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Archive for the ‘Leading by Being’ Category

Way back in 2010, I wrote a post “Let me entertain you” inspired by one of Robbie Williams’ biggest hits. Some extract of the lyrics below:

Hell is gone and heaven’s here
There’s nothing left for you to fear
Shake your arse come over here
Now scream
I’m a burning effigy
Of everything I used to be
You’re my rock of empathy, my dear
So come on let me entertain you
Let me entertain you

Lyrics of "Let me entertain you" - Robbie Williams

I have evolved since then. The title of this post is inspired by a quote by Brian Eno in an interview in December 2015 with Steven Johnson about art, music, punch lines, and culture in general I would say.

 

“I don’t want to be entertained,

I want to be provoked.”

 

 

 

Here is the video on punch lines.

When I first read that interview, there was no transcript, so I transcribed it all myself (so I did not cut and paste from the site, and everything in this post is my own crunching through the story ;-). Now it’s all for grabs on Steven’s post.

I think Eno’s quote could be a great tagline for the way I think about “events”. I could do my Magritte trick here again and say “Ceci n’est pas un event”. As I have said so many times in the past:

“I am not in the events business. I am in the business of creating high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning experiences”.

It’s about creating spaces and environments where people want to be provoked, not feeling comfortable, not being entertained. At the edge, but not beyond.

 

 

Exactly what architect Clive Wilkinson refers to in his talk “Designing The Theatre of Work”. There is indeed something (un)wise in this notion of “Theater of Work” or “Theatre of Change”. At min 11:30 of this video, he quotes:

“I don’t want people to feel comfortable, I want them to be provoked. I am not going to get great work out of people who are comfortable”

and also

“The architecture and the language of space is not something that is meant to make you go to sleep”

It’s only very recently that I realized the “creating high feedback loops and immersive learning thing” was only about the “how” and not about the “why” and “what” this is supposed to achieve.

I think I have a better hunch about that now: I believe it is about creating high quality change. Deep change. Not the Theatre of Change. Change that is in the first place based on high quality human alignment. Beyond the cognitive, and beyond the tactics of processes and governance. Beyond the illusion and entertainment of the innovation theatre.

I recently bumped into a colleague that is doing innovation work – or should I say theatre – for a big international automotive company. She was asked to give support in the design of a “disruption tour” that was organized for the members of the board in Silicon Valley.

I think we have all seen those disruption tours, where execs are flown into sunny California, get a week immersion, come back all excited as part of this elite club that got to see one or the other hotshot in the valley, and where the initial momentum ebbs away very quickly, usually already after two weeks, when we all go back to business as usual.

But the briefing for this tour was a bit different. She learned that the tour should not challenge any of the “what” and only focus on the “how”. So in other words: avoid in all circumstances that anything they will see and hear would challenge or disrupt their existing automotive strategy. What was asked for was “disruption without disrupting”. Or “Safe Innovation” as I read somewhere else this week.

In Hollywood this is called “entertainment”.

I kept delving in the Brian Eno’s story about entertainment vs. provocation, and found this audio ànd the transcript of the 27th Sep 2015 BBC John Peel Lectures with Brian Eno.

I am very much inspired by both Peel, who has this art of giving others “airplay” and Brian Eno, who really is a “curator d’excellence”, if you look back at what sort of magic mix of artists he brought together in his life, always remaining a “vanguard”, and his restless desire for discovering new places and more:

vanguard

“Vanguard” means forefront, advance guard, avant-garde. Has to do with seeing early signals, making sense of them. Not only seeing. Also building. Building something new. “World Building”.

World building, like the places children imagine. Like the emotional places where children imagine: who would not crave to be in that state all the time? In that sense, I believe my curation and events work is more and more about painting and architecting “states of mind”.

Happenstance that just this week @ribbonfarm had a fantastic post on this topic of “states of mind” titled “Productivity for precious snowflakes”

snowflakes

Two identical snowflakes, via NYT

He is talking about multi-finality (and not multi-tasking) and about the interest in the quality of the experience (and not the mere outcome), and about the source of creative being in the past.

It’s encouraging to realize that many of the states of mind we seek are not “out there” somewhere, to be hunted down and consumed. They are states of mind belonging to our past selves — we wouldn’t crave it if we had never experienced it. We have to go backwards and remember what we once knew, not forwards to some perfected version of ourselves. What would you pay to experience child-like wonder for a day? To watch Star Wars Episode IV for the first time again? To have the ability to snap your fingers at any time and see your writing, your painting, your app with the fresh eyes of a novice?

