Archive for the ‘Lean’ Category

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.


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?


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?


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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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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I have been away for some while. Many of you thought I was on a sabbatical leave, but that was just a smoke curtain for a much more dramatic makeover and re-invention of myself. I decided to become a true cyborg.

Oculus Ruft Headset Shoot

Zuck was onto something when he decided to acquire Oculus for 1.9B$ earlier this month: blurring the virtual world with the physical world to tap into the enormous opportunity of virtual experiences. But I believe he did not go till the end of his thoughts. You see, the Oculus is “only” one-directional. Giving you the input of virtual worlds. What if you could also give-back and share-back into the virtual world? The ultimate sharing economy?

That’s why I recently decided to become angel investor in a small start-up from Ukraine called “The Fishery”. We are really in stealth mode, I can’t say too much of it. But we are applying the lean startup methodology and we now have our first MVP (Minimal Viable Product) that we start iterating with our celebrity customers. I hope you will understand I can’t share names at this stage.


Whereas products such as FitBit, Jawbone and others focus on QS (Quantified Self), we believe that with the Fishery we are entering the space of the Qualified Self – it’s about depth and quality, not quantity. We are still hesitating what will be the name of the product: something between the “Fishbit” of the “iFish”: indeed, what we are doing is starting to fish into the deep oceans of the subconscious and the unconscious, where data and the human species become integral one and holistic.

For quite some time, I was a big believer in so called “Personal Data Stores”: tools for the user that allow us to decide ourselves which pieces of our data we share with what vendor in what particular transaction context. But I realized that this only covers the data that we share intentionally. It does not cover data that we share non-intentionally (like the signals from our SIM cards), or data that are collected in surveillance and co-veillance scenarios.

So why not bite the bullet, accept that privacy is dead, and move into the realm of extreme transparency? And what if we could just plainly connect our own human brain to the internet, and create a distributed peer-to-peer exchange of human brainpower, and start to keep a human ledger that is cryptographically secured and trusted? This goes way beyond the Minority Report scenarios (after all, a film of more that a decade old). In this case, you only have to start thinking about something you would do, and hop! It would be immediately shared and algorithmically processed by the hive of connected brains. Of course, we’d have to make some major changes to legislation and regulation, but that can be overcome, it has been done before.

Anyway, last week I was back in our labs in Ukraine, and I volunteered to become the first test case for the latest beta version of our Fishbit.

Petervan with Fishbit

What you see on the picture is me on the lab-bed, right after the 3 hour operation. The little brick on my chest is the prototype of the Fishbit. About 35 wires are connected to different sensors on my brain, my heart, my blood pressure, my lungs, skin, my legs, arms, etc: it’s a true virtual and “brick”-and-mortar tricoder of all my physical and mental sensations and experiences, not only at the cognitive level, but more importantly also tracking and tracing the sub- and unconscious activities of my brain and body.

The Fishbit has of course a number of well-documented open APIs, as this is clearly a platform play where developers can let explode their creativity for thousands of apps tapping into my body, mind, and soul. And to fully bite the bullet of transparency and surveillance, we have added a couple of more secret “dark” APIs to give direct access to governments and other trustworthy organizations looking after the greater good of society at large. But I am deviating.

The mask and the tube are there to add extra oxygen and creative gases, because the sensations are so strong that I need to breath much more consciously to let my heart pumps more oxygen in the blood streams. I can tune the tube, for example per season or month, when for example in April I get an extra dose of laughing gas, and in May some smell or spring blossoms to bring me back to my 60ies hippie memories.

One of the earlier versions had an API with Twitter that made it much easier for me to tweet. I just had to think “tweet”, and hop, there where 140 characters describing what I had spotted in my 2,500 RSS feeds that I follow on a daily basis.

But now we can go a lot further

Jung Man and his Symbols

Many of you know that I am a deep expert in the works of Carl Jung, especially his Book of Dreams, The Man and his Symbols, and his work on the Self, the Archetypes, the personal and the collective unconscious

Jung Sphere

Illustration from the book: “Jung, a very short introduction” by Anthony Stevens

What we discovered with Fishbit, is that sharing as we know in Facebook, Twitter, etc is so… well, outdated. If we reflect on Jung, this sort of FB-sharing only addresses the outer shell of who we are, the ego. In many cases that ego is made up and self-created, and by no means reflecting our deeper selves and motivations. Now, with Fishbit we can tap into that power.

