Archive for the ‘HR’ Category

There were some interesting posts the last couple of weeks; all indicating that there is something fundamentally wrong with how organisations measure people’s performance.


Petervan artwork – detail of 2016 painting on performing
Acryl on Canvas


Some examples:

I could add numerous examples of other organisations I met where the people are merely serving the system, not the company or its customers anymore.

Whether it is lean, daily standups, filling the boxes of an archaic ERP system, personal improvement programs, re-orientation processes, competencies management, performance appraisals, or innovation ideations, acceleration and incubation programs.

Niels Pflaeging used to have a slide he called “the bullshit slide”:

Niels bullshit slide

Niels Pflaeging “bullshit” slide from 2014


In his recent blog post “Change is like adding milk to coffee”, Niels continues:

Take a step back and you will see that people act consciously and intelligently (overall), to other things than the change itself. They may resist loss of status and power – which is quite intelligent. They may resist injustice, stupidity and being changed. Which is also intelligent. The change may also cause need for learning that is not properly addressed. And these are the things that we have to deal with in change: power structures, status, injustice, consequence, our own stupidity, top-down command-and-control, and learning.

In other words, people don’t resist change, they resist bullshit.

As Niels’ slide shows, the bullshit is omni-present and something structural that needs to be fixed. Only structural change will change the behaviour and culture in your company, all the rest is tactical and innovation theater.

People have good antennas for this; they all feel deeply that they have become self-made self-imposed inmates of the golden cage, forced more than half of their working time doing the wrong thing: filling the forms, the quarterly updates, pushing up and watering down information and ideas upwards the hierarchy and doing nothing else but complying with the organisations’ processes. We are getting audited you know! It’s the process, stupid!

They all share that disjoint between one’s personal expectations of success and impact and corporate or even individual metrics.

I recently had a catch-up call with a friend in the Bay Area, and she was worried she’d become too conservative, she was staying too long with one company (18 months now, 2 years in a job seems to be a career in Silicon Valley…), and worrying all the time whether she was making the most significant impact.

We seem to have been brainwashed that our happiness, fulfilment or whatever you want to call this nirvana state is all about “realising your full potential”, some decades ago the mantra of one of the big tech companies.

I think this is exhausting. You will never reach your full potential and you will always be out for the next big thing. It will never stop. You will never be satisfied.

IMO, maximum impact is the wrong metric. We have to get rid of (comparative) scores in general: they are not real anyway – always ready to trick or comply with the system – and they are always about ticking the boxes about past performance. They don’t add value, at best the measure past value.

We need something that measures our individual progress – individual as opposed to comparing with others. Measuring our progress in building new, future capabilities. Measuring future value potential. Am I better at this than last month? Have I learned something new this week? Etc.

Scores are after the fact. They are confabulating. They are past-performance indicators.

IMG_0023 cropped

Petervan artwork – Left overs of tape cutting – Feb 2017


We need some future capabilities indicators, showing our own individual continuous learning and cultivation of new skills. Our capacity to making-the-right-cut for the future.

Haydn Shaughnessy once coined the term KCI – Key Capability Indicators. I liked that a lot. At that time, the term was in the context of organisational innovation indicators. I wonder what individual learning indicators would look like.



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Rogier Noort just published a post on his site, for a great part based on an interview he did with me during the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris in February of this year. Rogier’s original title of the post was “Collaboration:  Salvation or Myth”. It’s a great post, and Rogier clearly took the pain to reflect on our conversation. I would label it as “The Myth of Collaboration”. Some people call my point of view blasphemy in a period where everything has to be “social”, “working together” and “collaboration and hacking spaces”. So be it. I just felt there was something deep wrong about it, and Rogier did an awesome job of articulating my thoughts. I have copied the text in it’s entirety, and just added the usual colour emphasis.

+++ Start Rogier’s post +++

Collaboration is an important part of productivity. It’s a highly desired commodity, but seemingly more elusive that you’d might think.., and it cannot be forced.

