Frank's life stories
Story # 1: I was created in Spain and born in Denmark
My mother told me that in 1962, two years after my parents married, my mother thought that she had become pregnant. The reason she thought that she had become pregnant was that a week after that she would normally have her menstruation, she had not yet had her menstruation. At that time, both of my parents had relatively low salaries. And both my mother and my father thought that because of their low salaries, it would not be the right time to raise a child. They wanted to wait to have a child until their salaries would increase. As a consequence of this decision, my mother contacted a doctor in Aarhus. The doctor gave her a pill which she swallowed. The next day, my mother had her menstruation. And when she called the doctor to say that, the doctor said that the pill would not work so quickly, and he thought that even if she had not swallowed the pill, she would have gotten her menstruation anyway.
Later in the 1960s, as the salaries of my parents increased, they wanted to have a child. However, for some reason, it turned out to be difficult for my mother to become pregnant. So in 1965, both my mother and my father had examinations done in a part of a hospital specializing in gynaecology. A reason for the fertility problems was, doctors found, that my father had relatively low sperm counts. In 1968, my parents decided to sign up with an organization that specialized in helping couples take responsibility for an adopted child from Tanzania. And following this, my parents were planning to learn the language spoken in Tanzania and to go to Tanzania.
Simultaneously with this child adoption process, my parents seeked fertility advice from different people. And one day, my parents got in touch with a veterinarian, who advised my mother and father to consume extra A vitamins, B vitamins and C vitamins. In particular, the veterinarian suggested that both of my parents consume A vitamin, as this could be helpful to a) increase sperm counts of my father and b) make my mother more susceptible to the sperm of my father. And during a holiday, which my parents took at the end of December, 1969, in Las Palmas, a city on the Spanish island Gran Canaria, I was created. When my parents came back from their vacation in Spain at the start of January, 1970, they contacted a doctor, who confirmed that my mother was pregnant. And shortly after, my parents called the child adoption organization and told them that they wanted to take back their application for an adopted child, because my mother was pregnant. On October 4th, 1970, I was born in Aarhus, Denmark.
Until Autumn 1974, I lived with my mother and father in an apartment at Langenæs Allé 28 in Aarhus.
Story # 2: My parents build a summer house and a garden
My parents had a strong interest in building houses. Before they were 40 years old, they had purchased 3 pieces of land in 3 three different places around Aarhus. On 2 of those pieces of land, they had built 2 houses.
The first house my parents built was a Summer house located at P. Baatrupsvej 52 in Odder South of Aarhus. I was told that we spent quite a lot of time there in the first couple of years after I was born. My mother told me that I liked to play in the puddles there as well as feed the pigeons. My mother and father invested much time in designing / creating a garden and building a house on the ground.
Story # 3: My parents build more houses and gardens
At the start of the 1970s, my mother and father sold the summer house they had built at P. Baatrupsvej 52 in Odder and bought a piece of land at Holmetoften in Højbjerg South of Aarhus on which they wanted to build a house. For various reasons such as disagreements about house size, house design, and the speed at which to build the house, my parents canceled their plans of building a house on that piece of land. My mother told me that they wanted to sell the piece of land again. However, they found it difficult to sell the house, for example because of the first oil crisis in the start of the 1970s.
Before having sold the piece of land at Holmetoften in Højbjerg my parents bought a third piece of land at Skæring Skolevej 123 in Egå North of Aarhus. And with the help of an architect and craftsmen, they built a house there with a fireplace, a sauna and a beautiful garden. They also bought furniture and other things for the house as well as a car and a cat. During this time, the first oil crisis came. In Autumn 1974, my parents and I moved out of the apartment at Langenæs Allé in Aarhus and into this house. This change of homes also meant that I changed from being a part of the kindergarten Langenæsen at Langenæs Allé 54, Århus to being a part of the kindergarten Højvang at Skæring Hedevej 14a in Egå.
Asking my mother why she and my father invested in / bought land, houses, cars, furniture, kitchen appliances and many things over a relatively short period of time, she explained to me that that was the norm during this period of time. Everyone did it. House prices as well as inflation were going up at relatively high rates, so people were eager to buy things fast. People were afraid of getting left behind - of not being af part of the herd. In this regard, my mother also explained that when neighbors, friends and/or family members had invested in / bought something, for example new plates and cutlery or new furniture, other neighbors and/or other family members bought something similar or better. I understood that people were comparing themselves with each other and wanted to impress each other by having bigger, better, more beautiful things. In effect, people were - as I understood it - competing with their family members and friends to have a bigger car, a nicer house, better furniture and/or more beautiful, trendy clothes. And if it was not possible to have the same things or something better as the people, they compared themselves with, people became envious of each other. This envy, which people had in their minds and hearts, fueled negative emotions that resulted in people neither loving themselves nor people with whom they compared themselves.
The assumption, which people based more or less their entire lives on, was - as I understood it - that when people had similar or better things, which other people had, they would gain more social status. And increasing their social status in communities, they were a part of, would help people feel more respected, more liked, more loved. As a consequence of this, they would become more satisfied, feel better and have better, more relaxing lives. As I understood what my mother told me, this was the story that people told themselves and believed in from the 1950s. There was no limit to things people wanted. The more things people had the faster, the better it was for them. And everything had to happen quickly.
Asking my mother to explain more about why this development was going on, she said that during and after the second world war, it was different. At that time, people had relatively few things. It was a time of scarcity. What my mother also said was that family communities, work communities and housing communities were quite strong. People had conversations with each other - on the streets, in trams, in shops, in offices, in production locations, in homes, in cafeterias, at discos. Trust was strong. And literally, doors were open, at work locations as well as at homes, so people could just walk in and say this. This openness, easy access and welcoming culture further strengthened communication and trust. People helped each other with more or less everything. They had fun together. It was a time during which hygge was lived.
Over the years, these cultures, which had strong values of openness, trust, love, and helping each other, slowly moved to cultures that had more focus on competition, status, power and safety. Several developments contributed to this change. For example, people started moving from a to b alone using cars instead of together with others using trams / buses / trains. Also, people moved from apartments, where they had lived among many different people, to houses. The development of doors, windows, locks and hedges around houses, which people bought, contributed to strengthening individualism and safety - and reducing openness, spontaneity and togetherness.
From the stories, I listened to, I understand that, today, several elderly people have contrasting ways of living embedded in their minds. On the one hand, they want many things fast, as they have experienced in their lives that getting many things fast led - to some degree - to a better standard of living. On the other hand, many elderly people want to keep everything, they have, as they grew up, as children, in times of scarcity. These two contrasting ways of thinking result, I learned, in many elderly people having large stocks of things in their homes that they want to hold on to. And when they keep buying things that - due to economies of scale, robotics and other technologies - are produced efficiently and at low costs - many homes of elderly people seemed to have turned into warehouses with stocks of things in cupboards / basements / lofts.
A question that, as I understood it, was flowing the air and which nobody seemed to really ask, was: What is the purpose? What do we really want?
Story # 4: My parents divorce
At Easter 1975, less than a year after we had moved into our newly built house at Skæring Skolevej 123 in Egå North of Aarhus, my father decided to move out of the house and divorce my mother. I do not recall that my father has told me why he did not want to live with my mother anymore. Through his behaviour and a few words that he said now and then about this period, I learned that freedom was important for him.
Listening to stories my mother told, I learned that since I was born, her focus had turned more and more towards me. My mother and father had less time together as a couple and had sex less often. Later, my mother also spent more time on her work. These changes were, I understood from what my mother told me, problems for my father. From what my mother told me, I understood that my father became jealous of me because I got more attention from my mother than he got.
