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Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

As part of my search for a new job, I was introduced to an organisation focusing on using design-led engagements to support innovation and understanding customer needs (needs, not problems, see my previous post on the tyranny of the problem solver)

Clouds above the sea

Lyonel Feininger - Clouds above the sea - 1923 - Oil on Canvas

Steve Jobs used to say “it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

So, in preparation for the job interview, and to know what to tell the recruiter what to do, I started diving a bit into design-thinking and design-led engagement.

I believe that these approaches are great to create high quality information flows, but that something else is needed than noise-free rapid information transfer.

My good friend and ex-Innotriber Nektarios Liolios kindly pointed out to me during a recent chat that “noise free is not the same as conflict free”.

  • We indeed do need conflict, tension, etc to create flow, movement, change, advancement.
  • But we do need to get rid of the noisy primary motivations of prestige, status, tic-for-tac reciprocity, etc .

I think the key element missing in existing design-led engagements is (great) aesthetics.

As I said some time ago: there should be some ambition of advancement in aesthetics, morality, and spirituality.

I that context I found this great article about aesthetics:

Design used to be about sensitivity, beauty, and taste

The key performance indicator for design has changed from beauty to profit. Measuring design has transformed a handicraft into an engineering job. 

Google, Facebook, and Amazon are optimizing their products for us, as they are optimizing our minds, bodies and our kids for their profit. Humans are slowly adapting to that labyrinth, becoming lab rats of an omniscient industry that adapts to our needs as it is adapting us to theirs.

Labyrinth small V1

Petervan Artwork ©2018 - Hand drawn labyrinth 

Many labyrinths are “meandering”. We need similar meandering in design-led engagements.

We need to bolt-on something upfront that unites, aligns, encourages, and motivates teams at a level beyond the cognitive.

I think I know how to do that.

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I am going to do some shorter, snappier posts, just seeding an idea or an interesting (as in A.F.E.A.R.) point of view.

Google “Get out of your comfort zone” and you will get about 160,000,000 results. That’s solid framing!

comfort zone

But is it true?

My cousin – yes, the senior curator of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Belgium – surprised me the other day by stating the opposite: he performs (as in doing his best work) best when he is IN his comfort zone.

Just a couple of days later, I see this Tweet from Niels Pflaeging:

niels tweet

Niels is a management exorcist and a real myth-buster. I always listen to him.

So maybe the trick to do your best work is to find your comfort zone? Or is it all apeshit – or pop psychology – as Niels suggests above?

Let me know what you think.

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still life Song Han

Still life by Song Han

The trigger for this post was an article on the nexxworks site about right & wrong in corporate innovation. The first paragraph focuses on the need to obsess on solving a customer problem. My friend and ex-colleague Kevin commented via LinkedIn:

“Fantastic article! I’ve been banging on for years about starting with the problem, that people care about but this is so much more articulate than me.”

We started a quick exchange on LinkedIn:

linkedin with kevin

The nexxworks article is about much more than problem solving, but problem-solving is what I will be focusing on in this pamphlet/manifesto for creating what you want. As that is where I am coming from.

Not being problem focused seems almost a blasphemy these days. But we don’t realise we have been mis-framed for decades to be problem solvers and solutionists (“there is an app for that”).

It already happens in start-up pitches to start with. Start-ups are coached to pitch in a standard way. It goes back to Guy Kawasaki’s 10 slides to pitch: start with the problem, what is the solution, the team, the business model, etc, etc.

There are the Maddlibs to perfect your one-sentence-pitch. There even are Maddlibs to generate your strategy statement, based on a collection of blah-words (Thx to @swardley).

containers

Everything is “modelled” and vocabulary is standardised: we need MVP’s, lean start-ups, scale-ups, etc. It’s cool, but you then have to explain this new vocabulary to the rest of your troops.

Everything is “role-modelled”. And we get inspired by always the same use cases: Haier, Semco, Apple, Amazon, Uber, etc. We don’t seem to realise that these are exceptions. Only exceptions make the news. The exceptional is normalised, check out hyper-normalisation of Adam Curtis, albeit in another context.

“In the film, Curtis argues that since the 1970s, governments, financiers, and technological utopians have given up on the complex “real world” and built a simple “fake world” that is run by corporations and kept stable by politicians.”

