Dutch entrepreneurs then and now

vno-ncw investeren in vrouwen loont 008 Today a new book about Dutch entrepreneurs was presented at the headquarters of Dutch employers, the Malietoren in the Hague. It was a pleasant venue, as you can see in the picture. A big text shows that investing in women gives a real good ROI (return on investment). I know that plans for this action were discussed during the trade mission to Turkey last November (see my other blogs http://grethevangeffen.nl/?m=201211) so it was great to see the outcome!
However, the presentation was only about male entrepreneurs in the period 1850 – 1950 in Holland (the west of the Netherlands); great entrepreneurs that made our country to what it is now. Most entrepreneurs combined their business with social involvement. The chair of VNO-NCW, Bernard Wientjes, explained that this has always been usual in Dutch business. The last 30 years brought an approach too uniquely focused on shareholder value, but we are regrouping from the problems that brought and heading toward sustainable solutions.
The Van Oord family explained how they run their marine ingenuity business (see http://www.vanoord.com/) as an entire family business: that was so interesting. Family business means that long term vision is included in every step the business takes. We got a story here how a small business starting with a single entrepreneur can be developped into something worldwide and top of the bill by a large number of 3rd, 4th and 5th generation members. I loved it!
Present were not so much people like me who have a 1st generation business; most of them were 2nd and 3rd generation, but there was also a 5th generation guy present 🙂 It is a great advantage that so many entrepreneurs paved the path, and we can learn from them and be inspired: thanks for that! Please find the book (series) at http://www.walburgpers.nl/site/content.php?hfst_id=127&hfst_id_parent=7&PHPSESSID=f843f8a4351b6186fbb5..

Read here about:
Preparing for trade mission to Turkey
Trade mission to Turkey (1): to do or not to do?
Trade mission to Turkey (2): matchmaking
Trade mission to Turkey (3): women entrepreneurship
Trade mission to Turkey (4): Turkish businessmen about the Dutch

Dead Aid in Malawi

dead aid  Dambisa Moyo is an economist, born in Zambia, and the author of the New York Times Bestseller “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa”. In the past fifty years, she writes, more than $1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans? No. In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse—much worse. Dead Aid offers proposals for developing countries to finance development, instead of relying on foreign aid. If you don’t know about her ideas yet, find more at www.dambisamoyo.com.

Walking around in Malawi, that is among the 5 poorest countries in the world and relies for more than 50% of the national budget on external donors, her book becomes a living truth. The police here is paid by the English, treatment against aids for over 300.000 people is paid by the Italians. On every corner a charity can be found but there appears to be no economy. Moreover, the harvest has failed in large parts of the country so that hunger is expected the coming months for over a million people here. I have never been in a country that was more desperately seeking for aid, and that donors feel compelled to give aid to. The words of Dambisa Moyo that aid is an addiction, both for donors and for receivers, can be seen in practice here.

Many workers ‘in the field’ realize that aid, after fifty (!) years of aid already, is not the right answer for the problems of Malawi. A totally different approach is necessary, but they are squeezed between the two groups of aid-addicts:
1. The donors on the one side who want to answer to immediate needs of the Malawi people in the same way they always did, and who in many cases pay their salaries and the means they work with;
2. The Malawi people on the other side for whom it has become completely normal to rely on external sources and to ask for more, as much as possible, and who knock directly on their door.

However, things are going to change. The publication of Dead Aid a few years ago was a first sign. The economic crisis in the West, that brings new ways of thinking not just about the western world itself but also about ‘the way things are done’ in relation to the rest of the world, is a second sign. And for everybody who is travelling in Malawi, subtile notions are there that the acceptance of whites will not be so big any more in the years to come – like it happened in other southern African countries already; that is a third sign.

