Humans of New Work

Freek-Jan Ronner & Joost Minaar

Corporate Rebels

#Cultural Change

Tuesday July 18th, 2017
Monika Jiang


‘Making work more fun’ is a movement started by Dutch Corporate Rebels Joost Minnaar, Pim de Morree, and Freek-Jan Ronner. Driven to find individuals and organizations that are reinventing the workplace status quo, the trio has been traveling the world, sharing inspiring insights, and, soon, publishing their own book. Their journey started when decade-long friends Joost and Pim quit their corporate jobs. Although at the time Joost loved his job at a Barcelona-based lab, he felt frustrated with the organization’s top-down communication style and old fashioned management practices.
“I felt like I didn’t fit in the corporate world and I just wasn’t happy with myself. When I talked to Pim, he felt the same, so we decided to change that. We put together a bucket list of inspiring individuals and companies that had established new ways of working. We wanted to see whether the people at these places were truly happier and more connected to their work. After reading all the books, I wanted to see with my own eyes if it was true.”
Freek, on the other hand, was triggered to dig deeper into the new work mindset by leading an agile project development. So he joined Corporate Rebels. Money is no longer his key driver. Instead, it’s personal growth, meaning, and shared purpose that energizes him. That energy, as Joost puts it, is rewarded by generating added value in the world, in turn, creating a reason to get up in the morning. To this day, they still trust their gut feeling over set criteria when seeking out unique stories that shed light on unconventional understandings of work, says Freek.
“If we’re inspired, we go there to learn, write, and share their practices with the rest of the world. It’s important for us to map a diverse representation of various industries, from cookie factories and health care institutions to public services. By showing these examples, we let people know that it’s always possible to change regardless of size, culture, or sector.”
After exchanging ideas with a number of forward-thinking organizations, the group is able to identify similar behavior patterns across company leaders. “Especially when growing, organizations struggle with both holding on to the new and the fear of falling back,” explains Joost.
“For the leaders, it’s a constant evolution, experimenting new methods, and realizing the pitfalls of traditional thinking. Our mindset is to do everything we can to help employees perform better. ‘How can I support my people the best? What do they need?’ That’s why it’s interesting for people to hear what we can share as well. For the inspiring personalities we meet, it’s not about selling their stories to the public but seeing inspiration and the chance to learn something from everyone.”
Writing stories has always been the core of the Corporate Rebels movement, though, at some point the team went through an identity crisis questioning their credibility. Only talking and writing wouldn’t be enough to prove these new ways of working made an impact. That is how Corporate Rebels started working as consultants and hosting workshops for more engaging workplaces.
“We don’t believe in large-scale change programs. We base our consulting solely on real experiments. To start off, we search for the ‘highest rebel’ nearest to the top of an organization who is willing to join the vision, make a difference, and stand behind the change. Then we start experimenting. For example, trying out self-responsible approval processes. At the end of the month, everyone is invited to share their experiences, teachings, failures, and successes. We’re firmly convinced that it’s all about letting people make their own decisions. Listen to them, let them experiment, design, and execute change.”
With this empowering outlook, both Joost and Freek hope their movement keeps growing and having an increasingly positive impact on people’s lives. They’re also looking for more people to join, create an organization themselves and, maybe in a couple of years, find corporate rebels everywhere.
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