Amsterdam Maker Festival – to be developed

amsterdam makers festival
‘Vague’ is the best word for the impression the Amsterdam Maker Festival made on me. I must have missed something but to me it was more a fair than a festival. I think most people did not spend more than 1-1,5 hours there. Somehow the announcement of this ‘festival’ created big expectations but I guess the floor was too innovative for simple visitors to get any idea of sense and nature of what was going on – especially on the first floor where Makerversity resides. It is clear that the 1st floor is an inspiring working area for new businesses but what on earth were we as visitors doing there? I liked the Javascript-Dress though (< on the left) but it was just hanging there, no one around, no explanation or anything. Why, what, how??
amsterdam maker cafeOn the groundfloor the program was accessible for all: drinks, food, all Amsterdam made. Think of Kesbeke, Frites uit Zuyd, and the best peanut butter I ever ate – but strange enough the website of the festival doesn’t even mention them, nor some other very good products that show the best of Amsterdam.
amsterdam maker festival 3 On the 3rd floor, there was a mixture of concrete stuff like lamps, jewelry and a spectacular artist in velvet (Velvet Matters), her work is really worth a visit! However a big part of the floor was empty and there were also objects like this one on the left – again no one around, no explanation or anything. Why, what, how??
The idea of an Amsterdam Maker Festival is great, I heard many positive reactions on that. For a next version, there is some work to do. For example, what is Amsterdam Made > does it really include Leiden, Nijmegen and the like? The festival seems to expand Amsterdam not just with a small circle but by conquering all of our country. And who exactly is the public for this festival: kids, grownups, nerds, general public, people who come to buy something, or people interested in some kind of experience (and then: what experience)? And last but not least: the website of the Amsterdam Maker Festival that is not very accessible for general public and does not mention half of the things general public would be interested in (like finding back the special peanut butter whose name I did not write down when I was on the spot). Amsterdam is a great brand that inspires many people. I really hope this will be continued!

Best practices refugees at work

tandwielen1 Yesterday my company Seba ( and the Dutch Foundation for Refugee Students UAF ( presented best practices to use refugee talent at work. One would say, why is that necessary at all? But it appears that employers and recruiters do not automatically recognize the talents of refugees, also the high educated with Dutch diplomas. To develop these best practices, we cooperated with organisations like Dubois&Co, Hogeschool Leiden, NS, Van Houtum, Vluchtelingenwerk and VUmc so the background of our findings is real life! See for more info (Dutch only) at:

We did do research about findings elsewhere in the world, but there was not a lot of specific information. Some was about migrants in general, other was about the coaching of refugees. Hardly any material was found to study how organisations can and will use refugee talents, what is necessary for that at organisational level. If you have such material about organisations in your country, we are very interested to hear from you. Refugees are often entrepreneurial as they face the need to set up and establish themselves in a new environment so why do they not get more involved in organisations and instead colour the ranks of unemployment figures – not just in the Netherlands?
Migration and the intake of refugees can diversify and enhance the skill level of the population, increase economies of scale and foster innovation and flexibility. One interesting detail: we found that five of Australia’s eight billionaires were people whose families had originally come to the country as refugees.
dobbelsteen1a Want to order this die on the photograph (Dutch only)? Available for free from

What do you see?

It was a great eyeopener for many attendants in the room when professor Halleh Gorashi explained what influenced her career. Gorashi arrived in The Netherlands as a refugee many years ago and was often confronted with people focussed on what she could do less than others: for example her ability of the Dutch language is not the same level as a native speaker has. What really made the difference in her career was the fact that a professor – when she was still a teacher at university – focussed on her specific talents.
Do we see a person who is shortcoming or a person who has unique added value? Daily reality shows all too often, specifically for refugees, that the ‘shortcoming’ part is accentuated and the unique added value is passing unnoticed. What a waste of talent for our organisations and for our country!
Please watch the (Dutch spoken) movie UAF made about a meeting with employers (VNO-NCW) – you can also see me in an interview for a few seconds: http://
If you like, join the project ‘Sustainable and Diverse’ that our company Seba has with UAF, to employ refugees and create  high-profile refugy-friendly organisations: let’s focus on talents together!

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

  “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 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, 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,, 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!