Everything is based on a Silicon Valley solutionist style, a reactive/responsive orientation, something our MBA’s and entre/intra-preneurs and leaders/managers have been trained for at nauseum: define the problem, articulate the solution, make a plan to execute, execute the plan with rigor, and be effective and efficient in doing so.

It may be a style semantic. Ex-Trump-PR-guy Sarramuci said: “you may dislike his (Trump’s) style, but he is very effective.” But one can be very effective at doing the wrong thing. One can be very effective at being a problem solver.

I think it’s more than about style. We have become so politically correct. To please everybody, we say things like “It’s probably a bit of both”. That way, confusion about the real intention creeps in. I say we must be opinionated, and we must be judgemental, we must choose sides.

taleb skin

We say those politically correct things because we don’t have skin in the game. Read Nicholas Taleb’s latest on that subject. For that reason Taleb hates consultants, professors at high schools, some managers and executives, and by extension heads/consultants of innovation. They can say whatever they want, it has no consequences, at least not for their existence or that of the organisation they represent.

I recently heard Nektarios Liolios from Startupbootcamp venting his frustrations on stage, as all the innovation efforts of the last decade have apparently not changed much, or at least not shipped anything substantial. They even start bypassing heads of innovation and innovation teams in general, as they are more and more seen as barriers between customers and the business units. They want to solve real business problems.

Innovation-powerhouse-eindhoven-janne-van-berlo_dezeen_2364_col_4

Innovation Powerhouse Philips Eindhoven – Architect Janne van Berlo
A renovation respecting the building's patrimonial structure.

But I am afraid that a focus on real business problems won’t help. The only way to enable real change and lasting innovation is changing the structure of an organisation.

Structure is about more than reporting lines and P&L units. Structure is about the coherence of narrative, motives, and governance.

  • The narrative is about purpose, about patrimony (tacit knowledge), “just-do-it” kind of mantra, action oriented. A narrative is rallying the troops to play the game in a certain way, in a certain context. In war, the game is to win. In business, I would hope it’s about more than winning a finite game, and there is some sense of moral, aesthetical and spiritual advancement, an infinite game across generations.
  • Motives are about why we are doing this. There are primary/primal motives like prestige, promotion, reciprocity and tic-for-tac rewards/punishments. Once you add moral, aesthetical, and spiritual advancement, you are driven by second level motivations that have to do with care, tradition, craftsmanship, beauty, proportion, etc. In that sense, I believe that problem solving is a primal motivation. A more advanced intention of creating something great is a second level motivation. So the question should not be “what problem are you trying to solve?” but “what do you truly want to create?” If not, “solving problems” becomes a doctrine, just like “customer first” is a doctrine, or “FNAO”, or “Lean” or “Agile”. Applied across the board without thinking whether it makes sense. Being effective at doing the wrong thing.
  • Governance is about how you organise and coordinate high quality flows to play the game in context. This is what real leadership is about. In that sense, innovation is a discipline. And there is nothing wrong with discipline. All great things/products/artworks have been a result of discipline. It is about “getting things done”. Jan Chipchase has an awesome fieldbook and practice for revealing – usually in plain sight – real customer needs. He articulates these needs as “desires on getting things done”. “Getting things done” is something quite different than “solving a problem”.

Artists don’t solve problems. Neither do real innovators. Did the iPhone start with solving a problem? Did Amazon ? Did Facebook? I don’t think so. They started with what they wanted to be, and what they wanted to create. They started with structure, if anywhere at all. But not with the problem.

A customer is IMO not looking for a problem to be solved. A customer is looking for a superior experience.

With that perspective, one could ask “Can organisations change?” to make that happen?  Or “Can people change?” and the more critical question, “Why would people change?”

sheep

Sheep in boxes - drone photograph by Dean Lewins

The answer again is structure. Change the structure, and change will not be hard, it will be natural.

That’s why the whole idea of the dual approach (separation castle/sandbox, or core/innovation) is flawed. It is the wrong structure.

The preferred structure would probably more resemble a Khasbah or Souks, an open city plan with many innovation cells/areas with maximum transparency for all, so that everybody is inspired and motivated to join those projects too. And “brutal force” (see below).

