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Week-34 of Delicacies: 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-4 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction, check here.


Innovators and Change Agents are probably the most frustrated people in a company’s workforce.

That is because they care. That is because they refuse to look at their work “as a job”, and refuse just “to live with it” or “get over it”

seth godin

Seth Godin recently posted a short post “In search of your calling” in essence about “What is your caring?” in stead of “What is your calling”

I don’t think we have a calling.

I do think it’s possible to have a caring.

A calling implies that there’s just one thing for you, just one thing you’re supposed to do.

What we most need in our lives, though, is something worth doing,

worth it because we care.

There are plenty of forces pushing us to not care.

Bosses, systems, bureaucracies and the fear of mattering.

None of them are worth sacrificing something as important as caring.

And elsewhere on his blog

Caring is unpredictable, hard to command and regulate and sometimes expensive in the short run.

When your organization punishes people for caring, don’t be surprised when people stop caring.

When you free your employees to act like people (as opposed to cogs in a profit-maximizing efficient machine)

then the caring can’t help but happen.

Caring is about making interventions at a dimension of societal progress, the dimension of meaning making, the dimension of societal context, and the dimension of sense making.

Ocean Atlas Jason deCaires Taylor

Artwork: Ocean Atlas Jason deCaires Taylor

Caring is the higher and deeper dimension after purpose, objectives and tactics.

Caring gets closer to needs.

Purpose is closer to intention and beliefs, and values

Objectives are closer to outcomes

Tactics are closer to building to spec, read instructions and apply them

The ambition is to find a “Life worked well”, where needs, purpose, objectives and tactics of the individual and the organization are maximum aligned and self-enforcing. A “Life worked well” is growing on the ladder of:





Once your reach the caring dimension, you don’t want to go back. Design serendipities with others who care. Avoid the people who try to reduce your caring back into thinking about your work as a job. They are in a different belief system. Have empathy, take note, but move on and continue on your path to greatness.

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Week-33 of Delicacies: 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

Read Full Post »

This post is part-2 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction, check here.

This video is the record of a talk by Santiago Ortiz at EYEO Festival in 2014. Santiago is a visualization artist, and that is what triggered my attention first, but listening to the talk, I realized if was about the essence of work.

The description of the video starts with:

“Six Months – The last 6 months of 2012 happened to be the most stressful and creative of my life. Here’s the story.”

It’s a great way to create perspective of where you are now, your last six months, and to see why you were meant to be here, and what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. It’s a great way to re-assess what the essence of your work should be for YOU.

The first 6 minutes is a fantastic way on reflecting what is boring or not, whether you are boring or not. A narrative that is first looking at “before the 6 months”, then looking at “after the 6 months”, and then looking at what really happened “during his 6 months”.

It’s a different form of curriculum. In the case of Santiago’s talk, the real core of the curriculum of the last 6 months starts at min 11, where he shows how his visualization work lead to a different visualization of a curriculum.

It is called the “Ross Spiral Curriculum”

Ross Spiral Curriculum

It makes me think about “Spiral Dynamics” of John Beck. It makes me think of the “Teal Organizations” by Frederic Laloux, who got inspired by Spiral Dynamics and Integral Life Practice of Ken Wilber (Ken will come back in Part-3 about “Needs”).

But instead of the Spiral Dynamics of an organization, a culture, a worldview, it feels like the Spiral Dynamics of a person, documenting the specific evolutionary complexity of the narrative of a person, beyond any specific grade or self-aggrandizement.

At minute 10:30, he gets into the fundamental questions:

“I am alone, I am living in Argentina, and I have to build something. In order to create a work-life, a business”.

It’s a deep reflection:

the essence of work is to create a work-life.

Think about that…

What are his assets at the start of the 6 months:

Assets 6 Months

There is an interesting one under reputation. “My company was well known, but not my name, my reputation”.

The essence of work in the very near future (if not already here) is working your personal brand.

The isolation topic is interesting as well, as it is about having “access to the opportunities” that are of interest to YOU, not your company.

