Archive for the ‘Generation-M’ Category

Many organizations are in pain. I am just back from the Front-End of Innovation conference in Copenhagen where I met several friends, ex-colleagues, relatives, business partners, and it seems that change and re-organization are the new normal in our organizations these days. These days, one could jokingly introduce her by saying “what re-organization do you work for?”. But that may be too cynical a start for a blog post.


It also seems to be a constant these days that organizations retract into the comfort zone of their core business and are tuning down their innovation initiatives. I have heard it from at least 4-5 large organizations this week. What remains is a lot of innovation rhetoric but no action on the floor other than political power games.

More importantly, what remains as well is a lot of pain of colleagues seeing their best working mates (have to) leave the company in the worst case, or being re-organized into other departments at best. In Copenhagen, I have seen the pain, fear, and desperation in people’s eyes.

This blog post is about those re-organization pains, and some possible avenues to deal with them.

  • One way to react is driven by emotions: getting in a state of perpetual frustration, blame, gossip, under the skin fights, and self-service. It’s a state of mind that only aggravates the situation, alienates people and teams more from each other than ever.
  • Another way to react is the flee into the comfort zone of tactical actions and quick hits and extrapolating or creating quick and dirty variations of the tricks and processes we are familiar with, without any level of intentionality.
  • The third way – which I would like to promote – is to look deep under the skin of our professional and private way of being. To get to this insight, I was influenced by three books that I was reading more or less in parallel.

The first book I would like to recommend is “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni (Amazon Affiliates Link).


The author explains razor sharp that trust is the essential foundation of highly effective teams (and organizations). As can be seen from the layered pyramid below, lack of trust in the end leads to inattention to results.


I have taken a the following really good summary out of another book “Search Inside Yourself”, that I will refer to later again in this blog post.

The five dysfunctions, in order of causality are:

  • Absence of trust: People do not trust the intentions of their teammates. They feel the need to protect themselves from each other and tread carefully around others on the team. This leads to the next dysfunction.
  • Fear of conflict: Without trust, people are unwilling to involve themselves in productive debates and conflicts, the type of good conflict that focuses entirely on resolving issues without involving character attacks or hidden personal agendas. Without such healthy conflicts, issues stay unresolved or are unsatisfactorily resolved. People feel they have not been properly involved in decisions. This leads to the next dysfunction.
  • Lack of commitment: When people feel their input has not been properly considered and that they have not been properly involved in decisions, they have no buy-in. They do not commit to the final decisions. Ambiguity about priorities and directions festers, and uncertainties linger. This leads to the next dysfunction.
  • Avoidance of accountability: When people have no buy in about decisions, they avoid accepting accountability. Worse still, they do not hold their teammates accountable to high standards. Resentment festers, and mediocrity spreads. This leads to the final dysfunction.
  • Inattention to results: The ultimate dysfunction of a team. People care about something other than the collective goals of the team. Goals are not met, results are not achieved, and you lose your best people to your competitors.

It all begins with trust. The absence of trust is the root cause of all other dysfunctions. Specifically, the type of trust Lencioni talks about is what he calls “vulnerability-based trust.” That is when team members trust the intentions of each other enough that they are willing to expose their own vulnerabilities because they are confident their exposed vulnerabilities will not be used against them. Hence, they are willing to admit issues and deficiencies and ask for help. In other words, they are able to concentrate their energies on achieving the team’s common goals, rather than wasting time trying to defend their egos and look good to their teammates.

Do you trust your team members enough that to expose your own vulnerabilities because you are confident that your exposed vulnerabilities will not be used against you? That you will not be presented sooner or later with the emotional bill? Or is the trust and alignment in your team of a very superficial and low-quality nature?

I fully buy the trust argument in the book. What the book unfortunately does NOT explain is how you get to this level of trust.

My premise is that it starts by looking at people as people, not as objects. By developing a very high standard of empathy for the others. Looking at the other person not as the team member of this or that department (that would be looking at the person as an object, and attaching value to that object based on its hierarchical of functional power or non-power). This is of course very much related to the topic of “LeadINGship” and “Leading from the Edge” that I have shared already at many occasions on my blog.

“Looking at people as people” means looking at people in their wholeness, their full being, with all the aspects that that person brings, like cultural baggage, family situations, vulnerabilities, issues, motivations, concerns, etc

When I look at people as an object, I am “living IN the box”. When I look at people as people, I am “Living OUT of the box”. This living in/out of the box is very well described in “Leadership and Self-Deception” by The Arbinger Institute (Amazon Affiliate Link).


“We have to develop a culture where people are simply invited to see others as people. And being seen and treated straightforwardly, people respond accordingly”

But the book goes much further than that, and brings the subjects of self-deception and self-betrayal in full frontal view, and that can be quite confrontational.

Self-Deception and its consequence Self-Betrayal happen when you see a person in need, you feel you should act, but you don’t. What happens then are a couple of behaviors that I recognize with others and myself; I get into a defense mode:

  • I start blaming (maybe not vocally, but for sure internally) the other, the system, the management, and/or the company for all the things that don’t work. Yes, of course the problem of all evil is out there, not with me.
  • I start minimizing or ignoring my own faults, failures, and weaknesses
  • I start inflating the faults of the other persons or teams or departments.
  • I start inflating my virtues: it is because the others don’t have the same virtues as myself that of course things don’t work as they should.

“I just mean that in acting contrary to my sense of what was appropriate, I betrayed my own sense of how I should be toward another person. So we call such an act ‘self-betrayal.” And “I focused on and inflated her faults when I needed to feel justified for mine.”

This is about anger and frustration but at the same time feeling deep inside that “I was aware of the hypocrisy in my anger”.

What is even worse, this sort of in-the-box behavior for sure does NOT solicit the desired counter-behavior in others: it’s a disease that is infectious and viral in nature.

“In the box we provoke others to get in the box — both with us and against us. Our allies and we withhold information, for example, which gives others reason to do the same. We try to control others, which provokes the very resistance that we feel the need to control all the more. We withhold resources from others, who then feel the need to protect resources from us. We blame others for dragging their feet and in so doing give them reason to feel justified in dragging their feet all the more. And so on. Collusion spreads far and wide, and the result is that coworkers position themselves against coworkers, workgroups against workgroups, and departments against departments. People who came together to help an organization succeed actually end up delighting in each other’s failures and resenting each other’s successes.”

“But gradually I came to see the lie in my defensiveness. I saw in myself a leader who was so sure of the brilliance of his own ideas that he couldn’t allow brilliance in anyone else’s; a leader who felt he was so ‘enlightened’ that he needed to see workers negatively in order to prove his enlightenment; a leader so driven to be the best that he made sure no one else could be as good as he was. I was carrying the disease I blamed everyone else for. I infected them and then blamed them for the infection. Our organizational chart was a chart of colluding boxes. We were a mess.”

So key messages here are:

  • Stay away from self-defensiveness
  • See people as people not objects
  • Develop a superior awareness whether you are in/out the box of self-betrayal

And then I got hit by “Search Inside Yourself” by Chade-Meng Tan (Amazon Affiliates Link), also known as “Jolly Good Fellow” from Google.


Meng also refers to “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” (see summary above) and it was at that moment that the pieces of the puzzle starting falling together and make sense. The “Search Inside Yourself” book is in essence about self-awareness.

Self-awareness depends on being able to see ourselves objectively, and that requires the ability to examine our thoughts and emotions from a third-person perspective, not getting swept up in the emotion, not identifying with it, but just seeing it clearly and objectively…. We are not our emotions. Emotions become what we experience in the body, so we go from “I am angry” to “I experience anger in my body”

And also:

“We have the tendency to feel bad about feeling bad. I call it “meta-distress,” distress about experiencing distress. Also recognize that feeling bad about feeling bad is an act of ego” and “Success and failure are emotional experiences. These emotions can give rise to grasping and aversion, which can hold us back and hamper our ability to achieve our goals.

But there is hope, says Meng: we can become emotionally resilient to grasping onto success and aversion from failure.

The sentence that really blow me way and could become the cornerstone of our new renaissance, our new way of responding to whatever we encounter in life was:

“Imagine the kindest, most positive response” to whatever comes your way.

