The Life Design Experiment Canvas: Change through Iteration

– – this page is under construction – –

Until then, stay tuned or shoot me a message for more info, online guidance, or workshops on the topic of experimental life design.

Design Your Vocation (From Ideas to Action with Experiments) Workshop Design & Facilitation

We hosted this workshop as a collaboration with Dysco & Great to Awesome, as me and Benjamin Lane facilitated a 4 hour session to help participants design their vocation with an experimental mindset.

Do you have an idea that you want to explore, but you’re not sure where to start? Are you looking for a career change and want to try something new? How do you convert your passion into a vocation, through concrete steps? This interactive workshop is focused on helping you adopt an experimental mindset and turn your ideas into action.

Life is often unpredictable, and we don’t always have exact information available to plan our futures. Adopting an experimental mindset allows you to explore ideas and questions, by trialling rapidly without overinvesting in a single path. The aim of our workshop is simple: to teach you new things about yourself, and use this to plan your future direction.

Join us as we re-define the notion of success and failure, and give you the tools to build-measure-learn and iterate for a life of fulfilment. Change starts with small and imperfect steps! Our only requirement for participants: Come with a specific idea you want to explore, and be open to a new approach!

Our Approach is:

  • Based on design thinking and lean startup methodology
  • Centered around intentional action and experiential learning
  • Designed to deliver practical tools that translate into real-life results

What will you have at the end of programme?

  • An actionable plan for your 1 month experiment
  • A build-measure-learn toolkit that can be applied to any area of your life
  • A new way of looking at change – an antidote to change paralysis and perfectionism
  • A new practice that supports your growth and helps you overcome life’s obstacles

Who should attend?

  • Anyone who is interested, but particularly early – mid professionals, the “lost millennials”
  • Anyone who wants to change but doesn’t know where to start
  • Those looking to explore something different (either a full-time project or something on the side)
  • People invested in their own growth

A preview of our presentation:

A Day in the Life of a Business Innovator in Bombay – Nadia Piet’s Dysco Diary

This article was originally written for and published on

Moving to Bombay has been the result of proactive opportunity creation and adventure seeking. I decided I would like to work in a co-working space, and that it was time to go beyond the familiarity of western society for a while. 20 emails, 3 Skype interviews, a VISA application and a ballsy move later, here I was.

Because I morph my life into something new every 6 months or so, consequently my days, depending on my engagements at that time, look completely different. For today’s DYSCO diary, we’ll move through my most recent days living and working in Bombay.

8 – 9 AM
Morning Routine

As an insomniac, most mornings I wake up a little groggy. To get myself in the right frame of mind to rock the day, I (try) show up for my cycle of yoga, meditation and prayer every morning.

Habits are a tough nut to crack, but this approach called “tiny habits” (about making the act so small that you can not refuse or excuse it) has really helped me. So some days my yoga session consists of 3 asanas, and it’s simply the consistency of stepping on the mat that matters. Most mornings, I spend about 10-15 minutes doing yoga, sometimes following a Yoga with Adriene session – a great youtube channel if you want to start your practice – or self-guided. My meditations I do with the Insight Timer app, which has an abundance of guided meditations as well as a singing bowl timer if you want to simply focus on the breath. My prayers set the intention for the day and ask whatever is out there to help me be kind, focused and strong.

I eat a bowl of yogurt with fruits, get showered, dressed and be out.

9 – 10:30
Daily Commute

The Bombay commute standards are something else. I travel, as many of us here do, from Khar (Road) to Fort (CSMT) every damn day. I use this time to listen to some of my favorite podcasts (Design Matters with Debbie MilmanTim Ferris’ Tribe of MentorsRoman Mars’ 99% InvisibleNPR’s How I Built This with Guy Raz to name a few) and gather inspiration for the day.

Arriving at Ministry of New

These past months I’ve been working as Business Innovator in residence at the design-inspired co-working space Ministry of New. Every day I walk into the location, I am taken over by the light and aesthetics of the space. It’s a pleasure to call a place like that my office, and invite any creative professionals in the Bay to come check it out one day if you haven’t. If it’s a good day for my social anxiety, I might have made a friend in the elevator up.

11 – 3 Most
Important Tasks

Before I get lost in the sauce of emails, tabs, and creative ideas, I take time to write down my priorities for the day. The moment my MacBook slings open, a (preferably almond) latte and a posit with my 3 most important tasks for the day will be by my side.

11 – 13
Get shit done

Time to get to work! From setting up and doing user or employee interviews, creating customer journeys and service blueprints, identifying needs, researching literature, designing solutions, testing them out with the team, writing content and drafting content strategies, launching digital tools to streamline workflows, helping colleagues develop their craft, preparing meeting and brainstorm formats.

13 – 14

I love the food here so veg curry with chapati, thalis, chole bhature or anything spicy and carb-heavy from the amazingly rich and diverse Indian cuisine will fuel me. As someone who pretty much lives in their head, I try to go for a bit of a walk or run some errands in my break as a way to keep my body involved.

14 – 15:30
Team sessions

On Tuesdays we do a weekly team check-in. On other days we host other meetings or brainstorming or problem-solving session around this hour. As the business innovator in residence, it’s my role to lead these sessions, making sure everyone participates and the right ideas, actionables and understanding are created along the way.

15:30 – 18
Deep work + pomodoros

After the meeting, I take a breather, another latte and I continue slaying that to-do list. By this time the posit has usually filled up with an additional 10 tasks scrambled around the 3 items I put there in the morning. To ensure the important stuff gets done and because I get distracted easily (ADHD anyone? Millennial attention span, everyone?), I like to get into so-called deep work intervals. I put in my earplugs, fire up a Miles Davis playlist, open a desktop with only one window and don’t look up until it’s done. Again, I breathe, I go for a walk, and grab another coffee. The remaining time, I spent ticking off those other to-do’s using a time management technique called pomodoro, which essentially breaks up your time into cycles of 25 minutes of work and 5 minute breaks. Again this is a way to keep myself from drifting to consuming content and clapping for Medium articles, making Spotify playlists, working on creative yet completely irrelevant ideas, and god knows what. I use the BeFocused timer in my Mac menu for this

18 – 20
Passion projects

Towards the end of the day, I either work on passion projects or process personal admin, depending on how fried my brain is. I’m currently doing this certified online course on Shaping the Future of Work with MIT. I’m planning the workshop for DYSCO this Saturday. At any given time I’m usually writing a blog post or four (and still struggling to publish them). I’m developing a coaching method. I’m experimenting with a workshop canvas to help people design learning experiences. Once a month, I send a curated newsletter with my favorite reads & content. And I usually have some contact with either past, current or future freelance clients.

I’m a little obsessed with lifelong learning so alternatively, I might visit an event or talk to learn about new topics, deepen my knowledge, and hear people’s stories. I take sketchnotes to review later.

20 – 23
Never eat alone

Around 8 PM I (try) shut my MacBook. I almost religiously follow the cliche (they’re cliches for a reason!) of never eat alone, and like to use lunches and dinner as an opportunity to enjoy time with my friends and interesting people I’ve met along the way. Besides nourishing the body with food, the conversations had, advice exchanged and support given during these dinners feed my mental.

23 – 24
Practicing gratitude

By the time I get home I’m pretty done. If I have energy left, I read. My current pick is Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus, alternated with selected stories by Leo Tolstoy. I (video)call my boyfriend who’s back home in Amsterdam, and speak to him until I pass out around 1 or 2. I get some of my best ideas in this state from wakefulness to sleep (which is called hypnagogia by the way) so I always keep my phone close for notes (and hope I still understand them the next morning).

As I fall asleep, I like to rewind my day in my head like a little movie, and think of all the moments, opportunities, learnings and interactions I am grateful for. Most days, it’s a lot.

Nadia is always looking for interesting projects and collaborations, you can connect with Nadia Piet by messaging her on her Dysco Profile or email us at for a personal introduction.

Credit to Kartik Rathod Photography for the featured image in this post.

12 Apps that Transform the Way I Organize & Get Shit Done

People think I got my shit together.

Really, I just got a solid digital productivity system to back me up and keep it all together for me.

Sure, one could argue it's mildly dysfunctional to depend so much on tech. But in my defense:

  1. it works
  2. as a creative millennial juggling 1 full-time bachelor course, 2 project teams, 3 freelance jobs, 4 passion projects, 1 volunteering job, 2 learning tracks, blogging, self-care, travel and an active social life, what do you expect?
  3. this is the 21st century - why not act like it?

I'm quite happy to take advantage of the digital age and (ab)use software, apps and services that enable me to get my shit done without losing my head.

With a love for tech and personal leadership, it's grown out to be a bit of a hobby to find, test and share these tools with people.

If you're looking to work smarter (not harder), get organized, clear your mind and focus, get more done, and successfully juggle multiple projects alongside each other: this one is for you.

12 Apps that Transform the Way I Organize & Get Shit Done

Here's a rundown of a dozen apps that have been game changers for my personal productivity.

Free of discrimination, all apps in this list are free and compatible with both iOS and Android, Mac and Windows, and a lot of them also on the browser. For info, downloads, and to start playing with them: click the names.

Evernote - To take notes (lots, and lots of 'em) ?

Evernote is a classic on these types of lists, and for good reason. Essentially a note-taking app, Evernote lets you take notes and file them into different notebooks (and notebooks into stacks). In my life, Evernote is my digital brain. Holding years of my notes, data, writings and ideas and making them accessible (and easily searchable) to me on any device at any time, I can’t imagine my workflow without it.

Station - To stop the tab tango ?

Station is like your dock with superpowers, bringing together all your web apps in one interface. It’s one of those things you never knew you needed but after you’ve used it for 2 weeks, you wonder how you ever managed without it. For Mac and Windows.

Feedly - To read my curated news feed ?

Feedly is my curated content feed: bringing all my favorite blogs and publications into one reading experience. This is one of the easiest ways to stay up-to-date on trends & developments in your industry and passion areas. Some of my favorite blogs are Fast Company, Brainpickings, Wired, The Verge .. but more on that later.

Pocket - To bookmark my favorites ?

The most valuable articles, guides, toolkits and online resources that I want to keep around, I keep them in my Pocket. It's like bookmarking on superfoods, including tagging functionality and search.

Grammarly - To correct my spelling ✍

Because spelling and grammar mistakes are never a good look, and its excusability is expiring. I use Grammarly as a browser extension so it's active anywhere I type.

Fiverr - To outsource (cheaply) ?

Something on your Wordpress crashed and can't be bothered to fix it? Need a video edit and can't find the time? Want a simple illustration for your birthday invite? Fiverr is the place to outsource small tasks to experts for a tiny fee. The platform is built on the prompt of 'what service can you offer for five dollars?', so the fee will often be exactly that: $5. Call it lazy, call it smart: there's no doubt about it saving you a lot of headaches.

Revue / Mailchimp - Making newsletters easy ?

These two help you manage email subscriptions and newsletters. Mailchimp is the OG mail client: with a drag-and-drop interface, advanced member features and integration with 100+'s of your other apps. Revue is the new kid on the block, a Dutch startup, making it even easier to congregate content and bring it all together in your own digest. Revue is what I use for my monthly newsletter (subscribe if you haven't!) ?

Canva - Create visual materials with 0 design skills ?

With Canva, anyone can design professional and pleasing graphics. They offer templates for business cards, resumes, infographics, posters, Instagram posts, invitations, and more. It’s dead easy, free and actually looks legit.

Zapier / IFTTT - To automate silly tasks ?

Imagine the amount of time you waste dragging around files, copying them from one app to another, transferring data. No more! With Zapier or If This Then That you can set up automated workflows: a trick once reserved for people who knew how to speak in code, but now available to all. With hundreds of apps to integrate with one another, this is one of the easiest ways to save you time instantly. I have workflows set up to push Mailchimp subscribers to Revue, to auto-save all Spotify Discover Weekly songs into a playlist, to upload notes in a particular Evernote notebook to Wordpress drafts, and more. Both apps do the same thing and I haven't been able to find much of a differentiator, so I included both. What can you automate? - To ditch all those email subscriptions ?

Ever look at your inbox clutter and wonder when the hell you signed up for all these newsletters? But can't find the patience to scroll down each mail and click that unsubscribe button neither? You’re right. got you on this one, helping you mass-ditch your email subscriptions. I remember the first time I used it, it unsubscribed from over 200 subscriptions at once (ooppss). How many are you dropping?

Headspace / Insight Timer - To start & continue a meditation practice ?

