Unexpect, the young creative thinker as social good.


Unexpect : Creative Thinking for Social Good.

Unexpect is on a mission to unleash young people’s creative potential so they can apply it to social challenges. At the core of Unexpect is a number of tools to help young people develop their creative thinking ability.

The young creative thinker as social innovator!

Join me to shape the Unexpect program and help thousands of young people unleash their creative potential, for the betterment of society.
Get in touch if you or your organisation is interested.

Read more here >>

10 Principles of Creativity

10 Principles of Creativity
Davis (1992)

1. Creativity is not just for artists, inventors, scientists.

2. Creativity is a way of thinking and living.

3. Creative people are “creatively conscious.”

4. Creative people see things from different viewpoints.

5. Creative people do not grab the first idea that comes along.

6. Creative people are willing to take some risks and fail.

7. Creative people are aware of conformity pressure and are not afraid to be different.

8. Creative people play with ideas and act like a child and think up “wild” possibilities.

9. Creativity is not mysterious; it is the modification of an old idea or new combo of old.

10. Creative people use special techniques and talents to find new idea combinations.

Teaching is a Creative Profession. Interview w @JelmerEvers

I interviewed Jelmer Evers, to find out more of his ideas on education reform in the Netherlands and wider. This is part of my THNK Challenge on the Future of Education.
Jelmer is an avid blogger, tweeter, teacher and education reformer. He teaches at UniC in Utrecht, NL and has, together with his students experiemented with a number of new forms of teaching such as flipping the classroom. He says ‘ Students must become the owner of their own learning process’


Skype interview. January 8th 2013.

Let’s kick off with the role of the teacher in the class, how do you see it?

Jelmer: That depends a bit, on the level of the students, mainly I believe it’s about helping the students to find their own voice. It’s been a big introspection on my own learning experiences and this has shaped the way I teach. Sometimes you deviate from your plans, and sometimes students prefer more formal methods, it’s good to note that children between 12 and 18 also need structure. Too much structure doesn’t work and too much freedom doesn’t either. What I can say is that across the board, all students like practical assignments. Theoretically minded and practically minded students alike they like working on real assignments.

Let’s talk about the role of the teacher in the designing of curricula

Jelmer: Ownership of your topic and autonomy in how you teach it, is essential to good teaching, you should really enjoy teaching your subject, you have to own it and shape it. In my vision, a teacher should help students to become makers, so you need that quality of making and designing yourself in order to pass it on. If you want good teacher’s they should also be instructional designers too. Instructional design was only a small part of the teacher training in the Netherlands, that should have been more. Teaching is a really creative profession.

And how does Holland compare to Finland, the walhalla of Education

In Finland they teach maybe 500 hours or less to a class, while Holland has one of the highest rates with nearly 700 hours of teaching. Check out the OECD comparison here. This difference is key, those are the hours that teachers can spend on lesson development and building their own capacities, keeping up with new developments. People designing education don’t seem to have a clue what it really takes time wise to teach. You have to allow people time to be the best teachers, it’s a key component in the mix.

In UniC, where Jelmer teaches, they work as a team, in developing a path through the curriculum, curating the contents from available sources. He is just about to spend three days with his co-teachers of  History, Geography, social sciences and economics to make a shared curriculum. If you design your own path through the curriculum, it can also save you time down the road, as you own the process.

Jelmer on education Reform in Holland.

The system really needs to change, many of the things we do in schools now are a complete waste of time for students. The system needs to change both from the top down and from bottom up. That’s where Jelmer and his ilk come in. There is a history in Holland of top down change which hasn’t worked. What’s needed for bottom up change is to allow teachers to innovate and to keep the innovative teachers in the profession. The Ministry of Education can benefit by having more people working there who are active teachers, as opposed to only listening to educators or policy makers. It’s just too easy to underestimate the tenacity of the system.
Teacher’s are needed to co-create education reform.

And which education visionaries inspire Jelmer?

Here are some of his favorites:

Andy Hargreaves, The Fourth Way.

Will Richardson, blogger and former teacher.

Pasi Salberg, Finnish researcher.

And the classics such as John Dewi, Maria Montessori and JeanPiaget combined with technical disruption.

Steven Downes, who invented Moocs, toegther with George Siemens.
He preaches a new version of social constructivism, called connectivism.

Steve Wheeler, with a focus on new technologies.

Dylan William, professional education.

Daniel Wilingham, educational pyschologist, gives teaching and learning. Gives teaching more fundaments. and combines teacher practice and research.

Aside: Are there no ladies in this field?

And finally, too many people leave teaching, Jelmer is trying to combine, his passion for teaching with his other passions such as teacher trainer and blogger. He really enjoys teaching. Let’s hope he stays, students need great teachers like him.

Steve Howard, CSO, IKEA, Forum session @THNK

Today, January 14th, at THNK Forum session, we get to meet Steve Howard. Steve is the Chief Sustainability Officer at IKEA since January 2011. He believes that Sustainability will be one of the mega trends that will shape society and  the business landscape in the next 10 years. He has worked broadly with ngo’s and businesses for climate change in the past such as World Wildlife Fund and UK Forest Stewardship.

We kick off with Karim interviewing Steve on his early career and how he got into working for the environment in the first place.

Steve founded The Climate Group in 2004 starting out as a two person start up in a small room, their Theory of Change was to reach 7 billion people through reaching the top world leaders. He tells that sometimes it took three years of networking to finally get a meeting. A lot of relentless work involved! Steve feels that the Climate Group managed to get the conversation about the climate between business and governments to become mainstream. Quite an achievement. Although of course the mission against climate change has not been achieved yet.

About his current position at IKEA, Steve says: ‘The purpose of leadership is to remind people of purpose’ and Steve is quite obsessive he says himself about getting the maximum potential of sustainable actions within the company.