It’s a paradox of course. Already in 2002, Storey & Salaman said in their Theories about Process of Innovation:

“paradox is at the heart of innovation. The pressing need for survival in the short term requires efficient exploration of current competencies and requires ‘coherence, coordination and stability’; whereas exploration / innovation requires the discovery and development of new competencies and this requires the loosening and replacement of these erstwhile virtues”

Problem-solving is like design thinking: it is fundamentally conservative and preserving the status quo.

“Rational-experimental problem solving begins with a presumption that the search for a solution starts by relying on existing data about the problem. Design thinking, in a slight divergence from the original model, suggests instead that the designer herself should generate information about the problem, by drawing on her experience of the people who will be affected by the design through the empathetic connection that she forges with them”

Remains the question: can it be done in a big or conservative organisation? Yes, of course. And it is done through what I would call the “brutal force attack”. It is the only thing I have seen working in a bigger organisation to actually SHIP innovation into the market and seeing it picked-up by a substantial part of the target customer base.

The brutal force attack requires two things:

  • A visionary that is able to articulate in a compelling way what he/she wants to create (and it does NOT start with the problem to be solved). Often this person is somewhat hidden in the fabric/structure of the organisation
  • A CxO, usually a CEO with metaphorical balls who will do whatever it takes to make the vision happen. With skin-in-the-game. Even against some part of his/her executive team and/or against part of the Board. His/her position may be at risk. He/she is committed like a pig. (For an omelet with bacon, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed)

You then build a team to make this happen. A squad of the best of best in your company. And the project lead has a direct red telephone line to the CEO to call in case somebody puts barriers or antibodies to make the vision happen. Usually, it suffices just to threaten to pick up the red phone…

It can be as simple as that: just do it. Just build and ship what you want to create.

If you want to have some romanticised innovation story to go with it, sure, go ahead and organise start-up competitions, create innovation labs, bootcamps, accelerate, incubate, and make a lot of noise and corporate communication about it. Just be aware they are a lot of fun, give a lot of exposure, prestige, and status, but are not needed.

That’s why my mantra is “To inspire other people to dream”. To dream and imagine what they truly want to create.

Like in this Nike promo:

Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough.

Don’t buy the tyranny of the problem solver. Don’t settle to be a problem solver.

Create what you really want.

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magritte behind bars

Magritte behind bars – Digital Mix - © Petervan Artwork 2018

On 12 Sep 2018, I will do a live performance at the Finnovista Summit in Mexico-City. The theme of this year’s event is “Listen, Learn, Lead” and the title of my performance is “Get out of your prison cell! – An artistic reflection on listening, learning, and leading”

UPDATE: here is a link to the slide-deck I used during the performance: https://www.slideshare.net/thepierre/finnosummit-mexico-2018-petervan

Manoeuvring through this theme, I have prepared a new performance, recuperating some older material, but also with new elements from my artwork series “Prison Window” and other metaphors capturing more recent reflections and insights. From a stage-crafting perspective, I use a multi-media approach, including props on stage, a live camera feed, some vestimentary attributes like hats and masks and drums, and a lightning script for the light technician.

This post is however NOT about the stage experience, which is rather artistic with self-created visuals, soundscapes and poems, hopefully resonating beyond the cognitive. This post is about the underlying thoughts, messages and insights. Preparing a talk, a blog, or a presentation forces you to get your ideas together and structured. And as usual, by refining and experimenting, I sort of stumbled upon most of these insights.

Otto Scharmer meets Simon Wardley

As many of you know, I am a fan of Otto Scharmer’s work on Theory-U and the accompanying ideas in his book “Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies”.

otto clean

Key image from Leading from the Emerging Future – Otto Scharmer

In essence, Otto Sharmer’s model is about increasing the levels of quality of attention in attending, conversing, organizing and coordinating. It is about getting better at these along higher levels of consciousness. For example, attending at the 3.0 Stakeholder Level is of a higher quality than attending at the 1.0 Habitual Level.

That’s a mouthful, and although we don’t have time here to go into any depth into Theory-U (read the book), it is about letting emerge your future state from being your true self.