"Because brilliant things happen in calm minds". Headspace is the perfect digital kickstart for anyone that wants to give meditation a try. They share 10 free guided sessions of 10 minutes and I love the animations at the start of each. Andy (Headspace's founder) is without a doubt one of my heroes.

If you're looking for a free or more varied meditation experience, or simply a timer, I recommend Insight Timer. They have a wide range of guided meditations, filterable based on time and theme, and a built-in habit tracker and stats (yaass graphs!) to motivate your practice.

F.lux - To sleep ?

You've probably heard about not using your devices at night, but maybe not the why and how else? The blue light in our screens keeps our bodies from producing melatonin; the hormone that makes us sleepy, because it registers it as daylight. As an insomniac, I should know better but I admit I occasionally (read: frequently) still use my devices late at night. F.lux is an app that subdues the blue light after sunset so that you can safely use your screens while without sacrificing your precious sleep.

Disclaimer: people will ask you why your screen looks orange? Disclaimer 2: if you do any design work, don't forget to turn f.lux off! You'd be surprised how quickly you get used to the warm glow, and I don't want you to waste your time creating faulty color schemes.

Google office - To replace the Office Suite ?

Google Docs (text), Slides (presentations) and Sheets (spreadsheet) is my office suite of choice. It allows you to create in the same way you're used to, while adding the useful features of collaborating in real-time and accessing your files from any device. Working on teams with both Apple and Windows, this brings final death to switching between Keynote / Powerpoint, Pages / Word.

The Staples

The 2 missing cornerstones of managing my shit that are not included in this list are:

A to-do app - To keep your tasks together & your mind clear ?

A to-do app is a staple. Sadly, I don't have a favorite. I rotate between Todoist (currently), Any Do, Swipes and a few others. I also use Wunderlist, Trello and Google Keep for other purposes, and either of them lends themselves perfectly well for to-dos. In my experience, they all fail in one department or another (categories, prioritization, seamless syncing, UI) so I'm still looking for 'the one'. If you think you got it, please tell me!

A calendar app - To make sure you show up ?

Because duhu? I use Google calendar, but Apple, pen & paper; anything can work. Just keep one and mark your appointments there so you don't have to keep track of them in your head.

Notable Mentions

  • Trello - To use an interface like postits. Multifunctional and highly visual and intuitive, I recommend checking out Trello.
  • Castbox - To listen to my favorite podcasts. I was a very late adopter of the podcast format but now I couldn't imagine my commute and travels without it.
  • Blinkist - To pretend you read the book and say something about it.
  • Adobe Draw - To make digital illustrations or digitalize my sketchnotes on the phone.
  • Duolingo - To learn new languages while you're waiting for the bus. Because nosotros comemos una manzana.
  • Meet Up - To meet like-minded when you're in a new city or make new friends around a topic of interest wherever you are.
  • Slack - To streamline team communications. In a Slack workspace, each channel (I like to think of them as chatrooms) addresses a certain topic, department or client so you only read what is relevant. Also offers 100+’s of integrations with other apps. For teams that need more than a messy group chat, Slack is the way.
  • Pushbullet - To stop chatting to yourself. Pushbullet allows you to push content, links, text or photos from one device to another.
  • Google Photos - To keep your pictures together. I’m an avid user of Photos 1) to make sure I never lose any of my pictures, 2) to keep my device from getting cluttered, and 3) because the object-recognition tool (although extremely creepy) is extremely useful. I type yellow balloon, bikini, fish, or spicy food, and Google serves me the exact picture I was looking for (most the time, anyway).
  • Be Focused - To time my pomodoros.
  • Dictionary - Because, words.

I hope

some of these will help you create the space to focus on what you’re creating and what matters.

I'd love to hear if you end up using any of these and if they help you!

I’m curious to know which apps are your digital cornerstones? How much would you say you rely on them (please tell me I’m not the only one haha)? And which to-do app would you recommend me to try out?

Design (Thinking) for Social Anxiety

Some time ago, I attended a brainstorm session for a new co-working space and was placed on the community management team.

Just throwing a bunch of people together in a space doesn't make them a community. So what does? It was our role to think about how to ease interactions and help members connect with one another.

Facilitating interactions

Have you ever entered a co-working space or attended one of these social networking events and felt so anxious you couldn't connect to anyone? I know I have.

Because I was going through a phase of increased social anxiety at the time of the brainstorm, I started thinking about how difficult these environments - in which you're expected to connect, but left to your own devices - can be sometimes.

Most events and spaces are designed for confident extroverts. In reality, this group consists of a 'lucky few' while the rest of us are either introverts, shy, or coping with some level of social anxiety.

Based on that, we started building some simple interventions to make it as easier to talk to someone - even when you’re feeling socially awkward.

Our solutions were hardly original (I included them below this post in case you're curious), but the concept that sparked them is worth discussing. It ended up on our title slide as: [b]Design for Social Anxiety[/b].

We all suffer from social anxiety

Social anxiety is the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people. In some cases a crippling disability, social anxiety is something we all experience to some degree. Every person in the room is a little bit nervous about meeting new people for the simple reason that we're biologically engineered to do so.

When we visit these places and feel uncomfortable, we might think we're lacking the social skills. But it's not us that is failing, it's the design.

Relating to Design Thinking's extreme users

If you design with social anxiety in mind, you will include everyone suffering from more serious anxieties, while also benefiting everyone experiencing a milder version by giving them an easier time connecting to others.

I realized that this approach corresponds with the IDEO/’s concept of the 'extreme user'. They recommend, when developing a product or service, to learn from and design solutions for your extreme users. "An idea that suits an extreme user will nearly certainly work for the majority of others.”

"When you speak with and observe extreme users, their needs are amplified and their work-arounds are often more notable. This helps you pull out meaningful needs that may not pop when engaging with the middle of the bell curve. However, the needs that are uncovered through extreme users are often also needs of a wider population.”

Design for social anxiety

I believe social anxiety awareness could help us design more meaningful and inclusive experiences.

My friend and fellow co-working fanatic Pier Stein was present at the brainstorm night and started incorporating what I had coined design for social anxiety into events he was organizing. “I never thought of it, but it makes a whole lot of sense. It’s like building an elevator”, he said, “they make sure it has a capacity of 1500 or 2000 kg even though it states a max of 1000 kg”, and in reality, will rarely carry more than 200.

We all crave realer connections and more meaningful conversations. But we don't all know how to spark them, or simply can't muster the courage.

Imagine the interactions and experiences we could facilitate if we would create events, spaces and services consciously keeping this in mind? What would happen if we would design for social anxiety?

What do you think? Please share your thoughts and if the concept resonates with you, please pay it forward so we can spread the word and make a change.

With love,

PS: Some of the ideas we had to facilitate interactions were:

  • onboarding each member by introducing them to 3 existing members they have something in common with;
  • having little signs on which members write welcoming prompts like “interrupt me anytime to chat about …” or “I can help you with … ” or “I’m looking for help on …”, and place them next to themselves where they’re working;
  • set up a matchmaking pinboard for people ask and offer services for example for networking but also language exchange, peer to peer learning, gym or special interest buddies;
  • hang posters with generic but meaningful conversation starters such as “what’s your favorite thing about today?” or “what’s the one thing you want to achieve today?" around public areas such as coffee machines or bars;
  • placing unusual or interactive items around the space to spark movement and conversation.

Pani Puri's, Rickshaws, Wedding Gowns & Mental Breakdowns: The ups and downs of my first 2 weeks in Mumbai

Mumbai is a city surrounded by questionable stereotypes and mixed messages. Telling people I'd be moving here, I was always initially met by surprise, followed by the most distant range of emotions. There seemed to be 2 categories, and 2 categories alone:

  • people who adored Mumbai,
  • and people who absolutely hated it.

Growing only more curious, I had to go see for myself and develop my own opinions.

2 weeks into Bombay life, I figured I'd share my experiences and first impressions with you.


Equal parts excited and frightened, I boarded my plane from Kathmandu to Mumbai on a Sunday afternoon. Looking around and realizing I was the only white person on the Nepal Airlines flight: I knew my journey had started. In just 24 hours, I moved from the peaceful Buddhist monastery (a blog about my week there is coming up) to the madness of Mumbai's streets.

This switch symbolized the theme for the weeks to come: contrast. My first 2 weeks living in India have been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, moving between awe and panic, between celebrations and mental breakdowns.

The ups & the downs

Let’s start with all there is to rejoice in. On free days, I hop from one creative hideaway spot to another hipster cafe, taking a rickshaw (those are the Indian tuktuks) for 30 rupees as soon as I get tired or lost. I had the privilege to attend an Indian wedding, and dress accordingly as an Indian princess (hence the lehenga fit in my picture, yes, and the fab makeup by my new friend and MUA Aanchol). I've met like-minded and very welcoming locals, who besides lending me their stimulating conversation over brunch and drinks, have been going out of their way to show me and tell me about the best things in town.

Which brings me to the next highlight: eating and trying out all the tasty snacks and dishes around. It's all spicy AF which I love, and the Indian people are as confused about my love for spicy food as the Spanish were about me not eating jamón. Take pani puri, a pastry ball in which they pour spicy water juice being sold in little stalls on every other street corner - I know it sounds weird as hell and I was skeptical myself, but one serving is enough to convert you for life. Then there's sathya, a Kerala dishes which comes served on a banana leaf and is eaten with hands. Not to forget, I work every day from and for Ministry of New - a design-inspired co-working space and being voted the 2nd most beautiful co-working space in the world, it's undoubtedly the most beautiful space in Mumbai - alongside a community of very impressive freelancers and entrepreneurs. These are the ups.

Then there's moments in which I find myself absolutely lost and low. Not knowing where I am, taxis refusing to take me on or not understanding my destination even though I give them Google Maps (it's still a mystery to me why they can't read maps), people following me down the street for a few minutes and angrily screaming at me in Hindi for no apparent reason, and others pushing cameras in your face to take pictures of you without asking (I know it sounds unreal but yes, this actually happens all the time). Then there's a daily 3-hour commute from which I regularly get so sick I have to throw up. And the noise, the noise never stops - even when you're inside or it's night. These are some of the struggles.

My days have been not a gentle swaying, but a crude slinging, between these alternate impressions and emotions.

Although a seemingly empty statement, the best way to describe it all is to say that it’s a lot.

Bombay lifestyle

India being the birth place of yoga, contemporary Bombay lifestyle has very little to do with this historical sentiment.

Everything seems to hit you harder here. Your rest seems futile, your meals heaven sent, your hangovers deadly, your commutes a quest. People work late, generally starting at 10 and finishing at 8. There is always shit happening and invites being thrown at you left and right; festivals, art weeks, parties, dinners, events. The hours pass by in the blink of an eye, and a single week seems to hold months worth of activity. Boredom is not an option and perception of time is skewed.

Beneath the thick layer of excitement, I feel physically and mentally exhausted.

I assumed this intensity was just my subjective experience and a natural side effect of moving to a new place. But all locals confirm that they struggle to find their equilibrium in this town, being pulled from one impulse to the next. Bombay life is characterized, to all that inhabit it, as hectic and like the city itself, full.

Why you keep calling it Bombay?

Right, about the name. So when I came here I noticed how everyone here still refers to the city as Bombay, not Mumbai. It turns out the guy responsible for that renaming back in '95 was a nationalist dickhead so out of principle locals rather not endorse it. Thank you Suleiman for the quick history lesson on this.

All in all

The other day I was calling my mom and she asked me if I liked Mumbai? To my own surprise, I realized I didn’t have an answer to that simple question.

It’s all been so unfamiliar and overwhelming, it’s hard to make up the balance. Besides, Mumbai couldn’t give a shit less whether you like it or not. It just goes on buzzing, hustling, and honking of course.

Do I like the fact I came here to experience all this? To that I know the answer: yes.

There are some very comical and some truly challenging difficulties to fitting in and adjusting here. It would be naive to think that there wouldn’t be.

Although some days are easier than others, this culture shock and wave of new influences is exactly what I came here for. And it does not fall short.

Yours truly,
live from Khar Social (a fantastic hipster cafe here),

PS: If you like to follow my day-to-day adventures in Bombay, connect with me on the Gram!

A timely note on the paradoxical relation of self-improvement and self-love

Transitioning moments like New Years have always been a big thing for me. I reflect on the progress of the past year and set intentions for the one to come. The self-improvement junkie in me must run deep, because I can remember doing this since I was like 7. For most of my life, I thought self-improvement was the answer to everything. People used to pride me with my unwavering commitment to self-improvement, as did I. But as I become more aware of its repercussions, my stance on it is shifting.