Thinking about it, with the six categories above Santiago invented a great way of making your personal assessment, and – maybe without knowing it – Santiago created a framework and model for self-assessment and personal growth, where you stand and want to be in terms of:

  • Your financial savings
  • Your personal brand
  • Your access to opportunities
  • Your existing portfolio (like a artist’s portfolio, or a model’s portfolio – quite different than your LinkedIn profile that is more about bragging then anything else)
  • The toolkit that you currently master
  • Your contextual environment

Next is to look into what can I do in “the next 6 months”, to improve yourself dramatically on all of these axes to create a place where you can “live a life well worked”. In the case of Santiago, that was:

What can i do 6 months

What is yours?

How will you improve dramatically

on the axes of the self-assessment framework

to get to your “essence of work”?

You have – like Santiago – ask yourself these fundamental questions:

what i love

  • “What I deeply love to do?” should be answered with action not with thought!!! It is really asking the question what gives me dopamine, what makes me happy when I am DOING that. It is probably in the realm of developing new techniques, and the pure joy that doing something from zero is very good.
  • In the “What I am exceptionally good at?” the keyword is “exceptionally”.
  • “What makes social sense?” is asking the question “What could be a business for me?”. In the sense as mentioned above: “what could be a good work-life?” But first make sense. Once you made sense, it is easier to make a business out of it.

It is all about meeting yourself, seeing yourself in the mirror of the magic tension of stress, fear, health, and fun.


Map art by Fairburn

Santiago ends by saying that what he does NOT want to do is ART. He wants to work with people who have real problems, not just experimental stuff that is food for thought, inspiration, etc. That is his choice. All respect.

But it seems that for me, the “essence of work” is almost becoming the opposite of that:

  • I want to create an environment for my clients where we deliberately stay way from the day-to-day problem solving, as that is what you already do all year long.
  • I want to create an environment where we make deeper connections with our purpose, our caring in life, and the deep underlying narratives of our personal and corporate mission statements and intentions.

It’s “basically” connecting with each other at another level than the pure cognitive, staying away from the unbearable lightness of tactics.

At the end of the talk – really in the epilogue at minute 36 – there is the short appearance of the “System Maps of Life”. I love it: reflecting about your life, not as a linear curriculum, but a dynamic spiral of many narratives that come together in one person, that make that person unique.

The key question of this all is of course how to create a “life well worked” around the essence of you as a person, with that rich spiral dynamic. How you create the essence of work for your “onlyness” (a term coined by Nilofer Merchant)

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Week-32 of Delicacies: 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

Read Full Post »

This post is part-1 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction, check here.

How many times does it happen to you that you say/think:

“They don’t get it,

they really don’t get it!”

This happens to me when sharing ideas about my work as an event creator, or should I say “créateur d’expériences”, like Renaults famous advertising tag line: “créateur d’automobiles” which is quite different than “car manufacturer”. The elegance of the French language of course helps.

I keep on trying to explain that we are not in the events business, that we are in the business of creating high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning experiences, and my employer keeps calling what we do “events”. I have come to a point where I stop trying to explain, and just do.

Part of this “not-getting-it” is probably due to a different (therefore not better or worse) vocabulary used by business people and creative people. But most of the non-connection is there because we live in, are inspired by a different belief system.

The subject of belief systems really started resonating with me when I discovered a video of Dave Gray’s presentation “Liminal Thinking: Sense-Making for systems in large organizations”, his closing keynote at Enterprise UX 2015 Conference.

Dave Gray is author of the fantastic “The Connected Company” and many more, and there is a fair chance that his next book will include “Liminal Thinking” in its title. Dave is a good fried, and he shared with me a preview of his next book.

I read it and gave some feedback, so I believe I really have internalized his message. In respect of Dave’s work, nothing in this post is a cut and past from his preview edition, I just distilled it from the public video.

The core message in the video/book is that of the “Self-Sealing Bubble”. The bubble of a belief system, the bubble where one is only receptive to the obvious, the belief system, the DNA that the organization has been trained for, and sometimes like in religions, brainwashed for.

Belief systems and self sealing bubble

Where it becomes even more interesting is when Dave starts connecting needs, beliefs and actions.

To be more precise:

“Needs create beliefs that create rules for action”

And if my need is not fulfilled, I will create a belief, a story that will give reason for my actions, also called rationalising.

needs inform belief systems

“Why are we here?”

asks Dave, and his answer is the mind-blowing “To meet our needs and to help others meet their needs”. Wow!