I combined this with the insights of Simon Wardley, who – if we discount several thousand years of military history – I would label as the godfather of situational awareness and the accompanying situational awareness maps.

wardley tweet

He labels them as “topographical intelligence in business”. Simon positions his work in the “observing position and movement” part of John Boyd’s OODA model

Wardley circle

Sun Tsu meets John Boyd – courtesy Simon Wardley 

Except for Magritte-behind-bars, none of these visuals are used during my performance, but my metaphorical narrative on stage is in essence about getting better. But getting better at what? And along which dimensions? In what direction?

  • It is about letting emerge a better way of listening, learning and leading.
  • It is about letting emerge a better way of observing, game-play, deciding.
  • It is about letting emerge a better way of attending, conversing, organizing and coordinating

Let me guide you through this forest.

Listening

“If you are very very quiet you can hear the clouds rub against the sky”

Raul Gutierrez, Poet

Listening is usually about hearing sound, spoken words, music. In my performance, I expand listening to observing in general. Observing sound, time, location, movement, structure, memory, and patrimony.

listen

Listening is about observing and attending. Getting better at that is making progress along the levels of quality of attention. Open willed listening is better than habitual listening.

Learning

“Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t”

Jordan Peterson

Learning is usually associated with studying, going to a course or training, follow a workshop. It is usually associated with downloading or acquiring new information, knowledge.

In my performance I share the ladder of learning, from innocent to mentor to expert to… God! I talk about learning in the wild, natural emerging apprenticeship, and evolution with/without skin in the game. John Hagel refers to some of this as “scalable learning and tacit knowledge.”

“Tacit knowledge trumps explicit knowledge. The latter can be articulated and written down and it usually takes time before it can be expressed clearly and coherently to others. Tacit knowledge is within our heads and we have a hard time even expressing it to ourselves, much less to anyone else. Because tacit knowledge is generally newer knowledge, emerging from new experiences that we’ve encountered, it’s often the most valuable knowledge, providing us with insight into how to act in a rapidly evolving environment. Tacit knowledge becomes accessible through shared practice

Ise Shinto

Ise Shinto shrine in Japan

In my performance, I metaphorically refer to the Ise Shinto shrine in Japan, which is rebuilt every 20 years for around 1,300 years as a way to preserve process knowledge aka tacit knowledge.

learn

Learning is about game-play and conversing. Getting better at that is making progress along the levels of quality of attention. Learning through doing in the flow is better than learning through downloading information.

Leading

The first job of a leader is to learn. Only then can a leader do their second and third jobs — care and love ”

Umair Haque

Leading is usually associated with leaders and followers. I wrote a post about “The End of Leadership” long time ago.

In my performance, I focus on different types of archetypes of change agents, and the evolution from the forbidden, through the rebellion into creation. I talk about the coherence of narrative, motives, and governance. All addressed in previous posts on this blog.

lead

What is new is that I could now map “leading” to the “organising & coordinating” columns of Otto Scharmer’s model or to the “leadership” quadrant in Simon Wardley’s circle.

Leading is about deciding, organizing and coordinating coherence of narrative, motives and governance. Getting better at that is making progress along the levels of quality of attention. Leading in awareness-based-collective-action is better than leading in command-and-control.

Personal reflection

During my performance, I am inviting the audience for a moment of personal reflection after each chapter, with the explicit instruction that they will NOT be asked to report back.

This is about personalized learning, letting humans internalize with attention for privacy and intimacy. Learning as a personal secret.

“All our choices are among life stories that end with our individual deaths.”

Venkatesh Rao

Every reflection moment also challenges the audience in taking personal leadership for stepping out of the prison cell, hopefully in a series of choices among life stories. Every choice is a choice between inside or outside of the prison cell.

So, please, get out of your prison cell!

Warm regards,

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Holiday is almost over, and soon the corporate machinery will kick-in again in full swing, with plenty of exciting announcements about new innovation initiatives, conferences, books, accelerators, startups, scale-ups, and what have you.

“How serious is your innovation?” is the title of a panel I will moderate at the Finnosummit 2018 on 12-13 Sep 2018. I identified a couple of angles for discussion that you might use yourself in assessing your own innovation efforts. Self-assessment of innovation is of course not new, and I already wrote several posts on this topic before:

But in this post, I would like to go beyond the tactics and the aesthetics.

