MaastrichtMBA alumna Bouwien Janssen joins Maastricht University

Recently, Bouwien Janssen joined Maastricht University as new Director Development & Alumni Relations and Director of the Universiteitsfonds Limburg. Interestingly, Bouwien is an alumna of MaastrichtMBA, so we had a chat with her about her experiences regarding the MaastrichtMBA.

Why did you want to get an MBA?

At that point in my career, I wanted to connect, and exchange experiences with professionals in a similar managerial position. Expanding my network, meeting people with a different take on their profession, who might also foster new insights. I also felt the need to broaden my horizon and focus more on approaching things from a strategic angle.

Why did you choose the MaastrichtMBA?

As I had made the decision to continue my professional career in my home region, the MaastrichtMBA was a good fit: it gave me the opportunity to work on my local network of professionals, organisations and businesses. And the MaastrichtMBA has a very good reputation of course!

What was your most inspiring moment in the program?

The international week in Barcelona really stands out. Among other things, we had an assignment to analyse and advise the management team of a local company and I still remember our group working late at night on our presentation and advice. It was the combination of field trip, practice, and getting an inside view of a foreign company, with the opportunity of advising the management team. That was very rewarding and great fun.

We developed such a good bond in our workgroup that we invited our partners and extended our stay in Barcelona for the weekend. We still meet at least twice a year. Recently to have a taste from the wine from a small local vineyard of which one of our group is co-owner.

What did you find most challenging?

Finding the time to work on things according to my on quality standards. You have to be aware that it can be quite a challenge to write a paper every month, beside a busy job. Not only for yourself, but also for the group. It’s give and take, and everybody benefits from quality input by fellow students.

When did you complete the MaastrichtMBA? Did it meet your expectations?

I finished in 2005 and it was a very rewarding experience. The programme was very varied and the group very pleasant. The themes ranged from ICT, leadership to culture. All these different angles made it very interesting and fun. Best of all was, and is, that much of it translates directly into my professional practice.

Working with cases where you compare practices from your own company with those of fellow students was especially insightful. This requires a certain level of openness and trust among participants and of course, as mentioned before, a give and take mentality and willingness to contribute. In my experience that worked very well, as you can see from the fact that contacts and even friendships have endured for more than ten tears now!

What you do now and where? What is your current focus?

I started with Maastricht University in July 2018. My job at is twofold: I am Director of the Universiteitsfonds Limburg – SWOL (an independent foundation with AMBI-status) and Director of Development and Alumni Relations (D&A).

As Director of the Universiteitsfonds Limburg, my team and I focus on fundraising. The funds are intended to stimulate education and research at UM and to promote UM’s involvement with society. To strengthen and modernise our fundraising efforts, we are working on a crowd-funding platform, which will offer researchers and students the opportunity to raise funds for their own research projects. The crowdfunding platform go live in the last quarter of 2018.

As Director Development & Alumni Relations, we aim for interactive relationships with our alumni: keep them informed about ground-breaking research and current affairs at UM, give them a voice in improving our education and offer them the opportunity to take postgraduate education. Therefore, it is important that we know our 69,000 alumni well and that our interaction is based on their personal interest.

How have you benefited from the MaastrichtMBA?

After more than 10 years, it is difficult to separate my ongoing work experience and development, from what I got from the MBA. In general, the MaastrichtMBA teaches you to approach issues from a broader perspective and provides new angles of approach.

Can you give an example of something that you experienced in the MaastrichtMBA that helped you in your career?

One of the charming aspects of the MBA was that every paper I wrote, had a link to my own professional practice. I enjoyed that very much. The case-theory always offered a link to a concrete challenge within my organisation.

What concepts from The MaastrichtMBA are you currently applying in your life?

There are lots of different theoretical angles and models offered in the courses. Some of those I can still apply to practical problems in my everyday professional practice.

Any advice for the prospective MaastrichtMBA student?

