TEDxCasablanca: An event in review

Image courtesy: TED.com  

Disclaimer: Ok, I gotta be honest, it’s a half review since I couldn’t stay till the end although I wished I could!


TEDxCasablanca is the first TEDx event to take place in Morocco. I secretly envied the organizers because the idea was lurking in my head since last May but I just didn’t get the time to think about it seriously. In the end, I’m just glad someone did it! The event, which obviously took place in Casablanca last Saturday, was greatly orchestrated within the calm atmosphere of the Mohammed Sekkat Library. Between the great books and the enlightening insights, we couldn’t but marvel at the beauty of sharing, of openness and of the amazing gift that is the human mind.

What I liked about the event:

  •        It’s a TEDx! It’s inspiring by construct
  •        Well organized, not much of delays
  •        Speakers from all walks of life: Public sector, business, art…
  •        I finally got to meet @Hisham_G (more about this later!)
  •        I loved the fact that not all presentation were in French!
  •        I got to catch up with friends as well

What I disliked:

  •        The Food: Just kidding, I’m not that lame!
  •        Internet Access: Would’ve loved to live-tweet and interact with the audience. I really hope the upcoming event will take this vital geeky need into account

The event started by a brief presentation from the man behind the event. Mr El Ourouba talked about how knowledge has metamorphosed from point to point to multipoint to multipoint thanks to web 2.0 and TED-like communities. He also brought to attention that there are 3 golden rules to grasping knowledge:

  •        Open mind
  •        Tolerance to difference
  •        Embracing new ideas

1st  talk: The power of non domination

Speaker: Mr Driss Alaoui Mdaghri

Main ideas: When we talk about leadership, we are often speaking out of a domination logic. While it could certainly drive success, leadership doesn’t not necessarily lead to happiness nor the happiness of people around us. Success is rather achieving our objectives together, no domination involved.

  •        Every decision we ever make has a negative aspect to it.
  •        Every decision triggers legitimate opposition. Don’t fight it; embrace it.
  •        Everything is important and nothing is important. Accept that tiny actions can often have tremendous effect
  •        We’re social animals, our professional lives are a continuum of our personal lives.
  •        Always put yourself in people’s shoes to understand their motives and difficulties
  •        It’s important to dominate your real or symbolic violence, your anger for instance.
  •        Art saves humanity. Permanent creativity is an absolute need for people and societies
  •        Art teaches us Freedom: Do it your own way!


2nd talk: Identity is diversity

Speaker: Mr Ahmed Ghayet

Main ideas:

  •        Diversity, plurality, tolerance… have become Big words
  •        Growing up in Barbes – France makes one feel he’s a citizen of the world (multiple nationalities, rich cultures…)
  •        Everyone of us holds a plurality within himself that could be beneficial to the “us”
  •        We need to rethink our identity with a constructive spirit, with addition in mind (not subtraction, nor division)
  •        We needn’t be afraid of who we are, rather proud but not arrogant.
  •        The enemy of identity isn’t openness but withdrawal and confinement

3rd talk: Morocco 2.0

Speaker: Mr Taieb Debbagh

Main ideas:

  •        Prospective: approach that aims to prepare for the future by elaborating scenarios based on the available data
  •        Generations have changed from Digital retards – Digital immigrants to Digital Natives (Generation Y)
  •        As water and electricity, the flow of information via Internet is going to become a given
  •        Enterprise 2.0 is the future of enterprise
  •        Administration 2.0 is the future of public Sector (egov.ma)
  •        M-commerce (purchasing via mobile) is supplanting e-commerce
  •        Education 2.0 is becoming collaborative and collective.


4th talk: from culture in general, to the documentary in particular

Speaker: Mrs Nezha Drissi

Main ideas:

  •        There is nothing as powerful as sharing to help us face our solitude of creating
  •        He who wants to do something finds a way, he who doesn't finds an excuse
  •        Today’s utopia is tomorrow’s reality
  •        Documentaries are tools for popular education
  •        Documentaries share the vision of the producer, therefore are subjective
  •        A society that isn't open can’t be enriched, nor will it enrich others
  •        FIDADOC: International festival of documentary is taking place in Agadir, 9-13 November 


5th talk: I blog, therefore I am

Speaker: Mr Hisham Khribchi

Main ideas:

