Q42 – Kras op de planeet

Deze week was ik op bezoek bij het innovatieve internetbedrijf Q42. A happy place for Nerds, en prijswinnend als bedrijf om voor te werken. Met acht Q-ers gingen we in gesprek over wat innovatie voor hun is. Het simpel verlangen was een “kras op de planeet”. Daarmee was Apple met de eerste iPhone werkelijk innovatief, als zou je het kunnen zien als een slimme bijeenraping van bestaande technologieën. Dus wat kunnen we leren van Q42?

Leiderschap: Hoe kan ik jou ontzorgen?
De vraag die elke leider / manager aan zijn medewerker zou moeten stellen is: “Hoe kan ik jou maximaal ontzorgen, zodat jij je volle innovatiekracht kan inzetten?”. De leider als facilitator in plaats van aap op de rots. Je krijgt ook geen goede ideeën onder een douche die af en toe koud water doorlaat. Tegelijkertijd zullen er altijd gesprekken zijn over wie de afwas moet doen op momenten.

Regels: Alles mag worden veranderd!
Zodra we dingen vastzetten in regels komen we aldus vast te zitten. Het is aldus niet zo dat er geen regels geïntroduceerd kunnen worden, want de hoofdregel is dat deze aangepast mogen worden. Sterker nog, je bent verantwoordelijk om altijd de regels ter discussie blijven stellen.

Cultuur: Extern innovatief bouwt op intern innovatief
Elke organisatie die niet intern innovatief georganiseerd is kan ook niet met innovatieve producten of diensten komen. Culture eats …  for breakfast. De founding fathers van een organisatie zetten hierbij de trend, maar de huidige leiders moeten het lef en vertrouwen om deze ruimte te blijven geven. Mag ik iets radicaal nieuws doen, met het risico dat we een maand aan het puinruimen zijn, of moet ik me eerst maanden verantwoorden? Welk mandaat krijg ik hier? Bij Q42 gaat het soms mis door bijvoorbeeld vernieuwende technologie, maar het wordt altijd weer met elkaar opgeknapt.

Beheer: Beheer is remmend op innovatie.
Ik heb een situatie proberen te verzinnen waar de bovenstaande stelling niet opging. Volgens mij is het altijd zo. Als je als innovator met beheer aan de gang gaat, gaat je energie aldus naar beheer… En als je iemand aanneemt voor beheer, dan haal je een beheercultuur in huis. Dat kan een bewuste keuze zijn, maar heeft impact op de cultuur van de totale organisatie. Beheer introduceert regels om te behouden in plaats van te willen vernieuwen.

Focus: Wat is je innovatief referentiepunt?
Wat voor mij innovatief is, is voor jou wellicht oud nieuws, en voor mijn moeder onbegrijpelijk. Het is interessant om met elkaar in gesprek te gaan van wie we willen horen “dat is werkelijk bijzonder cool!”.


Veel medewerks van Q42 hebben ‘Q-er’ als functietitel op LinkedIn. Zij verbinden zich daarmee aan hun organisatie in plaats van aan hun hierarchische positie. Het belangrijkste is dat je passie en plezier in je werk hebt als je wil vernieuwen, en uit je comfortzone durft te stappen omdat je werkelijk iets nieuws wilt neerzetten, en het vertrouwen in je collega’s hebt dat ze er zijn ook als het een keer misgaat. Misschien is de strech vraag voor de directie van een bedrijf wel: mogen jouw medewerkers zich soms vervelen?

Co create an event on Innovation and Playfulness (Vote for the Name)

On the 11th or January 2013 de Baak organizes the annual international Meet The World event, which has this year a focus on Innovation and how Playfulness can help organizations in this process. You could say that it is an offline version of this blog. At the moment we are looking for partners and other fun & interesting people to help us to co create this festival. You could be part of this process! Let’s prototype!

Please have a look at our draft webpage with a magazine which describes the outlines. 

And of course vote for the best name for this event. We put it on the right, so it connects well with your analytical left brain.

We’ve already started, so come out and play!

The rise of Urban Playing

Like many people I consider cities as a giant playground. Amsterdam seems to be particularly suited for this role. Skateboarders and rollerskaters have more or less pioneered the urban playing aspect of cities. Now also the more conservative sport of golf is turning towards playing in public city parks. At least the Vondelpark in Amsterdam was temporarily altered into a public golf course last Tuesday. I was wondering if litigation laws in the US would permit such a sport like golf to be played in a truely public park. Surely it is played with hard litte balls, that travel at fairly high speed,  that can essentially hit unexpecting pedestrians in the park. Question to the blog visitors: what other sports do we see taking themselves into the public domain? Do you see innovative businesses being built around them?

