Glowing Cats and the New Exponential Reality

November 1st, 2015

In Salim Ismaels book “Exponential Organizations” it is described, how we as human beings used to understand and organize ourselves in a reality, where things develop and expand in a linear way. Now a days, we might experience a very short time-frame from an idea taking form to it being implemented in reality. A product – only envisioned at first and 29 days later you can buy it in WalMart. Or an idea “worth spreading” being a GLOBAL media brand in less than 5 years. Something that earlier took a decade, now a days can be done in a week. All because of technology (and great minds, of course).

How do we as human beings react to this new reality? As Salim Ismael puts it in one (or several) of his brilliant talks, we very often scream with anxiety. He shows a video of a person driving in one of Googles driver less cars. It is scary – it looks scary – when the car takes off and leaves you to “enjoy the trip”. The person in the car sounds like he would rather be in control and drive it himself, than leaving it to this highly advanced and very secure car to handle things on its own…. He screams – and as Ismael puts it: “This is the visceral scream of humanity meeting advanced technology (or the taxi drivers screaming at uber…)”.

It´s like our brain just can´t seem to grasp what is going on. And starting to question, whether it can be right, when it feels so wrong and scary. Can it?

Well, sometimes it can and sometimes it cannot – that is the tricky part. Sometimes we feel scared because what is going on is so new and weird and un-imaginable at first. And our natural reaction to this is fear – and resistance. But it might not necessarily mean, that what is going on is wrong. This “new thing” might in fact be something great, and once we´ve gotten used to it, it will help humanity.

But sometimes our visceral reaction does point us in a direction, where there really is something to be afraid of, and where what is going on is NOT ok. For instance, a group of scentists from South Korea have cloned a cat with a flourescent genom. Now, they have a cat glowing in the dark. Pretty cool – but to whom? Not to the cat at least. Is it ethical to clone a cat like this? Well, if it is done in order to help cure some disease, maybe then is it ok?



The human inventive and curious brain getting access to more and more advanced technology raises a very important issue of bio-ethics and ethics in general – how important it is for us to keep a high morale and ethically consider, what it is we are trying to impact and do with our Exponential Organizations and technology. The big WHY has become even more important in this new era. And our ability to be mindful of what is going on inside us and around us.

That is not to say, that we should not accept this new reality. First of all, we have to – it´s already here. Secondly, the positive impact we can have, if we apply technology in a mindful way, is amazing. How to apply and scale it, that is exactly, what Salim Ismael and his co-authors also touch on in their book. The book gives concrete advice on how to generate IDEAS and SCALE the organization – in this new reality.

I think, that hand in hand, Mindfulness and the Exponential Organization might just be the mixture we need in our endeavor to make the world a better place.

The Sun is but a Morning Star

September 21st, 2015

Last week of August I visited Morningstar, a tomato processing company in California, together with fellow colleagues from the Danish Consultancy “resonans”. The visit was one among many visits to innovative and forward-thinking companies in Sillicon Valley. We also payed a visit to Google, Linked-in, Tradeshift, Facebook, Institute for the Future, Ernst & Young, Singularity University, Chamber of Commerce and Presidio Graduate School. All places where we could meet with people, who could tell a story about an area in the world and an organization, where new things are tried out and tested – including new ways of organizing, leading, involving and making things happen. The visit to Morningstar stood out as something particularly moving to us, and here is why:

In 2011, Gary Hamel from Stanford wrote an article about this amazing company. In this article, Hamel describes an organization which is based on the following characteristics:

• No one has a boss.

• Employees negotiate responsibilities with their peers.

• Everyone can spend the company’s money.

• Each individual is responsible for acquiring the tools needed to do his or her work.

• There are no titles and no promotions.

• Compensation decisions are peer-based.

We were curious to experience first-hand, if this could in fact be true – and how would it “feel” to walk around on a factory, where these characteristics were in play?

Well, it felt great! Not only because everybody seemed friendly and our host, Doug Kirkpatrick did an amazing job enlightening us about the history of this very special organizational model. But also because we among others met Leo – one of the electricians working at Morningstar. When asked: “Who is your supervisor – who tells you what to do?” he first looked stumbled, as if he didn´t really understand our question… Then he lit up and said: “Oh, but that´s obvious – the plant does…”.

