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Jan Otten's reflections

"Parentheses for innovative thinking"

Innovative thinking and a fresh look at situations is in one way or another in my DNA. I don't know why, either, but my thoughts usually squirm differently than what I experience in others. An acquaintance called me a philosophical entrepreneur, as a student I was charmed by Blaise Pascal. When an idea prompts again, I immediately start analyzing and look for a foundation to convert the idea into practical applicability. The foundation of the idea is a coat rack that I use to support the idea. On this page I will take you along in my thoughts, which are stepping stones for technological and social innovations.

description of my thoughts

With these reflections of up to 200 words I try to get you to think outside the box.
Reactions and critical comments are welcome because they sharpen my saw.

Use your brain

become smarters

Do things smarter

Many organizations are working on the undermining issue. We want to curb the profit from illegal trade and tackle the drug problem. A large money circuit has emerged in the world that evades fiscal and legal rules. Books and studies have awakened the government and given an indication of what is happening outside the normal field of view. But the undermining continues, we do a lot but it is mopping with the tap open. We have reports written on the crane and continue to mop in a conventional manner. It has to change, but we don't really know how. We have too few active hands and feet that can act. We just don't do what we do best, which is use our minds. We are a highly developed country and we fail to tackle subversion with our knowledge. The knowledge level of the fighters against subversion must be raised! We need to get smarter together to make the right strategic and tactical decisions to win the battle.

Safety sentiment sprit


Abnormalities cause a feeling of insecurity

I have regularly had the discussion about safe and unsafe. Feeling safe is determined by the situation or context you are in and what falls within your normal expectations. If something abnormal happens, your (in) safety feeling sprit will also work. For a more safe living environment, we therefore need to focus inventively and innovatively on:

  1. Ensuring that abnormalities do not occur. This is mainly a design challenge, make the public space in such a way that abnormal behavior is discouraged. (Design out crime and defensive blockades);
  2. Detecting and following up abnormalities quickly. This is a technological challenge in which sensors work together to quickly detect abnormalities or anomalies (Data science and Artificial Intelligence).

Maintain or hospitality

A day without laughter is a day wasted

"Peace begins with a smile" (Mother Theresa)

Order and enforcement is a major challenge, especially in large municipalities. City supervisors are trained and uniformed. Yet you see, forgive me for saying so, often uniformed city supervisors on a scooter in a mismatched uniform, with which they evoke no respect. It can be different. At festivals there are many people swarming with each other, and yet there are few problems of order. There, hostesses, mood tasters and security guards walk around and in the event of a conflict they work in that order, only when really necessary does the uniformed security guard come. The greatest effect is achieved by the friendly smile of the hostess and of the atmosphere taster who reassure people with an outstretched hand in a facilitating role. I call on municipalities to work as well as at the festivals, welcome the people in your city as a host and meet them with a smile. Make your city supervisors hosts and hostesses. You will see that it works. Experiments have already shown that. It takes guts but it really works!

Internet security

Internet security

Who is responsible?

Our networked society is endangered by all kinds of hackers who disrupt normalcy like thieves and by merchants who invade your home or company via the internet. The question is what will happen to the knowledge in the clouds and the internet of things (IOT) when everything is even more intertwined and tied together. The end user must protect himself and invest for his safety, as well as for the security of his home or business. This is also done on our highways, there are signs that indicate what is and is not allowed. I advocate that those who ensure that a bit or byte goes from A to B are held accountable. They should not only be billed for reliable speed, but also for reliable traffic, as they are the enablers, but do not enforce. It is time for this to be regulated.

Abolish police?

You can't win this fight like that

The police cannot win this match

I will not be in the fighting cage with Rico Verhoeven, because I know that I will be hit. The Netherlands has many criminals, perhaps 1% of the population (170 thousand) who attack our security. Johan Cruijff said that an attacker can best be stopped by 2 defenders, which means that we actually need 340 thousand defenders, and we have not yet won the game. The entire police force and the public prosecution service in the Netherlands numbers about 100,000 people. This is a lot less, so you can assume that we will definitely lose that match. Chinese general Sun-Tzu taught us: Don't start a match until you know you can win it. So the police better stop this game. But then what? The police have gotten themselves into trouble by acting as a security director and saying that they are powerful and strong, thereby making the residents passive. It is time to realize that this competition cannot be won like this, the other 99% of the Dutch people desperately need them in the fight against insecurity.