Guilt or Shame in sex abuse scandals Catholic Church

  We have heard it all over in the intercultural business: some cultures follow guilt patterns, other cultures follow shame patterns. Western European countries, being merely individualist, are among those with guilt patterns. Middle Eastern countries, with important characteristics of collectivism, follow patterns of shame.
According to cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict, shame is a violation of cultural or social values while guilt feelings arise from violations of one’s internal values. Thus, it is possible to feel ashamed of thought or behavior that no one knows about and to feel guilty about actions that gain the approval of others (see:
However when it comes to the sex abuse scandals involving the Catholic Church in the Netherlands, it seems like we have suddenly, instantly changed our cultural roots. The  investigating committee reported last Friday that thousands of Dutch children have been abused within the Dutch Catholic church between 1945 and 1981 (see: The committee tracked down 800 names of perpetrators, 105 of them still alive, as well as many of their victims who are suffering from the consequences. Lots of discussion followed and last Monday we saw two main responsibles, one of them archbishop of the Dutch Catholic church on television. They were interviewed by a journalist that is favorable to Catholic church so they were treated with respect and got full way to give an extensive reaction. And what we saw, were two top guys who were unable to bring their message.
They showed some surprise that criticism was not stopping while they had apologized already a long time ago. They admitted that what happened was very bad but the church did show all openness by letting a independant investigating committee go through all their archives. It was clear they felt miserable and yet it was difficult to feel pity for them – I was wondering why, studying the program rather than watching it to find the clue.
But then suddenly I knew, as the journalist asked them: ‘Do you feel guilty?’ Guilt? No, oh no they did not feel guilty; but, they said ‘We feel ashamed’. This was a very weired thing to hear. In a culture with strong guilt patterns like The Netherlands, when one walks in the street and a car runs over a guy closeby,  one feels guilty for being alive while the guy died. When one finishes a love relationship because love has diminished, guilt might fill the heart even more than despair. When one misses an appointment due to traffic problems, the guilt is also there. But in these extreme, dreadfull circumstances, the top of the Dutch Catholic church feels no guilt….? They suddenly follow the Middle Eastern collective culture of shame – what a culture shift that is!
It was clear that their appearance in the program was an effort to communicate with the Dutch people, but they were unsuccesfull. Guilt is not always rational, but denying the feeling makes a person look unauthentic. Shame is not an answer that will be accepted in a crisis in a guilt oriented country because, I quote Ruth Benedict (above) again: ‘shame is a violation of cultural or social values while guilt feelings arise from violations of one’s internal values’. Some introspection might help the Dutch Catholic Church in this process.

My new book about diversity at work

  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 Diversiteit op de Werkvloer (available in Dutch at that 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 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 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

Company Pride in Amsterdam

 On an Amsterdam conference in July the Company Pride Platform presented the Declaration of Amsterdam ‘Call to Action’ (see also: The Company Pride Platform wants a free and safe workplace for employees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – ‘pink’ I’d say but most professionals say LGBT employees so I will do that too. Four focus points are essential in Company Pride:
– inclusive corporate cultures
– working environment beyond legal minimum requirements
– active leadership from ‘straight’ allies and LGBT role models
– collaboration between ‘straight’ and LGBT for mutually beneficial improvements
The Company Pride Platform’s conference in July was a mixture of raising awareness, story telling and a call for active leadership. It was meaningful and moving to be there. The urgency for active leadership in Company Pride is clear on all levels of the organisation. Especially safety is an issue to be taken into account: socially, physically and mentally.
A note on the side of this all is that quite some questions arose to which answers already exist. Diversity is not that recent an issue; some aspects may be particular for LGBT, but most aspects are common regardless of the subject being gender, age, handicap, etnicity, religion or LGBT.  LBGT is relatively ‘new’ in this area, it certainly is a taboo in many places and not free in quite some countries. That however is an extra argument not to approach LGBT in a too isolated way, don’t loose energy by reinventing the wheel again and prevent that subgroups have to fight against each other to get leadership attention.
My experience is that every subgroup is afraid that it’s particular interests will disappear when cooperating with others; in this light, the focus point of inclusive corporate culture is the only road along which the diverse employees of the 21st century can and will ‘feel valued, can be their authentic selves and realize their full potential’ as the Declaration of Amsterdam says.

Diversity Works 2011

 Today my company Seba was present at the 4th edition of Diversity Works in the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam: and we will be tomorrow, May 11th!
We have been partners in this fair from the very beginning and it has become a yearly event to meet customers and enlarge our network. We are also very active in the production of workshops.
Today we showed Makeda, our game about diversity competence to the participants and our new card box De Champagne Pool about (organisational) culture (see more in our Makeda is about the 5th and De Champagne Pool is about the 2nd critical success factor for diversity management as described in my book Making the Difference. We think many people don’t read…! So we are developing innovative materials for a different and interactive approach to the same ideas.
It was very nice to hear that the participants were very interested and also enthusiast about the possibilities of Makeda and De Champagne Pool. You are welcome to join us in our stand tomorrow, or in one of the workshop we will give at the fair: see you tomorrow!