I must admit I almost cried when I heard that answer. It must be so nice to work at a place, where no one but the plant/the mission tells you what to do. Where it is OBVIOUS what needs to be done – because we are on a mission – have something very important to do. In the case of the electrician working at Morningstar, it is to make sure that everything is running smoothly, gets adjusted well and in time (before things break down) and during less busy months to keep updated with new inventions and ways of doing things, so that innovation can happen.

When Henry David Thoreau wrote the book “Walden”, he ended it with a paragraph including the quote which is the headline for this post (p. 137):

“The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star”.

I think it is time we wake up and see that there is more day to dawn. Morningstar is only one organization showing, that if your mission is strong enough and people are encouraged and educated to take responsibility for themselves, you can create great results, innovate and at the same time be a humane place to work. We need more of this. And more companies combining tech with kindness and love, which Facebook, Linked-in and Google are trying to promote (through concrete programs and deliberate spaces that foster kindness and mindfulness). Even though these organizations also still has “a way to go” (i.e. in terms of i.e. fair conditions for workers in all parts of the organization), we might be inspired and encouraged by their examples from the areas, where they are doing great and indeed are doing something different which creates better working-environments and products (they of course have data to back this up – the fact that kindness and mindfulness create better working-environments and products!).

To end this post, I just want to mention one last thing. Morningstar has two – and only two – guiding principles:

1. Don´t use force – one human being should not/never use force towards another human being. (Giving orders is also considered as using force…)

2. Do what you say you will do (stay committed).

Two principles. That´s all. And then a lot of structure to support the self-managed system. As they say: “We manage great complexity with extreme simplicity”.

What are your guiding principles – and if you could chose only two for your organization – what would they be?

Reinventing Organizations

February 25th, 2015

How do you create organizations designed for human nature, based on the beliefs, that everybody wants to contribute, be responsible, innovative, perform well and do good? In the book “Reinventing Organizations” Fredric Laloux explores this topic in depth and give concrete examples from different organizations, which have succeeded in organizing themselves in a different way – creating great results while at the same time allowing people employed by the company to thrive and take charge, innovate and perform. There are no easy solutions, though, take for instance self managed teams, which seem to be a key ingredient in many of those modern organizations, which have tried to create a structure fit for free-thinking, responsible and creative souls. There is no such thing as an easy ride. It takes supervision, education, facilitation and constant self-evaluation to be part of a self-managed team. Yet, the results organizations get, when they dare to organize themselves differently and speak about/implement values like love, kindness and fun – are amazing.

Is it possible for all kinds of organizations to think this much out of the box and for instance base themselves on principles like “no boss”, bare minimum staff functions, no executive team and very few – if any – meetings? Are there limits? When will it work, when will it not? A colleague of mine mentioned companies, operating in highly competitive surroundings – in “wartime” – is it possible to operate this way under these circumstances? If so, why, if not, why not?

These are some of the questions I am highly concerned with these days. It is always interesting to work across cultures, and see how different leaders/employees from all over the world think about these things. In Kenya, for instance, where I just spent a week training facilitators at a local EMBA, trust is a big issue. Some leaders there have experienced employees stealing, once they gave them more responsibility and for instance handed them keys to their stock/asked them to be responsible for the stock. Fortunately, though, it seems to happen seldom, and the consequences of i.e. building on trust and giving employees access to key-informations, so that they can make decisions faster and without asking for permission first, seem to be positive more often than negative.

Watch this youtube video for more thoughts on this topic – Fredric Laloux, the author of the book “Reinventing Organizations”, nails it.

Flourish & Prosper

November 11th, 2014

In October I attended the third Global Forum with Business as an Agent for World Benefit in Cleveland, Ohio, US. Together with 600+ global leaders, entrepreneurs, academics, consultants and thought leaders we talked about how companies can be not the best IN the world, but the best FOR the world. What was so inspiring was the true wish to collaborate – the good old saying “competitive advantage” is replaced by “collaborative advantage”. A new generation is ready to lead from a new mindset where strategy does not have to mean you outmaneuver others, but may mean you find ways to embrace others and make them embrace you. And there are already examples of companies doing exactly that. Companies with values like love and kindness, which deliberately have a business model with an emphasis on “doing good” – and thereby “doing good” themselves. One example of this is the Dutch it-company Schuberg Philis, another is the flooring company Tarkett. Both companies have reinvented the way they do business and found more sustainable solutions to their product-development, customer relationships and internal working conditions.