Story # 5: After my parents' divorce, my mother searches for a new home for her and me
Following the decision of my father to leave my mother, my parents sold their house. Searching for a place, where my mother and I could live, my mother, Hanne Calberg, found an apartment at Elstedhøj 31 in Lystrup - an apartment in which my mother has now lived for more than 40 years. In the period between the end of October, 1975, when my mother and I needed to move out of the house at Skæring Skolevej 123 in Egå North of Aarhus, and December 15th, 1975, when we could move into to the apartment at Elstedhøj 31 in Lystrup, my mother and I lived for about 6 weeks in a Summer house in Egå that my mother had borrowed from some friends.
Story # 6: My parents help me handle changes following their divorce
To help manage the changes following the divorce of my parents and change of homes, my parents made, for example, these 3 decisions:
- Decision # 1: My mother told me that my parents had - at the time of their divorce - said to me that my father would be going on a long trip, and because of that, I would not seeing him less often. They thought it would be better for me if they explained the difficult family situation in this way.
- Decision # 2: Because I really liked being at the kindergarten Højvang in Egå, my mother decided that until I started primary education at Elsted school in August, 1977, I would continue being a part of the kindergarten community Højvang in Egå.
- Decision # 3: For my 5th birthday in October 1975, my parents bought a 2 months old poodle dog for me. Within a very short period of time, Sussi became my best friend.
In Spring 1976, a neighbour complained that my dog Sussi was barking during the day when I was in kindergarten. As a result of this complaint, my mother and I were told that we had to give away the dog. A couple in Vejle, a city south of Aarhus reacted on the note my mother put in the paper, and towards the end of 1976, this couple picked up the dog.
Story # 7: My father starts a new relationship
Later in the 1970s, my father, Leif Sørensen, married Karin, who worked as a primary school teacher and later as a school principal. I still recall the postcard they sent to me from their wedding. Every two weeks on the weekend, I visited my father and his wife in Aalestrup, a town located about 90 kilometres from Lystrup, where I lived with my mother. In the first few years, Karin and my father lived at Elmegaardsvej 3 in Aalestrup, where my father worked. And later, they bought a house at Engvangen 23 in Aalestrup. To go there on weekends, I recall I usually took the bus on Friday afternoon from Aarhus via Hammel to Viborg. It was about a 2 hour drive, I remember. Usually, it my father's wife Karin who picked me up in a car. Karin and I then did some grocery shopping together and brought home food that the three of us ate on Friday evening.
I remember that Karin, my father and I almost always spent both Friday and Saturday evenings in front of the television, for example watching Danish quiz shows and/or movies. At that time, in the beginning of the 1980s, there were just 1 or 2 Danish TV stations to choose from. During the weekends in Aalestrup, I did different chores. For example, I cut the grass or shoveled snow while I was there. For each chore, I would earn a certain amount of money. I also did homework for the coming week, went jogging, rode my bicycle around the area, and played football - either on the street or in the production area of my father's factory. Mostly, I did these sports by myself. Why? One reason was that I rarely played with other children while I was there. And my father was often busy or not in the mood to play.
During the weekends in Aalestrup, I recall spending quite a lot of time with Karin. I remember I helped Karin buy groceries, do gardening work and cook. Also, I remember that I watched as she prepared feedback to students, she helped, and as she prepared learning events / lessons. On Sunday evening, it was most often my father, who drove me from Aalestrup to Viborg from where I took the bus back to Aarhus. When I think back, I recall that during the ½ hour drive on Sunday evening from Aalestrup to Viborg, my father and I had good conversations during which we learned more about each other. I recall that during this ½ hour, my father was more relaxed than other times during the weekend. I also felt that he was listening to me and trying to understand what was going on in my life. That made me feel good.
Story # 8: My father's relationships with his brother and sisters
I remember that my father sometimes spent Christmas Eve with one of his sisters, my godmother Gerda, and her family. They lived in a house in Aarhus. Usually, I celebrated the days before Christmas with my father and his wife Karin in Aalestrup. In the morning of the 24th of December, we drove by car from Aalestrup to Aarhus. My father spent the 24th of December with his sister Gerda and her family, and I spent the 24th of December with my mother and Eva. On the 25th of December, I came to join my father and Gerda and her family for lunch.
With my father's other sister, Astrid, and with his brother Richard, my father spent very little time, I remember. In fact, besides at the funeral of my father's mother, I cannot recall that I have ever been in a place where my father, my father's sisters and my father's brother have been together at the same time.
I do not remember that my father ever explained to me why he, after leaving my mother in 1975, chose to have very little connection with his sister Astrid or with his brother Richard. Asking my mother about why my father did not spend time with his own family, she said that my father felt ashamed of his family. She also said that even during their marriage from 1960 to 1975, my father preferred to spend time with the family of my mother rather than with his own family. My mother also explained that in their childhood, my father's mother had favoured my father, for example in the way that my father's brother Richard helped his mother much more than my father did.
Story # 9: My mother starts a new relationship
My mother had a relationship with Daniel, a man who came from Bizerte in Tunisia, had studied geology in Paris and London, and later come to Denmark to live. I recall that Daniel had a clothes cleaning shop in Aarhus and also liked to sail in his sailboat based at Egå marina. Years later, my mother had a relationship with Auke, a man from Holland who worked on an engineering project in Denmark.
Throughout my life, my mother also had a really good friend, Hans Holst, an entrepreneur who lived in Thorsager with his family. I recall that Hans helped fix a lot of things in our home. Now and then, he also helped repair my mother's car, a VW beetle. Hans was also very interested in playing the organ, and he inspired me to start playing as well, which I, today, very much appreciate. In addition, Hans brought my mother meat from animals he had hunted with friends in other countries, for example in Scotland. I recall that when my mother celebrated an anniversary at the dentist school in Aarhus, Hans even came with food that I helped him serve to guests who participated at the event.
Story # 10: Learning about how to learn
Reflecting on learning experiences during my childhood, the following experiences stand out:
My mother told me that when I was a child, I often sat in the kitchen, when I did my homework. I recall, for example, that I practiced maths in the kitchen: Learning to count, add numbers, subtract, multiply and divide. And sometimes I asked my mother to look at my solution to a math problem. As I got older, I mostly studied in my room where I could better concentrate. I also recall that as I got older, I prioritized my studies more and more. At some time, I recall I needed to make a decision between playing competitive tennis and investing time in my education. For me the decision was clear: I wanted to spend less time playing tennis and invest more time in educating myself.
Reading about what Donald Duck is doing
In my childhood, I liked to read, for example about what Donald Duck was doing. Thinking about why I liked the Donald Duck comics, it strikes me that I liked the simplicity of learning by watching photos / images / drawings - not least those with colours. Also, I think I liked the happy faces of the characters as well as the creativity that the author used to tell the stories. What I learned made me smile and laugh and helped give me more energy. Reading about Donald Duck also inspired me to think more creatively.
Talking with friends
In the early part of primary school, I recall I often played after school, on weekends and during holidays with my best friend. For example, I remember we played football and table tennis together. We also had a lot of fun playing around on bicycles and with remote controlled cars. About 3 years into primary school at Elsted school, a relatively large change happened. There were four classes at the age group, I was a part of, and it had been decided that there were too few students in each of those four classes. In other words, the average number of students per class needed to increase. So one of the four classes, the one Morten and I was was in, got split in three groups which were distributed to each of the other 3 classes. The result of this change was, for example, that my best friend Morten was transferred to a different class, class A, than the class I was transferred to, class C. Examples of other changes that happened as a result of this management decision were, for example, change of classrooms, change of classmates, and change of teachers.
