Gay Pride Canal Parade 2014

Gay Pride Canal Parade 2014: in Amsterdam we have the Canal Parade as a unique event that can hardly be copied because only Venice would have canals like Amsterdam has them. It was, again, a very joyful event; it is so nice to be hundreds of thousands citizens celebrating together that we are a free country where we can love whoever we want. And the creative way it is expressed makes the party even better, see for example:
gay pride canal parade 2014  gay pride canal parade 2014  gay pride canal parade 2014gay pride canal parade 2014
And the Mensa boat ‘gayniaal’, alas not recognisable as such but beautiful colours:
gay pride canal parade 2014
A specific problem for the boats is that there are lots of low bridges to pass. Those who want to make ‘volume’ have to think of a way to bring it all down to pass the bridge and come up again after it. See how this works:
gay pride canal parade 2014  gay pride canal parade 2014
Also for the Army Boat, notice how all uniforms bow for the bridge – and notice also the American militaries on the boat who brought their own flag, a political statement!
  gay pride canal parade 2014gay pride canal parade 2014
Another political statement that I like: gay pride canal parade 2014
And finally a great message:
gay pride canal parade 2014
See you next year for the next Canal Parade!

Read here my blog about the gay caveman in czech republic
And here about gay pinguins Buddy and Pedro
And here about social safety at work for gays and lesbians

Spanish Mensa and Spanish Princess

princess letizia and princess (now queen) máxima
Spanish Mensa will meet the Spanish Princess!
August 2011 we were 15 Mensa women to visit our Princess (now Queen) Máxima, a meeting in which we could tell all about the life of high gifted people in our society and listen to the ideas of our Princess on the subject. It was a very nice visit at her home De Eikenhorst in Wassenaar:
It inspired Mensa Spain to take a similar step. In 2012, during the 65th anniversary of Mensa International, the chair of Mensa Spain requested a meeting with the Spanish Royal Family. Next 8 May, Princess Letizia will receive a group of Mensans to better understand the Mensa Spain association. Congratulations Mensa Spain!
I hope this meeting will be relevant to Mensa Spain and to Mensa in general and that it will be a very nice meeting, like we had with Princess Máxima. See also (in Spanish)
http://www.casareal.es/ES/Actividades/Pagina/actividades_actividades_detalle.aspx?data=11966

Read here about 50 years Mensa the Netherlands
And here about Mensa Fonds NL

Refugees at work: best practices

tandwielen1 For two years my company Seba (www.seba.nl) and the Dutch Foundation for Refugee Students UAF (www.uaf.nl) ran a project for refugees at work. Yesterday we presented many best practices to utilize 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: UAF

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 info@seba.nl

Read here my blog about 500.000 Syrian refugees in Gaziantep (Turkey’s south)
And here about Dheepan: an outstanding movie about refugees

10 children and a Phd!

8 March women's breakfast    10 children and a PhD
Talent to the Top, a Dutch organisation for a better gender balance at the top levels of organisations, invited many top women to a breakfast meeting at 8 March, Women’s Day 2013. So I think we were more than 100 women in The Grant hotel in Amsterdam center, in a beautifull hall that was both large and cosy for our meeting.
Particularly impressive was the interview with Ms Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the director of the World Bank. She is a real example in her inspiration to create a better world. I liked the moment when the chair of the meeting asked her what she saw as the best investment in her career and she asked: “Do you mean for myself or for society?”. “For yourself, of course”, the chair asked but I think Ms Sri Mulyani Indrawati is in a top position of the World Bank because she has a broader, deeper approach. We can all learn from her! As her own role model, she mentioned her mother who had 10 children and still finished her Phd…
Thanks Talent to the Top for organizing this. There is a lot of work to be done, in all countries. The ambassador of Indonesia was present and she said that poverty and gender are the most difficult issues to tackle for countries worldwide. And she noticed that they are not one-to-one related: the Netherlands are much richer than Indonesia, but they are still struggling with gender problems. Reducing poverty will not automatically mean equal opportunities or equal rights for men and women. Work to do! When the 8 March breakfast was over, I felt full of motivation to go for it 🙂

Other blogs about career women:
Neelie Kroes saves us…
Few Dutch women in top positions: we need a Dutch spring!
Women, be the leader you want to be!