Be clear about what you want from the course and your motivation to do it now, in this phase of your career. Will you be able to use it in your work setting? Do you have sufficient span of control (leadership, strategy) to benefit from the MBA and to contribute on an equal footing with other students? Can you put in enough time?

“I was inspired to see the possibilities within myself”

If there is anyone who almost immediately applied what he learned from our programme, it’s Daan Kroonen (35) from Bocholtz in the Netherlands. He started at the MaastrichtMBA in February 2015 and has changed jobs two times since, until he felt he was the most comfortable with the skill set he’d acquired and was made aware of. We sat down with him right before his graduation ceremony and looked back on an exhilarating period of his life, and career so far.

For Daan, the time to study belonged in the past, or so he thought. He’d already finished two HBO bachelor programmes and was focused on his job. If he was ever going to make time for studying again, it had to be an education he could infuse in his work as a project manager, while at work. “My father has an MBA degree and it challenged me to consider my own options of combining work and study. So I went looking and found the MaastrichtMBA programme which appealed to me at once. Its modular structure and diversity in topics, the leadership trajectory, it all felt good.”

All-round perspective for business acumen

He particularly liked the wide range of perspectives offered that would help professionals, as students, to develop their sense for understanding business in its every aspect and procedural setting.”Like how do the departments of sales, production and marketing relate and communicate with one another, within a company,” Daan explains, “and not consider the perspective of just your own tasks, but from a broader angle. Another huge benefit of the MaastrichtMBA programme is the ability to study with other professionals and to exchange our experience and knowledge, and for me to learn from the others.”

Most inspiring and challenging moments

Most inspiring moment for Daan in the programme was the Leadership trajectory at the Orshof location. “I often think about it, in my current work position, because a main thread during that week was to reach a certain flow with an entire team. I always work with other people, and hardly alone, so I can apply what I experienced and learned every day now.” A challenge was to find the time and focus to work on his thesis. “It’s an entirely different level of writing a thesis as a Bachelor student, so it took some effort to find the right angle and see it through, but I eventually succeeded.”

Inspiration to make change

Since he started the programme, Daan changed jobs twice. Being in the programme made him aware of his own options and capability, both as a professional and a human being. It gave him inspiration to go out there and find a job position more suitable for his own sense of emerging entrepreneurship and flow of ideas and initiative. You could say he grew out of his old job, and into new challenges and possibilities. “So much happens as soon as you start the MaastrichtMBA programme,” Daan reminisces, “it was very inspiring and made me contemplate everything in a positive way.”

Impact on personal life

Studying next to a full-time job and a personal life can be quite the challenge as well. For Daan and his partner Gitta (30), the past years were tough sometimes, especially in the beginning. “We were still dating then and not living together, so very often I wasn’t available in the weekends, because I had to study or work on my thesis. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time together, but we knew it was necessary for me to complete my MBA. We now live together, so it all worked out.”

Recommendation

“I can recommend anyone wanting to grow in their professional life to consider following the MaastrichtMBA programme. It has enriched me as a human being and as a professional, for example, I now know how to direct my energy better and to make it beneficial to the team spirit at work. My employer was very pleased with me when I implemented what I learned at work immediately after the module, so the enthusiasm for being in the programme is transferred to the workplace as well!”

UMIO Congratulates New MaastrichtMBA Graduates

Four times a year the MaastrichtMBA students visit their MBA homebase in Maastricht for an eventful week of courses, exchange and cooperation. It is always an intense and vibrant experience. Once a year the week is extra special, because it concludes with the graduation ceremony of the students who have successfully completed the two-year programme.

Graduation time!

Last Friday saw the graduation of ten students, all dressed for the part with the academic regalia. Keynote speaker Prof. Dr. Franziska Gassmann (UNU-Merit) spoke about Social Protection Systems and Development and offered a different perspective on how social protection can contribute to balanced development and stability in poorer countries. A fitting end to the MaastrichtMBA journey, that is in large part about broadening one’s horizon and embracing different perspectives to make a lasting impact.