Story # 11: Coaching initiatives
During some primary education math classes, I recall that each student worked individually on math problems that reflected his or her level. When a student came across a math exercise that he or she couldn't figure out how to solve, the student could go to the place in the room where Kirsten, the math teacher, was sitting, and get tutoring on his or her math problem. This way of teaching / tutoring / coaching helped me to 1) improve my math skills, and 2) develop an interest in coaching / teaching / tutoring. I am proud to say that the way of individually tutoring students, which I remember Kirsten did well, has been part of the inspiration for me to later in my life coach young people and people of other age levels.
Early on in my life, I became interested in sports. My parents told me that not long after I was born, I joined a swimming course with them. Other sports, I practiced, ranged from bicycling to playing football, badminton, and tennis. When I was a child, there was no tennis club in Lystrup, so I practiced by hitting a ball against the wall of one of the buildings in the social housing community where I lived. When the tennis club in Lystrup was founded, I joined the community. In this new club, there was a friendly and pioneering atmosphere. For example, there were lots of ways to get involved here, which I found great. I recall, for example, that I helped out repair the tennis courts, which was quite a practical and independent job. Also, I helped teach / coach young people who wanted to learn to play tennis. Through this experience, I found out that I liked to work with education.
Later in my life, after having served a year in the military, I went out to Australia before starting on higher education studies. During the 8 months, I lived in Australia, I recall learning a lot helping out at Jensen's tennis in Sydney. In addition, I learned a great deal being a sparring partner a couple of times in Newcastle, a city North of Sydney, for the tennis player Rachel McQuillan. In particular, I remember one expression, which a coach, who came by one day to help Rachel, told me on the court during a break: Balanced control, Frank. Because Rachel played really well and moved really well around the court, it was a little hard for me to stay in balanced control during practice. However, the expression "balanced control", which I learned that day in Newcastle, has stayed with me ever since, and the expression continues to help me in several situations that I experience in life. Thank you.
Story # 12: Tennis racket stringing initiative
For some reason, I liked - already as a child - to create and try out something new, go different ways than the mass was taking. An initiative, which I look back upon with great memories and positive feelings, is stringing tennis rackets for people. This initiative came about, as I discovered that the sports equipment store Skærbæk Sport on Søndergade in Aarhus was closing. One day, when I came by, employees were cleaning up in the store. I asked them what they were going to do with their racket restringing machine. They said they hadn't decided yet. That was my luck.
Looking back on this experience and thinking about what was important - seen from an innovation and learning perspective - I take out a couple of lessons.
- Firstly, I am very grateful that the people, whom I met on this day in that sports store, helped me in various ways. They helped me understand how the machine worked and taught me - right there on the second floor of the store - how to use tools needed to restring rackets. Offering that voluntary help and showing strong empathy, they helped me learn and grow and contributed in wonderful ways to helping me become more self confident about taking this initiative. Thank you.
- Secondly, I learned from this experience the importance of observing what people need to improve their lives. In this situation, it was the need people had to get their rackets strung in an easy and inexpensive way.
Story # 13: Pop-up foodstand initiative
During my childhood, I remember another initiative that Morten, my best friend, and I took during one Summer: We had the idea of creating a pop-up food stand at a playground in the social housing community, where I lived, and sell æbleskiver. Normally, æbleskiver is a snack people enjoy at Christmas time when it is relatively cold outside. However, during this Summer, we tried selling them when it was warm outside. And as I recall, my mother, who cooked most of the æbleskiver during the event, could hardly keep up with the speed at which we were selling them on the street ;-)
Story # 14: Mini-tennis tournament initiative
After having been involved in the tennis club in Lystrup for a few years, I was looking for more challenges. I decided to join Skovbakken, a club at which more as well as better players played than at the tennis club in Lystrup. Like at the tennis club in Lystrup, I had a great time during the years I was a member at Skovbakken. Reflecting on great moments, I recall, for example, that 3 mini-tennis courts had been constructed near the Skovbakken Tennis club house. That inspired me to help out organize a mini-tennis tournament for young players - an event that I recall as being lots of fun.
Story # 15: Singing
When I was a child, I was a scout for about 5 years at KFUM spejderne. Working as a scout, I learned, for example, about being open-minded, curious, to understand how things work, learn what was going on around me, and to live a couple of days at a time in nature. For example, I recall how cooking over a fire in nature taught me to apply simple, practical solutions to get things done.
As a scout, I also learned a lot about social competence. For example, I remember that we often used to sing together when we met each week, and when we were walking / hiking from A to B. I remember that I liked singing. I recall that singing promoted a liberating feeling in the body and mind, and that singing helped me to feel happy.
I was fortunate to be able to live out my interest for singing in other situations as well. For example, I was happy to be a part of the Elsted kirke church choir for a few years. I recall that I even earned money for singing in church on Sundays during those years. During this time, I remember that I also had a great time singing in a little band in a voluntary music course at school.
Story # 16: Playing different music instruments
I also developed my interest in music in other ways. For example, I recall that I participated in an organ course at Fangel music, a music school located first at Nørregade in Aarhus and later at Banegårdsgade in Aarhus. The organ teacher Max Petersen helped me learn how to play the organ and even encouraged some of us amateur musicians to play a song at a yearly Yamaha music festival at Musikhuset in Aarhus. I remember I was happy that both of my parents, who were divorced at this time, came to the events to support me and my fellow junior amateur musicians. Later, I also took guitar lessons. I recall that I had a great guitar teacher, who inspired me to work with, for example, Latin American songs and rhythms.
I remember, that I had some wonderful music teachers who loved music and also did lots of things right to help me develop a learning mind. Singing in the church choir, participating in the voluntary music course at school, practicing playing the organ and learning how to play the guitar triggered my interest in helping make people happy through music in other ways as well. For example, I recall that during my teenage years, I sometimes played the organ for guests that my mother had invited for lunch or dinner at home. And later, I found it interesting to act as DJ physically at some events - and also share music electronically.
Story # 16: High school education
As a single child, I experienced times in my life when I would have liked to have brothers and/or sisters. From Summer 1986 to Summer 1987, as I attended 11th grade of high school at Mainland Regional High School in Linwood, New Jersey, USA, I was very fortunate to have the possibility to live with the Leap family, a family that included 3 sons, Chris, Greg, and Doug, as well as their parents, Barbara and Jim. It was a very new experience for me to live with a family with 3 children. And I recall that I very much liked living with the Leap family in Linwood. For example, I remember some great times playing basketball in the backyard with one or more of my host brothers. I also remember several amusing times with good laughs around the kitchen table. And I recall a great trip we had to Baltimore, Maryland with friends of the family as well as a wonderful trip to Philadelphia with the church community to see Harlem Globetrotters play. Looking back on this year being student at Mainland Regional High School in New Jersey, I recall that I was relatively young, as I was away from my home country Denmark for almost a year, and that being an exchange student for a year in the USA was a relatively large step to take both for me and for my parents.