Now, I can share my dreams as they happen. The Fishbit sensors sense when I am entering my REM sleep, can capture my dreams, and in the preferences I can set whether I want my dream to be shared as a literal transcript, as a film scenario or as a piece of poetry.

Now, I can connect my collective and personal conscious to the grid, and share with vendors my really true subconscious needs, to they can shoot better ads to me, the target. Finally! Indeed, as my hero Frank Zappa used to say: “without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”

Zappa deviation norm

And is it not progress when now, for the first time, data, dualism, humanism and the deep unconscious merge into a exciting melting pot with unseen business opportunities on the medium and long term? I hope you share my enthusiasm for this wonderful new world. Welcome to the world of Fishbit. Welcome to my ultimate cyborg make-over.

UPDATE: obviously this post was related to it’s fishy publication date. Thanks for your reactions of concern about my health, I am doing 100% fine 😉

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I would like to start with one of the slides of the innovation framework presented in “How to make babies?”.


The graphic and model is of course based on – but adapted to the specific SWIFT environment – the work of on Henry Chesbrough, the godfather of the concept of “Open Innovation”, and author of the 2003 book “Open Innovation: The new imperative for creating and profiting from technology” (Amazon Affiliates Link)


Chesbrough says:

Open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology”. The boundaries between a firm and its environment have become more permeable; innovations can easily transfer inward and outward. The central idea behind open innovation is that in a world of widely distributed knowledge, companies cannot afford to rely entirely on their own research, but should instead buy or license processes or inventions (i.e. patents) from other companies. In addition, internal inventions not being used in a firm’s business should be taken outside the company (e.g., through licensing, joint ventures, spin-offs)

Innovation Framework

The graph above illustrates an innovation framework:

  • With lots of idea generation tools on the left side of the graph
  • An innovation funnel, progressing the ideas from left to right, and making healthy adults from incubated babies
  • A north and a south side, where “north” stands for a traditional gating process product evolution for the core activities of a company, and where “south” stands for any innovation that basically does not fit the blueprint of the core.

In my blog post “How to create deep sustainable change”, I discussed the “Why” and the “expected outcome” of deep change and innovation.

  • The “why” has to do with creating a more agile organization, waking up the entrepreneurial spirit, in other words to “un-trap” the creative juices. And to do so, work is needed at the foundations: the roots of a tree. It’s about making the organization healthy, fit and un-trapped. This has nothing to do with six-sigma, lean, or other way to improve the efficiency of the organization, the efficiency of the organizational “body”. What we are talking about here is the fitness of the organizational “mind”.
  • The expected outcome of pumping up the volume and the fitness of the organizational mind is a connected organization, connected teams, connected people, connected values, operating in a connected economy.

Pump up the Volume

What follows is a personal interpretation of a team brainstorm we did in February 2011. So, it’s collective wisdom that I happen to be able to put in a format that’s more or less readable. Thank you team !

In this blog post, I will talk about the “How”, the set of tools that an organization can use to achieve the why and the desired outcome.

“Tools” can be actual tools such as an idea generation portal, but it can be other techniques at the front-end of innovation (the ideation), as well as processes and governance for moving ideas from ideation, via proof-of-concept, incubation, acceleration, and scale to full fruition.

What follows is also a model that can be used to underpin a strategy of “shake the tree” or – what I prefer – to “Pump up the (innovation) Volume”.

The volume knob is another metaphor to help us gauge our innovation focus, efforts and investments. What is important? What is nice to have?




Turning the knob to the max is what I would call being serious about innovation. But you have to start somewhere.

The Rose of Innovation

So, let me introduce you to the “Rose of Innovation”. Somebody has to give the romantic spin in all of this.

And let me mix it with the epicenter of an earthquake.




Indeed, “Shaking the Tree” is like starting a quake from the middle, and the seismic innovation waves swarm to the edges of the system, where in the end they cause “Fault Lines”. You “feel” the move.


You know that inertia has been broken

You know you have crossed the chasm




And let’s segment the rose or the epicenter in different slices. Each slice is a cluster of innovation tools. You can have as many slices as you want, but I suggest to limit it to six in this case, merely to keep the overview and the focus.

For each slice, one has to decide how far to the right you want to turn the volume knob. Do you want to move from 2 this year to 8 next year? Probably, you want a multi-year perspective on this: from 2 to 4 next year, 4 to 6 in two years, towards 8 in 2015 ?