2018’s student of the year!

After the honouring of 2018’s student of the year Charbel Haddad, who to his own surprise had scored best overall marks for 2018, the event concluded with a short reception in Ad Fundum and a sparkling party at Thiessen Wijnkoopers.

A Call for General Programmes in Business and Management

Dr. Boris Blumberg describes the Skill Gap Survey, which depicts which skills employers look for in MBA graduates and which skills they find difficult to recruit.

The table below reveals the five most and five least important skills employers are looking for as well as the five skills most difficult and least difficult to recruit.

Taken seriously, these results reveal what business schools do well and where there are opportunities for curriculum developments. Not surprising, working in a team remains an important ability! Business students are well equipped to work in teams, as team assignments are a standard assessment in most programmes. The table also reflects the high demand for big data analysts, but also shows that working and interpreting big data requires more than good programming skills.

5 most important skills / abilities 5 least important skills / abilities 5 skills most difficult to recruit 5 skills least difficult to recruit
to work in a team applied microeconomics to influence others specialized marketing skills
to work with a wide variety of people to use social media to benefit business strategic thinking ability to work in a team
to solve complex problems accounting drive and resilience accounting
to build and sustain people networks programming big data analysis to use social media to benefit business
to prioritize and time management corporate social responsibility to solve complex problems foreign languages

What is more surprising is the fact that specialized subject knowledge – whether in economics, accounting and marketing – is considered less important and widely available on the labour market. Important skills in shortage are more general skills reaching from time management to people skills and strategic mastering of complexity.

How do these demands in the labour market coincide with the plethora of specialized master programmes in business? Shouldn’t business schools broaden their offering or even open their curricula for other disciplinary fields such as technology and arts and culture?

Navigating complexity as understanding and leading diverse groups of individuals requires taking different perspectives and working along and with different approaches. The mono disciplinary hammer is not sufficient to build the future. Business school graduates need a rich, continuously developing set of tools and instruments. Today MBA programmes with a diverse mix of students in terms of culture, previous education and experience are still the best offer in the market providing the skills and abilities employers look for.

Simon de Jong: An Analogy of Basketball and Business

Prof. dr. Simon de Jong is a (Full) Professor in Organizational Behaviour and HRM at the Department of Organization & Strategy. He also acts as the Vice-Chair of the O&S department. Additionally, he serves as an Associate Editor on the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology.

Before joining Maastricht University, Simon worked as a Human Capital consultant at Deloitte Consulting and held various academic roles at top universities and business schools across Europe, including the University of Groningen (The Netherlands), the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland), EADA Business School (Spain), and the Universities of Bath and East Anglia (UK).

In his research, he focuses on understanding the dynamics between power and teamwork, the challenges for achieving good job and organizational designs, and the characteristics of effective leadership and HRM. Moreover, together with his co-authors, he researches various other topics such as the impact of top management teams on employees and the effects of HRM practices on the psychological contract and the aging workforce. His research spans different levels of analysis, ranging from the relational/dyadic level, to the individual-, team-, department-, and organization-levels. His articles have been published in top scientific journals, such as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Management, Journal of World Business, Human Relations, and Organization Science.

Drawing on the above experience, Simon has taught a variety of HRM and Organizational Psychology courses ranging from strategic HRM to consulting, and from negotiations to diversity and leadership training. He has also supervised theses on all levels (i.e., BSc, MSc, (Exec.) MBA and PhD) and received various grants and awards. His consultancy experience ranges from HR benchmarking and HR strategy consulting to process and service improvement.

What is your role at SBE?

Akin to other professors, I have a whole range of duties, including: doing research myself, but also making sure others can do research. This means managing resources and funding, getting the right people in and afterwards coaching, advising, and supervising them. And then of course teaching courses and supervising theses. Last but not least, besides the regular teaching I also do MBA teaching.

