EP 258 – Jan Stassen and Laura Ludwig – co-founders of Museum of Values – Are You a Good Ancestor?

by | Feb 15, 2023

Asia Tech Podcast was excited to follow up with Jan Stassen and Laura Ludwig, the co-founders of Museum of Values.  The Museum of Values creates immersive spaces for real encounters, encouraging opportunities for reflection that bring values to life and makes them more tangible.

We met in Ho Chi Minh City at the .NFQ Tech Summit and after listening to Jan’s presentation and talking to Laura afterward, I had to have them on the show.

Some of the topics that Jan and Laura discussed:

  • How artistic experiences can help facilitate change
  • The growing conversation around ethical responsibility in tech
  • The fact that only 0.30% of the world’s population is developing technology that the rest of the world is using
  • Why is there no Hippocratic Oath for technologists?
  • The ease with which we look back and the difficulty of looking forward
  • How to think about balancing the time we spend in the digital and physical world

Other titles we considered for this episode:

  1. Selling Sweet Dreams
  2. We Are Creating Our Own Path
  3. This Narrative Is Not Working Anymore
  4. Making Something Implicit, Explicit
  5. What Does the Community Need?
  6. We Bring Our Own Vocabulary

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:02
Okay, we are on. Hi, this is Michael Waitze and welcome back to another special edition of the Asia Tech Podcast. Today we are joined by Jan Stassen and Laura Ludwig, co-founders of Museum für Werte or in English. Just laughing It’s It’s okay. Or in English, loosely translated as a Museum of Values. You can’t see you can’t see all three of us. But we’re all sitting cross-legged on cushions. And I love this. This is really great. Laura and Jan, thank you so much for doing this today. How are both of you doing, by the way?

Laura Ludwig 0:35
Hi, thank you for having us.

Jan Stassen 0:37
Thank you. Yeah, we’re doing great as lovely early morning in Berlin. It’s cold, but nice. So we’re having a good day.

Laura Ludwig 0:46
And actually, I have to tell you something. It’s Jan’s birthday today.

Michael Waitze 0:49
I know that I wasn’t gonna say anything, because you know, the internet, this information. And I wasn’t gonna say anything, because I’m never sure, right? Like some people kind of punk the internet and just like fake it, but Happy Birthday. That’s awesome. Thank you. You’re welcome. Before we get to the kind of central part of this conversation, I always like to give the listeners a little bit of background for context, so they can understand like, why we’re even having this conversation. Laura, let’s start with you.

Laura Ludwig 1:13
Yes, hi. I’m so I’m Laura Ludwig. And I’m actually born and raised in Berlin. In my hometown, still stuck in my hometown. I studied Media Studies. And that led me to being a product manager. So I was in a tech in the tech world for a couple of years, I was in between the problem is the design, the marketing, for a tech company who did did did work with social health care systems in Germany, okay. And in that time, I had a very nice encounter. And that was young. And we started talking about values and values, not only in society, but also in in the work environment, you are, right. And that made me think about a lot of how the environment was where I was, and I didn’t like it at all, because values haven’t been a topic. And in the end, I make it long story short, and make a choice. I quit my job. And I started to work with Jan, and we founded the Museum of values.

Michael Waitze 2:31
I love it. We’re gonna get back to this in a second. Yeah. And let’s get a little bit of your background as well.

Jan Stassen 2:35
Sure, if I speak too quickly, let me know. My name is Jan, I’m from the middle of nowhere in the western part of Germany, Dutch border, grew up there, started working advertising for a couple of years did an apprenticeship there. And what, at that time, what I figured out at the end, I loved it. I loved the whole atmosphere, and vibrant and environment and all of that. But what I figured out, I’m sweating, selling sweet dreams to fat kids. That was the very raw version of what I what I felt like. And I did that for a couple years also for bigger corporations. And I had a few moments and a few things of my life that changed. And one thing that I started studying at the University of Arts, thinking when I started to do something creative, more creative, more creative, and advertising, which led me into another dimension, atmosphere and surrounding. And from there I explored how bodies or white bodies are important in making sense of the world, and how can we use artistic experiences or aesthetic experiences to make change happen in our lives? And the first idea is to make things that are very intangible that define our actions, values, basically, how can we make them and men encounter in a space for them a social infrastructure for them. And that led me into a lot of different fields and ways and versions. And one thing was meeting Laura on the way to Burning Man. And from there, we explored versions and exhibitions and spaces and working with artists ever since. Yeah, and that’s the basic story where I’m coming from from this socially, artistic communicational side of things, but still exploring and still learning and still not knowing and don’t know a lot of things about the world and still trying to make sense for ourselves.

Michael Waitze 4:30
I don’t know if either way, I love this reference, by the way, selling sweet dreams to smart kids, right? And that’s what advertising feels like to a lot of people. That’s what marketing feels like to a lot of people. I want to ask both of you this right because I don’t think in combination. Actually, if I add both of your ages together, you’re old enough to remember John Sculley becoming the CEO of Apple. And when Steve Jobs hired him, which actually led to his initial firing, one of the things he said to Scalia was Do you really want to be selling sugar water to people for the rest of your life, or do you want to make a difference? Does that resonate with both of you at all?