Diversity in Youtube format

It was really not an easy thing to develop: our first video about diversity. The point is that my book, originally edited in Dutch, was now translated in English but I do spend most of my time in the Netherlands: so how to sell an English book like that? I asked for advice on linkedin and was not disappointed. Many ideas came up, among which the idea of this blog in English and, as said, a Youtube video.
Talking about diversity in Youtube style means that it can not be like anything that I usually present in front of public or groups who are waiting for a enthusiast, funny, but also serious or thorough story. Or is that thoroughness just something that I particularly value myself?
My book is about the ten critical success factors of diversity management… way too boring for Youtube! Who will have the patience to watch ten factors…??? So to create the video we went back to the essence of diversity and tried to find symbols to express that essence.
Please tell us whether we were yes or no successful in that ambition; you can leave your comments on the Youtube site under our video, we are curious to hear from you!

Women, be the leader you want to be!

 A new report is released by McKinsey & Co about the lack of women in the top ranks of organisations, see the online article:(
In this article we read that women need more coaching and more offering of leadership training. An unanswered question is: do men also get this coaching and leadership training and is that why they reach to the top while women don’t? What I see around me is that women seem to need coaching and training where men can do without. It can be a temporary solution to offer coaching and training in such a situation, but it is not sustainable because the question why women need more coaching and training to reach to the same level is left unanswered. All too often the source of the diversity problem is connected to the way women are (‘no ambition or planning’) or the life they live (‘because they have children’). Solving the problem then ends up with changing women’s lives and mindsets, something that was tried before and it clearly didn’t work.
The article also mentions another, more interesting line of thinking: “As part of its research, McKinsey also analyzed the makeup of executive committees at Fortune 200 companies and found women make up just 15% of the top management panels. These “women are doubly handicapped” because 62% occupy staff jobs “that rarely lead to a CEO role,” the study said. In contrast, the report found that 65% of men on the executive committee hold line jobs, which typically involve profit and loss responsibility for an operation.” Coaching and training is nice, but risk taking is better. Perceptions connect risk taking more with men than women. Organisations must face implicit perceptions that influence nominations. Women must stop to accept the all too often offered safe road to staff jobs and ask for line jobs only. Forget about leadership training for women: be the leader you want to be and focus your energy on risk taking responsabilities!

Japanese looters

 New Orleans 2006

Many people seem to be surprised by the lack of looting in Japan in the aftermath of an earthquake and tsunami. Isn’t that normal human behaviour to become looters after a disaster? Some say that there are some Japanese articles about looting that the western media didn’t pick up. Others say this is Japanese discipline, contrary to for example American reactions to disasters.
It reminds me of New Orleans 2006 where we had an international diversity conference in the months after Hurricane Katrina. We studied the role of the media in the aftermath of the disaster. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005, the levees broke and the water came into town, mixing with factory chemicals and other polluting materials. This is why survivors broke into supermarkets; bottles of drinkable water could be found only there. What the media showed was two things:
1. black people entering and leaving supermarkets: ‘looters who were profiting from temporary non-surveillance’
2. white women with kids entering and leaving supermarkets: ‘victims left on their own, searching for healthy water for their children’
Both social workers and the army were influenced by the media and acted accordingly which aggravated the suffering of black victims. It was strange to be at that conference and analyze this just a few months after the disaster: so recent, so real!
Are the Japanese more disciplined and less looters than the Americans are? Maybe this is true. However maybe not just the Japanese but also the media are more disciplined in Japan than they were in New Orleans.

Rewarding managers

 In the Republic of Amsterdam we live with the myth that managers are rewarded objectively. We select them for certain qualities like getting the best out of a diverse team and it is only for good results that they will get our appreciation and be promoted. This sounds so nice and reasonable! But….
In between our ideas and daily reality stands a thing called culture. Culture is the subtle, invisible factor that determines ‘the way we do things here’. Culture colours our perception of the results achieved. Once upon a time, there were objectively formulated results in the Republic of Amsterdam. I guess they still exist but somehow in daily life the interpretation of the results has changed.
Most valued are not the managers who create a productive work climate where a diversity of team members give the best of their talents and offer excellent but stable outcomes: too boring! Most valued are those managers who extinguish a fire, who solve a crisis. And of course in order to extinguish a fire and solve a crisis, managers do need one. In case of non-availability, managers in the Republic of Amsterdam have become expert in creating them: exciting! Fire and crisis make your work visible: it is hard to attract media attention without a good crisis, so never waste one.
Although this mechanism can be quite funny, especially when you’re an insider trying to predict where the next fire will break out, it doesn’t work out for diversity. In this climate, managers with characteristics of heroism survive best; they set the agenda in Amsterdam, much more than the diverse customers or workers’ insights do. It won’t help to re-formulate the results! Reviewing ‘the way we do things here’ and facing our perceptions is the best way to make progress; tobe less of a fire fighter and more of a leader serving clients…