Wow! Read that again:

“Imagine the kindest, most positive response”

What would happen in our organizations if:

  • Stay away from self-defensiveness;
  • We would always look at the other person as a person and not an object;
  • Develop a superior awareness whether you are in/out the box of self-betrayal
  • And in all occasions, try to “Imagine the kindest, most positive response”

Kindness is the engine of empathy; it motivates you to care, and it makes you more receptive to others, and them to you”

The first time that the word/feeling/attitude “kindness” entered like a bomb in myself was when listening to Jeff Bezos during the graduation speech Princeton, where he says, “it is harder to be kind than clever”. I have posted the link to this speech before, but here it is once more, as so good. Full transcript here

The second time the word/feeling/attitude “kindness” resonated deeply in myself was when reading that book “Search Inside Yourself” (see above).

The third time was later in the same book, where Meng extends the self-awareness to organizational and political awareness.

“Political awareness is a more difficult skill: the ability to read an organization’s emotional currents and power relationships. Political awareness is the generalization of empathy from an interpersonal level to an organizational level…  The ability to empathize on an organizational level, not just an interpersonal one… Distinguish between your own self-interest, the interest of your team, and the organization’s interest—everyone has all three of these interests. It is very important to understand which is which.

SIY Institute

This is such a powerful message, that Meng and his friends made an “Institute” out of the book. Since March 1, 2013 all the curricula are available for free on the website of the SIY Institute:

“Any company that truly values the employee as their most valuable asset should do Search Inside Yourself”

“It’s a great way to develop and grow teams that can work together”

Kindness is associated with friendliness, gentleness, courtesy, kindliness, affability, goodness, tenderness, kindliness, benignity, sweetness. Meng focusses a lot on “goodness”. This empathic/kind self is probably the golden key to unlock and defuse the re-organization pains in our companies and institutions. One of the big shifts we have to make is the transformation from “I” to “We.”

That need for “I” to “We” transformation became also so evident in the talk of The Coca-Cola Man this week in Copenhagen, where Vince Vorne highlighted the need for “respect” for all your partners and stakeholders in and outside your organization and the need to make others win based on their merits and metrics.

It is too easy to fall back in blaming. Yes, we have to keep challenging the status-quo (or in some cased the regression), but we need also to do so in respect for our colleagues, partners, hierarchies, and bosses. Yes, we also have to have to look at them as persons not objects. And yes, we also can even drop our pride and hubris, and “kindly” forgive them for their perceived or real errors, even when it seemed like they were in self-service mode, taking the easiest and safest way out and leaving their teams in the cold. When we look at them as whole persons, they also bring context, pressures, and constraints that we may completely be unaware of.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Dan Rockwell @leadershipfreak wrote a fascinating post “13 Powertips for Leading through Uncertainty”; with a tip to ensure your boss support:

“Pull with – not against, higher ups. Grab the rope and pull, even if you disagree. Everyone who pulls in his or her own direction dilutes potential success. If you can’t pull with, jump ship, now.”

A bit along the same theme, there also was Regis Hadiaris @regishadiaris who posted this week “Martin Scorsese: Leadership lessons for Project Managers”.


A very good read from which I retain the following quote:

“You have to first ensure you understand your bosses.  After that, use their view as a “lens” with which to see your project and yourself.  By doing this, you’ll be able to ensure the project executes on their vision as well as yours.”

I deeply hope that applying these principles will make me/us more humble and soft (soft in the sense of soft looking eyes of kindness). If we all could at least give it a try, maybe we all get less cynical and frustrated, judgmental and control addicts; and we can recalibrate towards a renaissance of open mind, open heart and open will; more human and cultural and erudite.


I have made (and probably still will make) so many errors in my life against the principles of seeing people as people, helping when I see somebody in need, imagining the kindest, most positive response to whatever comes my way, and being respectful and getting buy-in from my leadership/leadingship.

But this time, I may have found a framework and context for greater awareness and the insight that I always have an option: the option to change and to turn the switch towards more kindness and forgiveness.

Maybe this way we can make the transition from “I” to “We” and positively impact the trust between ourselves, our teams, our departments, our companies, our society, our world.

In essence using Meng’s kindness  as the input to the trust layer of Lencioni.

Read Full Post »

One of those days off, in the middle of the week; with nothing on the agenda than just hang around, do nothing; just getting inspired by what presents itself that day. One of the presents was a tweet this morning about daydreaming and wandering brains.


The picture of the wondering girl intrigues me. I am back in high school. My mind takes the time-capsule 30 years or more back in time. When I was a DJ of a traveling gig called “The Celebration”. Led Zeppelin’s “Celebration Day” inspired that name.

“I’m gonna join the band,
We are gonna dance and sing in celebration,
We are in the promised land”

I open up iTunes, start the HD video version of Led Zeppelin’s concert “Celebration Day”. Magic happens.

Mmmm… this is really very very good. Enjoy it very much, especially loud with quality headsets on and Mac wide 27 inch screen. Next time, I have to experience this on IMAX in a high quality cinema…

This concert performance makes me think of the magic of great bands, the magic of big teams. What they are going through when they form, when they storm, when they norm, when they perform. When they disband or get disbanded, get together, stay apart; investigating the energies and emotions that glue the human fabric in something magic and powerful that can not be articulated in hierarchies or organograms.

I take some notes of my reflections, and without knowing it on a rant about the making and breaking of bands, of teams. The metaphor is powerful.


Checkout the history of Led Zeppelin on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Led_Zeppelin > and read it as if this was not about a rock band, but about a team in an organization. How much do you recognize?

“As soon as I heard John Bonham play”, recalled Jones, “I knew this was going to be great … We locked together as a team immediately”

Suddenly, destiny brings people together. There is chemistry; sounds and creativity start flowing. We look for a group identity: something that bonds us as a team, as a tribe; a bond, a deep human need.

One account of how the new band’s name was chosen held that Moon and Entwistle had suggested that a super group with Page and Beck would go down like a “lead balloon”, an idiom for disastrous results.The group dropped the ‘a’ in lead at the suggestion of their manager, Peter Grant, so that those unfamiliar with the phrase would not pronounce it “leed”.The word “balloon” was transformed into “zeppelin“, perhaps an exaggeration of the humor, and to Page the name conjured the perfect combination of heavy and light, combustibility and grace.

Heavy, light, combustible and gracefulness. The metaphor of a well-oiled band: playing as united, with deep mutual respect for each other, no egos at play. The look in the eye, the smile of “well done”, “this rocks”, “that was fun”. Also a little bit “dying” in full performance, giving every little bit of you.

Mastery of your instrument, not any more about playing, but expressing yourself at the emotional level, touching others through word, sound, light, and all senses by letting howl your guitar from deep within your belly, but it also can be a weeping or whispering guitar: when my guitar gently weeps (The Beatles 1968, The White Album)

“I wrote “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at my mother’s house in Warrington. I was thinking about the Chinese I Ching, the Book of Changes… The Eastern concept is that whatever happens is all meant to be, and that there’s no such thing as coincidence – every little item that’s going down has a purpose. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was a simple study based on that theory. I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book – as it would be relative to that moment, at that time. I picked up a book at random, opened it, saw ‘gently weeps’, then laid the book down again and started the song.”

“I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps.”

The magic of Duos and Triads and Tribes, where cohesion and conflict emerge from randomness and live peacefully next to each other. Where there is no fear, and it is 100% safe to express your opinion, to make art, unique experiences that make you smile softly in bliss. Like the smile of the young woman in the audience of the Led Zeppelin concert; a smile of joy.

“Joy” as described as “Search Inside Yourself: Increase Productivity, Creativity and Happiness” (Amazon Associates Link) by Chade-Meng Tan from Google, with foreword by Daniel Goleman.

search inside yourself

“Especially the type of joy with a gentle quality that doesn’t overwhelm the senses. For example, taking a nice walk, holding hands with a loved one, enjoying a good meal, carrying a sleeping baby, or sitting with your child while she is reading a good book are great opportunities to practice mindfulness by bringing full moment-to-moment attention to the joyful experience, to the mind, and to the body. I call it Joyful Mindfulness”

Bands and teams go through the cycles of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing as so well described by Bruce Tuckman, already in 1965.

