Meet the team

Meet the team

Meet the team: Stijn van Erp  – Program Facilitator

In this series of “Meet the team” we will introduce you to all our team members, one by one. This is done by asking a standard set of questions, including the Question for the Future of that month! This week we will introduce you to one of our program facilitators, Stijn van Erp!

 

  • Why did you join Minkowski?

As an industrial designer by study, I am fascinated in creating meaningful solutions to pressing challenges.  The process of spotting an opportunity and using the imagination to translate it into something meaningful is a thrilling one. I saw an amazing opportunity at Minkowski to do exactly that: enabling organizations to create better future(s) – yes, plural indeed – to challenge assumptions, to let them look at the future from another perspective and to create history by changing the future.

 

  • Question for the future : “As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up – and how does it compare to your current career?”

At around the age of 10, I dreamt of becoming a car designer. I was always busy sketching cars, at home and at school, and even ‘founded‘ my own brand. Together with classmates, who ‘joined’ my company we designed a portfolio of cars. I guess this is where I developed my entrepreneurial spirit. Though I’ve never studied to become a car designer, design itself remained very close to my heart. At Minkowski, I apply this entrepreneurial designers mindset to not design cars, but help organizations design better future(s).

 

  • How do you make history by changing the future?

By challenging the assumptions of myself and others, by looking outside to what makes people – or society at large for that matter – tick, and by always being optimistic and seeing opportunity in change.

 

Do you want to know more about our team? Check about us.

 

Meet the team

Meet the team

Meet the team: Cathalijne Bol-Oudijk – Head of Leadership Development

In this series of “Meet the team” we will introduce you to all our team members, one by one. This is done by asking a standard set of questions, including the Question for the Future of that week! We start off with our Head of Leadership Development, Cathalijne Bol-Oudijk!

 

  • Why did you join Minkowski?
    I like to work with people who want to make a positive impact on the world around them. I also found the energy around here really refreshing and welcoming at the same time.I love how we co-create programs that help leaders see themselves,others and the world around them through different eyes and empower them to take conscious actions and transform into something better.

 

  • Question for the future : “Cross-cultural encounters can be an opportunity for personal growth. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from other cultures?”
    I’ve worked with many multi-cultural teams in my career and the diversity of perspectives coming from all these different backgrounds often left me speechless. I’ve learned it is a humbling, enriching, mind opening (and blowing!) experience to listen to others who have a different story from your own…and yet…we all speak the same language: the language of the heart.

 

  • How do you make history by changing the future?
    The future is not what happens to us. The future is what we do with what happens to us. I hope to change the future by offering people a better understanding of themselves and others and transform the way they act. 

 

Do you want to know more about our team? Check about us.

 

Meet the team

Meet the team

Alexandre Janssen – Head of Engagement & co-founder Minkowski

In this series of “Meet the team” we will introduce you to all our team members, one by one. This is done by asking a standard set of questions, including the Question for the Future of that week! We continue with our Head of Engagement and Co-Founder of Minkowski, Alexandre Janssen!

Why did you join Minkowski?

“When I first met my partner Jörgen who founded Minkowski in 2017, we saw an opportunity to join forces in order to grow the organization and accelerate our mission; creating one million Einsteins within organizations to create better futures.

I love the challenge to build an organization that is bigger than just the two of us, and since I joined in 2018, we have been able to grow Minkowski to where we are now; a great team of people working on client programs as well as on Minkowski as an organization itself. “

Question for the Future: What advice would you give your younger self if you were to make an important decision that would affect your futures?

Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions due to the unknown situation that lies ahead. But unknown situations also create excitement; if everything was known upfront there would be no fun in life.  Hence, I would say to myself; be open to unknown situations, don’t try to control everything, challenge your own assumptions, explore the different paths ahead, but most importantly, one you’ve made your choice, believe in it, stick with it and focus!

How do you make history by changing the future?

“Almost nobody knows Hermann Minkowski, but everyone knows Albert Einstein. That is exactly what our philosophy entails. It’s not about us, it’s about the people we reach in our programs and how we can help them change little (or big) things that drive change for the better in the organization they work for.

 

Do you want to know more about Alexandre or our team? Check about us.

 

Meet the team

Meet the team

Jörgen van der Sloot – Head of Futures & Founder Minkowski

In this series of “Meet the team” we will introduce you to all our team members, one by one. This is done by asking a standard set of questions, including the Question for the Future of that week! We start off with our Head of Futures and Founder of Minkowski, Jörgen van der Sloot!

Why did you start Minkowski?