The other day my wife saw a message from an old colleague.., they’re moving her to a flex desk. “Now, I’m no longer allowed to place a photo of my grand children on my desk”, is what she said.

Her work is routine, she’s not allowed to work from home, needs no collaboration, won’t hop from desk to desk, and nobody will wander in looking for a place to work.., in other words.., that particular department does not need flexible workspaces. What they need is a working environment where an employee feels comfortable, secure and relaxed. A place where it’s okay to have a picture of your grand children on your desk.

This message reminded me of a conversation I had with Peter Vander Auwera about this very topic. I didn’t know quite how to put this in a post, until now.

The Key to Success

There is a wide variety of approaches to SocBiz, or Enterprise 2.0, some say the business goals have to be aligned to social, or we need to measure everything first, or we have to have a Digital Village first… others take a more tangible approach. A more non-virtual one. They reshuffle the physical space people work in.., the office floor.

Collaboration is the key to success.., so.., we create a (physical) working environment where collaboration is as easy as raising your hand and ask a question. Serendipity is guaranteed because people have no fixed desk, so you never know who you’re going to sit next to.

The Myth

According to Peter “[the office space] has been designed to enhance collaboration… working with each other across departments.”

The myth is, you have to collaborate all the time.

But, not everybody operates that way. As far as I’m concerned, I like my work area quiet. I need focus to concentrate, and more often than not, my work needs to be accurate and creative. Two things I can (or need to) do alone, no collaboration is needed.

For Peter it’s the same; “I don’t function that way… I need time on my own to think.”

Collaboration is Not Happening

Peter explains his view further; “When you sit with other colleagues around a “collaboration” table.., I hardly see any collaboration. Everybody still works in their own zone, because they have work to do. It just doesn’t happen.”

This happens when culture and progressive ideas clash. You can’t force people into a collaborative state of mind. Reshuffling desks, open up the floor, and taking away personal offices does not guarantee collaboration.., it just doesn’t.

I’m sure at some companies, for some departments this approach can do wonders. But, we should judge the merit of such huge changes on any specific floor/office/department/company.

You could simply ask employees their stand on such a high impact change.

Personal Space

“The other aspect has to do with physical space and emotional space. When working in a collaborative space I have the feeling my privacy is disturbed. At any time somebody can come up behind you and look over your shoulder.., it feels like a sort of surveillance.”, Peter says.

“It’s difficult to articulate, because I have nothing to hide, in fact, I have a lot of things to share. The idea of collaboration has the opposite effect, it doesn’t invite me to collaborate with the people who look over my shoulder. Because I feel they are intruding in my privacy zone, my creativity zone.”

The idea that anybody can criticise your work at any time can be a great hinder. This is not just in the physical space, but can also occur in a collaborative on-line space. When I’m working on something, a blogpost for instance, I like to write a great deal, preferably all the way to the end with a revision or two, before I let anybody read it.

This is my process, the way I want to work.., I do not want any input, suggestions or comments until I’m good and well ready for them.

More about working in peace can be read in “Silence, I’m Painting“, an article by Peter on his personal blog.


… or lack thereof. Most people in the office have nothing or very little to do with your work. The chance of having exactly that person that you need come sit next to you in an open floor space is quite slim.

The odds of serendipity (fortuitous happenstance or pleasant surprise) are against you, against us. Even if you plan and scheme everything to enhance those chances.

Inspiration therefore is one of those things we seek out. We connect with those people who can help us move beyond a certain point.., everything else is just noise.


Peter worries about this attitude sounding arrogant. Knowing Peter.., this is far from what is happening.

What’s really happening is that, at times, we should stop and think, reflect on the changes we’re trying to make, and the goals we want to achieve. Despite the fact there are a lot of talented people out there with a great number of good ideas, we cannot, and should not, just apply them. This goes for collaboration, but also hierarchy, job titles, software.., you name it.

Social business, The New Way of Working.., or whatever you want to call it.., is NOT generic. There is no One-Size-Fits-All. Not only does this apply to every company, but also to each department and each individual. To generalise, automate, or standardise this idea works as good as trying to fit every person in exactly the same suit.


