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Archive for the ‘Corporate Values’ Category

Way back in 2010, I wrote a post “Let me entertain you” inspired by one of Robbie Williams’ biggest hits. Some extract of the lyrics below:

Hell is gone and heaven’s here
There’s nothing left for you to fear
Shake your arse come over here
Now scream
I’m a burning effigy
Of everything I used to be
You’re my rock of empathy, my dear
So come on let me entertain you
Let me entertain you

Lyrics of "Let me entertain you" - Robbie Williams

I have evolved since then. The title of this post is inspired by a quote by Brian Eno in an interview in December 2015 with Steven Johnson about art, music, punch lines, and culture in general I would say.

 

“I don’t want to be entertained,

I want to be provoked.”

 

 

 

Here is the video on punch lines.

When I first read that interview, there was no transcript, so I transcribed it all myself (so I did not cut and paste from the site, and everything in this post is my own crunching through the story ;-). Now it’s all for grabs on Steven’s post.

I think Eno’s quote could be a great tagline for the way I think about “events”. I could do my Magritte trick here again and say “Ceci n’est pas un event”. As I have said so many times in the past:

“I am not in the events business. I am in the business of creating high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning experiences”.

It’s about creating spaces and environments where people want to be provoked, not feeling comfortable, not being entertained. At the edge, but not beyond.

 

 

Exactly what architect Clive Wilkinson refers to in his talk “Designing The Theatre of Work”. There is indeed something (un)wise in this notion of “Theater of Work” or “Theatre of Change”. At min 11:30 of this video, he quotes:

“I don’t want people to feel comfortable, I want them to be provoked. I am not going to get great work out of people who are comfortable”

and also

“The architecture and the language of space is not something that is meant to make you go to sleep”

It’s only very recently that I realized the “creating high feedback loops and immersive learning thing” was only about the “how” and not about the “why” and “what” this is supposed to achieve.

I think I have a better hunch about that now: I believe it is about creating high quality change. Deep change. Not the Theatre of Change. Change that is in the first place based on high quality human alignment. Beyond the cognitive, and beyond the tactics of processes and governance. Beyond the illusion and entertainment of the innovation theatre.

I recently bumped into a colleague that is doing innovation work – or should I say theatre – for a big international automotive company. She was asked to give support in the design of a “disruption tour” that was organized for the members of the board in Silicon Valley.

I think we have all seen those disruption tours, where execs are flown into sunny California, get a week immersion, come back all excited as part of this elite club that got to see one or the other hotshot in the valley, and where the initial momentum ebbs away very quickly, usually already after two weeks, when we all go back to business as usual.

But the briefing for this tour was a bit different. She learned that the tour should not challenge any of the “what” and only focus on the “how”. So in other words: avoid in all circumstances that anything they will see and hear would challenge or disrupt their existing automotive strategy. What was asked for was “disruption without disrupting”. Or “Safe Innovation” as I read somewhere else this week.

In Hollywood this is called “entertainment”.

I kept delving in the Brian Eno’s story about entertainment vs. provocation, and found this audio ànd the transcript of the 27th Sep 2015 BBC John Peel Lectures with Brian Eno.

I am very much inspired by both Peel, who has this art of giving others “airplay” and Brian Eno, who really is a “curator d’excellence”, if you look back at what sort of magic mix of artists he brought together in his life, always remaining a “vanguard”, and his restless desire for discovering new places and more:

vanguard

“Vanguard” means forefront, advance guard, avant-garde. Has to do with seeing early signals, making sense of them. Not only seeing. Also building. Building something new. “World Building”.

World building, like the places children imagine. Like the emotional places where children imagine: who would not crave to be in that state all the time? In that sense, I believe my curation and events work is more and more about painting and architecting “states of mind”.

Happenstance that just this week @ribbonfarm had a fantastic post on this topic of “states of mind” titled “Productivity for precious snowflakes”

snowflakes

Two identical snowflakes, via NYT

He is talking about multi-finality (and not multi-tasking) and about the interest in the quality of the experience (and not the mere outcome), and about the source of creative being in the past.

It’s encouraging to realize that many of the states of mind we seek are not “out there” somewhere, to be hunted down and consumed. They are states of mind belonging to our past selves — we wouldn’t crave it if we had never experienced it. We have to go backwards and remember what we once knew, not forwards to some perfected version of ourselves. What would you pay to experience child-like wonder for a day? To watch Star Wars Episode IV for the first time again? To have the ability to snap your fingers at any time and see your writing, your painting, your app with the fresh eyes of a novice?

