Archive for the 'innovation' Category

Last Ecomishmash post

October 23, 2013

Ecomishmash has been my online identity for some time and this blog has been at the centre for reaching out to you. At that time of launching this blog, I was living some distance away from the place called home. The internet is there to make distances a little shorter. So Ecomishmash aimed to bring you closer to my world, my way of thinking. I spend much closer to home last year and Ecomishmash became quieter.

About a week ago, I went back to the UK. I could still vividly remember the last time I was standing on the docks in Dover, waiting for the ferry to the continent whilst the rain washed away the last remainders of the summer of 2012. At that moment I was very conscious I was leaving aspects of my life, slightly affright and sad. But deep inside I knew I had to let go, not to stick to the place.

At my arrival last week, I was dropped off in the centre of London at six in the morning. Memories of the first time I came to the UK came back to my mind. It was on a Sunday morning nine years ago I got off the Eurostar at Waterloo station. I was 20, on my own, naive and immature. My command of English was sub-standard, good enough for travel, but not to live there permanently.

Student accommodations where I lived between 2004-2005 (Uxbridge-London)

I went to sit in Waterloo station for some time, observing and reflecting what has changed over these nine years. That time, commuters were listening to their new iPods, closing themselves off from others whilst texting on their Nokia’s. Now, everyone is being social in the online world whilst ignoring their surroundings. We drink better coffee, electronic tickets make it easier to get on and off the public transport and a diversified selection of free newspapers helps us keep up with the important changes in society. Sorry I am being sarcastic, no major changes happened apart from the Eurostar going to St. Pancras now instead, leaving a death space at the station.

Than I came to the realisation many aspects of me as a person changed from living in the UK. At first I had to change my behaviour according to the system. Use different money, look at the right side to cross the street, speak a different language, get used to different food,… basically it is essential for survival. Shortly after, I became aware of the different norms. I bounced into odd habits like queueing to get in an empty venue or being over polite with strangers. I started to understand the nuances in the language, the manners, how to get something done and also, the humour starts to make sense. After some time living according to this new behaviour and norms, the new environment starts to penetrate deep in my mind. I can say that, apart from getting older, my experience of living in the UK definitely altered the way I look at stability, freedom, ambiguity, privacy, conformity, equality, participation, collaboration, creativity, the outdoors, joy, quality, tradition,

The house where I lived between 2008-2009 (Cranfield-England)

But reflecting back on all the changes over these years, the biggest change happened during the last one and a half years, a change within me. Before this transition-point, my mind was slowly becoming my world and I think this got amplified by being in the UK. I was a knowledge worker and the main thing going on in my life was mental activity, including; fighting, forcing, stressing, doubting, wondering, trying, frustrating, exaggerating and a lot of pondering and procrastinating. Even “relaxing” became a tiring mental activity. So even-tough my mind was formally trained, it was still a wild animal. Its diet was a monotone mix of all I could read, hear and taste. Its actions were driven by either wanting or avoiding situations. It was fighting or being exhausted from it, in both cases unable to listen to subtle signals. Signals from my body, the people and environments around me.

I am turning away from this destructive pattern and start to see the world around me much clearer. I am much more aware of my body and the impact of my actions. I seek a balanced lifestyle where both my mind and body can stay healthy, fit and active. I am slowly learning not to let my mind take over my world. Not to waste energy in the fighting but to work patiently on peaceful solutions. To let a big one-off exciting thing for what it is and to appreciate the subtleties in everyday life. I am learning to listen to my body and to use all my senses. I see it as a positive transition.

Galleon way

view from my Cardiff apartment 2009-2012 (Wales)

So last week I went back with a fresh pair of eyes to the place where it all happened. The country where I learned so much, met the most inspiring people, made friends for life, got the wildest natural experiences and cultivated unique values.  The place where I was much more free to be myself, but also drove me to something I was deeply unhappy about, yet couldn’t see.

So what I saw was something I already knew, but never took the impact of it seriously. It is a society on the surface doing well, but suffering under a lot of stress. A society where individuals are being proud of their busy-ness, but getting frustrated with everything slowing them down on their way (cyclist for example). A society where ego’s are cultivated by brands, money, history, narcotics, politics and education.

This stress becomes obvious in the way it gets released. Alcohol, meat, 3G, gadgets, cheap travel, promiscuous fashion, bling-bling, petrol-heats,… very impermanent, addictive and highly valued in British society. Every weekend city centres turn into bonkers. Fashion victims and binge drinking could be seen as the sub-cultures of millennials. But this is only the tip of the iceberg, ‘binge’ is an important ingredient in mainstream British culture. Buy one get one free, meal deals, unlimited watching, go for ‘a’ pint after work, a 3th runway, 4G,…  It is excellent fuel for the economy, but it is not good for body nor mind and undermines the social fabric.

Last weekend was good to reflect on my experiences of living in the UK. Many good values I formed over there will stick, some of those even clash with the values embraced at home, but that is how it is. I am grateful to everyone who made this experience possible to me. I am happy I am creating distance of the destructive behavioural patterns I got involved in and feel compassion for the people who are stuck in it.

The trip helped me realise that in my life, the biggest innovation and the greatest innovator are equal, it is me, myself. I learned not to stick to one place, one set of values or believes and to know when to let go. I am not going to let my experience, wisdom and judgment blocking me from approaching truly new things and rather use it to enjoy more meaningful things.

For me it is also time to let go of Ecomishmash. I enjoyed writing to you and I hope you enjoyed it too. I think Ecomishmash succeeded in creating a ‘mishmash’ i.e. a confused mixture. But I am at a point where I want to create more clarity. Probably this is my last post and hopefully we bump into each other in the real world or find me back under an other online identity.