Happiness is the new productivity

One of the biggest problem for large companies, all over the world is to attrack, develop and maintain talent. Talented people are refusing to commit to an environment where they can’t make full use of their full potential, can’t contribute to the world or are “managed” by managers that are uninspiring for them. The need to work for a company is far less than it used to be. More than ever it is easy to set up your own business. You can easely join entrepreneurial networks and the knowledge of “how to” is spread all over the internet for free.

Mindvalley, an Malaysian company in the personal growth market is trying to do things differently. What Mindvalley is doing, is building a workplace where employees very much profit from being a part of. They’re not focussing on achieving linear goals in order to gain profit. What their doing is making sure that you as an mindvalley employee achieve your personal goals (linked to Mindvalley’s vision). They’re on a mission of building the World’s greatest workspace and by that they hope to reshape (by inspiring) the workspace of many traditional companies.

This way of working is very profitable for Mindvalley. Their becoming famous around the world. Talented people from all over the world are applying in order to work for Mindvalley. Most of people that have worked for mindvalley turn into entrepreneurs and start a business back in their own country. Almost all, linked to mindvalley or they’ve even started their local mindvalley company. By this Mindvalley is creating a world wide network of really talented people, absolutely devoted to Mindvalley’s vision and business.

I’ve selected this awesome video from the CEO of mindvalley where he explains more about the way Mindvalley works. Basicly what he is saying, is that “happiness is the new productivity” and that it creates a hugh ‘karmic kickback’ which (on the long term) is more profitable than any business strategy.  Cool isn’t it?

Art Reserve Bank – Kunst Reserve Bank @ Amsterdam Zuidas

Update of 22-06-2012 : The Art Reserve Bank announces on their website that they have recently been invited to the headquarters of the Dutch National Bank to talk about the usage of the word Bank in Art Reserve Bank. The Dutch National Bank seems to ask (or command) them to let this part of the name go. If the word bank needs to go, I propose they rename their initiative to the Federal Art Reserve (-;

Yesterday I visited the Art Reserve Bank (Kunst Reserve Bank). They ask themselves a few questions about money down there. For example: Is there ever enough money in the world? Central banks in the US and Europe have been and still are creating dollars and euros at high volumes during the latest crisis. The Art Reserve Bank questions if there will ever be enough stuff (value) in the world to cover all the money created. The Art Reserve Bank has hence set up shop in the financial district of Amsterdam Zuidas. Their mission to create a new reserve currency. Real money with real value. At the teller window you can exchange your common money for limited edition artworks designed by top artists like John Körmeling, Marte Röling, Merijn Bolink, Jonas Staal, Erik van Lieshout and Marlene Dumas. Rumour has it that also Tracey Emin and Banksy will join the party. Unique artworks from € 100, the current exchange rate to the euro of this freshly created reserve currency. The money is stamped at the premises of the KRB. If this sounds to good to be true, then visit kunstreservebank.nl.  Act quickly, because the exchange rate could start rising! Opening hours are on the site.

Organizational Jazz – Extraordinary Performance through Extraordinary Leadership

Last week I finished reading the really interesting book ‘Organizational Jazz – Extraordinary Performance through Extraordinary Leadership’ (David NapoliAlma WhiteleyKathrine Johansen) which I borrowed from Steve Leybourne from Boston University. It describes in a passioned way how most managers try to hang on to the myth of a certain and predictable world, but that we have to transform our way of working to create sustainable organizations. What do we do when our environment is close to chaos? We dance.

‘Constant, rapid and unpredictable changes, both internal and external, are challenging the time-honoured business models we are taught to follow – as we strive to manage our complex, evolving organizations.Drawing on the science of complex adaptive systems, this book offers a lens through which we search for new ways of thinking about, and working with, the unpredictability of our dynamic complex world.Organizations of today need ‘Extraordinary Leaders’ who can ‘dance’ with change by embracing the principles of complexity science to create highly adaptable and innovative organizations that recognise the value of intangible assets.The success of an organization usually depends on those working closest to the value-adding end of the business. It is those employees and their immediate leaders, who seem to have the greatest impact on the success of an organization. Managers-as-leaders can ease the way for those who depend on them for support and encouragement.’

Interesting issues mentioned are:

  • Mechanistic Leadership (certain environment) vs Extraordinary Leadership (uncertain environment).
  • Value Driven Organizations (opportunity and empowerment), in stead of depending on rules that limit people. Which is really strange if you think of it…
  • The movement from Ego to Eco (picture from earlier post) to cope with complexity. There is sometimes a narcissistic tendency in our Western culture to love great leaders, and to underestimate great teams.  So try to create Teams which act as a magnet, in stead of  a classroom with a teacher with students who wait for the lunch break.
  • Embracing complexity, in stead of trying to control it with strategic planning and control. People can cope with complexity as long as they dance with it and not try to make it what they expected it to be (older post on improvisation). Readers who have children will probably recognize this.
  • Being highly adaptive and innovative to become a sustainable organization.

