Hans de Bruijn

Position

Hans de Bruijn is Professor of Policy Analysis and Management at TPM. He focuses on management and complex decision-making processes in the public sector and the public/private interface. He is also associated with the Netherlands School of Public Administration and is Governance Programme Manager at the Netherlands Institute for City Innovation Studies.

Tell us about your personal life

"I am married and have two daughters. I don't really have any hobbies as such; there are no particular activities which have held a long-time interest for me. In the last year or so, I have been to the theatre a lot. It's been fascinating partly because I am working with actors in my teaching, but this period in my life is now reaching an end. Otherwise, I like to withdraw completely from my very busy diary. I really like being able to shut the whole world out. I love being mentally unavailable! That's one of the main reasons I go on skiing holidays."

What you enjoy most about your work

"My writing, based on rigorous thought processes. I like to try to write in such a way that my message can be understood by people in the real world and it means something to them. This often has the pleasant side effect of being invited to give lectures, workshops, advice or take part in panels after one of my books is published. I really enjoy interacting with readers as it helps broaden my understanding. It's also very gratifying when people tell me that they find a book to be a real eye-opener. The fact that my books sell well is also great, of course. But I do enjoy variety. Six years ago I wrote the book Prestaties afspreken doeje zo (This is how you negotiate performance agreements). This could have kept some people busy for another fifteen years, but not me. I like to move on to new areas and to keep pace with the social agenda. My latest book, Barack Obama en de kunst van de politieke toespraak (Barack Obama and the art of the political speech), is an example of that. It just comes from inside. It is part of something bigger. I would hate not to be able to publish. I believe the art of being a good professor is not to allow oneself to withdraw into solely managerial activities, but to stay focused on your real duties."

Why Delft

"All of us here are experts in public administration but it is nice to be able to combine this knowledge with disciplines of a more technical nature. At TPM we also focus on the major issues on the social agenda, such as traffic congestion, water management and sustainable exploitation of natural gas resources. It is also pleasant to be part of such an outstanding team of experts. According to the Netherlands Institute of Governance, we actually rate the best."

Teaching

"I really enjoy teaching. It actually seems to get more enjoyable all the time especially when teaching practitioners. You can see the relevance of the work that you do. I also get a kick out of the craft of teaching."

Your best characteristic

"I just asked my secretary. She says I am very easy going."

Your worst characteristic

"I am rather impatient by nature. I have also noticed that I have a tendency to give up if the transaction charges are too high, as it were. In other words, if something is too much trouble, I just can't be bothered. It may be because I come from a family of merchants. In our world, the idea was to buy goods and to sell them on as quickly as possible. It's in the blood. I can't stand it if something takes ages before you see the results."

Source of inspiration

"I don't really have answers for this type of question. The world is all about variety. In life, you find things that you like and they become your thing. I can't think of a single event or person or book that I might regard as my source of inspiration. I have an eclectic working style and philosophy fits in well with that. I've always been fascinated by books about the 1920s and 30s. Karl Mann and Stefan Zweig gave a perfect description of how a prosperous, developed and intellectual culture slowly but surely slid into the abyss and there was nothing anyone could do about it. That is something I find quite alarming. It has left me with a dislike of ideology. Like no other, my generation has been confronted with the downfall of the great ideas and with great ideals which were used to legitimise the most gruesome practices. There is no doubt that this has a major impact on the way I think about politics but it also filters through into my research work: changes will happen, rarely influenced by the big ideas, but much more by trivialities. Changes are the product of insignificant actions by equally insignificant people."

Key issues on the political agenda

"I believe that society adopts its own path, so I don't find it easy to answer this type of question. Some problems resolve themselves if they are kept off the agenda and off the political radar. I prefer politicians who just get on with their work and understand that it is better if certain subjects remain out of the political arena. This may have something to do with my dislike of the big ideas I mentioned earlier... At the same time it's important to move on and make room for new ideas and understanding. In the post-postmodern era, it is clear that people are once more in search of a big idea."

Your life philosophy

"In private, of course, I do think about life's big questions, but it's not something I talk about. It's just too personal. At work, my motto is: do your best and don't look back."