“I started Minkowski as an alternative to traditional consultancy. I’ve always felt that those models lacked the activation of futures thinking in organizations. Very often the strategy deck disappears in a drawer somewhere or it relies on contracting these outside consultants to get to execution. But the problem with that, is that as soon as the consultants leave, the plans die. I believe that you actively have to involve the people in an organization all the way. Strategy should be a co-creative, everyday experience. That is usually a messy, inefficient process, but it is highly effective in making change happen. Minkowski is built on the principles of co-creation and helps people inside organizations to move from best practice to next practice and apply the future to today.”

Question for the Future: We have less than 2847 days left to 2030, what will you change tomorrow to create better futures?

“I feel it is a daunting task when you think of it. I have solar panels, I bike more than I drive, I recycle waste, etc. but all of that always feels like it is too small to really be impactful. So, I have had quite an extensive period where I felt that what I did really didn’t matter; but of course that didn’t help at all. So I focus on the small things that I do every day, with a belief that altering those small things will eventually lead to a better future. One thing that we have applied in our household is that we now use ‘traditional soap bars’ instead of using shower lotion from plastic bottles. It seems small, but it has proven to be an ‘easy adjustment’ to my daily routine.”

 

How do you make history by changing the future?

“Personally, I don’t think I am the guy that is making history. In fact, my ambition is to help as many others do that as I possibly can. So, what I do in the programs that we facilitate is to focus on at least one participant. If I can help her/him change something small, then I think I’m contributing to making history (even though I will never be known for it…and that is the way it should be).”

 

Do you want to know more about Jörgen or our team? Check about us.

 

Future proof is not future ready

Adapting to change

The future is always changing. Whether you like it or not: change is a constant. As the future can not be predicted, the best way to prepare for a future is to embrace the possibilities that lie ahead of you. In our work at Minkowski we help organizations map these possibilities in a so-called ‘cone of possibilities’. The basic idea behind this, is that you explore what is possible for your organization in the near future and identify what these possibilities could mean for your company. By doing this you’ll be able to identify the (weak) signals of a possible future, so that when these signals show up, you know how to respond to them (or how to use them to accelerate on your strategic path forward). There’s one crucial factor in doing this successfully: you really have to believe that these possibilities could occur and you really have to believe that you are able to react to them with your organization. Or in other words: you have to embrace these possibilities: you have to embrace the future.

From future proof to future ready

What does this mean? Let’s look back at that last sentence: ‘embrace the future’. And let’s use the analogy of something that is ‘waterproof’ and replace the word future for the word water. Embracing the future then becomes: embracing the water. For something that should be waterproof that is the last thing you want. Instead of embracing the water you would want to keep the water out. Now ask yourself: if you want to prepare your organization for the future do you want to keep the future out?

I’m assuming that your answer to that question is ‘no’. You don’t want to keep the future out, on the contrary, you would want to get the future in. As I’ve described above, the way we get the future in with our work at Minkowski is by starting from the future and then reasoning our way back to today. This way ’the future’ is ingrained in all the things you do afterward. As soon as you’ve seen something, you can never not see it anymore (at least if you really believe in the possibility) and this also goes for your thoughts about the future.

If it’s not future proof, then what should it be? Arjan suggested ‘future ready’. If you phrase it like that futures thinking becomes an activity to make yourself ready for when that future emerges. Just like you get ready for the final of a big tournament you can then train yourself for it.

We believe that is a much better way to make your organization sensitive for the changes that lie ahead, because the question is not: will it change, but when will it change?

Get in touch with us to discuss how we can help you to get ready for the future here.

The End of the Fairytale

Cultural Change

Some fundamental challenges in our world have not been solved during the lock-down. As we are in the midst of protests around the world on racism we realize that life is not ‘back to normal’ again. Or perhaps I should say: it shouldn’t go back to normal again as for some many people around the world this ‘normal’ is far from a life they long to go back to. This challenge, if you can even call it that, has been a pandemic that has been raging around the world for centuries and it is not a challenge that we can easily cure by staying inside. The transformation that is needed for this is so fundamental that its wickedly difficult to make steps to a better future for all. It’s a cultural change that will be with us for a long time and that will demand our attention in all levels and sectors of society. Or so I hope…

Economic Change

Then there is the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The virus might lay low for a bit, but the real impact of it is yet to be felt for many people. Financial support and economic relief programs have thus far eased some of the pain for a lot of people. Now that the world is restarting, it may seem as if it can recover, but this is also the time where some of the support will fall away. Economically, many businesses and its employees will not have recovered for quite a some time. We are still up for a huge challenge.

We’ve come to the end of the COVID-19 fairy tale. I hear some people around me already saying that they had hoped it would last a little longer as the world out there seems brutal. The question is: what do you do? If you are feeling a bit of relief (even though it might be temporary) this is the time to reset yourself. This is the time to prepare yourself for what is yet to come.

