Amsterdam Tower: a must-visit!

Amsterdam tower

It is new and it is brilliant, the Amsterdam Tower – a remake of the former Shell research labs in Amsterdam. I had a great time this week while giving a presentation about dealing with international business and culture in front of spectacular views over Amsterdam. Nevertheless my public was highly attentive, for a moment I doubted whether they would be with me at all but they did 🙂
If you look at the photo above and you see the 9 meter high windows in top of the building, that is where I stood – and here are some pictures of the views:

amsterdam tower  amsterdam toweramsterdam tower  amsterdam tower
The making of the Amsterdam Tower is a story out of a wizard book: three Dutch guys who were succesfull in the international music scene decided to cooperate in this and won the battle for the tower in competition with 34 other interested parties. They turned it into a combination of music company offices, a hotel, different bars, restaurants and clubs with a 360° turning restaurant in top: a music tower!
On top they offer a platform for all inhabitants of Amsterdam and our tourists to watch the spectacular panorama and to take a seat in Europe’s highest swing: the Amsterdam lookout. Alas I had serious business to do when I was there so I definitely have to come back to experience that swing!
Our city is blessed with these creative entrepreneurs who make such major contributions to the quality of life in Amsterdam: well done, thank you guys!
Last but not least an photo-impression (made with my phone, lack of quality, in reality much better) of the elevator going up: the music experience starts already from there…
amsterdam tower elevator  amsterdam tower elevator
Amsterdam Tower, a new experience not to be missed!

Bardo Museum – Musée de Bardo Tunis: wowowow!

baptism mosaic

If you think many mosaics, think more. If you imagine an endless view of mosaics, double or triple what you imagine and that is what the Bardo Museum in Tunis offers you. I knew the collection of mosaics this museum contains is thrilling but I could not have guessed the amount and the size of the beauty: wow, just wowowow.
‘Are you really going to the Bardo Museum?’, people asked me in surprise. A terrible terrorist attack took place on this museum just two years ago. But of course that means that it is now the best protected monument of the country, Tunisia. Do not hesitate, just go. Nowhere else in the world you will find this abundance of mosaic beauty and such an oversight of mosaic art in different periods and denominations: Roman, Christian, Jewish, Byzantine or just ‘Carthago’.
mosaic bardo museum  mosaic lake bizerte - lac de bizerte
However, that is not all. They have fantastisch Punic pieces (statues, masks, steles), nice jewelry of the Vandals – proving vandalism has beautiful sides! There is some Roman and pottery stuff that I found less interesting; at least it is less unique. But the great Ottoman hall of the Bardo Museum leaves you in surprise, wondering why you find that more beautiful and refined than the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.
ottoman period bardo museum  ottoman ceiling bardo museum
The rest of the museum is more or less non-existent: the coffee sign leeds to a completely deserted part of the museum where coffee nor any other consumption could be found. The museum shop that could imo be thriving, is a disappointment. The toilets are clean however, kept so by a most gentle attendant. Overall, the museum personnel is really helpful: they want you to enjoy your stay and do everything to make sure you will see what you came for. Only because of their kindness I found the Punic room that I was desperate to see after the mosaics. The logic of the museum plan is not clear for all but the personnel compensates largely for that: a big thanks to their involvement and enthusiasm!
More info at the site of the Bardo Museum in English or the Musée de Bardo in French.


Unique coins in Money Museum Tunis

money museum tunis‘Well, they have coins’, Tunesians told me when I asked them what the Money Museum (Musée de la Monnaie) is like. Their tune was not very respectful, in their eyes it did not seem worth a visit. I wanted to see the museum anyway, especially as it is not mentioned in tourist guides and these can be the most interesting visits like the Museum of the History of Cypriot coinage, another hidden pearl. I was certainly not disappointed.
This museum is found within the Tunesian Central Bank and depicts the history of coinage in the area: that means it starts already in the time of Carthago, 4th century BC. Most interesting for me were the coins from the era of the califates like the Ommayyads, Fatimides, Aghlabides and Abbasides: it was like a new world opening for me. musee monnaie tunisAlready in the first century of islamic era, coins were made with Qu’ran inscriptions and this museum shows a good quantity of them (a lot in gold, part of the attractiveness of course).
Another thing I learned is that coins can be shiite or sunni. First I thought I misunderstood but the proof was in front of my eyes.

