The Argonauts join the IDEA Group

The Argonauts join the IDEA Group

Since mid-2021, The Argonauts have been part of the IDEA family, together with Idea Consult, Mondea and Value Partners. We spoke with founder and driving force Joost Thurman and with Bart Van Herck, managing director at Idea Consult.

Joost, where does the name "The Argonauts" come from?

What path have you travelled so far?
Joost: ‘The Argonauts' refers to the story of Jason and the Argonauts from Greek mythology. To secure his kingship Jason gathered 49 Argonauts and left with his ship the Argo to find the Golden Fleece. On their journey they had to face many dangers. Because they had all the talents (politicians, philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, etc.) on board, they succeeded in their mission together! Etymologically, an Argonaut is an 'adventurer with a mission'.

Joost: When we started our journey five years ago, our main aim was to connect people from different companies, sectors, disciplines, and generations to share knowledge and 'co-create'. Together with different companies, civil society organisations and universities, we have organised about 20 missions at home and abroad on innovation and societal themes. We went to Milan for innovation in the furniture sector, to China for retail and e-commerce, to Silicon Valley for health tech, to the Netherlands and Germany for smart industry, to Copenhagen for food technology, and so on.

For such foreign missions, the corona crisis must have been very inconvenient?

Joost: Indeed. Fortunately, in the meantime we had also started supporting companies and organisations individually with innovation through 'design thinking' and co-creation. For example, we inspired and guided employees of both large and small companies from different sectors in innovation processes around various social themes and we organised design sprints for civil society organisations.

From 2020 onwards, we focused on the public sector too through a project on sustainable entrepreneurship for the Flemish government ('Sustatool') and a future study for the FPS Social Security. That is how I got in touch with Wim Van der Beken of Idea Consult. It was a match and we soon started working together on various projects.

Bart, how do The Argonauts fit into the Idea Group?

Bart: Client-oriented working translates into working in partnership. The organisations we work for usually have more field knowledge than our consultants. It comes down to bringing together expert and field knowledge into new and better solutions and services. In other words, co-creation, which is the trademark of The Argonauts.

So, does co-creation lead to better solutions?

Bart: Well, I see at least two important advantages. Through participation and co-creation, you create support for a solution. We know from experience that such a basis is just as important as the solution itself.

In addition, active participation by the board ensures that next time, they will innovate on their own. Boards build on their capacity and increase their administrative power.

Joost, what is the background of most of the Argonauts?

Joost: We are a young team of passionate product designers, mostly with a specialisation in strategic and service design. Co-creation, user research, stakeholder mapping, customer journeys, service blueprints, business modelling ... are all part of our daily business. In all our projects, we put the end-user first by means of design thinking, also known as the 'double diamond' method. Personally, I call design thinking 'using your common sense in a structured way'. And that is what our people are very good at!

And is the cooperation already up and running, Bart?

Bart: Yes, we are well on our way. For the Flemish government, for example, we are developing personas and customer journeys for lifelong learning.  For some local governments we facilitate co-creation sessions, future labs, and citizen participation. The Argonauts, in collaboration with Mondea, have set up a Citizenlab civic participation platform for the municipality of Berlaar. And as we speak, other joint projects are already starting up, both for the government and in the private sector.

Joost, besides The Argonauts I saw that you have a sister organisation "Junior Argonauts"?

Joost: A nice story indeed. At about the same time as The Argonauts we founded the non-profit organisation, Junior Argonauts to inspire the next generations with innovation and entrepreneurship.  The Juniors organise creative entrepreneurial camps during the holiday periods for young people between 12 and 16 years old on various topics: Robots and AI, fashion, gaming and creative entrepreneurship. The aim of these camps is to let young people discover their own talents by working with innovation, supported by professional experts.  Last summer, we organised almost 40 camps, in cooperation with cities and municipalities all over Flanders.

Bart, what connects The Argonauts and the Idea Group?

Bart: We are both very value-driven organisations and share a passion for realising long-term social value.
Together with our clients, we strive for maximum impact, new and better solutions for challenges in business, government and society.

Will The Argonauts be fully integrated into IDEA, or will they remain somewhat 'separate'?

Bart: The Argonauts will be an integral part of the Idea Group but will remain their own identity as an innovation agency, active in the private sector, civil society and government. Within the Idea Group, we consider entrepreneurship and cooperation of paramount importance in order to optimally respond to our clients' requests. We want to keep it that way!


  • Flemish government
  • Cities and provinces
  • Intermediate and private organisations