No report ≠ Safe

Meaure safety

Do not measure safety by unsafety

In the Algemeen Dagblad, municipalities in the Netherlands have been assigned a crime score for several years, based on figures received from the police. That figure is derived from the willingness to report of residents in the municipality. A low crime score does not mean that the municipality is safe, only fewer reports have been made of certain criminal offenses. In the various parallel societies in the Netherlands, it is not even possible to report cases due to social pressure. It is a much more important challenge to measure safety on safety items. But what are the safety items to be measured, is this an awareness process such as in the US where defense driving is taught. The Risk Factories in Twente and Limburg are good examples of safety education in game form. It is the task of every municipality to strive for a safe environment and the associated awareness-raising processes. Start with the children.

Nuisance approach



Enforcement is usually not the most effective means of countering misbehavior by individuals in certain neighborhoods. It is important to obtain information why these people do this. This may be due to the person himself or herself or it may also be that the well-being in the neighborhood is out of balance. The "Place to Be" model was built from an American study, in which describes why people live somewhere or why a place is attractive to go to. The motives are immaterial. It is therefore advisable to map problem neighborhoods based on this model to analyze where the imbalance is and then balance it. The latter can usually be done via several techniques, both technological and social.

Money is money

Black and white money is colored

We grew up with dirty money

Our parents worked in the evenings and weekends to have some extra income, for a holiday, an extra gift or a car. So we are actually all familiar with informal (black) money and in one way or another we have benefited from it. It is actually not correct because by paying taxes we ensure our general prosperity. We are all complicit in the informal money circuit, we benefit, among other things, from the prices at shops, where prices remain low because a lot is bought with black money. (Suppose you get € 50.000 black money, what are you going to do with that?) Coffeeshops even knowingly wash white money black. Black money is part of our society, we only need to be sharper in the way of generating this informal money if this is done through income from crime.

Smarter governance

Think and improve

Overview - Insight - Support - Impact

Turning everything 'smarter' into a magic word. In practice, it appears that this is often aimed at improving the information model and the information flows through the more intensive use and analysis of data, neural networks and the application of artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, we see that the elaborations mainly provide insight into details and do not give rise to or impact for a 'smarter' governance. If you want to achieve this, you need to focus on the conceptual model of the organization. Directors and program managers see gaps, everyone seems enthusiastic and working hard but the overall is not getting any smarter. Therefore, emphasize the conceptual model instead of the information model.

Innovation Department = cover up

innovation departments don't work

Weave innovation into your organization

Various organizations do not know how to handle innovation, they do see a number of employees who are innovative and think differently. An innovation department is being set up to give room to innovation. Either the innovation is parked at some "strange thinking". This is the death knell for innovations in organizations. Innovation should be in the genes of the organization, the mentality of giving space and spending at least 10% of your budget to include everyone inside and outside your organization. Know that you, as director / manager, are possibly the biggest obstacle to innovation, bring the outdoors in, experiment, learn, scale and persevere!

Lumpy football

just run

We run after each other

Maybe I get a little more critical with aging, but I see that in many cases we respond to media reports and under-researched assumptions. We aim our arrows and everyone bumps after it. Consider, for example, "undermining". Like headless chickens, we fly on the subject with various self-proclaimed experts. Consultants are given free rein and bring extra noise with all kinds of side issues. All sorts of plans and actions are hatched in clumps like amateurs on the football field and without any hesitation assigned values to them. Good question articulation, know your opponent, strategy and tactics are basic values to be able to operate successfully! Sometimes I wonder what motives are behind this, because in this way we only keep grabbing crumbs in the fight against undermining and the major activities remain untouched.

Balls and lines

To knit

More focus on the lines

Important objectives are included by organizations and addressed in projects and themes. While working in and around these projects, I notice that everyone is working on the theme objectives with great enthusiasm, as well as that individual values and standards are established for each project. As a result, the projects diverge and become more autonomous. I often see these projects as balls of wool. Reaching big goals is essentially about knitting these little balls. In practice we see that the connecting lines between the projects (balls) become very thin, people know what the project is doing, but exchanges of the content are minimal. The greatest advantage in project-based work lies precisely in the exchange of the content and in the context of that content. Therefore, focus on the lines between the balls, make the lines thicker, go knitting, converge, and come to a common agenda!

