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Edition-41 of Delicacies: as usual, max 5 articles that i found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy!


If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan

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Edition-40 of Delicacies: as usual, max 5 articles that i found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy!

If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan

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Edition-39 of Delicacies: After Innotribe Sibos, I took some time off, but still tried to track some interesting reads for you. Hope to be back on my weekly schedule soon. This week’s publication is a list of some great articles of the last month, covering the period of 19 Oct till 15 Nov 2015. As usual, max 5 articles that i found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy!

If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan

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This post is final part of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction and overview of previous posts, check here.

Van Nevel

I am listening to “Utopia Triumphans – The Great Polyphony of the Renaissance” by Paul Van Nevel’s Huelgas Ensemble.

I am in my post-natal depression after having delivered Innotribe Sibos a couple of weeks ago in Singapore. Architecting an event like this is indeed like giving birth to a new baby. Or/and painting.

Jeff Koons Ethereal

Jeff Koons – Easyfun Ethereal series – Guggenheim Bilbao

It was always my ambition to create awareness about what is cooking at the edges of our industry’s ecosystem.

At the edges, but not beyond.

In my earlier, more anarchistic period, it was more about provocation, and I got judged on the externalities of my work. And as I matured, I got – without really planning for this, it just happened through the intensity I put in my work – into higher levels of awareness, with a greater deal of “softness”, humanism, beauty and yes, even romanticism: all unconscious components of designed learning experiences.

Working at these edges – but not beyond – requires some sensitivity and understanding of your audience and their deeply buried ambitions: this understanding is not about their professional business titles and roles (roles like in a theatre play – which it in many cases is), but about the deep archetypes and associated human desires of the searching individual looking for a greater essence of work.

Like a fashion designer, I am very much in the background of our “shows”, only making occasional stage appearances, usually only at the end when the cast and the models left the catwalk, and to leave my gentle greeting as a signature of the architect.

Dries Van Noten Fashion Show Women 2015 Paris, Grand Palais, September 24th 2014
Soundtrack - Oscar and the Wolf "Strange Entity"
Carpet Artwork - Alexandra Kehayoglou

The occasional contacts with the members of the tribe are sincere, direct, and respectful.

This year a woman approached me in the corridor, greeting gently, asking where we met before, and then – quickly shying away – saying: “you have the most friendly face I have met in my life”.

That comment for sure kept me alive the rest of the week, to a point where I tried to connect with it at the moments where I tried to also enjoy myself the delivery of the new-born baby.

The renewed “softness” in my watchful eyes must have shown elsewhere, as during day-4, Adizah tweeted this picture of your servant into my digital slipstream:

watchful eyes petervan

Love that: the “watchful” eyes. It makes me think about the inspiration source for this 10th essay in the Essence of Work series, a little free booklet “Nothing is written, Learning is an adventure” by Johnnie Moore & Viv McWaters” from www.creativefacilitation.com.

cover nothing is written

“Learning is an adventure,” says the subtitle. Already in 2009, John Hagel from Deloitte’s Centre of the Edge, labeled this “Learning at Scale”.

Being at the edge is not about “R&D” but about “L&D” – Learning and Development.

L&D is becoming the Essence of Work.

The booklet explains eight principles to create more engaging experiences that play to human strengths.

  • Nothing is Written
  • Emotional Connectedness
  • Experiences over Explanation
  • Shared peril
  • Avoiding the teacher trance
  • The value of loose ends
  • Getting out of our heads
  • Getting over ourselves

One of the key sentences in the book is about the edge:

“So the focus must be on allowing participants to manage their own experience, so they can be on the edge of their comfort zone, and not pushed beyond it”

During these ideal moments, there is some sense of stillness in the room: the stillness of being pushed, but not beyond. When the audience collaboratively works through the assignments to internalize the new knowledge acquired from the speaker/igniter.

When there is almost whisper in the air.

When the assignment comes natural, unforced, and gentle. When the room and the atmosphere just feel right. “Right” like in Christopher Alexander’s “Timeless Way of Building” and the sculptural integrity that goes with it.

