An unique mix of inspiration – OnStage @Likefriends

Written by Anouk van Maanen, Managing Director of Likefriends.

As a kid, all I wanted was to learn and create things myself. I was a sponge for any type of knowledge and didn’t care about the ‘what’ I made. I was intrigued by kid shows like ‘Het Klokhuis’ (Dutch TV show), loved the way painters painted their paintings, builders built bridges and chefs creating their dishes. Although I soon realized that I wasn’t a creator like that myself, watching these craftsmen could keep me busy for hours. And it still sometimes does… Unfortunately, I am not raised in a way that allowed me to mind wander a lot, or dream big dreams, I had to focus on results and getting things done. Also great virtues, but different. My hunger for inspiration was born in those days where I felt I had to focus on work, instead of losing myself in one of my inspirations.

In the Netherlands, we have a strong focus on productivity and efficiency in our work. In general we try to optimize our working processes into a smooth running machine. Most of us thrive on things that are predictable and there is only little room for surprises. In our private lives we tend to plan out a lot, resulting in finding expected results and only rare moments of inspiration and surprise. So to shake things up, at Likefriends, we aim for inspiration and surprise on a daily basis. We built a team in an eclectic mix of people from various cultures, we follow an inclusive work process, we have a guest chef of the week who cooks and we aim to reach outside the box with our solutions. To infuse our creative thinking, we look to surprise ourselves with exposure to passion and knowledge. Therefore, on a bi-weekly basis we invite people on stage to tell their story about their passion.

We started this tradition after the summer ’17 and kicked off with one of our dear friends, Maarten P. Kappert. Maarten climbed the stage to share his story about his personal quest to save our planet by guiding communication agencies to shift their creation into building sustainable goals. Maarten has spent years on research and, in his presentation, he articulates that we as a world nation have been wrong with our shared goals in life like big cars, big houses, exotic holidays, etc. for so long. And that the road we are on as a world nation is a dead end. He has created a model that clearly indicates the problem, but what I loved about his model is that it also offers the solution! After his catchy presentation, we had an hour debating the statements and sharing our personal sustainable goals in live. You can find a longer article about Maarten’s story here. We closed the night with some drinks and nibbles. Simple formula, great results. And we did it again, and again, and again.

What happened was amazing. Because we were getting inspired, some things changed at our agency. Psychologists Todd Thrash and Andrew Elliot have been studying inspiration for decades. They have identified three elements that occur when inspired:
1. we see new possibilities
2. we are receptive to an outside influence
3. we feel energized and motivated

I saw all these things happen with people at Likefriends, some people were more motivated, others saw more possibilities. We all reacted differently, but all changes could be caught in the list of Thrash and Elliot. This is how OnStage @ Likefriends was born as a concept, and we are now all working on the success of this concept. We invite people from our network to attend our sessions, or to be on stage and share their story.

We do not only have external speakers, to talk about subjects such as cryptocurrency, book design, empathy or ethnic stereotyping – we also give the stage to colleagues. We learn about their passions or help them create and optimize their keynotes for conferences. During OnStage we share inspiration with each other, in our own work environment.

After thinking for 25 years that I was not a creator, I was able to put work and inspiration together in a simple but enduring concept at Likefriends. And I love it :)!