Let me walk you through the different slices.


We already do internal and sometimes external – with customers – innovation challenges. It’s a call for teams and ideas around a pre-defined topic. What could be our ambition level if we pump up the volume to 8 by 2015?

  • Our ambition should be to be seen as one of the Top-10 innovation companies in financial industry. Long way to go, but possible with focus and will.
  • Build a real “Exchange” of ideas, competences, teams,…
  • Make a real competition of if. Like Cisco’s X-Prize. And with real money, I mean indeed a 250K EUR price for the champ of the year to help her incubate the idea of the challenge.
  • Open up the Incubation Centre, not only for incubation projects, but also for challenges. The cocktail of innovators in Building 8 will be irresistible.
  • Start-up something like frequent flyer pass. A frequent innovator pass. Points gathered this way add to your annual appraisal points, and reward repetitive innovators.
  • We should become so good we are being “called”: by other companies, at conferences, etc So good that people see the value and want to pay us for this.
  • Launch internal SWIFT “bucks”. Innovators can invest “bucks” in their projects. Later, when the project incubates these “bucks” get converted in actual shares in the project-company. These ideas are not new: ideation tools like Spigit and Brightidea already implement this. We just have to turn on the feature.


This is more or less my shop today: let’s call it “Petervan Productions” Our events even more become “immersive experiences”. This unique mix of high-quality matter experts and speakers, together with our facilitation techniques. We could do much much more in this space. What about:

  • 8 Innovation events per year like Innotribe Mumbai ?
  • 1 Partner innovation event of 3 days
  • 1 Customer innovation event of 3 days
  • Deep conversations with: 3 days off-site with a guru on a topic and a select group of top-15 Heads of Innovations of banks
  • 4 hackatons per year where we ask developers to code/hack together an application in 2 days
  • More study tours, not only for the executive or L1/L2 level but accessible for all staff
  • The frequent innovator pass should help us identity who can go on such a tour
    • More gamification of our events: work with game experts such as Jane McGonical from Reality is Broken (latest book), Dave Gray from XPLANE and Gamestorming, and Verna Allee from Value Networks

Dave Gray author headshotVerna Allee

From left to right: Jane McGonical, Dave Gray, Verna Allee

  • Have a 3 day SWIFT employee festival? Like AMPlify.
  • Do sort of Woodstock at Sibos. Like Pirate Ship. With concerts
  • Sponsor other innovation events
  • Embed and sell our techniques to third-party event organizers

The overall objective is to create serendipity. To reach other audiences, bring other content, start exploring the edges, create brand recognition. For SWIFT. For Innotribe.


We also should more and more look at our events as something that is the middle of the process, not the end-game. Usually we come out of an event, exhausted, as we build up all the energy towards that one day, one week. But then it only starts: the event is only the place where the connected community meets for the first time, gets initially built.


Again, we already do this. We have a yearly budget that lets us invest moderate amounts of money in proof-of-concepts: these can be prototypes, animations, whitepapers, etc

  • Turning up the volume in this space is merely doing more: more prototypes, hence more budget and resources


We just started this year. See also the “Babies” presentation. Initiated by Matteo, and now with the help from Cathal as program manager, this is our “Mathal Productions”. Their projects are located in Building 8.

Turning up the volume would mean:

  • Team with Silicon Valley incubators
  • Team with Incubators in Eastern Europe, APAC, South America. The example of Solkovo in Russia comes to mind
  • We could do much much more in bringing young entrepreneurs and start-ups together. You can create a marketplace of start-ups, accessible by the SWIFT community.
  • You could create – together with the 9,000+ banks on SWIFT – an alternative start-up funding and loan model. With better rates for those who have a good standardize Innotribe quality score.


This is what Mariela and team already do. For fun, let’s call it “Mela Productions”. Why for fun? Or “Innotribe Facilitation Studios”

  • Mela should make a business out of it. Think big. A worldwide team of 50-60 facilitators. Why not. If we were able to deploy similar numbers of lean navigators for cost reduction and efficiency, why can’t we do something like this for value creation?
  • This is also something we could start selling. This is an area where we are being “called”. Internal business units, but also banks from our ecosystem already now ask Mela to run facilitated workshops. Even from outside or our industry. We should charge for it.

