How I got here

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We are all part of the same system, connected by subtle threads. It is difficult to predict what would happen if you pull on one thread of the web.

 

I spend 6 years studying this web of relationships in nature: How do the soil and weather influence plant growth? And in return, how do living things influence the soil and climate? How does this dance of influence back and forth result in the evolution of ecosystems?

I needed to find a way to tackle this complexity. Eventually I took a piece of paper and started to map things out. Seeing all the relationships laid out right in front of me, allowed me to think through the causal loops and I was able to formulate a hypothesis.

For my final thesis, I set out to research how floating platforms influence the aquatic ecosystem. I quickly discovered that formulating a scientific hypothesis was going to be a challenge. There are so many interacting factors, like the movement of the water, the light intensity, the characteristics of the sediment, the plants and mussels.. making it tricky to predict the outcome.

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I also used this map to explain to others: divers, drone operators, laboratory analysists, what I was doing. It became the perfect tool for helping others understand and the backbone of my thesis.

Visualising everything throughout my thesis helped me uncover mistakes in my thinking, eventually before I made them, before it was too late to fix them.

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After graduating and full of passion for this subject of influence and connection, I realized there are not many jobs for geo-ecologists. But I was not ready to settle for a job in a different field. I wanted to further explore that thing that hooked me the most: Visualising the underlying structure of a system and communicating it to others. To learn more about this, I searched for books about systems science. Working through them, I realised I intuitively already knew the things I read were true, I had just been missing the words to describe them.

Looking for an opportunity to apply what I had learned, I started to go to all kinds of events. One evening, I ended up at an event about Biomimicry, where I would meet a person that changed the course of my life.

Soon after entering the event, I could feel that there was something special about this group of people. Everyone there seemed to be on a mission in their own way and even though I was not sure yet what mine was, I felt like I fit right in. One of them was a man with a pony tail and a bushy beard. He told me about the project he was passionate about: It involved a blockchain hackathon, multiple teams he was supporting and the motto: Building the unimaginable.

 

I was intrigued and asked him to tell me more. He explained that he was looking for someone whit a systems thinking brain to help with this project. Excited to get to talk about my favorite topic, I explained that I had just spend six years studying systems and that I had found a way to visualise and help others see the intricate connections that systems are made of. And that I was looking for my next step to apply and share this skill.

Two weeks later, I was working for him. I could not quite believe how that had happened. How was he able to trust me so quickly? Looking back, I think that the way I listened, asked questions and most importantly, was not afraid of his way out there complex project, was enough to convince him.

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The next few months we worked towards the big event: The blockchain hackathon. The event took place in a large old factory building, all the windows were blocked off with black fabric. There was a large table for each of the many teams. One corner of the room was dedicated to our teams, with the motto "Building the unimaginable" projected on the wall.

We quickly got to work. I listened to the description of all the projects and mapped them out. I imagined a world in which they all exist at the same time. How would they interact? Do they support each other or is there a potential conflict? I created one large map to show how the individual projects connect and highlighted the opportunities for cooperation.

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I shared this map with the teams. Before they would mostly stick to their own tables, feeling that their own projects were complex enough, no need to further complicate it by trying to understand what the others are doing. Now I saw them walk between tables and explore these cooperation opportunities. Sometimes another teams project would be able to solve a problem they had been struggling with. I was excited to see the impact my map had made so clearly.

I realised this is exactly what I want to do, this is what I am good at: I help people with complex slippery challenges. Help them gain clarity in complexity, give them a better way to communicate and share perspectives, so they can turn conflicts into opportunities for cooperation and take action together.

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Since then, I have helped many people with complex challenges, big and small. From gaining clarity on a new business idea, over transforming a housing corporation to be more aligned with their mission to developing policies to reduce green house gas emissions and speeding up the transition to a circular economy of solar panels.

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If you have been told your idea is too "out there", that what you want is too complex, if you have been told no, there are too many conflicting interests, if you have something unimaginable you want to achieve, big or small, but don't know where to start: Call me.