I had to learn the hard way (and let’s be real, still am) that:

“no amount of self-improvement will ever make up for a lack of self-love”.

This Robert Holden quote got me going about the paradoxical relation of self-improvement and self-love.

 Undertaken from the motive of wanting to grow, learn, and blossom to one’s full potential, the pursuit of self-improvement is a rewarding and constructive one. Self-improvement helps give meaning to our daily lives, boost confidence, develop discipline, expand opportunities, and generally speaking, makes us more enjoyable people to be around.

When self-improvement is used as a response mechanism to self-loathing, the opposite effect can be expected. In that case we would be better off working on the relationship with ourselves rather than our goals. To try and accept, rather than improve, what is.

As much as self-improvement has propelled me forward in many areas, it was counterproductive to the relationship with myself. This is why we must question our motives. Why do we need to get better? Are we not good enough as is?

Mark Manson questions in his hyped The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck:

“isn’t the aim of self-improvement to get to a point where you no longer feel the need to improve?”.

Ouch. I admit, when I read that line, it hurt.

But in that one line, he points out the paradox of self-improvement. We try to be better so we can love ourselves, but more often than not end up hating ourselves for all the potential we’ve failed to fulfill. The more we think about what’s missing, the greater our deficiencies seem to grow. The more we focus on what’s wrong with us, the less we notice everything we’re doing right. Oh the irony.

We embark with the best intentions, but self-improvement can be a slippery slope. Always pursuing betterment, we can spend life replacing the race for achievement with a desire for the next. All the while believing we’re never quite good enough and none of it ever making us any happier.

Without acceptance at its foundation, the feats of self-improvements are but a high to fill the void of (self-)validation.

Maybe you recognize this mechanism. It seems a common response to the overdose of self-help advice, motivational quotes, success stories, and ads — designed for the sole purpose of making us conscious of our shortcomings— we’re flooded by on mass and social media.

This doesn’t mean that self-improvement is futile, and we should resort to sitting on our asses and being perfectly contented with ourselves and our shitty habits.

It just means that as young, ambitious souls, reaching for our potential, we should be cautious in keeping a healthy dynamic between the two, knowing that one will never solve or substitute the other.

We must seek out and protect our balance between the pursuit of self-improvement and the practice of self-love.

If you have an appetite to become more of what you are, go for it. Set goals. Try new things. Work hard. Push yourself. Glow up.

Alongside working on your goals, invest in accepting who you are here and now, with all your flaws, shortcomings, sensitivities and fallbacks (because they’ll always be there). Develop a kind of self-love that is unconditional of your achievements and pursuits.

On your quest for betterment, remind yourself that you are good enough.

Because our brains are always on energy saving mode and will focus most of their energy on our pursuits, it’s easy to forget what we're doing right. That’s why we need to make a conscious and continuous effort to remind ourselves of it.

Next time you’re thinking of all the things you want to become, I invite you to take note of all the things you already are. To ponder on all the things you are doing well and wonderfully. To marvel at the things you are blessed with, things you have achieved, barriers you have overcome, struggles you have endured. To realize how much you have to be proud of, and grateful for. All this is yours.

A simple but effective way of doing this is a pride journal. It’s a variation on the gratitude journal. Instead of writing 3 things you’re grateful for, write 3 things you’re proud of today. Things you’ve done well. It can be anything from I didn’t start an argument when I got upset, to I delivered an awesome piece of work, to getting a compliment from someone else, to getting up and having a shower (some days, even that’s a challenge). Integrating this habit will help shift your thoughts.

Challenging as it can be, I believe keeping our balance between the pursuit of self-improvement and practice of self-love is what will lead us to sustainable growth. To enable a blossoming that is fueled by acceptance, rather than by disapproval, of oneself.

To power a lifelong quest of personal growth in which we not only rejoice in reaching the destination but in traveling the journey itself.

With love,

Know Thyself: 70+ Meditative Questions (for modern-day self-inquiry)

In a world full of noise, it can be hard to hear our own voices. And in a world full of on-demand distractions, it's too easy to avoid listening altogether, and never truly being with ourselves. So I'd like to create a little space for that.

Today I want to share with you over 70 questions worth asking yourself and pondering on for a moment. Some may lead to affirmation, some to confusion, even frustration; but all will lead you to a deeper insight into yourself and your relation to the world.

We used these questions during the Intropreneurship course I co-designed and co-facilitated in spring 2017, giving them to the students during and in between the sessions. They found a lot of value in it and said it helped them get to know themselves on a deeper level. I also answered the questions in my own notebook at times and (re-)discovered a few inclinations of my own.

So I figured, if it works for us, it may work for you too.

All the credits for curating this list of powerful questions go to my Intropreneurship partner in crime and valued mentor Sandra Reeb-Gruber. She carefully handpicked and collected them in her notebooks over years of reading for us to benefit from.

Throughout the many chapters, friends and adventures of life, there is only one person you will always come back to, so you might as well make an effort to get to know them.

Whenever you're ready; grab a sheet of paper, a beautiful notebook or open up a new doc, and start by answering one question that speaks to you in this moment. I admit these 70+ are a bit of an overkill, so just pick a handful at a time and see how it works for you. With this list, you honestly have no excuse not to try.

Happy inquiry & soul searching :)

70+ Meditative Questions (for modern-day self-inquiry)

  1. What is making you passionate about your life and the world?
  2. What bothers you (in the world)?
  3. How would you like to shape this world?
  4. What is your favorite place in the world? Why?
  5. How do you feel when you are there?
  6. What do you love to do?
  7. What main activities keep you busy?
  8. When (if) do you experience flow?
  9. Which things give you energy?
  10. Which things inhibit you? What is holding you back?
  11. Which 3 thoughts made you smile today?
  12. Which 5 things are you most grateful for?
  13. How do people see you differently than you see yourself?
  14. What are the 3 characteristics you hope others see in you?
  15. Who has qualities you aspire to develop? Who inspires you?
  16. Whats the one thing you can’t live without? Why?
  17. What are your core values?
  18. Are you being true to your values?
  19. Who or what has helped you on your path?
  20. Who or what can help you on your path ahead?
  21. Which things do you think you need luck for?
  22. How could you achieve them without luck?
  23. What are 3 things that are always on your to-do list?
  24. What nice thing did you do for someone else in the past 24 hours?
  25. Who do you want/need in your peer group?
  26. What is your most precious possession? Why?
  27. Who in your life do you trust the most?
  28. What is your addiction?
  29. What is your biggest fuck-up?
  30. What makes you sad?
  31. What is the most adventurous thing you have ever done?
  32. What are the things you want to be? Why?
  33. Whats stopping you from doing the things you should be doing?
  34. Which things do you have room for in your life?
  35. What things do you need to make room for in your life?
  36. What has been important to you so far in life?
  37. How do you currently contribute?
  38. How would you like to contribute more?
  39. Which talents / superpowers can you use for this?
  40. What is your secret magic power?
  41. What impact does this power have on the world around you?
  42. What character are you playing in this world?
  43. What job would you be excited to share with other?
  44. What did you want to be when you were younger? How does what you do now relate to this?
  45. What did you love to do as a kid?
  46. Which 3 people have had a major influence on you?
  47. Which 2 events have had a major influence on you?
  48. What is your big idea?
  49. Why this big idea?
  50. What is difficult about your idea?
  51. What is your secret big dream?
  52. What makes you happy?
  53. What gives you courage?
  54. What gives you strength?
  55. What gives you joy?
  56. What are the 3 thoughts that you have a lot?
  57. What character trait do you have that pushes people away?
  58. How does this same trait help connect you to others?
  59. In what areas of your life are you settling?
  60. Which 3 things are you proud of?
  61. Which 2 compliments do you often get?
  62. Where do you go to recharge your batteries?
  63. When are you at your most productive?
  64. What’s your favorite book/movie? Why?
  65. Who motivates you most in life?
  66. What is inspiration to you?
  67. When do you feel inspired?
  68. How do you feel when you are inspired?
  69. In which areas of you life would you like to experience more inspiration, why?
  70. What things do you think it is too late for?
  71. What do you want to achieve? What can you do (1 step) to get closer?
  72. Name 4 situations where you persevered even when the odds were against you?
  73. What would you like to experience in your life (if time and money are not an issue)?
  74. What desire is behind your answer?
  75. How can you already integrate this in your life?
  76. What would you like to learn in life?
  77. What is most important to you at this moment?

78. What question(s)0 would you like to add to this list?

With love,

Introducing the Workshop Canvas: A Visual Tool to Design Learning Experiences

I’d like to introduce you to my new brainchild: the Workshop Canvas.

After carrying the idea for a while, a beta version is here and I'm excited to share it with you.

In my own work as a learning designer and facilitator, I felt frustrated by the lack of visual aids and the lengthy spreadsheets I saw most of my colleagues - and ended up myself - using.

Born out of this frustration and inspired by canvasses such as the Business Model Canvas, the Workshop Canvas seeks to offer a more intuitive, iterative and collaborative approach to the design process of educational experiences.

WTF is the Workshop Canvas?

The workshop canvas is a visual tool to help you design and facilitate your session - be it a workshops, classes, courses and other (learning) experiences.

It's essentially an expanded timeline to map your content and includes some of the factors to consider.

How do I use the Workshop Canvas?

1 Get the canvas

You can download the Workshop Canvas as a PDF and then print it on A3. It works best in combination with mini post-its. You can also work digitally if you prefer.


2 Set the stage by filling the blocks on top

Before you get into content, fill the blocks on top to consider the objectives and context of your workshop. This includes:

  • overall learning objective
  • the total time
  • the title
  • the audience
  • the materials

3 Decide on a time measure

The timeline is intentionally kept blank so the canvas can serve sessions of different durations. This means you have to fill in your own timeline - by dividing the total time you have into 5 or 6 segments. I personally like to work with 30 minute segments - often filled with 15 mins of speaking and 15 mins of activity. I recommend creating your timeline with pencil so you can edit later.

4 Draft your content

Get started drafting your content onto post-its and onto the timeline.

  • Sketch an outline by writing headers on top with the main topics to cover
  • Think of what building blocks would be needed for each topic
  • Add processing activities (after each topic)
  • Insert breaks
  • Optional: Add pre-tasks + follow-ups

The wonderful thing of post-its is obviously that you can edit, shuffle and re-design as you go and as much as you like. You can use the whitespace around the post-its for notes and to indicate breaks, transitions, etc.

5 Optionals

  • You could add a color coding system to indicate different sections or different facilitators / speakers (for example using green = learning objectives, yellow = information, and blue = processing activities). Alternatively, you could use an icon system (for example marking circles or triangle in the corners).

Why use it?

A few advantages I've found using the canvas (post-, during, and pre-event):

  1. It encourages you to consider context before any content.
  2. It's offers a centralized format to collaborate on designing a session.
  3. It's easier to iterate ideas because moving around post-its is quicker than drawing new timelines again and again.
  4. It's useful as a guide while facilitating cause it's visual.
  5. It's quick to communicate context & content of a session with others.
    - - -

It’s early stages but I hope to collaboratively develop it into an useful tool for creative facilitators and experience designers alike.

After you’ve given the Workshop Canvas a go, I’d love to hear how the experience was for you - the good, the bad and the ugly.
What worked for you? What didn’t? What’s missing? What’s redundant? Hurdles, ideas, remarks, it’s all welcomed.
Any piece of constructive feedback will contribute to shaping the canvas into a helpful design tool.

Should you have any other questions, ideas, comments on the Workshop Canvas so far, I'd be happy to hear them.

Finally, feel free to share the tool with whoever you think it might be of interest to or would be willing to test it out.

Now, I will let you get to designing awesome experiences. Enjoy the process!

With love,

The One Reason Most Innovation Efforts Fail

When we talk innovation, the conversation is often sparked by technological advancements, new business models and product releases. Similarly, in our own innovation efforts, we often target grand market disruption strategies, dynamic team structures and rapid R&D cycles.

All ambitions aside: in the end the success - and even legitimacy - of any innovation depends not on creative ideas, but on the impact of its implementation.

If aforementioned designs, however magnificent they are, fail to be implemented in the systems they're designed for, change will not occur and the so-called innovation hasn't been much more than an inspiring brainstorm session. Brainstorm sessions are fun for sure, but it's change we're here for, isn't it?