Jan Stassen 5:03
Yes. Yeah, definitely, definitely. And there are so many things in that that’s true. And is short term. And it’s always easier to do these things to do like the sugar water thing. But figuring out something that is different, is so much more fun and so much more fulfilling, we bootstrap everything, and it’s a lot other story. But we have a lot of flexibility in what we do and why we do it. And that gives us a lot of space to think. And we are outside a little bit outside of the system, in a sense, and because the system is also framing unis in a sense of into like the, the sugar water products, sort of say, and so being outside of that a little bit and cultivating a lot of innovation between the two of us, but also our team is massively important, especially when it comes to our values and what we want to do.

Michael Waitze 5:54
How do you extract yourself because you’re just this word of the system, right? And the way we grow up and the way we educate, and I don’t think my generation is that much different from yours. And even though I grew up in the United States, and You two grew up in Germany, I don’t think it’s that different, where we’re kind of conditioned to believe that like, this is the way things work. You pick something you love, whether it’s media or advertising, you go study it, you then get a job in that field. And then you just keep going until you have kids and you die. I’m simplifying. But how do you extract yourself from that? Like, does it take? No, all joking aside? Does it take going to Burning Man or getting into that mindset to say, I think we need to stay take a step back and think, what are my values actually, right? Because that’s the name of the company Museum of values? How do I step back and actually build something around ensuring that other people understand that they’re inside this thing? And that if they evaluate their own values, maybe they need to reevaluate what they’re doing in the context of the things that they’re trying to achieve? Is that fair?

Laura Ludwig 6:58
Yes, for sure. And let me say, it’s a scary way, because nobody is going to teach us how to do it. And it’s, we are creating our own path. And we don’t know if everything that we do is, I don’t know is the perfect way, or the perfect product, or the methods we use, they’re always new, they’re always, and we have to deal with human beings and having to deal with human being is the most competent, fickle, and complex thing that you can ever do.

Jan Stassen 7:32
Yeah, and also, Lord just talked about the individual side from our side. But also, that is entirely true that it’s super complicated to find our own way and try to stay true to ourselves. But also, what you just said, resonated with me is in a sense of like, this causality, what we believe what life should be of like this, this enlightenment way of living this is get a good education, get a good job, found a family and be happy. This causality, especially in like, in it, we see that at least in Germany, I can’t. I want to be careful in the sense of like, putting it on everyone. But he you see that this narrative is not working anymore for people, there’s more to life than and what is it actually, and it has something to do with your inner world and a sense of, I’m trying to figure out, who am I in this, and not in like this very spiritual, hippie dippie sense of like, over reflecting, but finding a way in context of the others and finding your own ways in the context of your own surrounding. And making sense of that is super painful at heart. We’re trying to do that in our little tiny universe. And yeah, we just said the beginning. And we’re doing that for five years. And it feels like there’s so much more that we need to explore need to learn. And

Michael Waitze 8:46
sometimes I feel a similar way. Like I think both of you intimated this idea of like we’re operating outside the system. But you can’t be peripheral forever. Right? You have to be inside otherwise you can’t affect change. And this is my opinion. I’m not saying that. It’s a fact. Right. So you again, stop me where you think I’m wrong. And I think part of the reason why I’m saying this is because like I remember when one of my friends this is when I first joined Morgan Stanley back in 1987. So yeah, I am 57 years old. But one of the gentlemen that I knew who was the friend of a friend doesn’t matter. He was very sort of what’s the right word, anti economics, anti Wall Street, anti everything. And he literally came up to my floor and he said, Now I’m in the belly of the beast, right? And at some point, you have to go there to make a difference. And one of the reasons why I want to just present this is because if you think about where we met, right, we were at this Tech Summit, the NFU Tech Summit in Ho Chi Minh. I don’t live in Vietnam, you to live in Germany, but you couldn’t put yourselves in a more kind of inside the system place than at a tech summit in Southeast Asia in 2023. I mean, that’s that Finally inside the system. So can we back up for a second just trying to figure out? What were you doing there? And what were you like? What was the message you’re trying to get across? What were you trying to accomplish? And then at the end, we can try to figure out, Were you satisfied when you left? Or did you think I mean, there’s always more to do. But you know what? I mean? Did you feel like we had an impact or not? So can you just address a few of those things?

Laura Ludwig 10:22
Let’s start with the impact. I think we definitely had an impact because how that resonated with people, what we did there of what Jan did was, I think, amazing people came up, like a lot of people who I try to look at why the talk was, they didn’t sleep, there was when burrowing like, bored, and the energy you could feel in the room while talking about that topic was great.