I am reminded here of Spanish painter and sculptor Joan Miró (April 20, 1893–December 25, 1983), whose masterpieces upended the conventions of visual art by giving life to a new aesthetic of vibrant stillness. (from Brainpickings.org)

“Miró’s most potent point deals with the proper gestational period for art and the painstaking care that goes into any worthwhile creative labor. In an age when the vast majority of our cultural material is reduced to “content” and “assets,” factory-farmed by a media machine that turns creators into Pavlovian creatures hooked on constant and immediate positive reinforcement via “likes” and “shares,” here comes a sorely needed reminder that art operates on a wholly different time scale and demands a wholly different pace of cultivation.”

“Miró defies this factory-farming model of art with the perfect metaphor: If a canvas remains in progress for years in my studio, that doesn’t worry me. On the contrary, when I’m rich in canvases which have a point of departure vital enough to set off a series of rhythms, a new life, new living things, I’m happy.

“I consider my studio as a kitchen garden. Here, there are artichokes. There, potatoes. Leaves must be cut so that the fruit can grow. At the right moment, I must prune.”

joan miro catalan landscape

Joan Miró: ‘Catalan Landscape,’ 1924

“I work like a gardener… Things come slowly… Things follow their natural course. They grow, they ripen. I must graft. I must water… Ripening goes on in my mind. So I’m always working at a great many things at the same time.”

I leave you with a quote from my 9-year-old daughter, who savours the start of each day with new curiosity.

“It smells so good outside, it smells like it just snowed”

This freshness and openness for new learning experiences and development at the edges is the Essence of Work.

At the edge, but not beyond.

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This post is part-9 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction and overview of previous posts, check here.

Geert Degrande is a Flemish writer, author, translator, journalist, listener, and innovator. We met in 2009 as part of my personal self-discovery journey. Geert was a witness of the coming-out ceremony at the end of that journey. It was also the start of this blog in April 2009 with “Singing my own song”.

Begin 2015, Geert introduced me to Fabiaan Van Vrekhem, who was working with Geert on a book about disruption. To be honest, I was a bit suspicious, as after all these years, i have seen so much abuse of the buzzwords innovation and disruption.

We met for a coffee in Fabiaan’s offices in Brussels on a warm spring day in April 2015, almost day on day 6 years after my first blog post, I only realize now.

The connection was genuine and immediate. We had a long conversation about the essence of work and different levels of quality awareness.

I got hooked when the conversation went into the topic of letting go: those moments in your work maturation, where you are not interested anymore, because you want to move on to the next level. Where you delegate the execution of certain tasks to professionals.

I am just back from delivering a great edition of Innotribe at Sibos, where I had the pleasure of working with professionals from George P. Johnson and Collective Next.

Those professional are so good: they give me piece of mind that the work will be performed as imagined by its architect and curator. Where art and content and flawless execution meet and create a superior experience.


Innotribe anchor person Akhtar Badshah with his own artwork in the background.

It is the result of months of build-up, co-creation and co-ideation; it is the moment to “let go”. And I have to confess I find it still difficult to let go.

Letting go is also my challenge when doing my artwork.

Leaving room for unplanned encounters.

As many of you know, I have gone back to artschool. Last year drawing: painting this year. Discovering the difference between drawing in lines and thinking in shapes and layers. Where the best discoveries happen unexpectedly.

IMG_5735 (1)

Study book Petervan – unplanned encounters of stuff – 2015

As part of the studywork, I dived into this great book about artists. And I had to think again about the layers of quality so well described in Fabiaan’s book.

33 Artists in 3 Acts

Letting go and delegate, like artist Jeff Koons in Sarah Thornton “33 Artists in 3 Acts”, where she describes the artist employing a staff of 150 people in his studio to execute his creations by the best craftsmen.

“Artists have become ideas people liberated from manual labor; they can delegate without compromising their authorship.”

“It is important not to confuse art with craft”

balloon dog jeff koons

Balloon Dog – by Jeff Koons

Fabiaan’s book “The Disruptive Competence: A journey to a sustainable business, from matter to meaning” came out in June 2015. I got a copy of the manuscript before that and invited Fabiaan to speak at our 2015 Rebel Jam on June 26, 2015. You can listen and watch the recording of his WebEx talk here.

cover fabiaan

The book is about letting go, delegating when not being interested anymore. And moving on to the next level of quality awareness. It’s a deep book about different levels of ambition and life quality.

map fabiaan

The 7 dimensions of value creation – courtesy Fabiaan Van Vrekhem

A good example of “letting go” is when you for example reached valuable craftsmanship. You move to the next level of value creation “service” and let the quality control craftsmen come in. Your interventions are now about service. As you mature in the essence of your work, you work yourself naturally up on the value layers.