The aesthetics in the video are great, and the background of the Louvre museum gives it some extra credibility, but from a historical point of view, it is all plain wrong and misleading. S**t sold as culture.

If you are a regular reader of the awesome blog of Leda Glyptis about innovation in financial services, you will soon get depressed, but what she describes is unfortunately reality in most organisations. The essence is that most innovation in bigger organisations is just Apes**t: it is not about getting good new stuff into the market, but it is all about looking good and ticking the box during annual reports and annual events. It’s marketing, and that is fine, as long as you know it and don’t deceit yourself that you are doing the real thing.

In this Apes**t world, innovation is a Brand Of Smiling Young Successful Energetic Good Looking People reflecting sentiments of cool, hip, young, dynamic, agile, fast moving, energetic, smiling, fun, and rule breakers.

building-stronger-more-positive-and-effective-teams

This Innovation Apes**t is now almost in the same category as “Fake trumps reality” a.k.a. fantasies to compensate for unfulfilled needs in real life.

Innovation “teams” are often very small teams compared to the rest of the organisation, and deeply buried in its reporting lines. But those very few are able to make a lot of positive and hyped noise, while in reality the rest of the organisation is still in zombie state, refusing at all times to touch (don’t event talk about cutting) the branch they are sitting on or the breast that is feeding them. Why would they? They are in the comfort zone of regular pay-checks, bonuses, perks, etc. And the rare individuals that have the guts to step forward get slashed in annual appraisals because they don’t focus on their objectives which are all focused on the core of the business, or on some vague management/leadership principles that look nice on a slide deck or annual report, but in reality are lip-service at best. It has come to a point where what innovations teams talk about is not what the organisation is focused on.

I have come to distrust anything that looks good, too good/neat to be true. The truth is always messy, and in a corporate environment the good usually hides the ugly.

Look at this example about employee motivation, typical HR Apes**t slideware.

Workplace trust hr apeshit

Humans just don’t function this linear/matrix type of flow. Humans are messy, and that is a great thing.

Therefore, distrust anything that fits a 2×2 matrix, because it is an oversimplification of reality, and does not include “movement” and “tempo”, unless you draw an arrow from one quadrant to another 😉

In general, also distrust all consultant models: they also suck because besides the gross simplifications of reality they also don’t take into account humans’ motivations. Most human interactions (words, sounds, tone, dress, posture, etc ) are status transactions, to increase one’s status compared to the other (opponent). Most motivations are about reciprocity, prestige, self-serving biases, power, hypocrisy, arrogance and entitlement.

All those models also suck because they forget about patrimony, organisational memory, and culture being in essence recorded/internalised know-how.

Doctrines are a category in their own right. Lean, Agile, and Six Sigma are in the category of “Doctrines”, so are “Customer first” and “FNAO” (Failure is not an option/Fear is not an option). The big four sign big contracts for rolling out Lean, Agile, and Six Sigma programs in organisations. They have “knowledge transfer methodologies” where they run the program themselves with their junior consultants for the first year, and then transfer the knowledge to in-house “navigators”, “coachers” or other fancy titles to keep the whole organisation busy and in defence mode for another 1-2 years.

Agile swardley

Doctrine One Site Fits All - Courtesy Simon Wardley

The problem is when one or the other becomes a one-size-fits-all doctrine, usually to obfuscate an unspoken organisational objective to do with cost control (by reducing cost of change (agile), by reducing waste (lean), by reducing deviation (six sigma), and sold under the innovation umbrella.

Once these programs come to an end, the focus quickly fades out – because in addition the whole organisation is now exhausted – and another year later, we are back to business as usual. Until the next consultant or management guru/book comes along.

This is the famous oscillating pattern so well described by Robert Fritz who states that structure drives everything and basically that any lasting innovation effort is about changing the structure of the organisation. And structure is not only about organisational structure (like organograms and reporting lines). It is about coherence between narrative, motivations and governance.