Office Space

This is about having a critical look at our office space and the – communication – tools we have. On one hand we are spoiled. If you have ever been to the SWIFT HQ, you will for sure have been impressed by the main building and campus surroundings.

But the main building inside sometimes feels like a temple or a castle, with long corridors and closed doors that not really incentivize for cross-collaboration and sharing. I know there is a big project started to look deeply into this.

But also office-tools should be looked at. Today we have something called “Internet on the desktop”. It is a Citrix implementation of your browser.

  • We should turn it 100% upside down. Internet should be the default, and we should have a “SWIFT on the desktop” for the couple of apps that require tighter security or access control. It’s inevitable. It’s part of the movement towards cloud.
  • Skype, Drop-Box, Google Docs, etc should be our standard tools. Complemented by Salesforce, Chatter, Twitter, Quora. We should all be equipped with iPADs, Androids, etc. We never should have to use a PC anymore.
  • This modernization will also have a major impact in image and brand.


I have been quite deeply involved in an effort to look at company culture, and those who follow my blog know that I have something to say in this space.

  • Lately, the culture team was re-organized, and volunteers from GEN-Y and GEN-X were called upon. I applied for GEN-X (those born in 1961 and beyond)
  • Great was my astonishment that I was considered “too old to innovate”. I am born in 1957 so indeed, strictly to the letter, I am not GEN-X anymore. But I am lucky, I still get “copied” on the stuff (sic)

Any pump-up-the-volume in his space

will be worthless

as long as we do not

apply a strategy of “seed and infect”

  • If not, what we will end-up with are loads of powerpoint slides, processes etc. It will show great in an annual report or so, and it’s a bit the same as “how real is your innovation?”. Ask yourself the question “How real is your culture change”.

What we need is

a viral infection of the company


  • 40 people in 2011 should get the chance to follow a personal discovery journey like Leading by Being, so that they lead from their open mind, open heart, and open will.
  • In 2012 another 100 people. And in 2013 another 100.
  • That’s 240 folks. Deeply passionate about changing the company. That’s more than 10% of the workforce. That will change the culture for sure.

And have a look what companies like J&J do. They have in a couple of years a group of more than 750 change agents. They can be flown-in or video-conferenced at any moment to form tiger teams.

Banks for a better world

This is a big bad new idea. It must be possible to have a deep merge between Innovation, Talent Management and CSR.

Think big, really big

I think it must be possible to create

a 1 Billion $ Fund

that invests in financial inclusion

  • I know that some of our banks have invested big time in some of the above examples.

Why can’t we pool together

funds and resources as an industry?

Would that not be

immensely more powerful?

  • That would be quite a different story than what you hear/read these days about “too big to fail”, greed, lack of trust, etc

It would also lead and propel the community into a modern thinking about capitalism, rethinking value, and waste that we produce for the next one in the value chain (for ex bail outs) or even pushing debt towards future generations.

Studios and Production Houses

I am getting convinced that for each of these slices, we have to start thinking in terms of independent and complementary “Studios”. Like the studios of Pixar, Dreamworks, etc




Or in terms of <name> “productions”. For example for facilitation, you could pitch the “SWIFT Facilitation Studios” or “Mela Productions”. Events could be “Petervan Productions”, etc.

I like somehow the personalization aspect of this, as usually these teams are geared around a particular person with specific strengths.

If you like it or not, organizations are – or should be – built around people.


It’s indeed some sort of


studio or production environment


The Studio or Production metaphor also works well: you could consider the Head of Innovation as the “impresario”, and the studios the teams that collectively deliver a streamlined total experience. Or you could – like in big Hollywood studios – talk about “Building 123”, or like “Building 20” which is the innovation building of MIT.

At SWIFT, the incubation building is referred to as “Building 8”.


  • What does it take in monetary investment
  • Additional resources
  • This is reality check. Where the CEO mantra “I want you guys to shake the tree” is tested with reality. This is where people get scared. This is where you hear: “I know him/her (the CEO), and we can’t go with such an ambitious plan and attached budget”.


This is the real test

  • Here you will find out how real is your innovation. Or is it just a window-dress because innovation is fashionable and always works well in front of a board of directors or in an annual report.

You will probably end up somewhere between the window-dress and the edge-nirvana. And that is fine. The important thing is that you gauge it. Use it as a baseline. And don’t accept less when entering the next budget round.

