On the phenomenon of bullshit jobs

In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it. Continue reading On the phenomenon of bullshit jobs

Why do my eyes hurt?

About a year ago a fellow traveller I met in Mexico gave me the book ‘Ismael, an adventure of the mind and spirit‘. A beautiful book that made a huge impact on me. It was the start of a new personal journey. At the age of thirty I was about to rediscover the world and look at it through a new pair of eyes and they started hurting. It was (and is) a journey where almost everything I believed was challenged, questioned and most of it swept away. It made me feel things I had never felt before in my life. There were times when I felt so sad, alone, powerless and disconnected from almost everybody that I love, I didn’t know what to do with it. Continue reading Why do my eyes hurt?

‘The Economy’ is not a thing, is it?

We are treating money, the stock market and the economy like they are living things. Living things we cannot control. But somewhere along this path we have forgotten that WE actually created this entire system. And it is not working.

Money is doing more bad than good and stock markets, share holders and economic growth are taking the focus of the real problem at hand: we have invented something that is not working as it was supposed to! And therefor I think we are asking the wrong questions trying to solve the current economic problems. These problems cannot and will not be solved while we are still thinking ‘the economy’ is something real like a tree or the ocean. The economy is a mathematical model that was once designed to help us distribute wealth and stimulate fair trade but it is not doing a very good job.

Once you realize that without the economy the earth will keep spinning, food will keep growing (probably even better) and water will keep flowing (probably even cleaner) then and only then can we can start working towards a real solution.

I borrowed a part of the beautiful movie I Am that shows where I am coming from and what I am aiming at, what do you think?

‘We are all slaves’ or ‘The world is suffering from Global Stockholm Syndrome’

You are a slave. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind. (Morpheus to Neo in ‘The Matrix’)

In this blog I want to investigate whether Morpheus is right. Can it be true that the we are living in world that we perceive as ‘free’, but in fact is a world where citizens are kept stupid, uninterested and submissive? Where elites are eager to keep them that way. Can it really be true that an entire world is suffering from something that can be described best as Global Stockholm Syndrome?

The definition of Stockholm Syndrome goes as follows: ‘a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them’. In simple words: at a certain point during a hostage situation, the hostages start to understand, like and even defend the people that are responsible for their captivity. A very strange phenomenon that seemingly also can be applied to different situations.

Psychologists have identified four conditions that need to be present for Stockholm Syndrome to occur:

1. Perceived or real threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and belief that the abuser will carry out the threat. Meaning that the abuser may:
– Assure the victim that only cooperation keeps loved ones safe.
– Offer subtle threats or stories of revenge to remind the victim that revenge is possible if they leave.
– Have a history of violence leading the victim to believe they could be a target.
2. Small acts of kindness from the abuser towards the victim
– In some cases, small gestures such as allowing a bathroom visit or providing food/water are enough to alter the victim’s perception of the abuser.
– Other times, a birthday card, a gift (usually provided after a period of abuse), or a special treat can be seen as proof that the abuser is not “all bad.”
3. Victim’s isolation from other perspectives
– Victims have the sense they are always being watched. For their survival they begin to take on the abuser’s perspective. This survival technique can become so intense that the victim develops anger toward those trying to help.
– In severe cases of Stockholm Syndrome the victim may feel the abusive situation is their fault.
4. Perceived or real inability to escape from the situation
– The victim may have financial obligations, debt, or instability to the point that they cannot survive on their own.
– The abuser may use threats including taking the children, public exposure, suicide, or a life of harassment for the victim.