“Flexing our mental muscles” by imagining new worlds, and “when people synchronize themselves together”, says Eno.

He also introduces the topic of “exhaustion”. I will come back to the theme of exhaustion in another post, as I think it is key to the kind of problems we try to tackle today.

14th century

“We need ways to keep in synch, to keep coherent. That is what culture is doing for us.”

and

“Culture as a set of collective rituals to keep coherent, collective rituals that we are all engaged in”

book keeping together

Brian refers to the book “Keeping Together” by William Hardy. In that book, one of the most widely read and respected historians in America pursues the possibility that coordinated rhythmic movement – and the shared feelings it evokes – has been a powerful force in holding human groups together.

As an ex-DJ, I think my work is about creating rhythms. Architecting these “coordinated rhythmic movements and rituals” for “state of minds” and “states of intentions”.

Way beyond the entertainment. This is about “Creating scenius together”. Scenius is the talent of whole communities. Bringing them in contact with their talent, their potential.

“You simply can’t absorb this (change and exhaustion). You just have to do it collectively. Nobody’s going to be able to do it individually”.

These interviews with Brian Eno are from last year. Before Bowie sent us Lazarus and left us all alone on 10 Jan 2016.

 

 

My good friend Gary Thompson also leveraged Bowie’s death into an intimate and very inspiring blog post about “being provoked” and “being at a trailhead, at the start of a new year and being on a journey without a map”.

Tony Visconti, who produced several of Bowie’s albums, acclaimed Bowie’s visionary status.

“He always did what he wanted to do,” and “And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of art.”

Bowie and Eno are not entertainment. They are provoking art. Work becomes art. The essence of work is art.

“Art is everything

that you don’t have to do”

Brian Eno

At a reception earlier this week, I bumped into a friend who follows my blogs, tweets, and artwork.

She basically asked me “Quo Vadis, Peter?” and “What direction are you going with all this?” It’s a great question I am struggling with on an almost daily basis.

I will answer cryptically with the title of Otto Sharmer’s latest book “Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies”and with the last verse of Bowie’s Lazarus:

This way or no way
You know I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now, ain’t that just like me?

Oh, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh, I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me?

Enjoy!

 

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From time to time, I am invited to give a keynote presentation. More and more i am adding multimedia elements to that: video, audio, even silence. This transmedia approach is also something that keeps inspiring me when doing my day job, where i am architect and content curator of “events”. I always say that i am not in the “events” business but in the business of creating high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning experiences. That’s quite a different ballgame.

Some fans believe that what I do with our flagship Innotribe@Sibos is where i put the bar. It is not.

It is my starting point.

I really would like to go much further in touching my audience at another, additional level than purely the cognitive level. That’s why i believe a multi-sensory, more intimate, even business romantic experience is needed.

That’s why i love so much the work of Tim Leberecht, here in a recent talk at TEDxIstanbul:

I strongly recommend you watch this talk for the full 18 minutes. And read the book it is based on.

Tim Leberecht, author of the book The Business Romantic and chief marketing officer of global design firm NBBJ and, worries that big data, algorithms, and self-tracking technologies are engineering the romance out of our lives. He argues that we can find and create more meaning, and even magic, by designing experiences that connect us with something greater than ourselves. He contends that we all long for moments that are powerful precisely because they are inexplicable, such as acts of collective generosity, random digressions, and exuberant passions, and even the beauty of losing control.

He is referring to “Unexpected moments of beauty, awe and wonders, the detours and digressions, the cracks of imperfection, that make a heart speed faster, adrenaline rush, moments in which we loose control, and fall in love with everything.”

When was the last moment in your professional life when you had an experience like that?

It seems that only the measured life is a good life. Optimized by algorithms. I don’t believe in that anymore. There must be something better, more intimate, more unique, more transient, less about scaling and optimizing.

There is another great new book by Matthew Crawford, called “The World Beyond Your Head: How to Flourish in an Age of Distraction”

World beyond your head

It’s not an easy read, but Oliver Burkeman from The Guardian reviews: “Crawford has a point … adverts are everywhere, so much so you have to pay to escape. There are real benefits to silence. No great book, or idea comes without a degree of silence. Independent thinking is not possible without it. Perhaps this is why so many corporations and institutions demand our attention – and why we should protect it Scotsman Incisive. It’s philosophy as an intervention in issues of the day.”

