We all live in stories
We all live in stories. This is our reality. Who we are and how we function are determined not so much by the events that shape us, but by the interpretations we give to these events and the stories we tell about them; to others, but also to ourselves. (See the box in the right in this respect: a fact is a fact, but perception is reality.)
The fact that our lives, our work and who we are is inextricably bound up with the stories we tell to one another and ourselves, is the most significant inspirational factor behind CEO (Creative Executive Office).
When asked about the meaning of life, everyone answers with the story of his own life /Georgy Konrad
This is my story
For some twenty years, I worked in the theatre; as a dramaturge, director and commercial manager, among other roles. During the later period in particular – from 1999 to 2009 – I was really in my element, as commercial director and dramaturge at the Noord Nederlands Toneel (NNT). As a large, national theatre company, we strove to make relevant, exciting and successful theatre. Over a ten-year period, we created more than a hundred productions with this company: performances in the large Dutch theatres, but also in people’s living rooms, in council chambers and crematoria, on a roof and in a cellar, in a castle made of straw, in the editorial offices of a newspaper, in a cargo ship, et cetera., et cetera. It was with great pleasure that I led a dynamic and colourful company, together with my artistic counterpart, Koos Terpstra.
Quit while you are ahead. In a theatrical performance, there is always a limited number of ‘crossroads’. These are significant moments, at which the narrative suddenly changes course or tempo. I now find myself at just such a crossroad. I consciously chose to draw a line under my work with NNT after a period of ten years – as did the entire artistic team. We decided to make way for a new team, which was then free to break the mould and forge its own identity in the years ahead. Such radical changes are healthy, in my opinion – even essential in ensuring that artistic and organisational vigour are retained. I believe that the same applies to large, subsidised theatre companies in general; this has certainly been a crucial precondition for my own, personal development. I was determined not to become too comfortable in my own routine and not to become too accustomed to getting my own way. I therefore took the conscious decision not to take up offers from the theatrical sector, but to strike out on my own – with CEO.
The 'other' perspective
This is something you will see reflected all over this site. My whole system is geared to finding the ‘other’ perspective. Why? To get things moving, to shake things up, to be confrontational, to give rise to insight, to bring perspective, to provide energy, to penetrate to the core.
This is a direct consequence of all those years spent in the theatre. The world of the professional theatre is characterised by a wondrous mix of orthodox and unorthodox processes. I take this mix with me into all my activities. At management level, I am more than familiar with the ‘traditional’ management issues that arise when you are responsible for a large organisation with a turnover in the millions of Euros. This commercial responsibility is only one side of the coin, however. The other side is dominated by intuition and creative processes.
In order to be original and successful – in any organisation or working relationship – you need to be able to link content and organisation. If there is any single conviction that underlies everything I do, it is the unshakeable belief that creativity and commercial success can only be achieved if form and content are in harmony. It never ceases to amaze me that these are nevertheless very often deliberately separated: What are you doing, with Whom, Why, When and with What budget? The commercial and concrete (content) issues are identical. This is precisely where, time and again, I see problems arising. Actions and behaviour then no longer correspond to the content of the story.
Here is where that ‘other’ perspective comes in. I am always looking for the structures below the surface. What is really going on; what is the subtext, what is the real story? And where are the bottlenecks?
Conflict as an opportunity
A major conflict or the feeling of being stuck in a situation are generally seen as something negative. This needn’t be the case, however. The sensation of being trapped is often an important signal that you are close to a major boundary. Conflict can also bring insight – separating out the sense from the nonsense, however difficult this may seem while you are caught up in the heart of the maelstrom.
In the theatre and film worlds, conflict is in fact the core product. It lies at the heart of what makes a drama dramatic. At the same time, conflicts are used (entered into) as part of the creative process, with the aim of getting closer to the heart of the matter. Contrary to what the common cliché would have us believe, this is by no means the ‘soft sector’. Quite the reverse, in fact. The creative process is often brutally harsh, with only one – absolutely sacred – basic requirement: trust. With all eyes on the result (and not your own ego), conflicts are entered into in order to focus in on what is essential. This often produces a unique quality; just as often, it also fails to do so. Nevertheless, the fact that a conflict is, above all, an opportunity is something I have experienced time and again in all those years of managing, mediating, preventing or allowing conflicts to take place.
Enough about me
I hope this site provides you with a clear, inspiring idea of what I do and what I could do for you.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to know anything else about CEO.