  • Layers 1-4 are all about context management. That’s what many companies are good at.
  • Layers 5-7 are about context creation. That’s what not many companies are good at.

To go back at the start of this series on The Essence of Work, management and creation are different belief systems.

If you are already in context creation mode within an organization that is struggling in the context management mode, it is a source of frustration, for members of either belief system.

Again, the one is not better than the other. Trying to solve the problem as WE see it. This is coming back to Dave Gray’s belief systems: “as we/they see it”

The maturation is in the move

from “span of control”

to “span of support”

Making interventions at the 7th dimension, the dimension of societal progress – is about meaning-making. This is the dimension of societal context, the dimension of sense-making:

We are prepared to pay more for meaning than for matter

The 7th Dimension is to become a source of influence to make people aware on how to interact. This is where “let other see what I see” comes in: let others discover what they can see if they become multi-sensory sensitive and aware.

This becomes even more important in a world that is moving fast, in a world full of uncertainties.

The methods of planned certainties

don’t work anymore in an uncertain world.

The more uncertainty, the more unknowns.

You cannot solve the unknown with the known, you can only solve the unknown with what you become aware of, and that is consciousness.

People are on a growing curve. Because they have a certain potential capability present, they look for more information, more data so they can use their capability at the full.

The organization has to become “aware” of this learning-progress-maturation need of their collaborators.

This is different from “I look for a job where I can learn”: that is in essence is an egocentric desire, where the individual wants to suck more knowledge (aka value) out of the system that he/she contributes. The maturity happens when that person starts to realize that a balanced caring life is more about putting value back into the system.

How many levels can your organization integrate to create a potential context machine for your collaborators?

When people outgrow their role, they get frustrated because of the unused potential. They are determined by responsibilities that no longer fit their level of capability.

As we have seen, Fabiaan describes 7 layers of value creation.

I would claim there is another level.

Where it is about pure beauty. The sort of beauty that is not of this world. The sort of beauty that only can be captured in ballet, or in poetry, or in multi-sensory performances.


Theatre de Chaillot in Paris on May 2. (ALAIN JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

There is a word for that, I discovered recently: ETHEREAL

Ethereal means “extremely delicate and light in a way that seems not to be of this world.”

Like in “her ethereal beauty”. Synonyms are: delicate, exquisite, dainty, elegant, graceful, beautiful, lovely, fragile, airy, fine, subtle, unearthly, aery, aeriform, airy, aerial, gossamer, celestial, supernal.

What if we would set that as standard and norm for the essence of our work?

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Edition-38 of Delicacies: the last couple of weeks, I was fully immersed in the preparation of Innotribe Sibos, so I did not gave the time for a weekly publication. This week’s edition is a list of some great articles of the last month, covering the period of 21 Sep till 18 Oct 2015. As usual, max 5 articles that i found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy!

If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan

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This post is part-8 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction and overview of previous posts, check here.


This time, I invite you to look into the mirror, and watch the scars in your face, the arrows in your back, and the experiences that can’t be unlearned.

I invite you to make contact with the emotional and physical footprint of your work.

To make contact with those projects where you went really deep, where you chose your own path, where you challenged all existing conventions.

The ones that completely exhausted you, but where you are left with the deep and satisfactory warm feeling of having done the right thing.

In many cases, these are the projects that you chose to be part of, which you initiated.

In the same way it is better to be in a position to choose the clients you want to work for, in the same way you’re better off when you create a interdependence in life that allows you to chose the projects you want to be part of.

When projects become your projects. Where you know that you shaped the project and the project would never have become what it is without you having been part of it.

Those projects, you know, where you do the skunk work whatever it takes.

Those projects where you feel home, where you are meant to be, and that feel like your own – sometimes messy – creative studio.

Sculptor studio

Sculptor Alexander Calder's studio, 1964, photographed by Pedro E. Guerrero

For many years now, I follow and get inspired by the work of Jan Chipchase: he used to be the executive creative director of global insights for Frog Design, took a sabbatical, came back, and created in April 2014 his own Studio-D, a research, design and strategy consultancy.