Like any other undertaking, regardless of what it is, for it to have long term success, there has to be balance.

An office should provide spaces for all sorts of productivity styles. Employees should be involved in the design, their opinions should drive the change. After all, it is they who do the work.

 Thank you Peter for the insights and challenging us to think.

Peter is a creative thinker, creator and sensemaker. Co-initiator of Corporate Rebels United, a movement to unite corporate rebels worldwide to ensure that true change happens virally. Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide.

Edit: Richard Martin (@IndaleGenesis) pointed me to this wonderful video made by Dave Coplin (@DCoplin). It really adds to the points made in the post. It’s only 9 minutes, I encourage you to watch it.

+++ end Rogier’s post

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We have all been reading the books and hearing the innovation experts and gurus speak and preach about the need for experimentation and failing wisely in innovation environments. All that is good in theory. What about the real life? What happens in your organization when you fail? How does your leadership assist you in this transition? What happens in the team dynamics? What happens with you?


I failed big time recently. And it traumatizes and immobilizes me. It gets me on a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s difficult to deal with the abrupt changes between being celebrated the one day, and being the pariah the other day. Or should I find solace in the fact that at least, I still have highs (and lows) in corporate life?  Some friends and colleagues don’t even have that luxury: they are being beaten up all the time.

It’s not the first time this happens to me: failing big time. Being awarded and congratulated for stellar performance in one fiscal year and then being dropped a couple of days later due to changed priorities in the new fiscal year. So where is the pattern? What can I learn from it? How don’t I get “trapped” in the same mechanism of self-defense over and over again?

When the failing hits, I indeed tend to “protect” my vulnerability and myself by avoiding contact, by being silent, not expressing myself, while at the same time feeling deep anger inside. I am turning in circles, can’t concentrate nor focus, and become cynical. It damages my performance. How can I voice my soul, my emotional state and psychology of failing, the human emotions, and the intimate collateral damage that go with all this? How can I resurrect from failure?

It happens that Adam Dachis (@adachis) just wrote a post about this, titled “The Psychology Behind the Importance of Failure”, and quotes Heidi Grant Halvorson (@hghalvorson), shared with me by Jennifer Sertl (@jennifersertl).

The problem with the Be-Good mindset is that it tends to cause problems when we are faced with something unfamiliar or difficult. We start worrying about making mistakes, because mistakes mean that we lack ability, and this creates a lot of anxiety and frustration. Anxiety and frustration, in turn, undermine performance by compromising our working memory, disrupting the many cognitive processes we rely on for creative and analytical thinking. Also, when we focus too much on doing things perfectly (i.e., being good), we don’t engage in the kind of exploratory thinking and behavior that creates new knowledge and innovation.

So here you are: you have read all the books, seen all the greatest speakers, got the best personal coaches, followed all the personal development journeys you can imagine, you even preached yourself to others the benefits and adrenaline effects of going for your true self. And then you get hit. And you don’t know what to do, how to react, how to stand-up, how to reboot, how to get alive again.

Here are a couple of questions for all you innovators out there. Some areas where I would like to know how YOU coped with that situation, and what we all can learn from it.