Some good dimensions to assess your Innovation Apes**t are:

  • What innovation have you SHIPPED lately (let’s be generous and look at last year, not last weeks)?
  • How did that contribute to the bottom line?
  • Where is the Skin-in-the-Game?
  • What % of your revenue is invested in innovation? If less than 5% you are definitely not serious. Some startups have probably more bootstrap money then your whole innovation budget together.
  • What have you changed at organisational level?

strategyzer

Courtesy Alex Osterwalder - Strategyzer
  • Why is your head of innovation NOT reporting to the Chairman of the Board? Yes, you read that well: Chairman of the Board and not CEO.
  • Why don’t you have a Chief Entrepreneur NEXT to the CEO?
  • What have you changed at Governance level? Have you simplified, or just added yet another layer of control and vetting to make it quasi impossible for your innovators to get anything through the different gating levels?
  • What is the name of the (innovation) play you are playing? This is about the clarity of your innovation intention. Describe it in 10 words max without using any of the Blah-words. Are ALL executives and ALL board members 100% aligned on this? Or have you left the doors open for organised sabotage?

blahs

Common Blahs (in strategy) - Courtesy Simon Wardley

For financial services, you can add Blockchain (or whatever semantic variation such as DLT), AI, RegTech and the Data Revolution to that list.

So, what is your innovation about, if you can’t use any of these blah-words? Is there anything tangible or even intangible left when you peal this onion? Curious to hear your thoughts and experiences.

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Bicycle ride Sep 2017 - South of Aalst - Flanders

Summer is over, autumn settles in, leaves are falling but here and there some late sunflowers reminding us of the bright sun and the fertile soils. I am now my last 3 months of my long-term sabbatical as Petervan Productions. If you are interested in my developing journey, my Jan 2017, March 2017 , May 2017 and Aug 2017 updates are still available.

The House project

Our house move is now done and we are fully settled. As planned, the art studio is complete now. The easel has landed:

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Spotless easel in Petervan Productions studio

The Artschool project

Initially the plan was to join the art academy of Aalst, only 2 miles away from where I live. But after the first session, it felt like a mismatch: very limited space to work, a quite older population than what I am used to, and I did not feel a click with the coach.

Upon recommendation of my coach of the last two years (Ann Grillet), I decided to do some better homework and I checked out about five other academies. In the end I decided to join the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, one of the oldest academies of the Low Countries (South Netherlands and Flanders). The academy was founded in 1741.

On my first day I felt a bit like a Flemish Primitive: I learned BTW that the term Flemish “Primitive” has nothing to do with “basic” or “archaic” but is related to “first” or “early”, because the Flemish Primitives were innovators in finding the right compounds for paint to use on panels and canvas. In other words: how to make innovation stick!

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Royal Academy Ghent painting studio and my blank personal corner

I restarted painting, and upon suggestion of Ioana Guiman from Allevo (thank you, Ioana!), I started experimenting with timelapses of some of my paintings. It is an interesting format: you can pause the video where you like it most and then make a sort of personal still and print-out.

Here is one of the painting “Girl Dancing in Flemish Fields”. I did a quick soundscape for it as well, so volume “on” is recommended.

The falling of the leaves and the autumn humidity of the soil inspired me for a poem:

Herfst

Vervaagd

Het beeld van zondag

Een boomgaard vol fruit

Warmte onderhuids

De zoete hap vergeet de kleur van zon

Vliegensvlugge paardebloemen

Verstrooien nog snel het land met hun laatste zaad

Te laat

We moeten zoeken nu

naar een warm nest

in die berm van oneindige mildheid

Apple trees with red apples

Trees with red apples in an orchard

 

Autumn

Blurred

The bust of Sunday

An orchard full of fruit

Warmth under my skin

The sweet mouthful forgets the color sun

Speedy dandelions

Spawn brisk the land with their last seeds

Too late

We have to find a warm nest now

In that soft shoulder of endless indulgence

 

And here is another new poem “Horse Riding without Bridles” . In essence, the poem is about personal freedom.

IMG_5144

Quote by Kurt Vonnegut - Found in Royal Academy studio on kitchen wall

The Performance project

As mentioned in my August update, I was invited for a gig at FinnoSummit in September in Mexico . Some sort of  keynote, including some elements of my performance “Tin Drum is Back”. The talk is about structural change and archetypes of change agents. It is very much related to my research about Good Change – Bad Change (more about that later).

