What is it that Kaospilots actually do?

In the coming six weeks first year students at Kaospilot, Team 24, are leaving their meeting rooms in Filmbyen and, well, their comfort zones to execute the first solo project under the name of Project Beyond Ableness. Or shoud we say the PBA, as it is lovingly called within the school. RADAR caught up with some of them to get an insight into what this project is all about and also to demystify its name.

At large, the PBA is  is about putting into use the learnings from the first six months of Kaospilot training to create value for an external stakeholder. And all this while stretching the pilot´s abilities and skills, either building on old or developing new.

“That abbreviation sounds like a name of a disease,”

Organisational consultant Chené Swart responded with a murky smile when introduced to the project brief in a lecture to Team 24 a couple of weeks back. The PBA is all new territory for the school, being part of the new curriculum implemented two years ago. But yes, what a name…

First off, we caught up with Hannes and Kai in a skyscraper elevator in the middle of Tokyo, Japan. They chose to pair up for their project.

Since Hannes (left) was a kid, he has loved the magical and slightly crazy world of Japanese anime and has dreamt of being a ninja or samurai. And then we have Kai (right), half Japanese and half Danish, partly raised in Japan and has worked there on many occasions.

“This duo was bound to happen,” Hannes and Kai agree with an eager smile “our starting point for this project was to work in Japan.”

Where and with what/who have you chosen to work with the coming project period?

“We have chosen to work with Japanese team working culture and how it affects the ability for people and companies to innovate. We found this interesting because Japan is a very innovative country in many ways, while at the same time being a super traditional country, especially with regard to business. 

Tradition relates both to culture and what rules to follow, as well as the distribution of power within the organizational structures that are predominantly hierarchical. This is interesting in relation to the statistics of the working population, who have widespread psychological issues from overwork. To our Scandinavian minds, strictness, tradition and hierarchy sound counterproductive to innovation since the modern process of innovation needs to be quick, flexible and iterative.

We want to understand how innovation is made, how teams work, and try to find insights into how and where team culture can shift towards creating better lives for the employees. Essentially create value for the individual, the organization, and the society.

We are taking an explorative approach to this project by meeting a lot of different companies to see what opportunities show up and to learn from multiple sources. To us this is a more organic and a new (consultancy-like) approach to creating a project, since we do not have one client from the start or perhaps are not going to work with one client, but several during the project period. Concretely how we will take action is not clear to us yet, but hopefully will become clear after our two week research phase that we are currently navigating in. As of now we are exploring possibilities in taking action as process consultants for instance by hosting workshops or doing some kind of lectures building upon our coming insights in Japanese work culture and connecting it to the Scandinavian way of working. Time will tell!”


What has lead you to choose to work with this project? Are you building on your experience before or exploring new territory?

“A couple of weeks into the Kaospilot education, we both knew that we would do a project in Japan, as we both love Japan. When the time came to figure out what the project should revolve around we researched what needs there are in Japan in general and then reflected on how we could work with that need. We also wanted to incorporate our backgrounds in design and engineering with our new knowledge and experience from Kaospilot.

We pitched our initial thoughts to students and staff in Kaospilot as well as Kaospilot Hive to get more perspectives on what approach to follow in making a project here. It became clear to us that scoping a project conducted in Japan and especially its outcome from Denmark was problematic since it is very easy to build the project on assumptions about Japanese culture. We are definitely exploring new territories for us here, trying to get into a very traditional, hierarchical and strict business culture with the intention of inspiring positive change from within it. Can it be done? Hell yes! Is it an easy task for two ”gaijin’s” (foreigners) to navigate and to be able to create an impact? Nope! Challenge accepted.”


What would be the best possible outcome that you dream of for this project?

“To actually get a good understanding of Japanese working culture and its effect on innovation as well as finding insights that can give us the credibility to enter organisations in which we can inspire change and create lasting impact.”


Hannes and Kai working in Tokyo. Regular day at the office.


How did you choose to interpret “beyond ableness” in your take on the project?

“Beyond ableness to us means a lot of different things on many different levels. It is about being in a stretch zone, to experiment, to try new things that is outside of our abilities, to trust that we can navigate through uncertainty, and to thrive in the uncertainty of not knowing what the project will end up being.

More specifically trying to get into the business culture of Japan is definitely a stretch, to understand the culture for the project to be effective and impactful, and to adjust our approach for every insight we get. There are language barriers and cultural barriers to overcome, and potentially some trust issues in allowing us to enter and take action. Most important for us is to trust that we will do our best, learn through doing and accept that failure is the fastest way to learn.”


Are there any magic tricks or some special advice that you could give for project success in general?

“Just do it. Work hard, fail hard, fail fast, learn fast. Say yes to everything, apologize later. Be humble, see people, be attentive, connect to people, be empathic. Change perspectives, ideate, do quick iterations, prototype and test. Love what you do, and if you don’t – find something in it that you do like and build on what works.”

We switch hemispheres to find our next Kaospilot that left Aarhus a week ago to also start her PBA.
Say hi to Dea, who we caught up with while she was enjoying the sun in Kigali, Rwanda.


Where and with what/who have you chosen to work with the coming project period?

“I will be working for a Danish/Rwandan consultancy company called Sandberg Ltd. They are mainly doconsultancy work in human resources, and together with them I am going to develop meaningful capacity building and team building courses, integrating both tools and exercises that I have learned at Kaospilot. I will be integrating my theatre background and more creative side. I chose this project because I have for a long time been curious about what it takes to do business in an African context.”

I have experiences with navigating in very different cultural settings from previous work and projects, as well as designing and facilitating workshops. But the combination of the two is what is really exciting and where I expect to get a lot of insights into what it takes and what it means to do cross-cultural work.


What would be the best possible outcome that you dream of for this project?

“That would be that I acquire a deeper understanding of cross-cultural work, and that I manage to sort of combine the best of a Western approach/mindset together with what the local culture has to offer of possibilities and new perspectives on myself and my work as a Kaospilot.

Working globally with respect to all the people involved is a skill that I believe is crucial for our generation, if we wish to create a better world together and to challenge the existing power structures.”


How did you choose to interpret “beyond ableness” in your take on the project?

“Hehe, well, the beyond ableness is started to become a thing already in Stockholm Airport, waiting for my flight to Addis Ababa.

First of all, there is navigating in a new cultural setting that I have never before been a part of before. As if designing and facilitating workshops in a business setting would not have been a challenge in DK, I have decided to push that challenge a little bit further.

Second, I feel very alone at the moment. The security and safety of always staying in close proximity with the rest of my team is gone right now, and I am actually more scared than I thought I would be. Emotionally I am already challenged, leaving new friends for a while and again  finding myself in a position where I have to seek out new friendships and relations for personal and professional support.”

Are there any magic tricks or some special advice that you could give for project success in general?

“Well, my magic trick so far is: don’t overthink and don’t be afraid. I have a tendency to commit myself to projects where I might not have thought it through or calculated on possible dangers or consequences. Then I panic for a moment, breathe, figure out how to handle the situation and do that. And from experience I know that if you stay focused and keep believing in yourself, even in that moment of panic just before it all starts, it always works out in the end.”

Thank you to Kai, Hannes and Dea for sharing their thoughts on their projects!

Stay tuned to RADAR to see how their ideas and plans turned into reality when we make a revisit in six weeks time. Until then, good luck!

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