January 11, 2022
My most significant others
I firmly believe that what people are at any given moment has formed by combining insights from a number of disciplines that they acquired in the course of their life. Several of these disciplines are related to specific persons that one meets in various stages of one’s life and who had a profound influence on who you are and what you stand for.
I started learning Chinese at age 14 (1970). This was primarily driven by a wish to learn a non-Western language, but it quickly evolved into a general interest in Chinese culture. I spent several periods in China as a student (1975-76), researcher (1981), professor of Dutch (1982-84), chief representative of a Dutch company (1986-91), etc., during which I developed friendships with Chinese of all walks of life. However, the influence of sharing my life with my wife (since 1984) undoubtedly has had the most profound influence on my knowledge of the way Chinese make sense of the world, basically making me a bi-cultural person.
While defending my first dissertation about Chinese grammar studies in 1986, I had already joined a company, changing my profession from academia to the commercial world overnight by reacting to an invitation from John Morris, Manager Corporate Development, for an interview. I am grateful to John’s trust in a dusty linguist and even more for his unorthodox introductions on how companies work in practice.
After I left the company and established my consulting practice in 1991, I developed the idea for a second PhD in business administration. The quest for a proper supervisor got me in contact with Henk van Dongen, Professor of Change Management at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Henk introduced me to social constructionist organisation theory and the postmodern world perception on which that paradigm is based. I defended that PhD in 2000.
I met Fons Trompenaars, the founder of the 7-Dimension model of national culture in 1998, invited to help Fons’ company with a module on Chinese culture. The synergy from combining the influences from Henk and Fons has become a driving force behind all my activities.
I joined the School of Business and Economics of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in 2001. While I already had reconciled with the idea that this could be the final stage of my professional life, I met Tom Zwart, the founder of the Cross Cultural Human Rights Centre, in 2016. The Centre, founded in 2014, propagates the view that the practical implementation of human rights in a certain region needs to consider the local culture and social practices. I started working with the Centre immediately and I am currently working on making the 7-D model of culture applicable to human rights.
I got in contact with another TFF affiliate, Gordon Dumoulin, in 2020 and was able to visit Gordon in Beijing about a year later. I soon started discussing various issues of international politics with the TFF founders.
I no longer dare to say that I have reached the final stage of my professional life, but am honoured to have been invited as an associate of TFF. I am looking forward to whatever comes next.
Profile at Free University – publications, CV, etc.