We do, seen from my perspective, need a new mindset. Mindfulness – to stay deliberate open, curious and kind in the moment – is finding it´s way into the corporate world. Why? Because it makes sense. Jon Kabat-Zinn once wrote a book with the title “Coming to our senses”, and in this new, even more fast-paced world, we need to use our senses when “finding our way”. It is no longer enough to survive, we need more than that. We need to think about models that will ensure not only sustainability, but flourishing. One of the things we talked about at the Forum was how the word and the condition “sustainability” in itself is not really worth striving for. Imagine sustaining your marriage… What we need is something else – something that ensures a sense of well-being in ourselves and others, something that make us flourish and prosper and thrive. That “something” is among other things a new way of leading, innovating and structuring. For companies. What is it for you? What makes you and others flourish and prosper? What is it that you yourself and/or your company do, that not only sustains life, but makes it blossom?

Wisdom (?) – let´s move to Vegas!

February 19th, 2014

This weekend I attended the wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco – my new hood. A mixed experience – since the whole event took place in a basement of a big hotel – with no windows or fresh air or smell of nature whatsoever… Guess I am just becoming too used to walk-and-talks in the open and using nature as a great inspirator to the processes I run with leadership teams and whole organizations to be able to sit in a conference for 4 days… Even though there was an opportunity to do yoga every once in a while…But again, in a closed room without windows. And since the whole idea with the conference was to be inspired to think outside the box and find new ways of being and leading in businesses of tomorrow in a way that is “beneficial to our own well-being, make us effective in our work, and useful to the world” it seemed kind of odd that the event-makers had not been able to find a more inspiring venue. Along with the fact that the program often only had 20 min. sections with great people like Chade Meng Tan from Google or Jon Kabat-Zinn… (what sense does this make? If you want people to connect at a deeper level and really dig deep on a topic and get more wise?)… there is definately “room for improvement” if Soren Gordhamer and  his team want to make another conference like this next year (which they probably will… considering the huge interest – we were 2000 poeple from all over the world…).


Oh well, when that is said the organizers of the conference had gathered a great pool of really inspiring people and stories about how to lead and be and think about and in businesses of tomorrow! Besides from all the people from different organizations that has finally come out of the closets and proclaimed: “Oh yeah, I meditate too, and I think it makes a huge and positive difference for the company and the way I lead”, there were some hands-on entrepreneurs showing what they had done/are doing to make the world a better place.


One of the most inspiring speakers (in my opinion) was Tony Hsieh from Zappos, telling his story about community building in Vegas! His story makes me want to move to Vegas or create something similar in another town. You can see his contribution here – and many more great contributions at wisdom 2.0´s homepage:

Next year – let´s meet in downtown VEGAS for the Wisdom 2.0 conference…

Humanising organizations

March 18th, 2013

Moving leaders – moving organizations. In the new era of management and leadership, maybe we will not talk so much about leaders/employees, but more about colleges, co-workers, teams? After all, we work together to accomplish a common goal, don´t we? In our traditional way of thinking we think we need leaders to organize the work, delegate, set the direction – things we might use to explain the need for leaders… But could we structure our organizations in a way, that is more human and inspiring than the way it is in many traditional, bureaucratic and hierachical organizations of today? That brings out peoples passion, creativity and initiative – without the leaders standing there breathing the employees in the neck? That gives people the feeling of freedom and commitment at the same time?
I think it is possible, yet not easy and straigth-forward. It requires free-thinking, out-of-the-box thinking human beings with a will and a courage to challenge things as they are and assumptions as they present themselves as facts. That are able to find new, innovative, never-thought-of-before ways of “doing things” and structuring organizations.
Gary Hamel is one of the leaders of the world who inspire us to think the unthinkable – by inviting us to share stories of untraditional ways of organising and leading and by provoking us to challenge assumptions:

Managing the unexpected

November 8th, 2012

In a time of uncertainty we need management tools to help us navigate in a world with constant change and unpredictability. This requires mindfulness. But not mindfulness as most of us probably associates with mindfulness. What I am talking about here is the kind of mindfulness that makes you agile, vigiliant, aware, ready to act in an instant, on the outlook for small signs of weaknesses or failures in your systems and curious to constantly learn from failures and successes in the organization.

