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!

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!

Workshop Fast Reading in a bookshop

CIMG4206kTonight I followed a workshop Fast Reading in a bookshop: De Nieuwe Boekhandel in Amsterdam Bos en Lommer. This bookshop is a great place, run by the inspiring owner Monique who has given a new meaning to the concept of a bookshop. Her bookshop, and the name nieuw/new is deliberate, is a place to meet. Book presentations, workshops, even your birthday party could take place in that shop. When my Diversity Shop edits new things, like we did this month with De karavaan en de kamelen: teams op het spoor (http://www.diversityshop.nl/nieuwe-producten/) we always have a presentation and a drink in De Nieuwe Boekhandel. So we have one on March 26th, please feel wellcome: http://www.diversityshop.nl/home-pm-27.html
I love Monique’s concept, it is vibrant and it has a great effect on the neighbourhood Bos en Lommer that can really do with some good entrepreneurs like Monique who invest in activities and relationships. What I like too is that De Nieuwe Boekhandel sells BoLo products, products that give Bos en Lommer an identity. Look in the left shelve of the picture and you see some of them.
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Brandnew was the grey BoLo sweather so I bought one immediately. I wanted to show this sweater to you but first my Kater Aak sat on it (he liked it too) >>>

After a while. he let go and I could make a better picture showing the Amsterdam touch 🙂
CIMG4215k

It’s nice to be creative

karavaankamelen2  It always surprises me when a creative thing or service is produced in my company: the energy that comes with it for me. It’s nice to be creative! Today we almost finished a new training card game (in Dutch, De Karavaan en de Kamelen), to be sold in our webshop www.diversityshop.eu and also to be applied in training with our customers. The designer sent me a few images that we can use for the promotion of this card game. Just to see that and place it in webshops and on twitter makes me so happy!
Sometimes I think it is the tangible side of products like a game, a story. You can show it to others and explain ‘there it is’ or ‘there you can read it’. In consultancy for example, this is hardly possible. I never forget the comments of my brother-in-law who said ‘at the end of the day I made a railway but what did you do, I don’t understand’. I see his point of view but I also know that making railways would never give me the boost of energy that games, stories, books and other creative activities give me. De Karavaan en de Kamelen: even the idea of it didn’t exist at all and now it exists and it will start a life of its own. I love it; this is so nice 🙂 …

Creating your dream (2)

creating your dream (2) vlinderado  Vlinderado is an entrepreneurs’ dream, and it is beautifull: www.vlinderado.nl . It started with the cultivation of the Anthurium plant in special variations in a place that most of the readers of this blog never heard about I guess: Waarland, a small village to the north of Alkmaar or for the non-Dutch readers: 40 miles north of Amsterdam. As a hobby, bouquets were made with the different species of Anthurium; and then the bouquets became an important part of the business itself. Isn’t the best business the business that starts because it has the love of our hearts and the focus of our minds? It is interesting, yet inspiring to see how businesses develop in the hands of passionate people.
And then the next step was made, another entrepreneur’s dream was realised: Vlinderado, a garden full of butterflies. It is guaranteed that you see many, very beautiful varieties. Visitors come from different countries, all tourists suddenly discover where the village of Waarland is. Go there too and enjoy!
creating your dream (2) vlinderado           creating your dream (2) vlinderado
Entrepreneurs creating their dream make us happy because we can enjoy what they create. They also inspire us to do the same: to make our own dreams come true!

 

 

Grandfathers, Jews and the impulse to act

grandfathers  It is one of the myths in our family history: my grandfather ‘saving’ a Jewish girl from a Nazi. It was in the 2nd World War. In villages, children from Jewish families lived as if they were part of the farmers’ family, trying to escape a certain death when the Nazis found out they were Jewish. A 14 or 15 year old ‘secretly’ Jewish girl, described as very beautiful, accidentilly fell in the village street and bumped her head against a stone right in front of the house where one of the Nazis in charge was temporarily located. He came out of the house, saw the beautiful girl and took her into the house to take care of her. All of the village worried, they were talking about it: what is he doing to that beautiful girl and also, most of all: what if he finds out that she is Jewish? They were extremely nervous!
The worries and talks in the village took a great part of the day, then at the end of the day my grandfather returned from work and heard about it. When he was told, he didn’t even think for a minute but just got angry and went to the house of the Nazi. Did he have a plan? I don’t think so. He did not talk, he did not ask questions, as he never did. He just had the impulse to act.
Did he save her? He didn’t I guess, everybody who was in this story agreed that the girl saved herself once the opening was given. As soon as my grandfather appeared at the doorstep, this ‘wounded’ girl stood up from the couch where she lied down, she ran to the door, embraced my grandfather and acted as if he was her father: ‘o dad, dad, please take me home’. The Nazi guy nodded and my grandfather took her ‘home’. S