“These high-performing teams are able to function as a unit as they find ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or the need for external supervision. By this time, they are motivated and knowledgeable. The team members are now competent, autonomous and able to handle the decision-making process without supervision. Dissent is expected and allowed as long as it is channeled through means acceptable to the team.”

Most teams never get beyond forming. Some get at storming and norming. Very few reach the stage of performing where the “we” supersedes the “me”.


But bands split. So do teams. Some teams disband when the work is done. Other teams get disbanded. The “best” way to disband teams is to first cut them of resources, of budgets, of purpose. What also works well is to disperse the team members over different business units, to break the bonding through dis-location.

But in today’s on-line world, place and location matter less.

True bonding is a quite another level.


When bands split or teams get disbanded, something strange happens. It feels a little bit like a shrapnel bomb hit by surprise. You loose some of your loved ones. Yes, there are direct casualties, and also collateral damage. It hurts seeing people hurt, bleeding, weeping, crying. The team gets on a roller-coaster of emotions. They are touched in their essence, their flow.

It feels like mourning. You feel alone, dazed and confused (another Led Zeppelin classic)

Every day I work so hard, bringin’ home my hard earned pay
Try to love you baby, but you push me away.
Don’t know where you’re goin’, only know just where you’ve been,
Sweet little baby, I want you again.

Re-Make and Succeed

But then it’s time to get over it and to restart, to reboot. To explore what is our true purpose, where we can make a real difference.

“First they ignore you,

then they laugh at you,

then they fight you,

then you win.”


Mahatma Ghandi

It goes back to the principles of “leadingship”, that I described in my posts “The End of Leadership” and “Leading from the Edge”.

Great teams work on the principle of “interdependency”; interdependency from each other, interdependency from the ecosystem; the holistic/”wholistic” environment they operate in.

Great teams never give in. They have some form of pride, not hubris; every team member is standing-up, like “grounded” in full spirit, head-up, facing, forthcoming. Forte, inspiring others to dream and play like a band, rocking the place like it never had been rocked before.

Was the bond strong enough or is it over, over and out? Can we individually re-boot, re-bond across different departments? If so, we can start multiple fires, multiple tribes and set the house on fire. Not a fire of destruction, but a fire of care, love, energy, expansion of the self and the group and the company and the ecosystem at large.


Quo Vadis, team? Once more the gas throttle full speed, and going were we have never been gone before? For what purpose? With what intention. Why?

To find out, teams have to re-ground. As a team. Even if they don’t exist as such anymore in the organogram.

Like Led Zeppelin, who retreated in Bron-Yr-Aur, the Welsh cottage to which Page and Plant retired in 1970 to write many of the tracks that appeared on the band’s third and fourth albums.

ledzep house

“On 10 December 2007 Led Zeppelin reunited for the one-off Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at The O2 Arena in London, with Jason Bonham again taking his late father’s place on drums.

Wow! The son of the original drummer? Where is my son? Where is our offspring? Who will be the new drummer of the band and make the magic of team cohesion happen again? The drummer can make a big difference as described by Tim Kastelle in “Culture provides the beat for your organization”.

This is about managing interactions and connections. 

“In complex systems, emergent properties arise through networks of interactions.  Building an understanding of your networks is crucial to improving innovation outcomes.  Network weaving is a more effective management tool than organizational restructuring.”

So how can we have both focused and open attention for network weaving? By focused and open attention and presence.

Again from Chade-Meng Tan’s book:

Focused attention is an intense focus on a chosen object. It is stable, strong, and unwavering. It is like sunlight focused with a lens shining intensely on a single point. It is like a solid piece of rock, majestically unmoved by the distraction of the wind. It is a mind like a closely guarded royal palace where only the most honored guests are allowed to enter and all others are courteously but firmly turned away. Open attention is a quality of attention willing to meet any object that arrives at the mind or the senses. It is open, flexible, and inviting. It is like ambient sunlight, lending itself to anything and everything. It is like grass, always swaying gently in the wind. It is like water, willing to take on any shape at any time. It is a mind like an open house with a friendly host, where anybody who walks in is welcomed as an guest

One of the great challenges of new teams is indeed how you welcome new team members and their emotions. Do you unconditionally welcome them and their emotions as guests, without prejudice? With the real intention to make each other succeed?

Somewhere in the middle of the concert, Roger Plant says something about “Creating a dynamic evening”.

For me that “dynamism” translates in playing my song, a real song, with harmonics, with structure, with ebb and flow, with meaning. Not just a list of great speakers that are great soloists on stage, but creating a magic welding of human energies. It is about indivisible and complete immersive experiences, the same way Led Zeppelin preferred the “album” as an indivisible piece of art:

“After changing their name from The New Yardbirds, they signed a favourable deal with Atlantic Records that allowed them considerable artistic freedom. Led Zeppelin disliked releasing their songs as singles; they viewed their albums as indivisible and complete listening experiences.”

This is not about TED, but as Umair Hague so well described in just one tweet: the difference between TED and the something else with the un-named quality that we are after.

“Not a kind of heat death of thought: all gurus, no teachers; all sound bites, no depth; all positivity, no criticism.”

ledzep wholelottalove

 What we need is a “Whole Lotta Love” in everything we do!

You’ve been coolin’, baby, I’ve been droolin’,
All the good times I’ve been misusin’,
Way, way down inside, I’m gonna give you my love,
I’m gonna give you every inch of my love,
Gonna give you my love.

Let’s rock on!

Read Full Post »

A couple of weeks ago, I was attending #BIF8 conference, organized by Saul Kaplan and his team. I was there 2 years ago, when Keith Yamashita from SY Partners did his fabulous talk on “Should I Dare to be Great?”

With hindsight, I found that that 2010 edition of BIF was better curated and had a more consistent level of high quality of speakers or “story tellers” as they are called at BIF.

Whereas 2010 was great, 2012 was good. This year, I was missing that consistency in quality. But there was clearly a theme emerging from the different talks. Initially it was a bit blurry for me what the theme was: companies are communities, creators of serendipity, human community movements, platforms for movements,… ?

In any case, it was clear that something deep is changing about what a company is all about. It made me think about the 1997 (yes, 1997!) book “The Living Company: Growth, Learning and Longevity in Business” by Arie De Geus (Amazon Affiliate Link).

The foreword by Peter Senge highlighted the big shift that is described in this wonderful book:

“The contrast between these two views – thinking about a company as a machine for making money versus a living being – illuminates a host of core assumptions about management and our organizations”


“Seeing a company as a living being leads to seeing its members as human work communities”

Most decision makers in our organizations have and still are trained in the model of the organization as a money making machine. Because this model almost completely ignores the fact that organizations are made out of people, human beings of flesh and blood and emotions and not “human resources” that you can just move around on the check board like physical resources, this has created in many companies an almost toxic environment with little room for happiness.

“Corporate health is experienced as work stress, endless struggles for power and control, and the cynicism and resignation that results from a work environment that stifles rather than releases human imagination, energy and commitment. The day-to-day climate of most organizations is probably more toxic than we care to admit, whether or not these companies are in the midst of obvious decline”

In addition, most of our marketing and strategy managers have been trained in fundamentals like the 4 P’s, the 5 C’s, etc by management gurus like Drucker and Kottler.

Andrew Stein recently posted a blog in defense of Kottler and Drucker, in essence claiming that the marketing fundamentals have not changed.

I tend to disagree, and here is why.

An important piece of the why argumentation came my way during the #BIF8 conference, by two storytellers:

  • The first was Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, the shoe company acquired my Amazon last year (one of my other heroes companies)
  • The second was Susan Shuman, CEO of SY Partners, yes the same company that Keith Yamashita from “should I dare to be great?” is working for

I was really blown away by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos (Shoes) acquired last year by Amazon.

Tony was talking about Zappos’ Downtownproject and the slide deck he used was more or less the same as what is on the slideshare here

The story kicks off when Zappos was considering building a new HQ Campus like Google, Apple, Nike, Microsoft etc,

Instead of venturing in yet another megalomaniac luxury campus with everything on-site from shops, restaurants, doctors, and central central incubator garages, he decided to become deep integral part of the city fabric and to create collisions and serendipities. He is investing about 350 million USD in local start-ups, local small businesses,  education, arts, culture, and residential & real estate.

