This is not for kids

This is not for kids

Earlier this week I took part in a workshop to discover and express the business side of me in a better way. It was a lovely afternoon spent in pleasant company, and led in a very relaxed, yet to the point manner by Wiro. The best part was that we were allowed to play with Lego, seriously. Wiro uses Lego Serious Play as a method to literally construct the concepts you’re trying to express. I absolutely fell in love with this approach.

These are the constructions that tell a story about me. (Note: all built within strict time constraints of a few minutes)


My expression of me, building upon one of the pre described recipes for a walrus. I chose this animal, because I like to grit my teeth in a subject or a project. I added the eyes and an antenna for expressing my biggest strength: observing. While observing I dig deeper for a better understanding, so I can move forward or help the client progress.


This expresses why I do what I do. I built a Christmas tree as a social object, which serves as a means to connect to one another and that makes people feel good. It’s a pretty object so people love to look at it, touch it. The people take their hat off to express their appreciation. In short, I want to create pretty things to touch other people’s lives/hearts.

Last up was building a few simpler objects expressing some values how I do my work.


I built a 360 degrees rotating head with a binocular, a colorful tower and a bridge, representing me as good observer, expressing in a colorful way and translating the complicated into easier to understand.

We ended the session with writing down our Golden Sentence, using all the elements we built during the afternoon. I’ll spare you that one, just in case you will accuse me of too much bull-shit lingo.

I loved the effect of building things. At times I was really frustrated and didn’t know what to build, but then I just randomly grabbed a brick and something would emerge and to my surprise it often made sense.

Biggest breakthrough for me was this: the project I currently work on didn’t really make sense in my view of what I do for a living, yet, by expressing that I want to create pretty things to touch others, it suddenly makes perfect sense to lead a project to create a new web platform for 17 existing online communities with around 8000 members in total. I may not be the one to actually make the platform, but I’m going to make sure others will build the best and prettiest platform I can imagine!

In the coming months I will make sure I grab my own Lego more often as a tool to think. In case you want to use it too, you can even buy kits from Lego. I used a starter kit and that includes a whole range of Lego pieces to get creative.

A closing gift to my Dutch readers:

(The Lego Song used in ads in the ’80s)


Spontaneous poetry

Spontaneous poetry

The death of Mandela led to many of my friends from all over the world posting something on Facebook, either a quote, a picture or an article. It touched me that so many people felt the need to say something and they inspired me to write this:

The bees are humming quietly
The leopards rest their claws
No ant today will cross his steps
And snakes will keep their rattle still
Merely the birds fly high and wild
For all have lost their precious child

No single man is ignorant
No woman left untouched
The captured firmly fold their hands
And free men raise their hopeful arms
Merely the baby cries out loud
For all have lost their precious child

The willows weep their silent song
The roses bow their heads
No river’s running wild today
And wind is keeping to himself
Merely dust whispers soothing sound
For all have lost their precious child

– Elmine Wijnia –


My first 12-week year

My first 12-week year

Hot Numbers Coffee

Hot Numbers in Cambridge, where I read most of the book. (photo courtesy: Bex Walton)

This past summer, when we stayed in Cambridge for a month, Ton adopted a new routine after reading a book: thinking in 12 week years. It’s a method developed by Brian Moran and its basic intervention is to set goals to reach within 12 weeks, instead of setting goals for a year. Despite being written in an overly enthusiastic manner (it is an American book after all), this basic idea somehow resonated with both of us. Once back home, I developed a 12 week plan too and set my goals for my ‘first year’.  These are my findings so far.

I set seven goals, such as creating a writing routine around a (probably never to be published) book, taking a walk on a daily basis and delve into some books that I see as being key to my work.  I’ve mixed results on working towards these goals. Some high- and lowlights.

