You’re Only Really Traveling When You Don't Know Where You’ll End Up

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I keep a list on my phone. A small list full of quotes and phrases which I find so beautiful that I want to remember them. A few years back I read the following quote in an interview with Belgian television host Tom Waes: “You’re only really traveling when you do not know where you’ll end up”.

This quote was about his newest traveling show in where he travels to countries that the usual tourist ignores, like Turkmenistan, Pitcairn Islands and South Sudan. In the show he starts his journeys without knowing where he will end up. This results in a series of bizarre encounters and unforgettable memories.

“But what are they going to do?”

Lately this phrase often popped up in my head. Since my first blog post, friends and relatives are curious about the Corporate Rebels and I tell them enthusiastically about Pim and Joost. The story is often admiringly listened to but the same questions always follow; “But what are they going to do? And how will they make their money?”.

Once I tell my friends they give themselves a year to see what lies ahead and they don’t know the answer to this question yet, some are in doubt while others are surprised. It’s quite surprising how far we drifted away from the kind of journeys Waes is talking about. Because, don’t we only start our journeys once the destination is known?

Blueprint vs Organic process

Travel metaphors are often cited within the municipality Borne when it comes to organizational development. Borne is developing itself towards a directing network organization. The lion's share of the functions of the organization will be executed by partners and inhabitants of the municipality. The municipality itself focuses mostly on guiding, governing and connecting.

Why? Because in this way we are at the heart of the community and we are adding value to our inhabitants. We get to work with the activities, tasks and roles that are left for the municipality, and with the people, culture, structure en systems that will support the renewed organization.

Within the organization we often communicate that this will not be a well defined route but an organic process. And this remains difficult. Because the works council and some of the employees just want a blueprint or the typical organizational chart. How can I envision the guiding network organization? How does change affect my future?

Traveling, trekking or commuting?

Change management is using travel metaphors to describe changes as well. In their book ‘The Art of Change’ Marco de Witte and Jan Jonker describe organizational change in terms of traveling, trekking or commuting. In a nutshell? Traveling is a change approach focusing on the organizational culture, a blueprint, top-down directed and control by power and rules.

During trekking the journey itself is the goal. It is about a continuous development, change in behaviour and culture, learning and experimentation and vision. De Witte and Jonker conclude that both approaches have their pros and cons. They claim that organizations often don’t know which approach fits their purpose best. They advocate for an intermediate in where the benefits of both approaches are combined: commuting.

At the municipality Borne we try to commute too. We try to answer questions about de first concrete steps with clarity, but we continue to emphasize that blueprints and organizational charts are not a solution to our mission.

Trust

The questions about the ‘final destination’ of Pim and Joost and the pyramid at the municipality Borne reveal that it's still quite exciting and uncomfortable to depart on a journey without knowing where you’ll end up. It may ask for more trust in yourself and your talents and less trust in the (apparent) certainties of your surroundings. And that is quite difficult in a society where almost everything is still organised around these certainties.

For example, I never had a need for a permanent contract. But my permanent employment feels extremely comfortable now we just have bought a house. Perhaps recognizable, but it’s something I want to remain aware of and keep challenging myself in. Because not knowing my destination brought me the most beautiful things, both in my life as in my travels.

Recently a friend told me nowadays you can book a surprise plane ticket, where you don’t know where you will fly to. Maybe I should move on from words to actions and travel this summer to ‘destination unknown’.

Anouk Mannessen is working for the municipality Borne. She deals with the organizational development of the municipality Borne towards a directing network society. Besides that she focuses on the improvement of services, information policies and new ways of working at the Twente government. As guest blogger she updates us regularly on the development of Borne.

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3 years ago

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Replies (1)

Graham Boyd

Graham Boyd

Lovely reading this - and triggered a thought in me: if you are travelling, you invest your money in a good map. Perhaps you also exercise specific muscles, say for skiing.

If you are trekking into unknown, unmapped territory without a clear destination, investing in maps, exercising specific muscles is a gamble with poor odds. Instead, you prepare yourself to react fluidly to unexpected things.

You learn how to make maps as you go, you learn dead reckoning, and you develop good general fitness.

That's what I've been doing, and this article gave me a good perspective on my work over the past years.

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