“Flexing our mental muscles” by imagining new worlds, and “when people synchronize themselves together”, says Eno.

He also introduces the topic of “exhaustion”. I will come back to the theme of exhaustion in another post, as I think it is key to the kind of problems we try to tackle today.

14th century

“We need ways to keep in synch, to keep coherent. That is what culture is doing for us.”

and

“Culture as a set of collective rituals to keep coherent, collective rituals that we are all engaged in”

book keeping together

Brian refers to the book “Keeping Together” by William Hardy. In that book, one of the most widely read and respected historians in America pursues the possibility that coordinated rhythmic movement – and the shared feelings it evokes – has been a powerful force in holding human groups together.

As an ex-DJ, I think my work is about creating rhythms. Architecting these “coordinated rhythmic movements and rituals” for “state of minds” and “states of intentions”.

Way beyond the entertainment. This is about “Creating scenius together”. Scenius is the talent of whole communities. Bringing them in contact with their talent, their potential.

“You simply can’t absorb this (change and exhaustion). You just have to do it collectively. Nobody’s going to be able to do it individually”.

These interviews with Brian Eno are from last year. Before Bowie sent us Lazarus and left us all alone on 10 Jan 2016.

 

 

My good friend Gary Thompson also leveraged Bowie’s death into an intimate and very inspiring blog post about “being provoked” and “being at a trailhead, at the start of a new year and being on a journey without a map”.

Tony Visconti, who produced several of Bowie’s albums, acclaimed Bowie’s visionary status.

“He always did what he wanted to do,” and “And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of art.”

Bowie and Eno are not entertainment. They are provoking art. Work becomes art. The essence of work is art.

“Art is everything

that you don’t have to do”

Brian Eno

At a reception earlier this week, I bumped into a friend who follows my blogs, tweets, and artwork.

She basically asked me “Quo Vadis, Peter?” and “What direction are you going with all this?” It’s a great question I am struggling with on an almost daily basis.

I will answer cryptically with the title of Otto Sharmer’s latest book “Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies”and with the last verse of Bowie’s Lazarus:

This way or no way
You know I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now, ain’t that just like me?

Oh, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh, I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me?

Enjoy!

 

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Is there really nothing else to talk about? The intensity of the hype is getting to a point where conference organizers put a blockchain session onto their program “just to get people in”, in many cases because they have nothing else valuable to say. So they sell hype instead of substance.

ceci no blockchain

Magritte’s painting, freely adapted by Petervan

 

You know when you are at the top of the hype-cycle, when the topic hits the WEF agenda as a cure for “The 4th Industrial Revolution”.

David Birch nailed it this week in Finextra when he wrote:

“It seems to me that in a relatively short time the word blockchain has become detached from its technological roots and from its location in the spectrum of shared ledger implementation options to become one of those almost generic chromewash terms, like “big data” or “cloud” (there is no cloud, remember, it’s just somebody else’s computer) to deliver a superficial veneer of futurism.”

path

In the “Path of least resistance” (Amazon Affiliates link), Robert Fritz says:

We live in an era of platitudes and mottos. Many of them are designed to manipulate people into action: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”. This one, popular in he late sixties and late seventies, was clever. No matter what you did, you were involved in the conflict. And if you happened not to be directly involved, you were the cause of the conflict

And later;

So many of the notions in human growth are filled with these kinds of conflict manipulation. I suppose it is considered good marketing. Create a perceived need in the prospective client. Encourage a sense of urgency. Make it seem as if there is no choice. But conflict manipulation has a structure that cannot lead to growth just to more extreme oscillation. Thus many of the people who attempt to cause change, often with real sincerity, do not change and do not grow. The structure of conflict manipulation does not support change.

Blockchain is nothing else than code that seems applicable in many use cases. Code is language. Code is culture. The only way to understand and learn code, culture or language is to practice it. That’s exactly what many of our institutions do, and i think that is great.

But let’s not confuse symptom and cause.

As already mentioned in my blog post on Magritte and The Ages of Machines, the image of the pipe is not a pipe. The picture of the pipe stands for the hype. The hype is not the real world, not the real pipe. The hype hides reality. What is it hiding?

It hides the underlying structural changes. Robert Fritz said :

“A change of underlying structure will lead to a change of behavior. Not your good intentions, your sincerity, your hopes, your goodness, or how much you care”

Structure drives behavior, and behavior drives culture.