Summer 2014 we are living a period in Europe, and to my great great regret also in Amsterdam, where antisemitism is fully alive. And just like the village in the 2nd World War, everybody is talking about it. Everybody is ‘worrying’, like all of the village did in the War. But how many of us are acting?
What my grandfather did seems easy > he just went to the house. Anybody could have done that… but nobody did. So the real question is: why didn’t they do it? As the girl could save herself just upon the impulsive action of my grandfather.
I wonder about the conclusion of this story. Doing has more value, more effect than talking? Don’t spend time worrying, just act? Maybe that is true, also today…

 

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 focussed 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..

 

Companies do not use the full potential of HIQ (yet)

don't see (yet)  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!

Closing event 400 years Turkey- the Netherlands

closing session 400 years NL-TR  Yesterday was the closing session of 400 years diplomatic relationships between Turkey and the Netherlands. The townhall of Rotterdam was beautifully decorated and hundreds of people had arrived for this event where according to my information the Turkish vice-prime minister Ali Babacan would be present. My invitation did not talk about the presence of Princess Máxima, maybe deliberately not mentioned but she was there too (try to find her in the photograph while holding her speech – it was very busy as you can see). Both Mr. Babacan and Princess Máxima helt friendly speeches, confirming the warm bonds our countries have.
Indeed the celebration year was a success, many contacts have been made (again) both between officials and business people. Mr. Aboutaleb, the mayor of Rotterdam, opened the speeches and showed great involvement with the relationships which – I know from my Turkish contacts – he also does at personal and business level in daily mayor life. As a citizen of Amsterdam, I found it a bit painful to see the mayor of Amsterdam Mr. van der Laan arrive one hour late. But he works very hard too for our city so he must have his reasons.
 It was good to be there, to enjoy the beauty of the spot, the event itself and to meet many good friends again, all somehow involved in Dutch and Turkish business so full of energy and dynamics.

Trade mission to Turkey (3): women entrepreneurship

  The trade mission to Turkey was brought to my attention by the foundation Talent naar de Top, a great Dutch organisation that brings female top talent to the attention of politics and organisations in the Netherlands, persuading them to set concrete targets to improve the number of women in top positions in the Netherlands. I really thank them for inviting me as it was a very good idea for me to join the mission to Turkey.
In Ankara we met with Angikad, a very interesting Turkish organisation of women entrepreneurs (see also http://www.angikad.org.tr). Turkey has quite some succesful women at top positions, for example 12% of the big companies have a female CEO. This is a figure that we can only dream of in the Netherlands, having maybe 1% female CEO in our top 100 companies. Also Turkey has much more female professors. However, they have only 1 out of 25 ministers who is a woman, but that is politics and we will leave that out of our business discussions. It was interesting to meet the business women of Angikad. What is remarkable for me is that women are more often found in technical professions than in the Netherlands. For example the chair of Angikad is a chemical engineer and vice-president of this company.
Nevertheless, Turkish women face their own challenges. They have more top women than we have in the Netherlands, but less women working at all and the total amount of women working as entrepreneur is also less than average. Angikad is actively taking up the challenge for development, they are in many projects both nationally and on European level.
We were received very well in the Big Chef’s restaurant (a succesful chain of restaurants owned by one of the Angikad members), I can advice everybody to have lunch or dinner in a Big Chef’s restaurant, it was delicious!
Apart from general presentations, we also took time to talk individually on business opportunities; this was both very nice and inspiring, and I am confident the conversations we had will have a good follow up. Turkish business women proved to be energetic, concrete and ready to go on ideas: such a nice experience! I hope Angikad will grow, as well as the number of Turkish entrepreneur women and of course their business!