Reset, restart, reboot

 

 

Without empathy there is no collaboration

The other week I was asked to talk about collaboration at a company with a group of architects. They were trying to cross the boundaries of their silo’ed departments more often in an attempt to become more innovative. They’d tried many things but none of them really stuck.

One of the reasons for this, as my friend Maria so nicely explained to me before, is because (company) culture is a complex (and very resilient) ecosystem. Just like in nature those resilient systems can only be changed by a ‘comet-strikes-earth’ approach (but that will leave a lot of destruction in the wake of the trail) or by turning a lot of little changes into an evolutionary change (that way you can actually direct or lead the change). So what I suggested the company to do, is to deliberately design for small interventions of collaboration and I gave them a recipe on how to do this.

Slowing down to build relationships so you can speed up on innovation
The one most crucial first ingredient of that recipe is ‘empathy’: connect with your collaborators on an emotional and personal level first. So very often people forget to do this. We all run into meetings or gatherings, sit down and get things going. But when you do that, you have no idea ‘where people are coming from’. What’s on their minds, what’s in their heart, are they really present in this moment of collaboration or ‘is their head somewhere else’? And even: who are they?

In my work I always take time for this ‘empathy’ phase. For instance, with this company I asked them all to share a personal experience of moment when they collaborated best. It sets the tone for the rest of the meeting, it builds personal relationships and it increases the chance of being better collaborators. More and more I take this approach of really ‘checking in with the people around me’ to my personal life as well and I have turned it into a version of what Morris Pickens taught me as ‘your locker room’ moment. Thanks for that Mo!

Facilitate don’t participate

Over the last few years, ever since I first published this article, people have asked me over and over again to write a translation of it in English. Better late than never! As I was preparing for my summer holiday break I thought I’d republish and translate some articles from before. Here’s a first translated article about a golden rule that I hold dear in my work and that is a guiding principle for all of us at Minkowski: when you facilitate you don’t participate.

From developing strategy to facilitating strategy

It is one of the more important changes that organizations want to learn how to master themselves. If strategy and vision can no longer be set in stone, because the world is changing continuously, then how do you make sure your organization can adapt continuously as well? As a facilitator I can design an intervention to get a company on the right trajectory again, but when companies truly want to become future proof they have to be able to do it themselves. Then everyone inside the organization should be able to make an intervention to course correct.

Facilitation as a basic skill for everyone

Years ago I was hired by a bank in Zürich and they understood perfectly well that their own people should be able to facilitate sessions. That way, they reasoned, they could tap into the collective wisdom and insights of their own people. The answer to the question on how to fundamentally transform can more often be found inside an organization than outside. Because that is where the change should occur: outside consultants can never be as impactful to change a culture as inside employees can. Facilitation is slowly becoming a basic skill that every employee should be trained in (and more companies are in fact training their employees for this)

Learn how to ask questions instead of answering them

So, what am I going to teach the employees of the bank in Zürich? One of the most important things I’m going to tell them is that they are facilitators during the break-outs that they will run themselves. That may sound like an open door, but it is a fundamental insight to facilitate a session well: when you facilitate you don’t participate! Most often when employees organize a brainstorming session inside their company they participate just as much as they try to facilitate. Which is a very natural phenomenon: they want their voices to be heard as well. But as soon as you blur those two roles, you loose all the control to lead the session to a valuable outcome, because you loose the authority to intervene. Facilitation for that matter is a very humble role: you are a servant to the process and you are only serving it well, when you let go of your own ‘agenda’. Simply put: as a facilitator you never give the answers, but you always pose the questions (so that the others can formulate the answers and work together to a shared outcome).

When the employees in Zürich understand that, the chance of success increases dramatically.

Nobody knows Minkowski, but everyone knows Einstein

At Minkowski we always say: “nobody knows Minkowski, but everyone knows Einstein”. We use this statement as an illustration for something that is at the core of who we are and what we hope to accomplish in our work. Our work is not about us, it is about the people we help and work with. And we believe that our work can only be successful (help organizations with transformation) when it is not us that execute a transformation for our clients, but it is the people inside organizations themselves that make a transformation happen. It is them that should be in the limelight not us.

A million Einsteins to change the world
Minkowski was one of Einsteins teachers. He was of course in no way responsible for all the great work that Einstein accomplished, but judging from the documented interactions that they had on special relativity at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, where Minkowski taught Einstein, they both learned from each other. Einstein’s theories have changed the way that we see the world and it has transformed everything we do and learn. That is our goal as well: we have the ambition to ‘create’ a million Einsteins so that the world can transform and become a little bit more sustainable.

