“We need to break out of our own bubble”

Annemarie de Bont
Ynnovator at the Municipality of The Hague (the Netherlands)

How might we use perspectives from our city’s inhabitants to improve our work? That is one of the main challenges Annemarie de Bont sees in innovating her work environment. Annemarie uses the Ynnovate method to help colleagues to step out of their own patterns and assumptions. And although she sees that there is a growing need for creativity, she also has experienced that creativity needs time. Annemarie: “Sometimes I go too fast, not everyone can switch that easily”.

Annemarie works for the city of the Hague in the Netherlands. She started 15 years ago as a youth nurse at the Hague GGD (the Municipal health service). Currently, she is a consultant of organizational development and guides a lot of innovation processes as a facilitator within her job.

Innovation Pool

Annemarie is part of the innovation pool of her department in the municipality. The pool consists of a group of colleagues that are trained, innovation facilitators. As one of them, Annemarie guides innovation workshops to solve complex challenges.

“On average we take on 10 challenges per month. We use the Ynnovate methodology as a base approach, combined with our customer journeys and design thinking tools”.

The main insight she gained over the years is that it can be tough to let go of your own assumptions. Annemarie explains: “We have to make sure that we don’t approach reality from our own municipal bubble”.

“The municipal organization has to make sure it doesn’t approach reality from its own bubble”

Annemarie grew her innovation skills over time. She explains: “When I started my new job, I really wanted to be trained in innovation. I was already guiding workshops, but I lacked the basic skills and knowledge. I followed the Ynnovate Training and the Allround Ynnovator Program directly after each other and they really enriched my toolbox”.

Confidence to experiment

Both trainings learned Annemarie how to design an innovation workshop, what the do’s and don’ts in innovation are and gave her the tools to spark innovation in groups. But even more important, it gave her confidence as an innovation facilitator.


Annemarie: “Due to the training, I was confident enough to start experimenting. This helped me to grow. Once you have the tools and innovation skills from the Ynnovate method, you can really start making the flying hours to gain experience”.

“The Ynnovate method has enriched my toolbox and has given me the confidence to start experimenting with innovation”

Annemarie feels that especially the problem definition techniques are important because they help to get a clear view of the challenge that needs to be solved.

“For our innovation pool, I do a lot of intake interviews”, Annemarie explains, “and we often experience that a problem owner comes to us with a certain question, while during the intake we discover that there actually is a completely different challenge that needs to be solved”.

A different perspective

One innovation technique Annemarie uses a lot in her innovation workshops is the Empathy Map. “We need to integrate the perspective from our city’s inhabitants more and the Empathy Map helps colleagues to step out of their own patterns and assumptions. It really helps to get the perspective of the target group.

Another great tool is the Stakeholder Map, which I often use during innovation sessions to help the group create a ‘snap shot’ of the stakeholders that surround the problem”.

The Empathy Map is a great technique to change perspective

Creativity takes time

“Sometimes I have the feeling that I am going faster than others when it comes to innovation,” Annemarie reveals. “You need to set the right ambiance and to get the group into the creative mode to generate the best ideas. The more time you innovate, the easier it gets.”

Annemarie discovered that investing enough time is also a key element when facilitating an innovation workshop. “In the beginning, I didn’t take enough time to unleash the true creativity of the group. I now devote more attention and time to creative exercises in the design of my workshops, because it is such an important basis for the rest of the session.”

Get mental support

What is Annemarie’s hope for the future? “I really wish that even more people experience what the Ynnovate method can deliver. That it can be applied more within our organization and within the whole public sector”

Annemarie also has a tip for those that want to innovate: “Find allies within the organization! Don’t operate on your own, but do it together. And if you cannot find any allies in your own department, search the rest of the organization. It is important to get some mental support in the difficult moments and to celebrate the successful innovation moments together”.

Connect with Annemarie on Linkedin

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