  • You have a project of a lifetime. You stick out your neck big time and after lots of blood, sweat and tears, corporate priorities change, and your project is stopped from one day to another. How do you cope with that? Do you have examples of how you turned that sort of failure into a success? A crisis into an opportunity? I don’t know yet a good way how to do this, other than sweating out your time and hoping for the better.
  • Igniting change and innovating also means being a corporate rebel. You walk the edges of corporate accepted behaviors  in 95% of the cases, you succeed keeping that balance. But sometimes you go over the edge. How does that behaviour impact the perception others have of you? Does it impact your performance reviews? How can you avoid paying the price?
  • In innovation, the pedestal of success and the bin of the pariah are oh-so-close. On the pedestal of success, you are full of energy, even arrogant at times, sometimes preaching. But always with your heart at the right place and a deep intention for doing good for your company and the folks who work for it. Some people call it “irresistible enthusiasm”, and get energized when they hear your voice and they see the sparks in your eyes. Others – the criticasters – believe you are member of the “ego-tribe”. You sense jealousy from those who don’t have your opportunities, who don’t have a flexible boss like yours, who don’t enjoy executive sponsorship, some call it executive “protection”. When you fail, all that positive juice flows away. You’re empty handed. It’s time for revenge, for presenting the emotional invoices. Nobody comes to sit at your table at lunch; nobody wants to be seen with the one who just failed. You have been burned. What’s your experience with that? How do you cope with that?
  • What is your experience and reaction with abrupt changes of priorities, change of guards, change of budgets? What do you do when your marching orders change from one day to another? What if you don’t feel aligned with the new directions suggested or imposed? Especially when you just failed and are super vulnerable? Should you just brace for a while and hope for the turn of tides, of keep acting based on what your intimate true self tells you about what is right or wrong for yourself or for the organization you work for and deeply care about? Who has ever done and experienced something like that? Please share your wounds and healings.
  • Corporate world has the reputation of being a world of extroverts. But at least half of the workforce is introvert. I am and never was superman. I am not the vocal extrovert; I am more the reflecting introvert. Many of us are sensitive human beings. Many men have more feminine energy than women and the other way around. Where do you go when you fail? Where do you find a shoulder to cry on? When and how do you deal with pretending to be untouchable in formal settings and/or as team leader? Should you dare to show your vulnerability with trusted colleagues or friends?  Can we look through the crack in you and wonder at the light inside?
  • Is there überhaupt something like trust in business, or is it indeed like one of my first managers in my career told me “never trust anybody in business”. Have I become old and cynical? Judgmental? Control freak? In other words have I become all the things I never wanted to become and ended up on the flip sides of my ideals “Open Heart, Open Mind, Open Will” inspired by Otto Sharmer’s “Theory U”?

The bottom line question really is: how do I keep being present and aligned with my true self, when the going gets though in periods of failure? And who is holding a space for me when I long for help in healing my injuries?

“Life of a frontrunner is hard one; he/she will suffer & many of these injuries will not be accidental” ~ Pele

I know that many Corporate Rebels struggle with this. We can support each other by sharing what works and what does not work in these circumstances. Because I have the deep belief that resurrecting from failure is one of the core elements of creating a practice for value creation.

Credit: Fallen picture by Kerry Skarbakka http://www.skarbakka.com/

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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!

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Every now and then people ask me what incentives we have in place for encouraging innovative behavior.

The short answer is: there are no incentives other than recognition and self-esteem when your idea happens for real. For people with a specific innovation role – such as our “Megaphones” – we do have their innovation objectives as 10-15% of their NORMAL objectives. But no special deals, bonuses, etc.

From the start of Innotribe, we had this discussion about getting 20% time like Google (Btw, that myth of the 20% has been challenged and discussed already many times on the internet. For example here and here. It even leads to big failures).

Many other ways exist in other environments than SWIFT to incentivize innovation like special bonuses, shares in projects that can be turned in real bucks once the project gets critical mass and generates revenues, and much more.

From very early on in our innovation endeavors, we got a clear “no” from our top management.

We do not want a culture

where working on innovation

lead to some sort of “entitlement”

for x% of time or any other resource

In the beginning, i found this a bit harsh, but with hindsight, i think they were right. Personally, I have done some introspection on all this and have come to the conclusion that:

  • I truly believe that the true innovators manifest themselves, and that any request for incentives to innovate just says a lot about the person requesting.
  • What we need is people daring to stick out there neck, and acting from their true selves.
  • As many of you know, I am deep believer of viral infection of the company. That will not happen through incentives.
  • It will happen when we unleash the deep energy of the many hidden change-makers in this company.

Let me develop that thought a little bit.

It all has to do with the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – where self-esteem and self-actualization are on the top of the pyramid.