In the book I am in the process of writing with Clarissa Hoff Corneliussen, we define a mindful organization as an organization which:


  • Have a clear & inspirational vision and a sustainable & humane intention
  • Constantly look for changes and tracks small failures in their workprocesses
  • Work in a focused and disciplined manner around a common goal
  • Build up resiliance to keep high-performance and ability to act in an instant when circumstances change or a crisis occur
  • Keep a ‘beginners mind’ towards workprocesses and relations – both inside and outside the company
  • Regularly self-evaluate and learn from failures and successes
  • Challenge basic assumptions within the organization in order to find the most lean, agile and sustainable way to proceed

The above definition is inspired by especially three books:


  • Managing the unexpected by Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M.Sutcliffe
  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and
  • Repeatability by Chris Zook and James Allen


Read them – or our new book, which will be out on the streets in March 2013 – if you want to learn more about how to manage in uncertain times –  with a sustainable and innovative vision. And/or look at this speech by Eric Ries on the Lean Startup Principles:

Graduating minds

January 26th, 2012

Last weekend the first E-MBA class of University of Inoorero, Kenya, graduated. Congratulations!

As I watched them smiling and hugging and sighing with relief that 15 months of hard work now finally materialized itself in a diploma I thought of all the changes these leaders now hopefully are going to implement in their organizations and society.

I hope they will keep un developing themselves. Challenging status-quo. Listening to their hearts and harnessing their minds. I hope they will use emotional intelligence and resonance to guide them in the decisions they take, which influences a lot of peoples lives. I hope their small businesses will grow and flourish and make them even prouder of Kenyan products and ways of doing things. I wish they will stop and reflect every once in a while and think back on the feedback, good advice, new learning and insights they have gotton on this E-MBA.

I hope they will act as if they have thousand lives to live but no time to waste.

This crazy, noisy, wonderfull world

October 22nd, 2011

Spending a few days in NY city before attending a conference on sustainable leadership in Boston next week. What a CRAZY city! People drinking tons of coffee with tons of sugar, walking so fast that they spill half of it on their way. Actually, almost running, are they! It is FACINATING to a person like me just to watch this way of living your life: on the run, needing a lot of coffee and suger and “hurryness” to make you feel you are alive and can get through the day. And the NOISE! Cars honking, people screaming superficialities into their cellphones while they are crossing the streets (and trying not to spill the coffee), loud music in every store you enter. It is CRAZY. Never a silent moment. I watch my own behaviour, what this city makes me feel like doing (shopping, eating, drinking) with a distant, wondering curiosity… Where did THAT come from… I didn´t go here to shop, eat and drink, but to experience and relax. And before day one is over, the automatic pilot has made me buy and eat things I definately don´t need… And I am ENJOYING it, in the moment, for the moment. What is this… I am wondering…

Well, this city is definitely stimulating my senses. I am, in fact, overstimulated to the point, where I´m not really able to feel and sense anything else but the desire to calm my senses. And food, shopping, drinking coffee, walking fast(er) is a good way to do that, I´ve found out. Also for me. So if I stayed here, this is probably what I would do me myself in order to get through the day, for most of my days, I think…

But the consequence is, that the rest of the problems in the worlds seems so distant, so indifferent, so much “not my business” all the while. Which is a real problem, I think. Maybe, if I stayed here a little longer, it would be different. But maybe not? Is this what happens, when you are so busy running around, drinking coffee, working, solving immediate problems, trying to think while you block out all the noise around you? That you loose sight of the bigger perspective and the things that really matters and what would really be good for you and others – in the long run? I get a feeling here, that that is EXACTLY what happens and would happen, for most of us, if we just go with the flow…

But fortunately some people in this noisy, stimulating, amazing city have used the nerve, energy and crazyness of it to create something wonderful. This city has created so many great yoga-teachers, creative thinkers, writers, art-people, street-people AND conscious, great business-leaders (also some really bad ones, I know). And it is probably no coincidence either, that the “occupywallstreet” movement started here:

This city not only has the potential of driving you into an insane automatic pilot of abuse (of food, drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, money, people, working). But also the potential of making you aware of acts you need to take to stay in contact with your heart and your inner self and other people and the planet, on a deeper level, in the middle of all the noise and whirlwind of stimulaters. After visiting this city (once again – I´ve been here twice before but never been so aware of its influence) I am reminded of the choice we have as human beings and must take every day of living our lives with awareness. Not just “following our instincts”, but retreating ourselves every once in a while and asking ourselves, what would be good for us and others – in the long run – to do. It doesn´t happen by itself, it requires conscious effort. And we have it. Now go use it…For the better for this wonderfull world.


September 5th, 2011