My Learning Story: Bram Jonker

Let's make learning fun again!



The UN’s fourth Sustainable Development Goal is about access to quality education and life-long learning – both essential to bringing positive change into the world.

We are living in times of constant, rapid and profound change, triggered by climate change and digital transformation. To find the right answers to new questions we need to learn more, and maybe differently. Curiosity, creativity and critical thinking are as important as maths, IT, languages skills, etc... We need to be innovative and ingenious to build a just, peaceful and sustainable world for us and our children.

Learning needs well-run education systems, but it comes from inside the human being. It’s fun, but sometimes it’s painful. In preparation for the upcoming Ethical Leadership in Business event in June 2020, we have invited diverse people from around the world to share stories of their learning journeys. These stories offer inspiring insights and invite us to reflect on our education and life-long learning.

‘My Learning Story’ hopes to become a global learning experience, connecting people around the world as they share their stories of what we all do every day: learning to build a brighter future.


Interview with Bram Jonker, Senior innovation Manager at Deloitte, Netherlands


What have you learned today?

That the people in my team are extraordinary individuals with a great heart.


How do you learn? What is your unique learning style ?

I have never been a good learner at school where the primary source of information was thought through text books. The best way for me to learn is by hearing and seeing someone talking about a topic they are truly passionate about. With the online Ted Talks I found a new way of learning for myself that has made learning fun again. I can watch Ted talks for hours at the airport or while relaxing when I am in a hot bath.


Does your prior learning experience influence today’s learning?

During my time in school or at University it was not possible for me to absorb knowledge by listening to a teacher reading out PowerPoint slides or pages from a text book. Although I am sometimes tempted to buy books at airports, the must reads, I never really finish reading them. So, knowing that content in text form does not work I have changed my way of learning by watching video content with speakers who show their enthusiasm and passion for their field of expertise.


Did you need to “unlearn” from previous learning experiences or habits?

Yes, I needed to accept that I am just not a good reader. I can be jealous of people being able to concentrate while reading books. To me it looks more intelligent reading a book than watching a video. But I have accepted that I will just never be a good reader and I need a different way of learning.


Did you teach recently?

Yes, I teach every day. I have two young children and I believe as a parent you are some sort of teacher. Not by telling what they should do or think but by giving them the space and safety to become who they want to be. Prepare them for the future by focusing on and supporting them in developing the skills of the future (Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Communication) in a fun and playful way.


What passion drives you when you are learning?

To learn new things and being able to share what I have learned with my friends and my team members. The best thing is that I can just simply send them a link to get the same experience/knowledge as I have obtained.


Who is your best teacher?

The person I learn the most from is the partner I report to within Deloitte. He is an inspirational leader with exceptional knowledge and people skills. He has a lot of responsibilities as our CTO and the way he creates an environment where everyone is able to contribute, can learn and grow is something that inspires. I learn a lot from the way he interacts with people and how he leads the team.


What did life teach you?

 That I am me. With all my imperfections which is ok and makes me who I am.


What kind of learning recommendations would you give to your younger self ?

You will learn along the way so do not be too hard on yourself and allow yourself time to grow.


What did you learn from failure?

That it can hurt but in a later stage in life it has thaught you more than anything.


What did you learn during your last stay at the Caux Forum, Ethical Leadership in Business, Switzerland?

The importance of nature around me as it inspires and gives energy.


What do you want to learn but you haven’t dared yet?



What are you going to learn next?

How Virtual and Augmented Reality works from a technical aspect and how to translate it to the business I work in.


What would you recommend to those struggling to restart learning?

Make it fun again. See if you can gamify learning and find different means as watching Ted Talks.


What do you learn to navigate constant change?

To build an environment around you of continuous learning and have a re-shift focus on our human skills.


What skills does it need in the 21st century?

Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Communication. These skills cannot be replaced by computers. Secondly, be open to learn and play with technology.


What did you learn recently to protect the planet?

Stories of fear do not work, stories that inspire do. Therefore, I stopped watching disturbing content on how the planet is at risk and started searching for people that inspire and actually start initiatives to drive change without searching recognition for it. This inspires me and activates to contribute.


What are the key ingredients to build a learning culture at the workplace?

At first, re-establish for everyone that it is ok to ask questions. In our digital age we almost pretend that as information is so accessible we need to know everything. In order to learn we need to ask questions again in order to learn. So, a key ingredient is to create a safe environment and lead by example by start asking questions again. Secondly, Make learning fun again. Especially in the development of the skills of the future there is an opportunity to learn in a fun way. Imagine learning how to drag again (visual Storytelling) or doing escape rooms. Lastly, create time during the week for yourself and team to gain new knowledge and develop skills. What I see a lot in the workplace is that there is budget for learning activities. But if a manager does not make use of it than her/his team won’t do it either.


Companies need to build on collective purpose, values and vision. What needs to be learned to make that happen?

Two things. At first, include everyone, from all levels, in the design not focused on marketing slogans but on what everyone truly believes and feels.

Secondly; Lead by example! Having it written in documents or embedded in presentations does not lead to anything. Only when leadership displays behavior and actions that are in line with the purpose, value and vision others will follow. 


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