Jan Stassen 10:54
Yeah. And then why we were invited is also like a question of, especially in technology on the topic of tech, and also what your podcast is also about, like this field of technology, and what role does it play in our lives? And there is like a sense of responsibility and technology that we don’t address right now that we don’t see right now. So what are we doing? They were invited, because we are some sort of giving a different perspective, you said, Is it possible to work outside of the system, maybe not. But at least in certain surroundings and environment, we are able to give, give a reflective perspective or a different perspective, because we’re not too deep in it. So we’re not talking about growth and scaling. And using the same vocabulary, we bring our own vocabulary, and address things in a new way so that people have the ability to frame the problem for me differently. And we were in parts invited for that to give our the audience a different version of perspective on their own sector. And what we did was the talk or the or whole goal was being there and reflecting ethical responsibility of being a developer and working in the tech industry. Because the technology that we’re using right now is basically developed by 0.3% of the world’s population, and everybody’s using it. And there’s no idea of what externalities are happening at the moment through this development. And we’re just doing it because it’s possible. Not necessarily make sense, but we’re just doing it and this body of knowledge that maybe medicine and other industries have, because they’re super old. We don’t have that in technology, we don’t see that right now in technology. And there is a need for us to reflect on that and to find a way of making some sort of like, an industry standard, a common understanding and manifest happening right now. And that that’s why we were there. And that was a lot of people were interested because they had the feeling, okay, there is something bad happening also in technology. And we don’t have spaces to address that. As leaders in the sector.

Michael Waitze 13:09
We don’t even have a framework to address it. Right. I think I may have mentioned this to you when we were in Ho Chi Minh, right, like my brother’s a doctor. And I don’t think you can get through medical school, at least in United States without having without someone teaching you about the Hippocratic Oath, right. In other words, I don’t know what it is, but it’s like don’t do any damage. Or do you know what I mean? Like you’re not becoming a document with all these skills, where you can go inside somebody’s body and do all these things. But the idea is, when you’re in there, at least have your ethical and moral guide. But you’re right. doctoring, for lack of a better term has been around for I don’t know, pick a number, right, but a long time, like no one, there’s no one that we know, that doesn’t know that there’s a doctor. And yet, if 30 basis points, I mean, point 3% of people are involved in building technology, that 7 billion will say 4 billion people are using, there’s a massive mismatch, it seems to me between what’s getting built, and what the social impact is of all this stuff. And I think we see this on a day to day basis with some some of these big platforms. And, you know, at some point, you’ve got to cut the platform’s a little bit of slack, because I think when they started building them, they didn’t know what they were getting. And they didn’t understand. But now that we do have some understanding of it, like what do we think we know about them? And what should we do about it? You don’t because I always say, and let me just finish this thought. There are things we know we know. Right? I’ll say we know we know that two plus two is four and a base 10 system. But we think we know a lot of stuff about the impact of technology, but do we really know anything?

Jan Stassen 14:44
And also, the system also does know about it, this works in a certain way because if you raising then you have to behave as a company as an organization in a certain way. You You’re then on the runway of one and a half to two years and then it works. In a certain style, and then it’s hard to step back from that and take a perspective from outside of that, of that road that you taking, it’s super hard to do that. So it’s also it’s not that individuals to be are not only responsible and but also like how we behave in our in our systems.

Laura Ludwig 15:21
But what we know about the research about tech is that it’s that it has an also a very large scale, a bad impact on society and on people. So that’s why we think it’s so important to start in the system, as you said, like being in the system was so satisfying, because we know that tech can have a bad impact on whatever, mostly on human beings using that technology, and why not working with the human beings that are developing those technologies to bring them together to do is really think about ethical pines on developing those big systems.

Michael Waitze 16:06
Right, because we spend a lot of time talking about individuals inside of a system. But sometimes the system in which individuals exist, are communities of people. And yet what people do as an individual and what people do as communities, and that intersection, sometimes can be very different. And this gets back to another thing that I think about a lot, too is, you know, where do you get your ethics from? Right, and I was having this conversation with a buddy of mine last night at dinner, he was like, I thought that I was taught by my parents to do this. And now I’m doing it. And I watch my parents, and they’re doing something completely opposite. So this idea of like, I have my own ethics, but what am I group ethics? And what’s the difference? And what’s the imbalance? I don’t know. Can you just talk about this a little bit? Because I’m not the expert? Yeah.