Step by Step vs. not knowing what end result is

The challenge with all this is that



can not managed like the core


The core is – and should be – managed as the optimization engine. In this space you know where you want to end-up over a given period of time. You make a phased project plan, allocate the budgets and resources, put a project manager on it, and you execute as planned. It’s Failure is not an Option. It’s highly predictable, with yearly budget cycles, than in essence most of the time built upon last year budget models. It’s a stepped approach.




The challenge with innovations is that they are not planned. You usually know the “direction”, but you’re not sure where you land. It’s like Christopher Columbus heading West to discover India, but he found America. It’s like a (pirate?) ship meandering. It’s Failure IS an option. It’s unpredictable. It’s a meander approach.


That’s what I wanted to say today. It’s a blog post that was cooking for several weeks. Happy it’s done. It’s a long post, I know. And maybe next, I should put all these blog piece together in a book. Who knows, maybe I’ll do that one day.

But one thing is sure: The combination of “How to create deep sustainable change”, “Pirates, Rebels, Mercenaries and Innovators”, and this post “Pump up the Volume” will form the basis of a brand new Innotribe presentation, the follow-up of “How to make babies”. I will let you know when it is ready.

All for the same purpose: the fitness of the organizational “mind”. And a deeply changed organization, connected and full of energy!


Let’s Pump-of-the-Volume!

Let’s take those innovation energy pills!

Let’s shake the tree!

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A couple of weeks ago, I was taking a short break and chatting with a new young guy I never had seen before at the company.

We had some chit-chat discussions about the weather and other small talk, until i asked him in what group he was working. "I am a summer student and i am working in the A-department”.

"And what are you doing there ?", I asked.

Student: "I am filling spreadsheets. They document the discussions of the daily whiteboard discussions, and that is needed to report back to the different management layers in the company."

Me: "And that keeps you busy for the whole day ?" I replied.

S: "Yep, sort of"

"And do you think that’s useful ?"

S: "No, not at all, but it is just a summer student job for a month, but

it pays well

and with the money I will be able to afford a holiday trip to Australia."

A couple of observations here:

  • how many times do you/we do things we profoundly think are useless, but still do them as "it pays well" and we are not prepared to go through the pain of challenging THAT status-quo ?
  • how many of these useless things have anything to do with adding value to the customer, and have all to do with internal policies ?
  • when is the last time you did something that really made a positive difference to your customer ?

We can have all sorts of theoretical debates about company culture, but as long as we don’t start focusing exclusively on the value zone – there where value is created at the interfaces of our company – all these efforts will only continue to add to the numerous sets of policies and initiatives.

These keep on existing and having a life of their own, even long after the crowdsourced intelligence of your company has acknowledged they have been bypassed by the events and only are alive because some senior manager identified him/herself so much with the initiative that giving-in would cause irreparable damage to his/her ego.

When are we going to stop and refuse doing things that don’t make sense anymore, only because the circumstances when these practices were created have changed dramatically ? Or even worse, have proven to have has counterproductive effect ?

Keep on searching for meaning and sense in everything you do. Refuse to do useless tasks.

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Here is your deejay with the brainwave helmet again: look at the wide open eyes of Sam from Sam The Sham and the Pharaos with their 60’ies monster hit “Wooly Bully”. His eyes wide open. Uno, Duo, Très, Quatro ! Let’s have some fun here. And be a bit crazy !


I recently got somewhat involved in the People & Culture thinking of our company. Already at our first attempt during our fantastic off-site in April, we identified excitement as one of the components that need to be part of our culture.

We should all re-read that blog post titled “Get a Life and Get Alive”, as we seem to loose lots of the sharpness of our ideas when we start putting them through committees, and the whole thing seems to get watered down.

So, for 4 months+, we kept ongoing and had a good solid understream of ideas, depicted by different people in different ways, depending on their left or right brain orientations.

After a couple of weeks, this was my best effort:



It was a combination of keeping the best, improving drastically the mediocre, and getting rid of the worst. The most important in this slide were the


“quality lenses”


They reflect the deeper purpose that guides our transformation process and choices, and these lenses can be used as a compass to be sure we still navigate in the right direction.

The direction was an ambitious one, a radical one.

But most executives do not like the words “radical” or “disruptive”.

  • Does that mean we should adapt our packaging, our wording or worse our meaning and purpose to please our audience ?
  • What happens with ambition when filtered through endless reviews ?