shiite coins

shiite coins

sunni coins

sunni coins

I seriously studied these coins but I am afraid my expertise is too limited to understand the subtile differences.
There is, overall, a very good explanation that goes with these coins but not in English: in Arabic and in French. For the coins of the early centuries I must say it was difficult to relate the information given to the coins as exposed. This suddenly improved when the period of antiquities was left behind. From then on, all is clear, although sometimes quite detailed. For experts, this is the absolute place to be.
The museum also shows some interesting notes that tell us which heroes of the past are valuated enough to be on the national banknotes. I saw f.ex. Ibn Rachik, Hannibal, Ibn Khaldoun.
It has many square coins: square coins musee monnaie tunisAnd it presents plenty of memorial coins, and coins of special sites where I found Amsterdam among them.
coins about sites musee monnaie tunislibrary musee de la monnaie tunisLast but not least: the library they have offers books in 5 or 6 languages, not just about coinage but also about history and art of the region. It is an excellent collection for those who want to study and it seems to be an undiscovered place: you can sit there in complete tranquillity, surrounded by friendly workers who are happy to welcome anyone interested in their cultural heritage.
The Money Museum (Musée de la Monnaie) of Tunis: worth a visit!

fairversity in Vienna

Today I was at the fairversity in Vienna, as board member of idm (the international society for diversity management for those speaking German 🙂 and it was very interesting. Most people I spoke to think diversity is quite a new subject to most Austrians, especially when looking at the advantages diversity can bring to organisations and the economy. That concept found a fertile ground in Austria a few years ago and these visitors were happy about that development. Many of them were looking for more indepth information about diversity & inclusion. It was no surprise for them that competence is needed to profit from diversity. They were eager to know more about that competence. Maybe this sounds logical to you, my dear reader, but it is certainly not a generally accepted idea – in Germany and the Netherlands the approach of diversity can be more moralistic which means that having a good heart and an open mind is seen as the key asset, rather than competence.
fairversity viennaThere was another interesting experience. I had to do a 30-minutes presentation at the fairversity. Presentations were ongoing so I decided to make it interactive to prevent being boring, as number 9 in a row of presentations. That was a new approach. All presenters just said what they had to say and that was it. No questions asked, no comments given, no information provided by the public. If we think that the benefits of diversity come with a learning organisation – and I saw an Austrian publisher on fairversity who had books about it – we need more interaction and dialogue. The first fifteen minutes my public was staring at me in surprise but after that they started to enjoy it and came up with real good ideas. Austrians have a good sense of humour, also in diversity. They have a special word for that: Schmäh. I love it!

Ik kan vliegen: wow!