What motivates you as a professor?

From an educational perspective, it is very rewarding to have people think thoughts they have not thought before. It is nice when students say: “Ah, I’ve never thought about it this way”, and then are able to apply this in a project or their job.

For research, it is basically the same: I like solving puzzles and problems, and science is one big continuous problem solving exercise. Everybody builds a small part of the puzzle, that is the cool thing. And working with intrinsically motivated people on solving these puzzles is very rewarding.

What is your role within the MBA programme?

Currently, I supervise BCP theses and of course teach various modules on, for example, understanding individuals, understanding teams, and performance and SHRM. Additionally, we (as the O&S group) are also expanding our involvement in external consulting/training projects, so I also play a role there. Previously I was director of Executive Education at another university, which meant that I also had to provide overall leadership to the FT and MBA programmes (e.g., curriculum, staffing, marketing, recruitment, etc.). Hence, all in all a varied range of MBA-related activities.

What is your topic for the week?

Understanding business in times of change. We start with the context, focus on the organisational level, strategic HRM and then go into social and individual psychological aspects like: what is motivation, what makes teams work.

How do you make the connection to today’s business?

There are different ways of doing that. We present a whole range of different source materials: from scientific articles to practical articles and links to websites. I think that as an MBA student, you should have a critical mind and be able to flexibly use, integrate, and critique those various sources. In short: you have to know what the strengths, weaknesses and limitations are of different sources.

Another thing that we try to do in the MBA, is to provide a bit of a historic perspective. The things you hear about today; some of them are hypes, and some are new, yet some have been done before. It is therefore valuable to understand where topics are coming from: by understanding the past, you can understand today (and the future).

In science, there generally is a broader perspective, but in business, issues sometimes collapses into “this is it”. In such cases, it does not hurt to take a step back and look at things a bit more critically from a more holistic understanding. I think this is a very important skill to learn during a MBA.

What are you particularly proud of professionally?

Careerwise, I’ve enjoyed working internationally and getting my first full professorship at the relatively young age of 36. I am also quite proud of various publications my co-authors and I have been able to publish in global top scientific journals.

Would you like to share something personal with the readers?

I used to play basketball at quite a high level (i.e., junior ‘eredivisie’ and senior ‘eerste divisie’ and even some games at senior ‘eredivisie’ level). With the juniors, my position was center, but I was too short for the same position with the seniors and thus moved more towards power-forward. Unfortunately, a knee-injury put an end to my active playing, but it is still in my DNA. So don’t be surprised if you spot a basketball-analogy or two during classes!

BCP Defense Jaroslav Vlček

On Monday, June 25, Jaroslav Vlček completed the MBA successfully by defending his BCP. The BCP topic of Jaroslav was “How to become a Customer of Choice through Creative Procurement”. His assessors were Boris Blumberg, Nadine Kiratli and Frank Rozemeijer.
We would like to congratulate Jaroslav again and wish him all the best for a magnificent future! But why did he choose for the MaastrichtMBA in the first place? And what advice does he have for anyone considering an executive MBA at MaastrichtMBA?

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?

At that time (2015) I realized that I needed to get more insights in the theoretical frameworks of economics and business as I was assigned with a long term international project of establishing a new subsidiary of my company in Bulgaria.

Why did you decide to pursue an executive MBA at the MaastrichtMBA?

Modularity! My life at that point required a lot of travelling so I needed to have a fixed schedule of the educational weeks upfront.

How have you profited?

I have met many experienced people with different educational, industrial and cultural backgrounds, who were all willing to share their thoughts and ideas with me.

What advice do you have for anyone considering an executive MBA at the MaastrichtMBA?

Do not hesitate at all and start it! You can only gain from it!

What should applicants think about when deciding to do an MBA?

They should be aware of the fact that besides time, it will need a lot of energy, discipline and consistency so that it will become a part of their daily life.

How do employers benefit from employees with an MBA degree?