Jan Stassen 16:55
First of all, there are different levels of development, which says how you behave in a system. Okay? Yeah. And people can look it up. And I’m not also not an expert. And I don’t know a lot about psychology. So please look it up yourself and, and research. But there are different layers, research by Robert Keegan, famous developmental psychologist, and that the first element of like being in our society is that you are level three thinker that you behave in this third person perspective, one should behave in a certain way, certain way. So you try to fit in into a certain group. If you leaving that as an adult, and you figure it out yourself, you make your own rules and think, okay, that’s important to me. That’s a different levels. The next level is defining your own perspective. What do I want in that system? And what are my rules? Normally, people when they move out of their family home, they start buying their own food, and figuring out what do I want to eat in a very basic term. And the next perspective, and that’s then it becomes very interesting is figuring out what do I want myself, but also including the perspective on what the community needs. And that’s a stage that quite just a few people reach in their life, or to go to have like an idea of figuring out what perspective do I need? Where do I want to be? And how do I include more perspective in my life. And that’s one of our goals is including more and more creating this space. In my life. One, some picture that I had a couple of days ago with someone said, I’m working on myself, and not in this super spiritual way. But working myself is in the outer world, I get my toolbox. And the older I get, I get more and more tools to work with. And on the inside world, my my possibility of dealing with things, my inner tools, my inner bucket of things that what I can deal with becomes deeper and deeper. So when something happens to me, I’m not as effective anymore because I can balance out negative waves and positive as little bit more because my, my inner space has grown has grown over time because I took care of that. Okay. And making sense and helping people understand that it’s a little bit more Gallen, asking and also a little bit back to your question of what did we do on a tech conference is artists, for us in our perspective, not in this this glorified perspective, but have hopefully, an idea of making something very implicit, explicit. And that is a connection to the world. And people see that and experience it as Oh, I wanted to say that all the time, but I didn’t have a vocabulary for that. I didn’t know how to say give them this explicit version and make something these invisible waves suddenly explicit. Everybody said, Okay, we need to talk about this. And that’s what we hope to do and achieve in German.

Michael Waitze 19:46
We are fortunate, right? Because we are exposed to like education. But we’re there a billion people on the planet. Now we’ve talked about this, right? But I really want you to think about this deeply, particularly in the context of tech. In connectivity, right, because in the old days in the 1950s, and 1960s, let’s say there were 2 billion people, I don’t remember exactly what the numbers were on the planet, but they were not so connected. So even if there were pockets of this level of ethics, or this level of beliefs or values anywhere in the world, connecting them to the same people that had the same values, or ethics in a different part of the world was literally impossible. Because you couldn’t get on a plane and go from Kansas City, and end up in Osaka. It just wasn’t physically possible. But now there are four times as many people on the planet and I would posit that not all of them are as fortunate as we are, even though there’s access to information. It’s almost like to connected in a way. And to instantaneous, like, you don’t have to read through the whole book, you just kind of have to read the title. And I’m curious what kind of issues this raises, in the context of an ever growing population? And yet an ever growing connectivity as well. Does that make sense?

Jan Stassen 21:01
And we probably don’t know.

Laura Ludwig 21:03
For sure. We don’t know.

Michael Waitze 21:05
We don’t know yet. But I’m just curious what you think about this impact is of like, all this connection, just in the work that you do in in the spreading of values, and in the changing of values to write because I do think people think values are static. And they’re not, are they?

Jan Stassen 21:17
No, definitely not.

Michael Waitze 21:18
I love the way you two look at eachother like, “No way, how do I answer this question?”

Jan Stassen 21:22
No way. So and then that’s why Laura looked at me, because what you’re referring to is what a lot of people call something like our sense making mechanism as a society. And that is degrading, because our connectivity is, or the connections that we have right now the speed that we have right now makes it super hard to negotiate what’s important to us and what not, because stuff is just happening. And we are not actively deciding as a society. But we at the moment is reactive, we’re just we’re just trying to follow. And while we are getting older and older, that the gaps between generations is getting bigger and bigger, their understanding of what’s important and what not, is getting bigger and bigger. And it’s super hard to make sense collectively. Because we are just thinking about the newness, and not about what can we take what do we need to establish as a baseline? And this baseline is totally out of balance. And that is super hard for this one part. And to your second question, is our values static? No, they’re not. And we don’t know whether our leaders, what you see in different versions of like, studies and other things that value systems, in societies in groups at constantly evolving and changing. And we we don’t know whether leaders but when we need our spaces and moments, to have a conversation around that to have an honest version of like, okay, what do you see in this? And how can we take care that everybody felt feels seen and listened to, because what happens right now was like, just a few people are listened to. And we glorify the founder, the whatever, the politician, and we have, like this very new version of religion, that we just follow something, we worship someone. And at the moment, if you see that a lot in tech, we worship a lot of, especially these founder stories, and you see that with Elon Musk and others that you that there’s something entirely off in it. And we don’t have at the moment of recovery addressing that, because we don’t want to use religious terms. But some sort of like the same basic algorithm behind it basically.

Michael Waitze 23:38
Is this really a new version of religion? Or is it just religion at scale? Right? If you just go back to Mesopotamia, you know, I can walk around in sandals and tell people what God is and isn’t going to do and what God doesn’t, doesn’t approve. But I really can only talk to the 15 people that are in my village, I’m exaggerating to make a point, right. And in the 70s, and 80s, you had people using television, which was more of a connective, but it’s similar to web 1.0. It’s not interactive, right? I just send it out there. And people watch what I talk about. And if they believe me, they do if they don’t, they don’t put there was a way to do it. But now that connectivity is so interactive, that you can get that message out at scale. I know that myself, because I’m just a dude in a room with lights and a microphone. And I have people in 170 countries listening to me, that’s impossible, even just like 10 years ago. So I’m really curious. Is it like a new version or just a scaled version of this? Do you know what I mean?

