A mindset

“Designers are the new athlethes” – quote found on the street in an advert



From a young age the word ‘now’ has always meant: right at this moment. There were no questions asked and no moments spared to make sure to act now. Making appointments, one after another is perfectly possible if none of them starts late or runs out. In a collaborative environment respecting each others’ time is essential. In Holland being on time means being 5 minutes ahead of the scheduled time to make sure one can start on the dot. 

Being in South Africa reminds me of the relative meaning of time. Someone made an appointment with me on a Friday afternoon, time: after sunset. The same person was ‘a little late’ which turned out to be 2,5 hours. Stunned I wondered how the notion of time influences what we do. In Amsterdam or London we rush from the one exact timed meeting to the next. Leaving no time for spontaneous meetings, inspiring conversations to be finished or traffic. We rush, hurry and measure our times to make sure ‘to get the most out of our day’. In Holland I often complain how my days don’t have enough hours. In South Africa I had plenty time to meet, greet and move between appointments.

Ok, I have to admit that I don’t work in South Africa, but the appointments I make are flexible from both sides and never give me the feeling that I missed something: if it doesn’t happen now it will happen later. When I delivered a workshop the people were on time and when I told them that I would track the timed meating ‘the Dutch way’ they seemed relieved.


Another funny element of South Africa; the word ‘now’. Three years ago I was meeting a friend who’d pick me up from home. 5 minutes passed the set time I messaged him to check where he was the message back said: ‘At your door now’. ‘Great!’ I thought, opening the gate only to find out he wasn’t there. Now had meant a timeframe from the mentioned moment to any time in the future. Now has a wide frame, any time from a particular moment up to a month depending on whom you speak with. So they added ‘just now’ which is a bit shorter and ‘now now’ that implies a couple of hours time window. How to find out what right now is? They will say: ‘at this moment’, ‘currently’ or ‘I’m here’.

Timing and time management change by culture and are a factor to take into account when collaborating with people across the globe.

Teamwork part 1

Teamwork: great collaborations feel like a team effort. Teams can be designed in many different ways and are based on the task that lies ahead. I have become fascinated by how teams are used/designed in highly specialized circumstances like the Operation Room, the Formula 1 pitstop or a master chef’s kitchen. There are several aspects of the art of creating a great team. It is about training people to trust the job of the other person is performed well. Teamwork is also about dancing together at prime time, knowing what to do when. But there is more; people need to be placed in the right spot that will allow the team to perform at its best.

A chef makes sure she’s seen by the team, some chefs are the best cook in the kitchen others are perfect at delegating tasks. With high interest in the dynamics of Michelin star performing kitchens, I have been watching Netflix’ ‘Chef’s Table’. Great lessons can be learned from the dynamics displayed in the documentaries. Depending on the chef it is decided what part of the dish apprentices are cooking or who decides on what dish works or not. The role of the chef reflects the dynamic of a team. The more empowering chefs make sure everyone feels part of the team, even the waiters! Others keep a very clear role distinction. In that instance, the trust that they can do that role best is 100% in their hands.

The same counts for F1. What happens in the pit is a high-class sports performance of 2 seconds.  Trust and focus are what makes these 2 seconds successful. They know so well what needs doing because they have practiced the exact movements over and over again. The question is what happens when you work in an ever-changing environment and one cannot ask for this advanced preparation?

As a service designer, I look closely at how a team performs when delivering services. These teams often stretch beyond the one department one is performing in. As most actions, most clients meet different part of an organization. Why does it seem that we look entirely differently at creating teams in an office compared to sports or arts? And if these teams trust each other based on the idea that only together they can reach the stars, they have a shared purpose, why do we not focus on the sense of purpose for team building? I am asking myself this when I read about the scandals of (ir)responsibility in team building in places like the army, governments, sunny papers around corrupted money and leaders and failing institutions due to the lack of commitment of staff.

What if we would all be acting like the star chefs and think of our work as the creation of the perfect combination of textures, flavors, and visual appearance? Re-imagine our world if, like many chefs, we would truly appreciate the area we are cooking in and try to share the appreciation through food, our products. Can we take the responsibility for the surroundings around the businesses that we operate in? Could we, in an office, recreate the magic of the 2-second pitstop?

I aspire to find ways of doing so in the near future. As a service designer, I hope to contribute to the brilliant dynamic dance of organizations that have to learn how to act flexibly in hard conditions whilst there is no time to lose.

Self organising

Managers are unnecessary, not as people but as a position. – Jos de Blok

Self-organising needs organising amongst team members. – Rop van Eijbergen

Burberry part 2

Burberry has never before been an inspiring brand to me. Until they reintroduced their heritage, changed the tone of the brand and started to find fascinating collaborations between fashion and other art forms. In an old warehouse, they exhibited the new collection together with amazing photography of the United Kingdom from the seventies.  The details in light, images and the dressing of the building gave an extra dimension to the clothes. The different outfits referred to classic English wear combined with contemporary sizes and processing techniques.

This is a way of showing and positioning a brand that amazes me. It makes me happy to see how they have turned themselves around and keep using the rich heritage of the country to which they belong.


