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