Jan Stassen 24:40
But it’s democratized in a sense, isn’t it? I mean, because the pope still has that voice for a couple of one 5 billion people. I don’t know how many. But you have you have a voice to now in comparison to 50 years ago, but basically,

Michael Waitze 24:56
yeah, but this is also really interesting to me. Again, I’m just positing stuff because I don’t know what the answer is. But if you think that the value systems are changing over time, right again, in the old days, most of us were locked into a certain geography. We didn’t get to move from Berlin, and just go, You know what I want to live in California. It just wasn’t that easy. But it also meant that value systems were then very geographically dependent as well. But yeah, now and they were unmixing. Not again, because I’m opposed to your views, but because I don’t even know you what your views are. But there’s this impact to this movement of people. And the movement of values, and the connectivity change the way and tech drives most of this right, changed the way those values are now being organized and built, because now they’re no longer being driven by just geography. Right? They’re being driven by I agree with what Laura says, even though she’s in Berlin, and I’m in Bangkok.

Laura Ludwig 25:51
Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And I think this on the scale, as technology helped us, like exchanging our like, mindsets, and talking and having a dialogue, yeah. The same scale we need in the movement of really negotiating on values, like, because still, we can talk and we can agree, but I don’t know the the circumstances around you, like, I still don’t know how your daily life is, I still don’t know you are dealing with when you’re going outside after our podcast recording, right? So what are you addressing the scene with? What do you have to deal I can barely think about it like, I don’t know, actually. And people need to talk about that more to, to come deeper to a understanding of a value system that is actually worldwide, like it’s not cultural.

Jan Stassen 26:48
And also, if you say, location based, and now you move into California, basically, or I’m moving somewhere else, that makes us up. But also, this negotiation is happening in additional groups in different communities. So let’s take the gaming community, for example. I mean, this is now the universe, and it’s happening somewhere else. And people never met, and it’s totally fine. And that they’re negotiating their version of what’s true, and what’s cool and what’s not cool. And that’s entirely different, of making sense for them. And it has some advantage of is that people feel seen, because they were the lone wolves may be in the little village, but now they can connect to the internet and find their own group somewhere around the world and their 100,000 people, which is amazing. So I don’t want to say that is bad in any sense. But what we, I think, sometimes forget is that this, how we connect and through what do we connect what we used to be maybe marketplaces what used to be the church on Sundays, where people met outside of consumerism, when community met without food, drinks and buying stuff. That’s not happening in that scale anymore. And that is because the function of technologies obviously, is not creating social infrastructure, but creating some sort of not in a negative way. But creating the litigious structure. That means you’re there for a reason you meet, you’re there to be either the product or you’re paying for it, you’re not there, because you’re there, because you’re a human being. And in a church or marketplace, or at the local sports club, you are a human being. And you’re just there to be together. And we don’t have these phases anymore digitally, as well as in the reward.

Michael Waitze 28:22
So but how do you mitigate this, right? In other words, if technology can do all these things, it shouldn’t be able to flip over and do positive things as well. Right? Here’s another thing that I think about too. Sorry, go ahead. Did you want to just respond to that, because it shouldn’t all be negative. Like if you think about just the this, you know, Gutenberg invented the printing press. Like all the stuff that first came off, was very religious, maybe. But at that, but once people figured it out and understood, like how they could write books at scale, and share knowledge at scale, like a lot of really great stuff happened, because a lot of really great information got shared. And it took like, I don’t know how long ago well moves Gutenberg 1400. So it was a long time ago. Yeah. the dissemination of information in books was essentially, for the most part, really good propaganda. Obviously, the flip side of that is bad, maybe. But how to what everything’s moving so much faster today. Right? How do we get the good out of this? Because there is good, right? I mean, think about it. We wouldn’t know each other if the internet didn’t exist. And I feel super happy that we met because it makes me think about things that I mean that seriously, but because it makes me think about things in a different way. And it also allows me to take the thoughts that I’ve had and say, I can rely on Jan and Laura for a framework within which I can understand this because isn’t that more important than the values themselves? is having a framework to understand Does that make sense?

Jan Stassen 29:47
Yeah, for sure. So, two, first question. Is it something good and bad that comes out of it? Most definitely. The first I’m not the first. But the biggest art buyer in the world used to be the church. or churches or religion, so that the biggest clients for artists were in Europe, at least churches and religion, and so on from their art, developed in a time and into an entirely different field and version and became entirely different and varies on industry and made us happy and explored different versions of what means to human. So amazing. So that was amazing. And so take it as the same possibility or the same option of like, technology can liberate itself or not liberate? Yeah, but it happens right now with the whole Open Data community and other things. And it evolves into like an entirely different structure, it will, most most definitely. And we can facilitate that more as a society and take responsibility for that. Right, we can definitely do that. That’s the that’s the first point. And the second point, when it comes to frameworks, why did we choose values as a as a lead idea is not because I mean, also, because we think and believe that, listen, gender is important. But also value is like the, like the entrance point for most people to look inwards. So no matter how far right or left, how well educated or how intellectual or not intellectual you are, everybody has an opinion on values. And it’s like a dog now for conversations. And we need more of these dogmas, to having that and explore that. So for us, we don’t want to stick basically having very radically two values, but rather creating like the entrance point for all of us to explore different versions of our inner worlds of ourselves, and who we are and who we want to become as a group and individuals.