And The Chronicle of Higher Education raves: “The most cogent and incisive book of social criticism I’ve read in a long time: accessible, demanding, and rewarding. Reading it is like putting on a pair of perfectly suited prescription glasses after a long period of squinting one’s way through life”

The book describes the big disconnect between our agency (or the illusion of it, by seemingly being in control by clicking some buttons on an app) and the result of our agency, the work, the piece of craftsmanship, that piece of art.

That’s why i deeply refuse to see my work “as a job”. Work should equal meaning should equal passion should equal Art. The artist’s way…

That’s why i subscribed again to Art School last year, and i just registered again for the 2015-2016 season. Last year was about drawing, next year will be about painting.

IMG_4936

Own artwork @petervan 2015 - pencil on paper and some water diluted black chinese ink

That’s why i carved out some quality time for myself on Fridays, when i experiment with art, sound and poetry. And i installed a small studio in my atelier at home, with a MIDI keyboard attached to my Mac, running Garageband and Ableton Software. I also got myself a “Push”, a special hardware device to play music and create sound landscapes in Ableton.

Puch

So i started thinking about what it would take to evolve my presentations into some sort of performance, where i only use my own artwork, my own self-composed sound landscapes and my self-written poetry. And do it LIVE! Standing in full vulnerability.

And what would a trailer for such a live performance look like? Here is a little experiment… The trailer is just an existing iMovie template tweaked with my own artwork.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/132009275″>The Spooky World of @Petervan</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user29570471″>Peter Vander Auwer</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I showed it to some friends, and i was surprised how much a little thingie like this can create emotional reactions. Somebody else wanted me to do some commissioned work to create an immersive learning performance for a marketing event in 2016. Yet somebody else wants me to completely re-invent their executive off-sites to move them away from the boring flipcharts, whiteboards, post-its, scribing, and gamification tricks. And move them into deep intimate and almost zen-like retreats with tailer made, unique and transient multi-sensory experiences to create high quality connections of human beings on a mission for genuine and positive impact.

All these formats create a new type of scarcity, experiences that we can’t fully posses, experiences that don’t last, experiences that we don’t fully comprehend. They restore friction and doubt in a world of certainty, knowledge, and seamlessness-ness.

Formats where it is not about rapid prototyping, nor about fast iteration tracks to find a solution for a problem. We have to get out of problem solving mode. We already do that the whole year long. I believe we are hungry for a higher quality of being truly present. What Tim Leberecht calls:

“Being Thickly Present”

Maybe i am onto something that may lead to another level of awareness and articulation of corporate narratives beyond the hollow mission statements. Entering a new age of enchantment, in search for something bigger and more valuable than all that what can be measured. The beauty of things that don’t scale. Beauty keeps on chasing me. I wrote about it in “Confused by Beauty” and “The Battle for Beauty” featuring once more The Business Romantic.

What do you think? Let’s have a conversation ;-)

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There is a fantastic talk on the 99u site by Mark Eckō titled “Embrace the mess”

Mark Ecko

Entrepreneur, media mogul, and designer Marc Eckō tell us that, if we’re not careful, we can let others label us and define our career, robbing us of our natural potential. The solution?

 

Stand up for yourself!

 

Mark Ecko book Un-Label

It’s a great talk, one of those that I listen to second by second, making lots of notes almost leading into a full transcript of the talk. Somewhere halfway the talk, it seems there is a book about this by Mark Eckō titled “Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out”. I bought it right away after this talk. I have no credits for any of the ideas in this blog post. It’s just a transcript. It’s just some re-ordering of somebody else’s great ideas.

Mark Eckō has 3 messages for you:

  • Embrace the mess
  • Create wealth that matters
  • Be an Un-Label

Embrace the mess

The talk starts with the famous quote by Thomas Edison “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”

Edison genius

99% perspiration as if

 

You manage the PAIN of the grind

You embrace the RIGOR

Your hard work is THE HEART of genius

 

1% inspiration as if

 

Inspiration needs to be dosed carefully

Inspiration is ROMANTIC and perhaps distracting

And IDEATION can be a rabbit hole

 

You are so busy

You are so busy grinding

You are so busy perspiring

 

That perhaps we have forgotten to imagine

 

Are you’re an entrepreneur, or a creator and an artist?