They will benefit from all the positive energy and new motivation their employees will gain in such an international, multicultural as well as professional environment.

What stands out from your MaastrichtMBA experience?

All the tiny chocolate bars we used to get as an afternoon snack 🙂 just kidding – of course all the good people I have met and who have become my friends!

What has been the most enjoyable part of the Maastricht MBA program?

I especially liked the modules where “no one was at home” meaning that we all spent the full week together!

The dos and don’ts of starting your own business

His information technology and software company Kabisa won the NRC Carrière Helden award 2016/2017, which is a Dutch award for being an outstanding employer by, for example, offering the best possible talent development and working conditions for employees.  While being your own boss and starting a company is one thing, hiring staff and being an employer is quite another story.

“You don’t need a plan but you do need a client!”

With a big smile, Harm de Laat glanced over the collective group of MBA students. Not too long ago, he actually was one of them, a MaastrichtMBA student participating in an educational week. In his introduction talk he mentioned MBA director Boris Blumberg approaching him to host a presentation and share his experience, as a fresh graduate and seasoned entrepreneur. It is a perfect fit for this particular week, featuring Entrepreneurship and New Business Development. After a brief summary of his career so far, he explained what he aims to do in this plenary session. “We’re going to talk about building your own business,” he addressed the room. “What do you need to do?” As if in one breath, multiple voices said “quit your job!” while others were a step ahead by saying “you need a plan.” Harm started Kabisa with a business partner and the both of them went to a bank for help in designing a business plan. “They gave us a template on a CD-ROM,” he said. “What is a CD-ROM?” someone asked, which prompted an outburst of laughter in the group. Whether it was serious or just a light-hearted remark, it illustrated the positive mood of this session in bright and eager colours. It also showed how fast things change, and how fast technology can become outdated and redundant. “You don’t need a plan,” Harm then challenged the group. “But you do need a client.”

The “wantrepreneur”

“Who wants to be an entrepreneur?” Harm asked to get an idea of the ambitions in the group. He coined a few profiles to differentiate between various types of people everyone encounters one way or another. “There’s the intrapreneur,” Harm explained, “someone who has an entrepreneurial role within a company.” Lots of laughter again when he pointed towards the word “wantrepreneur” in his presentation, “someone who has a new idea every month but never acts upon any of them.” Have you taken the Marshmallow Challenge yet?” he then wondered. Most of the group were already familiar with the challenge, so Harm moved on to pointing out its lessons. “People have to collaborate instantaneously. There’s no time to go over and over and over ideas or propositions. You have to orient, plan and build.”

Timing is everything

Timing is a powerful element to someone’s or something’s success. As Harm de Laat shared his knowledge and insights about success as well as failure in entrepreneurship, the questions from students were met with equal enthusiasm and willingness to share.

No good theory without good practice

It’s a topic that kept everyone on their toes during the whole session. How creativity and entrepreneurship can be matched and proven fruitful, perhaps even in a conservative business environment. For Nadine Kiratli, this was her first introduction to a MaastrichtMBA student audience and non-purchasing professionals. After sharing her background and connection to Maastricht University, from a Business and Economics student to her PhD research and current tenure track as an Assistant Professor, the conversation and feedback within the group would become central as a lead over the course of the day.

Is creativity a new buzz-word?

Creativity in the workplace, in entrepreneurship, raises a lot of questions. Is creativity manageable and if so, how? Often people confuse creativity with innovation, so in order to make clear what the difference is, the group was asked to share their views on the concept of creativity. “A new way of doing business that adds value,” says one of the students. “Having an open mind to a solution of a problem, even if it is new to the company,” another student chips in. “It’s a thought process of developing new ideas.” “Creativity is recombining things that are considered not to be combined.” The answers were diverse and creative in their own right and all seemed to steer into the same direction: how to develop novel and meaningful business solutions? Nadine then posed a series of suppositions to which the group had to respond by individually choosing one out of two or three given options. After, they had to explain and validate their choice. An example: are people born creative (nature) or is it something that can be taught (nurture)?