Laura Ludwig 31:35
Referring back to using Tech for Good. We just developed a project to empower people, because the tech world was, for a long time, this world, which you didn’t understand, like experts created, you need to be like a programmer, you I don’t know being like in the internet, from the 90s. On the air, people were like this bubble, like it was very far away from the normal people in society. And that led us to a very big gap. So technology, everybody was leaning back, oh, my God, this is not, I don’t want to work with the data, for example, or I don’t want to work because I must be an expert for that. And they didn’t understand that. If we’re all engaging in if we and that’s why we like curated and interactive exhibition and workshop formats, to to empower people to make the first step, even though only in a third way. Like dealing with the data in a good way, like empowering people with visions or something, how to use data for a good thing. And technology for a good thing. Yeah. coming on from the values perspective, like bringing them together, talking about it, like bringing them step by step closer to to empowerment,

Jan Stassen 33:06
moment. And we call that dare to act. So most of the people at the moment, they have some sort of relationship to technology, but it’s really just using interfaces. The only point that nobody knows how emails work, but everybody knows how to write an email, write that and you don’t have to, you don’t have to understand it basically. And the same thing is true for deeper versions of in of technology, from big data and other things, there are no good solutions out of things. But you need to lose that fear of trying to explore it yourself and finding your own ways to exploring that and what you want to do with it. And, and that’s why we creating these spaces for people to explore them in different ways. And also have conversations along the way with developers and people that we call data have nots that never had a conversation, a connection point to it. And cry, trying to differentiate and making for example, developers understand, okay, there is something that you that you somehow influencing from people to neighborhoods to whatever, but it was the other way around, you can address something what’s important to you, and having these moments of interaction, and these are not happening?

Michael Waitze 34:12
Do you get the sense that the people with whom you’re working on the development side, and I don’t just mean the engineers, but I mean, everybody involved in the tech industry, that they want to understand better? What the impact of their work is, do you know what I mean? Because you can go to some people just be like, I don’t care. I’m just making a ton of money doing this thing. But I don’t think most people are like that. And I’m curious what the reactions are that you get when you introduce these concepts, these frameworks with people that, you know, when they’re done doing their job at the end of the day, and I’m just gonna say, metaphorically, they go home, they’re like, is that okay? But I don’t have any way to think about like, do you feel like they want to have these frameworks? Do you know what I mean?

Jan Stassen 34:51
Most definitely, basically, the first thing that happens is, what German were we on the conference? We were overwhelmed a little bit, but how many people came up to us and asked us okay that you gave me a vocabulary for it, right? So I had the feeling that something is entirely off, but I didn’t know how to address it and how to say it. And that’s that’s one thing. And what happens a lot is like the same thing that selling sweet dreams to smart kids of our kids is it’s happening and tech as well. So that this glorified moment of I am a tech entrepreneur is also when people feel numb, in a sense, someone came up to me and say, I made websites microseconds faster, for the last 10 years. And I mean, is it’s already a good business, but selling more genes, I don’t know through microseconds of something. Is that something you want to do with your life? You have kids now? Instead? What are you a good ancestor? Basically? If that’s the question, it raises the question of what you leave behind while building this. Is that good or bad in the sense of like, when you look to your own kids,

Michael Waitze 36:02
I don’t know how you’ve come up with this. But are you a good ancestor could potentially be the title of this episode, it’ll be such a great way to think about it, because a lot of people will say, I want to make sure that I leave the world in a better place for my kids. But most people don’t do that they pollute, they create bad stuff, and they just die. But the idea is later, when your kids or grandkids or great grandkids, or even just your great cousins or whatever are talking about you. Will they say like grandma did a great job? Or will they just go grandma polluted the river in our town? Do you know what I mean? I don’t think people think about this idea of ancestry. But we worship our ancestors, I don’t think there’s a culture that doesn’t look up and go, that woman ran this village in a way that was unbelievable, right? with great respect. So we talk about it a lot. But I haven’t put it haven’t had it put in that direction.

Jan Stassen 36:50
And then it’s also very similar in a sense of, we always look back, obviously, but for us, it’s super hard to look forward. So if I ask you try to remember who you have been 10 years ago. Yeah. Everybody wants an entirely different person. And if I ask you the same question and say, okay, but who are you going to be in 10? years? You probably say I’m still the same, Michael. Right? Most definitely not. But it’s super hard for us to imagine to holding that thought, and how do we get there? And with what the what idea of what’s important to us and what not. Looking bear is always easy retrofitting our idea of I became this and that President and CEO of this company made sense, because I worked hard, but you forget all the other steps and social side of it and soft side of it. And it’s super hard to prevent, and then ask him that question to thinking about young kids and grandkids. Yeah, and it gives you a different perspective, and it gives you an understanding of okay, then he can’t lie that easily. Basically,

Michael Waitze 37:53
you reach this point where like, you have all these experiences. And if you’re, what’s the right word, if you’re coherent, like you learn something from them. And yet, transferring that knowledge to somebody who’s 20 or 30 years younger than you is almost impossible, because even if they’re listening, they’re not they can’t understand because I haven’t gone through the same experience, and you kind of want to drag them through that experiential thing, and then throw them back to being whatever age they are, so that they can have that knowledge and experience and then apply that to their life going forward, which will then give them the ability, I think, at some level to say, I want to be different than I am when I’m picking that number, like 17. And I want to be closer to that, whatever that is, because that seems a lot better and more informed. And you’re both smiling, but like, it’s such a struggle to do that. Because as an older person, you know, if you say, and then no one’s gonna listen kind of thing. Do you know what I mean?