The pendulum oscillates:

Capitalism > Postcapitalism

Platform Capitalism > Platform Co-operatism

Collaborative > Autonomous

Internet of Things > Interest of Things

But that underlying structural and hence cultural change is caused by ecological, social and spiritual divide (the three big divides in Otto Scharmer’s work).

That structural change becomes more and more visible in the evolution from centralized to de-centralized to fully distributed systems.

ottoFrom Otto Scharmer’s U.Lab

The above structural changes deeply impact our quality of attending, conversing, organizing and coordination.

These are the things we should discuss. How we participate, how we organize, how we coordinate, how we set norms and governance to tackle the three big divides.

On the governance and regulation of “centralized networks” and “distributed systems”, there was recently a great post by @nickgrossman GM of Union Square Ventures, referring to his great Regulation 2.0 Whitepaper

regulation 2.0

Figure by @nickgrossman

“This is a fundamentally different regulatory model than what we have in the real world. On the internet, the model is “go ahead and do — but we’ll track it and your reputation will be affected if you’re a bad actor”, whereas with real-world government, the model is more “get our permission first, then go do”. I’ve described this before as “regulation 1.0” vs. “regulation 2.0”

The point I am trying to make with this post is that the pipe is a big distraction for the real work that needs to be done.

The real work and our bigger themes of discussion should be (for example):

  • How to become better banks, better in the sense of better for the world
  • How to deal with the power shift resulting from the structural changes
  • How to move from platform capitalism to platform co-operatism
  • How we attend, converse, organize, and coordinate in this new medium

This is post-platform thinking. Where centralized networks (like Uber, AirBnB, etc) could/can/should get replaced by fully distributed P2P systems.

The market that can be addressed is huge. The frictions to be sorted out immense. This attracts entrepreneurship and investment.

But we risk having the same wet dream of freedom and self-realization as we had with the Internet.

In the end, powerful players stand up and try to control the market, trying to get a grip on it through monopolistic and hyper-libertarian behavior. Who will be the Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, Samsung, or Alibaba of this new monopolistic distributed nirvana?

The image of that pipe may create a big illusion of perceived freedom.

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This is my first post of the year, and I don’t believe I properly closed the previous year.

fleches bxl

Surreal traffic sign in Belgium

On the last day of 2015 I paid a visit to the Magritte Museum in Brussels. It was one of those surrealist days, when the Brussels mayor has just announced the cancellation of the new-year fireworks, and the city was still under terror alert level-3, meaning that a threat is “possible and likely.”

magritte logo

I was early – just before the opening of the museum – and the city had something unreal. The air was fresh, the light was bright, everything was peaceful, and mainly Japanese and American tourists were hanging around enjoying the square.

The entrance of the museum also was surreal: visitors now had to go through a x-ray scanner, like in airports. I am pretty sure the place must be full of CCTV cameras, whose output is possibly most of the time ignored by human or more advanced computer vision systems.

I think we are overreacting here, and that it will get worse. There is a big disconnect between the reality and the perceptions created. And it changes my behaviour. Already now, I notice how I change my behaviour when entering in surveyed territories like airports (and now also musea): I don’t try to look into the eyes of the guard, maybe I dress more conforming, become submissive, and become more careful in the wordings and subjects of my posts and tweets.

I have become submissive.

Luckily, the queue at the museum was not long yet, and I could shrug off the defeat and start enjoying the museum tour.

The Magritte museum is part of a the complex of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, located in the heart of Brussels at the Place Royale. It is housed in the neo-classical landmark Altenloh Hotel, superbly restored in 1984. I had visited the Royal Museums complex before, but never the wing where Magritte is hosted.

The main entrance of the museum is via a big elevator (the museum is spread over three floors, and the tour starts on the 3rd floor). I go quite frequently to an exhibition and one immediately notices when you are entering a league in its own right. This is an absolute world-class collection and museum, I recommend it to anybody who visits our city and has a couple of hours to spare.

“The museum’s multi-disciplinary collection is unrivalled. It contains more than 200 works consisting of oils on canvas, gouaches, drawings, sculptures and painted objects as well as advertising posters, musical scores, vintage photographs and films produced by the artist.”

magritte headshot

Headshot René Magritte

René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fall under the umbrella of surrealism. His work is known for challenging observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality. (from Wikipedia).