What I also remember was that compared with the life I had been living in Denmark, it was quite different to live in the USA. For example, I recall that between classes in high school in the USA, there was a 4 minute break which was just enough to get what you needed in your locker and walk quickly to the room of your next class. I recall that when I met someone I knew, in the hallways, we greeted each other with "Hi, how are you doing?" In the first weeks after I started educating myself there, I remember I stopped, when a person asked me this question, reflected on how I was doing, and looked forward to speaking with the person about the question. However, I soon realized that due to the relatively short 4 minute period between classes, there was no time for long conversations. So by observing and listening to what fellow students did, I learned to simply respond "great, how are you?" and then continue walking. The short conversations were a bit of a culture schock, I remember.
Reflecting on my experiences being a part of high school life in New Jersey, I also remember that there were several prizes which were used to reward students for results they / we had achieved - both academically, in sports and in other areas. That was different from how things were done in Denmark. And I admit that I was very honored to receive the awards "most valuable player" and "the principal's award for a unique contribution." Thank you. Among things in the USA that were different from life in Denmark was also, I remember, food and transportation. For example, I recall being somewhat surprised that in the cafeteria at school, French fries were served relatively often. Another thing that surprised me was that a relatively large number of students were driving around or being driven around in cars - including really cool, colorful cars like Ford mustang as well as some smaller cars created my Japanese car companies. In Denmark, most students got from a to b by walking or riding bicycles. I think it was only because I did sports after school almost every day that I could keep my weight at a healthy level.
As I came back to Denmark in 1987, I started at Risskov Gymnasium. From the 3 year gymnasium period, I recall, for example, that in one of the big high school projects, the final thesis, I chose to write about the Japanese economy - not least because I was fascinated about how many innovative people in Japan had contributed to creating impressive economic progress. And I think it was also the knowledge I acquired about Japan that later, as I was an exchange student at HEC Montréal in Canada as a part of my masters education, encouraged me to learn about ideas behind total quality management.
Story # 17: Serving in the Royal Life Guards
From November 1990 to November 1991, I served for one year in the Royal Life Guards - mostly at Høvelte North of Copenhagen in Denmark. What I recall from this period is not least good friendships among people who, like I, had chosen to voluntarily become a part of this community. It was quite a culture shock, I remember, to experience a very command based leadership culture as well as a very strong focus on rules and on maintaining traditions in different areas. In the military, I noticed that symbols of hierarchy were very clearly communicated, for example in terms of the number and size of stars that people wore on their shoulders.
It was, I believed, the first time in my life that I had been part of a community where hierarchy was so clearly communicated. Coming more or less directly from high school, where I had spent much time reading, thinking, analyzing, writing, and having conversations with other students and teachers - both girls / women and boys / men - it was a relatively large change to work for the military. For example, I remember that apart from the dentist and people working in the cafeteria, there were few women were working there.
I also remember that I was very surprised, when I first saw and heard an officer with stars on his shoulder telling people with a relatively loud voice to, for example, walk, stop walking, and/or look straight ahead. What effect did this management behavior have on me? How did it make me feel? I remember that the behaviour I saw and heard stressed me in a relatively significant way. I remember I felt and developed fear. What would happen if I made a mistake, for example if I did not march / walk exactly in the way officers demanded? What would happen if I did not turn my head exactly at the time that an officer commanded? What would happen if I asked a question that an officer did not like? What would happen if I suggested an idea that an officer did not like, for example an idea about how to organize differently or how to communicate without cursing?
I remember that the management behaviour, I experienced, frustrated not only me but many other soldiers. I also recall that the way management was done was often a topic of discussion among colleagues of mine. Often, I remember thinking: This cannot be the right way to lead. There must be better ways. And as the time came to select a representative for soldiers, I felt a strong need to step forward. So did a few others soldiers, and in the voting process, one of the other soldiers, who also had stepped forward, got more votes than I did.
At Christmas in 2014, I passed through Copenhagen on the way to my mother's place and wanted to see what had changed over the past 20-25 years. It surprised me that more or less nothing, which I saw, had changed. For example, the clothes and hats of the guards had not changed. Neither had the way the guards positioned themselves and how they moved / walked or waited. And the architecture / design as well as the surrounding areas of buildings / castles, that the guards walked to and from, seemed to not have gone through much change either. It struck me that in this environment, holding on to traditions seems to be much more important than developing, innovating, changing, adapting. That surprised me - perhaps not least because technologies and so many other things around us are changing at a quite significant pace during these years.
Resulting from these experiences, I became increasingly interested in learning more about topics such as motivation, leadership, values, emotions and purpose.
Story # 18: Bachelor education studies in Denmark, Germany, and France
After having worked for the Royal Life Guards in Denmark, I decided to go out to live in Australia. During the time I lived in Australia, I applied to attend higher education. And from 1992 to 1995, I was a B.Sc. student at Aarhus University, school of business and social sciences in Denmark as well as at University of applied sciences Osnabrück in Germany. I chose to study international business administration and modern languages.
During the year I studied in Germany, from Summer 1994 to Summer 1995, I experienced that conditions for learning innovatively were good. Among reasons for the good innovation conditions in Osnabrück were, I think, these 3 reasons:
- Some of the teachers, I had, were good at encouraging students to think creatively and try out new things. In this regard, I recall that some teachers had business backgrounds, were entrepreneurs of some kind and were used to working / thinking creatively and trying ideas out.
- Students had diverse backgrounds They came from many different nations, had different values and different professional backgrounds. That encouraged creative thinking further.
- There were great sports centres in Osnabrück with all kinds of sports events during which people met up with each other and exchanged thoughts / knowledge / ideas.
Before starting on a masters education, I had a strong need to try out / apply what I had learned during the relatively intensive bachelor education. And I remember that on walls at the university of applied sciences Osnabrück, there was information about several excellent opportunities to get involved with numerous companies through internships. I really appreciated that, so when I was in Germany, I applied for an internship. And during 8 months from 1995 to 1996, I helped French companies based around Nantes in France with various tasks. For example, I helped make marketing and sales material for the French companies and joined them at trade fairs in Germany.
Story # 19: Masters education studies in Denmark and Canada
From 1996 to 1999, I was a M.Sc. student at Aarhus University, school of business and social sciences in Denmark and at HEC Montréal in Canada. As I got the opportunity to choose a specialization during the masters education, there was no doubt in my mind that I would choose a specialization with strong focus on topics such as strategy / innovation / organization / culture / leadership. What I recall from my masters education are, for example, these 3 experiences:
# 1: Good conversations with fellow students
Good conversations with fellow students were a great part of the masters education, I remember. And when I think back, these conversations with peers were, in effect, very good coaching practice. We asked each other lots of questions about all kinds of topics, I remember. And, as a consequence of this, we learned a lot from each other. I recall that back then in the 1990s, most of the conversations we had took place face-to-face in university buildings - not least in the halls. Over the years, this has changed a little, I experienced. More communication has become digital - using various kinds of social media, webinar technologies and other digital platforms. Still, I experience that conversations I have with peers at events in different physical locations are often very interesting and valuable.
2. Good onversations with Nils Villemoes
When I wanted to write my masters thesis, I decided to approach Nils Villemoes to get feedback from him on some ideas I had been working on for some time - ideas related to the experience economy. Why did I choose to contact Nils Villemoes and not another person? One reason was, I recall, that during contributions Nils had made earlier in the masters education, Nils' inputs and ideas had challenged me a great deal to think out of the box / in other boxes. I was inspired by Nils' creative ways of thinking. I recall that Nils looked at things in completely different ways, and that I was inspired by his creative ways of thinking. For example, I recall Nils turning the organizational pyramid upside down and seeing every single individual as being in charge of creating value for others - and seeing leaders as people, wo help other people get what they need to do their work well.
