#23 Rotterdam: Digitalisation or "Learning To Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable"

Episode 29 December 14, 2022 00:54:52
#23 Rotterdam: Digitalisation or "Learning To Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable"
Smart in the City – The BABLE Podcast
#23 Rotterdam: Digitalisation or "Learning To Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable"

Dec 14 2022 | 00:54:52


Hosted By

Tamlyn Shimizu

Show Notes

 In this episode, we dived into the topic of digitalization with Bas Boorsma, Chief Digital Officer of the city of Rotterdam, Netherlands, urban innovator, professor of practice at Thunderbird School of Global Management and author of A New Digital Deal.


Overview of the episode:

01:50 - Teaser: an inspiring quote from our guest

4:45 - What is Bas' background?

07:25 - Building on Bas' episode in the podcast 10 Lessons Learned ("Bas Boorsma - The Current Paradigm Shift: The Network Paradigm"): what is the #11 lesson that Bas has learned as CDO of Rotterdam?

09:30 - What needs to change within governments to drive the digital transition?

13:50 - Bas' book: A New Digital Deal

15:30 - What was a common conclusion that Bas heard from the 22 leaders he interviewed for his book?

17:35 - How is he using those insights in this role as CDO for the city of Rotterdam?

21:50 - "Keep your presumed friends close, and your presumed enemies closer." - Bas Boorsman

27:30 - Why do we need a "license to fail" on Smart City solutions?

29:11 - Examples of digital solutions being used poorly

33:15 - How do we put actions to words and go from conversations to implementations?

45:35 - Roll with the Punches: our guest answers this or that questions quickly, and with their first instincts 

49:00 - Ending Question: To you, what is a Smart City?