We all know implementation is the hard part. We see it time and time again, as innovation projects - even those built upon the greatest of intent, ideas and insights - stifle here.

Why is that, we should ask?
I believe it is for the one reason that people are not feeling it.

Whatever the ingenious design, it failed to trickle down into the minds of everybody involved in making the change. They didn't manage to translate the new plans into existing, everyday experiences that the people within the organization go through.

If we really wish to manifest a change, we have to acknowledge that change comes down to our people.

It is not about the knowledgeable consultant (although they can help). It is not about the inspiring innovation manager (although they can be a powerful catalyzer). It is not about the top management assigning budget (although that is a prerequisite).

It is about those actually performing and managing the tasks, therefore sustaining the organization, on a daily basis. If you're a company, it's your employees. If you're a start-up, it's your team.

The success of any innovation depends on these people's willingness and ability to adapt their behavior.

And changing has never been an easy feat, so it is your responsibility to offer them the right incentives, knowledge and tools to make the switch as effortless as possible. It is your role to guide that process.

Most innovation projects fail for the simple reason that they fail to recognize this. They are misled to think the power is elsewhere, and fail to assign the right amount of attention to the very people their innovation’s success relies on. The key to lasting change within any organization resides with them, and them alone.

Deep down I think you already knew this, but it's so easy to lose sight. Now that you've been reminded, think about how could you set up your innovation projects in a way that acknowledges and harnesses their power directly? Will you embark on a search for empathy, and go out of your way to facilitate their change processes? Do you dare to co-create and include them even earlier on in the process?

I'd love to hear what you come up with and how your next innovation efforts pan out.
I also invite you to share any experiences or thoughts you have on this topic, as we can all learn from one another.

Keep innovating.

With love,

The One-Page Business Plan: Introduction to the Business Model Canvas and How it Can Help You (+ 14 Supporting Tools)

You’ve been hit by some sort of creative epiphany and are now carrying what we commonly refer to as an idea. Next, you're looking for a way to translate your budding idea into a solid business case you can wrap your head around and pitch to others.

Traditionally, you would go on to write a detailed 50-page business plan.

Although writing a business plan can be a valuable process, there are some painful limitations to it.

  • First, it is a very linear approach to map something that is in continuous iteration: your business.
  • Second, it is extremely time-consuming, both to create (write) as to consume (read).
  • Finally, it is all text, a format that doesn’t work in everyone's favor.

So what you would like is a way to build and present your business case in a faster, more flexible and visual manner?

Taddaaaa! Let me introduce you to the Business Model Canvas.

In this post, I’d like to propose you an alternative that is slowly but surely replacing the traditional business plan. By the end of it, you will have a good understanding of what the hell the BMC is and how you may use it to capture any business plans you might have in an intuitive, fun and agile way.

So let’s get into it shall we?

WTF is the Business Model Canvas?

The BMC is a visual business tool that captures how your business creates, delivers and captures value.

It presents all this in a visual template of 9 building blocks that together constitute your business.

It moves from the Customer Segments, describing who you serve, to Value Proposition, outlining what you offer, to Customer Relationships and Channels, which describe how you deliver the value. Then it moves along the Revenue Streams, exploring how to capitalize on the value, to the Key Activities, Resources, Partners and Cost to line up all that needs to be in place to manifest the value chain.

The BMC will empower you to design and communicate every dimension of your business plan intuitively, quickly and visually.

When should I use the BMC?

The BMC can be used for any business regardless of industry, offering, size or maturity.

It can help you design your initial business model(s) in an ideation stage, develop them throughout the start-up stage and can as well be used to re-explore existing models in a more mature stage.

The process of designing a BMC is fundamentally different than that of writing a traditional business plan.
The BMC defies the limitations of a traditional business plan but in turn, has its own flaws.

I have found the BMC particularly helpful when:

  1. You don’t have the time to write a traditional business plan.
  2. You’re bored to death writing your business plan.
    Anyone that has written a business plan before knows that, besides the enthusiasm that is a by-product of thinking about your business, it is pretty dull and tedious work. The BMC offers a more visual, creative and hands-on process.
  3. You’re not alone in designing your business model.
    Besides offering a framework to any individual, the BMC is particularly helpful when there’s more than one person involved. It offers a shared language to design, discuss and pitch business models. Using the BMC as a framework to lead business discussions amongst teams will help avoid misunderstandings and therefore promote better communication and ultimately, better business decisions.
  4. You need something more flexible than a traditional business plan.
    A traditional business plan is a static document and therefore absurdly inflexible. If you realize halfway through your business plan that something doesn’t add up, or you have an important customer insight in the early days, you basically have to go back and start from scratch. There are not many things I hate as much as having to do the same work twice and I find it hard to imagine this wouldn’t demotivate anyone. The BMC allows you to draft, to iterate, to go back and forth, try out different scenarios, see how they integrate and play around.

Pretty useful little tool, right?

Where did the Business Model Canvas come from?

Alexander Osterwalder found himself with the same issue you’re facing and set out to develop a solution. He went on to research what he coined Business Model Ontology, founded in 2006, co-founded the consultancy firm Strategyzer in 2010, and then went on to co-author the book Business Model Generation in collaboration with his mentor Yves Pigneur and co-created along with 470 Business Model Canvas practitioners from 45 countries.

This is the book that introduced the Business Model Canvas to the world and is described as “a handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design”.

It's quite something that they’ve created.

How do I use the BMC's 9 building blocks?

Now that you have a general understanding of what the BMC is, what it’s used for and how it can help you, I will briefly go through each of the building blocks of the Business Model Canvas and provide a bunch of supporting tools to help get you going.

Each block includes a short description and links to tools that are developed specifically to assist you in this block's design.

     1. Customer Segments

If you’re looking to build something that people will love; understanding them and their needs is key. By defining your targeted market, you can start to get into your customers’ head and develop your business with the end user in mind. This will prevent you from building a product that nobody wants and more importantly; enables you to find and fulfill a true need.

Tools: Customer PersonasEmpathy Maps by David Gray/XPLANE

     2. Value Proposition

Value Proposition Design seeks to pinpoint the unique benefits and relevant characteristics of a product that serve a specific customer segment. It pinpoints what needs are satisfied, what problems are solved and how the product stands out from its competitors. Knowing exactly what value is delivered to your customer will help you run your business efficiently and not waste resources.

Tools: Value Propositions Canvas by Strategyzer / buy the Value Proposition Design book, Validation Board

     3+4. Customer Relationships & Channels

Once value is created, we have to find the best way to offer and deliver it to the customer. These interactions take place with a variety of hand-picked communication, distribution and sales Channels, coloring the type of Customer Relationship. Try to illustrate all phases of the customer experience so you can optimize every step of their journey. These touchpoints in the customer’s journey hold the power to make or break the overall customer experience.

Tools: Customer Journey Map, Story Boards

     5. Revenue Streams

Revenue streams result from value propositions successfully and profitably offered to customers. Think about how you will capture the value you’ve delivered.

Tools: Revenue Stream Maps by Noorderwind

     6+7+8+9. Key Activities, Resources & Partners and Cost Structure

Now that we have a goal in mind, it’s time to make it happen. What has to be done on a regular basis in order to make this business plan a reality? Including the full cycle of value creation, delivery and capturing: these to-do's are the Key Activities of the company. Key Resources are all the assets (physical, financial, intellectual and other) required to manifest the activities and the plans in all other elements. The Key Partners are stakeholders and suppliers of resources that are more efficiently acquired by outsourcing or collaboration.

Tools: BMC (link back between the other building blocks and these), First Principle ThinkingValue Stream Mapping, Value Chain Analysis, Process Mapping, Project & Resource Planning

     10. Macro Environment

To fully optimize the business model to the environment it will operate in, we will look beyond the internal factors to evaluate external influences and the potential threats and opportunities that result from new developments.

After all, businesses do not exist in isolation.

Tools: Business Model Environment by Strategyzer, Consumer Trend Canvas by TrendWatching, FutureGraphic by Future Navigator, Ethnographic Experiential Futures by Stuart Candy and Kelly Kornet


You made it.

That’s a quick overview of all 9 (+1) building blocks of the Business Model Canvas, along with the tools to help you along the way.

I carefully selected these tools so that you don't have to get sidetracked Googling all these new terms, and can focus on what matters - developing your ideas and channeling all your energy towards making your plans happen - instead.

Will you?

How should I go on to design my own BMC?

If you’re ready to go, you can start designing your BMC right here and right now.

You can either print a template and get to work with pens and post-its, or make a digital version with the Canvanizer tool (easy to use + free, yay!).

If you’re looking for a bit more guidance before you make the leap, I think this Business Model Canvas guide by Alexander Cowan is very helpful. Or if you want to get physical, you can get a copy of the Business Model Generation book here.

If you prefer video, this great one from The Startup Hustle walks you through the entire BMC + Canvanizer process, or you can watch Osterwalder himself elaborate on the BMC philosophy and building blocks.

For a few more inspirations and visual innovation clues, you can also check out my Innovation board on Pinterest.

And finally: keep it simple, like Emad Saif's Lemonade Stand BMC.


I hope by now you have a good understanding of what the BMC is about, and how it may serve you and those around you in crafting their business plans.

Whatever you decide to do with this new info, keep in mind that business model canvassing is a tool, but most of all a verb. It is powerful because it facilitates a process of testing and iteration - the fundament of improvement.

Hold on to that spirit, and I am convinced you will develop - and hopefully execute - some very interesting business models.

What are your thoughts on the BMC? Did you already know about it or is it new to you? How do you use or are planning to use the BMC?

With love,

Essay On Machine Ethics: Ethical Issues & the Need of a Universal Moral Framework in the face of widespread Machine Intelligence (and ultimately the Singularity)

This essay on Machine Ethics was written as an assessment product for the elective course of Business Ethics, part of my bachelor program International Business Innovation Studies.

With Siri, Google and self-driving cars, we have all heard about the dawn of AI and machine employment by now. Artificial intelligence is the field of building computer systems that understand and learn from observations without the need to be explicitly programmed, as defined by Nathan Benaich. As distant as it may still seem, it is undeniable that this force will take on a crucial role in our society in the very near future and influence it in a way that we can hardly even begin to imagine. It will rapidly open up a plethora of opportunities and at the same time pose a new range of dangers. It will replace humans in a large majority of jobs, even create creative works, it will assist us in making choices, we will build up a relationship with them, it will help us solve problems and even implement its solutions. Healthcare, education, business, engineering; it is hard to think of an area that it wouldn’t touch.

Like the Future of Life Institute’s President Max Tegmark pronounces, “everything we love about civilization is a product of intelligence, so amplifying our human intelligence with artificial intelligence has the potential of helping civilization flourish like never before – as long as we manage to keep the technology beneficial.“

The more data they have the better they will function, and the better they perform the more autonomy we will be willing to give them. Once AI systems and potentially their robotic physical extensions are able to make and carry out decisions autonomously, there is no telling what they will be up to. Utopian and dystopian views alike, it is practically impossible to foresee the profound impact this development will have. Yet if we want to harness its power to make a positive impact and ultimately ensure this technology doesn't result in an existential threat to humankind, we have no choice but to at least anticipate.

It is not a coincidence that modern-day masterminds like Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Tesla's Elon Musk are cautious and are already investing themselves and their fortune to keeping AI beneficial for humanity and protecting people from the potential misuse and accidental consequences of this new superpower.

Also people working in the field urge precautions, such as AI researcher Stuart Russell elaborating that "AI methods are progressing much faster than expected, which makes the question of the long-term outcome more urgent," adding that "in order to ensure that increasingly powerful AI systems remain completely under human control... there is a lot of work to do.” (Mariëtte Le Roux, "Rise of the Machines: Keep an eye on AI, experts warn", 12 March 2016)

Although there is a handful of different primary concerns in AI safety, in this essay I’d like to focus on the ethical issues and the need for a way to fortify moral behavior of artificially intelligent beings; an area of study that is generally referred to as machine ethics.

I’d like to begin with a thought experiment called ‘the Paperclip Maximizer’ that was originally described by Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom (one of the leading voices in the field) for the very purpose of illustrating the need for machine ethics. It presents the following scenario:

Imagine an advanced artificial intelligence tasked only with the goal to make as many paper clips as possible. If such a machine were not programmed to value human life, then given enough power its optimized goal would be to turn all matter in the universe, including human beings, into either paperclips or machines which manufacture paper clips. (Nick Bostrom, "Ethical Issues in Advanced Artificial Intelligence", 2003)

Although this is a somewhat silly example, it points out the potential danger of letting the AI carry out poorly-defined and even seemingly innocent goals without conditioning it. Or as Nick Bostrom says in his TED talk "What happens when our computers get smarter than we are?": if you create a really powerful optimization process to maximize for objective x, you better make sure that your definition of x incorporates everything you care about.