Agency for change
So our story for transformation is a story about empowerment of individuals. Through the actions (and interactions) of the people we work with we think that transformation becomes much more successful (I’ll write some more on the reason for that in a next post). Our programs are designed to give the people in companies ‘agency for change’: the capacity to act in a given environment. That means that we also take responsibility to give people the ’tools’ to make it happen, because otherwise, when we leave our impact is gone too. Just like Minkowski: you don’t take away from someone what you’ve learned them.

Einstein, who was primarily interested in physics at the time, found great value in mathematics only years later when he used some of Minkowski’s fundamental mathematical equations in his own theory. It’s a great example of giving someone agency to act and go way beyond the initial spark.

So: nobody knows Minkowski, but everyone knows Einstein. And that is just the way it should be. This goes for us as well: we don’t strive to be known, we’d rather let the results of our sparks speak from the words of the people we have worked with.

How to: moonshot thinking in a crisis

Many organizations are in survival mode after the corona-crisis has almost put the entire world to a stop. During such times of uncertainty and extreme volatility it gets very hard to focus on the long term. The present is for most organizations most pressing at this moment in order to stay alive and to try to control the damage. ‘Moonshot thinking’ as a business practice to identify where you want to be in the future seems to be irrelevant right now. But during the Apollo-program many challenging moments were part of the path to the moon. And most of the biggest problems were overcome. In times of crisis you can find inspiration not from the Apollo-11 mission that got humanity to the moon, but from the Apollo-13 mission that got a crew safely back to home base in a life threatening crisis. Here are some take-aways from that historic moment that you might be able to apply to your business today.

Moonshot thinking: from Apollo 11 to Apollo 13

Could it be a coincidence that exactly 50 years ago (on April 13) the third mission to land on the moon ran into a major problem when one of the oxygen tanks blew up? Things unraveled fast after that. If you want to get into the details of everything that went wrong and how it was solved, then I can greatly recommend Gene Kranz’s recount of the events in his book ‘Failure is not an Option‘. Kranz was the flight director in mission control during the Apollo 13 mission.

This is what I have taken from his account, translated to making better business decisions in a time of crisis. It’s a long list of ingredients that work, but it can all be summarized in three words: courage, resourcefulness and experience.

Courage

  • trust your intuition (it comes from your experience and what worked in previous crises).
  • trust your team, and your team trusting you is of the utmost importance, because you don’t have time to brief everyone in detail.
  • don’t second guess each others decisions: you’re in it together, everyone is responsible for every decision.
  • make sure everyone can voice their opinions freely and that no one is worried about hurting someone’s feelings (it saves a lot of time).
  • believe that you are going to get through it: believe in a positive outcome (and then your teams will too) and operate from it.

Resourcefulness

  • build a plan on every decision that needs to be made and when it needs to be made.
  • make everyone part of the solution.
  • a 100% correct answer on most challenges doesn’t exist: rely on best judgments.
  • avoid chatter and communicate clearly in smaller (sub) teams, so you can stay away from too many distractions.
  • focus on what is still working/going well, because those are most likely the things that you can use as a lifeline to the future.
  • take good care of the ‘resources’ you have, they are the ones that are crucial. So don’t let them get distracted by guessing what they have to do.
  • make sure to have fresh eyes look at your situation too, either from outside or from a separate team so you don’t miss any opportunities because you are operating from your own tunnel vision.
  • work on multiple options (all possible options) first and then make a swift decision which one to follow. Get there through brief, intense and conclusive conversation together.
  • always think in options.
  • and remember to believe in a positive outcome: failure is not an option!

Experience

  • the most difficult of all, because you should have already done this before a crisis. During the Apollo-program the SimSup-team imagined every conceivable spacecraft failure and they then developed workarounds and procedures based on simulating these failures and the solutions that were found. This gave everyone a ton of experience to build upon in times of crisis.
  • make sure that you reflect and learn from what you’ve done after this crisis is over.

Safely back on earth

Today, exactly 50 years ago, on April 17th the Apollo 13 crew safely returned back on earth landing in the South Pacific. I hope that for all of you out there, that are trying to safely return to some kind of ‘home base’, you will find the courage, the resourcefulness and the ability to guide your organizations to a new dynamic equilibrium. Failure is not an option and adversity can be overcome.

For the years of pandemic crisis to come the new moonshot thinking will be about returning home safely, not about getting to the moon. And so we shift from the Apollo 11 thinking that got us to the moon, tot the Apollo 13 thinking that brought us back.

If you want to chat about what you could do and how you can apply these ingredients to design a sustainable path out of this for your organization, let me know and we’ll jump on a call to discuss the possibilities for your future.