ik kan vliegen
Met vliegen heb ik niets, maar ik heb wel iets met Jeroen Komen. Dus toen ik zijn nieuwe boek Ik kan vliegen kreeg, met een mooie persoonlijke opdracht voorin geschreven, ging ik het lezen vanwege die persoonlijke band hoewel – ik geef het eerlijk toe – ik dacht dat ik er niet veel aan zou vinden. Nou, dat kan ik meteen rechtzetten: het is een spectaculair goed boek. Ik heb het van a tot z gelezen en dat was alleen maar een genoegen.
Daar heb ik een tijdje over nagedacht: wat maakt dit nou zo’n goed boek voor mij? Dat zijn verschillende elementen. Jeroen heeft er bijvoorbeeld een erg persoonlijk boek van gemaakt. Het is een boek over levenslessen in de brede zin des woords; allerlei aspecten van het leven passeren de revue. Jeroen neemt ons mee op de verkenningstocht van zijn eigen ontdekkingen, zijn twijfels en zijn doorzettingsvermogen. De schrijfstijl, mooi en zonder opsmuk, werkt daar versterkend bij. Dat op de eerste plaats maakt dat ik het ademloos gelezen heb. Andere kwaliteiten van het boek zijn de afwisseling: als vlieger komt Jeroen op allerlei plaatsen (lees: culturen, mijn grote hobby) wat superinteressant is en zeker een bron van goede anecdotes. En dan zijn er natuurlijk de prachtige foto’s die hij zelf vanuit zijn vliegtuig gemaakt heeft. Het meest intrigerend vond ik die op pagina 68-69 (koop het boek en kijk zelf) om de simpele reden dat ik me tot in mijn slaap afvroeg of het hier nu een openbaar zwembad betreft of niet.
Veel boeken hebben zeker kwaliteit maar die zit vaak in deelaspecten en is niet consistent. Ik kan vliegen is van begin tot einde ‘af’. Ik hoop dat Jeroen of de uitgever eraan gedacht heeft dit naar de Koninklijke Bibliotheek te sturen want een plaats binnen het nationale erfgoed is verdiend. Warm aanbevolen!

Diversiteit in Jordanië: business as usual (2)

diversiteit in jordanië


Onlangs gaf ik voor de tweede maal een training diversiteit in Jordanië, ditmaal bij een telecom bedrijf. Na de eerste training formuleerde ik een aantal hypotheses, zie de blog: Diversiteit in Jordanië (1) en die houden stand ook na deze nieuwe ervaring:
1. ‘de cultuur in Jordanië is conflictmijdend, mensen leren van jongsaf aan reacties in te schatten en confrontaties te vermijden en ontwikkelen daarom bijzondere antennes’: ja ja en ja. Zoiets is heel aangenaam in de dagelijkse omgangsvormen, zeker weten dat het ook NL-ers zou verrijken en verblijden! Mits het natuurlijk van twee kanten komt. Ook bespaart het tijd, niet alles hoeft expliciet uitgesproken te worden. Keerzijde is dat als iemand dan een keer iets uitspreekt, er een lang gesprek nodig is want de kwaliteit die in het NL poldermodel uitstekend ontwikkeld is – elkaar ergens halverwege tegemoet komen – is minder ontwikkeld.
2. ‘het zakenleven in Amman wordt niet, zoals te doen gebruikelijk in Nederland en Duitsland, geplaagd door schuldgevoel’. Blijft overeind. Jordaniërs zijn  praktisch, hoe werkt diversiteit & inclusie en hoe moet het werken of hoe willen we dat het werkt en wat gaan we daaraan doen. Zo’n houding is bevrijdend als je principiële en laten we wel wezen, soms oeverloze discussies gewend bent. Gewoon het gewenste resultaat bepalen en daarvoor gaan, heerlijk!
3. ‘de waardering voor objectieve kennis is groot, er is minder ‘mening’ en meer waardering voor bevindingen uit wetenschap’, was mijn hypothese. Daaraan voeg ik nu toe: en aan ervaringen van elders, om daarvan te leren. En aan kennis over wat de wereldwijde transitie naar een nieuwe economie en governance van ons vraagt. Het lijkt wel of Nederland te maken heeft met de ‘wet van de remmende voorsprong: Nederland loopt voor en lijkt het dus beter te weten, is arroganter. Jordanië loopt evident niet voor en is zeer ambitieus om wel degelijk onderscheidend te zijn in het veld van diversity & inclusion. Heel interessant om mee te maken.
ammanDat Nederland of ‘het Westen’ iets kan leren van het Midden-Oosten staat voor mij inmiddels wel vast. De komende maanden onderzoek ik dit verder, al (samen)werkend in de praktijk, op weg naar vertaling voor westerse organisaties. En net als in de vorige blog, nodig ik graag  mensen met ervaring in die regio uit te reageren ter bevestiging, nuancering of ontkenning van mijn conclusies of aanvulling daarvan. Wordt vervolgd!

