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Collection of artworks from my fellow students of the 2016 Art class

My good friend Alan Moore (@alansmlxl) from the flatlands of Cambridge recently published a great book on “Why beauty is key to everything” (Amazon Affiliates link).

Alan Moore book

It’s a great book, and as a teaser, here are some of my highlights out of the book:

Harmony, symmetry and maths all point to this atomic elegance.

A job well done is not based upon watching the clock or fighting time – but in giving oneself to the task

Their work transformed common objects into works of uncommon grace

I believe great work comes from a place of stillness where one’s focus is total on the action in hand, directed fully by the heart.

We need to open our senses to all that surrounds us

To be and to remain deeply intensely curious about our world is vital to original thinking, whereas the incurious face a rather dim future. To have a hungry heart and mind determines what it is we create

The interface with design is humanity

I don’t need to draw conclusions, I am happy for the thoughts to be half-formed but present

Do not work with people who don’t want beautiful, who wish to cut corners to increase profitability. Who, more dangerously, bring neither elegance nor grace to their work and their working environment, but the opposite.

The danger for the leader comes if you cannot truly love yourself. If you are at war with yourself then you will be unable to lead others with empathy and compassion. You may pretend – but you will always be found out

If you want more of this, Alan is organising on 27 Sep 2016 a workshop in London around the idea of, what would your business look like were it to be more beautiful?

Why should you come? You might be stuck in working out what direction to go in. Or seeking a more inspiring vision. Or trying to find new ways to make money. Or working out what your new technology can truly give to the world. You might be launching a precious new business, or working to rebuild an old one. Or a thousand other things besides. We will help you to:

  • See your work through a new lens
  • Get to grips with beautiful ways of making your business work better
  • Understand the value of beauty in designing experiences
  • See how beauty and utility can work together for success
  • Understand how great design is about the quality of your thinking, not the size of your wallet.

The gathering in a beautiful old church in Bishopsgate, London.  A remarkable space in the centre of skyscrapers.

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I read the book, and if the workshop is as good as the book, I strongly recommend it. More info about the event here. Enjoy

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End February, i had the opportunity to attend the “Socratic Design Workshop” in Cadaqués, 1 hour drive north of Barcelona, Spain.

From the Socrates website:

Socratic Design is a new learning method, incubating the generation of the best human future narratives by realising collective wisdom through the art of dialogue.

The exponential technological revolution cannot be incorporated in the old narratives build on coal and steel ideas. Centrality, hierarchy, ownership, secret information and monopolies are no longer guarded in this new tech culture.

The exponential technology era challenges our human creativity in an unseen way. We can only approach this huge potential of power with next level humanity awareness.

We need to reflect profoundly on our values, on our strong and weak points and above all on our implicit and hidden dreams of a human good life; safeguarded in hundreds years of literature, philosophy, human experiences, religions and other narratives.

We can only perform this if we leave behind our old school atomic thinking, using the strength of intense socratic dialogue, using personal experiences, reaching collective intelligence to jump into new frontier of thinking: exponential humanity.

One of the first exercises was to describe your “perfect day” ten years from now. That exercise was more confronting than i thought at first sight. Here is what i came up with. I deleted the detailed daily hour-by-hour agenda of the perfect day, in order not to bother you with too much tactical detail.

 

In 10 years time…

I will almost be 70

My wife almost 60

My daughter almost 20

Our parents will be gone

 

I have become a full time artist – creator – sensemaker

I sell my art, creations, sense-makings, and curations

I curate, selectively, choose my clients/guests

I only select/accept commissions that meet my quality standards of intention and intensity and ethics

 

I am connecting with the experts, the musicians, and artists of all kinds, to bring out the very best in them. I love to work & live with them, to show personal intent and integrity, so that others want to join my projects too.

 

My work has given room to a Foundation for better work (essence of work and deep change)

My work leads to delight, enjoyment, joy, pleasance, elegance, and maybe epicurism.

 

Enjoying the silence of the house and the morning

Writing, researching, and sense-making

Creating, scripting, painting, making sound- and word-scapes

Performing, Architecting rythms and connections

Good food and wine

Family time

Reading and sleeping

 

I am completely disconnected

Only take mails if announced by phone

My mobile can only take calls and sms

I have stopped tweeting, FB-ing,

Enjoying the physical and emotional silence

 

What I do does not scale

I focus on uniqueness, excellence

The beauty is in the perfection

 

I live in another house, with plenty of space, and annex atelier, maybe art gallery

On the country side, the humid heavy earth of Flanders,

Or in Spain, Toledo, Sevilla, in the middle of the heat of the plain fields

The crack in me, Dries van Noten, the tones of a Spanish Guitar, the dry hot summer heat and the shadow and olive trees

 

I have become a hermit

Nothing should or must

There is no time pressure whatsoever

I am in flow

Nothing needs to be proven

 

I am freed from desire

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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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Every now and then, we are reminded that life is not eternal. I am typing this during a lazy Sunday afternoon: the first real day of spring after a way too long winter. Yesterday, it was still cold, windy and humid: i was attending the funeral of my uncle Gustave who passed away at the age of 82 after a long disease.