Being coached by Nils during the master thesis research and writing process was a life changing experience for - a phenomenal period of learning and growth. During the period, I learned a lot about many life skills - including how to how to work on finding out about values of myself and others and learn about the purpose of what we do in life, why different companies are here. I also learned about how to improve my creative thinking. That Nils had a sense of humor, which related to me, was an additional asset that I appreciated and helped me develop unconventional ideas and continue to rethink how we work and live our lives. Nils was able to often smile and laugh - also about himself. That helped me to somehow feel more human. And this is one of the valuable things I learned by working with Nils: That we try each day not to take ourselves so seriously. Each of us is not the center of the universe. There are things that are bigger than us, for example a purpose, love and nature. Also, humans make mistakes all the time. But if we want to, we can learn and improve.
# 3: Good conversations with Guy Archambault
As I was working on a project during a period of time I spent studying at HEC Montréal in Canada, I had the privilege of being coached by professor Guy Archambault. Working with Monsieur Archambault, I learned more about, not least, leadership and cultural differences. Monsieur Arhambault also inspired me to become more interested in diifferences regarding how education is done / can be done. I remember, for example, that we met for breakfast one day and discussed various topics over a cup of coffee.
Story # 20: Improving user experiences in retail shops
After graduating as M.Sc. in 1999, I had a need to do hands-on, practical work aimed at improving user experiences. Reflecting on why I had this need, I come to think of my background growing up in a non-academic environment. Very few people in my family had done higher education studies. Tools we knew were not so much management models, theories, or how to communicate using advanced words. They were rather screwdrivers, different kinds of machines, as well as other physical tools and technologies.
In my childhood, teenage years and early adult life, I had done lots of different practical work. For example, I recall that during one Summer in my teenage years, I cleaned / repaired / fixed tennis courts every morning. That was in the early years of the club, when the courts were still somewhat soft. And during my higher education studies, I recall I did operational work such as cleaning work at a dentist, dish washing work at Helnan Marselis Hotel in Aarhus, and delivering newspapers Jyllands-Posten and Aarhus Stiftstidende to both houses and apartments in different parts of Aarhus - mostly early in the morning.
Although, I had worked on all these operational tasks, I remember I still had a motivation / desire for "getting dirt under the nails" doing practical, hands-on work. Consequently, I threw myself out in practical innovation challenges such as these:
Helping serve supermarkets / shops of different sizes through Coca-Cola campaign work
Later on in 1999, I saw on the Internet, that Coca-Cola was looking for people to help fill up products on shelves at both small and large supermarkets at Christmas time. I took the chance and signed up for the 1½ months merchandiser challenge. I found it interesting to help out in this quite practical project job, for example because I got the possibility - as I drove from store to store - to learn about what people, who work for small, medium, and large shops / supermarkets with different strategies and cultures, do to serve customers well.
Working on this campaign / project for Coca-Cola, I remember I appreciated that it was, from early on in the process, quite independent work. And I found out that the way I learn to do things is by, for example, observing, asking, and trying things out. For example, there were times when it was a little difficult to find shops and/or find products in the warehouse of the shops / supermarkets. At the time, I did not use Google Maps, so I had to think creatively about how to find places. What I did was, for example, using my eyes when moving around. Also, I asked people who worked in the shops where things were and how different tasks are done there. And sometimes, when everyone was busy, I tried out things by myself. It often worked quite well. That gave me confidence and more energy.
Helping serve customers during a BAUHAUS store startup period
Helping to build up / start up a Bauhaus store in Holbæk in Denmark, i learned, not least, about the importance of serving people. An example: On one occasion, I observed a person with a very full shopping cart. Also, I could see that some of the things in the cart were somewhat big. So after helping the person find some additional products in the store, I helped the person out into the parking lot and to get the products into the customer's car. Then I took back the empty cart. After this experience, I was not in doubt: This customer will come back.
Using robots and mobile devices to create wonderful family experiences in LEGOLAND
During a 3 month assignment working at LEGOLAND Billund, I recall that we sometimes used a yellow robot, which could sprinkle water out of its mouth and thereby surprise kidsm their friends and families in positive, amusing ways. As we steered the robot, which was built by yellow LEGO bricks, around in LEGOLAND, I remember that the water sprinkling as well as the funny sounds, that we could make the robot do and say using a mobile steering device, resulted in so many wonderful laughs and happy family moments that I had not experienced for a long time.
Following the work on the innovation assignments for Coca-Cola, BAUHAUS, and LEGO, I wrote reports with improvement proposals based on conversations with customers, fellow workers as well as observations. Nobody had asked me to do this. However, I felt a need to do it - not least because I wanted to help the companies create more value for customers. I greatly appreciated the positive and encouraging feedback I received from managers upon sharing these voluntary reporting initiatives. The feedback from management helped me a lot to find motivation to continue innovating and help companies improve.
Story # 21: Learning to create work and living environments
I was more or less born into creating work and living environments / building and renewing houses. 2 experiences stand out:
Participating in BAUHAUS store start up project
Perhaps because of my experiences helping out my parents doing gardening work, I found it natural to help out not least at the garden centre, as I joined the start up project that BAUHAUS launched in Holbæk, Denmark in the year 2000 when a new store was built there. Together with a relatively large number of people with different skills and ages, I helped out during the operational build up of a BAUHAUS store in Holbæk, Denmark. I found it fascinating to serve during this period which included doing much practical / hands-on / operational work - not least in the garden centre. During the pioneering effort / pilot test, I found it very interesting and sometimes also quite challenging to help and learn from customers, who had many different as well as help and learn from co-workers who had very diverse backgrounds and different levels of experience in building / creating things as well as serving customers.
Helping out rebuild work environments at LEGO
Another wonderful innovation challenge, during which I was proud to have the opportunity to serve / help out not long after graduating, was in coordinating the rebuilding of work environments at LEGO. It was highly inspiring, I recall, to work with / learn from co-workers as well as from external architect, engineers, and craftsmen in transforming work spaces. Throughout the project period, there were wonderful interactions during the innovation work that contributed to creating a culture with focus on values such as play, creativity, and cooperation. An example that I look back upon with joy and appreciation: One day, a co-worker came to me, placed Bob the builder just in front of the computer screen and smiled. We both started laughing.
Story # 22: Urban gardening challenge
Living in Switzerland, I became aware of small city gardens where people like you and I can grow, for example, fruit and vegetables. At some time, my girlfriend and I decided to take on the challenge of building up a city garden. That proved to be quite an innovation challenge / initiative through which we learned a lot - about urban gardening and, not least, about the importance of communication and about learning to understand our values and the purpose we work towards.
During a process, which lasted a few years, we renewed pretty much every square meter in the urban gardening space. Along the way, my girlfriend and I had some great successes one of which was the planting of raspberries. This project proved to be split in 5 different phases.
- In the first phase, one of us came up with the idea of planting fresh raspberries - not least because we both liked the taste of the fruit.
- In the 2nd phase, we discussed who would take care of the raspberries - including cutting / nursing the plants - once they were planted.
- In the 3rd phase, the finding of a location for the raspberries, we did some brainstorming on a wall one day to find the right location as well as find out how much space we would reserve in the garden for raspberries. We came up with ideas for several different locations, and by using criteria such as the amount of light / sun coming to the raspberries, we found a suitable location which resulted in digging up a part of the lawn.
