inspiration to do something new does not arise out of existing structures.

introducing ruben brinckmann.

A so-called agile coach and agile transformation driver at AkzoNobel, Ruben Brinckmann stands on the verge of today’s digital innovation. A world-leading company in paints and coatings, AkzoNobel is one of the Netherland’s biggest corporations. After more than one-and-half-year of driving change at AkzoNobel, we’ve asked Ruben to tell us more about the digital strategies of a corporate in the era of start-ups.

Could you tell us more about the position of AkzoNobel at B. Amsterdam?
AkzoNobel is after Philipps and Shell the third biggest corporate enterprise in the Netherlands. Currently, we’re active in more than 153 countries, but the headquarters of AkzoNobel is located at the Zuidas in Amsterdam. Roughly two years ago, the wish arose to establish a department that would focus on digital innovation. The first step is to make AkzoNobel work more agile. This had to be developed outside of the corporate atmosphere of our headquarters. Inspiration to do something new does not arise out of existing structures. B. offered the perfect environment to learn from others.

What did AkzoNobel achieve at B. the last two years?
We strive to role model innovative and agile practices in all what we do, and I’m confident we have been building the right team, tools and innovation center to achieve our ambition. However, a more applicable project within B’s ecosystem might be AkzoNobel’s start-up challenge called Let’s Paint the Future. With the help of B., we were quickly able to spread the message among start-ups. The challenge works the same as a hackathon: we present a challenge and start-ups or ingenious individuals  come up with creative solutions. Thanks to B. we were able to build up a name for our department within AkzoNobel worldwide.

Could you elaborate on your current projects at AkzoNobel?
Our main project remains to accelerate digital innovation and creating awareness throughout the company about the urgency of agile working. Next to that, we develop the trainings, tools and resources to gradually implement an agile way of working. Concretely we organize trainings, work with international parties and invest quite some energy in stakeholder buy-ins to ensure top-down support. The latter is quite political as you can imagine.

How do you motivate such a big corporation to embrace change?
The trick is to not tell people they need to change and how, but to spread an innovative and agile mindset so people become eager to change the way they approach and execute their work by themselves. That is why we work hard to create a movement within AkzoNobel that inspires and presents tools to start working agile yourself. Thus we prefer to speak of a revolution instead of merely an innovation.

What are your main challenges for 2019?
Our ambition this year is to further spread an agile mindset and (digital) innovation genes globally. Besides that,  we’re also eager to organize more projects like Paint the Future within B.’s community. Although the challenge is open to every start-up world-wide, we can and should tap from the many resources present within B.’s community, especially the large group of young and creative entrepreneurs.

How do you ensure personal and professional growth?
In both cases it is necessary not to be afraid to make mistakes. Always ask for feedback, take it seriously and see it as advice for the future.