While most of my fellow shapers were already traveling half of the world on Friday, my journey to The Netherlands started Saturday morning in the train station of Sint-Niklaas. I took the train to Antwerp were I met my Belgian colleague Alois and we travelled flawlessly and smoothly together to Ede. Once we arrived in the station of the one and only Ede, metropolis of Gelderland, it wasn’t very surprising that we recognized the other Shapers immediately. Basically everyone who carried a suitcase and who spoke English, was a Shaper. Let the socializing begin!
We walked with some of the freshly encountered Shapers to the Akoesticum – our home for the next three days – and started talking about our story, our travels, our job or whatever popped up in our head. Once arrived at the venue, our Belgian colleague Evi from the organizing team gave us a warm welcome and a small practical briefing, so we were finally ready to go meet all the other Shapers!
We walked in the welcome room and encountered a very jetlagged, but energetic bunch of young people who didn’t know who to talk to first! The tempo was set. I started by looking for my team members from our virtual team ‘Sparta Sally’. After all the Sunday Skype session and late night Whatsapp discussions we were really looking forward to meet each other in real life. And we finally did!
After sharing our excitement and travel stories within the team, we started introducing ourselves to as much other Shapers as possible. To be honest I have no idea if I properly introduced myself to all the other 99 Shapers. Probably not. But that doesn’t matter, the most important is to make some real good connections that can last and that are constructive. And I’m convinced that I really made some of those!
After some catching up during lunch, we were asked in the plenary room for the opening ceremony. The organization team and all the other virtual teams gave a great introduction. They finally explained us more about what we were going to do on the face-2-face meeting. They couldn’t explain everything, because the biggest interpretation of the program was still in our hands and open for creativity.
The organizing team explained about the principle of ‘open space’ workflows. Basically that means that there is a lot of room for creativity and freedom. And there is only one rule, the ‘two feet rule’: if you feel you’re not in the right workflow, you can use your two feet to move to another flow. You can’t force creativity, the teams need to be formed naturally and it’s very interesting to have some visitors who can give you some fresh feedback on what you are working on.
The program had 5 workflows: engage our talents, the passion movement, the Arcadis connector, the GS show and branding. Without knowing anything about the content, the team captains were selected and we could choose in which workflow we wanted to contribute. I decided to start in the GS show workflow and that I also wanted to contribute on the Arcadis connector and the passion movement. We’ll see where it gets me.
After some practicalities we started right after the opening ceremony. We entered the meeting room of our chosen workflow and we got the basic required deliverables and some guidelines. The first hours of the workflow was very chaotic, everyone just started shouting ideas and every white board was filled up with random ideas within minutes. There was no control what so ever, 100 enthusiastic young professionals wanted to be heard and wanted to leave a signature in the workflow.
Around midnight most of us had enough chaos for the day, so we met in the bar for some beers and to share our stories about the different workflows. It seemed that no one had used his two feet to move to another workflow, and that every workflow had as much chaos as mine. So we discussed some ideas to make it a more constructive the next day and encouraged each other to use our feet to discover the our right place in the workflows.
And I did. The next day I went to the Arcadis connector workflow and felt a better atmosphere for my liking. It was obvious that the team captains of this workflow had a completely different approach of leadership. And it was obvious that everyone needed some sleep and sports in the morning to clear their minds to see the bigger picture again. The day started by clearing the white boards and by starting again – constructively – with all the useful brainstorm information from the previous day. Decisions were made and tasks were divided to people who were up for it. We were back on track!
Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish
The third day the topic of the day was personal development. The organizing team gave a very interesting exposition about the different personality preferences (the MBTI profiling). Introvert versus extravert, thinking versus feeling and so on. How can you recognize your preferred preference and how can you learn to use the other side as well? After the session everyone was more confused than they were before, but we knew that every side has his benefits and disadvantages and that you can learn to use it. Interesting stuff.
After our personal reflection, we had the honor meeting some members of the executive board. We could share our story with them and talk about our personal reflection and the current leadership of Arcadis. We were divided in smaller groups to be able to have a more intimate and personal chat with the EB members. They gave us some inspiring and motivational words, and we were pleasantly surprised they preferred listening to our stories, questions and concerns instead of only sending out their own visions.
Enough reflection, time to work again to be ready to show our results on day 4 to the AGLF members. One of the workflows was organizing the show for the first day of the AGLF program. 175 global leaders and high potentials came to Rotterdam for an intensive program about engagement within Arcadis and to brainstorm and learn about the new global strategy.
Our goal was to make sure everyone had a warm welcome and to share our results and energy from the program. And by doing that we could make new connections and receive as much information as possible about Arcadis and how the higher management works. We played our board game that we created with some of the AGLF members and the others shows about engagement and passion were a great success!
It always seems impossible untill it’s done
After the shows it was time to meet our buddies and ambassadors from the AGLF who helped us achieve our goals in the virtual phase and the face 2 face meeting. We took the biggest Arcadis selfie ever and ended the night with some drinks and great chats. The exhaustion and the stress were gone in seconds. Goal achieved.
The next day we played some strategic games about the Arcadis strategy. To be honest most of us were very tired from the stress unloading activities the night before, so our scores weren’t very reliable. But it was good fun and we actually learned a lot about our strategy and client focus. We ended the program with the closing ceremony and we all said goodbye. Time to go home and get some well deserved sleep!
Thank you Arcadis for this opportunity and thank you organizing team for going the extra mile!
Raph Bogaert Global Shaper Generation 2015 (Arcadis Continental Europe)