Trade mission to Turkey (2): matchmaking

  What is matchmaking?, people ask me. To be honest, I didn’t know myself just a couple of weeks ago but I have learned a lot by joining the trade mission to Turkey. A trade mission offers a complete program with visits to Turkish entrepreneurs, institutions, policy makers and the like. Moreover, it is possible to ask for matchmaking: if you do, a supportive staff will try to find individual entrepreneurs and officials who are willing to talk to you in a personal conversation to exchange information and business opportunities. This is called matchmaking.
I was very curious to see how this would work so I asked for matchmaking. Just a few days before we would leave for the trade mission, I got a concrete reaction to my request: 12 companies had shown interest to talk to me! This was very nice and after some emails forth and back I ended up with a schedule of 8 or 9 appointments in two days (so I missed a part of the official program, you can’t have it all). It was possible to have an interpreter but I thought it would be better to speak Turkish in case my counterpart wouldn’t talk English: having an extra person at the table just for the translation might create distance, I thought, even though my Turkish is limited.
The matchmaking would take place in our hotel in Istanbul where a complete saloon was reserved for all the business talks, see the photograph in top.
As I expected already a bit (I know Turkey) my schedule soon became a chaos. Just 2 appointments followed the planning, the rest was cancelled, put in again, changed once or twice, or the location changed > I had to rush through the terrible Istanbul traffic to go far into the Asian part, in a taxi with an angry driver who couldn’t find the place and blamed me for that (this is also very Turkish, fortunately I knew that already and didn’t take it personally – anybody who has been in a taxi in Amsterdam knows that the Dutch situation is not much better).
I used to think I was a flexible person but the matchmaking’s unique and last minute schedule changes showed me that there is more to learn in flexibility for me. I had to admit at several moments that I did feel some stress 🙂 Still, I loved the dynamics of it! And I had quite a few matches showing good opportunities that will certainly have a follow up. If you join a trade mission and they ask you if you want matchmaking: go for it! Be ready to learn and don’t forget to enjoy yourself because it can be quite an adventure…

Trade mission to Turkey (1): to do or not to do?

  We were about 80 entrepreneurs travelling to Turkey this week in a trade mission headed by our Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Some entrepreneurs already had their contacts or even their own company in Turkey: others were only considering doing business in Turkey and looking for the right contacts and good opportunities.
Beforehand I asked quite some people about their experience with trade missions, and how useful it could be. Most reactions were not too enthusiast, telling that the best results usually come from the Dutch entrepreneurs who are also in the trade mission, and not from the foreign contacts made during the trade mission. The general advice was: don’t do it, it’s probably not worth the time and money. The reasons for me to go anyway were that I love Turkey and the Turkish language in the first place, and moreover that I never joined a trade mission before and I like to try new experiences that cross my path in life…
Well, I was not disappointed, on the contrary, and my experience was confirmed by most other participating business (wo)men. The trade mission to Turkey was a vibrant happening in entrepreneurship and good relationships. And the results were certainly not limited to the network of the Dutch participants but also involved the many interested Turkish counterparts. Turkey is developing in a very fast way. Its entrepreneurs are happy to do business with the Dutch. They are determined and concrete on the road to more, better, easier, smarter. While the Dutch economy seems to have come to a stand still these days, the Turkish economy is growing and full of life. Anybody who is respectful and ready to give the credits the Turkish entrepreneurs and their government deserve for this, will be welcomed for business.
As a participant to this trade mission I can only say thank you to our Prime Minister and to minister Ploumen who went with us all the way, even though there were many Dutch-internal problems to form an excuse not to participate; to the Turkish government that made this possible and received delegates in various ministries to discuss mutual insights and problems and come to common solutions; and to the staff of Dutch ministries in The Hague, the Embassy in Ankara and the Consolate in Istanbul who were very very creative, helpful and full of care for all the participants.
So when you are invited to join a trade mission and confronted with the question ‘to do or not to do?’: just do it! Of course it is important to know the goals you have for it and to prepare it very well – but with the right optimistic, entrepreneurial spirit you will enjoy every second!