What works:

  • I have definitely created a writing routine. Every week I set myself a goal in amount of pages to write. I chose a number that I could easily reach within one writing session of about two hours (or takes even less time when split into several sessions). Keeping the number within easy reach, really motivated me. Normally, I would set the goals so high that I give up at the first signs of the goal getting out of reach. Currently I’m a bit behind on schedule due to a very persistent cold, keeping me from doing work for two weeks and during those weeks I really missed my writing sessions. A very good sign!
  • I do tend to take walks on a daily basis, although during my illness I really couldn’t. Some days I don’t walk, but at least bike into town. Some days I skip due to general laziness. Oh well…it’s autumn you know. Not the most inviting season to go outside at times
  • I am getting better and better at having balanced working days, with a more steady flow of high concentration work, taking long breaks in between and creating more predictable rhythm. Being a solo entrepreneur offers little dictated rhythm, so I could swing from doing 12 hours of intense video editing for days, to doing nothing specific the next few days. I can tell you now, that is not a healthy routine on the long term.
  • As of yesterday I finally got to update my blog and its template. A few months ago Ton’s website got hacked due to a flaw in the template used. I used a different template, yet from the same developer so I figured I should change templates as well to be on the save side. I was supposed to do this before November first, so I didn’t make my self-imposed deadline, but I did it within my year. That’s the thing that counts most.[/list]

The struggles:

  • In general, knowing what goals to set at the beginning. I don’t really know what I can actually achieve within 12 weeks. Setting goals while being on the recovery route from a burn-out at the beginning of this year, was a complete guess.
  • Therefore I hardly spent time on the biggest goal I set for myself, reading and analyzing some books on storytelling and philosophical methods. I set this goal based on the assumption that I wouldn’t have any significant client work during the rest of the calendar year. Guess what. I actually landed a huge gig with an existing client. So most of my precious high concentration time (I set a maximum of 4 hours per day) was spent on this. Biggest bonus: it pays!
  • falling ill really set me back. Can we just globally ban all viruses? Thank you.
  • I think I would really benefit from taking yoga classes, yet I tried some and I really dislike the process of going there on a scheduled time that never really fits my daily rhythm. Either I need to postpone a meal for two hours leading me to feel nauseous, or it’s too soon after a meal which is not pleasant for exercising. One last resort is a website with lessons you can sign up for.

My first year ends on December 20th, so I still have some time to catch up and reach my yoga and writing goals. Thinking in 12 week years really helps me to set more specific goals to strive for, that are both stretching me a bit yet still achievable. So far it seems especially helpful in giving my creative side enough space to actually be creative. A year is too long to feel an actionable sense today, a month is too short due to life intervening, so I do think 12 weeks hits a sweet spot.

Curious? Order the book from Amazon (links to Kindle version) or visit the website.


Impossible Magic Moments

Impossible Magic Moments

I was standing besides my mother, in a very dark corner of our attic. Only a little orangy bulb was burning, casting a very secretive light. Three little baths with chemicals and water on the table top. A big machine standing next to it. My mother inserted a negative in the machine and all of a sudden, on the white surface below, there he was: one of my brothers, chilled to the bones standing besides a small lake, somewhere in Sweden. A piece of paper was put in the right place. My mother turned on a light in the machine, counted, shut the light down and put the piece of white paper in the one of the little baths. Slowly, the white piece of paper started to transform. Vaguely first, clearer with every second. And then that moment when all the development had been done to a picture, and we were able to switch on the regular lights so we could see what my mum had created. You never knew if you’d done it all properly until then. 

It was like magic.

Digital photography took most of the uncertainty out of photography. A good thing I’d say. People’s snapshots are now in focus, because they’re able to check it instantly and take another one. The amount of blurry negatives we had on our family holiday rolls, what a waste! Still, that same certainty and instant gratification of seeing your picture at the back of your camera, a mere second after taking it…it has taken the joy of anticipation away…but now it’s back!

You may (or may not) have heard of The Impossible Project. In 2008 Polaroid stopped producing integral instant film and its last production site, located in my home town (Enschede), was closed down. And then something unexpected happened:

“In October 2008 The Impossible Project saved the last Polaroid production plant for integral instant film in Enschede (NL) and started to invent and produce totally new instant film materials for traditional Polaroid cameras. In 2010 Impossible saved analog instant photography from extinction by releasing various, brand new and unique instant films.
Therewith Impossible prevents more than 300.000.000
perfectly functioning Polaroid cameras from becoming obsolete, changes the world of photography and keeps variety, tangibility and analogue creativity and possibilites alive.”

