Founding Story

Founding Story

Being the change

As midshipman, I enrolled in the Naval Academy in 1998, the officer training for the Royal Netherlands Navy. After the initial education, I chose the submarine force. 

I can clearly remember the conversation with the psychologist who was in charge of the selection process. As an answer to his question why I wanted to go into submarines I had firmly answered: ‘To test my character…’ Leading to an intense discussion as he was convinced that especially a submarine was not the place for anyone who’s main motivation was to test himself. Luckily I became his error in the selection process and got the chance to meet and cherish the most diverse palette of people making the submarine service what it still is to date.

Within the submarine force, we are always supporting the person who one day will be our relief. That is not an easy road. We challenge each other and test each other. Nevertheless we always trust each other. I experienced it as a personal adventure. Complete with aspirations, challenges, disappointments, and satisfaction. Certainly also the satisfaction of being a Commanding Officer who experiences the trust granted by the crew.

I wish anyone a personal adventure like mine. It has brought and still brings the best out in me.

As Commanding Officer I seized the opportunity. I explored the circumstances in which every member of the crew could experience his own personal adventure. Initially as a captain, daily briefs would provide me with more details of the diesel engines than the status of the crew. With my goals set, I wanted that to change. I wanted to know how the crew felt and what influence sailing on board a submarine had on them. Everything to optimize the circumstances. In 2016 we started a vitality program called Das BooSt.

After a half-year of intense testing and monitoring, Tim, a sonar specialist, reached out to me. He said: ‘Captain, great that you are so involved with the crew, but nutrition, exercise, and sleep is in my opinion merely a good start’. He continued addressing the ideas he had and what he wanted to do if he got the chance. Of course, I named the chance at that epic moment by saying: ‘Start doing and see where you end up, I’ll help you!’. His movement inspired others to follow in his footsteps.

Besides the existing (hierarchical and technocratic) structure a new, second structure started to evolve. A structure in which we as a crew, as a standard, started asking each other three questions, namely: how are you feeling, what’s on your mind, and how can I help you to do something about it? The result was that we started to continuously optimize our attitude and behavior. We had sincere fun. 

This movement resulted in circumstances in which all felt safe, free, and connected. Consequently, I was challenged in my role as overall responsible. I needed to trust those circumstances and the forthcoming movements. To this day, I have never been let down by human potential. So, based on my experience, for me leadership comes down to the ability to cope with uncertainties.

Three years we operated at the highest level despite shortages of personnel, material obsolescence, and changing geopolitical circumstances.

It evolved. The BoostX philosophy got momentum within the Dutch Armed Forces. The fast-changing and unpredictable world in which the Armed Forces needed to protect what was valuable required more agility. Possibly so much agility that adaption was the new status quo.

The good part is: adaptivity is in people. People naturally listen and feel what keeps them and their environment busy and take charge to do something about it. BoostX contributed towards this ambition. A contribution in which it supported units to start an organic movement in which intrinsic motivation leads to sustainable entrepreneurship.

In this period it became clear to me once more that, just like on board of the submarine, everything has its limits except the potential of the people. 

Similar to when I felt responsible as a captain to provide trust to the crew to commit to a personal journey within the overarching boat’s journey, I now feel responsible to organize that same trust in our society. A small-boat journey for all!

That makes OceansX my next mission. OceansX generates Xplorations facilitating Xplorers to follow their intrinsic drive individually while generating social impact collectively. A mission like the ones from before on board of a submarine. Without knowing where exactly we are operating, who else is operating, or with what results we would return. But merely trusting the essence of the movement that makes every mission worthwhile.

"Everything has a limit, except the potential of the people."

Berend van de Kraats, founder OceansX, former submarine captain at the Royal Netherlands Navy