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Episode Transcript

Tamlyn Shimizu 00:00:06 Welcome to Smart in the City, the BABLE podcast where we bring together top actors in the smart city arena, sparking dialogues and interactions around the stakeholders and themes most prevalent for today's citizens and tomorrow's generations. I am your host Tamlyn Shimizu, and I hope that you'll enjoy this episode and gain knowledge and connections to drive the change for a better urban life. Smart in the city is brought to you by BABLE Smart Cities. We enable processes from research and strategy development to co-creation and implementation. To learn more about us, please visit the BABLE platform at bable-smartcities.eu. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:00:46 So, uh, yes, today I am sitting in one of my favorite cities, actually in the world, Amsterdam. And I'm going to let you all in on a conversation that I'm about to have with the Chief Digital Officer at the city of Rotterdam. Um, talking about all things digital and his wealth of knowledge and experience from the past 20 years or so, maybe longer, I don't know. We'll, we'll hear all about it. So, um, yes, so please give a warm welcome to Boz Bosma. Um, as I said, he's a CEO of Rotterdam. Um, he's also an urban innovator, a professor of practice at Thunderbird School of Global Management and staying busy, obviously. He's also the author of a new digital deal. Uh, I'm sure you are all interested as I am now to dig into his thoughts. So, uh, yeah, welcome to the show, buzz. Bas Boorsma 00:01:37 Thank you so much, Dan. It's tremendous to be part of this. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:01:41 I'm really excited for the conversation. We were just chatting before this and we can relate on so many different levels and I'm dying to, to get to know more. So without further ado, um, we're going to dive into some, uh, challenges in this episode, I'm sure talking a little bit more nitty gritty. Um, but I would like to start us off on a, a positive note. Um, so one of the podcast segments that we do here is one called Inspire Us. Very, uh, very lovely. So, um, we ask our guests for a story, a quote, or anything that has inspired you recently to keep going and keep motivated. Do you have something in mind? Bas Boorsma 00:02:23 Oh boy. You didn't even give me a chance to think about that <laugh> there as many that that come to mind. First of all, I think that one quote that I like to share with people I work with, colleagues, my students, is that if you are living in times of radical change, if you're living a design shift, learn to be comfortable at being uncomfortable. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:02:45 That's really good. Bas Boorsma 00:02:46 It is a wisdom that really should actually hang over your bed because if you are living a system shift, and I think we are, I think we do, I think we are living in times of a system shift, then you've got to accept that nothing in the future is gonna look like what it was in the past. You're gonna be uncomfortable and you've got to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:03:09 That's good. I, I wanna talk in this episode then about sometimes that you are uncomfortable, maybe. Um, cuz I feel like you're a person that's comfortable with everything. I don't know, you're just such a natural born like talker. You're very charismatic with everything. So what makes you com uncomfortable now? Bas Boorsma 00:03:24 What? Well, right now, right now, nothing at all except for the concern that someone might walk into this room and say, I've reserved this room, stuff like that, <laugh>, and that would upset our recording. That's the only thing that would actually have me uncomfortable right now. No, I, I can be very uncomfortable, but these are things that can typically be, uh, mitigated or you can predict them, you can see them happening, and the more you can see that, the more you can actually be comfortable at being uncomfortable. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:03:51 Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's really good advice. I think I'm actually starting this podcast, I think was a bit uncomfortable for me at the beginning, and now I've gotten so comfortable with it. It really doesn't take that long to start being comfortable with things that you are anxious about or uncomfortable. So you just gotta get over the first little hurdle, I think, and then move forward. So Bas Boorsma 00:04:10 <laugh>, and it's always like that. I think that's the source of energy. It's uh, it's like if you're going to keynote somewhere, you're like that one minute before you hit the stage, yeah, there is this sense of nerve, but you got to actually embrace it. It's got to become your friend, and then you're in the zone. And once you're in the zone, you've got that anxiety under control and it feeds you, it becomes positive. And that's, that's actually a nice, and Tamlyn Shimizu 00:04:36 You still get that with all your keynotes. You still, the little Bas Boorsma 00:04:39 That's healthy. I, Tamlyn Shimizu 00:04:40 That doesn't go away. I Bas Boorsma 00:04:41 Need it. I need that energy Tamlyn Shimizu 00:04:42 <laugh>. Okay, good to know. Good to know. So I, I I wanna give, um, also the listeners and I also want to know, um, your story, your background. Who are you, where did you come from and what drives you? Bas Boorsma 00:04:55 Well, that's, that's a tall question because I'm not that young anymore. I'm 53 years old. I was born in the Netherlands. I currently reside in the Netherlands. Um, uh, I started out my, my adult life, uh, going to university and taking the longest road to unemployment. Alan, I, I actually studied Asian history <laugh>, and, and while my prof professor said, are you absolutely confident you want to do this because the chances of you actually landing on the job are gonna be slim? Uh, but, but interestingly, I have obviously never, never, never been quiet. I never was without work in any point of my working life. Uh, I happened to have lived in Cambodia for three and a half years when the Civil War was still raging there. And I was part of United Nations mission and living there amidst violence efforts to maintain peacekeeping efforts that has completely reframed who I was as a person. Bas Boorsma 00:05:48 It actually contin provided me with the framework of values and ideas that took me further in life. It's got nothing to do with, with digital, nothing to do with cities, but it's a very important part of my life. Um, since then, since returning from Cambodia in the mid nineties, I was several jobs always with Asia and in, in, in the back of my mind, uh, working with various governments in Southeast Asia. Uh, and then nine 11 happened. And that changed my life quite a bit because all of my customers, or most of them just flipped. They said, you know, we've got a major crisis. No one was traveling. Nine 11 was followed by sars, the lung disease, like, um, COVID one, so to speak, <laugh>. And, and that again, cost me customers. And I ended up working in a digital space ever since. That was 2001, 21 years later. And it's always been urban innovation, digitalization and the incredible design shift that we're living. And that is the professional part. That's the professional story of my life. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:06:49 I love that story. I also relate to you a little bit because before I started with smart cities, I don't have, um, as much experience now the 20 years that you have now in the digital space, but before that, I was actually also working in, in Asia, in Central Asia, in Stan Oh, wow. In a different topic in women's education. Very so, and in very rural areas, not in cities. So, um, I flipped the switch a little bit, but I, I still carry those lessons with me. So I, I also relate with you on that. So Amazing. Bas Boorsma 00:07:20 That's an amazing story. Thank you for sharing. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:07:22 Yeah, yeah. Thank you for sharing. Um, so I, I would love to ask you, so, um, when, when I first met you in Copenhagen, you talk, you said, yeah, I love doing podcasts, let's do it. Um, and I love the enthusiasm, and you told me about a podcast that you did, um, where you outlined 10 lessons and that was like your favorite podcast to date. Um, hopefully now this one, you know, will be the favorite, but I'll share it, I'll share the title also. Um, but since then, I, I'm wondering, so that was about a year ago, I think that you That's Bas Boorsma 00:07:51 Correct. It's about one and a half years ago. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:07:53 And, um, so in the last one and a half years, could you tell us a number 11 lesson that you think you've learned in the last, in the last little bit, like a recent one? Bas Boorsma 00:08:03 Well, what has been very important is that I haven't been, uh, a CDO to the city of Rotterdam for that long. And so that one and a half years as biologic correspondent with that same time. And what I have learned is, first of all, that so many people that do not work for public sector, they take kind of a dim view as to what people in public sector do. And there's a kind of idea that people in public sector somehow work less hard than in private sector. And what I've really discovered how that's not the case, I've actually come to admire the persistence, the resilience, the hard work that so many people put in, in, in, in, in, in public sector. Public sector is simply also a very, very challenging environment. Or it can be where it's sometimes very difficult to deliver on the things where you as a person or as a team want to deliver on, perhaps more so than in private sector. Sometimes the output is just difficult to arrive at. But I've come to be, you know, really, really impressed with what I've seen in, in, in public sector. Uh, at the same time, uh, I got reinforced in some of my beliefs that public sector is partially broken and that we actually need to rethink how we actually implement those urban innovations, what process to that looks like, and how we can best work with local and regional and potentially national public sector entities to get the job done, because we have an enormous job ahead of us. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:09:30 That's definitely true. What are the main things that you think needs to change then with government? What's broken and how do we fix it? Bas Boorsma 00:09:39 Well, I think that the entire governance and the way things are organized are, are, are simply, um, not up to the job. If, if coming back to parliamentary democracy itself, having an open indirect tation model, you know, that has like a 2, 200, 250 year type of background. And it, and it was born in, in a, in a time when people, you know, shied away from long distances. You know, if you'd live in, in, in Maryland and you'd have to go to Washington, DC or you know, then, or Virginia and Washington DC or, or, or you'd live in ENT and Netherlands have to come out to the ha you know, those distances were very, very real. They were very substantial. And therefore, indirect representation was obviously fantastic. That, was that the best way to actually run a democracy? I don't think that's, that, that that's the case anymore. Bas Boorsma 00:10:30 Also, I think that people are well informed. They got all of these sources of information, and people don't wanna be bullied into some type of a corner anymore. People are out there with their opinion. You've got to he that opinion. So you need different tools to work with all of these changes and, and, and, and, and government in general has been very, very slow to adapt to those new circumstances for sure. Uh, another thing I think is that if you look at the major transitions that our communities are facing across the globe, you know, from Nepal to Peru, then let's say circular economy, digitalization, uh, energy transition, climate change in general, if you think of all of these major transitions, then there is hardly ever a department that is super just completely mandated to run either one of them, let alone connect them. You've got economic affairs, you've got, uh, citizen services. Bas Boorsma 00:11:27 These are the typical type of silos within which it's been organized, which means that even if you've got groups of people that have their own quiet pockets to work on these innovations, that they may or may not be taken fully serious, and they're sitting in, you know, their little part of a silo somewhere half mandated. And that's something that can simply no longer be the case. It's two to 12 when it comes to climate change. We are facing a mass extinction level event. What's the right term? I always forget how it's exactly called. But we are really on the edge. We have no time. We have no time to lose, and we got to get ourselves organized to be much more on the game, to actually deliver on the solutions that we need. Which means we need a much more of a moonshot scenario in terms of how we actually drive innovation forward, how we orchestrate the governance around that, how we much public and private sector and investors in academia, not just in the typical, uh, quadruple helix models as we like to propose it to, let's say the European Commission. Bas Boorsma 00:12:26 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, because that becomes a politically correct thing. No, now, serious, how do we reorganize that? How do we get our act together because local government is not up to the job? And then final point, I find that still most people working in so many government entities are somewhat on the senior side. They're not old. I am not gonna put on that label on them <laugh>, but there's a lot of people that have been in that role forever. And what I think is what I see for my own students, I admire them. I, I admire my students because they are somehow somewhere more up to the job. They just look at complexity. They look at interdisciplinary challenges and issues in a fresh way, much more dynamic. Their ability to collaborate, you know, they, they have, they have grown up in an internet, uh, centric era. They, they think differently, they design differently, they collaborate differently. So there is no more, there's no more time for a general traditional generational handover of power. We need people both young and old in that boardroom and not to kind of have the quintessential workshop. Let us tell you what we do. No, we need them at, you know, the decision making points. We need intergenerational teams that are gonna solve these challenges together. Government is nowhere close to getting organized Yeah. In that way. And we need it. And we need it now. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:13:48 That's, yeah. You, you touched on so many points there that I resonate so much with, honestly, that, um, this urgency that we have. Um, do you write about some of these topics in your Bas Boorsma 00:14:00 Book? I do. I do. The, the, the one thing is my book is about digital. First of all, it's, it, it talks about a new digital deal where I think that's the whole idea that we need to do so much more in order to make digitalization work for us in a way that we want it. And that is best for humanity. That just following, you know, the next levels of technological changes is not good enough. I always say, you know, you can choose, you can be in that wild river in a canoe, and you can either decide to be in that canoe with a pedal or without a panel, without a pedal. You're gonna crush into something at one point, and then it's gonna be bad. Or you're gonna say, well, I'm gonna navigate this. And for that, we need a plan. However, there's another component to the book, and which really brings together the other transition journeys. Bas Boorsma 00:14:47 Digitalization is not just about digitizing a few more things, bringing in some more technology. It's about a design shift. It's about doing things more distributed and moving away from the old centralized way of organizing things, which is something, quite frankly, that we inherited from the previous industrial revolutions. We must embrace these new designs, distributed designs in order to organize ourselves better, design better, but also to think of how we actually tackle, uh, um, uh, energy management better, for instance. And those designs which have really been afforded to us by, uh, digital are gonna be critical if humanity is survive, is to survive. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:15:31 Yeah. Um, you also interview, I think, 22 different leaders within your book, right? Um, what were the commonalities that really like, spoke to you were, was it these topics that you're talking about now? Or is there something else that you want to highlight that you were like, wow, everyone, all of these leaders are saying the same thing, they're all leading us in the same direction, or were they all like different points? What was your experience with that? Bas Boorsma 00:15:58 Well, there were certainly a number of commonalities. The, the, the, one of the most important things, I think, is that everyone felt that there is a need to actually arrive at a new digital deal. That actually this is not, you know, if we want to harvest the best of digitalization affords, then we've got to actually come up with a plan. You, you just leaving it just, you know, by itself is, is not gonna get us there. And with that comes a sense of urgency and responsibility and accountability. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and I remember one particular person stating it most eloquently, uh, but it kind of resonated with the others. And it kind of lined up with one of other people were saying, what a lot of other leaders were saying is that this person was saying, there's a lot of people that feel we're moving too fast with all of this technological change. Bas Boorsma 00:16:47 And I think he said, I think we're not moving fast enough. We got to make a much larger effort to educate, to have everyone on board. We've got to actually embrace those design shift much faster if we want to get where we need to be. Uh, we've got to move much faster if we are not going to arrive at the next series of what is going to be much more complex digital divides, because those digital devices are gonna hurt. They hurt today. If you don't address them, they're gonna hurt more tomorrow. And they become more complex. So I I, I completely, I completely second that. I, that that is a, a great point of view. That point of view. I heard echoed in various other interviews, people that I did interview for the book Indeed. And, and, and it's, it's a great call out. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:17:35 Yeah. And, and how are you, so you have all these, um, great ideas and theories and all of this great input from these leaders. How are you using that now in your role at Rotterdam? Bas Boorsma 00:17:47 Well, I, in several ways. So it's great to have to be rich and vision. Um, um, um, but you obviously need to follow up on that in terms of actual practical stuff. You know, if you have vision without actual practical implementation, then you're living a daydream. I would also say in people that, that would argue that, you know, we can be too little bit too much on the philosophical, visionary side. If you have action without that type of vision and philosophy, you are having a nightmare. So, you know, we need to be somewhere between the daydream and the nightmare and implement and make sure that the balance is out there. I I, I think one of the things that I is important is to continue to educate people around you and to have people understand that, that the transition that we are experiencing and that we're having right now, what I call digitalization is not the same as digitization. Bas Boorsma 00:18:43 Digitization is going from analog to, uh, to digital. And we've been doing that for like, the past 40 years. Like, say, a library archive, having more computers on people's desks. A lot of people still think that digital is all about that. I'm saying, no, digitalization is about the design shift and this, these are some of the examples, how this is gonna affect you. And then there is projects. I mean, if I look at my own work in Rotterdam of the past, uh, the past, uh, the past one and a half years, it's all been about education. It's how do we actually bridge those digital divide and plural digital divides. How do we bridge those? How can we bring in not, how can we stop trying to do this just by ourselves, but leverage partnerships much better in order to get us where we need to be? Bas Boorsma 00:19:31 And we just recently announced such a partnership with some very large, uh, corporates. One very big tech company that are sitting on great curriculum, great content, making that available for 15,000 workers in the port area of Rotterdam. You know, that's, that's fantastic partnership. That's the way to go. But obviously we got great schools in Rotterdam and that, that, that collaborate in all of this. How do we push this? How do we address the 50, the 55 plus year old group of society? How do we bring upskilling to them? Um, what does that mean? Uh, how, what does it mean to actually rethink our, our, our, our, our thoughts around digital rights? Because we need to have those in place. Obviously there are great international charters. I however, do not believe there is one size fits all. So what does a digital rights charter look like that has been made for, by and on and, and for the benefit of the city of Rotterdam? Bas Boorsma 00:20:30 And, and, and so all of these things have been on our desk, have been worked on. We are actually producing, there are great results of them. Uh, other, other things have been, um, elementary is what does digital inclusion look like for tomorrow? What's happening today and what should we be focusing on tomorrow in order to ensure we're not just solving today's problem without thinking what tomorrow's problem is gonna be? And to find that that problem is gonna be much larger. So the entire set of teams that we've been working on in the city of Roam have been focused on topics like these with actual concrete output. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:21:07 Wow. Big questions that you're asking and hopefully getting some answers. But it seems so, um, there just seems so, such big questions like where do you start? You know, how do you figure out where to start on some of these big questions? Because you can ask these massive questions and, um, it's hard sometimes to bring it to the ground, right? And say, okay, this is, this is the roadmap of where we need to go to get to some answers to those questions. What, how do you frame that? How do you work that out when you're doing these processes? Bas Boorsma 00:21:40 Well, there, first of all, you, you, you got to allow yourself to fail up to a significant point, which is difficult in public sector. In public sector, there is generally no license to fail. Yeah. And you've got to simply build that license to fail for yourself. And actually, you know, come up with a warning to people around, you know, this may blow up in your faces, just you'd be aware. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:21:59 Politicians don't like that. No, Bas Boorsma 00:22:01 Politicians don't like that. But then mind you, those that need to actually respond on Wall Street on quarterly numbers don't like things blowing up in their faces either. Yeah. So big tech can be very, very wary of innovations that they don't fully control. So, you know, on all sides, we see this issue, but you, you can actually create this, this, you know, your own license to fail up to a point. So that's one. The second thing is, is to do proper design thinking and whatever you do, and this is being kind of a, a, a fancy thing to say as of recent, you know, everyone is talking about design thinking. It's not the magic bullet, but it is a critical ingredient in terms of designing your policies, uh, solutions, uh, business architectures, technology architectures, understanding what does purpose look like? What is it you're actually trying to do? Bas Boorsma 00:22:51 Check your own assumptions. Don't fear to go back to the drawing board, not just once, not just twice, but perhaps 10 times. Bring in, um, your potential future enemies. You know, keep your, to quote to godfather. Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer because whether it's cybersecurity or those nasty ambassadors of data ethics and so many others, it could potentially be your enemy. Bring them in early into your design stages of what you do, because they will actually collaborate with you. They will enjoy being part of the process. And once you get that going as a collaborative exercise, boy, you're so much better set up for success. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then obviously there's always the question of the financials, the budget. But here is my, my my my conviction. Obviously there are things which are typically directly into the realm of public sector, and you need to, to create budget. Bas Boorsma 00:23:46 However, there are so many things where, you know, as a city and sm municipality, you are going to somehow potentially co-invest in what's being created, but be mindful that so many other first users, uh, anchor tenants of whatever you're gonna create may actually be other entities than yourself. Which means that as a municipality, not necessarily do you have to be the buying center. Perhaps you could be a modest buying center or a first tenant to whatever is being created, but just make sure that you're mindful of the other roles that you could actually embrace as local government. That could involve, that could be you, you are the neutral orchestrator, or the, you know, the traditional regulator role, but also as a co-investor. And I'm personally Dublin, I'm a huge fan of, of Mariana Masu Kato's, uh, uh, mission economy thinking, because government has taken up that role as an investor, as a risk taker in the past. Bas Boorsma 00:24:45 And Mayana Masuka in her book, you know, often looks at the Apollo program going to the moon, where government obviously took up a risk in making all of that happen because the market didn't exist. The same with the internet. Go back to arpanet, that was government funded. Even, uh, even, uh, uh, uh, uh, um, uh, Mr A vaccines. I mean, that, that is really, that, that, that came out of DARPA type of investments. Government funded. So government can rethink, rediscover what its role can be as an investor, but also as a collaborator of a larger ecosystem where these things happen. And the element of mastery is for anyone that sits in that CDL role to figure out how you bring that together. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:25:29 Mm. That's really powerful. And I, I, I've actually never heard the government as an investor been said before. And I, and I was just thinking when you said that, I was like, why have I never heard that before? Because the government has this, has this power to, to do that, but I've never heard it before. So thank you for that. Um, I actually was going to ask you too, cuz I saw your article, um, that was talking about the friends close, but your, well actually in the article, I think you said keep your presumed friends close, um, but keep your presumed enemies closer. Um, well, can you touch on that? Like why presumed Bas Boorsma 00:26:08 Because, um, there are so many people that will just start out some innovation initiative with a, with a lot of assumptions and also assumptions can touch on so many things. And, um, a lot of those assumptions may end up being wrong. Any people that's been in the startup business knows this. They know that, you know, they've got a great dream and they're sitting on a bunch of unchecked assumptions, and that's all you've got. So if that's your starting point, then also as a government official or as a c or as an innovation leader in the urban innovation space, you're going to have have to check what are your assumptions? Well, these, this is my circle of my friends. This is a circle of my enemies. Well check because those people that will claim that they're gonna be your friend, that they're gonna be the big investor, that they're going to, you know, have you believe that their PowerPoint and what they will deliver for your city are going to be true. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> check. Again, some of the best and biggest tech companies can be so drunk on their own Kool-Aid that they actually don't know that they cannot deliver on their PowerPoint. Whereas at the same time, you may find that those that you consider your presumed enemies are actually those that could potentially help you in particular faces of what you're doing, go through that process with the highest degree of honesty that you can possibly bring to the table. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:27:30 Yeah, good advice. Um, I also wanted to touch back on your point about, um, the license to fail. Because I, I, I also wanted to tell you, I was in housing book, um, in, in the spring and I was talking with a lot, the team there is doing amazing things, so shout out to them. Um, and they were telling me that they have, um, they have an award ceremony for the biggest fail. Um, and, and so they actually have created this culture at this license to fail. Um, do you guys also have a, an award for the <laugh> for the biggest fail in Rotterdam or anything like Bas Boorsma 00:28:07 That? We, we don't, we don't talin, but Tamlyn Shimizu 00:28:09 You can bring it to them <laugh>. Bas Boorsma 00:28:11 But, but here's the dream that I've been having. I mean, having been in this space for 20 years, I'm a little bit fed up with all of the Smart city conferences. There's just too much of it. And, and, and, and I've been organizing a number of those throughout all of those years myself also. Yeah. Um, but I've promised myself that there is one thing that I would love to organize, you know, perhaps you're familiar with the format of the fuck up nights, sorry for my French, think up. That works. Right? <laugh>. So, so I would love to have a fuck up nights on Smart City solutions and where people just come to stage with, you know, radical honesty and have everyone laugh and join into the fun in terms of how they fail. To me that would be just Marvels. I would love to organize one of those. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:28:48 Let's do it. I will help you. All right. Bas Boorsma 00:28:50 Cool deal. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:28:51 Let's do it together. Yeah. Urban Future Conference has, has that night, you know, um, and they're gonna be in Stu Art, uh, next year as well. So in our town. So you'll have to come. Very cool. Maybe you can also, uh, well we're, we're collaborating with them, so, uh, maybe we can make that happen there, actually. So. Wow. That's cool. Um, yeah. So, uh, yeah, lots of amazing things. I, in your obviously very, very knowledgeable about all these digital solutions, and that's in your role at Radom. But I'm also wondering, so, um, was there a time when you saw digital solutions being used, but, um, analog was really the way to go? Like what? Have you seen digital solutions been used really poorly, basically? Bas Boorsma 00:29:38 Oh, yes. All of the time. <laugh>, all of the, the time. I mean, there's, there's so many. Um, for instance, when when, when the internet of things angled to smart cities really got serious, you know, that we go back, you need to go back like about 10 years, roughly 2012, 2013. This is when people started to debate this in earnest. And at the time I was working at Cisco and we worked on the Barcelona engagement, and we had all of these things like smart bus stops and SmartWay solutions. And I remember talking to the, the den mayor of Barcelona and the deputy mayor, and like several years later when I got to write my book, the, uh, the man who then used to be the deputy mayor when we launched that collaboration in Cisco, at Cisco with Cisco in Barcelona, um, said, look, you, we had that smart way solutions. Bas Boorsma 00:30:30 And, and, and it never really worked because I actually sat down with one of those drivers. We did the tour of picking up the ways they were sitting with those iPads, and it was just impractical. It didn't work. And to actually have the sensor in every waist bin was never necessary because by having a fair sample of waist bins with a sensor, you would get enough data to actually build smart algorithms based on the historic data. You would already have a great pickup round. So it's just one of those little examples of where you see it being used poorly. Another thing is, uh, another that comes out that classic smart city portfolio solution is smart parking. And as I also wrote many times, is, uh, smart parking and the way it's being offered to us right now, you know, where you go in and there's a place where you discover in, in a downtown area and you look it and you go there. Bas Boorsma 00:31:20 That is a fantastic 21st century solution for a 20th century problem. Because if you think of it down the road, parking the way we