I believe that the skill to “challenge observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality” – in other words curating, creating, and making sense – is becoming more and more important is this age of rapid change, where shortcuts and platitudes are rather the norm, in stead of depth in our reflections about cultural change.

Robert Fritz said: “Structure determines behaviour, and behaviour drives culture”.

book marvelous clouds

In that context, I highly recommend the book “The Marvelous Clouds” by John Durham Peters, who starts where Marshall McLuhan left it in 1964 (that is now more that 50 years ago), when he coined the phrase “The Medium is the message” in his most widely known book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.

McLuhan proposed that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. He said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.

When I start playing and mixing with Fritz and McLuhan, I get to something like:

“The medium informs the structure,

Structure informs behaviour,

Behaviour informs culture”

A significant part of the structure we operate in is made of media. Media as in plural of medium.

The air is medium, water is medium, the Internet is medium.

But like Magritte, we are unaware how easily the medium can be tricked. Is what we see real, unreal, surreal, or pure illusion?

Check out this great post about Adversarial Machines by Sanim on how easy our machines can get fooled by adversarial robots.

“At the heart of many modern computer vision systems are Convolutional Neural Networks. On some vision tasks, CNNs have surpassed human performance. Industries such as Web-Services, Research, Transport, Medical, Manufacturing, Defence and Intelligence rely on them every day.”

And

“Adversarial Examples are a fascinating area of ongoing research. They highlight limitations of current systems and raise a number of interesting questions. While industries are racing to include visual intelligence systems in mission-critical infrastructure, looking at edge-cases and exploring solutions is a productive path. 

The discussion in that post – and especially the part on generating adversarial images and “mangas” – is fascinating. And should us make think very carefully how all this can be used and misused in a medium of networks, CCTV cameras, and online and offline surveillance.

airport

trump

In other words, the image of the reality is not the reality.

The map is not the territory (Alfred Korzybski in 1931), meaning:

  • A map may have a structure similar or dissimilar to the structure of the territory…
  • A map is not the territory.

In The Medium Is the MassageMarshall McLuhan expanded this argument to electronic media. Media representations, especially on screens, are abstractions; are virtual “extensions” of what our sensory channels, bodies, thinking and feeling do for us in real life (Source: Wikipedia)

Which brings us full circle back to our friend Magritte who hits the nail – or should I say pipe – in many of his paintings, the most famous work entitled The Treachery of Images, which consists of a drawing of a pipe with the caption, Ceci n’est pas une pipe (“This is not a pipe“).

pipe

The spirit if Magritte is still very much alive. In true surreal traditions, Belgians started posting pictures of cats during threat level-4 in November 2015.

cats

These are deeply human and intended reactions to ever more chaotic environments and media.

I believe it is very important to nurture these human intentions, and the arts of humor, surrealism, and deeper languages than pure digital representations of reality.

Yes, we are talking here about the language of art.

Brian Eno recently defined art as:

“Everything that you don’t have to do

In that spirit, I leave you with some quotes from Magritte. They are displayed across the three floors of the museum in the same typography of “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” All quotations are consolidated in a nice PDF that you can find on the museum’s website, with the original French version, and translations in Dutch, English, German and Spanish.

quotes

Many of the quotes are very powerful. Here a selection of my personal favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

I wish for real love, the impossible and the utopian. I fear knowledge of my exact limits.

To be surrealist is to banish the notion of ‘déjà vu’ and seek out the not yet seen. By this I mean this moment of clarity that no method can reveal.

The real value of art is measured by its capacity for liberating revelation.

Nothing is as strong a defense as love, which allows lovers to enter into an enchanted world perfectly formed for them and where they are protected admirably by isolation.

Rebellion is a reflex of the living man.

Liberty is the possibility of being and not the obligation to be

All that I desire is to be enriched by intensely exciting new thoughts

Please do share with me your intensely exciting new thoughts. Onwards for a fantastic 2016. Happy new year !

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From time to time, I am invited to give a keynote presentation. More and more i am adding multimedia elements to that: video, audio, even silence. This transmedia approach is also something that keeps inspiring me when doing my day job, where i am architect and content curator of “events”. I always say that i am not in the “events” business but in the business of creating high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning experiences. That’s quite a different ballgame.

Some fans believe that what I do with our flagship Innotribe@Sibos is where i put the bar. It is not.

It is my starting point.

I really would like to go much further in touching my audience at another, additional level than purely the cognitive level. That’s why i believe a multi-sensory, more intimate, even business romantic experience is needed.