 

Sometimes we think being an artist/creator

Is indulgent

Self-indulgent

 

About self-philosophical people

That get dressed in all black

Lean back

 

And get moody,

And self-loathing

 

Sloppy and right brained

 

Or maybe this is just not for you?

Maybe you loose some of that swag or that freedom?

 

Where when you were in second grade

You would just raise your hand and say:

 

YES! I am an artist!

 

Some think that this notion of creator/artist is divine

And we struggle with that

We believe there are a holy war between creative and art and commerce

 

This inhibits us in our relationship with our art

 

So I challenge you folks who don’t necessarily fancy themselves as artists

That just because you can not manipulate paint, sculpture or music

Doesn’t mean you should not problem solve like an artists

 

Learn to embrace the messiness of creation

Give yourself more than the 1%, chill-on the dosing, ok?

Create wealth that matters

 

Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t always tell the truth

 

We are obsessed with accounting,

Accounting for our money, our grades, our wins, losses, time, likes, followers, fucks, KPIs, the quarter, page views, etc

 

Count count count

 

Quit counting

 

Big data matters

But Being human even matters more

 

You can’t loose sight of the qualitative intent

 

Qualitative excellence cannot be hacked

 

Wealth that matters cannot be counted

 

Be an un-label

 

One used to say “perception is reality, you have to control the room”

 

But no,

 

Reality is reality

 

We try to give a taxonomy to everything

The perceived versions of ourselves

We focus on the outside only

Attempting to remain in fashion

Hopefully from value to the skin

Instead of skin to the world

 

Fash-ion: group of people acting together

Fas-cism: a way of organizing a society rules by dictatorial controls, a very harsh control or authority

 

The gospel of streetwear

 

All these gatekeepers in my office

 

A BLIV-IT

 

blivit

 

I was so busy to round off my edges

 

I was so busy assigning so much value to this 3rd party infrastructure, these gatekeepers,

 

Divergent ideas breed independence

 

I was looking for their approval

And letting me frustrate by this

 

When you ask for change

It is going to be with friction

It’s going to be work

Perhaps you going to ask for enemies

 

Apologising for your square edges does not make sense

 

Gatekeepers breed groupthink

 

How much energy in my life did/will I give to those gatekeepers?

 

Don’t loose sight of the GOAL-keepers

 

Who care more about what you are making

Even care about how you make them FEEL

 

When you refuse to be labeled

Suddenly you play by your own rules

Not theirs

 

When rules start to look like BLIV-IT s

Defy them

 

Measure yourself up to your own standards

 

Versus the gatekeepers’

Abstract and often irrelevant compliance metrics

 

Just saying:

There are some compliance standards

That are rather old

And not really relevant anymore

 

No one has a monopoly on validation

 

It’s about your body of work

 

The talk resonates strongly with me.

 

Because it resonates with who I am deep inside.

 

I feel like the artist/creator in his atelier below.

 

Fig_Sculpture_Fischl atelier

Thinking– Creating – Sensemaking.

 

The messy space of creators

Not the clean-desk policy of clerks

 

Away from the counting

The accounting

The efficiency

And making the numbers

 

And much closer to being human

Taking time

Let emerge

And creating uniqueness.

 

Without the GATE-keepers

But with the GOAL-keepers.

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Peter Thiel is always good for some controversy. Usually, I am a big fan of him, despite his libertarian opinions. But this time I have to disagree. Because it seems that he hates business suits, to a point that he does not want to invest on startup CEO wearing a suit. In Business Insider he says:

“Maybe we still would have avoided these bad investments if we had taken the time to evaluate each company’s technology in detail,” Thiel says in his book. “But the team insight — never invest in a tech CEO that wears a suit — got us to the truth a lot faster.”

But look at what he wears himself in that article!

Peter Thiel in Suite

Maybe it’s just a promotional stunt for Thiel’s new book, “Zero To One,” but even so, I believe it re-enforces polarization and avoids inclusion.

Indeed, what do vestimentairy aspects have to do with content? I even saw a post (hopefully jokingly) suggesting that at next FinTech innovation events no suites would be allowed. What a joke! I don’t think this works.

I am more and more convinced it is our responsibility to build bridges, and create inclusions instead of accentuating the differences.

I have heard similar vestimentairy comments about people within the FinTech innovation community saying things like: “he/she has not enough “streetcred” to be part of our community.”

What a crap, this whole “Streetcred” versus “Suites”!