It is an amazing story circling and hovering over what are probably the five or ten or whatever number of C’s of the hyper-connected and learning organizations of this new era:

  • Curated content
  • Community (Culture of openness, Collaboration, Creativity, and optimism)
  • Co-Learning, Co-Working, Co-Creation
  • Collisions (Colliding communities, serendipity, etc)
  • Connections

As in a real roller-coaster, Tony Hsieh took us from one sensation to another:

  • “We are creating a space where innovators, dreamers, doers, and though leaders from around the world can come to share ideas to enrich the community, to inspire us all. Call it a residency program”
  • “We want to make you/us smarter”
  • “Culture is to a company what Community is to a City See”
  • “Vibrant, interesting and community focused”
  • “Short term ROI vs long term ROC Return on Community”
  • “A learning community” aka “A learning organization” aka “An agile community”

And then it suddenly crystalized for me:

“Companies are Movements”

The sort of movements to change the world.

I reached out to one of the books in my library; very recent one about change management.

Or should I say transformation management?

The book is by Jurgen Appelo and is titled How to Change the World: Change Management 3.0 where he proposed four dimensions for change:

  • Dance with the system: Plan, do, check, act
  • Mind the people: Ability, Knowledge, Desire, Awareness, Reinforcement
  • Stimulate the network (instigators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards)
  • Change/Transform the environment: Information, Identity, incentives, infrastructure, institutions

It’s all about being part of the system you are trying to change. But change or incremental innovation is not good enough anymore in this fast moving world. The keyword is “transformation”: bringing into a new state where there is no option back, a risk to fall back into the old toxic habits. It is about a humanization of our organizations; a transformation at deep people level.

This is where my other #BIF8 hero comes in: Susan Shuman @susansyp, CEO of SY Partners.

She did not talk about the executives and the middle managers.

She talked about

the forgotten middle

the people who actually do the work in companies.

Some participants to the conference found she was too much in pitching mode, pitching her company. That may be true, but the story of what her company does is a very strong one.

I love the tagline “we help companies design their future”. This is a transformation story of Seeing, Believing, Thinking and Acting in meaningful and impactful new ways:

  • See = Fore-sighting, seeing the options vs constraining the options
  • Believe = deep sense of what is possible
  • Think = new solutions, prototyping, fail fast and wisely
  • Act = liberated in pursuing value driven opportunities

It’s about transformation management (not “change” management). It’s about a new way for creating strategy, grounded in complexity thinking and opening the options versus closing them, seeing through the lens of possibility not the lens of constraints, making visible and enabling options for collaboration.

The sort of collaboration and learning experiences that enable greatness, viral change from the top and from deep in the company fabric. It enables a modern way to look at strategy, an emergent strategy, where we not only look at short term revenue streams, but also for new capabilities and strengths. A different way of content curation, facilitation and design, leading to new collisions of expertise, and long lasting transformations.

The sort of collaboration that exists in great team where “duo’s” or “triads” of highly complementary people create greatness. Teams don’t just happen.

Teams are designed

You have to design for team magic

That’s also why moving around “human resources” from one team to another does not move around the greatness with it.

It’s about a new set of tools to let teams perform at their very best, a network of individuals dedicated to each other’s success, a tribe of humans that envision, believe in, and fight for greatness. It’s about a new practice for value creation.

It is not a coincidence that Innotribe’s updated mission statement includes a couple of these key components for the modern organization: To enable collaborative innovation for the financial industry and create new value for the people it serves

Companies are movements

Movements for greatness

Innotribe enables those movements and transformations.

Read Full Post »

Since my initial post “Corporate Rebels United – the start of a corporate spring?” of 17 March 2012, and the subsequent “A New Global Practice for Value Creation”, the core team has been working on fine-tuning  our mission.

UPDATE: we are now also present on other social media channels:

I am very grateful to the whole team for getting us where we are today, and especially for initial instigators Laura Merling and Mike Maney, and our advisors/mentors Nilofer Merchant, John Hagel, Mark Bonchek, and Dave Gray.

A special word of thanks to Dave Gray (author of the just released “The Connected Company”), who inspired us with his concept of “Pods”:  independent self-organizing cells who act autonomously but in context of shared platform of common, core, connected principles. Dave was also the person who landed the first version of this manifesto, based on previous culture-hacking work by the core group.

Mathias Vestergaard is the first Corporate Rebel from the core group starting the a Corporate Rebels Pod in New-York City. Who’s next?

Some of us will be present at the CultureCon2012 (co-organized by fellow rebel Dan Mezick and author of “The Culture Game”) and at BIF-8, the fantastic story tellers event by Saul Kaplan and team. Let’s continue the conversation there or online.

The release of this Corporate Rebels Manifesto coincides magically by the release of “The Labor Day Manifesto Of the Passionate Creative Worker” by John Hagel, mentor and my source of inspiration for many years, who writes:

We celebrate the passionate and dedicated individuals in all fields who have both led us to where we are now, and are creating and shaping the future. They are explorers, pushing back the limits of our current understanding. They pioneer new ideas, discover new truths, and tirelessly innovate. They actively seek out new challenges and connect broadly with others to solve them. Though they come from every occupation and background, they are unified by the sincere belief that they can leave the world a better place than they found it

So, without further due, here is our/your Corporate Rebels Manifesto:

+++ start manifesto

What is the problem?

Our companies no longer serve our needs. They cannot keep pace with a high-velocity, hyper-connected world. They no longer can do what we need them to do. Change is required.

What is the vision?

We love our companies and want them to succeed. We want to reboot our corporate and organizational culture to install a 21st century, digitally native version, to accelerate positive viral change from deep within the fabric of our organizations, and to reclaim our passion for work.

What is Corporate Rebels United?

We are building a global network of change catalysts that act from deep personal awareness and presence, and an irresistible enthusiasm. Our actions will lead to new product and services and new global practices for value creation, agility and velocity. We are architects and scouts into the future, and we want to guide our organizations in navigating a safe path from now to then.


Challenging the status quo

Breaking the rules

Saying the unsaid

Spreading the innovation virus

Seeding tribal energy

With no fear

With a cause to do good

Leading by being from our true selves

Going after the un-named quality


We are holding a space.

We are making and holding a space where everybody can have a voice in service of value creation. The DNA of our movement is a platform of core principles that are the basis for us to connect, to practice, to embrace, and to inspire other to dream and make our dreams come true.

How do we define success?

When we have a community of 10,000 pods worldwide, with a good distribution across industries and regions. When we feel whole at work. When the DNA is established, when the pods start to divide, enabled by the lightweight space we are holding. Holding a space is a about context; the job is done when the space is holding itself, when people start saying: “I suddenly feel free to be awesome.” When our practice gets the same attention in annual reports as efficiency practices such as Lean and SixSigma.

Help us articulate the principles.

We are now defining the DNA: A platform of common principles that define who we are and what we stand for. We could use your help.

  • Principle-1: We love our companies and want them to succeed in this high-velocity, hyper-connected world.
  • Principle-2: We dare to be great.
  • Principle-3: We have the mandate to be brave and to challenge the status quo.
  • Principle-4: We will reboot our corporate and organizational culture to install a 21st century, digitally native version.
  • Principle-5: We accelerate positive viral change from deep within the fabric of our organizations.
  • Principle-6: We enable and empower the rest of our organizations to move at rapid pace, but with room for patience and reflection.
  • Principle-7: We unleash the enormous potential that lies within every human being within our organizations.
  • Principle-8: We re-ignite the passion in our organizations.
  • Principle-9: We are not just talkers, but doers.
  • Principle-10: We are building a global network of change catalysts that act from their true selves.
  • Principle-11: Our actions lead to new product and services and new global practices for value creation, agility and velocity.
  • Principle-12: Our community acts from deep personal awareness and presence, and an irresistible enthusiasm opening up old rusty structured.
  • Principle-13: We are architects and scouts into the future,
  • Principle-14: and we want to guide our organizations in navigating a safe path from now to then.
  • Principle-15: We are very well intentioned individuals.
  • Principle-16: We are united people with shared purpose, starting with our own being.
  • Principle-17: We maintain integrity and relevance..
  • Principle-18: We keep our community a safe environment, where you can become who you want to become. Where you are not alone in being a catalyst.
  • Principle-19: Our core values are integrity, clarity of reason, brightness and great positive energy.
  • Principle-20: Reflection, reporting back and adding-on to each others input and opinions is our natural way of collecting and discussing opinions.