My personal research during the last months has shown me how easily these aforementioned conditions can be applied to our own lives and how we are being held hostage by the thumb of a globally regulated corporate machine and by debt controlled financial system. When you apply the same analysis as one would do on a hostage on our society, a strange and disturbing familiarity can be found. Let’s take a closer look at each of the four points necesary to identify this form of ‘Global Stockholm Syndrome’:

  1. Perceived or real threat to the physical survival of an entire population: Those in power have made it so we have to pay simply to exist on this planet! We have to pay for a place to sleep and we have to pay for food. If we don’t, people with guns come and force us to pay. This might sound very simplistic but it is quite true. At some point in time we were forced by those in power to start paying for everything and since then we assume that it is the way it is supposed to be and we don’t even question it. We are already paying  for everything we used to get from mother earth for free (including water) and probably air is up next.
  2. Small kindness: With strange and small gifts governments and corporations try to keep us happy. Small gifts like rent support and free or cheap (but completely regulated) education.
  3. Isolation from other perspective: corporate media provides the only valid perspective. On a global scale, over 70% of all the media channels are controlled by only five major companies. In the United States it is even 90%
  4. Perceived or real inability to escape from the situation: Industrial civilisation has become the air we breathe, and the corporate machine has the power and demonstrated will to use overwhelming lethal force against any and all who would resist. There are more than enough examples of corporations demonstrating this power towards those who challenge for example Monsanto, American Fruit Company, SHELL, etc.

Human beings tend not only to accept life within oppressive social structures, but to love and cherish it. We invent fanciful reasons justifying our subordinate position and go to the extent of punishing those who refuse to accept their assigned position. Such a person is generally considered “well adjusted” in human society. Human society as we know it seams to be Stockholm Syndrome at a global scale. What do you think of this term and theory?

To be continued…
Inspired by the following book and movies:
– End game (book)
– Zeitgeist
– The Matrix
– The Coorperation
– Flow, for the love of water
– Food Inc.

The concept of weekend

Weekend is a strange concept. A concept created by man and obeyed only by man. A concept that is accepted worldwide as a standard. A concept based on basicly nothing, accept our believe in it. The weekend gives us something to hold on to and to long for. ‘What are you doing this weekend’ is a frequently asked question. But what is the weekend really? To answer this question we have to look at its past. How did the weekend come into existence? And does it still deserve this existence?

From a religious point of view, the weekend was created as the 7th day, our sunday. The sunday was a day of rest and mindfulness after a hard workweek of six days. A moment to reflect an to be with God. Not a bad idea in itself. In 1926, Henry Ford added from a economical point of view an extra day to the ‘weekend’ and also closed his factories on saturday. Since 1940 this was applied globally and since then, the weekend as we know it has been a fact. All in al the weekend is a concept based on a long past of religious thinking and economical effects of the industrial revolution in the 20th century. A concept that deserved its purpose for a long time, felt logical and gave structure to our society and our lives.

However, when you look at the weekend from a ‘Working Wonderfully’ perspective, it is nothing more than fooling ourselves a little bit. For the past eightteen months we have been living without the knowledge of week or weekend, holiday or workday. A truly beautiful feeling. At the moment you realize that the weekend was just an invention and you can let go of the concept of time, you earn complete freedom in return. The freedom to work when you want to, write that blog when you feel like, go party on wednesday evening and do some work on sunday afternoon because you feel like it. In the end it really doesn’t matter what day it is if you feel like working, relaxing, exercising etc.

Why should you only be able to have fun with your friends in the weekend? Why is it strange to work on a saturday? Stay longer in bed only on sunday? Why are you longing the entire week for something we all made up (and more importantly why are you fearing the monday?) You have the freedom to arrange your life the way you want it. To work when you feel like working, to relax when you feel like relaxing. People are not the most productive only from 9-5 on monday to friday and quality time and good weather can often be found during the week. An example from the animal kingdom: you will never see a monkey think on our sunday ‘hehe finally I have some time for myself’. No, he will work for his food when he needs it, he will rest when he is tired and play with his kids or friends when he feels like it. And you will never hear him think: oh shit, it’s monday tomorrow.

To dare to let go of the concept of weekend requieres a different view of ones life though. And quite often it also requieres a boos who can understand and embrace the same ideas. We believe that being able to live free of time, weekend and weekdays is something worth fighting for. To decide yourself where, when and how you work starts with the acknowledgement that time is a fluid concept and that we give our own purpose to it. And that this pattern can be broken. At the moment you realize you can change the thing you thought was being controlled by your Outlook calendar, a world of freedom will open itself.

