Third places

I remember a Sunday last year, the whole lot of Brussels’ 19 municipalities being car free. Friends and I visited the Meininger hotel.

Business people, travellers in backpacked dorms and families alike stay over, which is part of its rapid success amongst those visiting Europe’s political capital.

Meininger is like a ‘third place‘, a dwelling that resides between a home and a public spot. Exactly what Howard Schultz had in mind when he founded Starbucks.

It’s Facebook going live with face-time, transcending the virtual connection.

‘What suburbia cries for are the means for people to gather easily, inexpensively, regularly, and pleasurably — a ‘place on the corner’, real life alternatives to television, easy escapes from the cabin fever of marriage and family life that do not necessitate getting into an automobile.’
 – Ray Oldenburg, ‘The Great Good Place’

Hotel selfie

Become a lake – a Hindu tale of resources

An aging master grew tired of his apprentice complaining, and so, one morning, sent him for some salt. When the apprentice returned, the master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it. ‘How does it taste?’, the master asked.

‘Bitter’, spit the apprentice.

The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake. The two walked in silence to the nearby lake, and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said: ‘Now drink from the lake.’

As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked: ‘How does it taste?’ ‘Fresh’, remarked the apprentice. ‘Do you taste the salt?’, asked the master. ‘No’, said the young man.

At this, the master sat beside this serious young man who so reminded him of himself and took his hands, offering: ‘The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in.’

*When you are in pain, something you can try to do is to enlarge your sense of things. Stop being a glass and become more of a lake.

** Spend enough time thinking about your resources, the ‘what’s’ and the ‘who’s’ in your environment, that are making a difference now and that have made a difference in the past: what does that tell you about how they can be useful to you?


Micro-progress detective

Celebrate success!’, we hear the management guru preach.

Intuitively, we feel obliged to pour some of that in the organisations and teams we work with. Preferably by gathering together outside the workplace with an informal team drink to a successful implementation, or by climbing together in ropes on a green location far enough from our offices. Hurray to achieving the last milestone of the prestigious project!

By ‘celebrate success’ often is meant: we get together when we reach a certain output, when the predefined goal is achieved, the moment a timeline is met that all of us have been waiting for. Celebrate something where as many team members as possible expended their energy in – the ‘thank you’ speech awaits us at the end of the road.

This ritualisation of success can be much, much richer.

Celebrating successes can be both process related (‘we’re on the way to reaching our goal’) ànd output related (‘we’ve reached our goal’) in nature.

What about doing interactive, intermediary success analyses with your colleagues every time you make progress towards a goal? When you gradually climb higher on the scale, 10 being the goal achieved as good as humanly possible, 1 its opposite?

Also when you’re climbing from 1 to 2 on the scale, or even micro-progressing from 4 to 4,25 towards what you want: do a success analysis with individual team members, with some of them, or with the whole team.

Constantly act as a progress detective and think how you can ‘catch’ people doing things better.

One of the benefits is that it will give you and your team members concrete inspiration for how to climb higher on your scale towards goal achievement.


Visionary organisations

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras selected 18 organisations that they labeled ‘visionary’.

The criteria to be qualified as such were: reputation (‘is the company widely admired by knowledgeable people’?), sustainable success (‘did the company endure various life cycles of products and services?’), influence (‘did the company put their mark on the world we live in?’) and tradition (‘was the company founded before 1950?’).

These 18 visionary organisations were systematically compared with an equally large peer group, i.e. a group of companies that were as old and which were operating in the same sectors.

First Collins and Porras analysed the cumulative stock profit within a period of more than 60 years. It showed that the companies performing well – the control group – obtained twice as better results on the stock exchange than average organisations. In itself a good result. Yet the visionary companies transcended the control group’s stock exchange results by…6 (six).

What did the visionary companies do better and differently than their counterparts?

Collins and Porras provide us with 3 answers:

1) In the first place, visionary organisations don’t step into the pitfall of believing in the power of a super idea or of a charismatic leader. Visionary organisations are not depending from great ideas nor leaders who like to shine a light on themselves.

Also, looking at their history, these companies reached their succesful business model after a long period of trial and error.

