Walking the Talk in Antwerp

Examining and reinforcing company culture is crucial to the long-term success of any digital transformation process.  This is central to Hyper Island philosophy and close to the hearts of the 23 user experience architects and designers at Monkeyshot in Antwerp. We spoke to Michiel and Anne to see what makes them tick.

Hi! Please introduce yourselves and your work at Monkeyshot.

Michiel: “Hi Hi! I’m Michiel, Design Director at Monkeyshot. I’m mostly involved in analyzing business and user needs, taking strategic decisions. I then bundle this into a design process to make the scope of the project tangible for our UX architects and designers, so we can deliver useful products for our clients. Next to this, we – as a team – also work on internal projects to explore new trends, do research and gather specific insights. We really believe we must keep on learning if we want to keep on growing.”

Anne: “Hey! Hey! I’m Anne, Managing Partner en UX Architect at Monkeyshot. My daily task is managing Monkeyshot and doing a lot of business development. But, I’m also still working in the field on client projects, as the single point of contact or as a UX architect, offering experience and development technology advice to make a real impact on the sale of products and services through the digital product.”

How did you first hear about Hyper Island?

Michiel: “A friend of mine attended a master class at Hyper Island back in 2008, which immediately inspired me because of the mixed approach of designing, learning and understanding for the digital (r)evolution. Although it took eight years to convince me to take my first course at Hyper Island, I did it in 2016. My first course was the Digital Acceleration master class, but it wasn’t my last…in April 2018 I joined the Business Transformation master class.”

Anne: “My first contact with Hyper Island was in October 2017, when we invited Hyper Island to Belgium for the first time to host a free workshop at our offices in Antwerp. It was a great success. Besides that, we invited Stefan Wendin to speak at one of our events in February 2018, as Michiel knew Stefan from the courses he attended in Stockholm.”

Tell us about your experience of learning at Hyper Island.

Michiel: “Being educated in the 1990s in a rather traditional and very academical way, I felt it was about time to change something in my way of working and thinking. Solving problems in a customer focused way without any user inclusiveness did not really satisfy anymore. Instead, I wanted to focus on user needs, by designing products and services in a very customer centric way. Hyper Island not only offered me the right tools, insights and learnings, they also gave me the opportunity to meet and work together with a bunch of like-minded people from different countries and cultures. I’m still good friends with some of them, which is priceless to me.”

What do you think works best about Hyper Island and what could be improved?

Michiel: “The most valuable advice I keep on carrying with me after two years following both courses is that today is the slowest change pace you will ever experience. You need to learn how to deal with constant change in technology, knowing that people are still people.

Hyper Island learned me to understand the BIG WORD ‘change’ and place into realistic frameworks, techniques and learnings. During the master classes you experience a ton of energy, coming from both the facilitators and the people in the room. For me, this was an eye-opener…sharing your personal insights and knowledge in a close group of professional people.

I think it might be an extra very powerful added value for Hyper Island if they could facilitate a yearly after-event for all master class students. This might give everybody the chance to share again their learnings in real. Why not present, for example, your personal best cases (or worst) cases during this event? I would definitely join and tell my story!”

Tell us about Antwerp – in terms of the creative sector, jobs market, trends you’ve noticed among young professionals.

Anne: “In Belgium we see the pivot coming. User experience and digital presence is a big influence for the overall brand image of companies. That’s not a Belgian thing. But ‘digital’ and also UX is getting a place at the discussion table.

Some facts:

  • 60% of Belgian entrepreneurs think digitisation is necessary in order to stay competitive and ensure growth.
  • In 2015, Belgium took 5th place when it comes to the amount of start-up deals in Europe.
  • A variety of tech incubators, accelerators & communities several co-working spaces are popping up.
  • In the 2017 Bloomberg Innovation Index, Belgium is identified as the 13th-most innovative economy in the world.

Besides that, Belgium is growing in terms of creativity, connectivity and technological innovation. This sector has powered the creation of jobs, with more than 28,000 predicted jobs in 2030. (Source: Research Huawei, IDA and Kjaer Global)”

Michiel: “Next to the rise in jobs, startups, hackathons, incubators and accelerators we also see a growing number of technology and design driven events in Belgium (f. ex. Kikk, Us By Night, Supernova, And&, … and our own Monkeytalks). Belgium is finally putting our digital tech and creative scene on the European map.”

Why did you decide to bring Hyper Island to Belgium and what changes do you hope it will bring about?

Anne: “We strongly believe that we need to stay curious in this fast-pace industry. We have to keep learning from and together with others. The only way to stay ahead is to challenge ourselves, make our clients eager for more and get the curiosity of potential leads. Sharing relevant knowledge is key in our company and should be implemented in any company. That’s why we invite Hyper Island to introduce new ways of thinking and learning to develop yourself into lifelong learners.”

Michiel: “We do have a few of well-known and interesting business management schools in Belgium, who are putting their main focus on marketing, strategy and entrepreneurs. Which is great! But we simply don’t have – in my view – design and human driven educational courses or master classes. Companies understand the urge and need of being more human-centric and want to f.ex. implement a more design-driven approach. But many of them don’t truly understand how to tackle and implement this on a scale relevant to their audience or company. I really hope we can change this in the upcoming years, so we can keep on improving.”

What’s next?

Michiel: “Celebrate the small victories. Hyper Island coming to Antwerp is a small victory to us and it would be amazing if we could have our own Hyper Island dedicated learning location in Antwerp with multiple courses. Like there are in Stockholm, Sāo Paulo … Apart from that … Let’s have fun! Really. We don’t always have to take ourselves too seriously and try to have fun.”



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