Recycling plastic: the Amsterdam or the Tel Aviv way?

recycling plastic tel aviv

plastic recycling tel aviv

Tel Aviv has a nice way to make the inhabitants recycle plastic bags and bottles. In the streets of Tel Aviv, one finds open bins. Open means: they do not block the view on the road; they are attractive to use because one can see the results of a contribution; and it is hardly vulnerable for vandalism and other more heavy stuff.
What I like too is the artistic sense that comes with these bins. It could have been enough to just place them on the street with the open iron wires, but the persons who created this wanted an extra and added some flowers, butterflies and other details that make life happier.
Compare the bins above to what we have in Amsterdam :
recycling plastic bin amsterdam recycling plastic amsterdam
These are closed recycling bins: one can not see through them and they form a big block, here at a crossroad, that prevents overseeing the streets. Posters that are put on them prevent the use of graffiti but do absolutely not give more joy to the consumer when using the bin for recycling, on the contrary: they are not at all attractive and too many people have never used them yet. I think we should have the Tel Aviv plastic recycling bins: more open to the street and more inviting to use them.

Security is your friend in Tel Aviv

white night White Night in Tel Aviv is an enormous street festival. On balconies, in parks, on the street sides and in squares, acts, music bands, DJ’s and the like have their performance while thousands of people are passing. How does a city deal with that in a country where attacks on Jewish people (two more attacks on the day of White Night alone) can always be expected?
It means they have controlpoints on every street opening to festival activities. Imagine that this would be done in Amsterdam: it would give a lot of discussion and the poor security officers would have a lot to explain and to deal with. There would be rows at the controlpoints and the idea of controlpoints would prevail over the joy of the festival. In Tel Aviv, it is clear that security is essential and it comes first for everybody. The threat is felt as real – so security is your best friend when you go to a festival.
There is no delay at all at the controlpoints. The public acts with discipline and speed: showing quickly what they wear under their shirts, opening bags on time. The only problem I saw, was with a Dutch guy who wanted to go in with a (glass) bottle of whisky, which was not allowed… This is the most efficient security I have ever seen and this way, a festival stays pleasant under difficult and risky circumstances. Even when the average visitor might pass 5-10 controlpoints in a single evening, White Night in Tel Aviv means just high quality performances in a great atmosphere.

Genderneutral toilets in Israel

genderneutral toilets One of the things that I did not expect to encounter in Israel (including the Westbank) is the genderneutral toilets that they have almost everywhere. The toilets are found in one single room with two or more doors, available for all alike. There are no women toilets or men toilets and no one seems to bother – which is usually the case when you live somewhere… it is just a matter of being used to a situation.
In Europe, Sweden was presented as the first country where they abolish toilets designed for men and women, but they are not the first, this approach can already be found in Israel. In my recent training for the building company in Jordan, we discussed the influence of measures for toilets in buildings on working life. The participants in the training brought up that in the United States, they are now adding transgender toilets to toilets for men and women. The participants follow this kind of developments because of course it has consequences for the work they do, especially the architectural side. But the solution in Israel and the Westbank is more easy: nobody needs to go to a specific transgender toilet. The whole toilet-thing is genderneutral 🙂
However, I did miss a bit the privacy of a toilet for women only here. Especially that the week I was in Israel, was what I use to call the ‘wrong week of the month’ for me. That comes with some discomforting and sometimes complicating actions. I am not someone without shame so sharing the toilets with ‘all’ did not make my life more easy. But I learned to live with it…

Hamas promises peace

RamallahThis week a group of journalists and opinion leaders had a conversation with spokesmen of Fatah and Hamas on the Westbank. Fatah and Hamas have reconciliated and the two men presented themselves as a political unity in Ramallah. The conversation led to one unclear outcome but also to some clear conclusions that I am happy to share with you.
The unclear outcome was the answer to the question as to how Hamas felt about the deal between Israel and Turkey on the Mavi Marmara ship. Although this deal involves action points to be taken by Hamas, the Hamas spokesman was clear: this is between Israel and Turkey, Hamas has got nothing to do with it and has no opinion about it. The news that  there was some disappointment about the deal in Turkey because the hopes were the Gaza bloccade would be alleviated, made no big impression: Hamas is not involved here and has no comments on the deal.

