Expeditie Gratis Wonen

Free housing? Consultancy from a Design Thinking perspective

Innovation = Key

Free housing. That sure sounds like utopia, but could be more realistic then it sounds. In view of the rapid developments in both technology (digitisation, robotisation) and society (circular and sharing economy), companies active in housing construction are urged to innovate in order to stay relevant.

Expeditie Gratis Wonen (Expedition Free Housing) is the name of the project group that, under the direction of Rick van den Bos, should realise the goal of proving free housing. A total of 45 people went to work in four teams. The teams consist of employees of the participating organisations (including BAM, Eigen Haard and institutional investor Bouwinvest), supplemented by external experts from various disciplines; startups, innovators and communication experts.

“SILO is an excellent party to spark such a change
at boardroom level.”

– Rick van den Bos, project manager Expeditie Gratis Wonen

The teams had to work out a plan in a hundred days. Rick van den Bos engaged SILO to act as a consultant to streamline this process. Rick van den Bos: “With this project we really had to step out of the paradigm of the traditional sector, and SILO is an excellent party to spark such a change at boardroom level.”


 The SILO approach

How does SILO go about this? At least not with spreadsheets and powerpoint. Although these are very useful tools that, even in our practice, often come in handy. Instead, we went to the boardroom armed with sheets of paper and felt-tip pens. The result was a session where clear choices were made, designer Sjoerd Koopmans on the spot processed the various schools of thought and turned them into images that were used by the teams as guideline and instrument to reflect on their thought process.

Sharpening & Depicting

The management boards of AM, BAM Woningbouw, Bouwinvest and Eigen Haard, among others, did look a bit surprised at first when SILO entered the boardroom. Sjoerd laid a stack of enormous sheets of paper on the table and installed himself with a set of felt-tip pens. It was clear to the managements that this would not be an everyday session.

The innovation teams had developed three lines of thought that should now be made more concrete by the managements of the investing companies. The elaboration that would arise this day would serve as the basis from which the teams would proceed until they would find an final solution. SILO is used to handling strategic projects with the increasingly popular Design Thinking approach. This approach starts with leaving the ‘comfort zone’ and entering a ‘discover and learn zone’. It is important to keep the end user in mind from start till finish (and everywhere in between!).

So what does that practically mean? Dennis Flinterman and Sjoerd Koopmans were present on behalf of SILO. Dennis posed smart and questions and Sjoerd drew mind maps of the discussion that followed these questions. In between, the team reflected on their own discussion using Sjoerd’s drawings. This was always enlightening and sometimes confrontational. Not every discussion proved equally fruitful. It quickly led to an upward trend in the quality of the discussion.

Sjoerd’s visuals were finally used till the end of the project as a guide and point of reference in the development of the business models. On the basis of the drawings that were made during the session, SILO has also developed an informative chart that shows the directions of thought.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a method for solving complex problems. It is very much emerging as a movement to shape innovation in a creative way. In this way of thinking you look for ways to create unique value. Not by thinking of the qualities that technical progress offers in itself but by looking at what value you can add in the experience of the customer or end user. It is not a linear process, but rather strongly reflects on the steps you take in an innovation process. The visualisations of the brainstorming process that SILO created in the boardroom are a good example of a Design Thinking approach.


In Design Thinking we use the model of the double diamond. This model is about answering two main questions:

  • Are we designing the right thing?
  • How can we design this thing right?

SILO assisted here in the initial phase that falls under the first diamond. By not only discovering the question behind the question but also constantly portraying how the discussion unfolded, the teams were able to reflect on their progress and make clear choices.



At SILO we benefit greatly from working according to the Design Thinking approach. Whether it is an e-commerce platform, the layout of a hospital, or, as now, the realisation of an, in advance, crazy idea as free housing. Thinking outside your comfort zone, the continuous testing of your assumptions and the focus on the end users are a good recipe for success.


  • Client
    Expeditie Gratis Wonen
  • Year
  • Activities
    Brand strategy
    Brand positioning

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