How Matthijs de Jongh creates space by cutting out the middleman

Happyplaces Stories (video)

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When I visited Matthijs at Kesselskramer, I went there with the goal to get his answer to the question how he as a strategist creates space for clients. A full day later, we ended up filing just that. But the rest of the day was even more fascinating. Because of the documentary film The Other Final, where world’s lowest ranking teams of Bhutan and Montserrat played a final on the same day as the World Cup Final, Matthijs has been a frequent visitor to Bhutan since. And proved to be a true expert on the subject of ‘happiness’, because of his connection to this country that has happiness at its core with its Gross National Happiness (GNH). GNH is a much richer objective than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or economic growth. In GNH, material well-being is important but it is also important to enjoy sufficient well-being in things like community, culture, governance, knowledge and wisdom, health, spirituality and psychological welfare, a balanced use of time, and harmony with the environment. He shared with me his collection of literature on the matter, documents he brought from Bhutan and a lot of pictures from his many visits. Ideally, I would have recorded everything. I didn’t, possibly a next time.

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So if you ask me: how do you create space to make something, I immediately think of the dilemma between having space and starting from emptiness, which allows for creation and the need for guidance, on the other hand. Because especially when you work by commission, which is what we generally do here at KesselsKramer, you want to have a lot of space to come up with new things. On the other hand, you also need to make clear to your client what he or she can expect. And you also need guidance to know which way it is going, more or less. When people ask me about our way of working at KesselsKramer, I like to bring up this simple model.

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You begin with a problem, the assignment. You are then going to think of a solution. In order to do this, you drink lots of coffee first and then you begin to fill out all the disciplines. Then you have to think about the means and media you will use to tell a certain story. But what often happens, is that you are asked to fill out the disciplines. In other words: you are asked to come up with a viral, a social media campaign or commercial, or to do a PR campaign. This way, you do not put enough thought into the actual problem. For us this is a way of creating space with a client, by simplifying everything.

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During my studies, I was presented with models like model by Giep Franzen, which shows that there are more than fifty ways for concept and strategy developments, which, in the end, leads to a so-called shift in attitude. This, of course, is what we all want to achieve. We want people to respond, to buy things or to ‘like’ things. There are many strategies to achieve this. In this model, the focus is on guidance. This also gives the illusion of certainty, of knowing where it is going. I think that, the best situation is somewhere in between.

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When you have just started your career, you will need a lot of guidance. Junior creatives also want more guidance. And at a certain point, when you are more experienced, you can simplify the model and begin to follow your intuition to come to a solution. But back to this model. I feel that it is very common for people to think too little about the problem. So, what is desirable, why is something not working out properly and what are the obstacles? People are too eager to begin searching for solutions, without really knowing what the problem is. In order to co-ordinate the process, I think it is important to have a way of working that is fairly direct. This has also been the start of KesselsKramer.

In a traditional model, you often work with a client and with people who manage the process. They make sure that an assignment is transferred through an office in the best possible way. This mediator makes sure everything goes according to plan and if it fits the budget. The mediator smoothes off the rough edges. Because clients, of course, always ask dumb questions and are too critical. Creatives are always unrealistic and want too much. Clients do not understand the creatives. And this mediator smoothens the process. But at the start of KesselsKramer, we actually tried to bring together the people with the problem and the people with the solution. That is how you get to this story. As you can see: we are going from this to that. You remove the mediator, and then you see that a client is able to work directly with a strategic, creative or a producer. Nothing of this is new, but it is how we try to create the space to come to more specific solutions.

Written by

Founder of Happykamping & Happyplaces Project, author, sensemaker

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