I found it is really worthwhile to read this book, and can advise it to anybody whose interested in dealing with complexity, innovation, value driven organizations, and improvisation. You can read the first 128 pages (which were the most interesting…) on this google books site.

David Napoli, Alma M. Whiteley and Kathrine S. Johansen
ISBN 978-0-9757710-6-8

Five Ways to Ruin Your Innovation Process (for Blue People)

Columbia Business School professor Rita McGrath studies innovation, corporate venturing, and entrepreneurship. Most companies sabotage their own innovation processes without meaning to. She noticed five tell-tale signs of this syndrome. I think she describes it in a way that ‘Blue People’ (Jung based, bureaucratic in nature) like. So how do you manage innovation and keep control over your business?

1. Innovation is episodic.
2. Resources are held hostage by incumbent businesses.
3. You’re trying to fit innovation into the structure that you have.
4. Too little diversity of thought; too much isolation from customers’ experience.
5. Treating assumptions like knowledge.

(Read it all on: Five Ways to Ruin Your Innovation Process)

The gender factor of innovation

Innovation is relevant to the field of technology and humanity.  There can different aspects of innovation carried forward by the same person.

  • The technology aspect: being the first to achieve a level of achievement in a certain technological domain.
  • The humanity aspect: being the first woman to reach a certain level of achievement in society.

Let’s take the rather unkown Belgian scientist Ingrid Daubechies, as a point in case. She was the first female professor of maths at Princeton University. She also was the first to crack and make publicly available crucial algorithms that have formed the basis of some of the most widespread image compression techniques. So she contributed to an innovation that we enjoy today on our computers, devices, screens and cameras.  She is now also the first female president of the International Mathematical Union. What is the most striking part of this story?

  • should women thank her for becoming a leading lady in maths as an innovation to society, as an example.
  • or should we focus on her masterful technological work for image compression, something we take pleasure in daily when we use our phones and apps.

NOTE: In the mean time I am still waiting for the first female president of the US of A, Europe or China. Curious how long it will take each of these three nations?

Another innovation paradigm: Too much room to act…

Picture: Artist Yves Kline leaping into the void

When we get older we think about all the risks that could be a consequence of our actions. We gain the freedom to decide for ourselves what we want to do (no parents around any more who say that we can’t do something), but we loose simultaneously the freedom in our minds to just act and have fun (no parents around who protect us, so we have to look out for ourselves). There is no simple solutions for this tension. It’s just there, and we have to deal with it in our own way.

Should I press the Publish button or… hmm… on the other hand… what does it matter… but suppose that… maybe better to delete it, nobody will read it anyway…. 

How to spot Disruptive Innovation Opportunities

Some time ago Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen has introduced the theory of Disruptive Innovation, and it is probably one of the most important innovation theories of the last decade. A disruptive innovation is an innovation with a product or service being improved, in a way that the market had not expected. It occurs when an innovator brings something to market that is simple, convenient, accessible, and affordable. Most of the time not by enhancing the technology, but by transforming the business model. A famous example is the introduction of the Nintendo Wii, which found a market of  traditionally non-gamers and used less technically less ‘perfect’ games. The question is: How do you find a way to find a distributive innovation for your organization?

Disruptive TechnologyMost organizations apply sustaining innovation, which can also be effective. But in contrast to disruptive innovation, a sustaining innovation does not create new markets or value networks but rather only evolves existing ones with better value, allowing the firms within to compete  against each other’s sustaining improvements (Wikipedia). It gives in that way room for new players to transform the playing field. As said in a blog post before: the creator of a game always wins. Have a look at this really informative interview with Scott Anthony, President Innosight. He gives some tips to help you pinpoint disruptive opportunities within your organization.


The Nightmare Competitor – a playful method
It is often difficult to find Disruptive Innovation opportunities, because it demands a radical perception shift on your organization and the system it is part of. Most people get stuck in this process, because they suffer from the ‘tunnel vision’ syndrome. A way of dealing with this is the roll playing game called the Nightmare Competitor. Others call it a ‘scenario planning tool’, which make it more accessible as a serious tool for organizations, but also less effective because it tends to take all the fun and therefor creativity out of the process…

The Nightmare Competitor challenges you to  become the worst new competitor of your own company. What would you do? How could you ruin this old organization, and become the new Rising Star? You become a Disruptive or Nightmare competitor. By doing so you  learn from the new insights, and implement them in your still existing organization.

I would call this a roll playing game, because people enjoy in this paradigm shift to look at their company in a disconnected way, and have fun in virtually distorting what they love most. Risks are taken, and sore bruises are pushed on. The participants become really creative to overcome existing boundaries. Whatever method you might use: getting away from regular patterns is needed, and the fun and creativity that starting entrepreneurs have are essential.

Please contact me if you want to participate, or know even a better way of creating a disruptive game.