End of rake management

Raking does not work

The ecosystem is the guiding principle

Structuring organizations like a rake counteracts efficiency, effectiveness and innovation. Rake teeth degenerate into fiefdoms with detailed objectives and justifications to the vertical line and the results are collected at the handle. The interplay between the rake teeth is crucial, but there is no joint responsibility for the overall organizational goals. The ecosystem of the organization and why it was set up should be leading. The interaction within that ecosystem provides more responsibility, greater decisiveness and gives more meaning to tasks for achieving the strategically set goals. Tactical organization of the organization based on the "why" is and appears to be essential.


What is true

What is true?

In 2012 I wrote for the magazine Idea an article about curating (truth finding). There is a lot of untrue information on the internet (Fake news). The curator (curator) of a museum compiles evidence with analyzes by qualified researchers and brings together subjective and objective information. He does not write about the emotion, beauty or art of a painting, but he does write about craftsmanship, time relationship and the relief of circumstances during its creation. Curating information is searching for truths both subjective and objective, as a PhD thesis is substantiated by other PhD studies. Wikipedia itself has built in a self-cleaning capacity with expertise on a voluntary basis. The finding of truth is founded on various sources and is an accumulation of evidence. This presents a challenge for the information provider and therefore also for the government with regard to security. The government must take on part of the truth role and learn that objective information does not actually exist, but the information becomes more objective through subjective influence. The recipient is no longer satisfied with a quality mark.

Planning assumptions

Check your assumptions

Basing safety on assumptions is risky

A lot goes wrong because certain things do not meet expectations or that the assumptions were incorrect. Many incidents and disasters could have been prevented or better managed if there had been more control over assumptions or truths that had not been investigated qualitatively. The following 5 steps can help you avoid disastrous surprises:

  1. Identify - list important assumptions;
  2. Prioritize - rank this list by impact for safety;
  3. Measure - determine the coherence and critical value of the assumption;
  4. Audit - try to test to have more knowledge of eventualities;
  5. Backup - have a plan B.

Wrong assumptions can turn an incident into a disaster with disastrous domino effects.

Citizen participation


Citizen Participation = Ignorant Participation

I have been irritated by the use of the term citizen participation for years. It is great that we are citizens with good facilities and a good democratic system, it is a privilege. Many people who work for the government call the inhabitants of their country "citizens" and by that they seem to mean "ignorant". They talk about citizen participation and by that mean the participation of lay people. In this context, government employees are more civilian (layman) than civil servants, and must recognize that there are an awful lot of citizens who know a great deal. In a participatory society we are all equal, only we diverge functionally and intellectually. This creates different expertise that can learn a lot from each other. In the field of safety, for example, the residents are experts, in the field of insecurity the police, fire brigade, city supervision and security services are experts. Together they can achieve a lot if the expertise is valued and respected.

Online reliability

We throw a lot of data overboard

We don't know what happened to our data

We are constantly communicating data via apps with our phone without knowing exactly how our data is handled. Is privacy guaranteed, is the data stored securely, is the data analyzed, shared or linked with other data sources? There is no quality mark or comparative supervision of integrity and reliability. Our choice for an app is determined by purpose and ease of use. It would be nice if we as a user could make a choice on a number of things, such as Booking.com, Tweakers or Kieskeurig. Cybersecurity can be of great benefit if we stick our necks out and actually start setting up app comparisons and ratings. I am now realizing this through the platformCALLFORTRUST.online. Together with educational institutions and the SIDNfonds we are developing a benchmark of online trustability of Apps and IoT devices.

Valley of death

The big challenge in innovation

The setbacks in innovation

A number of times I have succeeded in bringing an idea to innovation and then using it widely. But that is not really easy. You start talking about your idea and soon you notice enthusiasm in others. You and others think you have gold in your hands, the world is your oyster. But you have to invest in that, and who wants to invest in your idea and don't you lose your idea? It is important to look for organizations that benefit from your innovation or look for organizations whose problems you solve with your idea. These are the most important stakeholders that you should include early in your process. Because you will still encounter the valley of death. That is the moment when your product is ready to market and it appears that not many people or companies want to buy your product. Then turn your stakeholders into ambassadors of your innovation, they have other motives that do appeal to potential customers. See: innovation model.