One more example. Suppose we give an A.I. the goal to make humans smile. When the A.I. is weak, it performs useful or amusing actions that cause its user to smile. When the A.I. becomes superintelligent, it realizes that there is a more effective way to achieve this goal: take control of the world and stick electrodes into the facial muscles of humans to cause constant, beaming grins. Another example, suppose we give A.I. the goal to solve a difficult mathematical problem. When the A.I. becomes superintelligent, it realizes that the most effective way to get the solution to this problem is by transforming the planet into a giant computer, so as to increase its thinking capacity. And notice that this gives the A.I.s an instrumental reason to do things to us that we might not approve of. Human beings in this model are threats, we could prevent the mathematical problem from being solved.

These basic examples show the colossal danger we could be exposed to if we do indeed unleash AI into the world without proper precautions. One of those I think would be to instill some sense of ethics, the distinction between right and wrong, and the ability to apply it. We need the machine to learn in some way about human values. Before we can even start thinking about a way to implement this, we need to decide on what those values are; on an universal moral framework.

The challenge in that is of course that there is no such thing. People have debated since the beginning of times about what is right and wrong, supported by their culture, religion and personal convictions. Sure there are some situations that are generally agreed on, but there are plenty more dilemmas. We know murder or rape is wrong, but how about euthanasia and abortions, lying and stealing? Hence there are a bunch of moral frameworks, the main ones being the consequentialist framework, the duty framework and the virtue framework. (Brown University, "Making Choices: Ethical Decisions at the Frontier of Global Science" seminar, spring 2011)

Many of these differences are also rooted in culture and since the AI is likely to operate on an international level, this brings another question. Should it exert the same values everywhere, or adapt the system to its cultural context? Considering the discrimination and legal issues these adaptations would bring along, would it be better to stick to one framework? But this approach demands compromises; how can we decide on those? Also, how can we ensure a truly global approach when AI is mostly developed in 1st world countries?

As if finding a universal moral framework wasn't challenging enough, the next mission ahead of us is to finding a way to quantify our beliefs, or seek out a solid way to let the AI learn about ethics. We need to find a way to program or teach the AI ethics so that it can be a moral agent; a being who is capable of acting with reference to right and wrong.

What we would’ve had to do 10 years ago, which is build an algorithm, nowadays are machines are self-learning. This self-learning capacity, once a fantasy, is slowly but surely starting to become technologically feasible.

A recent example of this is that of AlphaGO. AlphaGO has beaten the world champion of the Chinese board game Go in 4 out of 5 rounds; something which people deemed impossible without human intuition. As amazing an achievement as this is, I couldn’t help but feel a little concerned when I read that its developers virtually have very little understanding of how it works and how it was able to become so good. To learn how to play the game the system started with nothing and played himself countless times until he reached this level.

This means even those who have created this machine do not know how it learns, and this ‘black box’ allows for very space to correct its learning along the way. How can we build in mechanisms that in some way show us how the machine learns and what conclusion it has drawn? And then re-evaluate them if they don’t align with human values? Regardless, the possibilities created by self-learning machines are amazing.

The learning approach implies that the machine would learn from carefully observing human behavior and sources, much like a young child does. The problem with that is that we humans don’t always act on and sometimes even contradict our universal values. Since only the actions are observable to the AI and the inner thought process is not, how can we make the AI understand the difference and only copy the good stuff? Much like a child that grows up in a hostile environment, it will consider a normality whatever it’s exposed to.

Surely in the case of big data this will lead to a realistic representation of human values exposed, but wouldn’t we want our AI to have a stronger sense of morality, mirroring kindness rather than hatred?

This has happened before, when Twitter let their chatbot Tay into the wild for 24h with the command to converse and learn from user’s tweets, only to have it return with a strong racist, hitler-promoting and feminist-hating perspective.

So if we choose the learning approach, how can we make sure it copies from virtuous people and actions and not the vile? Would it solve this problem to have it learn only from a database of mental dilemmas and people’s responses to hypothetical scenarios only rather than learning from the real world? It is generally known that people tend to make much more ethical choices in cases in which they are not emotionally involved and at stake? In general, how can we at all teach the AI what statements are true or false? And how is it suppose to act in case of debatable topics? Does the majority always win? How can the AI implement morality even in cases where the people or the data may say differently?

As daunting a task as all of this seems, there are some very brave and bright people to stand up to it and work on this every single day. Although nowhere near complete, I'd like to point out just three of these initiatives.

The first is a company called GoodAI which is located in Prague. They have made it their mission to 'develop general artificial intelligence as fast as possible, be helpful to humanity, and understand the universe’. Besides working on developing a general and strong AI itself, they also spend a lot of resources on ensuring that it remains safe.

The second is actually a conglomerate of research projects that are granted by the Future of Life Institute which is in turn financially supported by the likes of Elon Musk. These projects are focussed on addressing ethical and other potential future risks from AI. Some examples of these are How to Build Ethics into Robust Artificial Intelligence, Inferring Human Values: Learning “Ought”, not “Is”, Aligning Superintelligence With Human Interests and Teaching AI Systems Human Values Through Human-Like Concept Learning.

There's also the Machine Intelligence Research Institute and the Future of Humanity Institute, which are both non-profits actively pursuing and making progress towards these goals by initiating and encouraging extensive research.

Finally, there is Google’s Safety and Ethics Advisory Board. When Google acquired the prominent and promising AI start-up DeepMind they agreed only on the condition that Google would put together a group of its most visionary people to research and come up with solutions to the potential dangers. Although practically nothing is known about the board, it’s a comforting thought that a tech giant like Google is at least examining this.

However difficult, I believe this invention and its impact are so profound that they can not be ignored. More than anything by writing this I hope to open up the conversation and all bright brains to think along.

We should not be frightened by the thoughts of its possible threat, but rather be motivated to prevent it. As we currently speak, AI is perfectly within human control, easily below human intelligence and only applied within limited and controlled environments. We need to make the most out of this time to develop, test and implement solutions to the many challenges of machine intelligence brings with so that once we dispatch this into the world it will not sabotage, but enrich the human condition and our day-to-day lives.

Executive + Artist: The Dual Role of a (Business) Innovator

As a business innovator, you don't quite fit in predefined boxes of expertise.

You're swaying somewhere between the business, the creative, and the technical domains. You may work in different industries, mingling with different groups, taking on different roles and speaking in a different 'language'.

Although it's probably this natural disposition that led you to the field of innovation in the first place, this dual role continues to pose a mental challenge as we grow into our talents, join teams and drive projects.

Being a business innovator demands you to strike a fine balance between the critical method of a business executive or VC, and the creative mind of an artist.

It asks you:
.. to be sensitive and perceptive to inspirations all around you, yet be strictly analytical about selecting which ideas to move forward with.
.. to form vibrant visions on the future of your business, yet bring this down to actionable tasks that can be done today.
.. to solve problems with creative, out-of-the-box thinking, yet be highly pragmatic in implementing solutions.
.. to be immersed in flow-states and deep thought, yet be diligent and rigorous in getting them out there.
.. to align behind your ideas strongly, yet keep an open mind to feedback from your users and stakeholders.

The practice of innovation is as much an art as a science.

Equalizing this balance will remain a challenge. We must be able to switch from the creative thinking hat to the polarizing critical in a matter of minutes. Sometimes we may have to make choices, holding both in mind simultaneously. And we keep developing our abilities in both hemispheres instead of excelling in one. It is this mind fluidity that allows us to do our jobs well.

Ultimately, it is even more of a treasure. Instead of limiting ourselves to applying one method in our career, and keeping the others "for our own time": we are able to integrate all these different facets of our mind, of our personalities, of our being, into our work. Training our brain for such mastery keeps us from settling in a static way of thinking and ensures we'll never get bored.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

It is the integration of the two that I love. Allowing my business-minded analytics to not only co-exist alongside my lateral creativity bursts but to combine their forces to create value in a way that neither of them could alone.

Do you experience this split in your work as an innovator? Or in what other places do you encounter this challenge of mind fluidity? I'd love to hear if your thoughts on this challenge, and how you make it work in your favor.

With love,

Be Your Own Life Coach: 20+ DIY Life Design Exercises to Inspire Creative Living

Wouldn't you like to have a life coach?
Honestly, wouldn't we all like to have someone on our side to help us figure things out?

Life design is the practice of consciously and iteratively shaping our time here on earth. It’s about taking ownership and committing to the continuous process of exploring, directing, manifesting and enjoying the life you want to live.

Well worth the struggle - it's a tough thing to do.
This is the exact reason people take on a (life) coach or enroll in personal growth programs.
They are there guiding you through the process of life design.

We would all benefit from a little guidance but plenty of us may not have the appropriate resources for that - money, time or otherwise - or decide to ride solo for whichever reason.

That's why today, I'd like to give you a DIY approach to life design.

I could tell you more, or I could show you instead. Shall we?

I've selected over 20 hands-on life design exercises that I have found to inspire creative living and working. They will help you gain clarity on what you want, why it matters to you, and how you're going to get there - as otherwise a coach would.

These are exercises I have collected over time and frequently turn to when coaching others, and when directing my own.

I recommend doing them on a piece of paper - although digital works too - and with few to no distractions.

Without further ado, let's get started!

