Dans magazine de l'InterContinental Lyon - Hôtel Dieu, 2019-2020, pp. 58-59.
VSD 13 octobre 2016
La marque CathAm a trouvé, depuis 3 ans, sa place à l’international.
Elle devient un sujet d’étude pour deux économistes hollandais, Matthieu Weggeman, professeur à l’université d’Eindhoven et Ron Van de Water, sociologue.
Matthieu Weggeman et Ron Van de Water,
«L’histoire des canuts : Career innovation when you are fifty», dans Stagnatie van professionals : woorkomen en aanpakken, Scriptum ed., 2017, pp. 126-129.
Deux versions sont disponibles, l’une en néerlandais, l’autre ci-dessous en anglais :
L’histoire des canuts : Career innovation when you are fifty
Education is seen as a career-trap with as a result, stagnation. This seems an immovable fact. People stay on one place for years even though they feel comfortable anymore. They sit out their time without perspective on development or change. To change successfully a radical transformation is necessary. Our story is about a casual meeting in the city of Lyon.
Lyon is a city that everyone knows, a beautiful city, well worth a visit. The city had its start in the early middle Ages as a center for trade routes and industry. In the old town, on the bank of the river Saône, is a small shop' CathAm Soie 'on 24 Rue du Boeuf, de Koestraat. The shop invites you to walk in for its combination of bright colors and beautiful designs, it radiates quality and taste. The owner called Catherine sells silk scarves, original and functional designs. After buying a scarf, we did come to a conversation.
Catherine started her shop in 2014. Since 2012 she has been on the market a couple of times a week, followed by Internet sales. Catherine was a teacher at what we would call a Pedagogische Academie, a school to educate teachers. With a lot of passion and hard work she performed this job to train new teachers as professeur de pedagogique et didactique. But as we hear so many teachers say, "I could no longer exercise the profession as I wanted it, too many rules, and too many restrictions."
Her transition from teacher to ‘design-and-trade 'as she calls it, has gone gradually, an initially more or less unconscious process. Catherine likes to travel to India. She is fascinated by the silk fabrics and she designs in her spare time. In India she finds a producer who complies with her quality standards and her business starts when first her family and friends show interest and later on her designs find a wider circle of buyers. She knows after a while that this is her calling.
Her official job as a teacher loses the challenge and starts to cost energy. She was 54 in 2014 when she bumped into an empty storefront in the old town. She did immediately know that this was the place to start her shop. The owner of the property would only rent it out to someone who pleases him, he didn’t need the money. The building was already unoccupied for a while and there were candidates who wanted to rent it, but he did reject them. "We hit it off, he liked my work, and so I got the shop. At first I was open for a few days a week, now we are open all week. All this cannot be coincidence.’ As so often when someone hits soul track, its' purpose, the synchronicity is going to work, the law of the ‘accidental coincidences’.
‘My passion is travel, meet people from around the world and make beautiful designs of fabric for them’ says Catherine. ‘And we have done that. We travelled regularly to India to purchase fabrics. My customers come from everywhere in the world, and they come back and send messages how the designs fit them. A while ago someone of Hermes walked into my shop, yet the top of scarves and bags, and she said that my scarves and fabrics were of exceptional quality,’ she expressed with a mixture of modesty and pride.
The career of innovation and the revitalization that has taken place has definitely historical roots. Her mother was a tailor in the haute couture in Paris. In a sense, she went back to that tradition. Catherine outlines the underlying process. ‘My motive was not income, but I was looking for a new meaning in my life.’ The shop is not her goal, but a form in which her motives take shape.
We often see it as someone makes a career transformation: that one must first go back to the family tradition and the roots, to come to true innovation (Fig 8.1).
Fig. 8.1: Dynamic of career development
To change the horizontal line that if it leads to stagnation, requires a break of resourcing (step 1). Then a new purpose '(step 2) will be found or rather the real direction is dis-covered. The double meaning of the word, detected and exposed, because subconsciously it was already there. Then comes the change on the vertical line (step 3). The career innovation and transformation process was necessary to shift and leave the old job.
Catherine asks us to come for a drink on the end of the day to meet her husband Jacques. Jacques, 59, currently works as a teacher at the Institut national des Sciences Appliquées de Lyon (INSA). He studied mechanical engineering and has always had an aptitude for mathematics. But he started a second study, namely art history. He is now professor at the INSA of Lyon in this course, teaching students to learn a different perspective on design and architecture through the eyes of the artist.
Jacques tells us that he is actually happy when he has every day a new idea, he's the classic inventor- discoverer. But the renewal for both of them is that they work together in the shop. Jacques, although still doing his job at the INSA, is closely involved in the business. Catherine said with a sigh: ‘I always thought I will never work together with my husband, but it feels good now. The complementarity between the two is clear. Catherine is the entrepreneur and runs the shop, Jacques is the man of the new ideas. You can see it at both, their marriage is vibrant. They found a new track together (Fig. 8.2).
Fig 8.2: Corresponding and distinctive career roles in the relation
There is a third dimension or layer to this career innovation. in Lyon, as currently found in many old industrial cities in Europe and the USA, is a kind of revitalization of old industrial activities going on. This involves restarting previous activities, such as shipbuilding, steel, chemicals, pharmaceuticals with new technologies and designs. The innovation process takes place in the region through a combination of a technical university, an active government and entrepreneurial initiatives. In the Netherlands, the Eindhoven region is a good example.
Lyon was the city of the silk industry in the nineteenth century. ‘Les canuts’ were the silk workers, living in the Croix-Rousse district, about five minutes from Catherine’s and Jacques’ place, up the hill with the modern metro. The canuts, famous and notorious for their workers' revolts already starting in 1831 as a protest against the extreme poverty and exploitation, while now wealthier middle class spent the money here. When I asked whether they see themselves as part of this process, it went quiet for a while. ‘No, not consciously, but gradually we have some contacts. And yes, you do feel the dynamics that are emerging. It looks a bit like a snowball that starts small and gradually increases.’
It's like Karl Weick (Weick, 2009) describes. Because of the connection between people, new patterns and new contexts arise. He calls this the process of sensemaking. Telling each other stories to give meaning to what happens. This is how innovation works and stagnation is prevented.
The story of both professionals takes place in Lyon, but it seems that it also could be in Amsterdam, New Castle, Munich or Toronto. It is the story of professionals between 50 and 60 years of age that we indicate as ‘the process of ageing’ who prevent stagnation. It also seemed good to us to tell a positive story for there is much possible, especially in regions that energize and innovate.