The situation in Malawi is absolutely an example of Dead Aid; may it also become an example of the solutions that Dambisa Moyo has proposed in her book, at a short term notice…

Other blogs about this theme:
Aid for orphans in Malawi
Millennium village
Pigs, kids and why it works in Malawi
Self help Africa

Diversity in governance: quality comes first (kwaliteit staat op nummer één)!

diversity in governance

Diversity in governance

During every match there are three minutes that really matter“, football icon Johan Cruijff said. I put this quote in my new book about diversity in the governance of public housing corporations. It relates directly to diversity competence at board level.
Diversity does not matter ‘all the time’. It is not about political correctness. It is about being open for it ánd recognizing it ánd the ability to make it work for the board and the organisation in the right moment: those three minutes that particularly matter! That is a specific competence that first of all chairs need, and then also other boardmembers.
Is diversity in governance an issue for public housing corporations? The board members I interviewed in the book agreed on that, but they saw it in a different way. Some would put accent on the board dynamics and decision making process that are richer and more balanced in a diverse board. Others just comment on the fact that there are still few women, younger people or people with a minority background at board level, considered as less favourable for the public image of housing corporations and also less favourable for the necessary knowledge about customer needs, as the customers are much more diverse than the boards are.
The title of the book is ‘Kwaliteit staat op nummer één’, quality comes first. That is what people often say when talking about diversity in governance, as if appointing ‘different’ people would mean bringing in less quality. Football icon Johan Cruijff said: “Quality comes first but quality must serve the entity as a whole“.
Buy my book at www.diversityshop.nl, www.bol.com, www.boekenroute.nl or in your local bookshop and read all about board principles, actuality in governance and diversity, practical cases and tools and so on… and please send me your feedback or other reactions, I will be happy to hear them!

Other blogs yoy might like:
Investeer in jouw inclusief leiderschap!
Diversiteit in Marokko en Tunesië
Seba culture and diversity workshops in Malawi

Diversity at work: my new book

diversity at workDiversity at work – diversiteit op de werkvloer

In the Netherlands managers often feel confused about cultural differences. The main confusion derives from the question: does this person act ‘like that’ because of his cultural background or is he ‘like that’ as a personality?
Apparently managers seem to consider culture as a source of behaviour that they have to take into account, while personality as the source of behaviour means that they will not accept the behaviour they see. As they cannot decide ‘is it culture or personality’ they are facing a dilemma in how to deal with ineffective behaviours at work – let alone the question how to deal with customer behaviour that is perceived as probably culturally different.

Last week I published a new book about diversity at work: Diversiteit op de Werkvloer (available in Dutch at www.diversityshop.nl). It shows how culture works out in daily business life. One chapter of the book proves that culture exists, another chapter that it doesn’t exist. There is no way managers will solve their business issues by analyzing culture as an objective fact. In line with that way of thinking, diversity at work is much larger than just culture.
The perception of difference matters at work (and also in other situations): when you see somebody, do you see a person that looks like you or that is different from you? And how does that influence your acts, your decision making?
The perception of difference includes not just culture but also gender, sexual orientation, age and many things that cannot be seen directly but can still be perceived like education, class or intelligence. Those who develop insight in the mechanisms of perceptions and skills in handling them, will be most succesfull when confronted with diversity at work.

Meet me at lunch!
Want to know more about this? Inscribe for an interesting lunch meeting and meet me in Amsterdam at 6th December or The Hague at 14th December, more info at www.seba.nl

Other blogs about my books you may like:
Diversity in governance: quality comes first
Investeer in jouw inclusief leiderschap

Other blogs about diversity and perceptions:
Women, be the leader you want to be
Rewarding managers

Highgiftedness ‘from the inside’

highgiftedness  Highgiftedness ‘from the inside’

A new Dutch book was published with 13 interviews of high gifted people: Ongekend hoogbegaafd / the unknown highgifted by Jacqueline Lucas. She wants to show ‘from the inside’ what it is like to be high gifted, how this advantage can come with difficulties and under what conditions it will develop as a real advantage. The presentation of the book was last Friday, and the room was packed with participants. It was interesting to see how many people nowadays feel for this subject, even claim ownership of the theme. Quite some participants got recently aware of their high intelligence, and were in the middle of the process of ‘what does this mean for me’.