20+ DIY Life Design exercises you can do right now

    1. Ikigai
      Ikigai is a Japanese word that means a reason for being, a reason to get up in the morning, and is similar to the French raison d’être. In a simplified approach, it is the sweet spot between 4 elements:
      * what you love,
      * what you’re good at,
      * what the world needs,
      * and what you can get paid for.
      Draw the figure and write at least 10 key words in each circle, then formulate and find opportunities in the overlap. For more elaborate guidance, visit Aly Juma’s blog on Ikigai.
    2. Purpose statement
      A purpose statement is one sentence that declares what, who, and how you want to serve the world. As heavy as that sounds, I assure you it is not and I'm publishing a step-by-step guide on How to Craft a Purpose Statement in 2 weeks.
    3. The Soon CV
      This is an amazing exercise that I was introduced to by Lorenzo De Rita from The Soon Institute when we invited him to speak at our Intropreneurship course.
      The Soon CV is a visual draft of what your resume will look like in say 5, 10, 20 years from now. Think about it: What jobs will you have had, what experiences? Where will you have lived? Will you study more, learn any new languages, other new skills? What did you achieve? What did you leave behind?
      So actually draw or design that CV, your Soon CV, and have a go at answering those questions. Once you know what you want, you can reverse-engineer.
    4. What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich?
      The shit sandwich is about what sacrifices you’re willing to make in life. Read more on the shit sandwich concept and these 7 strange questions that help you find your life purpose both by Mark Manson, author of the contemporary classic “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”.
    5. What would you do if money and skill were no object?
      We’ve all heard this question, but have you ever given this blue sky thinking any real thought? I think you should.
    6. Meditative questions
      A great way of active self-inquiry is by answering, perhaps by writing, what we call meditative questions. I have collected a list of 70+ Meditative Questions for you to try out.
    7. Flow
      If you’re not familiar with flow theory, have a quick read on it here. What was the last time you experienced flow state? During what kind of activities do you experience flow? How could you integrate more of these activities into your work and life? How could you make other activities more flow-inviting (i.e. by taking on more difficult challenges or by doing them with new attention)?
    8. MVP
      MVP is the abbreviation for Most Valuable Player in basketball or sports in general, but in the context of lean start-up methodologies, it stands for Minimum Viable Product. It’s about creating something that delivers the key value with minimal resources, more commonly known as a prototype, draft or even sketch.When you think about what you want to go out and do, what could be the smallest, most bare and most basic version of it? How could you implement and start testing this version of your idea, plan or change today? Although the MVP concept is mostly used in business design, it can just as well be applied to life design.
    9. Circle 5 things
      I can’t remember where I read this, but I remember its message. If you feel like you’re lacking focus and are drowning in ideas (as I usually am), this simple exercise can help. Write down without stopping a list of all the ideas and concepts floating around in your mind. Now in under 30 seconds, circle 5 things. That’s it.
    10. Not-to-do list
      In the same way we make to-do lists or weekly goals, you can incorporate not-to-do and un-goals. Try it for a week and see how it works for you. For me it has worked if it’s the type of to-do list that you keep around all the time, …..
    11. Design the system, not the result
      If you read my newsletter, you’ve already seen the Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead post by James Clear come by. He presents a refreshing approach to the traditional goal-setting that focuses on iterative systems and focused effort rather than its direct outcomes and hitting targets.In other words: focus on the journey, not the destination; focus on the work, not the rewards. Very valuable to try out if you find yourself frustrated with your current progress. I’m experimenting with it at the moment and would love to hear how it works for you!
    12. Core values
      We all generally want the same things, but don’t prioritize them all alike. When it really comes down to it, what do you choose? Truly care about? Measure yourself and other against?
    13. Virtue chart
      This was originally Benjamin Franklin’s technique but I’m sure he doesn’t mind us using it. I’ll be writing a post on this soon so until then just read Aly Juma's post on Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtue Chart to get familiar with the concept. Then use your own core values from the previous excessive to draw up and keep your own chart.
    14. Describe your perfect day
      Close your eyes and visualize the moment you wake up, on your perfect day. What would your morning routine be like? How would you spend the day? Where would you spend your time? When would you work? Who would you meet with? It’s a classic exercise but I relate it strongly to Alex Wolf, who is the queen of life design and manifesting her perfect days.
    15. Make a vision board
      This is the fun part! A vision board is a collage with visual inspirations for your future. Go through either print magazines or Tumblr/Pinterest/Gram feeds and gather images that represent or symbolize your future self, your future life. How would your future self act? Speak? Think? Spend their days? What would they wear, watch, read, and listen to? Who would they spend time with?
      Craft all your images into a collage and when you’re done getting crafty, keep the vision board somewhere you see it so it may remind you daily where you’re heading. You can also make boards for more specific themes like work or travel, or do them yearly either to forecast or reflect. By visualizing and giving attention to it, we are bringing it into our own and other’s awareness. Watch this amazing TED talk by Dan Gilbert on the psychology of your future self and how visualizing our future selves can help us make better decisions today.
    16. Write a letter to your future self
      We can delve further into the concept of the future self. Another way of doing this, in addition or instead of the vision board, is by writing a letter to your future self, as this Medium post by Tré Wee beautifully chronicles and inspires.
    17. What’s your narrative?
      What is the story you tell yourself and others about your life? What’s the theme you narrate your identity around? What’s your journey about? Watch this great video from The School Of Life on How to Narrate Your Life Story.
    18. Business Model You
      This is the personal version of the infamous Business Model Canvas. The BMC is a visual tool that helps you create a comprehensive business plan in one-page, and if you’re curious you can read more about it in my post later. But for now, we’re looking at the individual translation of the BMC: the Business Model You: A One-Page Method For Reinventing Your Career, which you can use to design, instead of your business, your career.
    19. Momento mori
      A little morbidity can go a long way. If we are fearful, the awareness of our own mortality can be a great guide. So fast forward to you laying on your death bed: what would you want to look back upon? Leave behind? At your funeral, what would you want people to say? To remember?
    20. Energy tracker
      For a week, keep a mood and energy tracker. Try to keep account of which activities, environments, people, interactions, places and objects give or which cost you(mental, physical, emotional, spiritual) energy. Of which elevate and which lower your mood. There’s a bunch of apps to do this, one is Daylio (both for Android and iOS). It’s quite an intensive process to do this for a week but if you’re thorough, the insights pay off. Once you’ve gotten into the habit of evaluating where you spend your energies, it will become as a second nature.
    21. Sit and breathe and listen
      This list wouldn’t be complete without a reference to meditation. It is true that you already have the answers inside you. You simply need to learn to listen. Although it isn’t so simple in reality, it is well-worth the effort. Sit and breathe. Be still and observe all the thoughts that emerge. Listen. If you’d like some guidance, I’m a big fan of the app Headspace by Andy ….. The first ten 10-minute sessions are free, and perfect to get you started on your meditation practice.
    22. Last resort
      If you feel without any hope and just want someone to give you the fucking answers, the guys over at WTF Should I Do With My Life will have some ideas for you.

There we are.

A list of 20+ life design exercises empowering you to be your own life coach and help you build the life you aspire.

I'd love to hear about it if you try some of the exercises and how they worked for you!

If you have any suggestions to add to the list please leave a comment so we can collect all the goodies in one place.


With love,

Why Deriving an Innovation Department is Not Enough / Why Innovation Should Not Be Its Own Department

*This commentary on the innovation department was written as an assessment product for the course of Academic Writing, part of my bachelor program International Business Innovation Studies.

  1. Introduction to Corporate Innovation
  2. Innovation Enablers & Disablers
  3. Three Factors of The Innovation Department Reconsidered
  4. A Case for the Innovation Department
  5. Concluding
  6. Sources

1. Introducing

The economy has been going through some major shifts in the past few years after the economical recession of 2008. Concepts of employment are moving towards the gig economy, we see crowdfunding as a grassroots alternative to once having to find an VC and app start-ups are no longer a Silicon Valley hype, but an integral part of our economy. Simultaneously, as consumers are generally more informed, have access to a seemingly infinite variety of products from all over the world and are constantly bombarded with advertising; they are growing more demanding.
As an answer to the demands of a rapidly-changing economy and consumer, and the decreasing revenues they have been suffering, many companies have begun to acknowledge the importance of innovation and the dynamic capabilities necessary to manifest and apply it.

On the contrary to the recent struggles of corporations, start-ups have been thriving and going through a significant growth. Corporations have been eager to adopt some of their unorthodox practices, such as flat organization structures and self-organizing teams, that fuel start-up culture in an attempt to emulate their innovative qualities. Businesses have been implementing a variety of interventions such as workshops and hackathons and are embracing SCRUM, lean startup and design thinking processes in the hope that they will become better.

Some corporations have gone as far as to launch dedicated innovation departments that will ensure the innovative quality of the company. Although the commitment present and the effort well-intended, the innovation department might not be the solution to all corporation’s innovation needs. The isolated department in itself contradicts some of the core elements of innovation its capabilities and hence, may not be the most discerning path to innovation at all.

In this paper we will continue to explore the paradox of the innovation department in the context of the corporation.

2. Innovation Enablers & Disablers

As we have started to contribute more research to the fields of innovation management and creativity in the past years, a few factors continue to be attributed as major enablers or disablers of innovation. Although there are plenty of different, and sometimes contradicting, models, there are similarities to be found in all of them. The challenge then, for any corporation, would be figuring out how to integrate and eradicate those factors within the organization’s workforce.

In the following chapter, we will look at three of these influencing factors and compare them to the conditions of an innovation department.

The first is Cross-disciplinary Creativity.
It has shown that in order for innovative ideas to come about, creativity is key. The need for people with creative minds will be taken care of in the recruitment process. But the environment that they require in order to function optimally, will have to be provided by the corporation. Cross-disciplinary teams and encounters are a major enabler of innovation and are often what sparks those winning ideas. This is also known as the water cooler or coffee machine effect. Should innovation be its own department, these encounters will be harder to come by.

The second is Employee Knowledge.
Those that interact with your customers most, understand them best. Often times, this is not management, nor the marketing team; but the people picking up the phone, replying emails and helping the customer with their everyday concerns. The power of (latent) employee knowledge often goes untapped in large corporations, and with that a lot of potential value could go lost. Some corporations acknowledged as a missed opportunity and have created channels for any of the employees to propose ideas and innovations. These have reaped great results so far and I propose to continue down this path of full participation, and facilitate that shift, rather than leave innovation matters in the hands of ‘a lucky few’.

The third is Employee Ownership & Implementation.
As great the ideas the innovation department can think up and develop, an innovation is not successful if the implementation fails. Since the implementation’s success ultimately relies on the employee's willingness to change or participate, they are the key to innovation. People are more likely to be engaged in change, in this case the implementation of interventions and new ideas in the company, when they have a sense of ownership; for example if they’ve been actively involved in the process prior. This engagement is very important to get the employees to successfully put the innovation into practice and to to get access to the employees', sometimes latent, knowledge that we mentioned before.

3. Three Factors of The Innovation Department Reconsidered

3.1 Cross-disciplinary Creativity

A crucial factor to both the ideation, development and implementation phases within the innovation process is the level of creativity of the people involved. Creativity being largely defined as; the use of the imagination or original ideas, we may re-consider the opportunities most employees perceive in regards to creativity within the company, and question how many people truly employ their creative capabilities on a daily basis within their current role.

Following, we may want to further investigate the relation between creativity and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Creative ideas occur when seemingly unlikely concepts cross-pollinate. We may question how likely such ideas are to occur in an environment where the same people spend 40 hours a week in the same room. Even if they all have varied backgrounds, some effects of the filter bubble will become apparent. In contrast, if we would put employees together who may work for the same customer or same product but have never spoken before due to the fact they are in a different department ‘silo’, unexpected insights are almost guaranteed to materialize.

A study examining creativity and innovation implementation in work groups, confirms that diversity of knowledge and skills is a powerful predictor of innovation, but integrating group processes and competencies are needed to enable the fruits of this diversity to be harvested (West, 2002).

As we move toward a more human-centered approach, corporations must understand that the departments once put in place for the purpose of organizational effectivity may be barriers in the pursuit of understanding, and ultimately designing holistic and coherent experiences for the users. The most meaningful customer experiences are manifested when the different disciplines meet one another, and discuss about the project at hand, or seemingly unrelated topics that may in one way or another spark a burst of inspiration with the other.

A study on cross-disciplinary collaboration states that creative collaborations that cross disciplinary boundaries are essential to innovation (Joyce, Jennings, Hey, Grossman & Kalil, 2010). It is to be argued whether cross-disciplinary collaboration is the only way to innovation, but so far most research considers it one of the pillars of dynamic organizations.

3.2 Employee Knowledge

Employee empowerment through activation of latent knowledge.

Before corporations turn to the initiation of an innovation department in the prospect of creating new value, management should consider the untapped potential that is already present within the organization.

Researchers Drejer, Christensen and Ulhøi argue that many organizations possess a bundle of unexploited resources, and that one such resource is the knowledge held by the employees. They point to the intrapreneur as a knowledge worker, and claim that it is paramount that we begin to understand the relationships between knowledge, knowledge management, innovation management and intrapreneurship (Drejer, Christensen, & Ulhoi, 2004). Learning in organizations occurs when individuals within an organization experience a problematical situation and inquire into the problem on the organization’s behalf (Argyris & Schön, 1997).

Considering this resource, we can conclude that unlocking the knowledge of the employees is the key to organizational learning. In the light of human-centered design, it is the people who work in the organization and interact with the customers and employees day after day that carry the insights. They understand the needs of the users, the bottlenecks in the processes and the unspoken agreements within the department’s culture. This may not always be apparent and they themselves might not even be aware of the value of their experiences. Potentially they are also uncomfortable or unable of truly expressing and acting upon their ideas. A lot of hidden innovation power lies here. In general, the contribution from employees to organizational development and innovation is underestimated and under-explored (Åmo, B. W., 2005).

As the innovation department is focused solely on developing new ventures, rather than managing existing ones, this abundance of everyday, yet invaluable information would miss them. When there is no system for employee innovation, this information is likely to be disregarded altogether. In order to prevent this and make use of this latent knowledge, management is tasked to create an environment that encourages the sharing and development of ideas. The innovation labs can of course help facilitate and assist in this process, yet to increase organizational learning and innovation capabilities, it can not be that they, or anyone, are the sole source of innovation within the company. In general, the contribution from employees to organizational development and innovation is underestimated and under-explored (Åmo, B. W., "Employee Innovation Behavior”, 2005).

3.3 Employee Ownership & Implementation

As great the ideas the innovation department can think up and develop, an innovation is not successful if the implementation fails.

A study on making innovation happen concluded the following: In changing work environments, innovation is imperative. Yet, many teams and organizations fail to realize the expected benefits of innovations that they adopt. A key reason is not innovation failure but implementation failure—the failure to gain targeted employees' skilled, consistent, and committed use of the innovation in question (Klein & Knight, 2005).

Since the implementation’s success ultimately relies on the employee's willingness to change or participate, they are the key to innovation. People are more likely to be engaged in change, in this case the implementation of interventions and new ideas in the company, when they have been actively involved in the process prior. This engagement is very important to get the employees to successfully put things into practice and to to get access to the employees', sometimes latent, knowledge that we mentioned before.

Research on innovation implementation states that implementation effectiveness—the consistency and quality of targeted organizational members’ use of an innovation—is a function of (a) the strength of an organization's climate for the implementation of that innovation and (b) the fit of that innovation to targeted users’ values (Klein & Sorra, 1996).

