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.


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.


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.


Imagine Moscow – Design Museum London


The Iron Cloud, one of the imagined buildings of the Soviet Union

Soviet Union architecture and design on great scale. A year ago I saw a wonderful collection of product and graphic designs from the SU in Rotterdam. Back than I was mesmerized by the simplicity of the design and the high emphasis on functionality. So when a colleague told me about this exhibition I was immediately interested.

This exhibition shows another dimension of great design: showing greatne
ss together. Until this exhibition I didn’t think about how the government used architecture and design to show how great the Soviet Union could be. This totalitarian push to be innovative and show the world what the possibilities are is credit for the leaders of that time. Nowadays we don’t particularly see that design can show the innovation in the name of a nation. We innovate mostly in name of ourself. Which is a pity, or moreover, a missed opportunity. Open design, open innovation or shared innovation is a future I would like to embrace. Together we can, we can work on wicked problems, we can address issues that are urging and we can find solutions that fit most people in society. The Soviet Union was a wonderful experiment in many ways, it has failed, but I learned last Sunday that it also brought people together and created opportunities for philosophers, architects, artists and filmmakers to imagine how great that nation could be. For innovation, innovative systems we ought to look forwards, but also backwards to learn from what is there. Could the Soviet Union be an example of open innovation?

Rules for Revolutionaries

Bernie Sanders’ fight to be elected in the USA was remarkable as no one had seen him as a potential candidate. Becky and Zack describe the revolution they tried to start together with Bernie. This politician understood that politics was not enough, he wanted a movement. Just like Obama did in 2008, Bernie worked hard on community organizing as a tool to raise voters, awareness, dedication and power. It was not enough in the end. But the two campaigners, Becky and Zack, share the rules they discovered in their journey in this book. 22 rules that I will not all describe.

I will share one: Rule 11. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the big. In other words, if it is not shiny and designed but does fulfill its purpose, work it! In some occasions not having the end design is fine and unnecessary. This rule is a bit scary to me, as a designer, but also challenges me to give it a try. There is a big pro to this rule which is that if it looks unfinished you will get more input from its users to make it work better. In my previous job as spatial designer a finished render could sometimes feel too finished for a client, they saw no room for changes they wanted to make. The question is: what does the thing you present has to represent? Is it the finished design or an idea? Is it about how it works or the looks? Do the looks care in a social revolution?

The social revolution worked, thousands and thousands of people connected with Bernie Sanders’ team of staff and amazing volunteers. Community organizing on a big scale, I am impressed. The book describes internal and external struggles, management decisions and volunteer request, a must read if you want to work on big change!


Bond, Becky and Exley, Zack, Rules for revolutionaries – how big organizing can change everything, 2016.

Daryl Davis’ exceptional friendship

Daryl Davis, friends with the KKK based on the things they had in common. He never asked the Klan members to convert, but some did because they knew better. I will inspire you with a movie and a story

As you might have noticed my last messages have been a lot about diversity, unseen hate against the ‘other’ and the idea of self respect. Our globalizing world is becoming more diverse than ever, or was this always this way. The media becomes stronger in polarizing our world with many different messages. On top of that our possible future leaders in Europe could be populists who are not that friendly to strangeness. Time to build and show our similarities and get the best strength out of the differences. Let’s do this together! 

Jackson Pollock together with de Kooning, Kline, Rothko and Newman in the Royal Art Academy. An exhibition of the masters of abstract expressionism. I wonder when such a strong movement is standing up again. The paintings are magnificent in real sizes. For the first time I walked through an exhibition with an audio tour. And because making pictures was prohibited I could engage really well with what I saw and heard.

‘Works that work’ magazine about (design) projects that have made an impact. The magazine looks worldwide to find inspiring projects that set examples for others. Did you know Rwanda was the first country to ban plastic bags completely? I mean, Holland was really proud to do so last year, but now I know we were just following! #wtw7
And have you ever heard of the story of Captain Gupta who lets Indian schoolchildren experience a real plane flight and emergency landings in an abandoned plane? #wtw3 

I can highly recommend this magazine, in depth stories that are surprising and come from all corners of the world. Plus, every issue has a relevant theme. This magazine makes me want to DO things.

Today I got to meet with and listen to Dr. Josephine Ojiambo. For you who do not know her, she worked from being a Kenyan public health servant into becoming Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth. Impressive right? That was not all. She shared the story of her life in an authentic and passionate way. It is about being an example for others. But also learning from other people that have been important in her life. 

A few lessons from Dr. Ojiambo: until we address the history of our nations, we are unable to look at the future of that place. We have to name the problems, face them and move on. 

The inclusion in politics and businesses is about the recognition of all the faces from around the globe and it is OK to wear your ethnicity with pride. But when it comes to us women when we feel like men do not address us properly or help us as they should. She said: often you, as a woman, just have to tell them what it is that you need, make yourself seen at a table and make your voice heard. One can make a change when you find a group, represent yourself and go from there. 

I had the chance to sit with her and ask a question that laid heavy on my heart. And instead of saying: this is the solution she said: I believe your intuition knows how to get you where you want to be.