Thus, my former neighbours (I used to live next to the Polaroid factory), continued to produce instant film. From scratch though. They had to reverse engineer the whole process, find new partnerships for producing the chemicals needed, and with small steps produce a film that could be used again.

My dear friend Pedro was the first person to tell me about The Impossible Project, and the first person I knew to jump on the band wagon when the first films were on sale in 2010. He infected me.

If you’ve been following me elsewhere you may have noticed that a while ago Pedro gave me something. An old-fashioned camera. One without a SD-slot or Flash-card, yet with a big slot for cassettes with photographic paper inside. He gave me a Polaroid SX-70 camera, for me to experiment with. And thus I took my first Polaroid-style pictures ever.


My third 'polaroid' ever is acceptable for showing

My third ‘polaroid’ ever is acceptable for showing

#4 let me out!

#4 let me out!


A week ago we visited Pedro and his wife Patrícia in Düsseldorf (to pick up Peter) and while strolling through the city, Pedro carried several camera’s with him, all using a different type of integral film (and watch him buy more camera’s on the go). Pedro said something about the instant gratification it gives, to have, yet again, a physical picture in your hand, with a somewhat unpredictable result.

I have to agree with him. I’ve taken so many digital pictures, but none of it ends up in a physical form. They live in iPhoto or end up at Flickr and for most of them, that’s good enough. I can’t even be bothered anymore to throw away the bad shots. Disk space is abundant. But sometimes it feels like a picture has lost its value all together. There are so many of them, and I carry one or more camera’s always with me that they’ve become too easy, too abundant.


#8 Peter Rukavina

#8 Peter Rukavina

The polaroid camera brings back that moment of anticipation, that unpredicted outcome, that thrill when turning over your picture for the first time, minutes after you took it, the disappointment when it failed, or the joy of it being better than expected, how the colour still develops in the next 24 hours. Even the failed pictures sometimes turn out to be beauties.


The current Impossible Film makes a photograph a thing beyond capturing a moment in time. Due to its experimental phase, there are many tricks to using the film, such as shielding the picture from light immediately after the picture ejects from the camera. A challenge resulting in interesting hacks added to the camera. The rather unstable form of the current Impossible Film transforms a picture in an unpredictable way, and I like that.

On top of that, the film isn’t cheap, so you’d better think twice about what you’re going to capture. Therefore it’s back to basics when taking a picture: looking, watching, stepping back, stepping forwards, checking the composition again, and turning the camera off without taking a picture if it doesn’t look right through the lens.

Last Friday I stocked up on some new films, bought at the Factory Outlet for a very reasonable price, since they were from batches that weren’t 100% OK.  On Sunday it stopped raining (at last!), so Ton and I set out for our usual stroll around the neighbourhood. Obviously, I had to take the SX-70 with me to experiment with the new type of film (using a ND-filter on top of PX680 film). Ton being a very good assistant, standing ready next to me with a box to immediately put the pictures in, to shield the pictures from light (unlike men, I have very few shirts with a breast pocket. Correction: I have none). I can tell you this, people walking past us noticed we were taking pictures back from the future.

Capturing Impossible Moments, it’s like magic again.


#9 Stokhorst

#9 Stokhorst

#12 clouds and blue sky

#12 clouds and blue sky


#10 curious cow

#10 curious cow

#11 curious cows

#11 curious cows


The true case: self-publishing a book as a network

The true case: self-publishing a book as a network


Last Monday we, a group called LOSmakers, launched a book with 11 cases and cross-analysis on learning and organizing using social media. The real story that needs to be told: how we wrote, edited, designed and published a book with a group of 15 people, not binded by any contract, but for the willingness to commit time, energy and a only a little bit of money to get the job done.


This is the story of how a group of loosely connected people starts to grow into a brand.

How the group met

Four of us already worked together for a number of years, training people to use social media. We’re self-employed, forming teams for clients on a project basis. The four of us also know many others like us, working with social media, helping clients to get up to speed with social tools. Talking to eachother we noticed that we all dealt with similar issues to find solutions for and answer questions by clients. We also knew how pleasantly we worked together as a small network and at some point of time we, I guess it was Joitske in particular, expressed the wish to add another layer to our collaboration, with a peer network to share experiences around social media and learning.