What do you think? Is it time to say goodbye to the concept of weekend and put the thing you want to do first instead of checking whether the day or the hour is appropriate? If you like this way of thinking you might be open to something a little bit more extrem: out bootcamp Travelling Entrepreneurs in August on Isla Holbox in Mexico. The experience to set you free and create a life of working wonderfully. We would like to hear what you think of the blog above, please do so in the comment or by email!

(this blog appeared earlier on workingwonderfully.com and wonderlijkwerken.nl)

‘Human beings are a disease’ or ‘We don’t need further economic growth’

‘I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species, and I realised that humans are not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with its surrounding environment; but you humans do not. Instead you multiply, and multiply, until every resource is consumed. The only way for you to survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern… a virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer on this planet.‘ 

This is what ‘Agent Smith’ said to ‘Morpheus’ in the well known movie The Matrix. It may sound a little dramatic but it looks like he was right. Our need for constant economic growth is killing us. It is killing our planet, our society and our plans for the future. And besides that, by only focussing on growth we are missing out on a lot of things our lives have to offer us when you take the time to stand still.

I was raised and educated in a world where ‘growth’ was the most important measurement tool we had and we thought we needed. If you are not growing you are standing still and when you are standing still while everybody else is growing you are going backwards. Especially economists tend to think that ‘economic growth’ is the only indicator of success we have. And this is where they are wrong.

If we want to continue and maintain our current living standards on this planet, we already need 1.5 Earths to support all our needs (let alone another Earth to dump all our waste). We are going to be 9 billion people soon, if we keep growing our economies at the rate we currently do (and all the ministers of economic affairs, managers of banks and big corporates want us to), we will burn down our system completely. You simply cannot grow infinitely on a finite planet. We have reached a tipping point in our development as a species on this planet. After more or less 10.000 years on Earth we have failed to establish the aforementioned equilibrium we need to survive and if we are not going to do so rapidly, our existence here on Earth might end sooner than we all want it to. Not in a couple hundreds of years but in our lifetimes. We are approaching the point where Thomas Salk is turning out to be right when he said:

“if all insects on Earth disappeared, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish”. 

People already tried to tell me, while I was still working for a big corporate company, that growth cannot and should not be the main driver for our species on this planet, but I wasn’t able to listen to them then. I simply couldn’t believe them. Like many others I was brainwashed. Brainwashed by my government, teachers, bosses, commercials. For years I was only looking at the competition and trying to be faster, smarter and better than everybody else. Almost at any cost. Until around a year ago I realized there is nothing wrong with ‘standing still’ or ‘not growing’. In fact it is both beautiful and necessary!

By stepping out of the corporate life where shareholders, CEO’s and managers determine what is important (growth and profit) and are willing to sacrifice almost everything else in order to acquire that, I am now in full control of my life and the projects that I want to work on. I am responsible for what I do and I determine the impact I want to have. I focus on helping the people I meet with the knowledge I have (or can acquire). Hopefully spreading happiness one encounter at the time. My goal is not to grow or to possess. My goal is to live in balance with the people and cultures I meet and try to deserve to exist to do good things for the people I meet and make enough money to live my life in balance with our planet. Living my life this way feels awesome, every single day!

Does this mean I only eat fruit that has fallen on the ground? No. But it does mean I acknowledge the fact that we are messing up our world and I am focussing on turning that around! By writing about this I hope I can inspire you to do the same and rethink your way of living and change your focus on growth and economic figures. If not, in a few years we will all probably be forced to change our lifestyle a little more dramatically.

How do you feel about all this? Please let me know in the comments!