- In the 4th phase, the search for the type of raspberries we wanted to plant, we visited some Internet shops to learn about the available supply. We agreed that the raspberries should be organically grown fruit and be relatively big and sweet. We chose to invest in the raspberry type "autumn bliss" and purchased the appropriate amount as well as additional materials needed.
- In the 5th phase of the project, the planting of the raspberries, we agreed to plant the raspberry plants on a Sunday morning. During the planting of the raspberries, I recall that we took 1 step at a time and communicated much throughout the planting process to make sure that each of us agreed on what we should do next and how we should do it.
Among other urban gardening initiatives we took were
- growing vegetables such as potatoes, onions, beans and peas. To support vegetables during their growth, we also installed pillars which we painted yellow to freshen up the place,
- composting old leaves, peels from carrots and potatoes as well as other compostable material to create wonderful soil,
- recycling rotten wood, broken stones, old metal, and other materials that previous users / owners had left. That helped us develop more healthy soil, create more space, and, in general, transform the garden environment into a more beautiful and more human friendly space.
- growing grapes. For example, we planted sweet grapes of the sort "muscat".
Story # 23: House innovation project in urban garden
A part of the urban gardening challenge was renovating the house there. For example, we
- replaced broken gutters on the roof of the house with some new grey ones,
- installed solar energy on the house roof.
- painted the house blue on the outside and white on the inside. When our neighbour, who had come to work in Switzerland many years ago from Slovenia, one day came by with a photo he had taken of our house, praised us for the renewal we had done, and later painted his own house partly orange, we knew we had done the right thing.
Story # 24. How the urban gardening challenge strengthened relationship development work
Not long after starting out on this urban gardening challenge, my girlfriend and I discovered that our urban gardening challenge was much more than a project related to growing vegetables, fruits, and flowers as well as renewing a house. In fact, the project proved to be even more about how we discover values, which each of us has, and how we find out what the purpose of the garden is.
In other words, the urban gardening initiative actually turned into a pilot project that helped us to better understand ourselves, better understand the other person, and to better understand how we live well together as a couple. For example, we found out that communication - including listening - is of high importance to both of us. We learned, for example, that it is important to listen to each other to find out what vegetables / fruit / flowers each of us wants to grow, where each of use wants to grow what, and how much each of us wants to grow where.
On Sundays, during / after breakfast, we had a talk during which each of us expressed, for example, what she / he thinks is going well, what she / he thinks is going not so well, what she / he would like to do differently / change in the coming week. To make it easier to listen to each other, we agreed that each of us would speak for 5 or 10 minutes during which the other person just listens. Then we switch roles, so the other person talks / listens. We did more talking / listening rounds based on the needs we had and asked each other questions.
Through this process, we discovered, for example, this:
- We found out, relatively quickly, that we had some differences regarding nursing of the garden. For example, I liked the gardening to be quite orderly and well structured. My girlfriend has a little more relaxed way of nursing the garden. For example, she accepts, I learned, that some plants as well as the lawn grow a little wild.
- I found out that I did not want to spend very much time in the garden and preferred to have something smaller and closer to home. So, in fact, I found out that I preferred to simply plant a few things on the balcony at the apartment. And, today, urban gardening is, for me, primarily what I grow on the apartment balcony, i.e. tomatoes, salad, a few herbs and some flowers.
Story # 25: Experiences writing and publishing content
Writing / publishing has been an important part of my life. 3 examples:
Sharing e-books / content via blogs and other publishing platforms
Wanting to better understand content in the relatively large books I was reading during bachelor and masters education in the 1990s, I started writing / developing compendia containing the most important information from the books I was reading. What motivated me at the start of this work was simply better understanding what I was studying. In other words, I wanted to transform information from the books I was reading into knowedge that I found particularly useful.
Later, as the Internet - including social media and publishing platforms - developed, I increasingly started sharing with other people what I learned. Sharing research / questions / ideas / stories / experiences on social media and other publishing platforms such as slideshare and issuu is, I found out, a useful way of making content available to people and thereby help people to learn and grow.
I have found it highly motivating to learn from other people around the world via different platforms / social media. Also, I have found it purposeful to make it possible for people to get access, at anytime and from anywhere, to content / educational materials / e-books.
Creating yearbook during bachelor education in Germany
Inspired, by the many innovative things that were going on in Osnabrück, when I was there in 1994-1995 as B.Sc. student, I took the initiative of creating a yearbook. In the process, fellow students and teachers helped write texts / articles, take photos, find sponsors among local businesses as well as distribute the yearbook. At the time, the Internet / social media was not yet being used by people, so we had the book printed by a local printing house - thereby enabling everyone to get their own copy.
When I look back upon the year I lived in Germany, I often think about the great moments related to working on this yearbook project. In particular, I am grateful for all that I learned from students, teachers, and people working for the companies that were involved in the project.
Participating in writing books with other people
A great experience, I also learned a lot from, was contributing to a project management symposium - not least around the topic on how to make competence development a part of a project. During the preparation period for the symposium, which was held at the school of architecture in Copenhagen, I recall having some very interesting conversations with other members of the project management community. Preparing for this project management symposium and contributing, over some months, in writing a book with many other people, who also took part in this work, triggered my interest in education / skill development further. So I decided to invest more time in finding out how people learn / develop their skills / improve their competencies. Over the years, I have been fortunate to have the possibility to help students of many different ages.
Examples of other books to which I enjoyed contributing:
Story # 26: Using blogs and other social media for education
Serving people, who attend different levels of education, it surprised me quite a lot to discover that the way education is done at many universities is - to a relatively large extent - based on commanding / lecturing at lecture halls and controlling / testing students. Also, it surprised me that relatively few elderly people use schools and universities to educate themselves.
Over a number of years, I worked on rethinking the way education is done. In this regard, I tried out different ways of doing education and broke with existing / established ways of doing education. For example, I tried removing chairs and tables from the classroom and using wall and whiteboards to post questions to students. Also, I tried helping / encouraging students to learn in different places, for example in supermarkets as well as on the train / tram / bus. And I tried asking questions and listening to students, for example questions that help students discover personal values.
In addition, I tried using and still use different social media to enable students as well as their friends, parents, and teachers to get access to methods and learn anytime and anywhere. I experienced that there are several advantages of using blogs / social media for education. Also, I experienced that when social media are used for education, the roles of teachers change. Teachers / professors need to do other things and do things in different ways.
Besides great learning experiences I had with students of all ages, I continued to do research about how we can improve the way education is done. This is some of the research about learning / education I have been happy to do over the years. I was very honored, as I was invited in 2015 to share my research findings about the topic distance learning / distance education at the Summit of Leaders in Oxford, UK and learn lots more from many people with lots of experience.
Story # 27: Helping young people to learn
Over the years, I have found it greatly inspiring to work with / help / tutor young people, as they acquire skills they need to live their lives. Reflecting on experiences I have had helping young people learn, develop competencies / skills, grow and find their way in life, I learned that individual tutoring / coaching in homes combined with use of the Internet as well as parent support works well.
Among topics I have experienced that students want to learn are these:
- Accounting and finance.
- Reading / writing / listening / speaking in different languages.
- Conflict management strategies.
- Learning to discover personal values.
- Learning to handle emotions.
- Thinking creatively.
In addition, I have found it interesting to proactively help out during open education days at several schools over several years in Zürich. Example.
Story # 28: Coaching students during thesis writing
Over a number of years, I have found it interesting to coach about 20 students, who - during their higher education - invest some months of their lives writing a thesis. Each time I have been asked by a student to coach him or her during his or her thesis writing process, it has been wonderful to experience how the student learns and grows tremendously, as she / he works on better understanding topics she / he has chosen to dig deeper into, for example topics related to management, culture, innovation, strategy.
