Archive for the ‘Enjoy’ Category


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




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.


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”


beadyeye1stpiconline (1)


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).



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.




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


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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SOFA stands for SWIFT Operational Forum Americas, a yearly event targeted at a typical operational audience. This year’s SOFA is on 8-9 March 2011 in NYC. The theme for SOFA 2011 is “Defining the next generation of financial services”.


marriot marquis NY


Innotribe is SWIFT’s innovation initiative. Innotribe’s mission is ‘Enabling Collaborative Innovation’. Part of our activities includes events: existing SWIFT events like Sibos and SOFA, third party events like CPA in Canada and EPCA in Europe last year. It usually translated into a “special” session, with lots of professionally facilitated interactivity.




With Innotribe events we have the ambition to “unpack” stereotypes, myths and hypes. These Innotribe Events are an energizing mix of education, perspective, collaboration and facilitation. Our success factors for this new type event are organized along the following three axes of “opening-up” our traditional ecosystem: audience, content and brand recognition.

So, what’s up at SOFA this year ? We have two things going on:

  • At the end of day-1, yours truly will give the presentation “How to make babies” a strong metaphor for SWIFT’s Innovation Framework. Prezi version of this presentation is here. Tip: set sound “on”
  • At the end of day-2, our innovation team will animate a Special Session “The New Thinkers”

Building on the Innotribe @ Sibos tradition of exploring “Tectonic Shifts”, this Special Session will be an energizing mix of education, new perspectives, collaboration and facilitation.

Our goal is to stimulate the generation of new ideas by bringing together a powerful mixture of audience members and by enabling freedom of discussion – allowing the conversation to take the participants into any and all areas that open up on the day.


We believe strongly in the potential

of unexpected encounters,

and the magic that can happen

when people from

different background

are brought together


So the innovators and change agents of our industry will be invited to join the SOFA audience (and also to join us in Toronto for Sibos 2011 in September), and we hope this will foster exciting new discussions between them and the traditional SOFA attendees.


skyscraper lunch


Ideas do not typically come out of the blue. Rather, they are usually variations of existing ideas. Sometimes, simply looking at a familiar idea from a different perspective can spark a new idea or the combination of existing ideas to achieve new goals and create radically different value propositions. All the topics we propose to discuss during this Innotribe Special Session at SOFA are also potential subjects to explore in Toronto – but we are looking for your feedback to tell us if these are the right ideas to stimulate your creative thinking!

Presentations from five great modern thinkers will culminate in an interactive exchange between the SOFA audience and the speakers, led by Innotribe facilitation champ Mariela Atanassova. The audience will be able to drive the discussion according to the themes that most interest them – ensuring everyone will have an opportunity to collaborate in the innovation we hope this session will stimulate.

Here are The new thinkers:

Venessa Miemis
(http://emergentbydesign.com/about/): Free agent, Master in Media Studies at the New School, NYC, futurist and digital ethnographer, researching the impacts of social technologies on society and culture and designing systems to facilitate innovation and the evolution of consciousness. Venessa will update us on The Future of Money project (world premiere at Sibos 2010) and The Future of Facebook, a new research project sponsored by Innotribe as Corporate Patron.




Douglas Rushkoff (http://rushkoff.com/bio/): thought leader and provocateur. Author of best selling books Cyberia : Life in the Trenches of HyperspaceLife, Inc, and Program or be Programmed (all Amazon Affiliate links). Doug will give a talk about New Capitalism, and introduce his latest project on a Summit he is organizing in NYC on 20 October 2011 called “Contact”. Contact Summit will seek to explore and realize the greater promise of social media to promote new forms of culture, commerce, collective action and creativity.




Brian Zisk: organizer of the Future of Money & Technology Summit in San-Francisco (www.futureofmoney.com). Brian will summarise the findings of the Summit that took place on 28 Feb 2011. Psssst ! If you still want to go to Brian’s event, go the the registration page at ttp://futureofmoney.eventbrite.com/ and use the discount code “Innotribe”.




Stowe Boyd (http://www.stoweboyd.com/ ): probably THE authority on Social media, Stowe is a Social Philosopher and Webthropologist from NY. His work focuses on social tools and their impact on media, business, and society. In 2011, Stowe is focused on a new line of research: Social Cognition. This research is co-sponsored by Innotribe, and we hope to share the final results at Sibos 2011 in Toronto.




Kevin Slavin (http://about.me/slavin): also from NY, Kevin is founder of AreaCodeInc (recently acquired by Zygna, the undisputed leader of Social Games). Kevin will talk about the New Future and “Those algorithms that govern our lives” – including our personal finances!




(picture from Dave Gray’s blog)

For the interactive part, we will organise the session around the organic growth aspects of cities. I have written about this before in my post “How to make babies”, and recently there was a fantastic post by Dave Gray on “The Connected Company”.  We invited Dave to SOFA as well, but he unfortunately could not make it.