This blog was inspired by:

The Matrix (Agent Smith talking to Morpheus) (movie)
The Earth is Full (TED-talk)
Prosperity without Growth (book)

If I were a teacher…

…I wouldn’t be teaching the same stuff year after year. The world is changing too fast to be teaching the same things

…I wouldn’t be wondering why all my students are staring at their cell phones during my class. I just told them to do so

…I wouldn’t be teaching in a dull class room. True learning doesn’t happen in class rooms

…I wouldn’t be teaching and preaching my knowledge. I would be facilitating their talents

…I wouldn’t be called teacher. Educator or facilitator comes first

…I wouldn’t be trying to fit the students into my frame of reference. Who am I to think my vision of the world is the only one

…I wouldn’t be treating my students as ‘one group’. They are not factory workers

…I wouldn’t teach them do everything the same. I would encourage them to embrace change

…I wouldn’t tell my students to sit still. I would encourage them to get up and make a dent in the universe

…I wouldn’t want to know how ‘intelligent they are’. I would want to know how ‘they are intelligent’

…I wouldn’t be having a job. I would be an artist and students would be my art

…I wouldn’t be alone. You would join me, wouldn’t you?


(Feel free to add your ideas about what you would do different if you were a teacher…)

Perspective is everything

One of my heroes, Rory Sutherland, addresses one of my core principles in his funny and  mind changing talk on TED.com. Rory talks about how the circumstances of our lives may matter less than how we see them, he makes a compelling case for how reframing your thoughts is the key to happiness. In other words he talks about how ‘we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are’ and what happens in your mind once you realize this.

His story is about the fact that we too often forget:

– Things are not what they are, they are what we think they are
– Things are what we compare them to
– Yet, Psychology is subordinate to everything else
– While in fact psychological value often is the best kind

These points are completely in line with my beliefs. I really feel that in our current world we are looking too much at things from a ‘spreadsheet’ perspective and we entirely forget the human and psychological side of it. For example, once you have a very, very large budget, you actually look for expensive things to spend it on instead of looking for creative ways that might require a little more thinking but in the end increase the happiness of your consumers.

The best way to explain his thoughts is the example of the high speed train (Eurostar) travelling between Paris and London. When Eurostar cut their journey times by 40 minutes at a cost of £6bn, they also dismissed the tangible potential to increase actual customer enjoyment. Why not spend the money on improving the experience so customers might actually want to want to stay longer, rather than shortening the time we have to endure the journey? They could have simply included high speed wifi for a fraction of the cost and customers might want to stay actually longer on the train (we all know the best work is done on the train).

I would really like you to also realize that you see the world from you personal and biased perspective (as do I). Things might not always be the way you think they are. When trying to solve a certain problem, please look up, reach outside and discover that the exact opposite of what you think also can be true. Please watch the two movies below to help you adapt this mindset.

Enjoy looking at the world in a different way!

Media literacy… and my drive for it!

According to Wikipedia Media literacy is ‘a repertoire of competences that enable people to analyze, evaluate, and create messages in a wide variety of media modes, genres, and forms’. Media literate people should be skillful creators and producers of media messages, both to facilitate understanding of the specific qualities of each medium, as well as to create independent media and participate as active citizens.

In my opinion, in these times where our lives both private and business are more and more online it is important that we educate our children in a way that will turn them into media literate people. Instead of only putting energy in the old fashioned styles of educating, we should be incorporating the essence of media literacy in every class, course or subject. It’s time for (social) media & internet literacy to enter mainstream education. Learning to use online forums, be they social network services like Twitter and Facebook, blogs, or wikis is not a sexily contemporary add-on to the curriculum – it’s an essential part of the literacy today’s youth require for the world they inhabit.

I started presenting, writing and thinking about the effects of internet and new media around three years ago when I realized that the way we work is changing so fast and it is my (and your job) to keep everybody around you on board. I started helping schools to enable their employees (management and teachers) and students to embrace these new media tools and make them a part of their daily lives. The way we have to learn to work with information has already changed and we are not teaching that to our children right now. In my believe the following questions (and a lot more) should be part of basic education at every school and currently our teachers are not capable of asking let aside answering these questions:

– How do you find out anything you want to know by entering the right question into a search engine? Equally important – how do you determine whether the answer returned by a search engine is true?
– What kinds of privacy protection should a student keep in mind when setting up a Facebook profile?
– How can the creation of content be used to advocate positions on important issues? And how do you do it? Which software should you use?