Jan Stassen 38:46
Awesome, sorry. And that’s the whole thing with embodied experiences, why it’s so important for us. So deeply important is to make things tangible, in a way of experience through and with our bodies. Because at the moment, especially Western culture is heavily based on intellectual understanding, but not muscle memory, and an embodied really understanding experience. So and you need these experiences to make sense of life. And, and that’s also a little bit sad when you see like, these embodied experiences, they’re not really taking or they’re fewer and fewer in our lives, making real connections, how important that was for us, you and me, Michael to meet and speak and smell and touch and have the full full on experience of like what it means to be human. And there are versions in our lives right now that are replicating very important senses and sense making mechanisms of our lives, replicating them out of oneness, and they can fewer and fewer.

Michael Waitze 39:51
Imagine if we’d never met in person. We hadn’t stood next to each other. Do you know what I mean? I hadn’t like gotten you an extra soda water or pulled some stuff off the bus. Hey, and so do you want some of this, it’s suck. There’s a way to be polite in person or to be rude in person. That doesn’t translate. I mean, I think it was Mike Tyson who said, like, everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face, right? It’s an extreme example. But this idea of abstracting every sort of face to face and human interaction away, means that I care less and less about the impact of anything that I do on you, because I, you can’t feel it. And I can’t feel it either. Which is why it’s easy to troll somebody on Twitter. But when I meet you face to face, I would say, those glasses look great on you. Do you know what I mean?

Laura Ludwig 40:37
Yeah, for sure. There’s a barrier. I mean, yeah,

Jan Stassen 40:41
there’s definitely a variant. There’s the thing that I always say is like this. There’s a famous study, that if we get to know each other, and I give you a cold drink, lord knows what I’m gonna say. If I give you a coaching, and we get to know each other, you think of me in average, as a coder person, forgive you wondering, you think of me an average as a farmer person, because the reference you have and the only connection to the world we have with our cognition is our body, as our senses and that’s like a filter and the filter, our body decides what we see and experience in the world. And we think mostly that we that cognition is made made in our head, but it’s made on so many different levels. It’s embodied, it’s embedded. So what context are we in? When we work with managers, they need to understand it’s more influential. When you take a decision. Who you with, then what are you thinking? You we did with a lot of service studies done on that go who you with depends. influences your decisions more than who you think you are? What are you thinking at the moment? Because it’s a little bit like, imagine going out to you just said, you go out with your friend yesterday to dinner with a group of friends? And the first one, or is it BM than an average, a lot of people are influenced to also drink alcohol. So it’s like, it’s that’s a framing, it sets the orientation point for the rest of the group. If the first one was a hot tea, and everybody thinks, oh, tonight, we all have the, then most people follow that lead. And so these little things are also happening in meetings and companies and organizations constantly, constantly. And they are very body influenced, and we totally ignore them. We think we are rational beings. Well, we’re not

Michael Waitze 42:19
we’re not at all. Here’s one of the one of the other things that concerns me about about technology is that if you build a Metaverse, right, we can really talk about this where the experiences are all purposefully online, then my connectivity to you becomes even further and further away. And if I avatar myself, then you don’t even know who I am or what I look like and you can make a value judgment about am I warm? Am I cold? Am I happy? We talked a lot about how physical movement changes the way that subgroups and groups interact with each other and different values kind of bump into each other. But if the metaverse is a place where physical boundaries don’t matter, but the ideas that we share matter, more so of communities are now no longer designed around, there’s a mountain there. So we can’t go over there. And there’s a river in our way or an ocean in our way. So I don’t know anybody over there, if those things are removed, and then all I do is seek out people that have the same beliefs that I have already, which is then driven by this sort of meta versal experience. It then blocks out other things as well. What’s the impact of that? On now this sharing of ideas, and how tech then read because think about going to school? Right? I’m in my mind, my you know, calculus class, but I still have to walk down the hallway and get to science class with all the other kids. But if I never leave the classroom, sorry, go ahead. And I never interact with those other kids. And to me, everybody’s like an AP calculus students, and they’re not really so I don’t understand how the world works at all. And you get isolated into this group way more than we already are normally.

