Infinite Innovation with Innovation Expert Maarten Visser

Meet Maarten Visser. Within Rapid Circle, Maarten serves as a Business Advisor in the Office of the CTO. Maarten is the driving force behind everything related to innovation, processes, and change. However, technology is not a new concept in his life. From a young age, he was deeply involved in technology, creating remotely controlled cars, mega demos, and synthesizers. Today, we take a look back at how it all began and delve into his world. Are you ready to meet our innovator?

Let’s start at the beginning. What inspired you to pursue a career in the IT industry?

“Unknowingly, Information Technology has been a part of my life for a very long time. For a very long time. However, I never thought I would do something with it, but eventually, I did. My father was extremely technically inclined. He attended a technical college (HTS) and worked at Philips, but he developed rheumatoid arthritis, which limited his work options. As a result, he worked half days and was home much more than most fathers. This meant we engaged in fewer outdoor activities, like sports, but we had the opportunity to do other things, such as tinkering with electronics in his study.

So, I grew up in a house where we tried to recreate cool things we saw on TV and in movies. We called it ‘prutsen’ (tinkering). We would go to his study, and there would be all sorts of electronics. He would start by looking up schematics, and then we would solder, and I would assist him. For example, we once built a remotely controlled car, amplifiers, and a gigantic subwoofer. When I was little, my father also enjoyed using the first chips to create small synthesizers with lots of LED lights and buttons, which I would then use to design my own spaceship. It was the ultimate childhood dream.”

And have you continued to do this?

“Well, it started with my father’s influence. When I was eight, I got a Commodore 64. Before that, we would use Meccano or LEGO, for example, to build a plotter or robot arms that we could control with BASIC. I started programming occasionally and modifying existing programs. What I enjoyed about it was the opportunity for creativity. In addition to generating images, I also discovered that I could create sounds and later even produce music with it. Of course, I played a lot of games too, but creating things interested me even more.”

What kinds of things did you create?

“When I was 13, it was 1988. So, we’re talking about the 1980s, which was a fun and creative period. That year, I received a computer that probably had the most significant impact on my life. It was the Commodore Amiga 500. With it, you could play sounds and samples on four channels that you could use simultaneously. Besides being able to create the first real 3D images, you could also produce music with it. A friend and I created programs in which we displayed images and played music. When we started hearing the first electronic dance music in high school, especially New Beat from Belgium and House from Detroit, I became an instant fan. Alongside rock and pop, I started listening to all kinds of electronic music on my Walkman at home and on the go. When I was 16, two friends and I created a song for a school party, and to my surprise, it was a big success. After that, I dared to perform live for the first time during the ‘Open Stage.’ A year later, at 17, a cassette with my music ended up with a DJ (The Dark Raver) in The Hague, where I often went. That year, my first record was released. It was a very special time in my life because there I was, a ‘nerd,’ suddenly performing on stages for hundreds or even thousands of ravers.”

And then you continued in the music industry?

“That year, the World Wide Web also became available in universities and shortly thereafter through the first internet providers. Now it’s unthinkable that it was ever any different, but especially in the early years, the dream of ‘connecting the world as a digital village’ really captured my imagination. Consequently, I started building websites for companies and learned how to make them dynamic with technologies like Cold Fusion. Unfortunately, building websites didn’t pay as well as producing music. But when I was about to ruin my second year of college, I consciously made the choice to leave the world of Techno/Gabber behind me and focus on internet technology and completing my studies.”

Did you learn all of this during your studies, or did you teach yourself?

“I did receive some aspects of it during my studies, but I have always been a self-taught person. So, I often looked things up and tried things out myself. I also bought many magazines and books to gather information. At some point, I did an internship at a Microsoft System Integrator in The Hague, where I built the intranet based on Outlook Web Access 5.5 and Microsoft Site Server. That was in 1999, and since then, I have been actively involved in internal communication and workflows with Microsoft technology. That’s how I ended up in the IT industry. I saw the potential of technology, and I enjoyed creating beautiful things with it.”

A good idea is not a reason for innovation.

Maarten Visser, Business Advisor in the Office of the CTO at Rapid Circle

Looking at the present, what do you consider the biggest challenge in your work?

“It’s true that ultimately, I want to help people, clients, and colleagues, but I also simply enjoy a lot of the work I do. So, one of my challenges is that I may get caught up in prioritizing my work. I have to be cautious about the commitments I make. For example, I’m now trying to limit the number of projects I take on and leave room for things that come my way. And I’m not doing this only for myself but also to support colleagues when they encounter challenges. Knowledge sharing is part of my role, and it also energizes me.”

You are known for always being extremely enthusiastic and energetic. How do you stay motivated and driven?

“By knowing that every problem is solvable in my field. The beauty of technology is that you can develop it and make it. And sometimes, I simply see it as one big puzzle. On the other hand, there’s the human aspect. Often, when I work on projects, the biggest challenge is always the human element and adaptability. It can be that someone on the team isn’t feeling well or that I accidentally stepped on someone’s toes. These things just happen. Interestingly, I think that spending five years in the music industry, going to clubs and rave parties four times a week, has given me quite a bit of understanding of people. Additionally, throughout my career, I have had many opportunities to develop as an advisor. Consequently, I can empathize well with the management of organizations. So, I can contribute and advise almost anyone in the workplace.”

What is your personal philosophy when it comes to innovation?

“An important element that I embrace is sequence. Innovation is sometimes seen as a kind of ‘magic.’ We all gather in a room and ‘brainstorm’ a fantastic idea. But that’s not how it works. Innovation is a structured process that begins with asking a series of open questions to determine the priorities and specific areas of focus. People often feel that something is not right, but they can’t quite pinpoint it. It’s then my task to trace the origin of those thoughts. There are countless ideas in the world, but only a few truly hold water and have a chance of success. So, having a good idea is not a reason for innovation. You only start innovating when you can substantiate your idea with facts and when the assumptions prove to be correct after testing.”

What do you think sets you apart from others in your field?

“I have developed a combination of elements that sets me apart. During my younger years, I immersed myself in the world of clubs, festivals, and the music industry. But at the same time, I’m also a genuine nerd. I love spending hours tinkering with a piece of technology, understanding how it works, and then doing something crazy with it, just for fun. However, thanks to my years in the dance industry, I have encountered a wide range of people and developed strong social skills. At a young age, I had to figure out how to entertain a large group of people. So, what probably sets me apart is that I am an entertainer, and, at the deepest level, I understand what can be done with technology. Thanks to my background in business administration and my interest in it, I can also relate well to the management of organizations. Therefore, I can effectively collaborate with and advise almost anyone in the workplace.”

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Wilco Turnhout

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