FinnoSummit was scheduled as a two-day event on 19-20 Sep 2017, but at 13:14pm on day one, the 7,1 magnitude earthquake hit, and in the end the whole event was cancelled as the venue could not get clearance from the authorities to re-open before the appropriate stability checks of the meeting location.

Although experiencing a 7,1 quake is quite an experience in itself – I was sitting in the top of the 1000 PAX concert hall shaking at least 50cm from left to right –  I was most struck by the huge wave of solidarity throughout the city by all layers of the population, helping the rescuers and the victims with food, water, blankets, etc…

It made me think of “The Intensity to action of the Positive Archetype” in the nice post about systems thinking by @LeylaAcaroglu

This occurs when agents are motivated to take action for the collective benefits due to an intensely focused experience, as was the case in Mexico City after the earthquake last week. The focused intensity of the need to act and the physical actions of many agents create a reinforcing feedback loop of contribution, all dedicated to the collective whole.

The talk also went into the topic of patrimony and spaces of memory, and I will update the talk with the earthquake experience of damaged patrimony, the emergence of commons, self formed solidarity brigades, and “moles” (the name of the special rescue forces that start digging into the rubble of the quake.

The organisers of FinnoSummit have kindly re-invited me to do the premiere of this performance at their Miami event on 9 Oct 2017. The venue is again stunning: they selected a place called “The Sacred Space”.

Sacred space Miami

The Sacred Space in Miami

The Deep Change project

Patrimony is one of the components of a research I started some months ago on “deep” change. Check out the previous posts here, here and this one where I highlighted the importance of patrimony and its combination with contemporary. Or the respect of the memory of an organisation and its combination with the DNA of innovation.

heatherwick-architecture-cultural-galleries-v-and-a-south-africa-interior_dezeen_2364_col_0

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, by Thomas Heatherwick Studio

Although the term “deep” is a somewhat glorifying term – as glorifying as “meaningful” or “authentic” – it has some meaning as the change I am trying to describe probably has its source in the more deeply wired connections in our brains and being fully conscious.

The plan is to come up with a body of work, describing what is deep change, to articulate the levers to accelerate deep change, and a more tactical set of recommendations on how to get started and keep going. The format of that body of work is not decided yet, but it could go from anything like a publication up to a performance and/or experience expedition, as I believe learning happens best through experience and not through teaching.

For this project – funding permitted – I intend to do 10 “in residence” immersions, complemented with additional interviews with a collective of leaders, visionaries, artists, craftsmen, designers and producers.

In essence this is a sensemaking expedition on the what and the how of high quality connections and long lasting cross-generational structural change that goes beyond innovation tactics such as bootcamps, start-up competitions, accelerators, incubators or whatever these concepts are called these days.

I have by now a quite solid outline in place and feel ready to get this one going.

Sponsorships

There are different kinds of sponsorship available for the Deep Change project. Please contact me in private if interested.

techonomy 2017

On a separate note, I would love to combine my FinnoSummit Miami trip in November with one of the best conferences in the world: Techonomy. I believe many of the topics on this year’s agenda could be solid anchor points for the Deep Change project as well. It would be great if somebody would be willing to sponsor my attendance. Let’s discuss what sort of deliverable you’d like in return. Please contact me in private if interested.

What’s next?

During Oct – Dec 2017, the plan is to work on:

  • FinnoSummit Miami keynote/performance on 9 Nov 2017
  • Covering Techonomy (pending sponsorship)
  • Continue the research on deep change
  • Get some blogs and reflections published
  • More disciplined agenda again

Permeke - De Vespers - Cropped

Permeke – De Vespers – 1927 - Oil on Canvas – 128x149cm

That’s about it for this edition. If there is something worth reporting, next update is for Dec 2017. Looking forward to hearing from your latest adventures as well.

As I have increased my social media activity, some folks think I am back at work. I am not. I enjoy the silence, and try to focus on my 4 priorities: Deep change research project, performance, artwork, and experience expeditions (events). If you have anything interesting or related to one of these domains, please contact me.

