Obeisance to the Fool

After the last post on Tiding Up art…, hereby the brilliant, crazy and shocking contribution of the Yes Men to our list of people who dare to change the world a little bit. Most organizations love to talk about Leaders, but what would the world be without the services of the Fool. Part of every well respected card deck, but painfully forgotten by mister Belbin when he defined his eight team roles. The Fool is like a mirror: (s)he shows what stays hidden. Have a look at his brave video, and draw your own conclusions. 

Let’s tidy up! Innovation and creativity in a Black Belt world.

Last week I found some (for me) new pictures by the comedian and artist Ursus Wehrli about “Tidying up Art”. Please have a look at his great contribution to TED. I really love his concept, and tried the same principle on the logo of de Baak. Not so pretty, but fun to do! At the same time it made me think about the vision of many organization that I visit: let’s remove all illogical elements of our organizational painting with the help of a Six Sigma Black Belt Senior Expert Professional. “Great news, you can remove 25% of the painting because it is redundant!”. The question that makes me think: How can we help leaders to deal with unclarity and illogicality in order to increase room for innovation and creativity? Can you develop your view on what is truly rubbish, and what is actually your company’s future? 

Simple example of Reframing

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog about Reframing as a summary of an great Masterclass by Bruna Setola. Obviously we had to play with these insights and incorporated it in the Innovation Program of the City Council of Utrecht. We gave the participants the assignments to take pictures of  situations (all around you) in which the problem is part of the solution. A difficult challenge for most, but with the most interesting and simple photographs as a result! This is one we want to share with you to underline the importance of “Bricolage” – the solution is in front of you. 

A participant had an interesting talk with his little sun about the difficulty of finding his toys disappearing to the bottom of a box… This is what they came up with! Lesson learned: children are better in thinking outside the box:)

box 1

box 2

Aan de slag met vernieuwing en innovatie

This article was recently published in a Dutch Magazine for Young Professionals. It gives an insight in a innovation pilot program we ran at a big insurance company. We’re now focussing on bringing the initiative to the next level using the informal organization as much as possible. “I just go with the flow” (Fredrik Härén).


Wat doe je als medewerkers reorganisatie moe zijn?
Hoe motiveer je deze medewerkers als ze onzeker zijn over hun eigen toekomst?
Hoe stimuleer je hen om spontaan met verbeterinitiatieven te komen en nieuwe dingen uit te proberen?

Voor deze vragen zag het verzekerbedrijf van ING zich begin dit jaar gesteld. Voorbereidingen op een beursgang, uitdagende marktomstandigheden, een constante druk op kostenbeheersing. Allemaal aspecten die niet direct uitnodigen om uitgebreid te starten met vernieuwingsinitiatieven waarvan op voorhand niet vaststaat wat deze op zullen leveren. De actuele marktsituatie vraagt echter wel om een financiële dienstverlener die actief meebeweegt met veranderende omstandigheden en daarop juist het verschil maakt.

Hendrik Jan Bot (leiderschapsontwikkeling bij ING Verzekeren) en Rutger Slump (programmamanager de Baak) gingen met deze vraag aan de slag en ontwikkelden een programma dat medewerkers leert zelf het initiatief te nemen en deze medewerkers tegelijkertijd motiveert om aan de slag te gaan met hun eigen verbeterinitiatieven.

Een bijzonder samenwerkingsverband waarbij inmiddels, we zijn op driekwart van de pilot uitvoering, duidelijk is dat dit programma meer is dan alleen een training: het kan als vliegwiel functioneren om het verandervermogen van een hele organisatie te vergroten.


Wat maakt deze pilot zo bijzonder?

Allereerst de opdracht: een programma ontwikkelen over vernieuwing en co-creatie dat diezelfde vernieuwing en co-creatie tegelijkertijd in praktijk brengt. Het zal niet vaak voorkomen dat een opdracht wordt gegeven om een programma te ontwikkelen en in een pilot aan te tonen dat dit programma ook toegevoegde waarde biedt. Het is vaak veel veiliger om bestaande programma’s uit te laten voeren waarbij uit eerdere ervaringen blijkt wat ze opleveren.