Join us.

Start a pod. Organize yourself. Decide on your own activities, your own resources, and your own relationships. And link them back to the mothership, the DNA platform of common, core, connected principles.

+++ end manifesto

If this Manifesto speaks to you, we ask that you become a “signatory” by indicating your support in the comment section below.  We’ll add you to the growing list of Corporate Rebels. And we’re in the process of creating an online holding space for our common principles and convictions. Stay tuned.

Read Full Post »

The last couple of weeks I have been aroused with many ideas and reflections on Personal Digital Assets and on Digital Assets in general.

The journey started some weeks ago with my prezi talk at TEDxNewWallStreet and included my participation to the WEF “tiger team” on Personal Data, where a group of 30 experts are looking at what is needed to make realize the vision of Personal data as a new economic “asset class”. Personal data created by and about people, touching all aspects of society. That group is stitching the pieces together for a framework of business, technical and legal elements that are needed to underpin this vision.

However, the following video from Kynetx was the big aha-moment during my 4-weeks tour on the subject.

I never thought of a Personal Data Store as a “Personal Event Network”.

This changes everything ™

indeed as Phil Windley (@windley), CTO of Kynetx says.

One years ago, there was this beautiful video animation by David Siegel (@pullnews), a great vision of distributed nodes of personal data content talking to each other through API’s.

In the meantime, there is a rich ecosystem of start-ups that are building something very similar as we speak.

Maybe not yet to its fullest grand vision, but definitely going way beyond the traditional concept of a “personal data store”.

Check out leading start-ups such as Personal.com. Btw I dream of one day seeing an integration of Personal.com with an on-line bank. Anybody needing a brokering service here ? 😉

What Kynetx is adding to the mix are three important things:

  • the “event” based thinking
  • the prototol for the data-web
  • Cloud Operating System

Event based thinking:

He really nailed it down for me last time I met him:

  • In the past we had RPC (Remote Procedure Calls), in essence fire and forget
  • Then came request/response: you ask for something, and you get it
  • Now there is the “event-signal”. It does not ask for something, it just says “something’s happened”, and any entity in the network can subscribe to the event and decide itself to do something with it.

Protocol for the data-web:

The other aha-moment was when Phil was doing his talk at the New Digital Economies conference on 27 March 2012.

For those who remember, in the past we had silo-d email systems. AOL, Compuserve, etc. They did not interoperate. We got rid of those silos when there was a standard protocol, allowing competing commercial and open source servers to talk to each other in SMTP.

We now see the same with data, personal data, social graphs. We have data-silos (Facebook, Google, Bank systems, Health systems, Government systems, etc). What we need is a “Data-Server” and a “Protocol” that allows these data servers to be interoperable.

Cloud Operating Systems:

Phil has explained all this beautifully in a series of blogs on www.windley.com and I get very inspired when he makes a call for thinking about personal clouds as “cloud operating systems”

All this, Phil calls “The Live Web” (Amazon Associates link). He is so excited about this that he has written a book about it.

In other words, start thinking about your “Personal Data Locker” become a “Personal Event Cloud”: your personal data-server in the cloud that can talk and do things on your behalf, can make decisions, interpret rules, etc…

And it can talk to any entity, any node in the web (or at least nodes in any discoverable namespace). In real-time. In multiplexing mode (meaning the node can be both a server and a client).

It suddenly dawned to me that over the last years we have been hyping “The Programmable WEB”, and that if we are serious about customer centric identity or “customer centric” or “personal” whatever, we may wish to start with the “me”.

Suddenly it was flashing in my brain: “The  Programmable Me”

“Me” is becoming a node in the grid. We are all nodes in the grid, sending and receiving signals. Like neurons passing an electrical or chemical signal to another cell. And start thinking “synapses” when you talk about the API’s of your Programmable Me.

From Wikipedia:

Synapses are essential to neuronal function: neurons are cells that are specialized to pass signals to individual target cells, and synapses are the means by which they do so”

The APIs of your “Programmable Me”, of your Personal Event Cloud are indeed the means to make all these nodes interoperable.

Add to this the graph-thinking of Drummond Reed (@drummondreed), Co-Chair of the XDI/XRI Technical Committee of OASIS. Check-out http://wiki.oasis-open.org/xdi/XdiGraphModel and more specifically some of the Powerpoints out there:

Each circle in this drawing represents a node in the grid. I really encourage you to look at this as a graph – this ensemble of inter-connected nodes – as something 3-dimensional, possibly multi-dimensional.

We have all been trained to think hierarchical. Flat files with a root, that sort of thing.

We have to learn to think in graph-models.

You can start anywhere in the galaxy. Every point can be the center of the universe. There is no root. At least, not in absolute terms. Yes, in relative terms with respect to the other nodes in the universe…

A grand vision starts to develop when you realize that the nodes can be any type of entities:

  • Humans (or their agents)
  • Circles (like Google Circles) of humans (entities without legal form)
  • Corporations, non-profits, governmental or educational institution (aka organizational constructs of humans with specific legal form)
  • We should also include less traditional forms of organizational constructs such as co-operatives, P2P communities, Commons,…
  • Programs (yes, software code), that perform tasks on behalf of the entities above or that operates as fully independent entities.

Each of these nodes/entities can participate in transactions – or better, “value dances”. “Dance” because the protocol is multiplexing, not one-way request-response.

Of course all these entities will require identity, in the broadest sense, not only URI or ID number, but in the sense of a spectrum, a graph that can be shared in context with other nodes/entities.

Sharing the spectrum becomes the essence of trade

What we are witnessing is a 180° turn in the power balance between client and server, slave and master, buyer and supplier, consumer and merchant.

All entities are equal.

We are all equal

Doc Searls (@dsearls) has written a book about it. The Intention Economy. (Amazon Associates Link)

But look at the subtitle: “When Customers Take Charge”.

I like Doc a lot, but his subtitle may suggest that somebody else is in charge: the empowered customer. I am afraid that we may end-up with another un-balance, where the pendulum has swung the other side: where the customer has an unfair data-advantage versus the merchant. But let their be no doubt that today the merchant has the unfair data-advantage, and I read Doc’s book more like a plea for getting the balance right rather than a socialist rant against establishment represented by the “big boys”, the vendors, the merchants, the silos like Facebook and Google.

In all the discussions about the Empowered Customers, we see classic commerce use cases like buying a book, buying flowers for grandma, etc

But I would like to make the jump to truly balanced financial transactions and what “dances between equals” would mean in that space. I invite you to think about your bank as the merchant, the merchant of financial services, and the consumer as the retail or wholesale customer of the bank.

In such scenario, the fundamental shift in thinking already happens at the Point of Sale (POS). We even have the question the term “Point of Sale”. It stems from an old thinking where the merchant “owns” the customer.

YOU are the point of sale

YOU are the point of data integration!

In the past the POS was the master,

now it will be YOU who is in charge,

or your agent,

the “Programmable Me”.

What if we start thinking about banking where YOU are the point of data-integration? What if your bank would offer you a service that enables you to manage your Personal Event Cloud?

I don’t know how it would look like, but it probably would be something triggered from your mobile phone. It probably would look like one of the Next-Gen banks (Simple, Movenbank, Fidor) with a Personal Event Network out-of-the-box.

Some of these Next-Gen banks are already accepting the CRED of your Social Graph as a much richer (in all senses of the word) basis for “Know you Customer”. Although we probably also have to inverse that: from the captive notion of “know your customer” to the user-centric meaning of “know your bank”. Then we may come back to the “primitive” of the meaning of “bank”: a bench where two people meet to build a relationship of value.

So, the discussion is NOT about the next coolest thing for doing a copy-cat of existing money-transactions through the latest greatest gadget like NFC or Bump, or whatever.

