Rijkswaterstaat Water, Transport and the Living Environment

Water Governance and Climate

Towards accepted innovation in water safety

Rijkswaterstaat Water, Transport and the Living Environment

Innovative technology can help improve the dykes in our country, faster, better and less expensively. The water safety sector, however, is reluctant to fully accept that. Twynstra mapped out the culture around innovation, revealing passions and paradoxes along the way.


The Netherlands faces a huge and complex task over the next few years to ensure its dykes meet the standards applicable from 2017. This task has to be done quickly and properly, at minimal cost and without taking up too much public space. There is a whole host of possible innovations available to deal with that complexity, but there are also a number of obstacles in the water safety sector that are preventing it from developing innovations fully and turning them into accepted technologies for reinforcing dykes. Simply put, there are not enough innovations being successfully implemented. Rijkswaterstaat Water, Transport and the Living Environment – an executive agency of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment dedicated to promoting safety, mobility and the quality of life in the Netherlands – asked Twynstra on behalf of the ministry to map out the culture around innovation.

Our approach

Our consultants firstly painted a picture of governance in the water safety arena. What does this entire field look like, both formally and informally, in terms of direction, management, oversight and accountability? How are responsibilities, roles and relationships arranged? We then interviewed representatives from companies and organisations in the sector. How is the innovation process organised and experienced? To focus the interviews on the culture around innovation, we used culture quadrants. Which of the water safety sector’s traits do you want to cherish or encourage, which do you want to see disappear and what do you want to say goodbye to? When preparing the interviews and the analysis of the results, we asked for input in the reflection sessions from a cultural experts and a social designer.

The result

The results of the desk research and interviews were summarised into two infograpchics: the governance model and perspectives on innovation linked to that. These clarified what the bottlenecks are, e.g. the general resistance in the sector to innovation, an unclear overview of the relevant actors, and the fact that the sector is seen and experienced as closed. The results also showed that being passionate about the topic is something everyone shares. They also revealed a number of paradoxes, e.g. the administrative agenda that determines the innovating party’s passion. How difficult is it to take risks if you’re responsible for safety? Plus, the greater the need for innovation, the less room there is to experiment. The infographics were discussed and used in an interactive session with a large group of stakeholders who have experience in how innovation works, but how it is often implemented in practice. This helped paint a picture of potential solutions.

The added value of Twynstra

Twynstra consultants are experienced in the water safety arena and can offer insight into the administrative dynamics and interests in this field. Our consultants are also experienced in conducting system analyses and dealing with change management issues. This combination of expertise means we can get to the root of the issue quickly and point out the problems and paradoxes in systems.