16 Oct


As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. Similarly, it requires a community to write a PhD thesis. More individuals than could possibly be mentioned in the image above have been vital to my thesis and remain important to me. Some offered seemingly minor support with often considerable effects. For example, Miguel Goede asked me why I did not consider pursuing a PhD and planted the seed in my mind. My Finance and Control program colleague, Thomas van Zanten, began a ripple effect by introducing me to Ivo de Loo, who suggested I read Ann Cunliffe’s articles. Ann Cunliffe helped me find my ontological and epistemological perspective and my academic voice. Beyond this, she introduced me to Mette Vinther Larsen. Mette helped me with her very constructive feedback on my ‘spiral of unsaid’ paper. Various professors and assistant professors and staff have also helped me with their suggestions and with getting to know academia’s informal ‘rules of the game’. I want to offer a special thank you to Jost Sieweke, who always offered a listening ear and emotional support. I look forward to continuing our collaboration, Jost! Thank you all so much! Also, my former colleague, Derk-Jan van der Leest, suggested that I should talk to Erik van de Loo, who later became my supervisor. He also introduced me to Frans Roozen, who then introduced me to Svetlana Khapova, who would also come to supervise my thesisErik later introduced me to Jaap Winter, who then introduced me to Albert Kerssies, who acquainted me with the various boards of housing corporations. More than 25 boards of Housing Corporationsvolunteered to participate in this research. I could only handle 15 boards of Housing Corporations. but I nonetheless thank all of them for supporting this PhD. I must also offer a special thank you to John Poot, who helped me find boards. I feel especially grateful to the 17 boards and 119 board members who shared private and sensitive information with me and willingly helped me theorize a very important societal topic. I also want to thank the members of my reading committee – Jaap Winter, Mette Vinther Larsen, Frans Roozen, Ivo de Loo, Michel Ehrenhard en Rens van Loon – for investing their precious tim in reading and assessing my thesis and challenging me during the defense.

Thank you all so much for your support.

I want to offer special thanks to the following persons.

Without Pim Bouwman, the love of my life, friend and colleague, I would never have become who I am now today. He has also shaped this PhD by connecting me to people and their theories. Firstly, Pim introduced me to Chris Argyris, his theories and his colleague, Robert Putnam. Chris and Robert introduced me to the ‘left hand column technique’, which has helped me explore my own thoughts and feelings and their effects on conversations as well as those of others. My fascination for ‘the unsaid’ was born, leading me towards the research question that I have been working on for the last five to six years. Additionally, Robert helped me by reading the initial drafts of ideas behind my PhD, offering guidance and reading my dissertation. Through his continued support, reflections and suggestions, I had the courage to pursue this journey.

Thank you, Bob, for coaching and supporting me. 

Furthermore, Pim and I decided that he would financially support my promotion, offering to be the sole caregiver for our family. Additionally, sharing the same interest and passion for the subject, Pim and I have worked on and discussed the unsaid since 1998. We founded our consulting firm Het Consulaat based on the ideas of Chris Argyris and, together with our colleagues (in particular, Martin de Ruiter, Ilse Woerden, Floris Lemmen), have continuously and actively reflected upon our actions and upon what we did not say and what this has affected. As our friends and family know, this is no light way to travel through life, but it does pay off! Thank you, Pim, for learning with me and overcoming the many dilemmas and obstacles that life has brought us and continues to bring us. Pim and I also have three sons, Teun Bouwman, Boris Bouwman and Ole Bouwman, who, by their relationships with their friends and girlfriends, by their youth, remarks, questions and feedback, continuously challenge and support me. We also have a dog, Storm, who has been very important to me during my PhD. During our walks together, the best ideas and solutions emerged.

Thank you, my sweethearts!

