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 in Aarhus. During these years, we also spent much time at our summer house at Kysing Næs south of Aarhus.
Early on in my life, quite a lot of changes in living environments happened. Some examples:
My parents build houses - resulting in home changes
In the start of the 1970s, my mother and father bought a piece of land in Højbjerg south of Aarhus on which they wanted to build a house. This place was not so far from the summer house my parents had built in the 1960s. For various reasons such as disagreements about house size and house design, my parents canceled their plans of building a house in Højbjerg and decided to buy a piece of land at Skæring Skolevej 123 in Egå north of Aarhus. With the help of an architect and craftsmen, they builta house there. During this time, the first oil crisis came. In Autumn 1974, after my mother and father had finished building the house in Egå, we moved out of the apartment at Langenæs Allé in Aarhus and into the house at Skæring Skolevej in Egå. This change of homes also meant that I changed from being a part of the kindergarten Langenæsen to being a part of the kindergarten Højvang in Egå.
My parents divorce - resulting in home changes
Unfortunately, we only lived in the house in Egå for a short period of time. When my mother and father stopped living together in Easter of 1975, my parents sold both our house in Egå north of Aarhus and our summer house at Kysing Næs south of Aarhus. After moving out of the house in Egå at the end of October, 1975, my mother, Hanne Calberg, and I lived for about 6 weeks in a Summer house in Egå that my mother had borrowed from some friends.
During this period of change, I seeked comfort in, for example, Sussi, a dog that my parents gave me for my 5th birthday in October 1975. At that time, the poodle dog was 2 months old. Sussi became a very good friend of mine.
On December 15th, 1975, my mother and I moved to an apartment in Elstedhøj in Lystrup - an apartment in which my mother has now lived for more than 40 years. To avoid too many changes and because I really liked being at the kindergarten Højvang in Egå, my mother decided that, until I started primary education at Elsted Skole in August, 1977, I would continue being a part of the kindergarten in Egå. In Spring 1976, a neighbour complained that Sussi was barking during the day when I was in kindergarten. Due to this complaint, my mother and I were told that we had to give away the dog. A couple in Vejle 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.
Reflecting upon being a child of divorced parents, I became interested in understanding more about what problems and needs children of divorced parents have. I started doing research on and write about children of divorced parents.
My parents start new relationships - resulting in home changes
Some time after my mother and father divorced, each of them started new relationships.
My mother had a relationship with Daniel, a man from Tunisia, who had come to Denmark to live. I recall that Daniel had a clothes cleaning shop in Aarhus and also liked to sail in his sailboat. Years later, my mother had a relationship for some time with Auke, a man from Holland who worked on a 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. In addition, Hans brought us 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.
Later in the 1970s, my father, Leif Sørensen, married Karin, who worked as a primary school teacher and later as a school principal. Every two weeks on the weekend, I visited my father and his wife in Ålestrup. I usually took the bus from Aarhus to Viborg where my father and/or my father's wife picked me up in a car. During the weekends in Ålestrup, I liked to, for example, do different chores. For example, I cut the grass or shoveled snow while I was there. I recall that I also did homework for the coming week, went jogging, rode my bicycle around the area, did grocery shopping with Karin and played football - mostly by myself. 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 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, my father drove by car to Aarhus. My father spent the 24th of December with 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 his other sister Astrid and his brother Richard, I remember that my father spent very little time. I do not recall 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 want to 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.
Having had 2 homes during my childhood, my primary home with my mother in Lystrup a second home with my father and his wife in Aalestrup, about 100 kilometres from Lystrup, I learned, for example, more about different personalities that people have and about different family cultures - including how people with different levels of income live their lives.
Reflecting on learning experiences during my childhood, the following experiences stand out:
Reading about what Donald Duck is doing
In my childhood, I liked to read. I recall that as I was very young, I liked to read 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.
Perhaps, the experiences I made during this part of my life learning about the lives of Disney characters later inspired me to use Disneyworld as a case story in my masters thesis as well learn more about how to think creatively using the Disney brainstorming method My interest for learning through photos / images is also, I think, reflected in my interest for using sites such as Pinterest to learn as well as in my interest to know more about the variety of learning strategies.
My mother told me that when I was a child, I often sat in the kitchen, when I did my homework. As I got older, I mostly studied in my room where I could better concentrate. I also recall that as I got older, I increasingly prioritized my studies. 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.
Splitting up classes - resulting in change of friends and change of teachers
Just about 3-4 years after having started in primary school at Elsted skole, another relatively large change happened in my life. There were four 4th grade classes, and it had been decided that there were too few students in each of those classes. In other words, the average number of students per class needed to increase. So one of the four classes, the one I 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.
Coaching by math teacher
During some math classes, each student worked individually on math problems that reflected his or her level. When you came across a math exercise you couldn't figure out how to solve, you could go to the place in the room where Kirsten, the math teacher, was sitting, and get tutoring on your individual 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 help / coach / assist / support / work with young people and people of other age levels.
Experiences as tennis coach
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.
Experiences helping out in Australia
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 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. This expression has stayed with me ever since, and the expression continues to help me in several situations that I experience in life. Thank you.
Story # 3: Trying out ideas during childhood - thereby learning about innovation and entrepreneurship
Learning about innovation / entrepreneurship by trying out ideas during childhood, these experiences stand out:
After having been involved in the tennis club in Lystrup for a few years, I was looking for more challenges. I decided to joined Skovbakken. 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 just next to the 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.
Restringing rackets for people
For some reason, I liked - already as a child / teenager - to try out new things, create, go different ways than the mass was taking. An initiative, which I look back upon with great memories and positive feelings, is restringing 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.
Creating a pop-up foodstand
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 ;-)
Perhaps, it was not least this experience creating a pop-up store and creating joy for people by offering small delicious treats that later inspired me to do research about these topics:
Learning about using practical solutions to get things done as a scout
When I was a child / teenager, I was also a scout for about 5 years at KFUM spejderne. Being a scout, I learned more about being open-minded, curious as well as seeking to understand what was going on around me and how things work. For example, I recall how cooking over a fire in nature taught me about applying simple, practical solutions to get things done. Being 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 walked / hiked. I remember that I liked that.
Singing in church choir at Sunday service
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.
Playing the organ for people
I also developed my interest in music by taking voluntary music courses at school as well as at Fangel music in Aarhus. I recall that I had some wonderful music teachers who really loved music and also did what good teachers do. Max Petersen, for example, helped me to develop my passion for music as I was taking an organ playing course at Fangel music in Aarhus.
Max even encouraged some of us amateur musicians to play a song at a yearly Yamaha music festival at Musikhuset in Aarhus. I remember that I practiced many hours up to these events. Also, 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.
Singing in the church choir, participating in the voluntary music course at school, and practicing playing the organ triggered my interest in helping make people happy through music in other ways as well. For example, I recall that I, during my teenage years, sometimes played the organ for guests that my mother had invited for lunch or dinner at home.
Serving as DJ and learning about how music can help in, for example, healthcare
Later, I found it interesting to act as DJ physically at some events - and also share music electronically. Doing research about how music can help us, I was somewhat astonished to find out that music can have several positive effects on us, for example by helping us stay healthy in a variety of ways and thereby help us increase our quality of life. In this publication I have been writing about some research findings that I have come across doing research on the topic.
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 high school in 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. 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 honoured to receive awards, not least "the principal's award for a unique contribution."
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, colourful 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.
From November 1990 to November 1991, I served for one year in the Royal Life Guards - mostly around Copenhagen, 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 / decision making power / authority were very clearly communicated, for example in terms of the number and size of stars that people wore on their shoulders. It was more or less the first time in my life that I had been a part of a community where authority / decision making power 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 recall that apart from the dentist and people working in the cafeteria, it surprised me that very 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 behaviour have on me? How did it make me feel? I remember that the behaviour I saw and heard stressed me. I developed fear, became nervous. In other communities, which I have been a part of later in my life, I do not recall that symbols of hierarchy / decision making power / authority have been as clearly communicated as they were in the military. Other symbols of hierarchy, which I came across later in my life in different countries, were, for example, the size of offices, the quality of furniture in offices, titles people write on their business cards, the size of cars people drive, clothes / uniforms people wear, and the size of salaries that people receive.
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 10-15 years. It surprised me that more or less all that i saw had remained the same. 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, traditions / holding on to status quo seem to be much more important than development / innovation / change / adaptation. 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.
With these experiences in the back of my mind, I became interested in researching and writing about, for example, these topics:
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 BSS 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:
Before starting on a masters education, I had a strong need to try out / apply what I had learned during the 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 had the privilege, during 8 months from 1995 to 1996, to assist a number of French companies based around Nantes in France with various tasks.
From 1996 to 1999, I was a M.Sc. student at Aarhus BSS 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.
# 2: Good conversations with Nils Vilemoes.
As I wrote my masters thesis, I had the privilege of being coached by Nils Villemoes. I remember that Nils' inputs / ideas / experiences challenged me a great deal to think out of the box / in other boxes. I was inspired by Nils' creative ways of thinking. Being coached by Nils, I learned a lot about many life skills, including how to how to think about who we are, our values and purpose of what we do in life. I also learned about creative thinking. That Nils had a sense of humour, 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.
# 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 coaching by professor Guy Archambault. Working with Monsieur Archambault, I learned more about, not least, leadership and cultural differences. He 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. Perhaps it was also this experience with Mr. Archambault that later inspired me to write about what coffee has to do with values.
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 research / studies I had done during work masters thesis understanding different aspects of user experiences. Also, 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.
So although I had already - during my higher education studies - done some operational work such as cleaning work for different companies, dishwashing work at a hotel, and delivering newspapers such as Jyllands-Posten and Aarhus Stiftstidende to both houses and apartments, 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 offen 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 the wonderful experience working at LEGOLAND, I recall that we sometimes used a yellow robot, which could sprinkle water out of its mouth, to surprise kids and their parents 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.
Helping out at events over several years 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:
Further inspiration about improving the user experience.
I was more or less born into creating work and living environments / building and renewing houses. 4 experiences stand out:
House building in early childhood
Before the age of 5, my parents had built both a summer house south of Aarhus and a regular house north of Aarhus. When I was a child, my parents and I also spent quite a lot of time designing and nursing gardens, both at our house in Egå north of Aarhus as well as at our summer house at Kysing Næs south of Aarhus.
Participating in BAUHAUS 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 needs, 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.
Working on this project encouraged me to do further research on and write about workspace design - including to find out what relations there are between between 1) architecture / workspace design, and 2) learning / education and organization.
Participating in urban gardening project in Switzerland
Living in Switzerland, I became aware of small city gardens - placed in different locations throughout cities - 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 farming 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. During pilot tests / by trying out things, we learned about, for example,
Along the way, we had some great successes one of which was the planting of raspberries. This project proved to be split in 5 different phases.
As I worked on various project tasks for LEGO it struck me that quite a lot of communication was done using e-mail. What also surprised me was the number of meetings people were attending as well as how meetings were done.
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 - 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.
The experiences mentioned above guided me to better understand how we do these tasks even better:
Throughout my life, writing and publishing content has been an important part of my work. 4 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 contributed in wonderful ways with writing texts / articles, taking photos, finding sponsors among local businesses, and distributing 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 book about project management
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.
Contributing to books about innovation
I feel fortunate to have been able to contribute to several book projects about innovation. Examples:
Reflecting on inspirational books
Not least due to the many changes happening around us, 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
Helping children / young people to better understand topics they learn about at school
Over the years, I have found it greatly inspiring to work with / help / tutor children / young people, as they acquire skills they need to live great 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. In addition, I have found it interesting to proactively help out during open education days at several schools over several years in Zürich. Example.
Among topics I have experienced that students want to learn are these:
Coaching higher education students during thesis writing process
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.
Helping elderly people use IT
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. 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.
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 such as blogs, Twitter, Skype, WhatsAp0p etc. 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 blogs / 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. Here are some of the issues / publications I worked on over some years:
I was honoured as I was invited to participate in and speak at the Summit of Leaders in Oxford, UK in 2015 about the topic distance learning / distance education.
During the period, I worked for LEGO, it suprised 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 / had conversations on the way 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.
3 work experiences pop into my mind as I think about what practical experiences shaped my understanding of globalization:
1. Helping out during campaign aimed at solving problems refugees have
After graduating as 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. It was not least experiences from this project which later, in the 2010s, inspired me to write postings such as these:
2. Helping create better play experiences
Working on renewing the way work was done at LEGO, it surprised me that more than 90% of the employees and managers, I saw in Billund, were white and spoke Danish. This observation got me thinking about what effects globalization has on strategies and cultures of companies.
3. Learning about diversity in Switzerland
What I admire about Switzerland is that a much higher percentage of the population than in Denmark, the country where I was born, is born in other countries. Living in the city of Zürich, I experience an extraordinary diversity, for example in terms of languages that people speak, food that people cook, ways that people design their homes, clothes that people wear, how people get from a to b, and how people educate themselves.
In this regard, I have learned that a strong diversity helps people to think creatively and helps people develop / improve social competencies. By appreciating diversity, for example by sharing information and by inviting people to contribute in various ways, I experience that we create more opportunities for more people, and that we help create shared value which improves lives for everyone.
The experiences I made inspired me to do research and write about these topics:
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 strengthening democracy.
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. For example, 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 for about a hundred years. Reflecting on this difference and the consequences it has for how we live our lives, for example regarding who does what in households and in businesses, and who is paid how much for what kind of work, I started doing research and writing about these topics:
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:
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, Carlos Ghosn, Jeff Immelt, and Gary Hamel.
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:
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. The methods linked to below are some of the creative thinking methods / creative thinking 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:
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.
When I was a child / teenager, 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 learning efforts:
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:
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 activity created quite a lot 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 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 - 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:
Working with values, 3 experiences stand out:
1. Experiences working for LEGO
What surprised me quite a lot working for LEGO 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. The gap I experienced between a) the written down company values and b) how people actually worked got me thinking. For example, I worked on understanding what questions to ask to discover values people have.
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. For example, I recall that as we built things with / played with users / guests, much creativity was used, and as a result, we learned a lot about what works and about what does not work.
2. Experiences with urban gardening
Not long after starting out on this urban gardening challenge, my girlfriend and I discovered that it 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 these issues:
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 work 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.
The experiences we made in the garden encouraged me to work on collecting ideas for innovating / renewing / developing the way farming is done. Through internet research as well as through conversations with farming professionals and urban farmers in, for example, Switzerland, Denmark, and New Zealand, I acquired information that I used to write the publication farming innovation. Working on urban farming initiatives / challenges also got me curious about was the relation is between a) gardening / farming and b) learning / education / leadership. Through Internet research, observations, and conversations, I found out that there are important parallels between these areas. Take a look at this publication to learn about what I found out. Please feel welcome to add something that you think is missing.
3. Reflecting on discovering my own values and purpose
Being faced with several external changes and thrown off course a few times in my life, I started working on discovering what my key values are. I find this is ongoing process. Currently, these are the values that I understand to be important for me. 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
research based inspiration to help improve your life.
In, for example, these 2 ways I try to live this purpose:
Thinking about the e-books / publications / methods / exercises / education materials, which I have found to be more or less a calling to create / develop and distribute to various publishing platforms / media, I have been positively surprised that it has been possible via these platforms / media / apps / websites to serve / inspire / help people all around the world to learn anytime and anywhere.
Stay inspired and have a great day.