You really have to read everything on the Studio-D site: the annual report, the project reports, the way to think of a company as a pop-up crew that comes together to serve a customer and then disbands when the job is done, the ethical ways of choosing projects and clients.

His own webpage opens with:

“Everybody needs space to do truly interesting work.”

That resonates with me.

It reads like a dream to me, and it’s how I would like to be, a beacon: I just don’t have the courage (yet) to make the choices Jan made.

More dreams

Building more dreams – By Hugh McLeod @gapingvoid

Studio-D has a page about “those projects”. This page did something with me at a level beyond the cognitive. It resonates very strongly with me. I have been part of and initiated some of those projects…

There are projects.

The ones that shape, mould and refine what we do, allow us to iterate on what we know – the operational things that help us get stuff done better, faster, smoother.

And then there are those projects. 

Those projects shape us and our team, they expand our world view, open minds to new ways of thinking, bring our short existence into sharp focus – they remind us that our time on this planet is too fleeting to devote to things that are no sooner done, than forgotten.

Those projects make us question our beliefs, our career goals, who we work for, who we work with, who we want to work with, and where we want to devote our energies for the next few years.

It’s those projects that rapidly evaporate any tolerance for bullshit.

They remind us of what we’ve let drift, and provide a rough hand to steer us back on track.

They are the essence of a life worked well.

Everyone has their own criteria for what makes one of “those projects”. They can include heart-in-mouth, will-we-or-won’t-we-make-it moments where the cost of failure is absolute, where fear stalks and somewhere along the line hearts leap, and tears are shed. They generate experiences that can’t be unlearnt, are in no danger of being forgotten.

“Experiences that can’t be unlearnt, are in no danger of being forgotten”!

Isn’t that great?

Is that not what life is about? Or was I discussing work? It is the same if you look at the essence of work this way?


Picture from Burning Man 2015 – I was not there ;-)

The danger to be forgotten is in the eye of the beholder.

At one level of consciousness, the fear is about being forgotten as a person in the organization, and what you think you meant and mean for the organization. Why you think you and your work matter. Why you think you made a dent in the organization you work for. When that gets forgotten, that hurts. It is the stage where you wonder if you still matter.

At another level of consciousness, you have internalized that fear. You acknowledge what has been, and you don’t care anymore about being forgotten.

Because you now think in terms of experiences that can’t be unlearned and made you that unique human being that you are, with your own history and timeline of experiences.

The previous post was about the next 10 years. And the fear of not having enough time left to do what you were meant to do. In that post I also invited you to look back and interrogate the progress you made in the last 10 years. You probably can see the milestones and progress of your previous last 10 years.

But the trap is when you start worrying whether others have seen it too. When you let others decide whether you matter or not. When you wait to get picked, because you live in the illusion that the organization has internalized your last 10 years in the same deep way as you did yourself, and that the organization cares.

The organization does not care.

And your history trace evaporates a little more every year with the apparent mandatory half-yearly or yearly re-organizations, killing existing connections (and creating new ones), cutting-off the historic trails, and the milestones you were part of.

What re-organization do you work for?

The older you get, the more you witness how the wheels are re-invented over and over again. Testosterone, rivalry, positioning and ambition drive projects and organizations, not purpose. It has become standard practice to ignore history, to forget “those projects”, their lessons learned and the warm bodies that were behind them.


One of my heroes: Pablo Picasso – by Yoo-Hyun – Hand cut paper

Our conversations become tweets, at best. There is no time for a quality in the essence of our work. We are getting fragmented, and become shrapnel of our own identity.

We become irrelevant.

The essence of work is about relevancy.

But relevancy for whom and in what context?

Being forgotten is only in the eyes of the beholder.

The essence of work is that you were part off, where you were instrumental to one of those projects. They are engrained in your physical and emotional DNA, and make who you are. Nobody can take that away.

So look back, and interrogate those projects that made you who you are. That gave you the scars on your soul, and the arrows in your back. Those projects are those projects because you cared. You cared for yourself and the organization that you were part of. This relationship is different from doing your job, different from the employer-employee relationship.

The madness is many of these relations are un-even, unequal. In many cases the performer cares for the organization, but the organization does not care for the performer.

As in so many of the essays in this series, the only one way to survive this madness and is to choose and adhere to your own norms and standards for an essence of work that is after superior qualities and experiences.

That is what our next essay in the series will be about: ethereal qualities.

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