Connecting the thinkers and the doers

On 19th of January, Marlies en Liesbeth visited Infratech2017, in Ahoy, Rotterdam, invited by Maurits Lopes Cardozo of Bikeminded, a design consulting studio specialised in bicycle infrastructures, active mobility and urban innovation.

At Infratech, we spent a lot of time at the ‘Provincieboulevard’, where the cooperating provincial governments of the Netherlands shared their innovation projects, programmes and challenges.

Facing the interrelated challenges of infrastructural projects, sustainability targets, nature preservation and social issues, many provincial governments are looking for new ways of working, innovating and co-creating, involving decision makers as well as citizens as well as enterprises, and piloting new solutions like SolaRoad, self driving vehicles, smart traffic management, Bamboo sound screens, and more!

A message of the frontrunners – like the province of Noord-Holland – was that innovation gets ever more important to governments, but that they are still struggling to ‘put their money where their mouth is’. It used to be the case that policy makers determine the policies and make the plans while the practical people on the ground would ‘just execute’ the plans. The thinkers and the doers would be in separate worlds. Now, it gets ever more important, and urgent, that the thinkers – the people with long term vision and the well thought-out views – start cooperating with the doers – who have the practical knowledge of possibilities and obstacles and who build the actual relations in the field.

One innovation manager pointed out, with lots of confidence, that many younger people have the characteristics that are needed to deal with the challenges: they tend to be open-minded, used to having a big network, and interested in exploring many different aspects of complex problems. Today, governmental organisations are still dominated by ‘old style’ thinkers, but the new generation and the challenging questions are starting to turn the tide.