These are not strictly technological questions, nor are they confined to a narrow discipline. The way today’s students will do science, mechanics, journalism or business next year and a decade from now will be shaped by the skills they acquire in using internet and information, and by the knowledge they gain of the important issues of privacy, identity, community, and the role of citizen media in democracy. Who is teaching them on these important topics? I have made it my mission to help schools take on the teaching of these subjects while our society is preparing for a different role for education as a whole. We don’t have time to wait for these institutions to change, which is why I’ve worked to provide tools for those educators who are using social media to prepare students for the 21st century

I hope you are also helping the people in your environment to learn to become more media literate, if you are not, go do so! And if you need help, just let me know! I am always only one tweet away.

Being useful doesn’t require funding!

Two days ago I wrote ‘Stop planning and start doing‘. To inspire you even more to stop making plans or thinking of excuses why your idea could fail, I would love to share the following with you:

“Watch out when anyone (including you) says he wants to do something big, but can’t until he raises money. It usually means the person is more in love with the idea of being big big big than with actually doing something useful.  For an idea to get big big big, it has to be useful.  And being useful doesn’t need funding.” A brilliant line coming from Derek Sivers and his book Anything you want and this movie:

In other words, if you’ve got a good idea START TODAY!  NO WAITING NECESSARY!
Mark Zuckerberg didn’t wait for funding so why should you?




Grolsch and other brands are destroying their image on YouTube

It started back in the fifties with commercials on TV. They were invasive, disruptive and distracting the consumer from what she actually wanted to watch. But hey, marketing was new, it was mass media, marketers had no experience and fortunately for the consumer you could switch to another channel for about ten minutes so you did not have to watch the commercials. Then, years later, YouTube came along with a lot of cool content the everybody could watch whenever, wherever. Attention started to move from TV to computer screen and this was a problem for the big companies and advertising agencies. At first, YouTube filled that hole only with some banners on the top and on the side of their website and that was fine, their servers need to be paid for as well, right?

But for a year or so now, YouTube is offering the possibility to place advertisements either before the movie that you actually want to watch, in the form of 10-30 second movies you cannot skip, or even place popup banners in the screen DURING the movie that you are watching! It is a logical step for YouTube to provide these possibilities, they need the money. But my dear marketing friends, that doesn’t mean you actually have to use them! Your profession is not to use every channel available, is it? Unfortunately, a lot of you have chosen to use these extra provided channels that are even more invasive, disruptive and distracting than the old TV commercials. And I believe that in doing so, you are actually destroying your brand instead of positively promoting it and you are turning potential customers into potentially lost customers because you are not thinking about the right Touchpoints of your brand.

I have been writing a lot about touchpoints on this blog and we will now analyze the journey of the potentially customer on YouTube from a touchpoint point of view and see how advertisments before and during movies appeal to the potentially lost customer we will call Mark.

Frustrated Mark

Mark is sitting behind his computer. He has a plate of food and wants to watch one of his favorite YouTube movies. Mark searches for it, finds it, clicks it and leans back to enjoy his movie and eat his food as he would normally do. But wait, before his movie starts, he sees a movie that he does not associate with the one that he just clicked on. Ow no, it’s a commercial! And there is no way to fast forward or skip this movie.. A little bit annoyed about some beer commercial (Grolsch in this case) he waits for his favorite clip to start. After 30 seconds or so, it finally does. When the clip has finally started, strange popup messages with advertisements from once again Grolsch and other companies appear, whats up with that? Are they part of this clip as well? Irritated Mark sighs and switches to another website. And somewhere deep in his brain, without his knowing,  two new mental images stored: I hate Grolsch and I will dislike them and their brand for what they are did to me. And Mark is one step closer to being a lost customer.

Why is this happening? Because marketers are known for not thinking through the entire customer journey and reflecting what their advertisements mean and do to us. Let’s look at this example for the marketers perspective, Grolsch in this case. We will check their willingness to create a useful touchpoint by using a commercial message on YouTube that they hope will benefit both the consumer and the company. We will analyse this case using the different variables that that make up a touchpoint:

Design: This is the advertisement that normally appears before the selected YouTube movie. In my humble opinion it is a nice one. Good music, well acted, etc and about one of my favorite brands. So no problems here.