Class experience

The lively session beheld a promise for the rest of the afternoon in which the students would engage in practical assignments involving entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation. For this particular instance, a selected group of professionals interested in joining the MaastrichtMBA were invited to join the afternoon session with the students and experience the real thing before making a final application decision for the MaastrichtMBA.

We spoke to Manuel and Ralph, two of the prospective students who were present that day and we asked them about their findings afterwards. Manuel participated in the first MBA Click & Connect Webinar on April 18th, which triggered his curiosity and helped him to register for the Class Experience. He and Ralph both work in a financial environment. Both are drawn to the MaastrichtMBA by its strong leadership skills development trajectory and the modular set-up which allows them to easily schedule study and work. Manuel was also particularly interested in the applicability of the programme, whether it is possible to obtain a new job, even before graduation. A question that could easily be answered by any of the students and alumni who have found new positions while studying. It’s encouraged to bring your job experience to the MBA programme and vice versa: practice what you learn, on the work floor. While Manuel was on “home turf” as a former UM student, Ralph has a different background with a strong commitment to be part of growth and change in society; a goal that can certainly be achieved with the MaastrichtMBA.

Entrepreneurship is an attitude

The last Breakfast Booster before the summer break had to be something special. Prof. Dr. Paul Iske, one of our business school’s professors, would certainly live up to that promise in a very engaging way with lots of humour. He founded the Institute of Brilliant Failures to create more awareness for the complex relationship between innovation and entrepreneurship, and how failures can be beneficial to future success. This morning we learned that failure is not a bad thing. Quite the opposite even!

Prof. Dr. Paul Iske started with an anecdote about the pointer he needed for his presentation but had forgotten at home. He then downloaded a pointer app for his phone which turned out to work brilliantly. It was a crowded room at Buitenplaats Vaeshartelt, and a good lift off for a talk about the stigma of failure, and how to change one’s perception and attitude.

Don’t forget to make mistakes every once in a while!

Everyone agrees we live in a dynamic and complex world. But how to deal with everything, at work, in our companies? Success is a main drive. We all need to be successful. But what about failure and making mistakes? The parameters required to be successful, are also imperative in how to deal with failure. Being agile and resilient matters. But we are creatures of habit who create patterns in our brain. Patterns keep us safe, or so we are inclined to think. We are afraid of failure, and afraid to make mistakes. That’s why we stick to what we know.

“We have to get out of our own canyon,” Paul Iske advices his audience. He explains how entrepreneurship and failure relate to one another. Entrepreneurship is an attitude that leads to the identification and exploitation of previously unexploited opportunities. Failure is just an option in a long list of entrepreneurial attributes, among which passion, stamina, intelligence and creativity stand out. Passion involves risk-taking, and risk-taking can involve failure. But it’s what could happen, it’s not written in stone. Again, fear of failure can keep us from expanding our horizon and step out of our own comfort zone.

The art of breaking patterns

A series of examples show how creativity and ideas can break patterns. Like in sports. In 1968 Dick Fosbury won a gold medal at the Olympics in Mexico City with his own high jumping technique, it was called the Fosbury Flop. In physics, his technique makes perfect sense, but in the minds of those who were used to regular techniques, the flop was daring, and revolutionary. For wordplay, this flop certainly turned out anything but a flop, and a huge success instead.

Paul Iske’s institute lists a number of interesting archetypes of failures, among which the Addiction, the Canyon, the Black Swan, Timing and the Elephant. Each archetype carries certain characteristics for brilliant failures from which new products or concepts found their way into society. Viagra is a failed heart medicine, but useful for ED. Those Post-It notes? The result of a failed attempt to create a new superglue. The connection between entrepreneurship and innovation, sometimes via failure, is an enlightening one, if we accept failure as an experience to learn from.

