Frans van der Reep (1954, LinkedIn, https://twitter.com/fvdr) is a thought-leader renowned worldwide for his accurate and early forecasts of business and technological trends, valued highly for his ability to unveil hidden assumptions and relate directly to genuine underlying issues. Having witnessed many passing fashions in business advice, Frans is well-known for his ability to recognize meaningless hype and identify whether solutions really fit the problems they are marketed for, providing recommendations that have a tendency to become at once “embarrassingly clear”.
A technological visionary, media futurist, game changer and popular inspirational speaker, Frans is dedicated to returning core moral values to the business arena, viewing universal traits such as respect for others and integrity as the foundation of a stable business culture. Known among his many roles as a researcher, trend watcher, writer, podcaster and entrepreneur, he is a Professor at the Inholland University of Applied Sciences, a Senior Strategist at Royal KPN, holds several board positions within both the public and private sector and was knighted in 1997 by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix for contributions to society. He has also published many papers and books on the influence and impact of the Internet, connecting the varied intellectual realms of Strategy, Sales & Marketing, HR, Finance, Innovation, Business Process Management and IT.
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Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
You wrote a most interesting article; distill the key elements of the article updated to 2013:
“….You are pointing at my essay, The Middle Ages in the internet-era: What is happening around us? It’s my metaphor to better understand the times we live in….There are lots of parallels that allow us to better understand what world we live in and if you understand what you see, that helps you and helps the quality of your actions….”
How are governments evolving?
“….I’m very sure that the concept of State/Nation will change. I’m not sure how we will be there as human beings and the long term processes….There are many options open….”
What about changes with companies, where do you see that evolving?
“….I envision (I speak as a researcher and not as a businessman), that we go two ways, one is that we go back to creating and maintaining some basic social infrastructures….The other direction is that in this infrastructure, companies will become much smaller than they are now and will use this infrastructure as temporary projects and they will make use of the public infrastructures….”
You mention parts of Asia being quite different. Do you see them evolving at some point and becoming more like Singapore?
“….I think China especially is more on the up-scaling. Their agenda is up-scaling and their agenda is not making things more flexible as we are doing now in the Netherlands and in this part of the world. They are more in the industry type of development and they have more scalability in the pricing questions and we are more here in the innovation questions….”
One of the exciting areas I’ve heard a lot about is this Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and how that’s going to shape education. But that’s only one area, social media and its impact that’s also shaping education. From your point of view, what will education look like in 2015?
“….I’m not so sure that social media really opens the world for especially young people….What they do is not open their world, what they do is stay in their bubble — they take their home with them….The second part of your question is the impact of social media on ICT….I think we will have a two speech education system so basic materials can be transmitted to a student by the internet, by means of video or whatever and the rest of it maybe in a dialogue with a human being….”
Extending this question even further, you’ve talked about this somewhat already about ICT infrastructure and how that may have become more of a public utility. How do you see ICT infrastructure evolving into the future?
“….ICT is about your ability to totally exchange information. I think it will be more a commodity with lots of standardization and make itself (the technological part) as cheap as possible. On the other hand, if you really look at ICT and access to internet as a basic feature, governments should guarantee people this access….”
Do you see any controversy with regards to internet access?
“….I don’t think that the government should interfere in content as long as it is good in the law….”
What are the top challenges faced by enterprises and governments today?
“….You always come back to human features so I think HR, human resource management is the key thing in each company….I think the two basic challenges for companies are: what is our core competence….and what can I do to make cooperation cheaper….”
You talked about the challenges facing the enterprise, but how do you see this impacting governments?
“….The very big innovations (from candles to electricity or from horses to cars) — that type of disruptive innovation takes 50 years to really adopt….It’s very clear that social media (Twitter and Yammer) puts democracy under pressure and it’s happening before our eyes. As far as I know, no one knows the solution, it’s just happening and it will take a lot of time to find a new balance there….”
Because the world is changing so fast, what do you see as some of the top opportunities with regards to enterprises?
“….The internet leads us into the personal age and the internet makes it possible that you live your life and that you shape your life as you want to lead it — that’s a big opportunity. Though the internet makes it possible to lead this tailored type of company where the company structure gives you the position of nuts and bolts in an anonymous structure which you cannot influence, the internet gives us the opportunity to create new matching principles where you don’t get your work from your boss, but that you create your own work, you become your own entrepreneur….”
What are the opportunities for national economies?
“….I think Nearonomics is a big theme, I also call that a circle — re-establish a circle of life…..That’s the basic thing, the internet allows us to redo and to re-answer many questions and that’s the opportunity….”
Please share some results from your extensive research?
“….I will tell them in more broad anthropological terms, not in technological….Context drives meaning….We go from lean and mean to lean and meaningful….The end of ERP….”
From each of your prior roles, can you share some key lessons or best practices?
“….Keep things simple….Avoid transgressions….Be clear in your intentions….Combine the insights from economics, technology but also from anthropology and psychology. In the end it’s always about humans….”
Frans shares some lessons learned and best practices in regards to innovation.
“….In terms of innovation the biggest lessons for me are: Stop innovation if it loses momentum….Be careful when using the term innovation because most things we call innovation are not innovation they are just first use. The first use problem is a management problem and innovation is a leadership problem….In respect to innovation three steps I always use: Step 1 – solve a concrete problem…..Step 2 – Hide complexity….Step 3 – Do new applications with new technology….Don’t start with step 3 because it doesn’t work….”
What are the top resources that you use?
“….I have the opportunity to talk with lots of people and that is my basic resource….Consilience (the ability to recognize a pattern in domain A for use in domain B), that’s a concept that I use very much and I try to understand what can I learn in Domain B from Domain A and I always try to ask that question to myself and to others and that’s where I get my information…..If in any circumstance you are always the teacher you don’t learn anything because you’re the teacher. You should always allow yourself to be the teacher and the pupil….Always accept multiple viewpoints and belief systems and accept that people have different characters and different personal needs….Read great authors….”
Can you describe some areas of controversy in the areas that you work?
“….I’m a game changer and many might consider my views as provocative and not relevant. My position there is that I tell what I think. ….If you’re a game changer and if you discuss context, then you should be aware that sometimes someone won’t like your role, that’s part of the game….”
Do you feel computing should be a recognized profession on par with accounting, medicine and law with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials? [See www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council]
“….I think that the best management is peer to peer review. In the end you never can force professionalism by ruling, it doesn’t work….I think computing is too important to leave to the ICT community, it should be looked at from various angles….”
Frans shares some stories from his extensive speaking, travels and work (something amusing, surprising, unexpected or amazing).
“….Where do you land when you go straight south from Cape Town after having passed the Antarctic?….”
If you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
“….What drives you?….How would you like to be remembered?….”
Frans, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.
Music by Sunny Smith Productions and Shaun O’Leary