Storytelling: The commercial has a nice story to it and it is catchy so, well done.

Symphony: It fits with the broader Grolsch brand, vision and previous commercials so from a marketing perspective, right on the spot!

Fun: It has a funny touch to it (the bartender not understanding the typical ‘plop’ sound that a Grolsch bottle makes when opened), so far so good.

Empathy: This is the variable where Grolsch (and all the other brands that are advertising BEFORE and DURING YouTube movies go wrong. If you were a really empathic brand manager, you would understand not to interrupt my goal (watching a movie I selected) with whatever you might have to say to me. In this case your well designed, funny, completely in line with your brand strategy and well told story will miss its point and I won’t like it! Why not? Because I want to watch something else. If I order a pizza, you can serve me the best french fries there are but I want pizza! Makes sense, right?

So please Steve Middelhof, Global Marketing Manager at Grolsch, this one is to you but also all your marketing colleagues: Please start behaving more empathically, think about the customer journey and stop waisting your marketing budget on channels like this. Start thinking about committing acts instead of ads. Create stuff that Mark will look for when he is behind his computer and stuff that Mark will share with his friends because he likes it so much! This way you’ll be a brand him and me want to be a part of and tell everybody about, not a brand that we will click away and probably start buying less in the future..

Create act, not ads!*

(*thnx for lending me this line @polledemaagt)




Peeling the onion called ‘Education’

The last six months I have been thinking and talking about a lot of topics but the recurring one (both in my head and in discussions) is Education. As a result of all these vivid discussions I am meeting a lot of interesting people who share the same feeling: “our current educational system is limiting millions of kids and it needs to change”. Every time I talk with someone I gain a little more insight in this enormous problem and I am stripping the onion layer for layer. While getting closer to the core I realized something: we need to start at the heart of our educational system, there where we educate our future primary school teachers (in dutch we call them PABO’s).

Primary school is where children are taught the fundamentals of life and where expectations and dreams are either stimulated or killed. And right now we are killing too many dreams and ideas even before they are born. Off course sir Ken Robinson is right on the money with his talk about ‘Changing Education Paradigms‘ but as long as the people teaching our future educators don’t understand why we need to change, this will never happen. In my opinion we need to break down the entire system we now use to educate teachers. Strip it to the ground and rebuild it around the question “How are you intelligent?” instead of “How intelligent are you?”.

We all know the famous saying by Charles Darwin: ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change‘. I might have learned this saying at school but I would much rather go to a school where teachers would live by this saying and make our society more responsive to change while teaching us all the other fine subjects. Do you agree?

If you like this topic, I can highly recommend the book Out of our minds (2011) written by Sir Ken Robinson.


Our society shift, accelerated by icebreakers!

Currently we are in the middle of some dramatic changes. I am not talking about Europe or the crisis we are in, these changes can be neglected compared to the changes I am talking about. An entire society is making a shift in the way they work, think, learn and communicate. And this has great impact on our economy, our daily lives and on our (personal) future.

For the last century we as a society have been creating a system based upon our industrialized ideas. From the government regulating the economy to parents and teachers educating their children we have created a standard that worked perfect for all those years. Until now… Most of us were raised with the old fashioned idea that your ‘simple’ goal in life had to be: finish high school, go to college and become a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher or  a manager. Especially managing people was one of the dreams put in our minds (almost like an inception) as one of the higher purposes in life. Over the last decade, more and more people have discovered that there is more to life than becoming a doctor, lawyer or manager. They start creating there own rules and setting their own (new) standards. These people have discovered that the old system isn’t working for us anymore and things need to change. In all sectors, from healthcare to banking, people with new and better visions of the future are breaking through the frozen systems we have created like ice breakers. They act like ice breakers because they are not breaking this system open for the purpose of breaking but for the purpose of creating a safe passage for their followers. This means that our old rules and ways have thinking have to be bend or broken and they encounter opposition on various levels.

