This picture was shot more than a year ago. I liked the combination of rough concrete stucture with some modern additions. It looked very much as being under construction, however, and I had no clue what it was. Recently, I was close to it, so I decided to walk by it and find out more. Over a year later, it still seems unfinished. It was also closed to the public, but at least now I know what this building is. It’s the Docks-en-Seine. Part of a restructuring program of the Port d’Austerlitz, and planned to be the center of Fashion and Design. It houses the Institut Français de la mode, and probably some other fashion and design related instutes. But, it was closed off to the public, so more, I do not know.
Last week, from 7 to 11 October, was the Fete des Vendanges de Montmartre; the harvest festival for the Montmartre Vinyards. Or at least, that’s what I understood. We went there on Saturday, to watch the Grand défilé and we were lucky. We came out of the metro, right on the the square in front of the Mairie at the time the défilé was about to start. And a colourful one it was. Funny groups like the actually quite serious fishermen singing group Les Gourganes; the rather obscure Confrerie des Chevaliers du Taste-Fesses – which to my understanding means as much as the botherhood of knights that like to touch behinds; invigorating groups like the largely female brasilian percussion group Timbao, who were my favourites; and in the picture, the Venetian Carnival club – or at least, that’s how we’ve baptised them. All in all, the Fete des Vendanges de Montmartre was quite an event, and a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Recently I read a very inspiring book. Although reading might not be the best verb to use in this case, since it was an audio book. But that is rather beside the point. It was Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, written and read by Seth Godin. A book that calls for leadership, and inspires to lead. The book is based, to my interpretation, around three main points: it’s about the people, everyone can lead and modern technology enables everyone to lead.
The fact that people are put in the center, is not a very novel idea. Nevertheless, with all the Twitters and Facebooks and now Wave, many forget that the technology itself is useless, if you can not mobilize the people. Find a common goal, find your tribe, and use these wonderful tools to lead that tribe. For me, the book came, not coincidentally, on a very right moment. I was in the midst of organizing a charity challenge, and realized that I was leading a tribe in that respect. And that was not about me, which was the cool thing. It was about the people that wanted to participate, and the girls we were raising money for so that they can have an education. Because, according to Godin, leading is not about the leader. It’s about the tribe, and the goal. The leader is actually a facilitator, and everybody can do that.
Whilst listening to Godin, there were two moments I absolutely disagreed with him, and they are very much related. One was when he referred to the ‘Six Sigma sham’ and later, when he referred to the famous quote by Henry Ford “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. Why is that related? Well, Six Sigma is aimed very strongly at finding what the customer wants, and delivering that in a stable way. While Godin implies Six Sigma to be a straight jacket that keeps people from breaking out, to me, if you apply it correctly, it makes your production process more controllable, and gives the people in it more freedom to innovate new ways of making what the customer really wants. Six Sigma not only focusses on eliminating deviance in the production process, but also very much on the Voice of the Customer. And that is where the Ford quote is a perfect illustraiton of a mass production misconception: the arrogance that the producer knows best. The problem with the Forsd quote is, that while it might ask the right question (what do my customers want), it is satisfied with the wrong answer. Listening to the customer is not only noting their answers, but trying to find out what’s behind it. Behind the ‘faster horses’ answer, is the wish to travel faster from point A to point B. Maybe in a more reliable way, being able to bring more than you can pack on a horse, and with a cover over your head to shield you from the weather. Any Six Sigma practitioner will tell you that listening to the customer is about finding out their real needs.
And that brings me back again to the brilliant part of the book: look around you, find the needs and goals of people, and where they match with yours, you not only may have found your tribe, but you have an opportunity, or maybe even an obligation, to lead that tribe to reach your goals.
On Sunday October 11, 2009, around 70 colleagues ran a 10K distance (some a bit more, some a bit less) for the 10K for Naandi Challenge, under the motto “Work OUt. Connect. Help.” The objective was to have a get-fit goal, connect with eachoter and most of all, raise money and awareness for the Nanhi Kali project. A joint project of the Naandi Foundation and the KC Mahindra Trust. The Nanhi Kali project ensures education for underprivileged girls in India, who would otherwise have to do household chores or other work. In total, so far, we have raised enough to ensure a year long education for 20 girls in the age group of 14 – 16 years old. They will learn 3 languages, mathematics, science and social sciences.
In the picture, it is me and colleague Kate. We did our 10K in Paris, in the Parc Monceau. Feel free to show your support for this, by making a donation on our sponsor page at http://www.firstgiving.com/10k4n.
Somehow I have a thing for railway stations. I love the bustle of announcements, travellers running or waiting for a train, people arriving for business or a visit, or just for a stop over on a longer journey. It always has that nostalgic promise of adventurous railway travel to exciting and new places. Like you stepped right back into the age of steam powered engines. Especially in Paris, where the Grand Gares all have that grandeur of an almost forgotten era in which the iron bars and cars opened made distance travel possible for everybody. Less tended to than the grand passenger hall that give access to the ‘quais’, are the back ends of the stations. The Grand Gares are all head stations, which mean that people walk in on one side, and leave by train on the other. The entrances are Paris styled with the Haussmannien grandness, but the exits are more of an industrial and functional beauty. Dirty, broken glass, and a vast sea of iron, wood and pebbles. Like in this picture of the Gare Saint Lazare.