That’s why i love so much the work of Tim Leberecht, here in a recent talk at TEDxIstanbul:

I strongly recommend you watch this talk for the full 18 minutes. And read the book it is based on.

Tim Leberecht, author of the book The Business Romantic and chief marketing officer of global design firm NBBJ and, worries that big data, algorithms, and self-tracking technologies are engineering the romance out of our lives. He argues that we can find and create more meaning, and even magic, by designing experiences that connect us with something greater than ourselves. He contends that we all long for moments that are powerful precisely because they are inexplicable, such as acts of collective generosity, random digressions, and exuberant passions, and even the beauty of losing control.

He is referring to “Unexpected moments of beauty, awe and wonders, the detours and digressions, the cracks of imperfection, that make a heart speed faster, adrenaline rush, moments in which we loose control, and fall in love with everything.”

When was the last moment in your professional life when you had an experience like that?

It seems that only the measured life is a good life. Optimized by algorithms. I don’t believe in that anymore. There must be something better, more intimate, more unique, more transient, less about scaling and optimizing.

There is another great new book by Matthew Crawford, called “The World Beyond Your Head: How to Flourish in an Age of Distraction”

World beyond your head

It’s not an easy read, but Oliver Burkeman from The Guardian reviews: “Crawford has a point … adverts are everywhere, so much so you have to pay to escape. There are real benefits to silence. No great book, or idea comes without a degree of silence. Independent thinking is not possible without it. Perhaps this is why so many corporations and institutions demand our attention – and why we should protect it Scotsman Incisive. It’s philosophy as an intervention in issues of the day.”

And The Chronicle of Higher Education raves: “The most cogent and incisive book of social criticism I’ve read in a long time: accessible, demanding, and rewarding. Reading it is like putting on a pair of perfectly suited prescription glasses after a long period of squinting one’s way through life”

The book describes the big disconnect between our agency (or the illusion of it, by seemingly being in control by clicking some buttons on an app) and the result of our agency, the work, the piece of craftsmanship, that piece of art.

That’s why i deeply refuse to see my work “as a job”. Work should equal meaning should equal passion should equal Art. The artist’s way…

That’s why i subscribed again to Art School last year, and i just registered again for the 2015-2016 season. Last year was about drawing, next year will be about painting.

IMG_4936

Own artwork @petervan 2015 - pencil on paper and some water diluted black chinese ink

That’s why i carved out some quality time for myself on Fridays, when i experiment with art, sound and poetry. And i installed a small studio in my atelier at home, with a MIDI keyboard attached to my Mac, running Garageband and Ableton Software. I also got myself a “Push”, a special hardware device to play music and create sound landscapes in Ableton.

Puch

So i started thinking about what it would take to evolve my presentations into some sort of performance, where i only use my own artwork, my own self-composed sound landscapes and my self-written poetry. And do it LIVE! Standing in full vulnerability.

And what would a trailer for such a live performance look like? Here is a little experiment… The trailer is just an existing iMovie template tweaked with my own artwork.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/132009275″>The Spooky World of @Petervan</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user29570471″>Peter Vander Auwer</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I showed it to some friends, and i was surprised how much a little thingie like this can create emotional reactions. Somebody else wanted me to do some commissioned work to create an immersive learning performance for a marketing event in 2016. Yet somebody else wants me to completely re-invent their executive off-sites to move them away from the boring flipcharts, whiteboards, post-its, scribing, and gamification tricks. And move them into deep intimate and almost zen-like retreats with tailer made, unique and transient multi-sensory experiences to create high quality connections of human beings on a mission for genuine and positive impact.

All these formats create a new type of scarcity, experiences that we can’t fully posses, experiences that don’t last, experiences that we don’t fully comprehend. They restore friction and doubt in a world of certainty, knowledge, and seamlessness-ness.

Formats where it is not about rapid prototyping, nor about fast iteration tracks to find a solution for a problem. We have to get out of problem solving mode. We already do that the whole year long. I believe we are hungry for a higher quality of being truly present. What Tim Leberecht calls:

“Being Thickly Present”

Maybe i am onto something that may lead to another level of awareness and articulation of corporate narratives beyond the hollow mission statements. Entering a new age of enchantment, in search for something bigger and more valuable than all that what can be measured. The beauty of things that don’t scale. Beauty keeps on chasing me. I wrote about it in “Confused by Beauty” and “The Battle for Beauty” featuring once more The Business Romantic.

What do you think? Let’s have a conversation ;-)

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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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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.

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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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