Dany DeGrave

Making people’s lives better is what Dany does: through his contributions to the development of various vaccines which are commercialized world-wide and, in the same large multinational corporations, through the creation of entrepreneurial and future-ready environments where it is pleasant and energizing to work. With a startup spirit he’s done this either as a team leader growing his own team from 0 to 100+ people or, through influence without direct reports, by developing a cross-Atlantic community in a 500+ people strong department.

Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
Most companies use management principles developed in the early 1900s by men born in the 1800s. Employees were units of production, to be optimized as any other cost. Those might have been useful principles at a time when industry especially needed hands to get things done and more efficiency in internal operations resulted in bigger profit. Those days are gone. The reset button has been pushed and most companies haven’t prepared for the new and future reality of living in the unknown and unexpected, especially at an ever increasing velocity. Historically, major displacements occurred once in a while: carriages were replaced by cars, candles by light bulbs, postal mail by email. Over the last ten years exponential changes in technology allow almost everyone to be connected everywhere anytime, to be genetically screened, to go to unknown places without a map. Even the definition of “everyone” participating to economic activity has changed. The world is no longer driven by North America and Europe; a billion people from Asia and the BRICS countries now participate too. Africa will soon join, adding another billion people developing products, services and competing for markets.

While all this is happening many companies are operating like we are still in the 20th century, seemingly thinking that the next 10-20 years will be an extension of before. Thinking that all will be okay by cutting just a little more, by re-organizing just a little better, by saying that we need to innovate without creating an environment of trust. Did you hear too that “Yes we know that all surveys show that employee engagement is at a low, but we really don’t have the time to do something about it now because we first need to make our numbers for this quarter. And frankly, people should be happy they have a job.” Are they happy? Type “work makes me” into Google search and read the recommended next words. The message is not pretty.

How does a company think to stay relevant in a world of incredible world-wide opportunities for the fast-acting and open minded when its employees are disengaged and kept into their box as a unit of production?

How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
With a startup spirit and using lean startup principles I am leading the development of an ecosystem, a community that is experimenting with fundamentally new ways of working in an established large multinational. We go transversal and connect people irrespective of grade, position, time with the company, location, … Nobody is assigned, this is only for the passionate, the believers in a future where everyone can realize their full potential and contribute to the success of the company in unexpected ways.

Why do you do what you do?
Many people live a very paradoxical situation. In black and white thinking of boss vs employee one could see the goal of bosses to ‘exploit’ their employees to the max, to use all their talents so that they can do more than expected or thought capable of themselves, to really have the maximum possible output of their resource for the greater good of the success of the company. On the other side one could see the employees’ goals as doing as little as possible for the same pay and benefits, not caring about the company. Both are driven by a search for maximum return on investment.

In many companies reality very often seems to be different, not to say the opposite. Many managers seem to be okay when the employee is just doing his/her job, the limited box of activities. Some will even create an environment where any attempt by the employee to contribute more is actively discouraged, killed, or not appreciated. At the same time, many employees do want to contribute more, do want to learn more, do want to offer their broader skills, and do want to be involved more in what is also their company they want to see successful.

Nobody wins here, especially not in the long term and in the increasingly competitive world we are in. It is time to take a zero-based thinking approach towards the future of work and ask ourselves how we can re-invent “work”, knowing what we know now, knowing the tools and science that are available to us, seeing the trends in robotics and artificial intelligence among others, and expecting the unexpected.

I want to make people’s lives better, so helping to re-invent work with anyone wanting to do the same is a step in that direction.

What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
Music, design and paintings: because of the creation of masterpieces out of nothing, often by just one person, often with great simplicity and with the potential to impact so many.

GabyGaby is an artist 2.0, making art in an unconventional and innovative way, especially paintings. What makes him 2.0 is his activity on several social media sites sharing photos and videos of his work in progress (see @gaby407). In that way he re-invented what work means in his domain.

What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
We all know that the end result of what we do every day, developing vaccines and making them available world-wide, is positively impacting people’s lives and health.

What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
The movie industry: they show that today a successful movie can be created by bringing together people, groups, and companies from various horizons. Few are their own employees and many worked yesterday with their competition or will do so tomorrow. I would not be surprised if we evolve to this model in many other industries too.

What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
For all those companies using the typical performance management systems: have “a meaningful place to work” objective count for 50% of the bonus opportunity for all levels. What gets measured gets done.

What do you do for fun?
I make videos and photobooks!

What time of the day do you do your best work?
At night.

What is “required reading” or “required viewing” for people who want to understand what makes you tick?
Check out my Pinterest “Read This” board.

Where in the world are you?
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn — http://linkedin.com/in/danydegrave
Twitter — @danydegrave

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