In our luxury world, most of us already have reached at least some level of self-esteem or self-actualisation.

I believe there is a lot to say to go beyond self-esteem, where the personal transformation fundamentally changes the focus from the “self” to the “others”.

This is where Richard Barrett has evolved the thinking of Maslow. Or where Don Beck did brilliant work with Spiral Dynamics, whose initial thinking was inspired by Clare W Graves who already in sixties/seventies said:

“Briefly, what I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiraling process, marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man’s existential problems change.”

There are other thinkers in this space, as pointed out by JP Rangaswami in his comment on my comment on his post about Thinking about the Social Enterprise and Flow

My comment:

“… me too big fan John Hagel, Geoffrey West, Brian Arthur. I love how you squeeze in Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi at the end, as I agree that organization starts more and more looking like an organism in search for flow. If you push the idea, you could add Maslow, as the organization is probably also looking for self-esteem in all its nodes (its people). Even pushing it further and beyond self-esteem, a similar flow “dynamic” is also embedded in Don Becks “Spiral Dynamics”…. the next area of competitive differentiation is in the higher layers of Spiral Dynamics, more or less the space of relationships, the space the Jerry Michalski’s REXpedition is exploring.”

JP responded:

“I am more of a fan of Nohria and Lawrence than I am of Maslow. Parallel not serial, networked not hierarchical”

I wrote about JP and Nohria, when trying to do a transcript of in my post “JP on Gamification, Lipstick and Pigs”. So I won’t repeat myself on that topic, and summarize JP as: The 4 drivers of motivation: the drive to acquirethe drive to defendthe drive to bondand the drive to learn

In my opinion, it is about discovering your true self in the full context of all its relationships (family, work, company, country, culture, world, cosmos). As Marti Spiegelman recently said during a REXpedition call:

Awareness of the context creates meaning

And meaning creates value

Do you really believe that people will start innovating more if they get an extra bonus of 2% ? Only when people act from the power of their true self and experience meaning in what they do, only then real motivation kicks in.

I am deeply convinced that innovation and culture change will NOT happen through rolling out huge top-down innovation programs. On the contrary, I am a strong believer in “viral” innovation, where you seed the people that act from their true self throughout the company.

They will act as they believe they should act, and because their environment will feel inspired by this real motivation, they will inspire and infect others, form natural tribes with their own team dynamics and influence, become self-organizing teams that create their own meaning and value, and change the company from within.

Forever. Unstoppable. That is how real change happens.

Discovering and nurturing the hidden pearls in your organization that have the mindset to do this is the real challenge. It’s about finding the people who want to move, to challenge the status quo, dare to stick out their neck, etc and do so not because the incentive program has framed them that way, but because their true self boosts them towards the others with unlimited and eternal energy.

In the end it is about creating meaning in YOUR life.

Am I dreaming? Maybe. Am I ambitious? Maybe. Will it work? Maybe. But at least this way you know that’s where I have put the bar. So next time you see me, don’t ask for incentives, but tell we about what you want to achieve, and let’s see how I can help you.

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And here is another fantastic talk by JP Rangaswami, Chief Scientist Salesforce.com (twitter @jobsworth) on the gamification of companies and why this can’t be something superficial like putting lipstick on a pig.

Was looking for a transcript, did not find it, so decided to do it myself. Below a summary of JP’s talk. Hope I captured the essential, and you appreciate my style of curating/highlighting.

Have asked JP to deliver something similar at Innotribe at Sibos 2011 in Toronto when we will discuss Corporate Cultures. Hope he will accept the invitation.




Watch live streaming video from readwriteweb at livestream.com


Some highlights:

  • We have always tried to take a material shift of paradigm by attaching some labels of the past
  • The inflection point is about significant changes in work, rather than significant changes in technology
  • This is not about putting something superficial on tasks that your really don’t want to do
  • Extrinsic rewards have significant risks,
  • Referring to the works of Kathy Sierra.


