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Archive for the ‘Worldviews’ 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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This is my first post of the year, and I don’t believe I properly closed the previous year.

fleches bxl

Surreal traffic sign in Belgium

On the last day of 2015 I paid a visit to the Magritte Museum in Brussels. It was one of those surrealist days, when the Brussels mayor has just announced the cancellation of the new-year fireworks, and the city was still under terror alert level-3, meaning that a threat is “possible and likely.”

magritte logo

I was early – just before the opening of the museum – and the city had something unreal. The air was fresh, the light was bright, everything was peaceful, and mainly Japanese and American tourists were hanging around enjoying the square.

The entrance of the museum also was surreal: visitors now had to go through a x-ray scanner, like in airports. I am pretty sure the place must be full of CCTV cameras, whose output is possibly most of the time ignored by human or more advanced computer vision systems.

I think we are overreacting here, and that it will get worse. There is a big disconnect between the reality and the perceptions created. And it changes my behaviour. Already now, I notice how I change my behaviour when entering in surveyed territories like airports (and now also musea): I don’t try to look into the eyes of the guard, maybe I dress more conforming, become submissive, and become more careful in the wordings and subjects of my posts and tweets.

I have become submissive.

Luckily, the queue at the museum was not long yet, and I could shrug off the defeat and start enjoying the museum tour.

The Magritte museum is part of a the complex of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, located in the heart of Brussels at the Place Royale. It is housed in the neo-classical landmark Altenloh Hotel, superbly restored in 1984. I had visited the Royal Museums complex before, but never the wing where Magritte is hosted.

The main entrance of the museum is via a big elevator (the museum is spread over three floors, and the tour starts on the 3rd floor). I go quite frequently to an exhibition and one immediately notices when you are entering a league in its own right. This is an absolute world-class collection and museum, I recommend it to anybody who visits our city and has a couple of hours to spare.

“The museum’s multi-disciplinary collection is unrivalled. It contains more than 200 works consisting of oils on canvas, gouaches, drawings, sculptures and painted objects as well as advertising posters, musical scores, vintage photographs and films produced by the artist.”

magritte headshot

Headshot René Magritte

René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fall under the umbrella of surrealism. His work is known for challenging observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality. (from Wikipedia).

I believe that the skill to “challenge observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality” – in other words curating, creating, and making sense – is becoming more and more important is this age of rapid change, where shortcuts and platitudes are rather the norm, in stead of depth in our reflections about cultural change.

Robert Fritz said: “Structure determines behaviour, and behaviour drives culture”.

book marvelous clouds

In that context, I highly recommend the book “The Marvelous Clouds” by John Durham Peters, who starts where Marshall McLuhan left it in 1964 (that is now more that 50 years ago), when he coined the phrase “The Medium is the message” in his most widely known book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.

McLuhan proposed that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. He said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.

When I start playing and mixing with Fritz and McLuhan, I get to something like:

“The medium informs the structure,

Structure informs behaviour,

Behaviour informs culture”

A significant part of the structure we operate in is made of media. Media as in plural of medium.

The air is medium, water is medium, the Internet is medium.

But like Magritte, we are unaware how easily the medium can be tricked. Is what we see real, unreal, surreal, or pure illusion?

Check out this great post about Adversarial Machines by Sanim on how easy our machines can get fooled by adversarial robots.

“At the heart of many modern computer vision systems are Convolutional Neural Networks. On some vision tasks, CNNs have surpassed human performance. Industries such as Web-Services, Research, Transport, Medical, Manufacturing, Defence and Intelligence rely on them every day.”

And

“Adversarial Examples are a fascinating area of ongoing research. They highlight limitations of current systems and raise a number of interesting questions. While industries are racing to include visual intelligence systems in mission-critical infrastructure, looking at edge-cases and exploring solutions is a productive path. 

The discussion in that post – and especially the part on generating adversarial images and “mangas” – is fascinating. And should us make think very carefully how all this can be used and misused in a medium of networks, CCTV cameras, and online and offline surveillance.

airport

trump

In other words, the image of the reality is not the reality.

The map is not the territory (Alfred Korzybski in 1931), meaning:

  • A map may have a structure similar or dissimilar to the structure of the territory…
  • A map is not the territory.