And: charistmatic leadership is not in the least a prerequisite for a visionary company. Quite the contrary, the ego’s of visionary leaders obstruct rather than contribute to the success of such companies. Characteristic for leaders of visionary companies is that they focus more on creating a healthy institution instead of wanting to get exposure as a Famous Leader.

2) Secondly, visionary organisations always give their attention both to preserving their ideological core and striving for constant progress. Visionary organisations, almost like a cult, stick to their higher goal and to their core values. These are a steady pillar and don’t surf the waves of the day.

Such an ideological core always reacher further than the desire to generate as much profit as possible. Characteristic for visionary organisations is that they are aware of their social function and that they take full responsibility for that. They don’t see innovation as something necessary, but also as desirable. Visionary organisations never play safe. They take risks and alywas try to be one step ahead of competitors.

3) Thirdly, visionary organisations value their vision document less important than its daily translation. Builders of visionary organisations realise that having a vision document – or something resembling that – is not suffiecient enough to construct a visionary organisation. Therefore, they mainly give their attention to building an organisation with a strong corporate culture. This has less to do with inspration than it has to do with discipline.

The conclusions that Collins and Porras draw: the success of visionary organisations is a consequence of the fact that they sail their own course with their vision as the starting point. While sailing, they constantly innovate and gradually construct a powerful organisation with a strong culture.

It is the combination of vision and culture that makes an organisation truly visionary.

Source: free translation from the excellent Dutch book ‘Kus De Visie Wakker’ / ‘Kiss the Vision Awake’, p.58-59, 2007
The people don't know their true power

De liefde, de poëzie, de (proces)revolutie

Bekentenisje: ik hou ervan om de gang van zaken te bekijken en verbanden te leggen. In de actie en interactie zelf al associatief waar te nemen. Tijdens de beleving met anderen al drie stappen vooruit, dan twee naar achteren en, huppakee, het genoegen om er weer een vooruit te maken in mijn hoofd.

Dan kan het creatief zinderen van hedonistisch plezier in het moment via Isis, wel en wee van de regeringscoalitie en andere wereldvredes naar de Uiteindelijke Dingen, zoals Gerard Reve de zijns- en liefdesvragen noemde.

Deze gedachte, dit gedicht van hem welt op:

Naarmate ik ouder word, wordt wat ik schrijf
Hoewel fraaier verwoord 
Steeds enkelvoudiger van inhoud 
Liefde, of geen liefde, 
Ouder worden 
En dan de dood.

Kan ik voluit genieten van het moment zelf? Gàààààn?

Eerlijk antwoord…? Ja, tuurlijk. Alleen: het is af en toe hinken op twee benen, iets waar ik nogal goed in geworden ben. Luisteren naar iemand, onwetend genoeg, en tegelijk het proces van een gesprek mee regisseren, voortbouwend op wat zich net heeft ontspind bij monde van diegene waarmee ik spreek. Leiden met een stap langs achteren, zouden oplossingsgerichte collega’s zeggen.

Simpel gezegd: ik kan soms nog meer genieten van het proces dan van de inhoud. Van de weg naar veeleer dan de eigenlijke weg.

Van de kracht van hoe opgedane kleine en meer belangwekkende inzichten over interactie tot stand komen (proces). Leermomentjes (inhoud) die nopen om zaken voor eens en voor immer op te slaan in m’n kop (proces).

In de geruststellende wetenschap dat al dat hersenmateriaal zich op het juiste moment weer aandient in een spannend gesprek met anderen of met mezelf. En door die interactie ontstaan weer nieuwe, tijdelijk vastgebeitelde breinconnecties. Snap je…?

En dan moét ik jou spreken als metgezel van levenslang groeien, en zeg ik medeplichtig dat ik van je hou (en dat ik van dat uit te spreken weer hou, o proces!) en dat ik poëtisch weiger dit neer te schrijven, integendeel verkies om deze woorden met je te delen. Nu.

In de hoop dat je dan de juiste dingen zegt zodat ik niet hoef te regisseren, maar volop mee acteur wordt. Liefst met een café latte in de herstzon, aanbeden schat, terwijl ik je betrap op kamerbreed lachen, onnavolgbaar.

Opnieuw en opnieuw: kan dat?