The beauty is in the diversity and being able and willing to go beyond simplistic categorization of exclusion. Old world is about exclusion. New world is about inclusion. The new world is all about building bridges. About staying away from polarized positions. Because I believe the beauty is in between the extremes.

Somebody reacted to me: “but then you will end up with grey!” and I replied: “No, I don’t think so, I think we will end up with a rainbow of colours”.

At Innotribe Sibos 2014 in Boston (29 Sep – 2 Oct), our tagline is “Building Bridges”. In our facilitated sessions, we will use voting/scoring cards labeled “Ties” and “Tattoos”. But not to accentuate the differences, but to bring people together, help them understand each other’s point of view, and agreeing and documenting our intentions for progress.

The secret is in the inclusion of Ties and Tattoos

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Some time a ago, i took a “little” break for the rat-race, also know as “sabbatical leave”. It allowed me to find internal rest, and clarity about a lot of things important to life. One of the “plans” was to stick to “the plan of not having plan” and let emerge what comes.

I got back to drawing – yes, i was trained as an architect – and discovered i am still quite good at drawing straight lines, but really challenged by curved lines, like human bodies, faces, hands,… probably a testimony of my inclination to the cognitive, analytic, “straight” thinking patterns that formed the first part of my life.

I also did a little dive in the works of Carl Jung. One of the works i struggled through was “Man and his Symbols“.

 

Jung Man and his Symbols

 

I was particularly attracted to the part on dream analysis, and how a dream strictly spoken can only be analysed by the dreamer himself. There is not something like a standard way of analysing dreams. I followed the suggestion to document my dreams. I found this quite confrontational. Very personal. Most of it not really for publication on a public blog.

But i was surprised how some dream transcripts came out in different formats: from films scenarios, to paintings, or even poetry like.

I will start publishing some of these dreams. Here is the first one: i labeled it “breakfast”. Hope you like it.

 

Warm hands wiping

Caressing the table

Weeping leftovers of the night

Used and worn-out shrapnel

Dispersed sparks amidst breadcrumbs and tears

 

More to come…

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Corporate Rebels United is a movement uniting innovation- and disruption-catalysts and instigators worldwide to ensure that true change happens virally from deep within the fabric of our organisations.

rebels mathias 1

The organisations we have in mind can be any size/form of organisation (Fortune 500 company, SME, NGO, non-profit, Network, Peer-to-Peer, Cell, System, Context) and we aim to be truly cross industry (industrial, tech, health, government, financial, pharmaceuticals,  educational, ….)

 

The Only Rule Is That There Are No Rules

 

We Trust That You Are REsponsible

 

We don’t do screening or certification of our activists: our movement is designed by and for trust in the first place. We welcome any inspired individual from any organisation that is subscribing to our manifesto and is willing to implement the 20 principles of our movement in the way that makes most sense in their individual and group context:

  • If You are a principal champion of a program or cause or action
  • If You do not wait for permission to lead, innovate, strategize
  • If You are Responsible, Do what is right
  • If You aim for Greatness, Healthy Fire, Worthiness
  • If You name things others don’t see yet
  • If You point to new horizons
  • If without You, the storyline never changes

Then Corporate Rebels United is something for You!

When we started in 2012 with Corporate Rebels United, we had no idea that 2 years later we would be a group of +/- 800 protagonists/instigators, from San-Francisco to New-Zealand and anything in between, truly cross-industry. Our web presence was sober: with the help of Mathias, we created a super simple one-page-HTML site with our Manifesto, and at the bottom of that page a simple “JOIN” button.

Manifesto Rebels Pic

The Manifesto (PDF available on the new site)

We also created a Facebook group, a Google+ Community, a LinkedIn Group and a Twitter account (@corprebels). Every day, one or more people joined, and shared suggestions. And we got some cool speaking opportunities at TEDx events and in some corporate environments.

End 2013, i got a mail from Nadja Petranovskaja from Hamburg asking:

 

“Are we going to DO something here?”

 

Indeed, although several folks already had set up a Local Chapter, and there was some good sharing going on in the online communities, i agreed with Nadja that we wanted to be more actionable. We wanted to be more than just another echo chamber of the Internet.

We connected via Skype, and had several hack sessions to prepare our action plan for 2014. As we have a great group of silent advisors, i suggested to Nadja that we’d have a call with them to do some sound boarding of our initial ideas. Not really to my surprise, that call ended up as a personal coaching call for myself. It was a period where i felt exhausted, mentally and physically tired. Anyway, the advice i got was to first create clarity for myself before messing around with the Corporate Rebels United movement.

