Inside the mind of an inventor

Autodidacts, while rare, have been around since time immemorial. To this select and usually brilliant group belong names such as Benjamin Franklin, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, Phil Collins, Bill Gates and…our very own Johan de Troije! Partly thanks to his intrinsic motivation, self-determination and true passion for learning Johan is inimitable in his thinking which allows him to come up with unprecedented solutions time and again.

Out of the box

Johan has been working as a Concept Engineer (Electrical) in the Industrial Automation department for years. Although he can partly rely on solid education, Johan keeps developing himself both by closely monitoring new techniques on his own initiative and by taking various courses, including a robotics course. On top of that, he spends quite some time in our Selmers workshop experimenting with new technologies. Being an electrical expert doesn’t stop him from creating comprehensive mechatronic concepts, far beyond his immediate work. This has resulted in many impressive concepts and products. Almost all of them have in common that they were designed from scratch and by thinking completely out of the box.

Inborn VR

Although he will never use the word himself, he is regularly called a clairvoyant by others. Asked how exactly his brain works, Johan modestly replies that it mainly has to do with vivid visualization and rapid association. Whenever someone from Sales comes up with a huge challenge, Johan imagines himself walking around in a production environment. He can zoom in and out to detail without limits, almost like some kind of innate Virtual Reality. Strikingly, he does not think in terms of technique during this process, but rather in terms of how something should function. By keeping all options open, he consciously does not allow himself to be limited by what already exists.

Asking stupid questions

In his own words, he cannot do this without a ton of knowledge and experience, including new technologies which he follows closely. He can evoke or ignore this knowledge at will, much like a well-trained muscle. However, the process of inventing is not a one man show. During his search Johan exchanges ideas with various parties, including colleagues from Sales and suppliers, and he deliberately challenges them. One of the ways he does this is by deliberately asking them ‘stupid’ questions. In this way he manages to trigger others throughout the supply chain to think freely and to find leads, just like he does, each from their own discipline and perspective.

Next level

A success factor, since the margin between enthusiastically thinking along and dropping out is small. Especially the interaction and communication between engineers and people from sales is crucial according to Johan because ‘if the concept is next level, then Sales must communicate accordingly’. Is your organization facing a production challenge that seems impossible to solve? Just let us know your questions, stupid or not, and call your sales contact or send an email to

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