Daarnaast de insteek: leren door doen. Belangrijkste voorwaarde om aan het programma deel te kunnen nemen is dat deelnemers daadwerkelijk een vernieuwings- of verbeterinitiatief hebben waarmee ze aan de slag gaan. Het programma levert daarmee ook tastbare resultaten en is meer dan training: het is werkend leren.

Tenslotte de inhoud: een combinatie van de eigen leervraag, een korte assessment op de eigen verander cultuur, het gebruik van theater improvisatie oefeningen om op anderen te focussen en een beproefde systematische benadering: design thinking. Juist die combinatie maakt dat het programma persoonlijk wordt, direct bijdraagt aan het eigen presteren en deelnemers enthousiasmeert om aan de slag te gaan.

Hoe beleven deelnemers het programma?

Als energie bron. Het maakt ze enthousiast om daadwerkelijk dingen uit te proberen. Om samen met gebruikers te vernieuwen en door te ontwikkelen. Om hetzelfde vraagstuk opnieuw te ontdekken door de ogen van de gebruiker. Het stimuleert ze creatief te zijn en dingen anders te doen.

Is het programma daarmee per definitie succesvol? Niet op voorhand. Natuurlijk lopen deelnemers aan tegen de beperkingen in hun eigen werkomgeving. Weinig tijd, druk om andere dingen te doen, bedrijfswaarden die innovatie tegen houden en managers die verandering niet echt ondersteunen. Toch leren de deelnemers om dat wat niet meezit juist te zien als randvoorwaarde bij het zelf dingen proberen. En dat is niet een beperking maar een mogelijkheid om te kijken hoever je kunt gaan. Zo wordt iedere stap is een stap dichter bij wat ook nog kan. En dat motiveert.

Hoe ziet het vliegwiel er richting de toekomst uit?

Gezien het succes van de pilot, zijn we in co creatie met de enthousiaste deelnemers en early adopters van HR om een platform te ontwikkelen voor vernieuwing in de organisatie. Het doel is om vernieuwers met elkaar in verbinding brengen, en de ondersteuning bieden die ze nodig hebben om van inzicht naar impact te komen. Het buiten-gewone creëren. Dat kan zomaar nog heel leuk gaan worden!

2013-09-23 16.01.17 2013-09-25 15.09.17

Let’s Play Innovation Experiment at Accenture Innovation Awards

Last week de Baak was asked to give a short presentation at the Accenture Innovation Awards in Amsterdam with a focus on Playfulness in Innovation. We replied: “Yes, and… we want to try something new with this audience about this human side of Innovation. Is that ok?”. Do Dutch Innovators like to get out of their comfort zone? 

The setting was really challenging one: all the participants in the room wore headphones. In this way the audience could hear the speakers better, but it was also blocking direct contact in a strange way. It feels like talking into space. So we tried the concept of Bricolage: how can we use those  headphones for the point we like to make, in stead of seeing them as an element of obstruction?

Of course, we hoped for a room  with crazy dancing innovators  singing “Barbara Streisand!”, but learned more then we expected: isolation is killing for people to get out of their comfort zone. To start a movement you need direct interaction between people, and the feeling that they are part of a bigger whole. Some audience members (the early adopters) made it work, but because the audience followers  (majority) didn’t notice their success they waited till the normal situation to return.

Join the movement
Let’s Play Innovation is a movement to stimulate the innovative mindset of professionals in a playful way. So get connected via Facebook, Twitter and our website and play along! If you want to learn more join our Daring Innovation course of Incompany possibilities at de Baak.

Masterclass Reframing – embracing Complexity

Last week Let’s Play Innovation organized the last Masterclass of 2013 on Reframing, by Bruna Setola. He has the the great job title “Gameful Experience Designer”, and is an inspiring guy on new ways of thinking (which says much more;)). Reframing means looking from a different perspective at the same situation. Indeed, that doesn’t sound very new…, but it’s getting interesting with the aspect of embracing the complexity of your environment to the max. Emerge yourself in complexity, and find what’s really going on.

Don’t try to contain what is open.
Don’t make simple what is complex.
Don’t isolate what is a network.
And don’t make static what is dynamic.