Some of all this already permeates in a recent Techcrunch article suggesting the “NFC is already out-moded”

“The thing to keep in mind here” says Crone, “is that NFC was developed more than 20 years ago. It was first deployed 10 years ago. 10 years ago, we didn’t have ubiquitous access to data plans. We didn’t have more smartphones in circulation than feature phones and we had to depend on an ‘offline’ connection for processing payments. But now, there are 124 million households that have more than one device connected to the internet. Typically, that’s a smartphone, but very quickly it’s becoming a tablet.”

Also Christopher Carfi (@ccarfi) starts thinking in this direction in his recent post “Musings in Small Data”.  In there, he refers to a video of Jerry Michalski (@jerrymichalski) of the REXpedition doing a demo his “Personal Brain”. (Disclosure: I am member of the REXpedition). The video is titled “Gardening My Brain” and the talk was given at Personal Digital Archiving on February 22, 2012 in San Francisco.

It’s a pity that this talk is in the context of a personal digital archiving conference. Because, in my opinion, we have dramatically evolved from archiving to sharing.

Sharing of information and digital assets is becoming the new normal in this world of Abundance of information.

Christopher Carfi nails it when he says:

As these issues become more widely understood, more individuals will be tracking their own information. Perhaps it won’t be to the level that Jerry has done it in the video above, but it will be happening. This means that we, while wearing our business hats, will need to be developing real relationships with our customers. We need to listen to what they are saying, what they are asking for, and working collaboratively with them in order to help them fulfill their needs. In the best cases, we’ll have built up levels of trust with our customers and will have been given the explicit permission to access our customers’ personal data stores. In doing so, we’ll be able to actually take the guesswork out of the equation that was noted so clearly above in the Facebook example and will, instead, be able to connect directly with our customers’ intentions and deliver value on their terms.

Creating an economy based on the principles of relations is of course at the heart of the REXpedition. It is probably the next territory for competitive advantage beyond the mundane money transaction.

All this is about creating “Relationship Channels”, channels the vendor can tune into of the user has opened the channel.

All the above are of course very much related to our Innotribe incubation project “Digital Asset Grid” (DAG), which is about the sharing of any digital asset with any party.

All of the above is also very relevant to Mark Pesce’s (@mpesce) thinking about “hypereconomics”, described in one of my previous posts “The future rarely arrives when planned”.

The real question is then: “Where will value be created when all the connections between nodes have become frictionless?” Mark has some ideas on this, and he describes them as “irreducibles

No matter how ‘smooth’ and frictionless hyperconnected commerce becomes, certain frictions in the business world will persist.  These represent both speed humps and opportunities.  The businesses of the 21st century will find leverage and differentiation by identifying and exploiting them.”

What those “irreducibles” are, you will be able to discover at our upcoming Innotribe event in Bangkok on 26-27 April 2012, where together with Mark Pesce we will have some great interactive learning experiences. Be there, or read the report that we will make on this post-conference.

If you really want to take a meta-view on all this, I believe all the examples above illustrate our species being in search for a deeper meaning, a thicker value in everything we experience:

  • We are in search for a higher level of consciousness, a further evolution in Spiral Dynamics, in search for a richer value system, much richer than the pure transaction world that is the narrow lens of today
  • We start looking at companies being nodes in the grid, in fair-trade constellations of equals, trying to maximize the commons and contribution and giving back to society
  • We want to go beyond the “advertising” thinking of “let’s hit the target with an ad”. We are in search for a better world with more Thick value and less Thin value
  • We are starting to see the emergence of “The universe as a Computer” as wonderfully described by Nova Spivack (@novaspivack) in one of his milestone posts last month.

All the above is about defining, articulating, and living lives of greater meaning. With the “M” of meaning. Umair Hague (@umairh) already in 2009 called this “Generation-M”, which in essence is anchored in “constructive capitalism”

Generation M is more about what you do and who you are than when you were born. So the question is this: do you still belong to the 20th century – or the 21st?

I would like to close with a reference to The Wellbeing Revolution (Amazon Associates Link) by James McWhinney (@JamesMcWhinney).

What I liked about this book is that it encourages you to look at where you are in your life, and to look at it through the “M” lens. The lens of meaning.

I then discover that what I am writing today, what job I am doing, who I am married to, was probably all meant to be this way. Not “meant” in a deterministic way. No, “meant” as everything I have done, the decisions I have made, my architecture studies, my infection by the identity virus, my journey in Leading By Being, etc… all these things have made me who I am.

What if I could capture all this richness about me, and have a tool and an infrastructure to share that on my terms and conditions, in context, and with the parties or nodes in the grid that I choose to? What if I could share my meaning in a programmable way?

I would end up with something called “the programmable me”

By @petervan from the SWIFT Innotribe team.

Read Full Post »

We are all – or should be – familiar with Clayton Christensen’s work on The Innovator’s Dilemma, where he articulated the principles of disruptive innovation. It’s a great business book about innovation.

This is a book about “…how market-leading companies have missed game-changing transformations in industry after industry…not because of ‘bad’ management, but because they followed the dictates of ‘good’ management. They listened closely to their customers. They carefully studied market trends. They allocated capital to the innovations that promised the largest returns. And in the process, they missed disruptive innovations that opened up new customers and markets for lower-margin, blockbuster products.”

For innovation to happen in a company, the principles of Christensen’s books are definitely great advice. There are several other innovation business books that are recommended reading. Check out my GoodReads page.

But since a couple of months now, I believe there is something else we need to look into: something else that is the ticking heart of innovation, something about people, about humans, that makes the difference between thin and thick value creation.

I don’t believe anymore in big corporate change programs that are rolled-out top-down in a military drill. Whether those change programs are focused on efficiency (Lean, Six Sigma, …) or on creating new value (Innovation) does not matter for the argument here.

Real change happens from within the organization. Bottom-up. Virally.

What I want to talk about is the other innovator’s dilemma: the human dilemma, the Innovators Personal dilemma.

This personal dilemma post is about joy versus pain, passion versus suffocation, freedom versus slavery, excitement versus illusion. It is part of saying the unsaid. It is a cry for freedom, a cry for unleashing the energy of the hidden pearls in our organizations, a cry for supporting and encouraging those who really want to create positive viral change from within our organizations.

There is so much positive energy in our organizations that we could tap into, but that energy gets blocked by the corporate “machinery”, by best (or worst) practices, by power games, and in some cases by plain sick people or organizations.

With Corporate Rebels United, we gathered a really great cross-industry sample of innovators, instigators and protagonists that work in bigger and smaller organizations worldwide. We came across a number of real-life stories that give a glimpse of what sort of human dramas sometimes happen deep in the fabric of our corporate organizations, and that are a absolute barrier to innovation.

The great advantage of working as a group is that we now can see some patterns cross-industry. They are not specific to one or the other organization. They are universal.  And I want to put them on the table. I want to create awareness.

But most of all, I want to create a soundboard so that we increase our sensitivity and awareness for the symptoms, so that we can prevent human dramas and turn the pain into something positive, an unstoppable wave of change that will transform our corporations from deep within.

Innovation only happens when somebody steps out of the blueprint

And that means taking a risk. That means going for your own beliefs, against the flow, against the current practices of “this is how we do business here”

Ghandi: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win”

It takes guts to try to change the corporation. Many people try. They will laugh at you. Many get hurt as well. Sometimes minor scarves. Sometimes it results in deep wounds of self-esteem. I collected some stories to illustration the innovator’s dilemma.

There are some common themes in these stories:

–       I want to jump, but I have a family to feed

–       I am surrounded by sick people

–       The employee as a resource

–       The fear of being punished

–       I want to innovate but my manager does not let me

–       Leading by Being does not get recognized

–       Not good for your career

I want to jump, but I have a family to feed

Some of the reactions to my “The Myth of Innovation Incentives” post made me more aware of the “luxury pedestal” I am preaching from. By being part of an innovation team, I get by definition much more freedom than those who are deep in the trenches. In my personal life, I have reached some level of personal wellbeing and stability. But many of my friends out there are at the beginning of their career.