Demand articulation


Not a good answer without a clear question

In recent years, in collaboration with others, I have developed various Safety & Security Studio and notice that clearly articulating the question is a very difficult task. This is because the questioner is more often concerned with the problem or challenge and may have already brainstormed with colleagues several times in private. Clear and articulating the question to the core is half the solution. First, name or write down the foundation of your question; "What do you really want to achieve?" Try to explain that in understandabe language to a layman who knows nothing about your subject. You will then notice that you are formulating the question better and getting to the core of it. Afterwards, you can ask various experts from sometimes completely different areas to put your issue to the test through workshops or a safety studio. You will find that the other angles they use enrich your question. Only then can you start with answers or solutions that indicate precisely qualitatively and quantitatively to what extent your question can really be solved.

Boxing against the 'buts'


Change is sometimes very difficult

In my career I have developed several new inventions and I soon met all kinds of opposition from the so-called 'but' people. People who think about every change, 'but' have you thought of this, it could well be ... I regularly work with universities and colleges to silence those opposing better-knowers. A master's student proved the opposite with his research. Another method is to organize ambassadors, usually the first users, who feel and see the benefits in their work.

Column thinking = Trap thinking

Column thinking

You can learn a lot from others

When I am philosophizing with people from all kinds of organizations, people often talk about "column thinking". I prefer to call that "trap thinking". In a column you have the feeling that you can get out in front or behind, but that is a subjective experience. The world, the company, the environment ensures that you look at a number of things in a certain way, you notice this especially in organizations with ranking systems (such as defense, police, fire brigade). People come to think that they have the wisdom from their knowledge and experience, but that wisdom is framed and influences the scope of innovative thinking. Innovative thinking for finding answers to important issues ends up in a trap. Fish that have entered a trap will only come out if they all swim back at the same time or if the fisherman cuts the trap open. I hope that every organization sometimes encounters such a fisherman, enabling real innovation.

Social innovation is key

Technological innovation is primarily social innovation

Implementing innovations

For many years my employees have built and installed software applications. The first challenge is of course properly converting the customer's requirements and wishes into a usable system. The biggest challenge, however, is the concern that the new technology is implemented in such a way that the organization benefits from it. It soon became apparent that technological innovation was only 1/4 of the work, more important was social innovation. This compelled me to develop the OCTC method. The method of T technology (working well, user-friendly with good data) is best implemented and embedded. In communication and social innovation, four main issues must be taken into account:

  1. Organization (management, middle management and executive)
  2. Culture (values, norms, drive)
  3. Technology (works well, user-friendly)
  4. Continuity (system stays, training and updates)

Civil Military Cooperation

Working together for safety

Use Cynefin model as a guide

In 2016, an article by me appeared in the officers magazineCarré which contains my vision about civil-military cooperation. At that time there was a fierce discussion about how, where and when cooperation between the emergency services and defense was necessary and how this should be done. The Cynefin model indicates how a particular disaster can best be managed. In Denmark they have set certain requirements in order to be able to control disaster preparedness, for example x number of people must be evacuated within this time frame. Although every disaster is different, this does indicate a target index. With these types of indicators it is easier to plan the deployment of defense. The disadvantage is still that in our country the emergency services, municipalities and defense do not have a uniform agreement as in the US and that is also used separately on a daily basis.

Innovative practical thinking

More milk

More milk with a spreadsheet

In 1983 I was a teacher at an agricultural school and taught mathematics, physics and computer science there. In those years, this school had a classroom full of computers, but there was no teaching material yet. In the evenings I taught information science to farmers there. There was a dilemma, the farmer spends 3000 guilders for a new computer or for double air on the tractor. That is why I went in search of the added value of a computer for the farm and spoke to a farmer who had twice received a prize for the most milk from a cow. It turned out that he kept a record of when and what kind of (strength) feed he had to give to the cow, depending on the time during the lactation period of the cow. Put that in a spreadsheet and wrote a bestseller (within agricultural education) "How to get more milk from a cow with a spreadsheet".