I took some time off (a sort of mini-sabbatical), slowed myself down, did almost nothing, except reading a lot, taking my bicycle when sun was out, trying to stick to the plan of not having a plan. I was taking lots of notes and keeping some sort of journal – I think i have enough material for 50-60 blog posts or maybe a book, and will start gradually releasing the new material in the coming weeks/months.

In the meantime, Nadja and myself kept exchanging ideas, themes and action plans. Then, a couple of weeks ago, i decided to walk my talk, booked a cheap flight to Hamburg, and spent a hacking day with Nadja to lay the foundation for our new website and action plan. Some time before, i had asked several people for help with a basic WordPress site, but nobody really delivered. In Hamburg, we just started working on it, did some initial white-boarding and post-it hacking, and Nadja teached me some WordPress basics. In about half a day, we had our site up and running with some basic content, and Nadja had produced a nice PDF version of our Manifesto, a video illustration our first Hack, and an fantastic foldable flyer on our “I am Responsible” theme for 2014.

IMG_3567

Nadja working on the video for Hack#1

It was awesome. I went back home – completely energised – and worked out some details, created more content, polished a bit, and… here it is, the brand new site of Corporate Rebels United.

We still want to keep it relatively basic: our website is a quite straightforward WordPress site. It allows for basic collaboration where you can comment on every page and post. We added some forms to post ideas and artwork. Of course we are aware that more powerful collaboration tools exist such as Jive, Microsoft’s Yammer, Salesforce’s Chatter, SocialCast, Lithium, SocialText and many other Wiki environments. But before we move to one of those Rolls-Royces, we first want to test the appetite and needs of the Corporate Rebels as we go. In the meantime, we suggest we default to a couple of de-facto standards for online collaboration, without full integration within our website (See the tools section on our new site).

We hope that the new environment will encourages you to actually DO something.

And we made some suggestions:

  • Celebrations for the Corporate Rebel of the month
  • Helpers: there is a lot of creative power in the movement, so we decided to outsource some of the work for visual artists, creatives, PR people, etc
  • Hacks: not the heavy lifting work, but some small tips, tricks and practices to help you coming out of your protective shell, and make more powerful connections within and across your organisations.
  • Value Practices: we invite all Corporate Rebels to start forming small teams (“pods” as Dave Gray would say) to hack out Practices for Value Creation that can be shared inside and outside of our community as sources of inspiration, practice, and reflection.

Our main theme for 2014 is “I am Responsible”

I am responsible

We’d like to encourage you to be responsible human beings. Being a Corporate Rebel is NOT about kicking and screaming around like crazy. It is about daring to be great, about daring to step forward, about taking personal leadership.

It is about being responsible and actionable. Corporate Rebels are responsible for:

  • Themselves: their mental and physical well-being
  • The teams they belong to:
  • The organisations these teams belong to;
  • The ecosystems these organisations belong to;
  • The whole world these ecosystems belong to

Since the start we loved the idea of being a actionable group of people, not just a think-tank or an echo-chamber of the internet. With the new website, we try to create some conditions to enable online group collaboration, and to suggest some initiatives where everybody can apply his/her talents for the great cause for our movement: to make of our organisations places where people come alive!

Corporate Rebels United is a movement. It’s a culture, emerging from some specific behaviors. It’s a tribe of enthusiastic protagonists hungry for change. Positive change. Not an anarchist tribe, but a tribe of people who care for the companies they work for and want them to succeed in the 21st century of hyper-connectivity. Corporate Rebels United soul is about people taking agency, people stepping forward and taking responsibility, self-empowering themselves.

Corporate Rebels United is deeply value and purpose driven. We have an ambition for progress, looking forward. We fight mediocrity, and applaud critical thinking.

We invite you to join us and be part of our challenging journey.

Rebelliously Yours,

Petervan

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Knock, knock, it’s 2014, we are more than one decade in the 21st century, and it’s time to think about transforming our organisations into fast moving feedback movements. A couple of days ago, Rogier Noort (@RogierNoort) interviewed me via mail about my upcoming talk at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit 2014 conference in Paris on 10-12 February 2014. You can find the full interview here (and this post has some extracts from it), but I wanted to expand a little bit on the objective and concept of the 21st Century Organization that I mentioned in that interview.