Here is one reaction I received from Jonathan to our invite to join corporate rebels. Jonathan works in the pharma industry:

I have to say that my current employee is a really, really conservative corporation. Quite frankly speaking, we are in dire need of a lot of corporate rebels – but I strongly believe that joining your “club” would get me into serious trouble – if my boss or our corporate communications department ever found out (and they would never, never ever supply me with any resources in that matter). And since I´m going to be a father for the first time this year, trouble with my employer is something I´d rather avoid if possible.

The personal dilemma: “Stand up for who I am, or give in to the power of the corporation”

My answer is one of empathy. I have been there as well. And I regret not having spoken earlier in my life. I do cannot force a person to jump off the springboard. I can only give a gentle nudge. Encourage you despite everything to go for the unknown. Opting for uncertainty and doing something scary (or not) is a deep innovators dilemma. Because you know: if you are not scared of what you’re doing, it’s probably not innovative enough. It’s not disruptive enough. It’s a deep human dilemma, going back to daring to be great. Daring to live and act from your belly. Liberated from the chains of captivity. Leading by being from your true self.

My answer is also that making the jump does not always have to include dramatic live changing decisions. You can start small. And getting addicted by small doses of adrenaline when you stand for who you are. And then a bit more, and a bit more. Makes me think of “Love is the drug” from Roxy Music.


I am surrounded by sick people

I got the following message from Françoise, a 33 year energetic woman, working in an energy utility company:

In our company we have a culture of public humiliation. Mocking publicly about people’s achievements during town hall meetings, that sort of things. For a person who has worked his fingers to the bones, despite all odds, being humiliated publicly was devastating. The way things work in our team is “man eat man”. They put you in an arena, let you fight it out and silently watch. Whoever wins is right. Blame is the name of the game. Everyone dreads that. If you fail, you will be publicly mocked. Whiteboard and town halls are the new place for mocking failures. I remember such treatment in school. For heavens sake, we are adults.  They took me off the project I loved. I was “promoted” to a new project. The new project was boring as hell. I could not motivate myself to do any of the work they assigned. Writing this mail is painful beyond my imagination. They were so manipulative beyond words. The crime they commit has no facts. The torture I have endured has no records.

It makes me think of a recent case in public service in Belgium. A woman working for the city hall in a small village was disturbing because she said the unsaid. She was “promoted” to a new function. Her new office was a dirty back room of a side building. She got a computer, but one without connection. She did not get a phone. She was not allowed to meet people. All this with the excuse that her new job required her to focus. She had the courage to go to court. She won.

The Personal Dilemma: coming up for your rights, or let your company by run by sick people

I have heard many stories like the above from many companies cross-industry. These stories illustrate plain criminal behavior by sick people. There are no excuses for this. That’s why companies have “persons of trust”. Let there be no mistake. Go and find your person of trust and open a case. Whenever you can, put on the table these sorts of practices, so they and the people responsible for them get eradicated from our organizations. To grow healthy plants, you must first sanitize and fertilize the land.

The employee as a resource

Doc Searls (@dsearls) describes the relationship between a vendor and a customer as a Client/Server one (at times trending to slavery) where the customer calf is drinking the cookie milk from the vendor cow.

What he describes in buyer/supplier relationships is equally applicable in employer/employee relationships. The proposed solutions for “getting the cattle human” is by proposing them tools to take control of their own abundant information.

Replace vendors by employers in the slide below:

Extract presentation Doc Searls at New Digital Economies 27 Mar 2012

Whether employees are seen as cattle or just resource also quickly becomes apparent in all sorts of employee surveys and result discussions involving “benchmarks”:

Here is Anthony from a Financial Institution, reporting on one of their latest employee surveys on corporate culture:

The results of the survey indicated that we were doing quite well compared to the rest of the industry. I could not match that outcome with the generalized quantified results that less than 40% of the employees felt engaged. What if “the industry in general” was crap and a standard for mediocrity? What if the expectations of the staff set the bar way higher than the benchmark? What if we benchmarked against the wrong standard? These old surveys do not take into account that the environment has fundamentally changed. Due to abundance of information, social media and P2P communication, the employees have a richer and more precise data set available. We laugh at those “official” benchmark cheering results

The fear for being punished

Something very similar pops up, when companies try to define KPI’s for innovation. Check out this great post from Drew Boyd (@drewboyd)

Measure innovation alternatives, not just the current program.  When assessing the impact of an initiative, always ask, “Compared to what?”  Don’t fall into the trap of measuring only what the company is doing today.  Rather, measure it against the next best alternative.  For example, if you are using a ideation methodology like S.I.T., be sure to measure the effectiveness of using S.I.T. versus another ideation method.  Understand why you are using one method over another by forecasting results from the alternative.  This re-frames the question from “does this method work?” to “does this method work better than this alternative?


Measure novelty, not impact.  Senior leaders want to know the “bottom line” impact of innovation.  When they see ideation results, they respond with, “Yes, but how many of these actually made it into the marketplace, and what revenues were generated?”  This is a trap because so much of the impact is dependent internal and external factors.  Holding employees accountable for impact will cause them to avoid the truly novel and game-changing ideas.  They fear being punished for pushing great ideas that fall outside their category.  To manage this dilemma, managers need to think more in terms of finding the “innovation sweet spot,” that place somewhere between disruptive and incremental.  The right balance between risk and reward is more likely to occur here.

I want to innovate but my manager does not let me

I silently helped without getting any credit. Then I saw your post about Corporate Rebels. I sat there and was thinking, here I am really doing a rebel activity and suffering and no one is paying attention. At that point everything started looking fake to me… Pain is deep and buried. It takes lot of time to vent it all out. My point is, don’t lose me. I am of lot of value to my company because I genuinely care about the company and its people. My friends do too. Some of us get fired for stepping out of the blueprint. Don’t let this happen again and again. Please use your power and contacts with powerful people to do something good and to fight against injustice.

Leading by Being does not get recognized

If Chris is rocking, it is because of the way I nudged him to do it. If Laura is jumping up and down with ideas, it is because she got inspired by what I was doing. I have inspired many souls at our company. Inspiration can only happen if someone is speaking from his or her soul. Inspiration is language of soul. I have earned respect from lot of people at in the company because of who I was. I have the attitude to make people take action. But I got fired. Because real change disturbs and challenges the status quo. My death was so silent. They did not even give me a chance to say good-bye. It is fishy and please don’t let this happen to anyone else.

Not good for your career

And also heard the following so many times: being innovative is hampering your career.

Kathleen just joined a telco company:

In our company we have a Young Grads Program. But when postulating for the innovations positions, we are kindly taken aside, and somebody whispers in my ear “being part of the innovation team is bad for your career as a manager”.

That’s a really bad story. It’s the story that lets you immediately recognize corporations where innovation is just window-dressing. Even the young people, full of healthy innovation energy don’t get a chance. What a disaster if you have joined such a company. Getting suffocated in your ambitions and drive from day one!

Any CEO with her innovation heart in the right place should mandate – yes mandate – that all newcomers and GEN-Y’s first get immersed in the innovation team. What people are allowed to do there is not the worst possible scenario; it is the best possible starting point for doing much-much more, to instigate real and viral and tidal change throughout the company.


All the above are REAL circumstances in REAL companies. Yes, innovation in these circumstances is hard. You have to go against the wind. And find the balance between a good/bad rebels. Sometimes you will be seen as subversive. And to be honest, some healthy dose of subversiveness is needed. Sometimes you need to act like McGyver. Sometimes you need to be Jack Bauer. One company told me they were acting like the “agency of subversions”

But I can’t expect everybody to be on that extreme end. I would already be so happy if with our Corporate Rebels United movement we can unleash the change-energy of every individual in our corporations.

That each of you have the courage to stand up, to come up for your ideas, to start small and make little changes, or to be very hungry and go for the big visible changes. One could refer to introvert and extrovert changes. Both are equally important to make true and viral change happen.

But we can’t have subversion or anarchy. This is not the way we as Corporate Rebels United want to go. We do not want to provoke for provocation sake. And we do not like to be like the Cacaphonists. Nor do we plan to start flash mob activities who share some ideas with Cacophony, as well as groups like Improv Everywhere and movements like Discordianism.