Death, birth and marriage are probably the only occasions i come into a church. Like at the funeral of my uncle Roger, the holy mass was sober, simple, and bringing back plenty of memories of my childhood.

gustave

My uncle Gustave was bold. He was about one head smaller than me. I remember how we had fun every time we met and I bended forward to kiss him hello on his bold forehead.

Gustave was a man of “Joie de vivre”, liked a good glass of wine or spirit, and could enjoy from time to time a good quality cigar. He got in love with France, Paris, the French Riviera, the Cote d’Azur, the big French chansonniers in the 60’ies. It was therefore no coincidence that his goodbye included this classic from Joe Dassin “Et si tu n”existais pas” (subtitles in French and English in below video)

I started dreaming away to this “Vive la Fête” and “Vive la Vie” crazy period. And could lively remember the scandal atmosphere of Saint-Tropez, Brigitte Bardot, Serge Gainsbourg, many others…

brigitte_bardot_medium map.of.riviera serge gainsbourg and brigitte bardot

Every of these memories reminds me that we only live once, and we should remember every day the “Carpe Diem” mantra. We plan and live as if there never comes an end to it. Until we are hit by a disease, accident, or one of our loved ones passes away.

But we should not wait until mourning knocks on our door. Every moment can be one of wonder and marvel. Even in the darkest winter times.

My 7 year old daughter reminds me everyday of the sparkling discoveries of life. She starts to play with words, at times feeling like poetry. Just a couple of weeks ago, winter had created a thick snow carpet in our garden; it was a bright sunny day, blue sky. She looked out of the window with he clear brown eyes, and whispered softly: “Look daddy, it’s white summer”. Wow! White Summer…

white summer

Seeing the white summer through darkness. I would like to be in that state of wonder every single moment of my life. Remind me when i don’t. It’s probably the best tribute to my uncle Gustave.

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We are having some fantastic spring weather here in Belgium. Almost summer time with blue skies and temperatures of 25° C. But it is still spring. End April 2011.

On top of it, I took some days off during this week. I am usually very lucky when planning my days off: the weather gods are with me. So a good-weather forecast may be to check my calendar.

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However, this blog is about some of my strong up-downs during this week.

Earlier this week, there was something work-related that really made me very angry. But angry like in furious, raging, rabid. I could – and did – slam doors and that sort of stuff. Not really a proof of emotional intelligence, but anyway. I am not aware, present when I am in this state.

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And afterwards, I always try to spot what triggered this emotion, what need was not fulfilled, what request I can make to the person triggering all this. What made me awake/aware was a remark from my 5 year old daughter.

She saw I was angry and said:

 

“Daddy, first you have to calm down”

 

My wife told me this was something little Astrid picked up watching the television program Ni Hoa, Kai-Lan, a children’s television show. There is a great section about social-emotional learning.

 

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My daughter is such a source of authenticity. I envy her openness to the world. Always curious, discovering, eyes wide open, giggling through every day. Where have we adults lost that feeling ?

Which experiences in life made me suspicious?

Where did I lose myself in personal drama?

Why is that ugly ego-monster visiting me so often?

What happened?

The angriness is now over, I have internalized what happened, and have mentally forgiven the author of the crime. And for this blog story, it is absolutely irrelevant who and what caused the emotion.

I just want to contrast it with my feeling yesterday, which almost presented itself to me as a perfect day.

Our little daughter was on holidays (this is not the reason why it was a perfect day) on the farm with my parents in law.

So the house was – everything compared – quite silent that morning. I went out for getting some fresh bread for breakfast. Wow ! The sky was already as blue as it could get, and I could smell the last drops of dew on the grass and the leaves. There is also a great sense of purity in the early mornings: not only smell, but also silence, and a general sense of peace.

 

A bit the same purity

as my daughter.

 

Back home, the smell of freshly baked bread, the toaster, fresh strong coffee, the soft light, the Sunday-lazy flipping through some papers and magazines, made it a start of what one usually experiences in a luxury hotel at some exotic destination.

But this was home

 

The day continued with some further hanging around, some contemplating, some shopping (bought a new grid for the BBQ), and then later in the day a nice bike ride or 2 hours. Really relax ride, not forcing anything, enjoying the soft warmth of the sun on my skin, and wandering and wondering around the landscape with all trees, and leaves, and plants in their freshest brightest spring green.