Say that again.

“To meet our needs and to help others meet their needs”

The model presented, can also be used for reverse engineering of needs in case of conflict of belief systems: what would I do if I believed in the belief system of the other party? What would happen if I act as if that belief system were true? What if I would adapt, even fake my behaviour to give the other belief system a chance.

To give the other belief system a chance

is sometimes also called

an “experiment”

But giving the other belief system a chance, is very different than changing your needs. Dave does not recommend you change your needs.

On the contrary. And he  leads to a very interesting reflection whether security is at all possible at work.

For me security at work would mean to have

“an environment where nothing needs to be protected”

An environment where the quality level of “being a group”, being a team is such that there is no competition between team members, where there are no egos, where there are no posers, losers, clueless and Sociopath pathologies as described in the magic post by Venkatesh Rao “Executive Engagement”.

Where there no classes and hierarchies, and where everybody is respected for the value and insights they bring to the table. And classes is not only about hierarchies. A class could also be associating people with the past, and isolating them deliberately from the future thinking.

An environment without organizational pathologies or self-conforming belief systems.

“Most enterprises are not emotionally safe places”, says Dave Gray, and he is unfortunately so damn right.

In many organizations, people are encouraged to leave their emotions at the door.

“But that is impossible”

It even is more impossible when you get promoted in senior leadership positions, where it really gets schizophrenic, and nobody dares to challenge you. Where most will say yes or whatever latest buzzword to please and charm and schmooze you.

“The more senior, the more difficult it is to leave your emotions at the door, because everybody else will conform to your self sealing logic, and your needs will always get met”

But the key lesson learned from Dave Gray keynote for me is to go and search and discover my deeper needs for a healthy functioning of myself in and outside the organization.

Because needs inform my beliefs. My beliefs inform my actions. My actions result in effects. And the effect confirm or adjust my needs.

That is why in part-3 we will dive deeper into value and needs and how they are the fundamental building blocks of the essence of good work.

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Over the last weeks and months, during my sabbatical and during my part-time working regime, I have written so much down in my personal journals, in documenting my dreams, in writing poetry and even fairytales that I probably have enough material to publish one post every day for the next 100 days.

2015_Venice_Biennale_2 %22The Key in The Hand” is a site-specific installation by Chiharu Shiota,

Picture: "The Key in The Hand” installation by Chiharu Shiota 2015 Venice Biennale

I started seeing several themes, file-rouges and keys in what I was writing, and one of the main reflections was about work. About he nature of work. What constitutes “good” work. About the joy of work. About the frustrations of work. About meaningful work and fulfilment. In essence about the essence of work.

I have now bundled several of my musings about work in ten chapters/essays that I am going to release one by one in the coming days and weeks under the title “The Essence of Work”.

Most of the essays are basically written, some of them still mature as I reflect, as I lie down and let the world come to me. But at a certain time, I can’t withhold it anymore, and it is time to share my thoughts, doubts, inspirations and aspirations with my audience. And as usually – when you share – something magically happens that is called a high quality feedback loop. You get challenged, encouraged, there is a conversation starting. Like in The Cluetrain Manifesto: “Markets are conversations”.

The courage to publish – to release, to let go, to put out something into the world – is usually triggered by an event, something somebody says, a touch, a tear in an eye, somebody coming into your world, a resonance, a frequency, a signal.


Image: Cyrus Kabiru - Kenyan-artist

In this case it was the story of a manager telling her “subordinate” that she should look at her work “as a job”, where the job is a means to an end, and that end is getting a salary. I am paraphrasing, there was probably a little more subtlety to it all, but that was the essence of the message.

That story makes me sad and angry, and that’s why I want to get to the essence about what’s so wrong in that message and share with you what I feel is the essence of work.

This post is just the introduction to that blog series. To give you a feel of what’s coming, hereunder the titles of the 10 chapters or essays that I am going to release soon:

These are not my own thoughts. Many are evolutions of deep insights by people much smarter than me. In every post, I will obviously reveal that source of the inspiration that keeps challenging me in my work. I am just re-chewing the source, sensing it, and trying to make sense out of it.

Hope you join me on this journey. Looking forward to your feedback, suggestions, challenges, conversations, and encouragements, if any.

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