  •        Eugene deLacroix thought truth existed only among individuals, not among the masses
  •        Web 2.0 have given people the chance to create content of their own
  •        Web 2.0 gives voice to citizens and a stage for them so they can be heard
  •        Morocco = stereotypes: Camels that run in the streets of Casablanca as you may have all noticed
  •        There are few details about the density and passion of our lives
  •        It now takes less that 6 degrees of separation to reach people on the web (5 for Facebook, 4 for Twitter)
  •        TalkMorocco has been created to overtake the francophone sphere reigning Morocco

I’m a great fan of Mr Hisham’s work and dedication to a noble cause that is Freedom of speech and human rights. He even was kind enough to grant me an autograph that I’ll cherish along with my Seth Godin and Tariq Ramadan dedicated Books. You must be jealous, I know!



6th talk: DabaTeatr: anchoring here and creating for the long drive (in dialect Arabic)

Speakers: Mr Hisham Khribchi

Main ideas:

  •        People don’t dream as they used to
  •        We need to educate our children to believe in their dreams.
  •        Dreams educate
  •        Theater offers the possibility to dream
  •        In the continuum of everyday life, theater brings pauses
  •        The state needs to realize how art is important to the education
  •        Dabateatr: bringing theater to the center of community

My adventure with TEDxCasablanca stops here. Kudos to the organizers who brought us an exquisite event that we hope will get only better and better in the upcoming editions.

More details about the speakers can be found on: http://www.tedxcasablanca.com/


Lamia Ben


Sunday Fun: Khan academy, Reinventing education

I don’t believe the solutions to today’s education crisis are going to come in the form of traditional policies alone. I believe we need to reframe the problem and the conversation, from one about re-forming schooling to one about re-thinking education and re-imagining learning. 

This is a massive, radical design challenge. – Diana RhotenWe are not Waiting for Superman, We are Empowering Superheroes

From the founder and only faculty of the largest school of the world I bring you this entertaining video. Sal Khan shares at GEL 2010 conference his vision for teaching the entire world for free. Hats down to the guy, He is simply inspiring. 

Plus, I loved the comments at the end 🙂

Khan Academy is one of the winners of Google Projet 10^100 : http://www.project10tothe100.com/

Happy Sunday!

Lamia Ben

Homophily or #1 innovation enemy

Summary: What is Homophily? How does it affect us? and how can we fight it?


Image courtesy: gapingvoid.com

Next time you’re in a meeting and everyone is saying ‘yes’ to an obviously dumb idea, know that just because there are lots of them it doesn’t make it right. ~ Hugh MacLeod

It’s interesting how sometimes the world conspires to bring something in front of your eyes. After getting this cartoon from gapingvoid’s exquisite newsletter few days back, -along with the quote- I remembered an interesting article I read on conformity and deviance.

At meetings the members of the group adopt a soft line of criticism, often even on their own thinking. People are positive and seek harmony on issues, with no conflict to spoil the “we” atmosphere.

This is what we usually refer to as Group-think. And it has been proven that it is symptomatic of lesser creativity in the workplace. Does this mean that a group needs to be heterogeneous for innovation to be catalyzed? Yes, to some extent, but not entirely.

If members join the group and have nothing in common at all, then obviously joint action will be impossible

The equilibrium between conformity and deviance needs to be reached, so that the job could be “done” in a rather “innovative and creative” way. But as any balance, it is difficult to hold. We human are built to evolve in small groups (what we call in graph theory clusters or cliques) looking for familiarity, safety and intimacy. Sociologists coined “homophily” to describe such phenomenon.

Homophily (i.e., love of the same) is the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others. – Wikipedia

What is interesting about Homophily is that although it’s intuitive, it can do us more harm than good. In a compelling article, Ethan Zuckerman states that being part of a social circle of similar others “has a tendency to isolate us from certain pieces of information. At the same time it tends to fool us into believing that we have a complete picture of things when we don’t”. 

Combine this with the fact that a big percentage of our knowledge today comes from social Networks and you’ll know how powerful and dangerous Homophily has become. The thing is, just like group-think (which is a consequence of Homophily) innovation is hindered by the lack of diversity. 