By the time I got home, it was about time to light the barbeque.

My barbeque is a very simple one. Not any fancy one. Just some charcoal and my brand new barbeque grid.

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All the time, no rush.

First surprise my wife with a glass of cool sparkling wine. She was relaxing in the lounge, enjoying the soft evening sunshine. I said to her: “hey there, listen”. She asked me “to what?”.

I just wanted her to listen to the silence of birds, the crackling fire, some far away farmer on his tractor, an airliner at 33,000 feet tracking its stripes in the sky.

 

She laughed and said

the sun was feeling

like a soft and pleasant shower

of light and warmth

 

The menu was super simple. I am getting here is some minimalist mode. Just a nice piece of loin, well-seasoned with some salt and black pepper, and rubbed in some fine virgin olive oil. I served it with really fresh salad and tomatoes from the garden, some boiled eggs. And last not least – and this may sound arrogant – my world best French fries. All cooked to perfection. The pepper, salt, olive oil on the table under the parasol. A really good bottle of Spanish Rioja, in promotion at 4€/bottle and very good.

After dinner – fully satisfied – laid down myself in the lounge having a cigarette and a last glass of wine.

A little bit of heaven, I said to myself. I made a note, and put it next to my pc to write a blog the next morning.

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Update: just minutes after posting by blog, it was announced that Jack IS back at Twitter, now as “Executive Chairman”. Check-out the news everywhere or here at ReadWriteWeb.

I am getting so inspired by the fabulous Jack Dorsey from Square. Watch this video and the full transcript on Techcrunch. Read David Kirkpatrick’s article in Vanity Fair with the title “Twitter Was Act One”

He makes me think of Liam Gallagher from Oasis. He has something “very British”. He is stylish. The same arrogance. The same pureness. The same design and drive for perfection. And skimming down until only the essence is left over.

 

One comment reads: “you know what ? Maybe it’s too sounding like the beatles or John Lennon (that was my first reaction). But as a great beatles fan, i’m just glad to see some guys carrying the torch and able to do great music”

 

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And have you seen the interview over the week-end (I think it was BBC) with Liam as part of the launch of the new post-Oasis band Beady Eye ? It seems that the voice of Liam was recorded without any effect, no echo, nothing (not the case in above video).

 

Pure

The essence

The minimalism of Twitter

 

Which brings us back to Jack. I believe Jack is the John Lennon of Payments. That Square means for payments what The Beatles mean for music.

Back to the video.

 

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Some quotes from the different articles and transcripts, to get you a good idea how genius this guy is.

  • “Little Jack Dorsey was obsessed with maps of cities”. Read my recent posts and thinking about the connected economy, the connected company, the connected team and the connected value. They happen also to be the big trusts for our Innotribe at Sibos 2011 in Toronto, later this year
  • he studied for a year to become a certified massage therapist (Martine will love this)

 

“Payment is another form of communication,” he says, “but it’s never been treated as such. It’s never been designed. It’s never felt magical. We’re the only payments company in the world that’s concerned with design,”

  • So the architects designed this gorgeous bridge, but the problem with the Golden Gate is that this is an extremely tumultuous area, if you’ve ever sailed through this or taken a boat through this, the waves are immense. Or surfed through it, which is more dangerous. It’s a disaster, I mean all the weather of the Bay is being forced through this one single point. So, all these elements create this perfect storm of turbulence. It’s extremely deep in the middle and it’s an epic span, so this was not an easy challenge.
  • And a lot of people think of design, when they hear the word design as visual, something that looks pretty.

 

Design is not just visual, design is

efficiency

Design is making something simple

Design is epic

Design is making it easy for a user to

get from point A to point B

 

Reliability is a feature. This is what Brian said earlier, availability, reliability, and staying up, that’s a feature and that’s a product, and it has to be well-designed and thought after and considered, and that’s what we’re doing.

I think I’m just an editor, and I think every CEO is an editor. I think every leader in any company is an editor. Taking all of these ideas and you’re editing them down to one cohesive story, and in my case, my job is to edit the team, so we have a great team that can produce the great work and that means bringing people on and in some cases having to let people go.

This is the bridge I want to cross. [Shows Golden Gate]

 

This is how I want to arrive at a destination:

 

This is classy

This is limitless

This is inspiring

This is gorgeous

 

My dream is to have him at Innotribe Mumbai, where we’ll talk and discuss about Mobile Payments, connecting the un-banked and financial inclusion.

Would really like to hear Jack’s view on design and perfection for that.

Bring Jack Back. To be classy, limitless, inspiring and gorgeous.

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