Knife-Painting-by-Francoise-Nielly

Image credit: Knife Painting by Françoise Niles

It’s the sort of organization we try to fight for with Corporate Rebels United (www.corporaterebelsunited.com). We have had many discussions about the “brand” of Corporate Rebels United. Maybe we’ll change it. The words “corporate” and “rebel” need probably some update or at least some clarification. The only thing that is probably still spot-on is the word “United”. The word “Corporate” is limiting, as it gives the impression that we are “only” targeting big Fortune 500 type of companies. On the contrary, we aim to inspire and activate anybody that is working in any type of organization, networks of people, cells, companies, or ecosystems. The word “Rebel” is probably not the right word either, but as I have said many times, I wanted to keep it as it has something “sharp” to it. We are people taking agency, empowering ourselves, not letting ourselves empowered by others; we are activists and do-ers. Nilofer Merchant nailed it in her 2011 HBR post, we she used the term “protagonists”.

To rebel is to push against something. To lead is to advocate for an idea. To rebel is to say “heck no.” To lead is to say “we will.” To rebel is to deny the authority of others. To lead is to invoke your own authority. A protagonist is a principal champion of a cause or program or action. The protagonist does not wait for permission to lead, innovate, or strategize. They do what is right for the firm, without regard to status. Their goal is to do what’s good for the whole. Protagonists help organizations become more competitive. After all, the word compete comes from the Latin com petter, which means “to seek together.” Their intent is to not to antagonize, but to drive towards something. Protagonists are willing to name things others don’t yet see; they point to new horizons. Without them, the storyline never changes.”

In essence it’s about leveraging the power and energy of people who act from their true selves. Nilofer calls that “Onlyness”: “In this era — the social era — the nugget of value creation starts with a connected human. We call this many things today: a founder, an entrepreneur, an innovator, an intrapreneur… whatever the name, Onlyness is *central* (no longer a nice-to-have) to what gets created. Until you celebrate your own ‘vision of the world’, you’ll be missing out (and so will the rest of the world). Onlyness is one of the 11 rules for the Social Era rules.”

The soul of Corporate Rebels United is indeed about a tribe of enthusiastic protagonists hungry for change. Positive change. Not an anarchist tribe, but a tribe of people who care for the companies they work for and want them to succeed in the 21st century of hyper-connectivity. We are deeply value and purpose driven. We have an ambition for progress, looking forward. We fight mediocrity, and applaud critical thinking. We want to give the best of ourselves. For doing good. For creating human connections between people. For letting people discover their hidden talents and powers. For taking people on a path of discovery, individual and collective relevance. We want everybody in the company and industry to think, to be and act responsible to increase value and wealth creation. Moving from ego-systems and creating eco-systems filled with meaning. We hope we can be a tribe/swarm for leading by being. To quote Keith Yamashita from SY Partners:

“Every leader, at some point in their career, decides whether or not to do the hard work of pursuing greatness. It’s a choice that’s not about satisfying their ego, but about holding themselves and their ambitions to a more enlightened standard of leadership. And it requires the worthy work of showing up as their best self every day, and making a lasting positive impact on their people, teams, customers—even society.”

We love and care for the organizations and networks that we work for and we want them to succeed. We want to reboot our corporate and organizational culture to install a 21st century, digitally native, networked and humanistic version, to accelerate positive viral change from deep within the fabric of our organizations, and to reclaim our passion for meaningful work. The ultimate goal is to find, articulate the drivers and values of “a modern, 21st century organization” and to live, promote, and breathe them every day in our own organization and networks.

But what does such a 21st century organization look like? In my research, I suddenly realized that it is the network dynamics that are fundamental to all the changes at speed and scale we witness. I took back the 2002 (!) book of Albert-Laszlo Barabasi “Linked: The New Science of Networks” (Amazon Associates Link), and started re-reading it with today’s perspective. As many of you know, I read a lot, and i am usually in many books at the same time. So it happened, that I switched to another book that resonates very strong with me: “Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Us and Them” (Amazon Associates Link) by Joshua Greene.

BarabaseiMoral Tribes

Barabasi writes:

  • “Companies, firms, corporations, financial institutions, governments, and all potential economic players are the nodes. Links quantify various interactions between these institutions, involving purchases and sales, joint research and marketing projects, and so forth. The weight of the links captures the value of the transaction, and the direction points from the provider to the receiver. The structure and evolution of this weighted and directed network determine the outcome of all macroeconomic”
  • “in markets the standard strategy is to drive the hardest possible bargain on the immediate exchange. In networks, the preferred option is often creating indebtedness and reliance over the long haul.
  • “A me attitude, where the company’s immediate financial balance is the only factor, limits network thinking. Not understanding how the actions of one node affect other nodes easily cripples whole segments of the network”
  • “A scale-free network is a web without a spider. In the absence of a spider, there is no meticulous design behind these networks either. Real networks are self-organized.”