Learning Something New Every Day

Twelve new MaastrichtMBA students from all walks of life gathered in a classroom at Maastricht University’s campus in the first week of December. It was their introduction weekend to the MBA programme. Although they had only just met, a warm and open vibe of togetherness was already present, turning the session about Leadership & Learning into a very lively one.

Exploring brain capacity

Sonja Zaar, lecturer and researcher in the field of organisational behaviour and educational sciences, introduced herself to the group and promised a mix of information and entertainment, carried by the group itself via active participation in the various assignments she had planned. A first series of questions balancing myths and facts evoked amusement and laughter, as the group discussed whether people would use their left or right brain primarily. “It’s a myth, of course!” Sonja explained when curiosity for the correct answer grew bigger, “because the two sides of the brain are intricately co-dependent.” She supported her claim with an illustration mapping out some of the functions of our brain and body that definitely needed both sides of the brain. Another myth or fact kept the group bouncing off ideas and thoughts with their immediate neighbours in the room, as Sonja instructed. Do we use only 10% of our brain? “I sure hope that’s a myth,” Maurice Zeegers responded, and again the group burst out in laughter. Sonja Zaar had no trouble convincing the group of the fact that we actually use our entire brain, but due to internal and external factors we don’t make use of the full 100% all the time.

The myth of multitasking

The myth of multitasking was next. “My colleague Suzanne Dieteren will elaborate on this subject in her workshop this weekend, so I will keep it brief,” Sonja Zaar stated. Opinions differed, which even resulted in a banter between genders, when Robin Richardson said that women could definitely handle more tasks simultaneously. After this rather playful warming-up for the brain cells, it was time for a more serious approach of matters. “It is a fact that we can grow our brain,” Sonja continued. She asked the group for input. Suzanne de Vaal was the first to respond: “We can build a network with multiple connections.” Dimitriya Bozukova, who holds a PhD in Chemistry added: “Maybe blood vessels can grow when the brain is stimulated.” Sonja Zaar then pointed out two major facts. “The brain forms new cells throughout life, it’s called neurogenesis. The brain has the ability to change and adapt, and you can have control over it. That’s called neuroplasticity.” An illustration of a dendrite, which is a short branched extension of a nerve cell, showed that dendrites only grow with new information and new experiences. “If you don’t practice what you learn, there are no new dendrites”, Sonja Zaar concluded. Maurice Zeegers posed a question about creating a neuro network for practice. “Do we have to apply it or are neurons already growing?” Khalifa Almuttawa had his own thoughts about this new knowledge: “Longterm memory is like a hard drive then. Is it ever full?”

The group was focused on everything Sonja Zaar shared about the capacity of our brain, about neuropathways and the automated process that functions like a drawer for a domain. Or how a path can be reactivated to access knowledge. There’s the downside of creating habits, which results in bad habits like addiction. Addiction stems from a neuropathway with a physical impairment.

Different cultures means different understandings of reality

Sonja Zaar moved on to mental models, and the way we see the world. She asked the group to each draw an elephant and in advance she said that each drawing would show a different elephant. And it did. Her next assignment was for the group to form small teams, and for each team to think about a certain project. Each member would have a different point of view, and the goal was to be explicit about what each team member had in mind and to express those different views. The example of the half empty or half full glass was given. Is there fluid and if so, is it transparent? Does it have to be water? Why is it water, is it blue? Ahmed Mongeal liked the comparisons and expressed his realisation that everyone in this group comes from different cultures and as such, different understandings of reality.

Leadership at the core

Sonja Zaar created yet another level by inviting the group to think about the brain and its need for patterns, which easily might lead to optical illusions. The conversation entered metaphysical and philosophical domains before it reached the core essence of this session, namely leadership. “Leaders need to find the strong points of their team, for nobody has the same skillset in life. They need to look at what is the most workable for their team members.” The session then ended with some practical guidelines to benefit both brain and body and how to be receptive towards new ways of looking at things.