THNK’rs question round kicks off:

Sofana asks, what do you see as the role of young people and children, in the fight against climate change?

Steve: To remind us of our responsibility!

Rachel asks about organisations and people in for example the UN she has worked with who have sometimes dissappointed her in their lack of action orientation. Rachel wants to know how Steve remains positive in the face of that.

Steve: My motto is Mission first, Organisations second, People third! When people fall into the gap of allowing either an organisation’s or a person’s needs to take priority the mission suffers. Usually you can recognise through a persons approach where their priorities lie.

Ellen J. wants to know do you stay so optimistic in the face of such huge challenges?

Steve Perhaps I am a Possibilist more than a optimist. At least that is what my son told me. Steve also hires people around him that are solution based. He feels really encouraged by the huge leaps humanity has made in bringing huge numbers of people out of dire poverty and truely believes that if we pull together, collective action, we can do this, we can establish lifestyles that are sustainable on the planet and imporving quality of life.

Jezus wants to know about the lifecycle of products, is IKEA designing furniture that will last?

Steve: Yes and no. Some products should be cheaper for the first time buyer. They don’t want them to last forever. We do want the products to be recyclable at the end of use. Other products should last very long, such as mattresses, or more heirloom potential objects.

Sharon tells that in her experience from discussions between business and social innovation, she sees 3 layers of conversation, one happening at the R&D level, one happening at the marketing level and one happening at the CSR level, she suspects that until directors give the intention to the product designers to design for sustainability. She would like to know Steve’s thoughts on this and how that works at IKEA, what is the balance of power there.

Steve has a question for us: How can IKEA effectively engage people through open-innovation, being such a big operation?


Karim is going to collect our ideas on this and collate them for Steve.

Jason: If you were to design a school around sustainability, what are the 5 things you would include in the curriculum?

Steve: Thanks for the easy last question 😉 Thinking intuitively, I’d include something about leadership, we need leaders, I’d include something in about history and cycles of change, how have things changed in the past. I’d include contents about how the world and nature works, so that you understand it better. Then perhaps, some more specialised modules on ngo leadership and innovation.

Jose Maria Figueres,Carbon War Room, ex-President Costa Rica @ THNK

At the Forum session on January 10th at THNK we interviewed Jose Maria Figueres in groups. He is the past president of Costa Rica, and the current president of the Carbon War Room. The theme was Break-through results & Orchestrating creative teams. Read more about Jose Maria here.
We have our 5 questions prepared in advance, Our first question, is a challenging one:

Q: What do you deal with leaders who are corrupt?

A: That is indeed a tough question, the answer is zero tolerance, weed them out, you cannot have corruption in your cabinet. Its a tremendously disruptive force, corruption, and gives all the wrong messages to those under you, if ministers or leaders are doing any corruption.
He had to take some heart-wrenching decisions on this because it can be a slip on the part of someone you care about and have worked with for a few years, but the decision has to be taken.
A related issue is to work on succession planning, also see both yourself and your peers as replaceable even though it is uncomfortable. Every leader knows when they are still adding value. 

Q: How did you make your cabinet a high performing team after taking office as President?

A: It was very difficult, you have to walk into a large company with no leader and take over, you have to appoint the equivalent of the CFO, the CTO, the COO and more in one go, they have to work together not necessarily  knowing the company or even each other and they have to quickly assume responsibility and work together. It took one year to get the team operating as a whole. He organised the team into thematic groups, with ministers and ngo’s, and businesses as members for each main theme (eg education, health.) He also forced them to rotate, to get out of their comfort zone.


Sharing a glass of wine after the questioning. Jose Maria on the most right.
LtoR: Isabel, Lynn, Emer, Jillian, Elly, Jose Maria, Menno.

Q: What was your biggest failure?

A: I had so many!

Q: Ok so maybe what was your favorite failure?

A: In the the whole issue of communicating, he says he failed abysimally, so many times he thought it was clear because it was clear in his head and even thought they shared his ideas, however the other could understand the idea in a very different way. As a leader you can never over communicate. That was a key lesson: Over-communicate.

Another big failure, was not taking some hard decisions with respect to people he had appointed with whom it quickly was apparent that they were not suited to the job. Very good people, but they lacked some skills that were required for the appointed position, and he took too long to move and change that, he spend another year trying to work with them. If he would do it again he would remove them quicker.

Q: How did you get people on board specifically in relation to investing in education?

A. I didn’t always have people on board, sometimes just sheer pushing with strength. To get the change, we put forward a constitutional amendment, that there would be 6% of GDP always invested in education, every year, even in years of shortage. In this way the education investment remains steady. That was a fight but a good fight.

Another fight which was a bad fight, was around the teachers pension reform. There was a system of paying teachers a low salary when they worked and then compensating them with a high pension upon retirement. He wanted to bring this into line with the salaries in the rest of the country. It became the longest strike in Costa Rica, after 5 weeks of the teachers striking the country was in enormous turmoil and it was very difficult,

Q: Globally, what is the biggest challenge to education?

A: The education model is based in the industrial revolution. Repetitive, memorization, it kills creativity by high school graduation. Today education needs to be relaxed around not knowing anything but knowing where to find it.

Q: Many leaders have failed to get through sustainability changes, yet you succeeded in Costa Rica, how?

A: A lot of work! and  more importantly only having one term in office. We passed a carbon tax in 1995, we could never have passed that if we had bene up for re-election, it was very unpopular. In Costa Rica accoording to the constitution, you can only spend one term in office and then you cannot come back. You spend 4 years in office, 5 years would be better, 6 is too long, Now the constitution is changed and you can get re-elected after two terms of not being in office. This rule makes it a lot easier to lead for the good of the country and not be influenced about concerns of getting re-elected.