Now, six months later whilst writing this first Member Story edition on my own, in a big empty building of 5000m2, where our community of 350 is now working from their homes with children to entertain, I realize how getting together is important for any human being. The covid-19 virus is keeping us from being in A Lab and my final month working here has almost vanished into thin air. These strange times of being on our own, now shine a different light on the first interview, on a bigger scale and personally to me. Most importantly, Sander shared his personal wish to write a book about making up stories for your children, why parents should really try it and some guidelines on how to do this.
We agreed that at the end of this interview he would share his first chapter. Maybe you, a parent working from home, could read the interview and be inspired. The main reason why we want to share all the diverse personal stories of our Members, to share their values, knowledge and creativity they possess, and show you how they are helping society forward. Because now more than ever we can connect through stories like these, shape new paradigms and make a positive impact on tomorrow.
Hey Sander, where did you grow up?
I grew up in The Hague, with my mom, father and my four-year younger little brother. After highschool I lived 1,5 year in Spain, to study spanish. Came back to Holland, to Amsterdam to make music because there was a lot happening in that area here. And I ended up studying psychology and got stuck in Amsterdam, now living for more than 20 years already with my wife and two kids.
What is a story that inspired you lately?
I was reading a book called Homo Deus. I think all the books written by this guy are inspiring, because it tells a story of humankind in a broad timeline and makes things more easy to grasp. The book gives meaning to a certain point in time where we are right now, and also points some directions to where it might go. The book made me think about our role in the world. What it means to be human.
And as for inspiring stories throughout life, I really like fairy tales. I remember a lot of tales my dad told me. He was a very good storyteller. He invented stories on the fly, every night. There is one story about a little gnome, who didn’t know his name. It’s a whole adventure, and a really cool story. The title was ‘Kabouter Oeps’, at the end he stumbled and he said ‘Oops!’, and then that was his name and he got a pot of gold. It’s a funny unique story that still sticks to me today.
Tell me about Storydiggers.
As a Storydigger I am looking for stories circling in and around organizations. We help companies communicate their messages with on a emotional level through the use of stories. This way the information will penetrate the minds and hearts of their target audience on a deeper level than regular rational information. Our workfield is broadly divided into branding- and change projects. In branding the aim is to connect the outside world like customers or stakeholders with the brand, product or organization. In change projects it’s more about the inside, to help employees engage with the new strategy for example.
I do this together with Ralph Poldervaart. We started Storydiggers 5 or 6 years ago, and both have a background in research, a world of figures, facts, numbers. We noticed that a lot of the research projects we did had nice insights yet didn’t really translate into action with our clients. So we were looking for ways to get more action going on after you collect all the insights. And then we found storytelling and decided to set up a company. Stories are a very good tool to communicate on a deeper level, because there are always emotions involved.
People connect with a story, they don’t connect with powerpoint bullets.
In our sessions we use a lot of Lego. The first time we tried lego was for a very serious group of senior consultants and CEO’s and when we announced ‘Now let’s lego’, I didn’t know what to expect. If they would start laughing, or walk out of the room. Everybody was very open to it and loved it. Some very insightful results came out of this. Nowadays it is a standard work format we use.
Why do you think the format works so well?
It’s easier to put stuff like lego and figures and characters on the table and then make a story with it, then to do it from your head. Because you have something to look at and you also see the story develop. A story and all the story elements have a spatial dynamic going, and when you put stuff on a table and try to walk around with your figurines then you see and feel the story. It's easier. A lot of people don’t think they are creative, but everybody is creative. Using the lego lowers the bar to be creative, so you don't have to draw or write really good. You don’t have to invent the most amazing story from the top of your head, because you have these characters that do it for you. I think that is the reason why it works very well. To get out of the head and into the vibe.
A lot of people think they are not “creative”, like it’s some magic power you have to be born with. That's bullshit of course. Everybody is creative! We all learn from doing experiments. Do you remember the time you shoved a chair near the cupboard to reach for the cookie jar? Well that was a creative move! Education plays a part in this as well, we are educated in a very rational way and the further you get the more rational it becomes. That’s why creativity becomes something magical, especially for managers haha! But it’s really not, it’s actually the only way we develop.
People are sometimes scared of their own creativity. Don’t be! Play with it and enjoy it. Like when you cook a nice meal, you lick your plate and enjoy. And that’s what it's all about.
As a resident of this building, the old Shell Lab, I am curious about what other experiments you worked on.
(Laughs) Smoke bombs, haha, when I was young. Smoke bombs that worked. Only my parents came home early, so they also found out the smoke bombs worked and well.. They were not too happy about it.
Also as a kid I did a lot of sound experiments. One time I hooked up my keyboard to my guitar effects and amp, trying to connect it all to hear what it sounded like. Well it sounded like bzzzz BAM! and there was some smoke… experiment succeeded?
Experiments always played a role, also the work I do with Storydiggers. Ralph and I are always trying out new forms and ideas. Some work, some don’t, the best we keep. And besides StoryDiggers, I am conducting a completely different experiment, trying to get people more comfortable and at ease with the concept of death and dying. Heavy subject, in a lighthearted way. It’s not finished yet but I am very excited about what’s going to happen with this experiment.