High gifted people at work: potential not fully used (yet)

don't see (yet)  High gifted people at work
High gifted people who work freelance are much happier in their work than high gifted people who work in a company, actual Dutch research results reveal (see www.koosvanderspek.nl). In general, high gifted workers are positive about the work they do, they have a good work-life balance and not too much stress. However, when it comes to passion, HIQ’s who work independently are much more passionate than the average Dutch worker and HIQ’s who work in companies are clearly less passionate than the average Dutch worker. This is a big contrast.
Mensa members are not really surprised about this outcome. We knew this already and what we like is that there is now scientific evidence for it! 1250 HIQ’s cooperated for this research, 80+% of them being Mensans as Mensa the Netherlands supported this research of the University of Utrecht.
Another outcome: 37% of HIQ’s in companies are bored and lack challenge; this is again much more than average Dutch workers. So there is a lot of neglected potential in companies, even in times of crisis where companies absolutely need all available talents to survive and if possible innovate. HIQ’s are innovators. So most probably these research results (that are the first part of much more results to follow) indicate that Dutch companies are not good enough and not fast enough in innovation – yet. HIQ will be discovered in the near future as an excellent source of that, I am sure!

Read more about Left Handers Day and High Giftedness or about Portraying highgiftedness

Turkish businessmen about the Dutch: trade mission to Turkey (4)

turkish businessmen about the dutch  Turkish businessmen about the Dutch

Maybe it is because I have always worked with people with Turkish background in the Netherlands, that I assumed Dutch business people work easily with Turkish business people. Or is it the research that was done in peacekeeping missions of the army, where relationships between the Dutch, German and Turkish soldiers were studied? Unexpectantly, it appeared that Dutch soldiers cooperate better with Turkish soldiers than with German soldiers, although the Germans are our neighbours, our largest trade partner and a country with whom DE-NL exchange at army level has been intense since many years. One of the reasons was that both the Dutch and the Turkish soldiers showed a practical orientation when confronted with problems during the peace mission, while the Germans were more rule oriented. Maybe I expected that to happen in business too…

Well, the trade mission to Turkey opened my eyes: it is not true and doing NL-TR business is not easy at all. The main reason for that is: culture. There are quite some cultural differences that prevent smooth NL-TR business relationships. I have spoken to both Dutch and Turkish entrepreneurs and heard many stories, also about huge des-investments because it really did not work out.  On several occasions I heard Turkish businessmen describe the Dutch as: STUBborn, NOT flexible and ARROgant. This mainly refers to the style of doing business and daily work.

For example the Dutch are planners. Before doing the job, they plan it all the way, often in many details. The Turks are not planners, if they want to do the job, they start it. They will find out down the road what the consequences are and react immediately to difficult circumstances. This is very difficult for the Dutch. If they have to work the Turkish way, they meet with mistakes that in their eyes are unnecessary, could have been prevented. That is stressful for them. Also, Dutch workers are used to respond to difficulties by some reflection, to find out what went wrong in the planning phase. In the Turkish style this means that they are not flexible and too slow. And then when the Dutch start to explain to the Turks what planning is and how to PREVENT problems, the final perception is there: the Dutch are stubborn and arrogant!

The good news for me is that these kind of cultural issues form the expertise of my company: there’s a world out there for us! And we are looking forward to services in NL-TR culture and diversity issues …

Other blogs about Dutch-Turkish business:
Women entrepreneurship: trade mission to Turkey (3)
400 years Turkey – the Netherlands: closing event