So long,



British Values

August 12, 2011

A week ago I was chatting with my good friend Jon who used to live in London, but moved back to the New York. We were talking about the different types of stress we noticed on both sides of the pond since we last saw each other. This is a little extract from our conversation:

me: here it’s not about ego

its about liability

Jonathan: ?

22:16 me: there is a lot of stress because the system is going to get stuck soon

22:17 and everyone tries to be according to the system so they can’t be blamed if something will go wrong

Jonathan: how will it get stuck?

22:18 me: the UK is still a mediaeval country

Jonathan: like with knights and horses?

me: the rules just emerged

like everyone made them up gradually

22:19 not like the French, they had Napoleon to clean it all up

and the German had their dark side of history where they thought they could all clean it up

UK never had a revolution

except the industrial one

22:20 so the rules of the country are still mediaeval

Jonathan: hm

me: but that is also good, because it allows people to stay creative

22:29 Jonathan: you’ll have to tell me more about this systemic UK thing later

i gotta go to a beisbol game

Well now we are one week further, we still have food and games but the world has made a significant change again for the forth time or so this year.

Despite I can get very annoyed with the UK (especially when liability takes over common sense), I also like this nation because it gives space and freedom to innovation. I use the following slides sometimes in work-presentations to explain innovation and to illustrate the good and bad sides of innovation.

This brings me to the following scene from Network 1976 and the London basmati looter 2011 (see below).

I haven’t seen the whole movie and I don’t know the context of this looting so my apology if I jump into conclusions here.

People got mad in England the last week and what they are saying is “I am a human being goddamit, my life got value”. Unfortunately innovations in this country have reduced or skewed the understanding of value towards the concept of Tesco Value. Tesco provides value because it’s cheap, but the downfalls are that its not of high quality, you always get more than you need, it creates a lot of waste and it destroys communities. The Brits (with the English on top) love this concept.

The problem in the current British society is that they put young people in a Tesco-value box without looking to the real value inside. We are creating an enormous mess behind us, we are facing an aging population, credit crunches and massive environmental problems. And now we are treating our young people as cheap forces. The question on how to deal with the problems we created will be their problem to solve.

The reason behind my argument about cheap forces is that one of the main innovations in the UK, the 24/7 consumption society, is based on favouring big companies who are not in need of skilful people. Traditional entrepreneurship, by small business where people build up skills, are doomed to fail in this model.

This basmati looter is as mad as hell and he can’t take it any more! In my economic view, what he is saying here is that he can get more value out of a bag of low quality rice than what he would gain from his time within a free society. In my sociological view, what he is saying is that he doesn’t respect Tesco value and he rather go to prison (by being recognisable on the picture) than to put his time in creating value in this society turning around cheapness.

Now Mr. Cameron wants to put some young people in the box of “Parts of our society are not broken but sick” I am not totally clear on how he sees the difference between broken and sick, but I think Mr. Cameron should look further than a few parts of the society.

I would put the looters in the box of skilled people with high potentials for the future society. They have the skills to create social change, be entrepreneurial with a very limited amount of resources (just a mobile phone) and being able to influence communities.

And I would like to finish this post with some good old British humour. What we need is nurturing our kids, not giving the little boy a little scare Mr Cameron.

Apparently I am a post positivist

January 11, 2011

Yesterday, @sharprendeville from the Ecodesign Centre organised an internal meeting on research methods. We had an philosophical discussion on different approaches to science. Apparently I am a post positivist. This is my view on science:

Traditional science tried to explain what makes something common, modern science tries to explain what makes things or us diverse. I think there are huge opportunities for a new field of science by trying to explain what or evolution is. In this, I mean not evolution in terms of biology, but what is the evolution of society? How do we change our ways of thinking? How do we change or artefacts? How do the societal structures change? How do individuals change their behaviour and how does that influence societal change? How does technology influence society and vice versa? How do demographics change and what challenges and opportunities flow from this? How do different cultures understand change? I think I made a point, change is more than “climate change” and “change, yes we can”.

Why is the human brain so big?

January 9, 2011

Why is the human brain so big? Biologists are struggling with this question for ages. Darwin’s theory shows evolution happens gradually. However, a sudden disruption in the brain size appeared about 200.000 years ago. Recently a new theory emerged: A mutation of the brain could have doubled the brain size. This could be the explanation why everyone’s genes are pointing to one ‘earth mother’.

I see design as a process that enables humans and other animals to change their behaviour without having to change their genes. Without design we need to become new species (and evolve) to do new things.
I think the current “genes” of the man made systems are facing a giant mutation. We are facing global warming, a massive decline in biodiversity, massive changes in demographics, digitalisation of the way we think,…

But is this mutation a threat, or does it provide opportunities for humankind to make a giant leap towards something beautiful? Please don’t understand me wrong, I want to point out that the mutation itself is not beautiful, but the reaction could be.

What if the earth was is the middle of its life, are we humans at the top of our capabilities?

YES, we do live in times of prosperity, but NO, this does not mean everything is perfect, far from I would rather say! Why is it so difficult to make plans two years ahead? What if we want to design the society in 10.000 years? How would this look like? Impossible you would say? Look at the start of agriculture. Even though these first farmers were just experimenting, their results defined how our ancestors, we and our children live.

Indeed, this is an impossible question, but what I want to point out is that we need to redistribute our capabilities and be more flexible to change even if the change does not seem to be beneficial at first sight. What is our non-biological evolution? Or do you think evolution does not exist?