Dave’s post is a fantastic post – and as far as I am concerned – one of those game changing post already for 2011, and I will definitely come back to it later.

Dave for example says:

And today, thanks to social technologies, we finally have the tools to manage companies like the complex organisms they are. Social Business Design is design for companies that are made out of people. It’s design for complexity, for productivity, and for longevity. It’s not design by division but design by connection.

He is also author of “Gamestorming, A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebrakers, and Changemakers” (Amazon Associate Link)



Looks like the book is very much about the principles that our team applies for interactive session design.

And gamestorming

is exactly what we’re going to do


during this special session


What: Innotribe Special Session at SOFA 2011, NYC

When: From 2-5 pm on 9 March 2011 at SOFA (http://www.swift.com/events/2011/SOFA/index.page

Location: Marriott Marquis, Broadway, NYC

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In September this year, I was attending the BIF-6 Summit, in Providence, RI.

Why only report about it now ? Because they finally released the videos of the stories that were told at this year’s edition of BIF.

Next year’s edition BIF-7 dates will be 21-22 Sep 2011, unfortunately the same week as Sibos 2011 in Toronto. Wonder if we can not do something together with BIF that week at Sibos, if only sharing some of the 2011 speakers? I will give a call to Saul Kaplan. Look at the confirmed dream-list of already confirmed speakers: Danah Boyd, Lisa Gansky, John Hagel, Dan Pink, etc. Wow ! What a start, and still almost a year to go!

From this year’s edition, I suggest you take some time to go through my personal top-5:

Absolute topper, world-class, inspiring, moving, energizing, whatever talk came from Keith Yamashita.

Is it really worth daring to be great?

SY Partners chairman Keith Yamashita dares us all in this moving video story crafted as a metaphor from the Charles and Ray Eames video “Powers of Ten.” It’s a remarkable tale that reminds us that the future is here for us to create and it starts one collaborative duo at a time.

It’s worth every of it’s 25 minutes, and it’s a fantastic story about how “twins” in teams are the fuel of great teams.

  • It’s about doing great things like landing the Eagle in the moon, and “turning a bunch of folks blue” back home
  • It’s about having the house full of diagrams
  • It’s about when you start to believe that anything is possible
  • It’s about kids being born with greatness
  • It’s about being fully aware and fully alive
  • Trusting so deeply you can create together remarkable things
  • Duo-ships are about great invitations
  • Going actively after the status quo
  • About systems thinking + creativity
  • Building different type of organizations
  • That there is a better optimum than just the first choice
  • About having deep conversations on how to get smarter
  • To tackle things at a societal level
  • About finite/infinite resource and infinite/no possibility
  • About “then” (pre-crash), and “tomorrow”: finite resource + infinite possibility


About saying

“I trust you implicitly

to do a brilliant job,

and come back

with what  you learned”



Ending the tyranny

of false trade-offs


Who is Keith Yamashita ? All the quoted text below comes straight from the BIF site, but I have added my usual color and typographic emphasis:


When Keith Yamashita looks at the world, he sees complexity—a beautiful and rich one, if we can visualize our place within it.

As chairman of SYPartners , a consultancy that has worked with leaders at IBM, Apple, Facebook, Target, Blackstone, Target Financial Services, Bloomberg, Starbucks and The Coca-Cola Company, Yamashita is a master at helping people define themselves against the backdrop of a profoundly shifting business landscape. The task requires tremendous empathy, he says, a singular understanding of what clients need and want.

“The biggest fallacy of business is that it’s only rational,” he says. “All business is personal and all business is human.” Yamashita is intensely curious about what makes people tick. Who are they? What are their deep aspirations? What do they need to be successful? What’s holding them back?





The human component of consulting goes deep. “We hope for people what they wish for themselves,” Yamashita says. “I’d like to think that when we show up in a room, we authentically care about the people in that room and that they sense that.”

Still, it is not enough to simply identify a dream, Yamashita tells his clients. The only way to stand out is to be fully aware of how you fit into a wider spectrum, to figure out what unique part you play, given the circumstances around you.

“Because we live in a world that is more interconnected than it’s ever been, we are particularly susceptible to the dynamics at play,” Yamashita says. “People feel overwhelmed—it’s a natural outcome of the world we live in. There are more systems problems that require creativity than there are creative people in the world.”

To minimize the potential fallout from system shifts and to maximize the positive impact we can have on the world, Yamashita urges a return to authenticity. He says it’s a question of unlearning bad habits and relearning what comes naturally:

I do believe

that people enter this world

with a certain amount of


So many people,

through the pressures

of society

or the way we’re educated,

unlearn that greatness.

They fritter it away.

They start limiting themselves.

