The Essence of Work — Part 9 — Ethereal qualities

This post is part-9 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction and overview of previous posts, check here.

Geert Degrande is a Flemish writer, author, translator, journalist, listener, and innovator. We met in 2009 as part of my personal self-discovery journey. Geert was a witness of the coming-out ceremony at the end of that journey. It was also the start of this blog in April 2009 with “Singing my own song”.

Begin 2015, Geert introduced me to Fabiaan Van Vrekhem, who was working with Geert on a book about disruption. To be honest, I was a bit suspicious, as after all these years, i have seen so much abuse of the buzzwords innovation and disruption.

We met for a coffee in Fabiaan’s offices in Brussels on a warm spring day in April 2015, almost day on day 6 years after my first blog post, I only realize now.

The connection was genuine and immediate. We had a long conversation about the essence of work and different levels of quality awareness.

I got hooked when the conversation went into the topic of letting go: those moments in your work maturation, where you are not interested anymore, because you want to move on to the next level. Where you delegate the execution of certain tasks to professionals.

I am just back from delivering a great edition of Innotribe at Sibos, where I had the pleasure of working with professionals from George P. Johnson and Collective Next.

Those professional are so good: they give me piece of mind that the work will be performed as imagined by its architect and curator. Where art and content and flawless execution meet and create a superior experience.

Innotribe anchor person Akhtar Badshah with his own artwork in the background.

It is the result of months of build-up, co-creation and co-ideation; it is the moment to “let go”. And I have to confess I find it still difficult to let go.

Letting go is also my challenge when doing my artwork.

Leaving room for unplanned encounters.

As many of you know, I have gone back to artschool. Last year drawing: painting this year. Discovering the difference between drawing in lines and thinking in shapes and layers. Where the best discoveries happen unexpectedly.

Study book Petervan – unplanned encounters of stuff – 2015

As part of the studywork, I dived into this great book about artists. And I had to think again about the layers of quality so well described in Fabiaan’s book.

Letting go and delegate, like artist Jeff Koons in Sarah Thornton “33 Artists in 3 Acts”, where she describes the artist employing a staff of 150 people in his studio to execute his creations by the best craftsmen.

“Artists have become ideas people liberated from manual labor; they can delegate without compromising their authorship.”

“It is important not to confuse art with craft”

Balloon Dog – by Jeff Koons

Fabiaan’s book “The Disruptive Competence: A journey to a sustainable business, from matter to meaning” came out in June 2015. I got a copy of the manuscript before that and invited Fabiaan to speak at our 2015 Rebel Jam on June 26, 2015. You can listen and watch the recording of his WebEx talk here.

The book is about letting go, delegating when not being interested anymore. And moving on to the next level of quality awareness. It’s a deep book about different levels of ambition and life quality.

The 7 dimensions of value creation – courtesy Fabiaan Van Vrekhem

A good example of “letting go” is when you for example reached valuable craftsmanship. You move to the next level of value creation “service” and let the quality control craftsmen come in. Your interventions are now about service. As you mature in the essence of your work, you work yourself naturally up on the value layers.

  • Layers 1–4 are all about context management. That’s what many companies are good at.
  • Layers 5–7 are about context creation. That’s what not many companies are good at.

To go back at the start of this series on The Essence of Work, management and creation are different belief systems.

If you are already in context creation mode within an organization that is struggling in the context management mode, it is a source of frustration, for members of either belief system.

Again, the one is not better than the other. Trying to solve the problem as WE see it. This is coming back to Dave Gray’s belief systems: “as we/they see it”

The maturation is in the move

from “span of control”

to “span of support”

Making interventions at the 7th dimension, the dimension of societal progress — is about meaning-making. This is the dimension of societal context, the dimension of sense-making:

We are prepared to pay more for meaning than for matter

The 7th Dimension is to become a source of influence to make people aware on how to interact. This is where “let other see what I see” comes in: let others discover what they can see if they become multi-sensory sensitive and aware.

This becomes even more important in a world that is moving fast, in a world full of uncertainties.

The methods of planned certainties

don’t work anymore in an uncertain world.

The more uncertainty, the more unknowns.

You cannot solve the unknown with the known, you can only solve the unknown with what you become aware of, and that is consciousness.

People are on a growing curve. Because they have a certain potential capability present, they look for more information, more data so they can use their capability at the full.

The organization has to become “aware” of this learning-progress-maturation need of their collaborators.

This is different from “I look for a job where I can learn”: that is in essence is an egocentric desire, where the individual wants to suck more knowledge (aka value) out of the system that he/she contributes. The maturity happens when that person starts to realize that a balanced caring life is more about putting value back into the system.

How many levels can your organization integrate to create a potential context machine for your collaborators?

When people outgrow their role, they get frustrated because of the unused potential. They are determined by responsibilities that no longer fit their level of capability.

As we have seen, Fabiaan describes 7 layers of value creation.

I would claim there is another level.

Where it is about pure beauty. The sort of beauty that is not of this world. The sort of beauty that only can be captured in ballet, or in poetry, or in multi-sensory performances.

Theatre de Chaillot in Paris on May 2. (ALAIN JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

There is a word for that, I discovered recently: ETHEREAL

Ethereal means “extremely delicate and light in a way that seems not to be of this world.”

Like in “her ethereal beauty”. Synonyms are: delicate, exquisite, dainty, elegant, graceful, beautiful, lovely, fragile, airy, fine, subtle, unearthly, aery, aeriform, airy, aerial, gossamer, celestial, supernal.

What if we would set that as standard and norm for the essence of our work?

First published on Petervan’s blog here.