Involving the employees in multiple phases of the innovation department strengthens the full cycle. Because they help ideate, they are more engaged in the implementation process. Because they exercise the implementations, they can propose valuable iterations and new ideas along the way. Altogether, the employees will take more ownership of the interventions and this will make the implementations more successful.

4. A Case for the Innovation Department

Regardless of its shortcomings, there is certainly something to say for the case of launching an innovation department. Doing so, certainly is proof of the right intent and spreads awareness on innovation into the company, it is a better move than not taking any action at all. The innovation department does little to no harm and can serve as a symbol of change.

In addition, this intervention is much quicker, cheaper, and overall more efficient and straight-forward than the quest of embedding innovation capabilities in every level of the company; a process that poses many challenges and can take up to a decade. Although not a final solution, the innovation department certainly is a powerful way to kickstart the care for innovation within the company.

5. Concluding

Concluding, innovation labs certainly are useful, but we can not regard them as one-stop-shop to innovation capabilities. They are a quick and effective strategy, but not a sustainable one. If a company aims to truly thrive as a business, they must understand innovation is more important than efficiency in the long term strategy.

Yet, neither is overnight radical employee participation and open innovation. The solution lies in a combination of both strategies, one for the short- and one for the long-term. The innovation department can create a lot of value by moving towards a facilitating role whereas the employees can create a lot more value by participating actively and creatively. Ultimately, this is not a pledge against innovation departments, but rather a call not to settle and not to stop the pursuit of innovation there.











6. Sources

Åmo, B. W. (2005). Employee Innovation Behavior (doctoral thesis). Bodø Graduate School of Business. Retreived from

Argyris, C., & Schön, D. A. (1997). Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective. Reis. Retreived from

Drejer, A., Christensen, K. S., & Ulhoi, J. P. (2004). Understanding intrapreneurship by means of state-of-the-art knowledge management and organisational learning theory. International Journal of Management and Enterprise Development (IJMED) 1(2). Retreived from

Joyce, C. K., Jennings, K. E., Hey, J., Grossman, J. C., & Kalil, T. (2010). Getting Down to Business: Using Speedstorming to Initiate Creative Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration. Creativity and Innovation Management 19(1). Retreived from

Klein, K. J., & Sorra, J. S. (1996). The Challenge Of Innovation Implementation. Academy of Management Review 21(4). Retreived from

Klein, K. J., & Knight, A. P. (2005). Innovation Implementation, Overcoming the Challenge. Current Directions in Psychological Science 14(5). Retreived from

Unsworth, K. L., Brown, H., & McGuire, L. (2000) Employee innovation: The roles of idea generation and idea implementation. Institute of Work Psychology. University of Sheffield. Retreived from

West, M. A. (2002). Sparkling Fountains or Stagnant Ponds: An Integrative Model of Creativity and Innovation Implementation in Work Groups. Applied Psychology 51(3). Retreived from

Where I Chill, Work and Meet Up when in Athens (20+ Personal Favs)

UPDATED: in August 2017, added my new favs to the list.

Athens has in a short time become as my second home.

Two of my closer friends, and members of Da Shogunz (the Hip Hop label I’ve been co-managing), both re-located to Greece. Me loving my crew and exploring new places alike, it couldn’t take long for me to go visit.

As summer holiday came around and school allowed me off, I seized this as the perfect opportunity to launch a month-long getaway to Greece, and mostly Athens. I invited along my beloved queenfriend Bibi, and we had the most magical and dream-like time as we seemed to meet the most kind-hearted people, eat the most nourishing meals and see the most astonishing views, continuously.

By winter break, we went back to celebrate New Years. Completely different vibes and snow for the first time in 10 years of Athenian history, but it was super chill again. In summer 2017 I went again, for 6 weeks this time. Is it obvious? I'm fucking hooked.

Something about the vibe in this city gets at me.

The contrast between its rich history and deprived contemporary; between the polished and protected Monastiraki and the anarchy-ruled Exarchia; between the lacking ability to speak english, but abundant means to welcome you anyway. And then there’s the tzatziki, the moussaka, the periptero’s, the rake’s, the temples, the alphabet, the parks, the sun and the water. Maybe it’s just something in the air.

Stating the obvious: I love Athens, and want to share some of my personal favorite spots in the city with you. These are none of the usual suspects (which are also lovely, but I reckon you can find in a 10-min google sesh) but rather a collection of my own hotspots in the city.

Without further ado:
20+ of my personal favorite spots in Athens

Monastiraki - Plaka

Forget Me Not (100 Adriannou St)
This is hands-down the cutest shop in town with all sorts of design items, gifts and original souvenirs.

Impact Hub (Karaiskaki 28)
If you're looking for an inspiring and spacious co-working space, mingle with the entrepreneurial community at the local Impact Hub.

Six Dogs (Avramiotou 6-8)
The backyard bar at Six Dogs is everything. Perfect place to cool out with home-made watermelon juice and greenery all around you.

The Art Foundation (TAF) (Normanou 5)
- bar on the picture (from this The Travel Porter article with more great bars in Athens)
TAF is a bomb coffee and cocktail bar with mini exhibitions around and a small but beautiful shop. So easy to miss if you don't know about it.

Poems 'n crimes (Agias Irinis 17)
Another art bar for either drinks or daytime coffees and reading.

wander-abouts in Monastiraki + Plaka
If you exit Monastiraki metro stop, you’re right at the heart of the centre from where you can roam freely around Monastiraki and Plaka, the 'old city'.

Syntagma Square & Parliament (Pl. Sintagmatos)
Syntagma Square is one of the central squares of the city. At the end of it is the Parliament where, with the right timing, you can get a chance to see the changing if shifts of the guards.

21 grams (Petraki 10)
Once you’re done exploring, head down to 21 Grams; a tiny but atmospheric cocktail bar, amidst a few cute streets, that is owned by people with good taste in music. They also serve coffee in the daytime.


Kalimarmero, also known as the Panathenaic Stadium, has been used for various Olympian ceremonies and is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble.
+ Local secret: If you go around the back of the stadium there is an alternate entrance there from where you can get on top of the stadium and even walk onto a small hill, quiet with awesome views on the city.

• Hotel Chelsea
In the street of Kallimarmero's back entrance, there is a bar called hotel Chelsea. On summer nights, the outdoor seating is super vibrant and it’s a nice place to have a drink that often hosts local DJ’s.

Elvis Souvlakia
When you’ve done spent all your money on booz, right next to Hotel Chelsea is the perfect spot to get a little budget snack if you get hungry (and are not vegetarian). They have a bomb souvlaki with some bread and fries for only 1,50.

Superfly (Empedokleous 28)
A bit further down is another bar that serves cocktails, is named after a Curtis Mayfield joint and is entirely in retro-90’s interior style. They pay hommage to their name and I have never heard them play a wack song once when I was there.

• Plateia Varnava
In 3-minute walking distance from all these spots, is Plateia Varnava, the central square of the area where you can grab food, drinks, or something from the periptero (greek kiosk). It’s like a community meeting point where many locals from the area and of all ages chill on the benches on summer nights.
Local secret: Being from Amsterdam, this blew my mind: you can ask at any of the bars for your drinks to take-away. Instead of glass, you will get your Long Island or Jack on Ice in a quintessential take-away coffee cup. We used to do this and take them down to Plateia Varanava and chill there until early hours.

Bar The Way (Effranoros 40)
The coffee friendly priced, the cocktails delicious and the jazz music soothing, I like bar The Way for take-away coffees and laptop work.


nourishment in Exarchia’s Κιματοθραύστης (Char. Trikoupi 49)
The ladies here don’t speak a word of English, but the quality of the food needs no language. For a humble 4 or 6 euros you can fill your plate from an assortment of freshly cooked, authentic Greek soul-foods.

Navarinou Park (Zoodochou Pigis 26)
Exarchia is not just any neighborhood, but ran by anarchy. Cobs are not tolerated and expensive cars destroyed. Just down from the food spot, is a small park where you can chill and sometimes student events take place.
+ Local secret: There's a reason they sometimes refer to this place as little Amsterdam. If you would want to obtain or smoke a spliff, this would be the spot.

• streetart in Exarchia + Psirri
These two neighborhoods are great to just wander around as there is streetart on practically every block.

Get away to the islands


With a 1-hour drive and 1-hour ferry you can be right on the island of Agistri. Known as somewhat of a hippie island and embracing that classic Greek island vibe, this is a great place to take a break from the big city life. If you bring a tent and sleeping bag, there's places you can set up shop for free, lie underneath the shade of the trees, and take a morning shower in the beautiful sea there, which is exactly what we did. It was beautiful and I'd recommend anyone to take a one or two night stay there while you're around.



If you visit Ikaria, you might scout some pieces of my heart that I left there. This island, with its slow yet natural pace of happenings, has left an impression on me like very few places do. It's a longer ferry trip than Agistri or Spetses (7 hours instead of 1), but the ride is well worth it. My friend and talented writer Kristina Headrick, who I spent the week there with, posted this perfect round-up on how to best explore and enjoy the island of Ikaria on her blog Delphi Reclaimed.


National Library of Greece (Panepistimiou 32)
This row of buildings is great to admire.

Tiki bar (Falirou 15)
Tiki-style cocktail bar with live DJ sets.

Dildo tattoo studio (Nefelis 10 , Palaio Faliro)
If you want to get a tattoo during your stay, this is the spot. I got 3 of my ink works here. The crew that works there are amongst the coolest and nicest people I’ve met in Greece and they are very good at what they do. Oh and they play Wu-Tang in the shop which is mad points.

• Gazi
This is the mainstream clubbing area. Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it (also ‘cause I’m a partypooper), if you end up in this area don’t give up too quickly. We asked around for some Hip Hop parties and ended up not returning home until 9 in the morning haha. Extra benefit: you can eat souvlaki’s here even at 6 in the morning.

• the hills
There are many hills and mountains in the direct surroundings of the city that are easily accessible by car and perfect places to chill. The views are everything.

• chilling in the house with E-food
In Athens, you can order practically anything from e-food to your door. And with anything I mostly mean: coffee. I'm a sucker for the morning double cappuccino deliveries, the fresh juices and the late-night Nutella crepes. Dangerous habit, this one.

+ corny souvenir shopping is done at Ifestou
If you turn left, you enter what they call the flea market, but what really is primarily a souvernir shopping area. Although nothing crazy (except for that one bead shop that has a dinosaur park in the back; wtf?!), it’s a good spot to grab some affordable physical memories of your trip.

Bam, there it is. Wonderful Athens.
You'll surely have a beautiful time there.

I’m sure to return to Athens again sooner rather than later so if you have any more hotspots to recommend, or you yourself are located in Athens and would like to meet up, reach out :)

Enjoy! αντίο!

Creating your future from your core: What we do in our Intropreneurship class

If you follow me on the Gram, you’ve seen me share pictures and videos of the Intropreneurship classes on my feed and stories. If we’re connected on LinkedIn, you’ve seen the job title update. And if we’re real-life homies, you probably heard me say I need to prepare or teach a class a bunch of times.

I’m happy to see these snippets spark the curiosity and to receive questions over email and DM asking things like “am I a teacher?”, “what exactly is it that I teach?”, and “why doesn’t it look anything like a regular class?” (alternate version: “wtf is all this cool shit you’re doing?”).

And that is what this post will be about. I’d like to introduce our Intropreneurship class and some of the vision that supports it; explain what it is we teach, why we believe it matters and perhaps; why it doesn’t look anything like a regular class. And feel free to ask more questions as I’ll be happy to tell you more about what we do there. For those with an interest but limited time, I present to you: the Intropreneurship Aftermovie. In this 2-minute film we have the students speak on their experiences throughout the program and what it did for them. Peep it below and see what we've been pouring our souls and energies into these last few months:

I say we because this class is a team effort. I am fortunate to co-design and co-teach this course with my partner in crime and mentor Sandra Reeb-Gruber; educational innovator and the founder and driving force behind IBIS. She asked me to be part of this class last fall, and we’ve been happily creating and carrying it out as a team ever since.

To name our program we coined the term Intropreneur, and logically called the course Intropreneurship, which we define as:

Intropreneur [\ˈin-(ˌ)trō-p(r)ə-ˈnər, -ˈn(y)u̇r\]
noun, plural introtrepreneurs [/in-troh-pruh-nurz, -noo rz/]
a person who organizes and manages themselves, taking on greater than normal personal risk in order to do so.