Then the questions that WERE actually answered…
1. Is Hamas ready to accept a 2-state solution in the Israeli-Palestine conflict? The answer was a loud and clear: yes! This is something that I never heard before and that opens new windows for the future, as the 2-state solution means that the parties involved recognize each other so Hamas is ready to recognize Israel.
2. How does Hamas see the position of women? Hamas wants a democratic state with full rights for women in all positions. Women have the same rights as men and Hamas will work within the framework of international laws set in this respect. The way the society was described here sounded like paradise, certainly more than the Netherlands where we do struggle with some men-women issues in daily life!
3. How about a free press? Hamas admits there is no free press now but they are motivated to have a free press. However it is difficult in the actual circumstances because of (their perception of) the Israeli oppression. The answer is, give Hamas a free Palestinian state and free press will be realized in that new state.
So after this conversation the conclusion can only be: Hamas promises peace. Hamas just made peace with Fatah, and they will make peace with Israel and with international rights like the rights for women and the rights for free journalism.
You can imagine that the group that witnessed this conversation, was excited and ready to give congratulations.


Jews removing Christians from Middle East

RamallahRamallah is a lively and kind city. During a short trip through the city, at least five people said spontaneaously ‘welcome’ to me. Isn’t that nice? I love tourists in Amsterdam (except when they walk on the biking paths) but I never tell them ‘welcome’; maybe that is a good thing to learn from the Palestinians here! It makes life more beautiful…
Ramallah2Ramallah is also a contradictory town where you can buy the biography of Hillary Clinton at several places as well as Mein Kampf from Hitler, both in Arabic. I met with some police officers who were nice and accepted to have their photograph taken; another spontaneous move I guess, in this region where officials usually say no.
The kindness and politeness of this city’s inhabitants is in strange contrast with the attitude as soon as ‘politics’ enter the arena. Faces become rigid, attitudes harshen, voices turn loud. The people of Ramallah and the Westbank suffer real hardship because of the Israeli occupation. They tell you heartbreaking stories about it, and you don’t want anybody to live that, themselves or with their children.
Somehow, Isreali’s or Jews are to blame for everything here. Most of all I was surprised about the story of a Christian Palestinian who said there is a Jewish plan to remove all the Christians from the Middle East – not just the Westbank – so that the Jews can have all the land and the Americans can claim that Christ was born in the US (in New Jersey for example) and not in the Middle East. When the Americans chased Saddam out of Iraq, they looted the musea of Iraq and sent all the stolen antiquities to Israel so that the real archaeological history could be wiped out. I always thought the Americans didn’t have a clear plan in case they’d win in Iraq and they just forgot to protect the musea but here they are themselves deliberately looting the musea, following a deliberate plan they have together with ‘the Jews’.
My Christian Palestinian continued by telling that the Jews left Egypt and they also left Babylon 7000 years ago and now they want this land, Palestine, for themselves. Wasn’t leaving Babylon closer to 2700 years than 7000 years ago? I am just guessing but 7000 seems way too long ago. ‘Yes’, my Christian Palestine friend says, ‘of course 2700 years ago, that is the same, they left Babylon’. I do not think that that is the same in the ligth of the discussion we are having but my view is ignored.
He thinks the Jews are behind the removal of the Christians from Iran, Iraq, Palestina, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Libanon and maybe more countries. It is evident that during the last 40 years Christians have been fleeing the Middle East and I have been quite involved in that but this is really the first time in my life that I hear someone tell that this stems from a Jewish plan. How this would serve the Jewish case is not clearly explained. What matters is that ‘they want this country from the sea untill the river since the 19th century’. The Jews crucified Jesus and now try to remove the Christians from Middle East countries. The Americans work with them because that will help them to turn Jesus into an American born citizen.
A nice conversation just turned into a conspiracy theory that divides us into two worlds… I do not know what to answer. I just remain speechless.