Jan Stassen 44:03
No. And I don’t know, i Yesterday I had a podcast, where there was the CTO of some company, and he was saying that they did this virtuality experience for people as like a starting point working in industry and also in production, so they can walk through the facility before they start working the training through through that. And my first response was, when I started, for example, I had the, let’s say, Laura, Laura Usila bello and a smell de la bella, and for me are all only in my life useable a wide skiing, because that was for like some protection of my lips. And so I had directly a visceral memory of something. And the same thing is true if you work and try to do go work or come up with ideas you wish your whole body understanding of making sense of your surrounding. I mean, it might help to do this online and virtual surroundings and blah blah. But there is this other layer that is missing and at don’t know if that’s good or bad, or in what way that’s influencing us. But I think that for me, that feels like the world is getting flatter and flatter and a sense. So there’s like, there’s a depths missing, missing to it. And also this, these all these moments in between that we’re having and sharing. And that makes sense for us that make the world tangible and interesting, and all of that that will be missing. And one other thing is also we want to use in an advertising agency, there was one guy who was always doing the printing stuff, he was in his 70s. And it was in the basement of the advertising agency. And he was there the only one who was there for 50 years, and that company, right? So 20, he was still doing the same stuff. And he was the only guy that we call by his last name Heerlijk. And Mr. Rick, and everybody loves going down their head like this, all like this, this layers of knowledge. And this layer of anecdotes and parables and like this sense making for the whole organization, whenever somebody new came to the company, everybody was sent down to Masaryk, and made sense of what it means meant to be here and to work here. And I don’t know if that all remote work. And if that works, in what sense, it will, will work and will have its place. But how it will fit together? And I don’t know. And that’s just an interesting thing, or aspect to think about, like these little things, these embodied experiences.

Laura Ludwig 46:28
Yeah. And it’s already started, after the whole movement of home office, why COVID And black companies are more and more thinking about it. Like how can we bring them together again, and I think we need new ideas and new formats, to balance out the time that we work and live in the digital world. And then find other things like and we don’t, we maybe don’t know what it is what we need in the outside world, in the real world. Like, as a company, you need new new farmers bringing your team together to have this embodied feeling being in a in the same room or like being together. And

Jan Stassen 47:11
one funny thing that we try just to when it comes to what you just said to when it comes to ideas, or innovation, whatever you want to call it. What we did this, we had an every every floor had its own printer, one, just one big printer. And we asked the the IT department that the first floor could only print on the second floor, the second floor and the third floor, and the third and fourth floor. And bosses need to go down to the to the ground floor of ground floor and print at the reception. And what we did there was just mixing communities because there was a creative team, the strategy team, the accounting team, and the leadership team, and everybody needs to go somewhere else. And then information is informal way of behaving and being with each other in float entirely differently. And we underestimate what that means. And we don’t know what that mean, we don’t we can’t measure it properly. No, but we underestimate what it means to be together and have a certain understanding of like mixing things together. And that’s where innovation comes from is like mixing people and stupid ideas together until one makes sense. I want

Michael Waitze 48:16
to share one quick story with both of you. And then I want to let you go We’ve covered a ton of ground. And I want to leave people with this idea of thinking about this community mixing and just share an experience that I had when I first joined Morgan Stanley, there was a wall separating the fixed income controllership from the equity controllers. And the thing we knew for sure was that the guys and gals that were in equities, because I was in fixed income, we’re just idiots, all of them, I mean, full stop from the first guy that was hired to the last lady, they came in the room, all idiots until one of them switch groups and came into fixed income controls. And then they were the coolest person in the whole world. And once you realize that, that that mixing has actually super positive effects, then what I call sort of the other side of the mountain mentality kind of slowly but surely goes away. But I think Lauren made this point. And I just want to throw it out there again, for people to think about before we go on that is we don’t know how to do that yet inside of this new world. But we need to think about it and consider it because it’s moving so fast. And because we don’t understand the implications of that speed, but also the the impact of all that mixing that we’re seeing, at some point, we need to step back and evaluate. What is the good part of this and how can we turn this into something way better than it actually is? And you’re right. We don’t know what that is yet. But the mere fact that we’re having this conversation meant that it resonates with people like I am, who in normal circles wouldn’t mix because we wouldn’t be in the same place. I thought about this and again, I’ll let you guys go in a sec. But when you were giving the presentation and I want to make two points about that, too. When you were giving the presentation I think every Really the room was like, Yeah, we need to think about this. And that’s super important. So the more you can give that presentation, the more you can have these conversations more all of us can get involved in this idea of trying to create this new framework, I think is super important. The other point that I want to make out that I thought that was really impressive was that two people giving a presentation is really hard. It’s almost impossible to do and do well. But one of the things that Jan said when he was done was, I’m standing on stage. But I could not do this without Laura. And he actually pointed her out in the audience. I think it’s really important to notice, because I think it says something about the value of teamwork and about understanding one of the other things that I really believe and that’s no one succeeds alone. Anyway, I really want to thank both of you for doing this. Jana Dawson and Laura Ludvig cofounders of I’m gonna say it in English Museum of values. You have to come back and do this again. Thank you both very much.

Jan Stassen 50:57
Thank you.

Laura Ludwig 50:58
Thank you very much.

Jan Stassen 50:59


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