By the end of last week, we had our seventh or so iteration of the slide deck to be presented to the executive committee.

I though we had quite an “acceptable” outcome in a culture of consensus.

As I write this, I notice how polluted I have become myself by the consensus-virus. In the end, one compromises so much that all you end up with is a grey mouse. 

Herman Van Rompuy arrives at the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday evening.   Photo AP

So, to hell with outcomes that are “acceptable”. We don’t want grey mouse. They don’t inspire.

Nevertheless, I was surprised that version seven still included our famous words “Open Mind, Open Heart, Open Will”. You had to search for them (see the big fat arrow above), but they were there.

Too optimistic though.

Throughout the week, folks kept on saying this was “too wooly”

So we tried to put different words. In version eight, we ended up with some things like “Intrinsically motivated people” and “Co-creation with Customers”, etc. Not bad, but “acceptable” in my opinion.

What made me write this post was the following comment on exactly this part of that version:

This part is a bit too vague

and b-school jargonistic

for my taste

Can we turn that into our

company terminology ?

(the other parts already were in company-speak)


My answer: NO, absolutely NO !


As I wrote in back in April, the real root cause (to use some Lean terminology) was about the openness of our minds, hearts, and minds.


Some indeed call this “wooly” or “b-school”. I don’t know what is meant here.

There seems to be some negative connotation here:

  • “b-school” could mean several things. In the most optimistic case is stands for Business School, and then the wording may be perceived as too academic. In the worst case, it means b-grade school or even worst kindergarten or naivety. But I believe that many of our corporations would thrive well if they would resource themselves with some naivety of better

freshness and purity

like a young child

discover with eyes wide open

and without prejudices

  • “wooly” has something to do with a certain form of “softness”. I sense all sorts of touch points with New-Agism, or the Hippies 2.0 movementExecutives seem to have e a natural aversion to topics related to softness, philosophy, emotion, feeling, sensing, or anything that has to do with mind, heart, and will. It is probably exactly this that needs to change in many company cultures if we want to make our companies more “human”. Or as Jeff Bezos so eloquently said: “It’s harder to be kind than to be clever” Read every word and sentence of his Princeton speech here. Listen to the emotion in his voice. You sense here stands a man who embodies and believes what he says. You want to follow him. Maybe he is Hippies 2.0 ? Maybe. But he’s inspiring.

Leaders will be followed, not because they have dictated so or by hierarchical power, but because they are authentic in everything they do, because they are inspirational, because they are charismatic, because they are truly “at service” and not “in command”.

The new game is about new hierarchies, not based on ranks and power but based on true service value.


The hierarchical PYRAMID changes

into a collaboration and service SPHERE

where there is no upper or lower level

where the value comes

from the strong interdependency and

100% service mind to make the OTHER win

What we need is a culture based on a fundamental shift from Old Game thinking to New Game thinking. We will not succeed if we stay “acceptable”.

Our ambition level in this should be nothing but an extreme makeover, respecting our company’s financial, operational and reputational integrity.

You can use whatever words for it, but the messages and its wording must be fresh, inspiring, ambitious, rejuvenating. Not only on its messaging surface but especially in its deep culture core.

I don’t believe that you can capture your “culture” in one word. Culture is a complex thing. It’s a combination of tacit, implicit and explicit values, attitudes, and knowledge. Is combines the good positive heritage of the past with the vibrant youth-ness of the future. So, here are some words that “capture” that culture.



That’s also why Talent and Culture are so closely interwoven. Because culture is the result of the people you have on board. If you want to change the culture, there are basically two things you can do:

  • Try to change the people you have on board. Although this is very difficult, I believe we have enough cultural creatives to at least inspire more than 50% of the company to change gears. For the others, we’ll have to wait till the Hippie 1.0 generation is retired and made room for the new generation.
  • Bring on board new young people with fresh insights. We should be extremely aggressive about this. Hire “en-masse” young people. If possible younger than 20 years, as even some 25+ “don’t get it”

Both generations where shaped by different time and historical contexts:



With courtesy: NASA Generation-Y Perspectives. Full slidedeck here.

Of course, when implementing such aggressive plans, we need to make sure that these programs do not become the exclusivity labs for personal and professional development for the young only, and that everybody gets her chance to fully realize their potential, so that they don’t have to ask us


“and where do I play ?”