Read also: Politics and diversity in your organisation

When inclusiveness met apartheid…

when inclusiveness met apartheid

When inclusiveness met apartheid

In our last workshop at Stephanos Foundation today, participants looked for role models in change and innovation. They came up with a list that is different from what European groups would make, except for Mandela: he is always everywhere present in the list of role models participants come up with.
Afterwards one of the managers told me that Malawi did not deal with South Africa in the apartheid period the same way other African countries did. The first president of Malawi Mr. Banda was in favour of dialogue, much in line with the inclusiveness that I experienced in Malawi during the last ten days. While other countries boycotted South Africa, Mr. Banda refused to stop his contacts and met with the president of South Africa. But when he did that, he made a statement. He helt a black child on one hand, a white child on the other hand and like that he showed that all humans are equal and that that would be the way forward also for South Africa. Mr. Banda got political ennemies in several African countries because of his vision, my manager told me, but he had a vision that suited Malawian culture and did not give it up. Later, he might have become more like a dictator, but for this attitude towards South Africa he can be considered as a role model.
I think I learned at least as much as the managers of Stephanos Foundation who followed my workshops. For me, it was like presenting familiar themes and practices in a completely unfamiliar context. Maybe it could have been better if I had known more about the local context – on the other hand, this might have been the key for interaction and participation of the managers, as I asked explicitly for their help at the beginning.
One thing is for sure, themes like culture, diversity, change, innovation and even project planning don’t differ per country: only the context differs – and the language was not an easy step to take. The workshops were highly appreciated and I highly appreciated to be given this opportunity that was really ‘out of the box’ for me. Not easy, but very rewarding!

Other blogs about Malawi culture:
President in the warm heart of Africa
Pigs, kids, and why it works in Malawi
Creative use of waterpipes in Zomba

All managers are alike!

all managers are alike  all managers are alike  all managers are alike  all managers are alike
All managers are alike! Today I worked with the management team of Stephanos on several principles for strategic planning. Interesting was the drawings they came up with after making a stakeholder analysis (see above). I will not explain them to you here but if you have been in sessions like this, you can certainly see what I mean.
Another remarkable aspect is that people will stay in a session without a break if this is what is expected from them. In The Netherlands, people usually start to ask about the break within 45 minutes time – it is not just important to have the break, it is also very important to know when exactly it will be. Here it isn’t.
Furthermore you can see from the pictures that spending money in expensive places is not for managers here. We sat in a basic room, normally used for the vocational training of Stephanos students and: without coffee or tea. Nobody was eating or drinking during the session. That did not positively or negatively influence the results I think. People just perform under the circumstances that they are used to perform. In a country like Malawi with an average yearly income of 250 euro, people do not eat and drink all the time: forget about the bag with candies and sweets that finds its way over the training tables while the workshop is going on. No such thing here.
But, miraculously, looking at your cell phone during the workshop is a favorite activity both here and in Western Europe. When it comes to that kind of communication, all managers are alike 🙂 The same goes for content: managers are managers, and they want to get things done. Give them ideas for that, and you have their interest.

Blogs about work of Stephanos:
Pigs, kids and why it works in Malawi
Seba culture and diversity workshops in Malawi
What people in Zimbabwe learned (and will Malawi follow?)

Malawi Fever Tree: what do you see?

Malawi Fever Tree

 

 

 

The Malawi Fever Tree was during some time suspected to be the cause of malaria, as this tree was found particularly in areas where malarial fever often occured. It is a very beautiful tree with a shiny, almost glowing bright green-yellow bark but of course nobody can like it when it is supposed to bring disease.

Later on, people found out that the malaria mosquito who is the real cause of malaria likes the same swampy areas as the Fever Tree does. So the Fever Tree was blamed not for what it was, but for what it looked like…

Ever heard or maybe even been the victim of this kind of mechanism? Ever drawn conclusions yourself just on the basis of that first impression?

Fortunately this particular situation was resolved and we can now enjoy the Fever Tree for what it is: an special and unique kind of Acacia!

