- a hybrid connection between old practices?
with Humberto Schwab,
Director Club of Amsterdam, Innovation Philosopher, Moderator of the Club
of Amsterdam LABs
in Girona, Spain
Club of Amsterdam: Humberto - you
are an Innovation Philosopher - most people hardly see a connection between
philosophy and daily life and even less between philosophy and business.
What is the added value? Why has philosophy something to say?
Philosophy is the body of experimental and theoretical knowledge collected
and shared by humanity since the invention of this specie. It is the richest
fountain of wisdom about our selves as human beings, our needs and aspirations,
our world outside and inside us and most of all about our values.
In philosophy we investigate falsehood and truth, the permanent and the
temporarily, good and bad acting, good government and bad societies, beautiful
Most of all we have gathered wisdom about the quality of life. We try
to make our daily life every day an experience of quality. At least many
people try to reach this. This striving for quality is what connects our
life with philosophy. Essential in our daily life is that we have our
eyes wide open to see the right elements in their right relation; this
is where philosophical methods are. We need to get rid of prejudice and
In business – more and more – the essence lies in the ability in enhancing
the quality of life, in part or as a whole. This quality is related to
issues of ethical policy and sustainable business. Sustainable is not
only a matter of the natural environment, more and more we realize that
sustainability concerns the quality of our communities. The pursuit of
the good life is more and more the frame in which innovation in the experience
economy is moving.
Last but not least, philosophy contains all the possible concepts, approaches,
notions and strategies to frame productive ways of reasoning. Innovation
is essential the rethinking of tradition, tradition as recipes for life.
Taking traditional steps over again leads to new insights.
That is why innovation is often a hybrid connection between old practices.
Innovation sometimes demands new paradigms; philosophy is the producer
of new paradigms.
Club of Amsterdam: You
have been involved in large-scale educational programs. Can you give us
an example of what you did and what the outcome was?
We managed to position philosophy in the official juridical structure
of the secondary school system in the Netherlands. This old philosophy
was recognized as one of the strongest innovation in Holland. I designed
a complete program for the schools. A big innovation was the transformation
of 100 excellent Dutch teachers from different disciplines into real Socratic
teachers. That means wise people who put forward the right questions and
not the answers.
At the moment I am involved in fundamental innovations of education in
the Netherlands and in Spain.
In our society of the future learning is a value as such. This demands
a totally different perspective on education and schooling. In an i-society
learning has a different place then in the past hierarchical society.
We need business, ngo-s, academies, citizen’s organisations and local
government to co-create a challenging learning landscape in Europe.
Club of Amsterdam: In
your EuroLab you use a special combination of techniques - some have been
widely used in industries. Can you tell us why you choose them and how
you adapt them to your projects?
The most used techniques are used instrumental while I always want to
work in dialogues. A dialogue involves the total presence and commitment
of the individual as reflective being. This means maximal awareness and
We cannot oppose general techniques on humans, without losing their individual
strength. The Appreciative Inquiry method is very strong dialogue method
in business, especially when - like the present situation - the relations
between the stakeholders become totally different. The Appreciative Inquiry
(AI) bring to light all the hidden good practices and experiences of all
the individuals involved, emerged from their personal life. The top down
model of the expert above sending his missives down kills the experience
wisdom present in the whole organization. This AI method is fruit of a
bunch of scientific insight on the effects of positive psychological approaches.
The Socratic method I have adapted to learning situations in school and
business is the strongest context I know. Fundamental in this method is
the key role of the good question. Putting forward basic questions is
the art of collaboration. It gives new air to breath new ideas. People
hardly share basic questions, let alone basic assumptions. Yet they work
in contexts as if they share assumptions, values and concepts. The deconstructing
of a basic question and the reconstructing of a shared answer uses collective
intelligence as a rich fountain and provokes strong bounding on crucial
challenges. In the Socratic discourse, the philosophical tradition serves
as a support system, it helps to articulate good intuitions, good arguments
and good ideas of all the participants. The Socratic chair (trained philosopher)
represents the tradition and embodies it in a supportive way for each
In a Socratic discourse the group transform in a natural way into a reflecting
body that emerges a higher intelligence and a higher responsibility. It
exercises human collectively at his best. It has strong rules that forces
people to rethink other positions and to rehearse steps in thinking taken
by others, it forces people to listen and repeat and to clarify all concepts
used. The strong authoritative way of safeguarding the rules by the Socratic
chair, gives rise to a real strong participation of all in an egalitarian
The strong relation between flourishing business and democratic cultures
lies precise in the opportunity to put forward any valuable question of
the quality of human life. The dialogue starts with the rethinking of
standing practices and will virtualize new possible worlds and actions.
Good business ideas are in fact very often philosophical brainwaves!
More and more good business and good government are critically checked
on qualitative grounds, from citizens perspectives.
From the Socratic brainstorms we have to come to a stage of productive
planning. The future scenario methods are excellent in binding people
on shared visions of the future and on shared actions to realize desired
scenarios. Good dialogues generate an emergent intelligence that will
give complete new frames and horizons. Yet scenarios without value dialogues
are blind. That is why in my EuroLABS the basic structure is the embedding
of the personas in a value dialogue context. The revitalization of the
basic existential questions generates an energy that also creates strong
Club of Amsterdam: I
often hear that there has been enough talking and we should act now. Why
do you put dialogue into the centre of your labs? And how does it relate
There has definitely been enough talking, but then we talk about talking
in the one-dimensional level we are used to do. Besides this talking is
mostly discussions without any check of concepts, understanding of each
other or reflections on principles or presumptions. This talking is often
a chat between deaf people, they afterwards will follow their own routine
in the way of thinking they were used to do.
The Club of Amsterdam LABs lead to a change in internal dialogue; people
really need a strong dialogue with other beings to change their internal
reflections and dialogues. This will directly lead to action, when you
make shared action plans and design a sustainable dialogue with the stakeholders.
To shift from a money driven society to a value driven society needs a
new way of talking: the real human dialogue.
Action is always for a crucial part guided thinking or unconscious frameworks
of meaning. The Socratic dialogues make sharing intelligent action possible.
Club of Amsterdam LABs
on Old and New ENERGY
An immersed experience of a Do-Tank
April 17 & 18, 2007
Location: Girona near Barcelona,
Moderated by Humberto
Schwab, Director, Club of Amsterdam,
and the Thought Leaders Nathalie Horbach,
Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy, University of
Dundee, Simon Taylor,
Director and Co-Founder, Global Witness, Christof
van Agt, International Energy Agency,
Nanotechnology & Energy
on MEDIA and Human Experience
An immersed experience of a Do-Tank
May 29 & 30, 2007
Location: Girona near
Director, Club of Amsterdam, Innovation
Philosopher and the Thought Leaders
urban communicator, beatmap.com, Paul
F.M.J. Verschure, ICREA research professor,
Technology Department, University Pompeu Fabra, Ricardo
Baeza-Yates, Director, Yahoo! Research,
Rudy de Waele,