It is very good that talent development gets more and serious attention. The problem side of highgiftedness is still a bit over-represented in my opinion, but let’s hope and contribute so that that will stabilize. We need more policies to profit from the talents that we have in our country.
A recent government study shows that the Dutch education system can do more than average for weak students, compared to other European countries, but it can do less than average for strong students…. And we claim that our future lies in a good and strong knowledge economy. There is some work to be done then! Let’s go for it, and include high gifted people both in our education and in our working environment.

Other blogs that may be interesting for you:
Nikhef meets Mensa
Finals Mensa SlimmerIQuiz coming up
Ik kan vliegen: wow!
Mensa member Angela Riddering publishes book about trust

Arab spring – surprise surprise?

arab spring Arab spring – surprise surprise?

Today the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad publishes an article written by professor of policy science John Grin and myself about the apparent ‘surprise’ of the Arab spring – or in terms of English Al-Jazeera: a region in turmoil. For those who speak Dutch, find it here: Arabische lente kwam niet als verrassing, in English: Arab spring did not come as a surprise.

In 2006 an official scientific government advisory board published a report about the dynamics in islamic activism. It was a 3 year study, very well documented, 234 pages, showing how new islamic thinkers and movements were connecting with democracy and human rights. However, in just 1 day most politicians had given strong, condemning reactions, calling the advisory board naive and the report ‘nonsense’. The report was so unwelcome that the board was threatened with reorganisation and even abolishment. There was no discussion about the content, about islam and the development of Dutch foreign policies in the light of new democratic movements in muslim countries, the fear of fundamentalist islam being predominant. John Grin and I published our ideas about this taboo already in 2006 in NRC Handelsblad.

Fear is a bad adviser, also in the debate about islam, human rights and democracy. Now in 2011, we face a lack of insight in what is really happening in Arabic countries, how Arab spring evolves and what that means for Dutch foreign policies… as if the turmoil couldn’t have been predicted. Politicians are ‘surprised’ by the events and stay silent. Or is that because they are busy reading the 2006 report after all?

Other blogs that may be interesting for you:
Portrait du décolonisé – Albert Memmi
How much spring is the Arab spring?
Ramallah: Jews removing Christians from the Middle East

Making the difference

making the difference Making the difference

How does a Dutch author sell an English book? Last week I asked this question to quite a few of my linkedin contacts. In november 2007 my book Verschil moet er zijn about the critical success factors for diversity management was published in the Netherlands and almost immediately succesful. Recently it was published in English under the title Making the Difference. You can find it at the publisher’s bookshop and in bookstores like Amazon and Ingram. My experience is that publishers’ efforts to sell a book are limited – and I want my book to sell!

For the Dutch version of the book, it was more easy for us (‘us’ is my company Seba): we helt lunch meetings in different cities, I gave presentations, spoke on BNR, we had many customers interested in the book etc.

Now we are facing a new challenge, since Seba is based in the Netherlands and almost all our customers are Dutch speaking persons. So I asked for creative ways, ideas and advices to promote the new book Making the difference. The amount of tips coming in was heart warming, it is great to experience in practice that linkedin connections are willing to read your message and spent some time on thinking about it! What I liked most was the idea to have the book ‘leaked’ via Wikileaks 🙂

Many others adviced me to start a blog and twitter more so that the world can find out more about my ideas. Thus, by the end of 2010, this new blog is born…

PS A YouTube-film was made about my book Making the Difference. Read about it in this blog.

Read more that might be interesting for you:
It’s nice to be creative
Refugees at work: best practices
Women entrepreneurship: trademission to Turkey (3)
Seba culture and diversity workshops in Malawi