One needs always to challenge the barriers of his thoughts and avoid flocking to similar people. A good way to start would be by:

Being counterintuitive in your readings. We have the tendency to enjoy reading what validates our mental models. Try reading from all currents of thoughts, you never know how new ideas can be jolted and it sure is a good way to discover preconceived ideas you may have.

Diversifying your social contacts. If you’re a techy, look for literature, physics, teaching… buddies. One thing we’ve learned from academia is that the lines between disciplines are way more blurry than we think. Raise chances for serendipity.

– Always challenging the status quo. If you’re satisfied with the way things go, know that you’ve contracted the birds-of-a-feather-flock-together syndrome. Quick, you need remedy!

Rethink, Rework, Evaluate. Whenever an “eccentric” idea hits your radar (from external or internal sources) fight the urge of blocking it right away. Rethink the issue in all its aspects, rework the idea to make it fit your context, apply and then evaluate so you can enhance your system. 

– Exposing yourself, Don’t give in to your lizard brain. Fight that urge to be part of the herd and to take the 0 risk path. Rather expose yourself! It is only by taking such risk that one can make a step further and hopefully innovate. 

I’m sure there a lot of other ways to fight Homophily, but one thing is sure, Christopher Morley does a good job summarizing them:

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity.


Lamia Ben

Sunday Fun: This is broken!

If you're looking for entertaining but enriching videos, you may want to take a look at Gel Conference. Gel ("Good Experience Live") is a conference and community, founded in 2003, exploring good experience in all its forms – in art, business, society, technology, and life.

One of my favourite videos on Gel is Seth Godin's "This is broken". Here is a description from the website:

Why are so many things broken? In this entertaining talk – one of the favorites of Gel 2006 – Seth Godin gives a tour of things poorly designed, the reasons why they are that way, and how to fix them. 

One thing is sure, Seth's inspirational thinking is definitely not broken.

Have a great start of the week! 🙂

Lamia Ben

Working in a governmental agency: a year in review


Image courtesy: Dilbert.com

This post is a location-focused blog post and a result of personal reflections. If you think Moroccan governmental agencies are any different than the one I work in, please drop me a line, I’d be glad to push the discussion further.

 It’s been a year since I started working at a governmental agency. To be frank, the thought of working there has never crossed my mind. But with my PHD taking over my time, I had to switch from the hectic-private-sector lifestyle into a more measured environment where I can get more control over my time. It turned out to be a good compromise –considering my constraints. 

Most people think governmental jobs aren’t as challenging as the ones from the private sectors. The thing is, they are, just on different levels.  Working in a +6000 employees organization is definitely not a piece of cake, addressing the traditional paradigms and dealing with bureaucracies and office politics isn’t either… and the list can go on and on. 

As this year went by I have come to confirm some thoughts I had about public sector, refute others. But I believe a profound national discussion should be triggered in order to bring efficiency into the public workspace.

What I have learned since last year:

On collaboration: Collaboration is very scale-sensitive. The bigger the team, the more time it takes to collaborate. The more cross departmental the team is, the harder it is to work together… and expecting work to go faster while using rudimentary platforms is obviously delusional. 

On planning: There is nothing as frustrating as the fire-fighting phenomenon. Fire-fighters can go on days without having much to do, but once a fire breaks, urgency is the main trigger. In the workplace, I think this happen for 2 reasons:  Inaccurate planning and the illusion of urgency. And productivity is the number one victim. Working under constant stress can get things done faster but are they done well?

On Rationalizing spending: There are alternatives to proprietary software, there is proprietary software that can replace expensive proprietary software, and there are local consulting firms that would do a better job responding to your needs than the well-pronounced international consulting firms. Thinking about rationalizing the expenses of everyday choices has to become part of the process. And as the saying goes: you can find in a river what you can’t find in the sea.

 On sustainability: You cannot expect your employees to innovate if they’re worrying about fulfilling more basic needs. Harnessing employees’ engagement can only be a result of an effective HR strategy. Training your workforce isn’t an option anymore; it’s the only driver to better performance. Offering a less bureaucratic, less politically charged atmosphere is the basis of the organization’s sustainability. 