I want to offer a very special thanks to Erik van de Loo. Erik agreed to supervise my PhD after reading my first draft paper. His passion for psychodynamics, the boardroom and his creative mind have inspired me throughout this journey. Erik allowed me to explore these boardroom dynamics without restrictions. He allowed me the freedom to explore my own ways of conducting research and instead of focusing on ‘erklären’ and measuring causalities, he encouraged me to ‘verstehen’ and explore the boardroom. I have learned that few supervisors have the courage to offer this type of freedom to their PhD students. Beyond this, Erik introduced the concept of the unsaid known - borrowing from Bollas’ concept of the ‘unthought known’ - and taught me words such as ‘preconscious’. Additionally, Erik introduced me to Jaap Winter, who, like Erik, is a highly esteemed expert in the field of governance. As such, Erik and Jaap’s status and support have helped me gather data. I also want to thank Jaap for helping me moderate the discussion during the session in which I presented my preliminary findings to 120 board members. Jaap and Erik, I am grateful to you both for helping me gather this unique dataset and supporting me in my research.

Thank you, Erik and Jaap!

I am also very grateful to my supervisor, who has become my academic sister, Svetlana Khapova. Svetlana is a thought leader and an expert and master in developing leading thinkers. I love her for all she has done for my PhD. She encouraged me to write for A-Journals and set the highest goals imaginable. Together with Lara, she helped me organize our own symposium at Academy of Management (2018) as a way to get to know the academic world. She also encouraged me to develop a board program and a board research centre and to focus on developing my own name and brand. She coached me throughout this journey, warning me about and helping me overcome many obstacles. However, most importantly, she taught me how to write academic papers. She is a wonderful teacher! She offers patient feedback and suggestions, always with a polite kindness. I would never have dreamed of achieving what I have done in the last few years; it is all by her belief in me.

Thank you so much, Svetlana. I hope we will continue to collaborate for a long time.

I want to offer another special thanks to my dearest friend and PhD companion, Lara Tcholakian. How many issues have we discussed, how many doubts and frustrations? Every week we have skyped, face-timed and talked things through. We traveled the world together, visiting Chicago, Denmark and Greece, and if it wasn’t for COVID-19, we would have visited Albuquerque too. We share a passion for bridging science with practice and researching the non-obvious. We also share a passion for the philosophy of science. A passion that is essential when you want to study the unsaid, the unseen and the unforgotten! Without you, my journey would have been lonely. You have helped me when I was low and did not know how to move on.

Thank you, Lara, I look forward to our adventures which I am sure will continue in the near future! 

I also want to thank my dearest friend, Robine ter Meulen. She and I walked my dog, Storm, every week. We discussed every detail about my PhD and our lives. She offered me help by sharing her network and friends in my search for data. She challenged me, offered me feedback and supported me emotionally. I am grateful to have a friend who is as passionate about my topic as I am and who has allowed me to share all my thoughts and feelings. Your involvement has made this journey special.

Thank you Robine! I hope we will continue our walks and talks for a very long time!

 Last but not least, I want to show appreciation, love and gratitude to my father, mother and all my family. Through their lives, stories and family, Toon and Lia Engbers have supported me, as role models, in becoming who I am. More specifically, as a teacher and as a Philips Plant director in several countries, respectively, my mother and father have shaped my passion and interest in theorizing and teaching about corporations, leadership, incongruity, courage and silence. Through her interest in my topic, my mother always encouraged me to discuss my work with her and designed the cover of my manuscript. Her drawing represents the journey I went through as she perceived it. A journey that allowed me to find words for what I observed in the boardroom and considered in the academic discourse.

Thank you, mom, for being my biggest fan and for being such a great role model! I regret that my father is not physically present to celebrate my PhD and the journey that I am traveling but I am nonetheless grateful that he is present in my thoughts.

Dear friends and family - my sister and brother and all my relatives, my coach Leo van Duivenvoorde and ‘boksing’ friends Robby Nelson, Eva, Leonie, Liliane and Jessica – your presence and support has been the backbone of my life and my academic career. Thank you for being part of my life, and I hope you will celebrate this achievement; I share it with you.

Thank you all.

I hope all that is essential and good which before was unsaid has now been said.

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