I consider myself to be an ice breaker as well and it is my goal to combine the strengths and learnings from my fellow ice breakers to become more successful as a whole. As a start I have registered the domain icebreakers.org and together with Emiel Smit I have been working on a platform where ice breakers can share ideas, content and learnings. However, we need help! We are both average (sorry Emiel;)) wordpress specialists and this platform requieres a more in depth approach. We are creating some mockups right now and if you would like to help us break some (more) ice with your development or design skills, please find us here: Steven and Emiel. I have also created a twitter list where you can find (y)our fellow icebreakers (the list is growing rapidly). And please let me know what you think of this idea by either recommending fellow ice breakers, spreading the word and / or commenting below. Thanks!


‘If Zappos would run your hospital’ or ‘Delivering happiness to patients’

One of the books I recommend to everybody is ‘Delivering Happiness‘ by Tony Hsieh. Tony is the CEO of Zappos.com, a remarkable american online shoes and clothing company. This might not sound interesting at first but when you take a closer a look at the remarkable philosophy that Zappos lives and works by, you’ll be amazed! In this blog I will dive into the unique Zappos company brand and culture and elaborate on what would happen if you would use this philosophy in a hospital (or any other company or institution).

Zappos: Company Culture
At Zappos, they belief that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff — like great customer service, or building a great long-term brand, or passionate employees and customers — will happen naturally on its own. They believe that your company culture and your company brand are really just two sides of the same coin. The brand may lag the culture at first, but eventually it will catch up.

Your culture is your brand. So how do you build and maintain the culture that you want?

It starts with the hiring process. At Zappos, they actually do two different sets of interviews. The hiring manager and his/her team will do the standard set of interviews looking for relevant experience, technical ability, fit within the team, etc. But then the HR department does a separate set of interviews, looking purely for culture fit. Candidates have to pass both sets of interviews in order to be hired.

They have actually said no to a lot of very talented people that they knew could make an immediate impact on their top or bottom line. But because these candidates weren’t culture fits, they were willing to sacrifice the short term benefits in order to protect the culture (and therefore the brand) for the long term.

A hospital is not a business?
Circque du Soleil is not in the circus business
You’re both in the experience and emotion business
You’re both in the stories and memories business
Think bigger!

In most cases healthcare is a completely different beast than the business world but where it is similar is in the people. This means, the experience a patient has can make or break how they view a hospital, which in turn changes how they talk about it with their friends and family.

People may not remember exactly what you said or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel

As patients we would love healthcare institutions to make us happy, empower us and really feel welcomed. Any institution that doesn’t have clearly defined values or mission that everyone can undertand and stand by is going to have a hard time giving that patient the experience they are looking for.

Often hospital employees (and especially doctors) don’t know any better, they are not trained to think about the patient as a customer. I know a few of you will disagree with the statement but I believe it is true, patients can go anywhere they choose.

It’s time to break the fear of being human. The same accounts for the customer care center. I have seen it far too often, students working at the call center  reading off a script, following the steps and passing a patient off to some unknown department because their screen told them to. Zappos has a communication policy that states “Be real and use your best judgement”, they let their employees be human and trust they will do the right thing. Often the biggest fear is some sort of “incident” where the blame gets put on the employees, this paralyzes them and forces the, take the safest route possible which in turn produces a sub par experience for the patients. If Tony ran a hospital who knows what could happen. One thing I know for sure is that nobody would be able to turn a blind eye from the true culture and values of the institution.

Every business or service institution can learn a lot from this book and Zappos in general, it’s not all about numbers, it’s about doing what is right for the people.  Be real and embrace the potentially “ugly” side of your institution and don’t be afraid to take risks. As long as your intentions are good there is always something to learn from the experience.

More and more healthcare related issues can be found (and solved) online.  This means that an empathic reaction from a doctor or nurse has to take the overhand. As patients are interacting with your hospital at a younger age and words get spread instantly these days, be sure to always deliver happiness at every interaction. They will remember the experience and spread it to their friends and family.

By the way, if you work at a bank,  a school / university, a big telco or any other line of business…simply change the word hospital into your field and see if the same rules apply, you’ll be amazed! Delivering Happiness works everywhere!