We sent an invitation to people in our networks who might be interested in joining us and thus, in spring 2010, we met for the first time as a group.

First steps in sharing

Since that first meeting we started sharing. Sometimes in face-to-face meetings, exploring specific topics, more often in virtual settings where one or two of us would present something during a webinar. We showcased our projects during those webinars, discussed together and at the same time explored different tools to play with during these online meetings.

When the group becomes LOSmakers

One year after the groups’ first steps we felt the need to get a little bit more serious. We wanted to create something for a wider audience, so we could present ourselves as a group. In a meeting was decided to start working on a ‘book with ideas’ and that we needed a name for the group.

In June 2011 we did an online brainstorm for a name and opened a wiki for collecting cases to end up in our ‘book’. By the end of the month we branded ourselves LOSmakers and by the end of July we had a list of 11 cases to write about.

Working to a deadline

People who suggested a case were responsible for writing that specific case and a group of four took the overall responsibility for the process, in other words: kept the group reminding to deliver to the next deadline.

Our first deadline: all cases should be written by  October 6th (2011), which obviously wasn’t met by all of us Nevertheless, several cases had been finished as a draft and we started working towards polished versions from that point on.

The PDF grew into a book…

At first we had the idea of putting together a decent PDF and publish this for all to download for free. During that particular meeting in October this somehow evolved (I wasn’t present at that meeting) into printing a proper book, with the use of an editor and book designer.

For a text document to grow into a book you get into the messy process of editing and rewriting, re-reading and re-editing. I’ve lost count how many versions of my own case I’ve written and how many versions of the document I scanned for typo’s. And that times 15, the number of people involved creating the book.

We found ourselves a brilliant designer who voluntarily created a template for our book. He found us a printing house as well and between the 15 of us we could order enough copies of the book for a reasonable price. The hard copies would serve as our own marketing material, the PDF would be distributed in exchange for a tweet.

Idea to book conversion: 10 months

So then we’re back to where I started: last Monday we had the experience of taking our first glance, as co-authors, at the printed version of the book we wrote together and launched the website for people to download the book.

From idea to product in 10 months.

Ingredients: clients, writing experience, perspiration, co-working spaces, skype, pbworks (wiki), google docs, googlegroups (aka email), datumprikker (pick a date), dropbox, Erik Vos

…and of course the combined hours spent by the LOSmakers.

A special thanks to HanneloreSibrenneJoitske and Simon for pushing the group forward, one step at a time. Without you, it would never have become a product to be proud of


P.S.: you can download the PDF in exchange for a tweet or message on Facebook. Remember though: it is in Dutch. If you’re interested in a hard copy, drop me a line in whatever channel you prefer.

P.P.S: Monday we also expressed a wish to translate the book into English. Are you interested in reading it? Or are you willing to lend a hand translating to document? Drop me a line as well!



Not a story teller by nurture

Not a story teller by nurture

Telling stories was not part of my upbringing. In my family we stated facts, either true facts or perceived facts (if you know what i mean ). Now, long after finishing my formal education, storytelling is at the heart of my work for clients, so I need to get up to speed.

To me, stories resided in books, in fairy tales, but they were certainly not about real life. Only since I’m aware of storytelling for business purposes and help clients to explain organisational changes to their employees in video’s, I discover the true nature of stories and their power.

I’ve read books about storytelling and excercise my ‘storytelling’ on a regular basis by writing observations down in (one of my many) notebooks. Now that I know more about the topic I’m not sure why storytelling was never part of my upbringing, not at home and not at school.

I remember many school projects to write reports on topics such as WW II and Van Gogh, but I can’t remember a single case where we were asked to try to write a compelling story. I feel like this is a huge gap in my knowledge skills today, even though it is a skill you can learn later on, as I’m doing now.

It makes me wonder: did you learn to tell stories early on? At home or at school? Was I just unfortunate to have a family AND a school where this was not part of my curriculum? Or is it generally speaking not part of Dutch culture (compared to the English debate culture e.g.)?

I’d love to hear your story on storytelling!