Story # 29: Helping elderly people use technology
In the 2000s, I discovered that elderly people sometimes need help to use the Internet and electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and notebooks - not least to stay connected with family and friends. I experienced that for many elderly people, digitization is a challenge. I also experience that elderly people get used to and become happy about the technological changes, for example when they experience the many benefits that technological changes bring to their lives.
Helping elderly people use IT - including social media - I found out that some elderly people, who had stopped working for companies they had been a part of for years, also need help to find / refind their purpose in life.
Story # 30: Helping out make cities more bicycle friendly
During the period, I worked for LEGO, it surprised me that there were relatively large parking lots for cars in Billund, Denmark, and that there is no train connection between Vejle and Billund. The distance of about 30 kilometers made it somewhat long to go by bicycle between Billund and my home in Vejle, so I usually took the bus or drove by car with a co-worker. Unfortunately, blablacar, gomore or other carsharing apps were not in use at the time, so I mostly drove with people I already knew.
The experiences I made during the time I worked and lived in the Billund-Vejle area also encouraged me to start doing research on, for example, how we can create more biycle friendly cities. When I started living in Switzerland from 2006, I found out that there was a relatively large need to continue work on helping build more bicycle friendly cities as well as scale up and improve outdoor fitness areas. Why? For example because I experienced that compared with the population in Denmark, a much lower percentage of the population in Switzerland use their bicycles to get around.
During some innovative initiatives, for example in the NextZürich and the Bikeable communities, I shared photos, questions, problems and ideas with the goal of helping make the city of Zürich more bicycle friendly.
Story # 31: Helping refugees
After graduating as Master of Science (M.Sc.) in the Spring of 1999, the first of the innovation challenges I threw myself into, was initiated in a library in Aarhus, Denmark. As I was there one day to do some research, for example about topics I had studied during my masters education, I saw - as I was on the way out from the library - a note about a campaign targeted to helping refugees. I got in contact with the people already involved, Kaospilot graduates, and joined the pioneering initiative. A few weeks later, a large number of volunteers in the population around Aarhus had managed to collect more than DKK 1 million for refugees.
Story # 32: Learning about direct democracy in Switzerland
Living in Switzerland has for me not least been a period of tremendous learning. In this regard, I have been surprised to experience that there are many more differences between Switzerland and Denmark than I thought there would be before I, in 2006, came to live in Switzerland. For example, I have found it interesting to learn about the direct democracy in Switzerland which I find greatly inspiring and very relevant for how we live our lives. That each citizen has the possibility - several times a year - to vote on a number of different topics, and, before an election, is sent material that help to understand arguments for and against the proposals for changes in laws or new laws, is admirable and globally unique. In comparison with Denmark, I learned that in Switzerland, there are a lot more elections through which the people have the right to take part in the creation of laws and thereby contribute to strengthen democracy.
Being curious to learn more about democracy, I did, for example this:
- Did research about the political system in Switzerland.
- Took part in the highly interesting #DigitalDemocracyIPZ learning process in 2017 moderated by Fabrizio Gilardi.
- Learned from work that people from easyvote, Vimentis, WeCollect are doing.
- Learned about Switerland by using the app together-in-switzerland.ch
- Dd research about people, who wrote about changes happening during the Enlightenment, for example Immanuel Kant, as well as other people who contributed to developing the social contract.
During the time, I have lived in Switzerland, I have had the possibility, a few times, to vote for church leaders. When I first got the opportunity to participate in elections, as the voting material was sent to me by mail, I remember very clearly what I felt in my body and heart, and what I thought in my mind: I was happy. I had a feeling of being equal to other people among whom I live. I had a feeling of being part of the community in which I live. I had the feeling of becoming more a participant / a contributor than being a guest. I felt valued as a human being. I felt that people, whom I live among, had an interest of also listening to my voice. The right to vote helped me become more self confident. It helped give me more energy. Thank you.
A few things surprised me about elections in Switzerland. Some examples:
- I learned that in many of the elections, fewer than 50% of the people, who have the right to vote, actually use this right.
- I also learned that electronic voting is taking some time to get established.
- What also surprised me about elections in Switzerland is that it was only after I was born that women in Switzerland got the right to vote. This shocked me because in Denmark, where I was born and have grown up, women have had the right to vote since 1915.
Story # 33: Helping out at events in Switzerland
Living in Switzerland, I experienced that - besides the well developed direct democracy - there are many other great ways / possibilities through which anyone can get involved in helping get things done and create great experiences for users, guests, and other people. I am thankful to have had the possibility on numerous occasions to contribute to different initiatives in a variety of ways. Examples:
- Helping out a few days during the Icelandic Horses World Championships in Brunnadern, Switzerland.
- Helping out during the European Universities Tennis Championships in St. Gallen.
- Serving participants in various ways at Kantonalturnfest Wädenswil.
- Serving guests at various events / on various occasions during the European championships in football in Zürich.
- Helping out at Zürich Marathon.
- Helping out at Limmatschwimmen.
- Participating in developing / improving / renewing the city of Zürich, for example by contributing to innovation initiatives via Nextzürich events on the Internet and in different physical locations.
- Helping out at Clean-up-day.
Story # 34: Helping to pull out bureaucracy by its roots and innovate management
At some time in the 2000s, I came across the blog Kolindkuren. Almost instantly, I found Lars Kolind's use of a blog a great initiative, not least because he used social media to open up communication and enable people from all over the world to participate in dialogues about a variety of different topics, challenges, people, companies, countries etc. What fascinated me about the innovation work going on on the blog Kolindkuren was, for example, that Lars Kolind and many other blog participants / community members put focus on issues I found highly relevant for how we work. It therefore came natural to me to invest, over a period of a few years, several hundreds of hours in this work.
Among the topics, we worked on / helped create more value around, I recall, for example, topics such as these:
- How do we understand different values?
- How do we develop a purpose for what we do?
- How do we transform the way leadership is done?
- How can companies use technology to involve more external people?
- How do we rethink the way we organize?
- How do we rethink education to help people learn better?
- How do we create more value in health care?
- How do we respond to globalization? How can we work globally and locally?
The more I worked on better understanding these and other related topics, the more I came to realize that problems I had experienced working for, for example, LEGO, were not problems that were particularly unique for LEGO. They were problems that are common for most companies that have achieved a certain success, existed many years, and reached a certain size. I discovered that when the turnover of a company grows and more people are involved, things start to get difficult. Why? I found out that it has to do not least with the way we organize. What I learned through the hands-on experiences I made, observations I made, conversations I had with people in different departments as well as on different organizational levels, and through other research I did, was that that most companies organize using hierarchies, an idea that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century and is strongly related to these 2 words: Command and control. The more people, who are involved / employed / recruited, the more hierarchical levels managers on all levels create. This relatively simple discovery as well as lots of frustration in many work situations encouraged me to do more research about how we can create much more value for many more people around the world by helping companies adapt the way we organize.
As blogging matured and other kinds of social media / digital platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn started attracting an increasing number of people, the urgency for organizing differently increased considerably. Using a variety of different social media, which you can find links to at the bottom of the page, I discovered that an increasing number of highly competent innovators, leaders, and professors were sharing experiences / ideas / knowledge which I have found very useful to learn from. I have found it very interesting - through various social media / platforms / communities - to follow / learn from, for example, Paul Sloane, Richard Branson, John Hagel, Steve Denning, Karl Moore, Dan Rockwell, Vijay Govindarajan, Marshall Goldsmith, John Kotter, Jeff Immelt, Gary Hamel, Tim O'Reilly, Donald H. Taylor and Hal Gregersen.