What we want is change

Viral change from within the fabric of our corporations

We want to change our corporations, not by complaining and blame-is-the-name-of-the-game, but by showing the right behavior, by encouraging each other, by uncovering the hidden pearls of our organizations. But for sure as well furiously fighting and making visible injustice, sick or plain criminal behavior.

We want to change, not by focusing on the things that make innovation hard and only looking for self-esteem, but by focusing both on our dreams and on other people in our lives.

We want to change by daring to be great.

In small and big things/actions.

It feels like somebody should start writing the first chapter of the human book for innovation. Maybe that somebody can use some testimonials of this post. Maybe Whitney Johnson (@johnsonwhitney) is the one? She is preparing a book titled “Dare, Dream, Do”.  It’s planned to come out in May 2012. Maybe she addresses the human aspects that are not covered in business books.

Daring to dare is the personal dilemma of corporate innovators

If you feel inspired, join Corporate Rebels United, by leaving an “I join” comment on that or this blog post.

Let’s rock!

Read Full Post »

People call you an instigator, a protagonist, a renegade, a pirate, a mercenary, a rebel, or an empowered employee. We know you for what you really are: a change agent who sees speed, change and innovation as the new corporate norm. We know because we are you. We know the challenges – and the excitement – of driving change in an incumbent or start-up company. We know what it means to go for “The Innovator’s Risk”

We call ourselves “Corporate Rebels United”.

The concept of Corporate Rebels is not new. Many people have written about or have alluded to it:

John Hagel referred to the concept of the “Empowered Employee” in one of his recent Forbes posts.

The key answer that defines the post-digital enterprise is to shift attention from the cost side to the value side. Rather than treating employees as cost items that need to be managed wherever possible, why not view them as assets capable of delivering ever-increasing value to the marketplace? This is a profound shift in focus. For one thing, it moves us from a game of diminishing returns to an opportunity for increasing returns. There is little, if any, limit to the additional value that people can deliver if given the appropriate tools and skill development.


The post-digital divide will force them to choose sides – on the side of employee empowerment, or on the side of tactical cost cutting, job cutting, and diminishing returns. If not, the divide will choose for them.

But a Corporate Rebel has something extra. It is about daring to stick out your neck. It is about taking personal leadership.

Nilofer Merchant differentiated between a rebel and a leader

So perhaps we could use a more neutral word: protagonist. A protagonist is a principal champion of a cause or program or action. The protagonist does not wait for permission to lead, innovate, or strategize. They do what is right for the firm, without regard to status. Their goal is to do what’s good for the whole.

Lois Kelly (@loiskelly) from Foghound and Mike Maney (@the_spinmd) from Alcatel-Lucent also discussed recently whether the word “rebel” is not too negative. Mike made some very deep reflections why the hard dividing line between good and bad rebels does not always make sense.

Argument aside, we believe that – positioned well – the word “corporate rebel” exactly reflects who we are.

The aim of “Corporate Rebels United” is to create a global community of extraordinary corporate change agents. It is not an academic exercise or research effort. It’s something deeply actionable.

Our mission is to build the most amazing community of corporate rebels worldwide to ensure that true change and innovation happens virally

The initial idea for Corporate Rebels United emerged when innovation teams of Alcatel-Lucent and Swift met and worked closely in the context of Swift’s Innotribe program. We were excited by the exchange of ideas and energy that emerged when like-minded folks came together. And that got us thinking about some big “what if’s”:

  • What if we could create a tribe of the best and most exceptional corporate rebels worldwide – people like us, people like you?
  • What if we could start leveraging each other’s ideas, energy and best practices?
  • What if we could design a movement to support each other when the going gets tough?
  • What if we could cross-fertilize and infect our organizations with the change-virus from within?

We want to identify exceptional people worldwide that already have an impressive impact on change and innovation in their corporations, no matter in what field or industry. The movers and the shakers. The do-ers of today. The ones who take initiative. Who create deep change from within. People who energize their organizations by leading from their true selves. The crazy ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently, and who are crazy enough to think they can change the world. People like you.

Our plan is to start small – 15 founding rebels cross-industry – because we want to ensure quality and resilience in the initial starters group. We’d like to get the spirit right from the start. We have scheduled a kickoff call on March 30, 2012 with 15 founding rebels. We will follow that call with an off-site meeting where we’ll jointly build a set of agreed upon principles and a longer-term action plan to open and expand Corporate Rebels United to a wider audience.

A lot of “getting the spirit right” was already included in one of my latest prezi’s on the “Soul of Innovation”. Without any publicity, this prezi already generated more than 3,000 hits in less than one month. We seem to have touched something that resonates. Some of it was withheld for my TEDxNewWallStreet talk last week in Mountain-View. Innovation is more than a set of tools and processes. Innovation is an attitude with tribal energy!

For viewing this prezi, turn audio “on”, as I experimented a lot with sound and visual landscapes.

Somewhere halfway in that prezi, you will discover the Rebels Manifesto in the Pirates Treasure Map

Rebels Manifesto


Challenging the status quo

Breaking the rules

Saying the unsaid

Spreading the innovation virus

Seeding Tribal energy

With No fear

With a cause to do good

Leading by Being from our True Selves

Going after the un-named quality


What exactly Corporate Rebels United will do is the essence of our discussion at our kick-off call and event. Initial ideas include:

  • We want to build an action-driven community.
  • We want to create an incredible energy bomb of corporate change.
  • We aim for a very high level of integrity and authenticity. We want this to be morally, intellectually, and artistically right
  • We want to re-enforce the energy of known rebels in a non-zero sum community.
  • We want to identify and unleash the energy from the hidden rebels and the hidden pearls in our organizations and give them a voice
  • We want to create exchange programs between our corporations
  • We want to have deep positive business impact on the corporations and organizations that host and pay our salaries.
  • We want to create a culture in our corporations where change is the norm.
  • We want to measure the progress and propulsionwe make/create:
    • Individually
    • The folks we influence
    • The corporate change heartbeat
  • We want to evolve our corporations into places of constant change, resilience, responsiveness, reflection and vibrant energy.
  • We want to create a place for play, fun, rock, and rich personal expression

At the start, Corporate Rebels United will be a closed community: we’re looking for atypical people who make us go WOW!

Because they act from their true self and without fear, and make amazing change happen within their organizations and the ecosystems they are part of.

People with a moral, architectural, almost artistic integrity. People with a BIG innovation heart in the right place.

We’re looking for people who inspire us as human beings. With open mind, open heart, and open will.

Like Seth Godin said in his last book (We are all Weird):

“they have to be a bit weird”.

We plan to go full-steam as from our Kick-Off call on 30 March 2012, right after the start of the 2012 spring. Our ambition is to be able to shine and radiate as a strong community with first results by end October – Mid November, not co-incidentally the busy conference season with Innotribe at Sibos, Techonomy, Defrag and Blur.

Like Bill Gates wanted to see a PC on every desktop, and Eric Schmidt wants to see an (Android) mobile in every pocket, we want to see a corporate rebel in every company. That’s a lot of corporate rebels 😉

Of course, I am not Bill Gates, nor Eric Schmidt. But there is still enough room for a normal human being like me to create significant impact. And although I am 55 years old now,  I still want to change the world. And yes – at 55 – I still would like to instigate a Corporate Spring. There is no age for Corporate Rebels.

We jump and want to feel the daily adrenaline of being and coaching Corporate Rebels every day of our life.

As we get started up, get some inspiration on our curated site for Corporate Rebels United on Scoop-it.

If you are interested to join Corporate Rebels United, leave a note and some argumentation on why you’d like to join in the comments section of this blog post. And/or let us know what you can bring to the table to make this a big success.

As the Corporate Rebels United get up-to-speed, they will start blogging on http://corporaterebelsunited.wordpress.com and we will soon open our website at http://www.corporaterebelsunited.com

Let’s 21 March 2012 be the start of our Corporate Spring! Because we believe it matters to infect our organizations with “change-as-the-norm” from the bottom-up!

@petervan of the Innotribe team

Laura Merling (@magicmerl) and Mike Maney (@the_spinmd) from the Alcatel-Lucent team

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: