A year full of Ikigai!

You know where the magic happens? Somewhere out of your comfort zone.

The real question off course is: what is the magic for you? That is where Ikigai comes into play.
Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese concept that I wish you all to live in 2016 (including myself ;-)).

It is about finding the intersection of what you LOVE (the thing that gives you energy), what you are GOOD at (where you are able to create value for the outside world), what the world NEEDS (what gives value & energy to the world) and what the world is willing to PAY for (that gives you a sustainable life).

Now that’s a lot of intersections to get it going. But it definitely seems worth it. So happy quest for your Ikigai in 2016!

Extreme customer experience: there is no alternative.

Extreme customer experience: there is no alternative.

Whether you are an industrial player, a service provider, in the commodity business, a high-tech start-up or an independent contractor, there is only one sustainable approach towards growth. With the quick product development of today & the stream of quick and easy copycats that work at a much lower cost than you are, the only way to retain customers is by offering something that is far more difficult to copy: an awesome experience. Yes, sorry to break the news, but your customers are not buying your product or service because it’s the best in the world, they buy a solution, an experience that brings the most value to them. And value = f(product characteristics, price, easy of doing business, easy of use, fun, how they can talk about it to their peers, the price,…).

But what about Value Proposition?

Off course, there is the model of Customer Value Propositions, where the insight behind is that a company should choose where it want’s to beat the competition. The goal is that you are ‘on par’ on all the 3 axes, but divert all your focus on one specific access to win the game there.

Value Propositions
Source: The Discipline of Market Leaders, Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema.

With this in mind, you might be inclined to think that focussing on Customer experience is only one option. However, I want to advocate that Customer Experience is not the same as customer Intimacy and that you relentlessly should focus on customer intimacy regardless of your positioning. So yes, you still can be a Product leader, but you will never have the best product when you are not going for extreme customer experience. The reason is simple: the experience is your product seen through the eyes of the customer. Nobody will buy an iPhone if you need to assemble it yourself, put 20 hours in configuring it,… Same goes for operational excellence. Even if you focus on low cost, the way to bring it to customers needs to be extremely good. Of course, the customers experience will be different, but needs to be designed with the Value Proposition in mind. Take a look at the experience Colruyt is given: It’s completely different than that of Delhaize, be they are relentless a creating a unified experience (no locks on the shopping carts, industrial lighting, the walk-in-freezer,…).

So bottom line: don’t let your positioning be an excuse to not go for Extreme customer Experience.

I’m passionate about extreme customer experience. Want to talk about it over a coffee or need some inspiration: let’s talk! A sneak preview of what I can bring to the table.

Minimum Awesome Product

Minimum Awesome Product

Creating a new product or service can take years. More and more companies however move away from the “don’t launch it until it’s completely finished, retested and out of date” approach. They go for a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach where a working but ‘not ready for mass production’ product is launched towards a small group of customers in order to help further developing the product.

In that context, a new question arises:

“What about a kick-ass product”?

The risk with MVP’s is that what makes a product truly remarkable – more often than not – lies in the details, in how remarkable the elements of the products come together in a design, a use, a service experience,… With a MVP, you will only deliver the core of the new product or service, which is most of the time not enough for a real WOW experience. And by only offering this, you also tend to focus on getting the core better when working with the first customers. They evaluate what they get (the core capabilities) and by default they will give you feedback on how to make that core better by adapting it better to their needs. Only in rare cases, they will focus on the things that are not there or that they are not (yet) aware of (the details, the design, the packaging, the unclear element of a new kind of usage,…).

So how to tackle this issue without going again towards the old model of developing a product forever?

What about a parallel route? You push your MVP product in the process with customers to focus on shipping a real product as soon as possible. At the same time, use a small group (or even individual) to add some magic to the existing MVP product. Why not use a designer, an outside consultant, one of your top sales guys,…?

When you work on shipping your version 2 of the MVP product, just add the WOW elements (as they are not linked to the core of your product, this should be rather easy). Imagine how delighted your first customers will be if they see that both their requirements were met in your new release and a magical tough has been added.

Minimum Awesome Product (MAP): Delivered!

Challenges for enterprises on the Belgian Energy Market

The Belgian electricity market is in constant evolution. As both society and government move towards more renewables in the energy mix, new challenges are bound to arise. The physical nature of the majority of renewable energy sources (wind, solar, hydro,…) implies they are not as controllable as other sources of energy. When there is no wind, there is no power to be harnessed from wind. This uncontrollability is largely due to the simple fact that there are no realistic ways — yet — to store energy in large amounts. As long as we are unable to store energy in an economically viable way, the combined demand of all companies and households in Belgium at any given time during the day cannot exceed supply (the total sum of all electricity originating from windmills, gas-fired plants, nuclear installations, solar panels, imported energy, etc.).

As governments are constantly modifying the applicable rules and regulations, it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to predict their energy-related costs. On the other hand, however, new technical evolutions (in terms of measurement, smart grids and load balancing for example) are creating new opportunities for companies to optimise their energy needs.

In the face of these challenges and opportunities, the Total Cost of Energy indicator (TCE) has been developed: a powerful tool designed to help you tackle your company’s energy challenges.


Whether your organisation relies on energy simply for heating and lighting your offices or for more heavy-duty industrial processes, energy management is an essential part of your operational and even strategic management. It is therefore important to integrate every aspect with a potential impact on your total P&L within a comprehensive energy strategy.

And that is where the Total Cost of Energy (TCE) model comes in. To help you map all these elements into an effective strategy to minimise costs and maximise your competitive edge.

The TCE is basically a construction of all the elements that a company can/should consider when making decisions regarding its energy needs. It lists elements from the pure raw energy source, the time of buying, security of supply, energy and cost saving measures and a lot more.

You can download the whitepaper with the TCE here for free (no strings attached).

I firmly believe that when companies look towards energy as an integrated and strategic asset, they are able to save a lot of money, whilst still creating a more sustainable energy landscape.

Disclaimer: The author is Marketing Innovation & Transformation manager for a EDF Luminus, the major challenger on the Belgian Energy market.

Habits of successful artists – Spark 10:  Lead a tribe

Leading means taking risk, standing out from the crowd, do something for the first time, ship it and convince others to follow you. It takes a great deal of courage, a great idea and a risky execution.

Courage: doing something new is by definition an uncertain business: No benchmarks, no best practices telling you what to do. Just you, your brains & intuition.

A great idea: It all starts with this. Being able to have something that creates a new kind of value to at least one person or organisation.

Risky execution: As the idea itself never represents any real value. It’s only by putting it to use that you will create an impact. Going out into the real world and leaving your whiteboard is always risky: in the real world, you can actually brake things 🙂

Go out, be brave & lead!

Habbits of succesful people – Spark 7: Teach others.

The first thing I learned from my very first manager ever (thanks Mark for that!) was to make sure you are never the only person that can do the job. It felt so contradictory to everything I expected (especially if that first job is in a high tier technology consultancy firm). I thought that being the only that could do a certain job meant power and a secure future. Thanks to Mark, it did not take me long to realise that keeping ‘knowledge’ from others is the most stupid thing anyone can do in today’s world.

Let’s explain by kicking in with the most interesting one:

You can enjoy holidays if others can do your job. If you are the only one who knows something, prepare yourself for a boss that will be reluctant to give you a holiday and lots of incoming text messages while you are sipping your cocktail at the beach.

When you want to be a leader, you are more ‘evaluated’ on your ability to teach others than to actually perform tasks yourself. Delegating means making sure your people can do what you do.

From organisational perspective, people having the monopoly to a certain tasks, process, knowledge,… are a single point of failure. You don’t want to be called that…

Sharing knowledge is fun: it gives you a good feeling: you should try it out!

Giving new ideas to others might spark their feedback… and eventually might even deepen your own knowledge.

And probably the most important: In today’s world, you need to be able toadapt yourself… which means learning new things. How you think you’re peers will share there knowledge with you if you are being a protective lone wolf?

Habits of successful artists – Spark 6: Make predictions.

It’s the time of the year for it: New Year’s resolutions. But making predictions is not about what you are about to do (or not to do, for what that matters).

Great leaders have the guts to stand out and describe how not only their future, but also that of their company, their industry, and even the future of the world… will look like tomorrow.


Most people don’t know where to go to.

If you can help them in picturing a vivid image of what the world might look like tomorrow, it will help them, their team, their organisation to start working on it, to guide their work (and, if necessary, to start the change).

It brings the sparks to others.

Yes! Others dream as well! By confronting them with how you see the change, they might be more willing to share their view. Confronting the dreams can only help in making them more realistic, more real,… and you already have at least 2 people who believe in a dream becoming reality.

Being able to picture the future is the first step in creating it.

If you are able to see, draw, explain, code,… what will be different tomorrow, it means you have something that already past the first test: it is not so high up in the clouds that we cannot grasp it with our current level of understanding of the world. Thus picturing the world is already half of the work!


Dream big

When in doubt: dream a little bigger. There will be plenty of people, moments, committees, bosses, gatekeepers,… to make your ideas more ‘realistic’ afterwards, so you can better overcompensate that upfront.

Share it with others

Share your dream with others. First of all, this will force you to frame your ideas, make them just tangible enough,… Secondly, what is the use of your ideas if they will never become reality (aka the new normal). Lastly, it will show your commitment: it’s your idea and reputation on the line.

Be part of the dream

Take commitment in the steps towards the creation of the new reality you paint. Be the change that is necessary!

You should give it a try!

Habits of successful artists – Spark 5 — See the world as it is

Seeing the world as it is… it seems simple, but what is the world? Being able to see what really works, what does not work (and probably even more important: what will work in the future) is a key competency of a marketeer, an entrepreneur, a CEO,… With great power comes — as always — great responsibility: Some points of attention:

Point of view

The world is about perception. And perception is all about point of view. Just ask a customer who is on the road driving his car and calling a hotline for an urgent request but is transferred towards an online channel because the flawlessly designed process of the company he calls has noted that he prefers his communication via online over communication via phone.

Even within your organisation, the point of view can switch from one business unit to another. Take this into account when you try to change the world.


Seeing the world as it is comes with both good and bad: As the world will not be perfect, you will also notice a lot of things that don’t work. Don’t over-emphasise them & if you do: pick your battles.


Seeing the world as it is might give you the false impression it’s about today, where I would argue you should be able to look at the way it will/should be tomorrow. When in doubt, go for the world of tomorrow!


What good is it to see when you cannot change the world? Not only do your observations only bring value when they initiate a change, it also proves to be the most effective way to bring in more believers to your vision.

Habits of successful artists – Spark 4: Fail often.


  1. Lack of success.
  2. The neglect or omission of expected or required action.
  3. The action or state of not functioning.

Failure is apparently no longer an option. People and organisations are becoming more afraid to fail than of not to act.

Indulge me in making a case for some kind of failing…

First: people as a species are not good in risk estimates. We tend to overestimate the probability of events that in reality only have a very low chance of occurring (some scientific reading for a change). That should already make you more at ease with falling into analysis paralysis. There is probably always one more check you can do before you actually move over to action — in order to make sure you have covered every base — but in reality, the subject of your extra effort probably will never occur in the first place.

Second: there is failing and failing. I want to make the case for quick and controlled failing.
Quick as in: don’t waste 70% of your resources on analysis, because in the end you will not only have no resources left to actually make something happen, you will also have noticed that you lost that much time that reality (the basis of your initial assumptions) has changed in the meanwhile .
Controlled as in an environment with limited impact and monitored (to enable you to learn and tweak).

Third: To really create something extra-ordinary, to go where no man (m/f) has gone before, there is no guidebook, so the change you can either calculate the outcome upfront or — just by good luck — end up with something perfect the first time, is close to 0% (which shows some interesting light on point one of course).

So set up a controllable place that enables you to fail… often!

Extra: Now is the time to start failing. The last decade is failure open for some setback (just look at the use of the word in the image below ;-)).


Habits of successful artists: Spark 1 — Learn to sell what you have made.

Reading the book ‘The Icarus deception’ from Seth Godin, I came upon this list:

“The habits of successful artists”

  • Learn to sell what you have made.
  • Say thank you in writing.
  • Speak in public.
  • Fail often.
  • See the world as it is.
  • Make predictions.
  • Teach others.
  • Write daily.
  • Connect others.
  • Lead a tribe.

It stroke me with that much inspiration, that I decided to write one article on each (or try at least, no sense in sharing nonsense also). Easy peasy: in the order they appear.

First up: Learn to sell what you have made.

I couldn’t agree more. I’m the first to take blame, but being able to ship is in my opinion the key differentiating element for companies big and small. For some reason, in small companies, it seems like the natural thing to do. Probably because shipping there is the only way to generate revenue to pay for the cost you made. Off course, this is not different in large companies, but apparently, there is moment where companies come at a stage where the direct impact of not generating revenue right away is not that visible anymore. If you are big enough, there is no risk that you will not be able to pay your cost at the end of the week (off course, also this is an illusion, but perception is everything off course).

Another element might be that the (perceived) risk of doing some wrong is bigger in a big company than in a small. Putting it this way: if you are a one man company and you screw up big time, you need to find another job and you need to work during the week end to pay of some debt, if you are a company with 1000 employees and you screw up as a company, 1000 people need to find a new job and millions are lost for shareholders. And off course, most shareholders don’t like risk…

The only way out of this is to start putting a risk premium on ‘not shipping’, on ‘not doing anything’ or ‘doing as last year and hoping that the outcome will not be too much different’. In economical terms: this is not only the opportunity cost, but also the cost of loosing your first mover advantage or even the cost of becoming obsolete.

Whenever you think: I will not present these figures to my boss this week because it’s not what he wants to hear and I want to check some extra figures, force yourself to not only put into the equation your fear (Seth would call it ‘your lizard brain’), but also the cost of loosing one week time in adapting if you prove to be right…

Shipping this article now!

Also available on Medium.