do is simply not going to happen in the ways we do it and not in the quantity that we do it. Think of a fully automated car driverless, and it's going to be publicly owned, or you don't need to be the owner, but whatever. You have arrived at your destination and you say, go <laugh>, you can go to the outskirts of town. You are, there is no more need for you and parking is for free. There's like a huge facility where all of those cars can go. That means that all of those inner city areas, those very ugly parking lots and parking garages can be used for very green type of angles. It can be used for local businesses. They, it's, it's a rethink in terms of urban, urban planning and, and, and spatial planning just by thinking of parking in that direction. Bas Boorsma 00:32:15 What I'm saying is to, is an answer to your question is not is that just an evolved way of parking vehicles a slightly more smart, but this is where you really allowed your organization and your planning to be infused by the design think shift. The, the design shift that's happening as a consequence of digital, which is those cars don't all need to be at a centralized place. They can actually be distributed and go away. We're in the middle of that revolution because people are still trying to kind of get used to this massive design shift. And, and a lot of people are not clearly not aware of this design shift happening, but because of that not being sufficiently happening, people are thinking of great solutions, but those great solutions are being used in a very old school way. And that's really probably not the way to to, to help our cities best. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:33:10 Really great examples. I I, I love asking that question because there's a lot of people on, I talk to a lot of people that are smart city like fanatics, right? And then they also talk to people that are quite critical of smart cities as well. I, I, of course fall somewhere in between, I hope, um, in that I want to show what digital solutions and what technologies can do and innovation, um, but also show the ways that it can go wrong so that people are aware and educated about and takes a very practical approach to, to implementing technologies in cities. So, um, I I also really want to touch again on your point about, um, you're tired of the smart city conferences. Um, and I actually have this in my notes that I want to ask you about this, um, that I feel like we both go to a lot of events and conferences and things like that. And one thing that I've noticed again and again, is talking about the same topics over and over again. Um, and I'm just wondering from your perspective, is it just talk to you now, like how do we move, um, from how, how do we move, how do we put pin to paper and actions into and actions towards, like, how do we really go from these conversations to implementations faster actually making these solutions happen? Bas Boorsma 00:34:36 Well, I think there's a lot of reframing that needs to be done. One of the points is that actually really don't like the term smart city. And I've mentioned that a lot of time for those people that know me and or that have read my stuff. You know, I don't like the term because smart. What is smart exactly. And cities, well, cities are cool, but not necessarily do we always want to focus on cities, you know, that also would be creating a new digital divide, you know, by leaving out countryside. So that's one thing we need, need to shift the framing of it a little bit. The second thing is that a lot of things that become not so smart because they become normal, don't receive the same hype. So things that were pitched 10 years ago and that were really novel at the time simply become regular, regular applications and solutions that become mainstream. Bas Boorsma 00:35:21 No one is, you know, having like, uh, drinking any Kool-Aid on that topic anymore. <laugh>, if you think of like, say a multiple smart energy solutions for buildings 10 years ago they were hot. Now they're just mainstream. We're not going to see them at at, at the, the World expo in Barcelona because they're mainstream. So in that sense, all of these smart city debates are always sitting on the innovative edge. And they're sitting, you know, they, they hopefully they can be addressing the next thing, but people are always waiting for smart cities to happen. And you should actually go back and say, what is it that we were proposing 10, 15 years ago? And then to then find out that actually many of those things did mature. It just didn't happen in two years. It took like 15 years. Yeah. And, and, and a lot of things come down not to solutions becoming better solutions, but it change of culture. Bas Boorsma 00:36:10 And I think it, I think it was pizza Drucker who said, you know, culture has strategy for breakfast and culture changes per generation. It doesn't change per quarter. Yeah. So, you know that that is simply a fact and it takes time to, to to, to get it to that point last, I think, and that's another point of where we need to reframe. We need to get out of the solutions mindset. Um, uh, I don't do this frequently, but I will for this time, quote former President Richard Nixon, who once said, you know, solutions are not necessarily the answer <laugh>. And, and, and, and, and that's, it really applies to this space. Um, you've got to actually look at the problem, not the solution. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, and, and, and for startups, people that wanna build a business in the urban innovation space, do not try to think of a solution. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:37:01 Mm-hmm. <affirmative> Bas Boorsma 00:37:02 Not a month one, not a month two of your startup. Not even in the six, first six months of what you're trying to do, just study the problem. Another quote Einstein who said, if I need to come up and solve something, I'm gonna study the problem and I've got one hour to do it. I will use 55 minutes to study the problem and then five minutes to actually build the solution. Why don't we actually take that as a starting point for our mindsets new urban innovation space. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that's the thing to do. And it also goes back to the smart city space being a deeply undemocratic type of industry. Who is checked with citizens in the first place, whether they like it, does this actually talk to their needs? No. We don't need another group of, of, of, of founder, of a startup that have fallen in love with their own technology. No, we need to actually study the problems. Yeah. The problems in the neighborhoods, the, the, the climate change related challenges and then solve them. We can, we've got the minds. We've got the, the, the, the, the brilliance of so many old and young folks. We've got the money, we've got the methodologies. We can get there, we can solve our gravest problems, but we need to have a shift in terms of how we approach that. And the current ways being approached in the smart city space is not very effective. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:38:16 Yeah, I agree. I totally agree. And, um, we have this debate internally as well, also with Bob Smart Cities. We cannot come up with a, with a, with a better term right now. Uh, we have this debate all the time, cuz a lot of us also don't like this term, but it's just the most generally accepted term is the problem. So we'll talk more about that soon. Um, I just want to give you the floor now. Um, you've talked about really great topics, um, but you're so passionate about many different topics and I I always like to give the floor to people like you. Um, I actually, most of my interviewees are very passionate about topics. So, um, is there anything else that you really want to say today that you haven't gotten the opportunity? Bas Boorsma 00:39:02 Well, there are things that are so much in my heart Yeah. And on my mind that I have frequently shared, but that are really worth resharing. And I'm very passionate about. I mean, in, in the, in the past, in, in the past several minutes of you and me discussing where we are with the urban innovation space, I have been stressing how we're in the middle of a design shift. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But there's two points to that design shift. One is we are living that design shift. We're going from a centralized way of being organized, central government, central inoculation programs, centralized time zones, centralized retirement schemes, things that we did not have before. Our previous old industrial revolutions, centralized modes of production, Henry Ford, I mean, all of that centralized to make way for dramatically networked distributed ways of organizing things. And that gives us that, that, that is a challenge, but it also gives an opportunity to actually solve things that we cannot solve through the old, centralized way of organizing things. Bas Boorsma 00:40:08 And I think the entire climate change challenge that we are facing is a pointing case. Um, we, we, we, we will need to rethink how we collaborate to my earlier points and how government operates and how it can, how it can team together. I'm a big fan of something that's still very experimental, but it's called the, the Dow, the distributed autonomous organization, which essentially takes on a very cooperative structure. It can be a legal entity like in Europe, you would have the, uh, uh, uh, uh, think they typically use the French term for it. The, uh, uh, uh, um, cooperative, innovative, uh, European, uh, associate innovative. Uh, and, and the idea being that you have a commercial way of organizing a cooperative and, and actually organize yourself that way. But what a Dow does on top of that is that everything has been fully digitalized you from the dashboarding, the, the, the tokenization of the different value that people bring within that environment. Bas Boorsma 00:41:09 So now you can have like, let's say a startup accelerator, uh, invent build program where you bring in investors. Were you bringing startups where you bring in expertise and everyone is somewhere in that university. You can see exactly. Highly transparently. So what value each and everyone is bringing now, now we're getting somewhere now we're starting to organize differently. The same for how we organize democracy, the new tools that we need to actually keep democracy alive because our old tools are simply not up to the job. Look at the pushback that we see with regard to democratically elected governments. People are no longer trusting the institutes. People are pushing back and we need to have different tools for which people can partner, involve themselves, share their points of view. And I think the only way to do that is just to do that dramatically networked and distribute it and actually tokenize whatever we can tokenize, you know, dashboard stuff. Bas Boorsma 00:42:05 And to make, do have this go all the way. This is I think something that a lot of people will need to get used to, and it's not going to work from day one, but this is the shift that we're living and it's, I'm sure that it's part of the toolbox of solutions and tools that we're gonna need to fix our futures. Um, uh, so I, I, I think that's something I'm very passionate about. Another thing, and I'm really gonna get very, very philosophical now, right up wonderful. To the point of, of it almost being spiritual. You know, have you once observed a large group of birds up in the air, like a thousand birds mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And the sun is almost setting, and it's one of those beautiful summer evenings and you're observing this group of birds and they collectively decide to flip suddenly to the right or to the left. Bas Boorsma 00:42:56 And it's been scientifically proven that the time that is required for the bird to observe that the bird to their left is about to flip, process that information in their own brain, and then to move that into, turn that into action and flipping themselves cannot be attributed by actually going through that regular observing. It's in my brains now. And I make that move. They would always be too slow. What typically those birds actually get into is kind of a biosphere consciousness or a group consciousness. They, they get to that level where they, where they operate. When I look at younger generations of people that concern themselves with climate change, I observe biosphere consciousness. These people do not have to explain to each other that they're, that we're in deep trouble. That we're really, seriously in deep trouble. They seem to be completely aligned. They carry that sense of collective urgency. Bas Boorsma 00:43:55 You know, as a group, as a team, this is where we can and need to go to all of us. We're young or old. We need to actually get into that mode of biosphere consciousness. What can you do about it? Well, first of all, let go of the most centralized ways of organizing yourself. Get into more network patterns of getting organized. This is where I think the network paradigm, this massive shift we're having is not just a technical thing. And it's not just an easy pattern of being organized, although it is an actual physical design. But it even comes down to how your brains are framed to collaborating, to communicating right to the level where you could say, this is becoming a spiritual thing. And that's fascinating because imagine that because of the challenges that we face, the sense of urgency, that design shift that we're living, we're getting to a point where we're actually better connected as a species that that would be an up for humanity. So rather than being dark about gloomy, about all the things, there are things that I'm seeing, again, this is a very philosophical and spiritual type of comment or observation, but this is, this is what I hope is Jew for humanity. This is where I hope that some of our technologically driven designs and rethinks will get us to, that we're actually shaping up better as human beings, not as robots. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:45:19 Wow. You just blew my mind buzz with your, with that analogy and everything. I, I, I really, really love that. I, I wish I could talk to you for, for ages now about all of these topics, really, sincerely. But, um, I think, uh, we, we have to wrap up soon, but, um, now we move on to one, uh, of our fun segments. Um, and then I just have one more question and then we're, we're done, unfortunately. But, um, are you ready to play a little game? Bas Boorsma 00:45:47 Uh, depends on what game you had in mind, <laugh>, but I'll pro I'll promise to be comfortable at being uncomfortable. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:45:52 Okay, good. It's very easy. Don't worry. Um, it is called Roll With the punches. Speaker 4 00:46:00 Roll with the punches, answer this or that questions quickly and with your first instincts. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:46:10 Okay. Sure. Um, and then at the end you can explain your answers if you need. Okay. But we'll just go quickly to it. Um, alright. Past or future? Bas Boorsma 00:46:20 Future Tamlyn Shimizu 00:46:21 Connected cities or resilient cities. Bas Boorsma 00:46:23 Resilient cities. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:46:24 Smart cities or Smart communities? Bas Boorsma 00:46:26 Smart communities. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:46:27 Academia or government. <laugh>. Ah, that's, Bas Boorsma 00:46:31 I can't do that one. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:46:32 <laugh>. That's mean. Bas Boorsma 00:46:33 Right? I will probably go for Tamlyn Shimizu 00:46:35 Academia. Okay. Living labs are innovation Bas Boorsma 00:46:38 Districts. Innovation Tamlyn Shimizu 00:46:39 Districts. The Netherlands or Arizona. <laugh>. Bas Boorsma 00:46:42 That's unfair. <laugh>. No, I'll have to sign off my home country because it's given me so much Tamlyn Shimizu 00:46:47 <laugh>. I, I I I tried to throw it a few, um, a few kickers for you. Um, just, just special for you. Do you want to explain any of your answers? Bas Boorsma 00:46:56 Well, the one, the ones that are really difficult, I mean, connected cities and, and, and resilient cities. We need to be resilient. We need to learn how to be resilient, amids, all of these changes that we're dealing with. Connected is just being a tool. I mean, it's, it's, it could be a state of being, which is again, going back to the philosophical, philosophical component. But I prefer to say, what's the outcome here? And we need to be resilient. So that's one. Another that was stuff is Arizona versus the Netherlands. And again, Netherlands is my home country. That's where I'm from. But there's a piece of me that has fallen in love with Arizona so dramatically. I love the landscape. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I love the beauty of what is called a desert. I don't really quite think it's a desert cuz it's so alive. It can be so alive in Arizona. Uh, but it's, it's so beautiful. But the other hand, there is also a piece of darkness in my mind when I watch Arizona. Cuz I see what Mars was probably like <laugh> so many millions of years ago. And it's such a dead planet right now. Yeah. And, and this is where we could end up being. So that is always when I, and I love hiking. And when I'm out hiking in Arizona, that's, that's also the dark point that comes up in my mind. Um, uh, what else was there? Tamlyn Shimizu 00:48:04 Um, uh, academia or government? You had a hard time with that Bas Boorsma 00:48:08 One. <laugh>. Yeah. So because, because Tamlyn Shimizu 00:48:09 You Bas Boorsma 00:48:10 Need both. I've been, I've, I've been really on this topic of urban innovation from almost any possible angle. Startup, big tech, Cisco, uh, government, uh, network organizations. Think act thanks. European projects I've had, I've seen it from all. And I, I, I don't belong in one of those brackets. I fundamentally believe that we can actually make our city smart and do the right thing for our communities by being interdisciplinary, not just as teams, but in our own beings, in our own minds. We need to be interdisciplinary in what we do. So I, I wouldn't cast myself as an academia. I certainly wouldn't cast myself as government. I'm way too entrepreneurial for that <laugh>. And, and so it's, it's, it's, it's really a mix. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:48:52 Yeah. Yeah. <laugh>, I can see that in you for sure. That's that. I, I knew that one would, uh, would trip you up, so that's why I threw it in there. Um, good. Uh, now is just the last question. It's a question we ask every single guest that comes on, and we've already touched on it. So now I'm interested to see where you take this. Um, it's the question of, to you, what is a smart city? Bas Boorsma 00:49:14 Um, after 20 years, I'm ever less able to come up with a good answer to Tamlyn Shimizu 00:49:20 <laugh>. It Bas Boorsma 00:49:20 Gets harder. It's, it's getting harder. And right to the point it's already mentioned that I really don't like the term for the reasons already mentioned. Uh, to me as smart city is a city which, um, leverages the best of their citizens, the creativity of their citizens, the best of all stakeholders, the best of technology, the best of new designs and old designs, to arrive at a community or a city as a series of communities that is resilient, that is happy mm-hmm. <affirmative> and that this, you know, getting ready for the future and looks at the future with a sense of comfort and a sense of trust and confidence. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:50:01 Good answer. Good answer. Yeah. I, I we can debate the topic of smart cities all the, I also prefer, I, I've noticed you've been using urban innovation and I also personally use that a lot that term as well because, but um, I also wanna, the other reason why I don't like it is because of this, um, the focus is shifting away from cities onto, um, well, the focus is still on cities, but also expanding to focus on regions, smaller places. Um, in the uk they like to say smart places. Um, what do you think, is there a better term? Bas Boorsma 00:50:35 To me it's just cities. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:50:37 Just cities. Bas Boorsma 00:50:37 Just look, let's say, let's just say that in the year 1900, the city of Detroit would have kind of picked up its bragging rise for having so much electrified parts of towns and factories, you know, and have come up with a label for themselves. Detroit Electric City, that would've been so silly a hundred years later. Let's dump the title. It's just about cities. And do the right thing in the face of the incredible opportunities and challenges that we face. Yeah. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:51:06 That's it. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, we'll, we'll consider it. So we're trying to think of these things right now at Bob, like how do we, how do we really communicate about what we're doing? Right? Yeah. So it's great input. Um, do you have any last words? Bas Boorsma 00:51:19 I do have last words. Uh, that is that, uh, you're the first official channel to communicate. I'll be leaving the city of Rotterdam. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:51:26 Oh, wow. Okay. <laugh>. Bas Boorsma 00:51:28 Now I've got you saying now, now you shot me being uncomfortable. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:51:33 People always do this to me. I've had No, no. I've had multiple, uh, podcast episodes where they, they told me either immediately after that they were leaving the role or, um, yeah, actually immediately after. I've never had someone do it in the podcast though. So that's the first. Um, so what's next? Are you, you keeping on the education side, or, or Bas Boorsma 00:51:51 What? So first of all, I love the city of Rotterdam. It's given me an incredible opportunity and something that I always aspire to do. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And to have served the city as its Chief digital officer, I felt was an amazing, amazing opportunity. Yeah. And, and it will always be with me. I will also continue to do a lot of things with and for the city of Rotterdam, and I look forward to that future. Uh, I also think that there are particular, uh, policies taken, uh, which are not necessarily in line with what I believe in. And as a ceo, I need to be able to carry the full weight of what a sitting, uh, you know, incumbent, uh, city government wants and how it takes further. But there, there's another PO component in ta. That's what I want to do. Uh, I, I think I can be like using about 30% percent of my time talent and, and, and, and energy within local government in, in order to achieve what needs to be achieved. Bas Boorsma 00:52:43 I think I can simply more effective and in some other spaces. And it's a combination of all the things that I've done in about 20 years. So I look forward to be building a distributed, autonomous organization that's really gonna be specialized in urban innovation, that's going to co-invest, that is going to build startups, that's going to really take on challenges from the cities that we work with, get their problems and build businesses on top of that to get into an advisory mold across the world also. But also to bring senior and young talent together and have a database, no, not a database, a community of talent intergenerational that we can actually put to work in a places where it's needed most. And it's going to be a lot more, but these are some of the highlights of what we're going to build. I'm doing it with a lot of partners and I'm excited about where this is going to Tamlyn Shimizu 00:53:32 Go. I'm excited too to hear, hear about it in the future, and hopefully be a part of some of the things that you're working on. So all the best to you and all of your endeavors. I'm very excited for you on your next chapter. Uh, it's not really, yeah, I don't know if you call it closing a chapter or not, but in any case, um, it, it's been a super big pleasure to speak with you today. I, I, I've rarely seen people so passionate. Um, I see a lot of passionate people, um, but not quite at the level of, of view, honestly. So it, it's been a huge, huge pleasure. So thanks so much for coming on. Bas Boorsma 00:54:08 Thank you, Tamlyn. Thank you. So much for having me, and I hope we'll be able to continue the conversation in multiple Tamlyn Shimizu 00:54:13 Ways. Yes, would love to continue it. So, and to all of our listeners, uh, don't forget, you can always create a free account on BABLE Smart cities.eu to find out more about smart city projects, solutions, implementations, all these cool things happening. Um, and with that, thank you so much. Thank you all for listening. I'll see you at the next stop on the journey to a better urban life.

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