Wicked problems on the roll
So, Reframing embraces the fact that our environment has changed and we’re confronted with wicked problems. Issues that aren’t going to be solved on a simple level, because they are part of our complex experience driven economy. No more honest coffee beans, but a Starbucks experience with wifi, couches and at least cappuccino with latte’art. No more offices but moving creators in blended environments. So how can we work with this complexity? Put the next elements in your DNA:

1)    postpone your judgement
2)    Embrace the complexity of your domain
3)    Find the patterns (in stead of problems)
4)    Translate the patterns into new frames (reframing)
5)    Test the relevance of your new frame for your stakeholders
6)    Find the seemingly easy solutions that the frame brings
7)    Translate and test them into reality (Design Thinking can be your vehicle)

Give me an example!
Nothing works better than an example. Let’s take the Railways, with their question “How can we improve our service to get more satisfied customers?”

Current Frame: Transport. We move people from A to B.
Current solution: more trains, faster change of trains, high speed trains

Possible Reframe: Waiting room. We let people wait in trains and on stations.
Possible solutions: WIFI, nice coaches, shops, food & beverages, etc.

station Leiden

station Leiden

You can think of hundreds of reframes, but the best ones are simple, accepted by the majority of the stakeholders, and generate by itself many possible solutions for your challenge. When you hear about a successful Reframe it is always like “Why didn’t they think of that before?”. But make no mistake: it is hard work to find the underlying patterns and to come up with a good reframe.


Reframing and Playfulness
Reframing has, just like all playful methods, a user centered approach. That means that we follow the needs and dreams of a person, instead the possibilities of e.g. your iPhone. Technique empowers our dreams, and everything is possible. For many, including myself, this is sometimes a scary thought. We want simplicity back in our life because it is so… simple, clear and honest. And at the same time the current possibilities are very hopeful, because they create an opening for a more sustainable environment. I love final thoughts;)

Possible program to follow: Daring Innovation

Holding the space for Innovation

There is a metaphor for the concept “holding the space”. When a Jewish woman (or modern couple) goes into labor, there is an old lady sitting in the corner of the room, doing her knitting work. During all the pain, stress and big emotions of the process she just… keeps on knitting. She shows the couple without saying a word that she has seen it all before: There is no need for panic, it’s all part of the process, and everything will be fine. If she start screaming, you can start worrying… So, what can we learn from this elderly lady for our Innovation challenge?

Teams in distress
Innovation is most effective when working in teams, and they have (almost) similar phases. Forming, storming, norming, performing, and reforming according to Tuckman. Or getting together, fighting for understanding, loving, working and breaking up according to Slump:). Especially during the fighting phase in which teams struggle for team rules, ownership and values there is someone needed who keeps calm, shows without saying that it’s a necessary part of the process and only makes process interventions in order for the team to get to the next level. This e.g. team coach holds the space  for this team process. The idea that (s)he can intervene when things go out of hand is more important than actions.


Holding the innovation game
In innovation the tension is even higher, as the outcome of the process is unknown. Innovators need a space where they can overcome their internal blockades, like “I’m not sure if this is going to work” of “I’m thinking of cows now, and I don’t know why…”, and start experimenting. with crazy new stuff.  So how do you create this space as a facilitator?

1. Find a process model as a map. This is especially important for the rational / control freaks in the group. They can’t handle the stress of not knowing where we’re going, and they are right: why reinvent the wheel? So be smart, pick or create a good one.
In Daring Innovation (DI) we make use of Design Thinking.

2. Introduce social rules that define how we interact. For instance: we always react in a “yes, and…” manner, and we stop when we hear the buzzer. Depending in the length of the process you give space for the team to make their own rules.
DI: Applied Improvisation. 

3. Create a physical space that supports the objective of of the meeting. This means on the one hand that we need the right practical tools. On the other hand should the room feel congruent with the phase of the innovation process. Are we at “Hard Rock” or “Singing Whales”.
DI: different locations from class room to Fablab. 

Whatever you do: for the participants it should all feel logical and in control – you’re holding the space. If you want to learn more please get into contact or follow the open enrollment program Daring Innovation @debaak