It’s really about

reclaiming that greatness

people learning about

how to be just themselves,

fully alive and aware.”


The positive exponential effect of all this self-awareness arises when individuals begin working together. Yamashita encourages his clients to build “powerful duo relationships” that require one of the trickiest human emotions: trust. “The duo is the smallest atomic unit where trust is built,” he points out. “If there’s only two people, you can’t shovel blame.”

With competent, self-aware individuals who relate to others on the basis of that trust, an organization has the potential to expand by the power of ten, just as in the Eames film. Zooming out, Yamashita sees a universe where companies design their own destinies by connecting purposefully to a wider array of players in order to work on a tougher set of problems.

Other remarkable stories came from:

  • John Hagel, with an even more personal version of his Sibos2010 talk on “The Power of Pull” and the role of passion in high-performance organizations,
  • Carmen Medina, on how one can innovate in a conservative castle like the CIA,
  • Jigar Shah, talking about scale in our Global Warming initiatives, and why everybody buying a Prius is really a drop in the ocean.
  • Kim Scheinberg (no video available yet), who also was interviewed in the FutureofMoney video. She’s an ex-gambler and now a new wave angel investor,
  • Gerard van Grinsven, (no video available yet), a former Ritz-Carlton executive, who became CEO of a hospital where it is all about health-care and not sick-care.

All these speakers indeed confirm, inspire and motivate it is really worth daring to be great.

That it is worth everyday to re-question yourself, and there to re-invent yourself to keep the greatness-bar high, very high.


And greatness is

not good enough anymore.


A program is not good enough anymore. What we need is an agenda.

“For a better world” for example.


Idealistic? Maybe.


Ambitious? Sure.


It is so easy to copy-cat last year’s success formula. But it does not satisfy myself. I believe you – readers, followers, innotribers – you expect more. You want us to surprise you, year after year.

I hope these principles will also guide us when articulating our Innotribe 2011 initiatives.

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UPDATE: the Prezi version of the SOFA presentation mentioned at the end of this post is now available here.




Sibos 2010 is over! It was one of the best ever. After that week I felt completely exhausted. Empty. Because I gave my full self. Went deep. Gave and received loads of energy.

This week, it’s time for reflection. For chilling-out. Took some days off: late breakfast, some power naps. A walk here and there. Still lots of reading. Lots of tinkering. Some up-moments, some down-moments. Flowing.

And the future starts to emerge again.

Soon we have to go back to the salt-mine. Soon the treadmill starts all over again. But it does not have to be a copy-cat.

Soon we have SOFE (SWIFT’s Operations Forum Europe), running from 13-15 December 2010 in Conference Center “Dolce” in our home town La Hulpe (close to Brussels).

I have been asked to organize the Innovation Plenary on 14 December. So, here we go again!

Sean Park from the Anthemis Group will be there as well.

He was one of our VC-coaches and Innotribe Leaders for Cloud at Sibos. He will do a keynote during the plenary (a great Prezi presentation on “Platforms, Markets, and Bytes”) and a viewing of his trailer video on “Financial Reformation”. And he will help us run an Innotribe Lab on Cloud computing. Yammy !

Also for me it’s a great opportunity to refresh/reboot. I will do the second part of the innovation plenary armed with


a brand new presentation titled

 “How to make babies”


It will be one of those presentations that have been breeding in my head from some while, and suddenly materialize. Like a painting on a canvas. Like poetry on a sheet of paper. Like joy and harmony in music. Suddenly, it’s there!




“How to make babies” will bring together numerous thoughts collected during many conferences visited this year and ideas distilled from the books I have been reading recently. If you are interested in the books I am reading, I am inviting you to subscribe to my GoodReads.

In essence my story will start with the collision of two ideas.

The first idea was seeded in my brain by Geoffrey West (Distinguished Professor at the The Santa Fe Institute) in a presentation titled “The Secrets of Scale” delivered during the Techonomy conference in June of this year.



Geoffrey West is a theoretical physicist whose primary interests include elementary particles and their cosmological implications; the theory of companies, cities and global sustainability; and biology, including metabolism, aging and sleep. He served as the Santa Fe Institute’s (SFI) President from 2005 to 2009.

It happens that the folks at Techonomy just put up all the videos, including Geoffrey West’s presentation:

It also happens to be the story that opens chapter one of one of the latest books that made a great impression on me: “Where Good Ideas Come From” by Steven Johnston.


At Sibos, we reflected on the Long Now. In the first chapter of “where ideas come from”, Steven Johnson talks about that vantage point the long zoom.

It can be imagined as a kind of hourglass:



Several years ago, the theoretical physicist Geoffrey West decided to investigate whether Kleiber’s law applied to one of life’s largest creations: the superorganisms of human-built cities


the quarter-power law governing innovation was positive, not negative. A city that was ten times larger than its neighbor wasn’t ten times more innovative; it was seventeen times more innovative. A metropolis fifty times bigger than a town was 130 times more innovative.

