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Digital Proust Questionnaire #8: Jeroen Huys

Author: Thomas Halter

Emakina Group has rapidly grown in recent years, in part thanks to our managing directors leading the way. But who are these MDs, besides leaders in digital, creative and business growth? Let’s sneak a peek inside their heads with this new series: Emakina’s Digital Proust questionnaires!

The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlour game popularised (though not devised) by Marcel Proust. The French essayist and novelist believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. This is an adapted basic Proust Questionnaire for the digital age.

Jeroen Huys, managing director of Design is Dead since May 2016, is passionate about change and transformation. He is a big believer of business and societal opportunities offered by the circular economy and loves experimenting with product service systems. He ’s just as inspired by happy experiences with friends and family as he is by modern-day thinkers. And he’d rather go far, with his Design is Dead team, than fast but on his own.


1. What is your idea of happiness?

Happiness comes from human interactions. For me, this means having a good time with my family and friends, e.g. in the Ardennes around a campfire, camping in the wild or attending a music festival. I like being part of a group.

2. What is your greatest fear?

Our health is the most valuable thing we have. It might seem a commonplace thing to say, but it is still true. My greatest fear is that someone I love (or myself) would face serious health issues.

3. Which historical figure do you admire the most?

I have immense respect for Nelson Mandela. He is a fantastic example of how you can achieve great things in a complex and challenging situation, based on a positive attitude and perseverance.

For those of you who wonder, he didn’t actually win the rugby World Cup, but he did other amazing things

4. Which living person do you admire the most?

It’s almost impossible to choose one person. I admire too many people. Some for their remarkable feats in music, sports, science, philosophy… And of course there are several captains of industry that are thought leaders as well. Other people inspire me simply by their ‘way of being’, people I experience personally, like my wife, my brother, my best friend, my parents and my children. Because there are so many, it’s not possible to choose just one I admire the most…

5. Who is your favourite writer?

I’m a voracious reader of all kinds of content. My literary diet is limited to non-fiction, with a preference for socio-economical and philosophical brain food.

Some authors? I value thinkers like the young historian Rutger Bregman, who wrote ‘Utopia for Realists’. He also gave an interesting TED talk on poverty and how ideas like the basic income can and do change the world. Professor of clinical psychology and psychoanalysis Paul Verhaeghe also shares impressive insights on topics like ‘being normal’, love, and identity in a market-based society. Another ‘great light’ is Michel Bauwens, one of the founders of peer-to-peer research and action, who is active in the P2PFoundation. When it comes to fiction, I am a big fan of French comics. …

6. Who is your favourite fictional character?

Unfortunately, I can’t think of any… It simply isn’t my thing 🙂

7. What part of the digital industry makes you happy?

It’s a sector in constant movement and, because of that, it attracts fascinating people. Digital is also relevant for all other sectors, making our work interesting and valuable. Digital transformation is more than about digital. It deals with change management. We reinvent organisation models, new forms of collaboration and new business models. I find that intriguing.

8. What part of the digital industry makes you unhappy?

We do not use digital to its maximum potential to benefit both people and the planet (alongside profit).

Like selling hippie memorabilia on the Internet…

9. Who/what inspired you the most in your career?

‘The most’ does not apply to me 😉 I have learned so much from so many people. Also these last few weeks. Here are a few things that I try to apply in my professional life:

– it’s all about people, always, regardless of the context
– always go for the win-win
– perception does matter
– if necessary, apply the golden silence rule

10. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I have been fortunate being able to build the current Design is Dead team. It is great to bring together talented people, make them feel happy to work together, and create an environment in which they can develop and grow personally. Also, I’m proud of the fact we achieve a sustainable win-win between our colleagues, clients and shareholder.

11. What tech company do you wish you had started?

Google. The data it owns holds the key to truly make a difference regarding the challenges mankind faces. It could be a giant force for good, combining the interests of people, planet and profit.

12. What digital project would you have most loved to be a part of?

I am a big fan of the organisation Close the Gap. It’s an international non-profit organisation that aims to bridge the digital divide. How? By offering high-quality, pre-owned computers donated by large and medium-sized corporations or public organisations to educational, medical, entrepreneurial, and social projects in developing and emerging countries. I am proud Design is Dead is a solid strategic partner of this program and has been for several years.

Check out their website!

13. What is your favourite digital app/tool?

WhatsApp. It’s very straightforward, but at the same time it’s amazing how much added value & fun it brings. For example, your festival feeling starts weeks upfront, and it stays longer thanks to your festival group on WhatsApp.

14. What digital app/tool that does not exist would you would like to create?

I feel there is room for more apps allowing to share products, optimise the use of products and stimulate the circular economy.

15. What is the trait you are most proud of in yourself?

Let me be humble and say that I am proud of my mix of traits 😉

16. What is the trait you most admire in others?

Why the most? I like a lot of things and different traits in a lot of people. I like intelligence, competence, creativity, humour, being a team player, and openness, for a start.

Next time we’ll send this guy to interview Jeroen…

17. What is the trait you most dislike in others?

I really dislike people who lack traits.

18. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

A new person.

19. What is your most treasured possession, and why?

It’s not things. It’s people: the ones I love.

20. What is your motto?

If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together (reportedly, translated from an African proverb). Oh and by the way, I prefer to go far 😉

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