In The Medium Is the MassageMarshall McLuhan expanded this argument to electronic media. Media representations, especially on screens, are abstractions; are virtual “extensions” of what our sensory channels, bodies, thinking and feeling do for us in real life (Source: Wikipedia)

Which brings us full circle back to our friend Magritte who hits the nail – or should I say pipe – in many of his paintings, the most famous work entitled The Treachery of Images, which consists of a drawing of a pipe with the caption, Ceci n’est pas une pipe (“This is not a pipe“).

pipe

The spirit if Magritte is still very much alive. In true surreal traditions, Belgians started posting pictures of cats during threat level-4 in November 2015.

cats

These are deeply human and intended reactions to ever more chaotic environments and media.

I believe it is very important to nurture these human intentions, and the arts of humor, surrealism, and deeper languages than pure digital representations of reality.

Yes, we are talking here about the language of art.

Brian Eno recently defined art as:

“Everything that you don’t have to do

In that spirit, I leave you with some quotes from Magritte. They are displayed across the three floors of the museum in the same typography of “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” All quotations are consolidated in a nice PDF that you can find on the museum’s website, with the original French version, and translations in Dutch, English, German and Spanish.

quotes

Many of the quotes are very powerful. Here a selection of my personal favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

I wish for real love, the impossible and the utopian. I fear knowledge of my exact limits.

To be surrealist is to banish the notion of ‘déjà vu’ and seek out the not yet seen. By this I mean this moment of clarity that no method can reveal.

The real value of art is measured by its capacity for liberating revelation.

Nothing is as strong a defense as love, which allows lovers to enter into an enchanted world perfectly formed for them and where they are protected admirably by isolation.

Rebellion is a reflex of the living man.

Liberty is the possibility of being and not the obligation to be

All that I desire is to be enriched by intensely exciting new thoughts

Please do share with me your intensely exciting new thoughts. Onwards for a fantastic 2016. Happy new year !

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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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Week-6 of Delicacies: a self-curated weekly list of max 5 articles that i found interesting and worth re-reading. Minimalism in curation. This week only 4 posts. Enjoy!

 

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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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Just found this awesome 27 min talk by Joi Ito on the 9 principles of open innovation. They are not that new – first version appeared in 2012 – but they seem to have matured, like good wine in well kept cellars. Almost every sentence he speaks is tweetable ;-)

To help me concentrate on the content, I usually make a lot of notes, and before knowing I almost made the transcript of this talk, so i can as well share my notes.

So, I have no credits on the content. I just did some mix and matching with some other material from others. Like Joi, I have been a DJ, and I have fun in mixing and weaving different themes into some form of new carpet. Highlights are mine.

joi ito

 

Joi Ito is Director of the MIT Media Lab and many other things (check out this Wikipedia page).

Here is the sort of transcript, more or less ordered around his 9 principles.

But in his intro, he says also loads of interesting things.

The MIT Media lab 30 years later: Media is plural for Medium, Medium is something in which you can express yourself. The Medium was hardware, screens, robots, etc. Now the medium is society, ecosystem, journalism,… Our work looks more like social science.

Before the Internet (BI) and Post the Internet (PI): Post the Internet, it is about participating responsibly in a system that you can’t predict and whose outcome to your intervention is almost random.

We are moving from “demo or die” to “deploy or die”. It just costs some “sweat equity” and some kids in a dorm room to get things done. Kids are competing with the incumbents. The innovation cost – the cost of trying something – went to nearly zero. Now you can innovate without asking permission, pushing innovation to the edges, and allow grassroots innovation.

Note: I believe “grassroots” innovation is very important in organizations. Last week I was on the judge panel of an internal innovation channel. I saw quite some things that our innovation team explored before, but never succeeded to get out there. With grassroots innovation, you have the buy-in from the fabric of the organization from day-1. It is very “swarmwise”.

Before, the guys who had the money had the power. Now, because the space of startups is so crowded, the VCs have to sell themselves.

Note: I heard something very similar recently in the context of innovation motivations: corporates looking for innovations have to sell themselves to startups.

Diminishing cost of innovation makes those having the money behave a little bit better. Who is thinking about those ideas that don’t start small? Thinking about it as a community. This is less about empowering the individual, more about empowering the community.

Note: “empowering the community”. Wow! Big ideas are usually shared ideas. In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the great Diego Miralles with his story of the Janssen Labs as a story of shared infrastructure. I believe the time is ripe – more than ever – for cooperative structures where we can form “coalitions of the willing” to solve the big community challenges.

Twitter was not a company, it was a feature. It only became useful when linked, when in a system. Can the ecosystem solve the big problems, a complex system with nobody really in charge? In stead of designing that one thing, in a system design is more like growing, giving birth to a child, you don’t know exactly where that child is going, it has your DNA, but hopefully turns into something that you are going to be proud of. Think of it like a gardener: the open internet is the water, the openness, the air that you need, and all of us are the organism that live in that system, to make this thing vibrant.