The blind spot of education

If all goes well during our studies, we graduate with a bachelor or master degree. What’s still missing is knowledge of self, and clear ideas on what we wish to pursue, or refrain from, in our careers and lives. Although education equips us with a wide scope of knowledge and skills, we are left with some very big questions to figure out for ourselves.

    What kind of job would I like, and would suit me? What are my talents? What am I passionate about? What are my core values? How important is my career to me? Which environments do I best perform in?

Our ability to explore and find the answers to these questions determines our success these days more than our grade lists do. Yet somewhere along the line, it was decided that it is not the responsibility of schools to occupy themselves and the curriculum with such questions.

We disagree with that notion.

Personal + professional development as one

This is why we started our Intropreneurship program. In this 10-week course, an elective of the International Business Innovation Studies, we help a group of 25 students find their own answers to exactly those questions.

It is built on the premises that:

  • self-knowledge is the most important leadership knowledge
  • personal and professional development go hand in hand
  • that success is only experienced as such if it is in line with our core values.

The journey of Intropreneurship: inspired by Theory U

Through a journey of guided self-exploration and reflection, we seek to map their talents, values, passions and dreams, but also their enablers and disablers. We gently push them out of their comfort zones with the experiences and exercises, all contributing to them growing an image of themselves that is both affirming and sensible - will help them navigate the path ahead.

We draw inspiration from and tap into a bunch of theories, methods and sources but one of the key models to guide the Intropreneurship process is that of Theory U, a management model developed by Otto Scharmer and meant to inspire authentic leadership (illustrated in the drawing below).

Following the U-shape as illustrated here:

  • the first part of the program is about acknowledging the existing,
  • the second part about interpreting the emerging,
  • and the final part about manifesting the new.

This process isn’t just about gathering more knowledge and skills, but very much about seeing what’s already there, and expanding from there.

By the end of it, each student will channel their insights into a passion-driven project that is in line with their goals and priorities. They will start and build this venture during the class and hopefully, continue it beyond.

Outside-in vs inside-out entrepreneurship

The usual approach to entrepreneurship is outside-in. You scout for market opportunities and unsaturated user needs which your company could provide for. There is nothing wrong with this process, but it is not the only way.

The other approach, and the one we support in our Intropreneurship program, is an inside-out approach. Starting from the individuals' talents, passions and goals, and moving from there to see and experiment with what kind of business endeavor would fit.

"A leader needs to know his strengths as a carpenter knows his tools, or as a physician knows the instruments at her disposal" - Dr. Donald O. Clifton (from Strengths Based Leadership)

Knowing and guiding one's self

We believe the skill of knowing and guiding one’s self has always been crucial to success, but is only becoming more important in our 21st-century context, amidst all the changes, choices, freedoms and ambiguities that characterize our era. But we all know that this is a daunting task, and without the right tools, mindset and guidance; perhaps even an impossible one.

So that’s what our Intropreneurship class is about: providing that and empowering this group of talented students to live up to their potential and live life on their own terms, in harmony with, and ultimately capitalizing on, the developments around them. To help them know themselves, own up to their greatness and go out and manifest it. To create their future from their core.


Together we thrive: a word for our sponsors

And me and Sandra can’t take all the credit. We’ve had the privilege of enjoying amazing guest lectures by the likes of Boukje Vastbinder (Noorderwind) on rapid prototyping techniques, Lorenzo de Rita (The Soon Institute) on the SoonCV, Nuray Gokalp (GlobalTech.City) on the fusion of passions, and learn from both their personal and professional insights. We visited inspiring companies such as Shapeways, Singularity University, Dutch Design Week, Sport eXperience, Enversed on our trip to Eindhoven that gave the students real-life insights on how companies work, and what their role in it might be. We undertook the life-changing Nature Quest experience with Martin Cadee and Roos Moll to discover what is present when all distractions are stripped away. And we were invited by the kind people of Clubs & Subs in De Sloot to host some of our sessions in their dynamic working environment, and away from the classrooms. I want to thank you all so much for your contributions.

And in addition to that I want to give a major shout-out to all my students. There are few things more rewarding than the sensation of helping others, and witnessing others grow and get value from what you have created and facilitated for them. And I'm learning and experiencing so many wonderful things in the process myself; learning both from my own doing, the students' feedback and the collaboration with Sandra, and not unimportantly: enjoying the ride.

Altogether, it’s been a very exciting journey full of inspiration, sharing, connecting, growth, surprises and lifelong memories. And we’re not even done yet :)

That's what we've been doing and what Intropreneurship has been all about in a (rather large) nutshell. Let me know your thoughts on our program, if you have any questions, if you'd like to collaborate or feel free to share your own ideas on what the future of education might (/should) look like. Thank you for reading and always keep learning + teaching!

Why Humanity Will Remain Relevant - In Spite Of (Mass) AI Employment

Being a vivid blog reader when it comes to the topics of innovation and futurism, last week I came across a handful of headlines reading "Elon Musk says humans must become cyborgs to stay relevant. Is he right?" on The Guardian, “Elon Musk Says Humans Need to Merge With Machines to Remain Relevant” on Fortune and “Humans MUST merge with machines or we'll become REDUNDANT', warns Elon Musk” on The Express.

Elon spoke on the impact of AI during his appearance at the World Government Summit 2017 in Dubai and as usual, Musk's statements were the source of ample discussion and plenty coverage. These interpretations underline the general consensus of perceiving AI as a threat, and are based in logical fallacies. You can watch the full talk here if you like, or continue to read my concerns on these misconstrued headlines. 

Although most of the articles cover some nuances and quotes from the transcript when you read further into them, the alarming headlines themselves carry a strong implication that I believe requires a second thought and will elaborate on in this post.

What Elon said is that
"If humans want to continue to add value to the economy, they must augment their capabilities through a “merger of biological intelligence and machine intelligence”.

Elon is confirming our redundancy in terms of employment, once AI will take over the work and be able to perform our tasks better, faster and cheaper than we do. The question that logically follows in the minds of most is "will we no longer be relevant then?".  And with regards to the economy, indeed we won't.

But although he clearly states the redundancy of our employment, he does not conclude humanity irrelevant. I believe making that jump - as the preceding headlines do - is problematic, as it implies that we have no other value than that created by our employment. Only if we limit the relevance of humanity to economic terms, we could possibly lose relevance. This logic isn't foreign to me, nor hard to follow, but it is concerning.

Has consumerism succeeded in making us believe that our value relies solely on our productivity? That our relevance is dictated by our employability? The headlines certainly make it seem so, yet all we have to do is to pause and think, to realize that this is false.

Employability, as an enabler of consumerism, is one of the cornerstones that our society is built upon. It's what gives structure to our days, weeks and years. It's what’s provides a shared goal in terms of economic growth. It's what gives us some sort of hierarchy in a world where physical strength alone no longer yields much. Without taking any stance towards consumerism, it has provided us with an incentive; something to chase; something to achieve; something to strive for.

Someday soon we will indeed, lose our relevance to the economy, the construct that we have become so occupied with. And hence we will indeed, need to employ a new construct to give meaning to our existence and structure to our societies. From where I’m standing people embody many more dimensions, some of which we can again begin to explore once we free ourselves from the burden of work.

In a world of workaholism and paper chasing, perhaps we can imagine AI employment as a relief rather than a threat. It’s likely to free up an abundance of time and space for us to express, to connect, to learn and grow, to make sense of the world and give meaning to our lives.

Even though our employability will lose all its relevance, I argue that our existence will not. I daresay it’s possible that outsourcing work to our artificial overlords will allow us to rediscover what it means to be human; therefore making humanity all the more ‘relevant’. What do you think?


How To Live Well in Small Spaces (like, 22m small)

The housing search ruled my personal life and anxieties for the past while. Weeks and months of effort, with seemingly no results, and accompanied by a deadly extensive daily commute to school passed, one more depressing than the other; but at last, the patience and perseverance paid off. After a 5-month treasure-hunt in the disastrous housing market of Amsterdam I have finally found myself a place.

As we speak, I am writing this in my home, comfortably seated on my zafu, with a view of my personal library and items collected from all over the world, SZA playing through the speaker and a cup of hot green tea waiting next to me. Looking something like this:

Over the last 5 years I have lived in over 20 places, and although a big advocate of nomadding around the globe, I recently started to witness this deep desire of wanting to have a place to call home. Emotionally, going through that switch still feels unreal, but for today I’d like to zoom in on the practical challenges the space offered.

Because here is the catch: it is small. It is, very small. You know those cute apartments they have at the IKEA showroom to display creative solutions for making the most out of your small space? Those are like 45m. I now live on 22m, exactly half of those. This includes everything; the bathroom, kitchen, living room, bedroom, wardrobe, all of it.

So I have to keep it real with you; the first time I came into this place my heart dropped an inch; although super happy to have just any place, I had no idea how to make this work. Besides the size it has the awkward dimensions of 2 x 10, which eventually turned out to be a strength but at first sight just made it look like a narrow and lengthy hallway. The previous owners clearly didn’t care to clean much and the dark grey walls in combination with the gray flooring did not make it seem any more appealing.

Determined to make the best of it; a true extreme home make-over project commenced. And we fucking made it work. IKEA absolutely saved my ass, with a bit of assistance of Flying Tiger and Sostrene Grene, and of course the hands of the men in my life and a sprinkle of my own creativity to actually manifest it all.

Looking around now, I absolutely lovelovelove what we have managed to create here. And so I thought to share some best practices for anybody facing the same struggles. Here come 5, plus 2 bonus, tips on how to live well in a small space:

1. Let the light in

Before anything, I (and my team of sweet/helpful friends) painted all the walls white to make it look more clean and spacious. The smaller the space, the more crucial the role of light. In whatever I did I made sure not to obstruct my two windows so as much daylight as possible can find its way in.

2. Think vertical (like urban planning)

My first insight was this. Like a city that is lacking ground to build on, they go up in the air, starting to build flats and rooftop terraces. This same exact principle applies to any space. I realized I had to switch my perspective to focus on the space on the walls rather than the space on the floor. This got implemented in the form of high furnitures and storage even on top of those, a whole lot of floating shelves, some racks, even hanging plants from the ceiling opposed to placing pots. However you apply this is up to you of course, but the insight really helped me to look at the place differently so that I could truly exploit every inch of it.

3. IKEA Expedit / Kallax is everything

Sometimes the simplest designs are the most powerful ones. For me, the IKEA Expedit, in 2014 changed/renamed to Kallax, is one example of that. Providing you with a grid lay-out, these pieces provide a surprising amount of storage space while allowing for a lot of customization so you can close off some spaces and put items on display in others. These can also be perfectly used as room dividers. To make most use of my vertical space I got the biggest edition they have which is the 5x5 grid.

4. Get creative

Get storage under the bed, on top of your furnitures, put hangers on the insides of doors, exploit the room under the sink and in the ‘meter closet’, put boxes below the clothing rack, etc etc etc. Let no inch get wasted.

5. Scale the fuck down

This is key and there’s no better time to unclutter than now. I’ll admit to being quite the hoarder myself, but since a year or so I’ve been scaling down. I’m still and probably never will be anywhere near a minimalist, but it really is a sense of liberation to get rid of all these excessive possessions and ‘baggage’ in a way. Moving into the small space only further promoted this development so that’s actually a good thing. So the advice is rather simple here; throw some shit out. Be selective. I did it myself by moving in parts. So instead of moving all my books, clothes and just all stuff, I started by bringing my favorites and living with them for a while before bringing in more. If you have no idea how to start de-hoarding, stick around for next week’s blog on this. Team unclutter.

+ Flow

Think of how you ‘flow’ through your apartment. What actions you do in a daily, in what sequence, your morning and evening routines. Some things need to be accessed on a daily basis but some items may not be bothered by some obstruction if you only need them every once in a while. You can even hack the space to arrange your things in a way that supports your healthy habits and removes the barriers between you and doing them.

+ Channel your OCD

Make your best attempt at being a neat freak; not necessarily in cleaning but in tidying up the space. Keeping the tables and kitchentops free and most of your stuff neatly tucked away really works miracles.

+ The usual

Contrast. Mirrors. Multifunctional pieces. Fold-able pieces. Glass and see-through items.


Bam. All this, along with my fanatic approach to having plants around, helped me turn my container into a little castle. I hope it helps you do the same :)

Did these tips help you at all? Do you have any to add?
Let me know and have fun building your sanctuary!