In addition, I have found it very interesting to participate in innovation challenges through a variety of different platforms and participate in interactive, co-creating events - both in various physical spaces and on the Internet. Examples:
- Contributing with ideas and inputs / questions to ideas of others on innovation challenges of several organizations via idea development / brainstorming / open innovation platforms such as Atizo, brainfloor, and jovoto.
- Contributing to hacking management via Management Innovation eXchange.
- Contributing to developing competencies of leaders at several Swiss Re workshops over several y ears.
- Contributing to helping people and companies become more agile, for example during the Mckinsey Agility Hackathon.
- Contributing - for example with questions and mini-workshops about using blogs / social media in education - to eduhub days in Baden, St. Gallen and Fribourg in Switzerland.
- Contributing with questions and research to several HBR Webinars, LSG Webinars, and e-teaching.org Webinars.
- Contributing with questions / inputs / experiences to events in various physical places, for example Crowd-Day event in Hamburg
- Participating at Tag der offenen Tür / open door days at more occasions, for example during Informatiktage.
- Contributing to the Global Peter Drucker Forum, for example via Twitter.
Reflecting about how important creative thinking is for making progress across companies, schools / universities, cities, countries, and other types of communities, I decided to invest more time in understanding how we can develop our creative thinking skills further and thereby create more value for each other. These creative thinking methods are some of the creative methods / exercises that I have come to know through different kinds of research, and which I have tried out / tested through moderation of workshops with groups of different sizes.
Story # 35: Learning about the access economy / sharing economy
As sharing economy platforms / websites / apps started to develop strongly in / across several other industries, I found it natural and meaningful to try out and support different services delivered through these channels. Via jacando, for example, my girlfriend and I got in contact with an elderly man who had experience installing solar panels on roofs of houses. With his help, we managed to get the solar panel, which we had invested in earlier, installed on the roof of our urban garden house. The elderly man even helped create a switch in the house which we could use to turn on an LED light.
At another occasion, during which we needed to get a lamp installed above the dining room table in the apartment we live in, we got in contact with a highly competent electrician via the platform Rent a Rentner. I recall this experience as a great collaborative experience as I was happy to assist the elderly man in, for example, holding things when he was using both of his hands to install the lamp.
Having a wish to help young people get access to cheap accommodation as they discover different cities / places around the world, my girlfriend and I put the city garden up on the platform Campinmygarden.com. It has been wonderful to experience the joy that young people have expressed in being able to spend time there as they move from a to b in the world.
Story # 36: Learning about health care innovation
When I was a child, I suffered quite a lot from hay fever. I was allergic, I recall, to grass and different kinds of weeds. I recall that not least during Spring and Summer, I had a runny nose and sneezed quite a bit. Also, I often had excess tears in my eyes, and my eyes were itching. Perhaps it was at that time that my interest for health care started. During high school years, I remember that studying to work as a doctor was among my top priorities.
Later in my life, my interest in health care was strengthened in additional ways. For example, I recall a time in the 1990s when my mother was at the hospital for a period of time during which I was curious to know more about how doctors and nurses worked at helping her. Conversations with my girlfriend, who works as a nurse, also strenthened my interest in health care significantly. And the relatively strong development of health care apps in recent years has also made me more curious about health care innovation.
As I was working with students studying at different educational levels in the 2000s and 2010s, I remember that focus was on health care a few times, for example because more students worked for companies related to health care. During strategic management workshops, for example, I invited students to work on health care innovation. For example, we went down to a supermarket to do a start and stop doing exercise right in the store. I asked the students this question, for example: What do you think the supermarket should stop doing, do less, do more, and and/or start doing in order to help people stay healthy / live healthier?
Over some years, I worked on better understanding health care, for example through Internet research, observations, as well as conversations with nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and patients. Here are some of the findings of my research efforts in healthcare innovation.
Story # 37: Learning about emotions
Reflecting on my life, I realize that I have lived through quite a significant number of changes from which I have learned much about handling changes in life - including learning to understand and create value in new places, for different people, and/or in different situations. Examples of changes I have learned a lot from:
- Divorces of parents.
- Change of home more than 20 times in my life.
- Living for large parts of my life in countries outside Denmark, the country where I was born.
- Working with people who have grown up in many different countries and speak different languages.
- Working on a large number of innovation challenges / project work / pioneering initiatives.
- Working with people involved with both small and large companies.
- Working with people who have different competencies.
- Working with people of different ages.
What I experienced during these periods of change - in some situations a relatively high degree of change - was a certain amount of stress. An example: Working for LEGO, I experienced that within just a couple of years, lots of people were hired and fired. What I experienced was that, unfortunately, the hire-fire culture initiated by leaders created fear and lack of safety among people - just as much if not more among people who were not fired / excluded. The hire-and-fire culture during this period started many thoughts in my mind some of which were about the importance of safety and about how people say goodbye to each other.
During periods of stress, I learned through experience - sometimes through very painful experiences that resulted in, for example, loss of co-workers, loss of trust, fear and insecurity, anger about how management is being done, loss of energy and motivation, and loss of income and many tears - to get a better understanding about and grip on the stress I had. Over the years, I have learned to cope with stress in, for example, these 7 ways:
- Turn motivation from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation, for example by learning to better understand values I have and the purpose I work towards in my life.
- Speak with people, I trust, about what stresses me and why it stresses me. In combination with personal reflections and writing, conversations have been a useful strategy for me to learn more about how to manage emotions.
- Do research and write about managing stress.
- Do research and write about how we communicate well with each other.
- Do research about how we stay fit.
Story # 38: Writing continuously about books I read
Not least due to the realtively significant technological changes we experience continuously, I have learned that unlearning / recognizing what is less relevant and learning new is becoming increasingly important. With the strong development of social media and other platforms that enable us to co-create / create new knowledge together, i have found it highly motivating to contribute to adding value to what I read in various inspirational books.
Story # 39: Discovering my values and purpose
An experience that relatively strongly influenced my work on the power of values was doing project work for LEGO. What I experienced was, I recall, that although the written down company values were used well for marketing purposes, these values were, unfortunately, not really lived out by quite a lot of employees and managers. As I was helping out at LEGOLAND during a few months, I experienced an exception: I found out that many young people, who worked there, naturally lived out all of the company values - including play, learning and creativity. For example, I recall that as we built things with users / guests, much creativity was used, and as a result, we learned a lot about what works and about what does not work. These experienced drove me to think about the gap between a) the written down company values and b) how people actually work. The experiences also fueled interest in doing research about questions to ask to discover values people have.
Being faced with several external changes and thrown off course a few times in my life, I started working on discovering what my own values are. I experience that this in and ongoing process. To discover my own values, I learned that it helps a lot to write down stories of my life. Working on discovering my values has also helped me to better find out what the purpose of Frank Calberg Services is. I have learned, for example by studying the work of Frederic Laloux, that it makes sense to see a purpose as having evolutionary character. Currently, I see my purpose as being centered around helping people with challenges related to life changes - both by building a life change library and by offering coaching services.
In, for example, these 2 ways I try to live this purpose:
- By writing and sharing publications about topics related to handling changes in life.
- By asking questions and giving feedback to people who go through life changes.
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