Then Joi started introducing and commenting some of the 9 principles.

A lot of people disagree with them, but I don’t care. I care about the arguments, I don’t care that they are disagreeing.

Joi Ito 9 Principles2

Pull over push

You pull from the network as you need it, rather than stocking it and centrally and control it. And agility is what comes out of that. If you have printing presses, and lines of code, and IP, those are all reasons not to shift course, to stick to your map, rather than the compass. All the things we think are assets are in fact liabilities, if you think about it from the perspective of agility.

Compasses over map

Often the map costs more to build than it is worth, because the complexity is so high and it is so unpredictable. Dependence on planning is a weakness.

Practice over theory

When I was looking for funding my first ISP, the investor spent 3M USD for consultants to advise not to invest 600K dollars. If it costs you more money to think about it than to do it, it’s better to do it. And if you do it, it turns out that you get a fact, not a theory. It is important to do things, especially if the cost of doing things is cheaper than talk about it. A lot of times it works in practice and not in theory, you can figure out the theory later. Most of the world deals with things that work in theory, but not in practice, and they try to discredit reality in order to fit with their theory. But “in theory” they say, “theory and practice are the same”

Disobedience over compliance

You don’t win a Nobel price by doing what you are told. You win a Nobel price by questioning authority and thinking for yourself. You want to build an organization that is resilient to disobedience

Emergence over authority

In communities, authority seems to be emergent. Open Source project leaders, tend to be somewhat quite people, with a lot of EQ, how are not naturally trying to grasp power, but end up in power because the followers (@petervan: I would say the fellowers) push them there. In an investment firm with a hierarchy that is based on function and title, you just need a stick to keep the troops aligned. But when you are in a system where you are paying to participate, then you want emerging authority.

Learning over education

Education is what people do to you, learning is what you do to yourself. About degrees and “finalizing my eduction”. I don’t want you to be at the media lab, because you want to get out.

Resilience over strength (part of the Q&A)

In stead of bulk-up and resist failure, invest the same money on recovery and resilience. You tend to try to minimize failure, rather than trying to work on resilience. It’s also kind of a Zen thing too. If you are extremely present and ready for anything, your are in an extremely resilient state. And it you are not present, you are always focused on the future, or the past, you try to build up walls and trying to make sure that you don’t get choved. And it is hard when you are surrounded by other planners in an institution like this (Knite Foundation) you tend to focus on structure, strength versus resilience, the structure vs this bounciness. Again on the Internet, a lot of the pieces are very resilient, when you are in an institution that uses a lot of planning; it is hard to create that interface

Also the Q&A part of this talk was interesting.

On how to share knowledge:

The conference model is a great system. A lot of people have experimented with ways to try to share knowledge, but it seems to be one of the hardest problems because everybody has a day-job, they are very busy, and people are talking sort of different languages, and when you are face to face you can coordinate your language in real-time

On how to you get people who are working on things coordinated?

At the Media Lab we have several approaches: we have this sort of big data, data mining, machine learning, predicting things through causalities and patterns vs something where people are more in charge and people are more active.

There is another version of this talk at TED talks:

The more I listen to Joi, the more I become aware that he is talking about leadership features to navigate our companies in this more then ever unpredictable fast moving world. It was a pure coincidence; right after Joi’s talk, I spotted this great post from John Maeda, about Creative Leaders versus Authoritative LeadersJohn Maeda was the President of the Rhode Island School of Design from 2008 to 2013. He is currently a Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

This chart represents a summary of the kind of creative leadership that is rising — and needed — in the face of our increasing interconnectedness due to global economies, mobile devices, and social media. In an age where anyone can “friend” the CEO, and where complexity and volatility are the only constants, what should leadership look like? I often say we are now operating within a “heterarchy” though I’ve also cleverly seen it called the “wirearchy.” In any case, it’s a world where I believe the natural perspective of artists and designers — who thrive in ambiguity, fail productively, and rebound naturally — will be become more and more useful in leadership contexts.

The chart was originally created for a workshop at the Davos World Economic Forum in 2009 and became the basis of my book Redesigning Leadership, written with Becky Bermont. In my own observation, there are authoritative leaders and creative leaders everywhere — it’s not something wholly determined by industry, generation, or position. And every leader will need, on any given day, a little bit of both types of leadership.

John Maeda principles

Makes me think about principles for Leadingship vs. Leadership. See also my post “The End of Leadership” of 1 ½ year ago. Like Joi’s talk makes us reflect on the openness of innovation, Maeda adds the openness of leadingship.

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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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