Other blogs you might like:
Rewarding managers
Creative use of waterpipes in Zomba
Mulanji Massif in Malawi: again unknown beauty

Seba culture and diversity workshops in Malawi

seba culture and diversity workshops in malawiSeba culture and diversity workshops in Malawi

By now I have given 2 workshops on culture and diversity for the management team of the Stephanos Foundation. Beforehand I was wondering whether it would be possible to be of any benefit, as my knowledge about Malawi and Africa in general seemed to be low. Wasn’t it a risk to be too western in my approach, far from ‘the way we do things here’ in Malawi? But after my 2 first workshops here I can say (with some relief) that it worked out very well, also in the context of Malawi.
The awareness about culture and diversity is much bigger here than average in Europe. Most of the management team has the Malawi nationality, but they come from different tribes and have team members from various backgrounds. In workshops in for example The Netherlands, participants sometimes feel compelled to discuss the notion of culture itself: does it really matter? Aren’t we all different so what’s the point? When this occurs, it is always a participant from the ‘dominant’ group and never a member of a minority group who brings up the discussion. There is little awareness of the very existence and influence of culture and diversity – regardless whether dominant individuals find it necessary or not…
Here in Malawi I meet with strong curiosity to learn more and know how it works and what a manager can do to make it work so that diverse talents are used for the job. Exercises from The Champagne Pool (see www.diversityshop.eu) passed without any problem: be it informal rules of the organisation, what is my culture or the five dimensions of culture from Hofstede – it all suited Malawi and Stephanos reality. Also the Makeda game gave a lot of food for thought.
The fact that the Makeda game bears the name of the Ethiopean Queen of Sheba however did not seem to interest anyone. People are very practical here and not too nationalistic. Does training material come from America, Europe, Asia or Africa? No point as long as it works in the local context. In terms of Hofstede, there is a low uncertainty avoidance (low on ‘what is different is dangerous’, difference did not scare these managers off). And there is a good sense of humour, which is always nice to have. This makes me look forward to the other 2 workshops to come.

Other blogs about Stephanos:
Stage fever is an English invention
Pigs, kids and why it works in Malawi
What people in Zimbabwe learned (and will Malawi follow?)

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

Neelie Kroes saves us from Mercer’s way of analyzing women’s fate

neelie kroes

Applause for Neelie Kroes, the Dutch European Commissioner who can translate women’s affairs in real issues instead of traditional conventions. Two days ago, Mercer published another of its research results: women in top positions and at middle management level earn less than men: in the Netherlands 14% less. That is a lot for the same work!
In a blog a few weeks ago, I already criticized Mercer for its way of analyzing research results. To explain the fact that there are few Dutch women in top positions, Mercer found excuses like these and I quote my former blog: ”The Netherlands is a progressive nation but, like the UK, has very high levels of women working part-time”. However the UK still has a score of 28% of women in top positions, much higher than The Netherlands. Half of the high educated women in the Netherlands do not have children and do not work part time… so that can’t explain the figures.
Now how does Mercer analyze the new research results of women earning 14% less that men? Merel Verwoest, Head of Reward Consulting Benelux at Mercer explains that although discrimination could be the case, it is also because women quitted work for a few years to care for their children and that they work parttime more often than men do. Oh boy… here we are again… Mercer is fixated on women having children and working parttime….
A better reason Merel also gives is the fact that women in the Netherlands are more often into marketing or HR, functions that pay less than direct operational functions. Nice that they add this, but apart from this it it tiring to see Mercer repeat old-fashioned arguments again and again.
Neelie Kroes, commissioner in the European Union, was on Dutch television today and she was asked for her opinion about this subject. She came up with an explanation that showed much more insight in the matter: ‘women are less able to negotiate about salaries’, she said. Simple and true, applause for Neelie Kroes to be direct and concrete like always! The word ‘able’ in the negotiation is well chosen because it is two-sided. Any man with a parttime job and children will still obtain the maximum salary, but women don’t. Money is not about children or parttime work, that is a political correct excuse used by people who ‘do not want to accuse anybody’; like Mercer.
Neelie Kroes is not accusing anybody, but she helps us further by just telling the truth and encouraging society to learn something. If Neelie Kroes was not yet European Commissioner, Mercer should ask her to be their new top manager; they’d definitely learn and flourish that way.

Other blogs you might like:
The daughter also rises
Few Dutch women
Women entrepreneurship: trade mission to Turkey
Simone Veil: une vie
Powerful photographs for women