Dissertation Completed

Last Monday the day had come, a deadline, handing in the dissertation. Relieved, tired and proud was I when clicking “submit assignment”. On the one hand, I realised that a chapter closed, on the other hand, I had found new topics that I wanted to explore and could not add to this thesis as it was becoming a phd, and that was not necessary this time around. So I scraped so many words and topics that all left is, hopefully, a clear answer to the research question.

My research question: where are elements of innovation in organisations that can be amplified through service design? leading to the thesis with the title: ‘People Amplify Innovation’. In case you wish to get a copy to read through, please do not hesitate to contact me!

Service Design Signature

As part of my dissertation I have interviewed various service designers, have read as many blogs and listened to podcasts as I could. There is something interesting about all those service designers. Almost all of us have a different background, were missing something and moved to a more human centric version of a design. Most of us were unsatisfied with the limitations of the inventions rich design fields.

These backgrounds become visible in the signature we have as service designers. Everyone sees our design discipline differently, why it is important and how it should be done. We also have elements in common, we all love people and we love improving their experience. And we all understand that every context requires a specific approach. I have fallen in love with this discipline because it adopts tools and ways of reasoning from so many other disciplines.

My mind wonders off to the question how I want to develop myself as a service designer, and with whom. As my heart lies with South Africa and their development but learning in Europe seems so wonderful too! I start with writing a manifesto as part of my dissertation, to position myself.  Let’s keep sharing on film, tape, text and slideshows that grows us as service designers.

Let’s keep sharing on film, tape, text, and slideshows that grow us as service designers.

The world in Microbes

Microbiology never meant much to me as I am not a scientist looking into the smallest living particles of life. The Dutch summer interview series ‘Zomergasten’ (literally: summer guests) invites 6 interesting people over the summer to speak for 3 hours about their interest, fascination and their life. The first of this season was Rosanne Herzberger, a Dutch woman and microbiologist. She did not just talk about her work as microbiologist where she has an interest in the vaginal microbes, she spoke more about the misconception and powerful voice we have that we lay over the world. The way we interpret history, animal behaviour and the role we play amaze her and when she places that next to microbiology she shows how things can also be seen.

Also  why we believe bloggers when it comes to food advice and we stop trusting the government and scientists. In this instance she explained how E-numbers are not harmful at all but how bloggers made us believe they are. Or how she asked in her column who is sponsoring the websites where hate towards women is the norm and fun. Many of these sponsors have resigned. She showed beautiful, and a bit extreme, Jewish tradition of the Belz Mizvah Tantz and Grizzly man, humans in their habitat.

Since I saw this last week I started wondering what more we can learn from microbiologists. Thanks for TED and understandable talks that made me realize: where ever I would end up in an organisation, I have to look for the microbes, the things that make the life and transfer resources into energy. Through the eyes of Herzberger I am starting to understand how life works, how we work as living beings and how being a bit crazy can be incredibly beneficial.

Oh and the decor of the program makes it even more pleasurable to watch. Up next: the mayor of Amsterdam. Cannot wait.


Live – connection

I worked for a year at oil for live communication where we focussed on creating pleasant places to converse and connect. The perfect conversations and connections happen over food. No wonder the Italians always have meetings over food and good coffee. Chatting with the waiter, asking for recommendations and what are the extras of the day are all part of the restaurant experience. Of course, if you don’t want to be disturbed the waiter/tress is considerate and stays away, are you chatty, so are they.

Now today I took place in ‘Bella Italia’ where we had the choice to order via a tablet. We forgot a side, the drinks, ordered food and actually did not discuss anything with the waiter until he brought our food and offered grated cheese. Which was grated above our plates, that was personal.

Towards the end of our main the tablet lighted up and offered deserts. I actually did not want anything from that moment on, I just want a chat with my waiter, not call him with a machine and order via an interface. Can we please make restaurants chatty places again and use food as the connector between people?

Courageous playing

There are days that we have to be reminded that our world is not all about hitting targets, paying bills and achieving the next step in life. A Dutch correspondent wrote on a critical news platform (In Dutch: De Correspondent) today that we are losing the art of playing. Why do we not play, learn from playing and go on adventure anymore? Because we are all trained to become workers.

nina 96_lido di dante SwingAs a child I went to a Montessori primary school, learning while exploring, loved it! Now I want to become a Lego serious play facilitator, going back to the bricks we have always known and play to move forward. Play to discover and most importantly articulate ourselves. Exploring with our hands and learning from copying is extremely important. We do not find life experience in writing 12.000 words, as I am doing currently, the experience is finding joy in the task, discipline but without losing the love for finding interesting insights. I want to keep on going with this game of exploration.

As part of this I want to point out a documentary: The Eagle Huntress, about a courageous girl in Mongolia who wants to become an Eagle Hunter, a job that was only for men. But her whole life she played with her dad, the eagle hunter, and learned all the details of this art. For her becoming the huntress was not about proving the men wrong, it was about playing the game she always wished to play. Absolutely worth watching! And it even has amazing shots of the landscapes and the gorgeous animals.