The Quietness of the Street

Kruf, J.P. (2018) The Quietness of the Street.

Every city has its places, where the quietness of the street opens the story. Here you almost can hear the whispering of those who lived here centuries ago and the breath of an empire. This colourful and straight palette is fully packed with information and reminds us of the rich history of one of the oldest cities in Europe, Cadíz. Sherlock knows that this city was and is strictly managed in many ways. You can feel it. It is a form of art, that of city management. A beauty.


Kruf, J.P. (2019) Freedom.

Freedom is one of the highest personal values. Thinking of society – with all free people – as a mosaic as large as a chess board. Imagine the colours of thought or belief (Pantone Quiet Gray), of physical movement in sport, dance, travel and leisure (Pantone Leather Brown) and of expression in art and culture (Pantone Pastel Yellow) together. A palette with just the core indicators of true freedom. No blue (government and police) and no violet (politics) on the horizon. Free! Browsing the many pictures in the newspapers during the last weeks – you know which I mean – I became aware that it’s all about ‘freedom’. A small personal palette of personal values.

Leadership in Reflection

Jack Kruf

Leadership is redefined after every crisis. New ideas and reflections on what happened (was Covid-19 a white swan, was it a black swan?) and what the role of the C-Suite and of public leadership was or should have been, are numerous. Really hundreds and hundreds of articles find their way each day on the world wide web.

In my personal view – following the lessons of the forest – has every organism to make the maximal use of the factors light (energy), water and nutrients. These help it to just be, to exist, to flourish, to live and get offspring. the factors also influence the chances of every person, animal, flower, the daisy (Bellis perennis L.), because every species has unique capabilities. What seems to be clear is that these basic factors – literally and in more so in figurative ways – have changed dramatically during the crisis. It causes a shift. The wisdom of Darwin comes in.

Even daisies have to constantly compete for the available factors of life to find their way up. Like we all have to do. And yes, some stand out of the crowd, like on this picture. Leadership can be seen as a result of the biotic and abiotic parts of the ecosystem and not – as many of us try to reason and argument, about personal skills. It is driven by basic mechanism of survival (‘of the fittest’). In the forest, leadership is not the driving concept as such – as we know it in public governance schools, but more a result of this need within the ecological web. The state of leadership can be considered as an indicator of the state of the underlying system, and is not per se as a personal set of skills.

It is interesting to read about the many reflections on leadership today, just after a crisis – they highly differ by the way from thoughts before the crisis, as ever. For daisies, we ecologists know how it works, where and why they grow and what this is saying about their environmental circumstances. Well, that is interesting. For humans it seems to be less clear. Still the dominating city sciences, like Public administration, public management or public governance, provide us not with answers on the aspect of the indicatorship (no, not dictatorship) of leadership within the system. The eruption of (scientific) studies and reflections seems to indicate we lack proper criteria to measure leadership as a quality of the system.

Covid-19 will give us ‘leadership in reflection’, that is sure. But let us not forget – a plea as ecologist and a city manager (still vibrant) – that leadership is a consequence of something else in the system. Let us therefore dig deeper, prevent the superficial and quick analysis, the running to solutions behaviour and the blaming and really come with new thoughts than just a new set of personal habits (8 or so?). Maybe the daisy, this beautiful and clear flower of the forest, can guide us on this.

New Insights

Kruf, J.P. (2015) New Insights.

During and directly after a crisis, one may come with new insights. Change can come from the interior need for a new organisation and maybe a more practical approach. Or it can come from an exterior perspective to have a better view on the outside world. In the old town of Lucca, Italy, we walked along this piece of art.

Anno 2020, after and during the Covid-19, the need for change is obvious, in public, civic and business organisations. This is driven by internal incentives, related to:

• Business continuity (for all products and services to citizen and clients).

• Human resource management (towards a more vital, agile and flexible organisation, new roles or functions are needed).

• Finance (finding new resilience and balance, tax and budget rescheduling, control priorities).