Like many things, I think you recognize an inspiring culture when you see it. When you see the people of that culture. They have sparkles in their eyes. When you interact with them. They go the extra mile.

We need word and spirit that reflects:

  • Excitement
  • Intrinsically motivated people, as mean by Daniel Pink in “Drive”
  • Extreme Management Make-Over and Employees First, as meant and intended by Vineet Nayar in his latest book, considered now as THE reference for modern HR

I was lucky to see Vineet deliver his message in person to the audience at Techonomy last week. The story goes like this:

  • The goal of our company is to deliver value to our customers
  • Where is that value created ? At the interfaces of our company.
  • Who is at those interfaces ? Our employees
  • Therefore the whole company should be organized to be “at the service” of the employees.

This is about a management extreme make-over.

  • From managers giving instructions to employees and measuring their efficiency
  • To managers at the service of employees

When I spoke to HR, my contact said: “Oh, that is what is called Service Management, I know about that”. When I asked whether he already proposed this as a management culture to the executives, he said


“Oh no !

That would be too radical

that’s a revolution !”


But I am afraid many of our corporations need nothing less than such a revolution, a fundamental make-over.

In the end

Culture = Company = People


People with a Life and Alive. Not wooly sheep following the dress code and complacent in being “acceptable”. People who share the “wooliness” of “kindness” vs. “cleverness”.

Our culture has to be provoking and inspiring. You should be able to rally your troops behind it. As soon as it becomes “acceptable” that won’t work.

In the song Sam sings about a “wooly saw”. What we need now is a very sharp saw.

To give the sharpness back to the Wooly Bully !

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I was just reading my Sunday newspaper online,


and found this great summary by Gilbert Roox about Matthew Stewart’s book “The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting it Wrong”

The article is in Dutch, so i decided to use Google Chrome’s Translation extension.


So, here are some translated extracts, SLIGHTLY edited as the Google translate result was quite accurate. Impressive.

The management myth is a hilarious review of ten years in the Belly of the Beast. All the tricks of the fair will pass in review. For a client to win, you hunt him the fright. Then make themselves so indispensable that you no longer can think independently, and then they press the lemon patiently. “You should compare consultants with parasites” says Stewart. "I talked and talked, and meantime the meter ran,"

In all these years, the sensation that I sucked everything from my thumb never left me." Bruce Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group, once described the consultant business as "the most incredible business on earth:"

Successful and leading companies hire school leavers to tell them how they should be run. And those companies are also prepared for those millions of opinions count down? "

Stewart called the pundits of McKinsey & Co “Modern shamans” : in the highly uncertain world of global competition drive them to fear the magic of their spreadsheets and charts. "If you can not manage, measure it," writes Stewart – a sneer to the home of McKinsey motto: "If you can measure, you can also manage".

Among the most successful CEO’s of Fortune 500 does not have an MBA fourth title. Success in business is simply not a hard science. Roughly revolves around three things: luck, you work hard and seize opportunities. Even then it can go wrong. But with such wisdom farmer earns a living not a management expert.

Management gurus such as Peters and Jim Collins(Good to Great) posing as prophets like, but after closer inspection they appear mainly to be the specialists of the past. They promote experimentation and out of the box thinking, while their best sellers but only document worn paths. A good advice: if you want money, then do just the opposite of what management gurus say, advises Stewart.

Management gurus seem more like religious preachers. The world they paint is invariably chaotic and uncertain, because fear sells. Bureaucracy is the great evil, and they call for a white collar revolution to overthrow that. Repetitively, they tell the poor middle class to thunder, because "you have the power".


Success is about passion;


and perseverance


With his plea for excellence the guru paves the path of a crazy work ethic that “starts with the notion that work can be meaningful, and that thought is stretched to the point where outside work is no longer significant”.

While most people only work

for a good bit to live

Hence the remarkable opinion of Matthew Stewart to youth who want to get an MBA:

"Stay away from the business schools

to study philosophy rather

to know the real life"

"In business, experience is the great teacher. We deceive ourselves if we think that an MBA makes you an energetic manager. Managers learn to manage not very different from teaching people how to live in a civilized world.

Managers do not need training,

they have educational needs

I just ordered the book. Looks like some good counter-weight for the other stuff i am reading, and will prepare me for the Lean exercise that our Innovation Team will go through as from begin February 2010.

The balance is probably somewhere in between.

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