The essence of Geoffrey West’s story is that cities are intensities. That cities never die. That cities are the ideal womb for idea generation, incubation and execution. That innovation scales differently than the size of the city.



the information and the ideas

flow freely and in high intensity.


But how does one create a culture of intensity, of innovation? How does one create the vibrancies of cities within the walls of a castle?

Here is some additional video material featuring Steven Johnson’s ‘”Where do ideas come from”.

And a TED talk on the same subject:


It brings me to the second idea in the collision: the one of incubators.


Incubators at the Maternity Hospital, Port Royal, Paris (Maternité de Paris, Port-Royal). An engraving by Eugene Froment (1844-1900) from the Illustrated London News, 1884.

Incubators were invented by Stéphane Tarnier in 1880, and documented by Auvard in the historic 1883 article De La Couveuse Pour Enfants. Incubators help us grow babies. Physical babies. What I am talking about are ideas. Baby ideas that need to be prototyped. And then incubated. Many incubator models for ideas and start-ups exist.

Probably one of the more famous ones is MIT Building 20. Building 20 was designed differently. With flexibility in mind. A bit like the Value Web walls that allow you to create spaces of intensities. And when the job is done, you disperse and build new spaces, new teams. Disperse and re-group. A different composition for each new project. Get rid of the one size fits all.



Old Building 20, Vassar Street facade, 1997.


New Building 20 at MIT

The point I am trying to make here is that physical environment is equally important to have a free flow ideas. Ideas will not flow in a castle with long corridors and closed offices.

Once incubated, you need to scale. Which brings us back to Geoffrey West and “The Secrets of Scale”. You need to create intensities. As I already mentioned in a previous post:

Intensities and intentions. City intensities. Platforms of intensities. Physical or virtual. Almost requires an architectural purism and surroundings to make it work. Has to be physical.

I want to create these environments. Where small groups of intense people can meet. Can radiate. Can nurture and inspire each other. Where one hunch leads to another, and ideas cross-fertilize. Where we play the Medici-Effect for 100%.

We need to build some sort of city, some platform of intensities, some sort of campus. Not a “chalet” next to the castle.


Think big

Think scale

Think city

Embedded in the social and economic fabric of our industry. Where experts can meet and weave the next generation solutions.

Where we not only have a fertile environment for funding “only”, but where we also thought about physical housing, novel resourcing models like dedicated teams combined with shared staff from the castle. Or in-residence programs as another way to resource and bring fresh blood.

Where we have a shared infrastructure for support, project management and IT. And where we nurture a culture of experimentation. Where we have reverse-mentorship of our bankers BY the Gen-Y generation.

Venessa Miemis hit us all hard in the face at Sibos:

There is a class of young, intelligent, creative people who are disillusioned with the debt-based monetary system, and are busy building the infrastructures for a commons-based economy, which is emerging, right now, in parallel to what currently exists. The foundation of this economy is built on trust… and transparency…. and the ability of distributed networks to self organize. And using the Web as a grounds for experimentation, we’re learning more effective ways to link unmet needs with unused resources, innovate, generate wealth, and build resilient communities.

This is the prototype of the future. This is where the opportunities are.

I hope that during the Innotribe sessions the remainder of the week, we can explore ways to create bridges between these two worlds and ways of thinking, and co-evolve the next global economy.”

Venessa & friends already followed up post-Sibos with the idea of an in-residence program for bankers. To understand and connect with the new class of young, intelligent, creative people. To learn their language and adapt their values. Yes, you got it right: the bankers get mentored by Gen-Y.

I think it’s a fantastic idea. To think wealth instead of money.


With trust as the currency

of the 21st century


Where we create bridges in a strengths-based society instead of a problem mindset.


We are in a different Zeitgeist,

and most of our bankers

haven’t noticed yet.

The realization that most senior executives in finance (or elsewhere for that matter) would be completely at a loss – “sans moyens” – faced with an articulate and intelligent Gen-Y as personified by Venessa.

Things like this residence program idea: that’s the sort of babies we need to create. That’s the sort of family harbor we want for our children. And when babies become adolescents and adults, when those ideas have matured into successful companies in their own strength, keep thinking about our off-spring. As it never stops.

And despite big hopes from the singularity movement, there is a fair chance that all who read this in 2010 will die sometime. But as Geoffrey West pointed out and proved mathematically:


Biological beings die

Cities never die


The big “contours” of my SOFE presentation are drawn. This post-Sibos holiday & chilling season is ideal to let it mature. To perfect the visuals. To come to the essence. To get to its full purity. To be different by less not more. So that you can feel the full intensity. So that each of you can realize his full potential.

Let’s practice making babies !

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