Have a look at Kathy Sierra’s latest guest-post on Hugh McLeod’s blog about “Pixie Dust & The Mountain of Mediocrity”

  • Find rewards inside yourselves
  • “badges” of excellence should be about reaching levels of mastery


I have no intent or wish

to put

the lipstick of gamification

on the pig of work


  • The control paradigms of the past are being challenged
  • Some assumptions on why the firm exists: Firms exist primarily in order to reduce transaction costs
  • As a result of vertical integration, a number of things used to be possible: easier access to capital,
    • Today, most people in this room have a better credit rating that the bank they use
  • Global reach and scope
    • That with the digital world is again available to everybody in this room
  • The firm was designed against the background of the industrial revolution
  • Knowledge work is in essence “lumpy”

We have such fear

if at work it is not possible to doing nothing,

we take the gaps at work,

and we fill this

with this 20st century mechanism,

called “meetings”

  • If you could fill your days with meetings, then you look busy
  • For real work, you have to stay late, as you filled your white-space
  • You have used up your time for cognitive surplus that Clay Shirky talks about
  • The kind of choices we have today are fundamentally different from the past
  • Everything on the assembly line was predicated by the division of labour

Having 1 person doing

the same thing 16,000 times a day

was felt to be acceptable in those days,

to me it feels inhuman

  • The most expensive thing was the equipment, the switching cost of equipment was very high and the collateral damage done to workers was trivial
  • Now the most expensive asset are the people in this room
  • Because we are able to switch, we are capable of doing non-linear work


It not about an inability to concentrate,

its about the inability

to hold a tension

on the garbage

that is being spewed at them

  • You never have a steady stream of work as a knowledge worker
  • The principles of the assembly line are deeply in our ethos, our very being, we get conditioned to that from our schooling system onwards
  • An ability to switch away from that is not trivial
  • The first thing that you notice about Heroku offices is that there are no desks

–> now think about

what it means

to have

a “desktop” computer


  • That’s change is possible because choice of the edge devices is with the individuals
  • Processes are king only where there are repeatable tasks and the repetition is of value
  • Part of the big shift from the static to the flow is we start spending more time dealing with the exceptions rather than with the core flow
  • The choices today are far to vast to believe in a linear progression
  • Much richer knowledge worker environment in which we must be able to recognize patterns
  • Given enough eye-balls, all bugs are shallow
  • The value of inspection when something is shared in a large group comes to the foreground
  • Wikipedia exists because of cognitive surplus: people are prepared to donate or contribute their time, and their brain, and their knowledge and their effort in order to collaborate for some common good

It strikes me

when I am typing this,

that this is exactly

what I am doing right now:

investing my cognitive surplus

for the common good

  • This truth is a valid in enterprises as it is at home
  • The use of gamification is to help generation that are already at work, because the generations coming in know this already
  • This is the generation born since 1982
  • But we live in a hybrid world
  • Genres are values
  • Hearts, Spades, Clubs and Diamonds
  • Hearts are people that like bonding and teamwork
  • Spades are people who really like to go to the bottom of things and complete their analysis
  • Diamonds are people who after surprises, wealth, aggregation and collection
  • Clubs are people who like beating up on others
  • It is a metaphor for serious thinking on what motivates people in the book “Driven” by Nitin Nohria (Amazon Affiliates link)


The 4 drivers of motivation:

the drive to acquire,

the drive to defend,

the drive to bond,

and the drive to learn


  • When you are looking for a company to work for, then you have to do this sort of “genre matching”
  • The genre of games is in fact the values and ethics of companies
  • When you join, they put you through some form of induction, and the induction is what in a gaming context you would call a sandbox, because you want to minimize damage to the person and environment, while you teach people and allow people to learn more effectively on how the firm operates
  • The discovery process of “how to”, the discovery of how the game works, in a safe sandbox environment
  • We have to think about induction in a deeper way and say “it is a sandbox”