Diversiteit in Jordanië: business as usual?

diversiteit jordanie - business as usual Toen ik via een Duitse opdrachtgever de vraag kreeg of ik in een bouwbedrijf in Amman – de hoofdstad van Jordanië – een diversiteitstraining wilde geven, zei ik meteen ja maar was ik ook wel verbaasd en een beetje onzeker. Ten eerste had ik een dergelijke vraag niet verwacht vanuit de bouwsector in Jordanië (ziedaar, uw diversiteitsexpert is niet vrij van vooroordelen). Ten tweede was ik nog nooit in Jordanië geweest. Diversiteit is bij uitstek een contextafhankelijk onderwerp en als je uitgaat van diversiteit als businesscase, wat ik doe, moet je terdege weten waar de businesskansen liggen voordat je iets zinvols kunt bijdragen. Maar ja, zo’n kans krijg je niet elke dag en ik ben altijd al een fan van het Midden-Oosten geweest… Zo toog ik enkele weken later, na een visum te hebben gehaald bij de Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordania in Den Haag en bovendien alles bestudeerd te hebben wat er over het Hashemite Kingdom te bestuderen valt, naar Amman. Na enkele dagen doorgebracht te hebben met ingenieurs, architecten en HR-functionarissen kom ik tot een paar conclusies die ik graag nader zou willen testen:
1. de cultuur in Jordanië is conflictmijdend, mensen leren van jongsaf aan reacties in te schatten en confrontaties te vermijden. Mensen hebben daarom antennes ontwikkeld om te voelen hoe dingen liggen zonder dat ze verbaal worden uitgesproken. Als trainer viel me op dat de deelnemers vaak aan een half woord (of aan mijn gezichtsuitdrukking) genoeg hadden; waar Nederlanders of Duitsers behoefte hebben aan explicitering, kunnen ze in bedrijven in Jordanië ook zonder (ik zeg dus niet: heel Jordanië, het gaat over de zakelijke omgangsvormen).
2. het zakenleven in Amman wordt niet, zoals te doen gebruikelijk in Nederland en Duitsland, geplaagd door schuldgevoel. Waar in een diversiteitstraining gewezen wordt op patronen van uitsluiting, of het nu gaat om gender, cultuur of religie, kunnen deelnemers er vrijelijk om lachen en zich onbevangen afvragen: waarom doen we dat eigenlijk zo?
3. de waardering voor objectieve kennis is groot. Diversiteitstrainingen worden met name in Nederland geplaagd door mensen die ‘een mening’ hebben. In Duitsland is er meer waardering voor bevindingen uit onderzoek en wetenschap en in Amman is dit ruim aanwezig: er is ronduit honger naar kennis. Wetenschappelijke resultaten vinden een open oor en ambitie voor toepassing.
Mijn ervaring met de Duitse opdrachtgever en het Jordaanse bedrijf was zo goed dat ik in juli terug ga voor een vergelijkbare training bij een telecom bedrijf in Amman. Ik ben benieuwd of mijn conclusies (hypotheses) stand houden of gewijzigd worden – hierover zal ik zeker een nieuwe blog schrijven. In het dagelijks leven horen wij meestal negatieve berichten uit het Midden-Oosten. Toch zijn daar bedrijven die al sinds jaar en dag succesvol met diversiteit omgaan, want het Midden-Oosten = diversiteit. Zonder die kerncompetentie kun je daar geen bedrijf runnen. Ik vermoed dat het Westen daarvan kan leren en heb de ambitie daarover meer te ontdekken en dit te vertalen naar de westerse context en behoeften. De komende maanden ga ik ook naar Israel en Tunesië en mogelijk nog andere landen. Ondertussen ben ik benieuwd naar reacties van mensen met ervaring in die regio ter bevestiging, nuancering of ontkenning van mijn conclusies of aanvulling daarvan. Neem gerust contact op en wordt vervolgd!