“Create a smooth transition between studying and working”

Jesper Hanssen (36) had the entrepreneurial spirit from early on. He became fascinated by systems theory and sociotechnical approaches while studying business administration. Now he is co-owner of Prepared Mind, an organisational design and change consultancy.

Jesper Hanssen portret verticaal

I think it’s important to give back what I received during my studies 



Jesper Hanssen

Current role

Co-owner of Prepared Mind

Previous education

Master Organisational Design and Development

Why did you choose to study business administration in Nijmegen?

“I was a bit of an entrepreneur as a child. When I was seven, I washed cars with a friend for four or five guilders around our neighbourhood in Beuningen. We only did the sides because we couldn’t reach the roofs. We also grew plants that we sold on the street. Every time we did, we kept a record: what did it cost and what did it bring in? When I had to choose a study after high school, I knew I had to study business administration fairly early on. I went to look around several cities, but Nijmegen felt like home from the get-go. Maybe that’s because I’m from the area, but the small scale and personal approach also appealed to me.”

How was your time at university?

“Absolutely fascinating, particularly the systems theory course. Once you start thinking in terms of systems theory, you begin to see so much and can explain organisational behaviour so well. The sociotechnical approaches course was linked to this; a concrete development of systems theory applied in an organisational design methodology. I still often think of the lecturers, like Jan Achterbergh and Dirk Vriens. They taught with so much humour that I was regularly chuckling away in the lecture halls.

I knew exactly which Master’s I wanted to do after my Bachelor’s: Organisational Design and Development. But I didn’t want to start the Master’s unprepared, so I took a year out to work first. My idea was that I could link what I learned during the Master’s to what I’d seen in practice. After an unsuccessful venture as an assistant supply chain manager in France, I started working in organisational consultancy, at Q-Talent in Arnhem. I worked there for almost a year, getting an impression of consultancy as a profession. I still really enjoyed doing my Master’s degree after that.”

What was your career like after you graduated?

“I applied to be a network manager at Alliander at the recommendation of my thesis supervisor, Marc van Hooft. There was a strong belief in participatory change back then, which led to all kinds of organisational design issues. While I was at Alliander’s internal advisory group, I had the chance to work on some fantastic projects relating to organisational change and design, and team development. I was able to apply what I had learned about systems theory and sociotechnical approaches at university immediately. Consequently, I felt like I was of value right away.”

We there also space for your entrepreneurial spirit?

“In addition to my job at Alliander, I also organised a conference on technology and organisational structure for the Ulbo de Sitter Institute and I lectured at SIOO training institute, among other things. Marc van Hooft was working on an organisational design and change assignment for a large municipality, and he asked me whether I wanted to manage the development process. I leapt at the chance. I reduced my hours at Alliander to four days a week as quickly as I could. And I stopped altogether when my second daughter was born healthy. I love adventure, but I don’t want my family to suffer for it. So I only got into entrepreneurship once I was sure both of my children were healthy.

After some time, Marc and I got in touch with Benny Corvers, the owner of Prepared Mind. It’s an organisational design and development company, which really follows the systems theory and sociotechnical approach. Marc and I became co-owners of the company in 2020. I do a lot of consultancy work for both companies and governments there. It usually involves assignments relating structure, change and culture: the unwritten rules in the organisation.”

Jesper Hanssen horizontaal portret

You teach at the Radboud Management Academy too.

“That’s right. I lecture on organisational design and change, and I’m a programme manager for several study programmes. I think it’s important to give back what I received during my studies. For current problems - like the climate, energy and security crises - systems theory is more relevant than ever. One characteristic innate to these crises is that no single organisation can solve them. The systems theory perspective helps us to perceive matters more broadly and asks how should we adapt the current system to counter these problems.”

In terms of work, are you where you should be?

“I worked pretty hard to get here, and I’m not ready to move on just yet. I’ve found a good balance between exploration and work, between practice and innovation. So I’m in a good place, and I hope to continue and build on it. I’m delighted that I can apply and even get to renew the thinking I learned during my studies at Radboud Management Academy and Prepared Mind.”

What advice would you give to today’s students?

“Work on your network! Personally, I started looking for interesting people in the field while I was studying. I deliberately chose to interview a number of key figures for my thesis, not just because I found them interesting, but also to get to know them so they knew me. That way, you can guarantee a smooth transition between study and work.”

Do you have any advice for alumni who think their organisation could be organised better?

“Try to peel back the barriers in an organisation in a systematic way: what behaviours can I see, what problems are there and what causes them? Then, bringing about change is a matter of engaging with the right people. Some people have a great deal of influence on the organisation owing to their positions, while others have less. If you find it difficult to start a conversation, find a sponsor: someone who has influence and who you get on with. They can act as a lever and help you realise your ideas or beliefs.”

Tekst: Machiel van Zanten

Contact information

Organizational unit
Radboud Management Academy