Doors works with an international community of design and innovation professionals, and students, whose aim is to learn how to design services, some of them enabled by information technology, that meet basic needs in new and sustainable ways. This unique community of practice is inspired by two related questions: "we know what new technology can do, but what is it for?" and, “how do we want to live?”. The results are published on the Doors of Perception website, and discussed at the Doors of Perception conference.
Before co-founding Doors in 2000 (with Kristi van Riet) , John was the first Director (1993–1999) of the Netherlands Design Institute. The Institute, which was founded by the Dutch government and the city of Amsterdam in 1993, was a think-and-do tank whose mission was to increase the economic and social contribution of design. The Institute's projects brought together a variety of design specialists, users, and experts in many other disciplines. Doors of Perception was the institute's flagship conference. John left the Institute in 1999 and set up Doors of Perception as an independent company in 2000.