• Information management (secure the new cyber world with home and on distance protocols).

• Procurement (recheck suppliers and contracts in effectivity and continuity).

• Cooperation (the need for co-creation and for new value driven alliances).

• Strategy and policy (from ‘be better prepared’, ex post and risk approach towards a more ex ante, resilience, value and scenario driven way of thinking and acting).

• Leadership and the C-suite (from delegation and top-down styles to true ownership of value and risk approaches, stewardship and serving styles focused on delivery).

• Interface politics, elected council, governing council and management (from segmentation and fragmentation towards a more holistic approach of matters concerning citizens, groups and social issues).

Lucca has this beautiful house where new insights, reorientation and rebuilding actually meet perfectly. It is metaphor for resilience management. The house of public governance is expected to follow the owners of this house.

Rainy Day Perspective

Kruf J.P. (2019) Rainy Day Perspective.

Today was a rainy day, finally. I look out my window and see the city lights in the far distance, through the palette of raindrops, while reading some articles about the latest financial developments due to Covid-19. Well an interesting view on the threshold of the near future, of tomorrow.

The predictions, to be frank, are worrisome for the coming years and more difficult after 2 years from know. I know government can – in times of and in the modus of a crisis – print the money very easily or borrow it relatively cheap. It can spend budgets to all individuals, communities, civic organisations and companies which are in (desperate) need of support. We know all these spendings will have to be refunded and paid back by citizens, companies and lower governments. It is unavoidable to find the balance again. The awareness under public leaders, city managers, CFO’s and concern controllers is growing – “Houston, we have a problem” – , because municipality cash registers are deflating rapidly.

Where a romantic late evening view with a good glass of wine can cross the thoughts on a new financial strategy for local government, the city and the village. Same picture, two perspectives: home sweet home and the need for a sparkling and financial solid public governance. For now, cheers! Next Monday of course back to the design table with my colleagues.

The Colours of Climate Change

Following the Sustainable Development Goals, Climate Change is despite Covid-19 not forgotten. More so, the last is seen by scientists, managers and experts as an omen what we can expect when we keep disrupting the Earth ecosystem. Goal 13 is Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. This goal has 5 targets:

  • Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.
  • Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning.
  • Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.
  • Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible.
  • Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities.

My personal expression of climate change is displayed above. I imagined the canvas of our world as a chess board with 8*8 fields and estimated the most hurt ecosystems due to change: coral reef (Pantone Living Coral ) and tropical rainforest (Pantone Forest Biome). Government (Pantone Imperial Blue) is a tiny spot on the canvas and is not doing too much with many public leaders which are still in denial of what is happening (why? Interest and stakes!). Government, steered by people we as citizens elect to be our representatives (how difficult can it be!), need to take the lead. But, to be frank, its influence anno 2020 can not be marked as substantial. Storm (Pantone Storm Gray) is coming. 

It is a personal art impression – or maybe better an expression of an impression – to remind me that we will loose precious life if we continue this way. The myriad of life is so abundant in coral reeds and tropical rainforests, we can hardly imagine. If you have seen it, and understood, you fall in love immediately. And if this happens you want to protect and want to stay it forever. I am in love, still (it is actually since 1978, the year I met Professor Roelof Oldeman and with him discovered the forest, almost 32 years now).

I am a realist, not a pessimist. I hear you thinking. I did my homework (daily) as Wageningen University ecologist. Believe me, storm is coming, if we keep sitting on our hands. Maybe this small expression is a small contribution to one of the targets of this sustainable development goal. The colours of climate change are printed in my mind.

The Ferris Wheel of Governance

Kruf, J.P. (2019) Ferris Wheel. Dubai.

The ferris wheel of governance is indicating that we migrate at a swift pace from the crisis management modus to ‘normal’ management and governance. Democracy re-installs itself after months of Covid-19 crisis management. Old patterns return. The flow and the collective belief vanishes rapidly and the communal obedience of the people is replaced by daily traffic between opposition leaders, governors and citizens.