Warmest,

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I am in the business of cultivating high quality connections and flows to create immersive learning experiences and structural change. Check out: https://petervanproductions.com/

 

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Musikheim, main hall, Frankfurt:Oder, 1929 He befriended fellow modernist Walter Gropius, and helped draw up the curriculum for Gropius_s design school, the Bauhaus Photograph- © Ate

Musikheim, main hall, Frankfurt/Oder, 1929
The Bauhaus Photograph- © Atelier Leopold Haase & Co

A couple of months ago a started a research on “deep” change. Check out the previous posts here and also this one where I highlighted the importance of patrimony and its combination with contemporary. Or the combination of the core organisational DNA with the DNA of innovation.

Although the term “deep” is a somewhat glorifying term – as glorifying as “meaningful” or “authentic” – it has some meaning as the change I am trying to describe probably has its source in the more deeply wired connections in our brains and being fully conscious, as opposed to the western consciousness – starting more or less with Pythagoras – which is anchored in a two dimensional, linear either/or Boolean consciousness.

With my background training as an architect, I have probably developed a greater multi-dimensional sensitivity about spaces, and I stumbled by accident on the notion of space and/or structure as a store for memories, or wisdom if you want.

Lately, I am noticing plenty of videos that use connected particles moving around in some kind of grid, creating patterns of movement.

Here is one video by futurist Gerd Leonhard about the tension Technology vs. Humanity and the connectedness or over-connectedness of humans and things.

The moving grid/nodes representations made me think of some artwork I discovered lately by visual artist Simone Reuss on spacial relations. The original post and background is here, but I made my own little animation with it and added a self-composed soundtrack. I made it as part of a brand new presentation/performance on the topic of “deep” change.

 

Spacial relationships may be one of the aspects of being human that we are losing by using too augmented reality. Like you loose your physical orientation skills by driving/walking around all the time with Google Maps or GPS driving.

I like the idea of human movements creating invisible spaces of memory. Leaving traces of flows and movements.

In the second part of my short movie, you will see a drawing documenting human flows in an office building. How humans cut corners, how their movements are dictated by the structure/floor plan of the office. What I really like is how the artist made 3D prints in silicone of these patterns. It is as if the 3D print object is a store of memory of the movements and the structure.

02_plocka_movementspace_simoneruess_2012

Movement Spaces - Silicone 3R print - Simone Reuss - 2012

One can of course question what came or should come first: the structure influencing the flow, or the flow influencing the structure? I remember some Californian University experimenting with spaces with no walls, and let the users define “as-they-flow” where the separations should be.

Fluidity seems to always find its best structure

Flow happens first, it influences the structure and determines the capacity of the structure to further enable connections.

But that structure in its own terms then also becomes patrimony. A memory space. A tool to memorise and remember the patrimony memory of a talk, a plot, a corporate narrative, or a corporate DNA.

memory spaces

lukasa memory board. Courtesy Brooklyn Museum/Wikimedia

I learned that “Memory Palaces” are indeed an old mnemonic technique to build places of memory. Check out this great post about “Memory Palaces”.

Cultures without writing are referred to as ‘non-literate’, but their identity should not be associated with what they don’t do, but rather with what they do from necessity when there is no writing to record their knowledge. Cultures without writing employ the most intriguing range of memory technologies often linked under the academic term ‘primary orality’, including song, dance, rhyme and rhythm, and story and mythology. Physical memory devices, though, are less often included in this list. The most universal of these is the landscape itself.

It is about recording knowledge, or even better know-how, through experience, and not because being told/teached to do so.

Culture is recorded know-how.

Is there a way to “design” the such spaces of memory? Joe Brewer has done some solid work with his Culture Design Labs, laying the groundwork for a design science of intentional social change to rapidly evolve our systems of government, the practices and structures of market economies, pathways through educational institutions, and journalism models in the media. 

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Not as some loose theory of change, but by creating a rigorous scientific model. That’s interesting and refreshing: looking at change as a science, not as a theory.

Every story, every organisation has structure. How did that structure come into being? How do we change structure? How do we change flows influencing that structure? Or as Jean Russell says: how do we cultivate flows?

Hope it sparks something 😉 Cheers!

petervan-signature

I am in the business of cultivating high quality connections and flows to create immersive learning experiences and structural change. Check out: https://petervanproductions.com/

 

 

 

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