Going the Distance
I always had a kind of love-hate relationship with business in general. On the one hand I enjoyed the thrill, but on the other hand I was always missing something; a sense of community, of co-existence. When I was chairman of the Dutch Unilever business I came into contact with amaseu; I felt they could help us create this sense of community, so we started doing journeys.
At the time  this was new for amaseu and for us. In the beginning we still did the usual outbound activities, building bridges etc., but very soon we started sharing stories about who we were, sitting in reflection, asking ourselves what we wanted to do as individuals and as a collective.
Things began to happen. After travelling for a week together in a journey, the entire sense and feeling of the group started to change. The more we practiced, together with other strategic initiatives,
the more we noticed that our results went up. And up and up and up. We started winning prizes for the best advertising, the best innovation, the best this and the best that.
It’s logical really; people all over the world are looking for the same things from their companies; a sense of community, meaning, spirit and the chance to grow. Through the journey process you can address these issues so that your people will become highly motivated, and will therefore perform better. As they say, happy cows produce more milk.
It’s now part and parcel of what I do. First we take the top team on a journey, then we ask them to bring their teams on journeys, and so it goes on. I’ve done this in Asia with the Unilever teams but also at AkzoNobel with 16,000 people over the space of two years, and I’m now running TNT Express and will do it again.
A business is an abstract concept; in the end it’s always about a group of people working together. If you want to grow a business, you have to grow people. There is no other way. You can’t grow a machine. You can’t grow a process.