Work has morphed

over the last hundred years,

from hierarchies of products and customers,


businesses becoming

networks of capabilities and relationships


  • There is a lot of work to be done on how to value this, how do you value relationships
  • Things like Klout,, influence, reputation, capability to create and maintain a group of followers, a weighted understanding of the value of your network
  • A whole new science of beginning to genuinely measuring relationships
  • Let’s put all this now in context of team selection, and missions and quests
  • Hierarchies existed because the cost of coordination was very high

In today’s world

those coordination costs are trivial,

we are moving from a world

where everybody has to go

through an MBTI or similar

and then somebody

decides about team composition,


a world

where the team selection

is carried out

by the individual


  • The tools have to be in place to discover who you would like to work with and what you would like to work on
  • A certificate or badge indicating that that person has the skills and the mastery to perform that task
  • Mastery at work gets meaningful
  • Most video games don’t allow you to go to level-X unless you have acquires the skills for level X-1
  • The reason to keep you at that lower level is to get you to that master level
  • Next: a reasonable understanding of where you are at
  • The idea of “save and replay” when at work

I always wanted to live

in a zero-blame culture


  • And work never has been such a zero-blame culture because of these structural weaknesses
  • Now I can get to the point where I can say “I have not failed, I have found 10,000 ways that do not work”
  • You save that which has not worked, together with the conditions within it did not work, and you can analyze and replay and deeper understand
  • Because – when the conditions change – what did not work may work this time
  • So never say “we won’t do that, we tried it before and it did not work”
  • The value of being able to aggregate any life-stream partially lies in the ability to inspect and make analysis of it
  • Conserving seeds so that they do NOT get naturally selected out
  • What did not work today may work in different conditions tomorrow
  • Somebody smart did not throw away that code of that stupid idea
  • Gamification of the enterprise is not a fad
  • It is not about providing extrinsic rewards for crap work
  • If work is crap, let’s fix that problem


From hierarchical,


top-down work




personally selected teams,


and outcomes


  • We are nearly there, but this change is going to require use to learn a lot of new things,
  • And what games can teach us is a smarter way of being able to extract those learning and bring them into the enterprise
  • Thank you

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Awesome “Must-see” video by Gary Hamel. Contains a lot of the wisdom of Vineet Nayar of HCL, who wrote the book “Employees First, Customers Second”.

Btw: have invited Vaneet to Innotribe at Sibos Toronto on Corporate Culture. Hope he accepts.

I’d love to get to a stage where

Innotribe is the place

where you discover

what futures emerge

on the fringe



"Modern” management is one of humanity’s most important inventions, Gary Hamel argues. But it was developed more than a century ago to maximize standardization, specialization, hierarchy, control, and shareholder interests.

While that model delivered an immense contribution to global prosperity, the values driving our most powerful institutions are fundamentally at odds with those of this age—zero-sum thinking, profit-obsession, power, conformance, control, hierarchy, and obedience

don’t stand a chance against community, interdependence, freedom, flexibility, transparency, meritocracy, and self-determination.

It’s time

to radically rethink

how we mobilize people

and organize resources

to productive ends

It’s one one-line after the other, this talk is so inspirational. Check-out:

  • Fit for future, but also fit for human beings
  • We have to re-invent management
  • Management legacies
  • Change has changed
  • Hyper-competition
  • You have to earn your place in the market every single day
  • Knowledge itself is becoming a commodity
  • How fast am I creating new knowledge
  • An organization where people are willing to bring the gifts of their creativity and passion
  • Real reverse accountability
  • Holding your managers accountable for you succeeding in your job
  • Challenge management dogma
  • What problem is management trying to solve?
  • How do you turn human beings into semi-programmable robots?
  • You have to have aspiration, you have to be contrarian, you have to be willing learning from the fringe
  • The future happens on the fringe
  • Management is a feudalistic system
  • The web is sort of the global operating system of innovation


We have to bake

into our management values

the deep web values of




and Collaboration

  • We have been told that we can’t change our organization: that’s nonsense
  • Being resilient as human beings

We hope

that you become

a champion

for the future

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