Moral Tribes is based on the premise that:

  • “We need a kind of thinking that enables groups with conflicting moralities to live together and prosper. In other words, we need a metamorality
  • “We need a moral system that can resolve disagreements among groups with different moral ideals, just as ordinary, first-order morality resolves disagreements among individuals with different selfish interests to think in new and uncomfortable ways.”
  • “Cooperation between groups is thwarted by tribalism (group-level selfishness), disagreements over the proper terms of cooperation (individualism or collectivism?), commitments to local “proper nouns” (leaders, gods, holy books), a biased sense of fairness, and a biased perception of the facts.”

Now we can do our magic trick of mixing and matching and try to do some sensemaking out of this ;-) These network- and moral tribe effects fundamentally change all aspects of what we understand by a company:

  • Organizational structures: from hierarchies to wirearchies
  • Leadership: holding ourselves to a more enlightened standard of leadership, and evolve to leadingship (see many other post on leadingship on my blog)
  • People motivation: from extrinsic to intrinsic motivators
  • Competitiveness: redefine from winner takes it all to it’s Latin origin of “com petire” which means “to seek together”
  • Speed, scale and quality of innovation with different capabilities on social, computational and design dimensions. Netflix deploys software code every 2 minutes (!). Amazon answer customer response times are down to 9 seconds on average (during Xmass peak period !). How does one create ultra fast innovation feedback loops in such high velocity execution  environment.
  • Processes: from Gate-keeping to Gate-Opening, with ultra fast iterations and ultra fast feedback loops with customers.
  • Decision making: moving away from pure ROI and NVP based models into social decision making based on heuristics, narrative, probabilistic analysis of disruption and risk possibility analysis (a big shout here to the thinking of Haydn Shaughnessy), and all that again ultra fast, in real-time.
  • Value creation: from benefiting “only” the shareholders, towards value creation for all stakeholders. We have to start thinking in terms of ecosystems “system-innovation”, and the impact of our actions on the society at large and our long term sustainability
  • The role of the CxO functions: from “officers” to “enablers”. What if the CFO could reinvent herself into the “Chief Innovation Enabler” in stead of the budget gatekeeper?

fairburn-3

Image Credit: Pen Drawing on map by Ed Fairburn

As mentioned in the Enterprise 2.0 interview, there are many challenges along this journey. Let me recap them once more for you:

  • The challenge is – whether we like it or not – that organizational anti-bodies exist and will always exist; they will always resist change, and we have to be aware of this, and still keep on fighting.
  • The challenge is to move beyond some myths of change that sound good in a manifesto, but that have little or no effect in actual viral change at scale in organizations.
  • The challenge is to act like a real swarm, like a virus that “infects” the organization at scale from deep within its own fabric.
  • The challenge is to “activate” our people into doing, to create a do-ocracy.
  • The challenge is to optimize the swarm for speed, trust and scalability between idea and action.
  • The challenge is to make sure that everybody feels included.
  • The challenge is to maintain one value set and one value base.
  • The challenge is to be respectful.
  • The challenge is to be relentless and persistent.
  • The challenge is to remain kind.
  • The challenge is to have the courage to stand for your true self, every day again.
  • The challenge is to make all the above economically relevant, if we want to have the attention of the executives of our organizations

My hope is to find allies to help us in spreading the virus of the 21st Century organization. I don’t know what form that may take; maybe a collective of savants that can coach organizations on this path? Something else? Let me know. My hope is that as a collective we can move beyond the abstraction level of social, organizational, and transformative concepts, ideas and science. I’d love to see that we reach a tipping point where we pay more attention for the humanistic, self-driving and self-motivating energies of human beings, where being is our basis and reference point for leading why and what and how we shake the tree of organizational culture and practices.

As David Gelernter recently said: “A world that is intimidated by science and bored sick with cynical, empty “postmodernism” desperately needs a new subjectivist, humanist, individualist worldview now—not just scattered protests but a growing movement, a cry from the heart.”

Looking forward to your feedback, contributions and ideas for alliances to make this happen.

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