How I would love to see all this changing: (Pic: tweet about time travel and Intranet)

Collaboration platforms and Intranet 2.0: The traditional Intranet used solely to announce the organization’s latest press releases or the reorganization of some entity in a far away region is so Outdated! There is a solid business case for Intranet 2.0 and I can’t do a better job describing it than Oscar berg on his blog post : The business case for social Intranets

 Transparency: Beyond office politics, shady strategies etc., transparency has to be harnessed for it is what builds trust. And trust is a major ingredient for collaboration to succeed.  Better collaboration can only mean better performance.

 A more People – centric environment: Employees are not supposed to be cogs in a giant machine; they’re independent spirits, with ideas and insights that can greatly benefit the organization. Treating them as such is the only way to tap into the hidden and unbelievable power of collective knowledge. Breaking down silos (not all of them, at least some) between management and knowledge workers is essential to nurture innovation, and God knows how we desperately need that in public sectors.

As I’m writing these lines, I came across a very interesting article on HBR by Saul Kaplan: Confessions of an Accidental Bureaucrat. Saul brings out an interesting point: “I think there is much that the public and private sectors can learn from each other.”


Do you work in Private sector? What lessons do you think public sector can learn from you?

Lamia Ben

Sunday Fun : Winning at scrabble, the dirty way

I'm a huge fan of the Ignite Concept: "Enlighten us, but make it quick". Most presentations are simple, sticky, informative and mostly enjoyable. One of the first Ignite presentations I ever watched is Mehal Shah's "Fighting dirty in Scrabble". I'm no Scrabble Wizard but I sure have used some of those tips, yes, heavily and shamelessly. Here is the video, Enjoy and happy Sunday!

By the way, the upcoming Ignite Morocco will be held on October. I simply can't wait, make sure you get your places today!

Lamia Ben

Enterprise 2.0 reads – August 2010

Under the blazing sun of August, enterprise 2.0 experts and practitioners have been shining their brightest with great articles and insights. Here is a taste of what I think to be the most exquisite #e20 reads of last month: 

Enterprise 2.0: All Social Software is Not Created Equal 

Software for the business is, and should be, different from that offered in the consumer market. 
Today’s expectations are being set by the consumer market…The trouble is, the pace at which consumer’s expectations are changing is quick and vendors are constantly trying to keep up. 
Social business software has to empower employees, it needs to provide capabilities that seem almost natural to use because it helps get the job done, helps them work together and seems like a natural part of the process. 


When we read Semler we can’t say anything else than ‘Hey ! They’ve been 2.0 since the 90s”….and forget there is no mention of any tool in Semler’s story. Maybe they’re not using social media at all…because their culture makes it useless. Maybe they use social media but don’t even mention it because either they think culture and management is what matters and the rest comes with it, or that it’s so natural to use it in such a company that questioning social media’s relevancy is a waste of time.

The Evolving Social Organization

In complex environments, learning is much more than just a matter of structured knowledge acquisition. However, that is all that training enables. 

We know that informal learning happens all of the time but often the best answers or experts are not connected to the person with the problem. Social learning networks can address that issue by giving each worker a much larger group of people to help get work done.

As our work environments become more complex due to the speed of information transmission via ubiquitous networks, we need to adopt more flexible and less mechanistic processes to get work done…But the ability to deal with complexity lies in our minds, not our artificial organizational structures.

The business case for social intranets 

Most people will, if they’ don’t already, come to understand that a social intranet is not just about adding features such as blogs, wikis, activity feeds, social bookmarking and micro-blogging on top of a traditional intranet; it’s about rethinking the purpose of intranets with the intention of bringing the paradigm shift in how we communicate and collaborate.

Although the notion of social intranets is quite new, the business case for social intranets is anything but new. In fact, it has existed as long as there have been enterprises, and it’s growing stronger and stronger the more vital timely access to the right information and knowledge becomes for an enterprise in order to compete and thrive…

Don’t call it Enterprise 2.0  It doesn’t convey any message that revenues and profits will increase any time soon.
Don’t use the word ’social…most of [CEOs] believe that … [ a happy social life] is something best kept out of the office
Don’t emphasise the technical pointsMost CEOs do not want to hear about iPads or whether iPhone or Blackberry is better for accessing Twitter when traveling.  And if you descend into discussions about bandwidth, you’ll have lost them completely!

Other goodies:

Extensive List of over 30 Enterprise 2.0 Case Studies and Reports

“Dear IT Guy, Can You Actually Use the Tool You’re Creating?”

Lamia  Ben