With one single blow Racism has replaced Corona. I thought. But not quite so though. In the debate today between the mayor of Amsterdam and the elected council – about the fact that she did not enforce the 1.5 meter in an anti-racism demonstration – shows that the wheel is turning. Who is right? I cannot say, but the fact that both worlds meet and spend hours and hours to battle each other with arguments, is enough proof. We’re back again where we were before, for sure. The turning of the ferris wheel shows us again the old dilemma’s we are facing and segmentation in politics. At the same time it is about the balancing act of democracy.

On this quiet evening at home, I remember – as a contrast with the harsh debate this afternoon in Amsterdam (live on television) – the words (It’s cloud’s illusions I recall…) of Joni Mitchell (from her incredible song Both sides now, recorded in the fall of 1968). I remember the peaceful time we had last months, not always easy but with elements of quietness and easy news. Joni:

Moons and Junes and ferries wheels
The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

We’re back.

Janus and the art of navigation

The god Janus.

Jack Kruf

When it comes to navigation in times of high dynamics and change, it was pilot John Boyd who developed a revolutionary and simple concept, the OODA loop: observe, orient, decide and act. The first steps are crucial, he said, when you fly with a speed of 900 km/h, upside down and 100 meter above a mountainous landscape. Is this not the situation where we as society are in today? After Boyd many scientists, experts and advisers developed a myriad of concepts, frameworks and approaches to tackle change and to find navigation in a volatile world.

The Romans already had a god for transitions, gates, passages and doorways. They called him Janus, derived form iānus, meaning in Latin ‘arched passage, doorway’. Can we say that we find ourselves in a doorway, a gate? And can we say we need to find our path, i.e. through developing a circular economy, caring for digital transformation, implementing energy transition, innovating water management, tackling a first grade health crisis, dealing with inequality, racism and poverty? Yes, we can. We are in a doorway, maybe on a threshold towards a new world. Janus is our ‘man’, our god. We need to give him more thought in our souls, not worship him, and ask him advice in the steps to come.

I think I timed the moment (exactly 10 years after my father died) and find the right angle of sunlight, beaming (was it actually him?) through this work of art at our home. Janus looking forward, Janus looking backward and in reflection its metaperspective. The art of navigation is alike. Observe by looking forward and backward, and orient where you are by reflecting on this, decide and act.

Janus and the art of navigation. Janus is presiding over all beginnings and transitions. Should we ask him for his wisdom again? And if we do, let’s not forget John.

Cultural heritage

Kruf, J.P. (2019) Cultural heritage

Jack Kruf

Cultural heritage (Pantone Pastel Yellow) is the felt DNA of society. It most of the time contrasts as an light in depth perspective on past days with the hectic world of the city of today (Pantone Chili Pepper) and the governing system of rules and regulations (Pantone Jet Black).  The white fields (Pantone Snow White) are the opening spots to the new world, the pristine fields to be discovered. Fields of equality and respect.

It is this composition which comes into my mind when society is ignited to reorient and even redesign itself, when society is at the brink of rewriting and rethinking its own history, its past, but more than that, its future. Society changes in color palette from heritage pastel yellow into chili pepper, the hot variant. History has to and will be rewritten. My mother taught me from my early years: you are no more (but also no less) than someone else. Have respect for every human being. So equality and respect, always.

This design is available as fine art print.

Representative democracy

Kruf, J.P. (2018) Representative democracy.

Jack P. Kruf

Playing chess late afternoon yesterday, I considered the black pawn as the representative of the white pawns. Welcome in the new world. She or he is elected by the people, the fellow citizens, in an election for a legislature. The power of her or him is (usually) curtailed by a constitution or other measures to balance representative power. We know how it works with power. People sometimes forget about the starting points and constraints.

In principle, overseeing this team on the chess board, they are of the same height. O, yes. The black pawn as a representative of the group, of the people, accessible, transparant, communicating, never forgetting its background and working for the people. Wouldn’t that be great!?