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Interview with Jef Staes

Organizational architect and entrepreneur Jef Staes is an expert on innovation and culture change. In this fascinating interview with A-Speakers, he reveals his favourite experience from his speaking career, and gives his three best tips for achieving an effective organizational culture with disruptive innovation. Read more below.

What is the main message that you hope audiences take away from your talks?


That times have dramatically changed. We have left a world where most of our learning had to happen at schools and was validated with diplomas. But today’s information and innovation age is challenging those paradigms. As we enter a world of information luxury, everybody with a passion for evolution and the right talents can become very valuable without the need for classic education. Today’s educational system and the organization of work are struggling with this switch. During my talks, I speak about the direct effects this has on learning, innovation and management. But also politics, education and society will feel the impact of this new reality. Welcome to the world of disruptive innovation and social validation.


Do you have a favorite experience from your speaking career?


It took me more than 20 years to really understand what is happening. Organizational development is more complex than most people think. We have to reinvent learning and working to something completely different.  For this reason, I developed a very confrontational mindset and some very powerful metaphors to explains what is coming and how we should change education and work. The best experiences come from the audience. The moment you see in their eyes that they understand, gives so much energy that I can do this forever. I want to awake so many people that a switch to a more sustainable balance between education, work and living is no longer fiction but becomes reality.


How does humor play a part in the way you communicate with your audiences?


I couldn’t speak without humor. It is a part of me. I can be a little bit cynical too. But we need it to survive. Comedy and drama are always part of my lectures. It gives you a real connection with your audience. When they laugh or become quiet, you know you are in the groove with their brain. And when you are in the groove with your participants magic happens. Everybody learns, even me.


What do organizations stand to gain from disruptive innovation?


This answer can be very short. Survival. Everything is connected. When we reinvent education and work so people can become passionate about their talents, they will become the best version of themselves. When this happens people will have the eagerness to learn. Because of today’s information luxury, they will become far more competent then my generation.

Organization have to embrace disruptive innovation for two reasons. Firstly, they need to develop the right new services and products to survive. And secondly, without disruptive innovation we can’t create a more sustainable world. Without the use of people’s passion for their talents no disruptive innovation. Normally everybody should win.


What are your three best tips for achieving a good organizational culture?


If you want to transform your organization culture to a very disruptive innovative organization my tips are the following:

1) Your culture change process should be disruptive too. If your CEO doesn’t protect and support disruptive culture change, you don’t make a chance.

2) Never start a disruptive culture change process with every business unit. Only go with those executives who belief and understand.

3) Human Resources Management has to support the business units in their transformation with completely new HR processes. If your HR Director is not willing or able to, fire him.


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