Unpacking Inclusivity: Interview with PINKHAMMER founder, Killian Poolmans.
By Ewan Waddell

Unpacking Inclusivity: Interview with PINKHAMMER founder, Killian Poolmans.

This week I learned about a new type of company which I previously didn't know existed, but I'm glad it does. It's called PINKHAMMER and it's a truly diverse collective of people (in every sense of the word) who help to restructure the way organisations practice innovation in order to ensure that creative ways of thinking and alternate perspectives are always being represented.

We chatted with the founder, Killian Poolmans, on the Hund Hund terrace to learn about how Pink Hammer came together, how they're disrupting existing hierarchies, and why including a diversity of perspectives is beneficial for everyone.


Photo by Dominik Tryba.

I first wondered how PINKHAMMER came to be.

"I was working to help startups establish more innovative design processes. But I was mostly dealing with straight white guys with access to a lot of resources building these start-ups for financial gain. And I was in this Berlin scene which I felt had a lot of great people who had lived experiences that can shape projects, products and services in a way that can benefit a broader spectrum of society — but they didn't have access to some of these design processes I was teaching. So I started [PINKHAMMER] in 2020."

"We help organisations build creative and inclusive teams and products. It's really about redesigning the way organisations practice innovation by creating a space within an organization where a more diverse group of voices is being heard, but also where these lived experiences are being taken into account."



"What you see right now is that education or skills play a big role in these kinds of environments, and lived experiences are taking the back seat. But these things should come in the forefront as well. If you create a product for a certain type of target group, those people should also be represented in the room throughout the whole process. And that's what we're trying to change."

I was fascinated by the progressive ethos, but I wondered how it all practically came together.

"Basically, we create virtual training programs for teams consisting of online workshops that provide them with templates, tools and techniques to practice innovation in a more creative and inclusive way. These programs are designed and facilitated together with the PINKHAMMER collective. The collective are people I met in Berlin (but also Melbourne, Seoul, Amsterdam etc); writers, activists, neuroscientists — so it's a lot of people with different points of view, because I feel that within these corporate spaces, that's what's lacking. And that's what people really crave; the atmosphere of exchanging ideas, of building together and being creative."

"I had these workshops designed specifically for my clients where these people from different walks of life share their stories and ways of thinking, to teach people within corporate organisations to be more creative; to think of problems in a different way. And hopefully, therefore, treat things not just through the reflection of monetary value, but also be reflective of the experiences of others."



I was curious to hear about an example technique used for amplifying lesser-heard voices.

"For instance, with traditional brainstorming sessions of people going into a room and [exchanging] ideas, a lot of times you have introverted, quieter people in the room that are not as good at expressing some of their ideas. So in our workshops what we'd try to do is build in moments where people can voice their ideas in a more individual way and structuring this process in a digital setting allows for all voices to be heard." 

"Another example is how we changed a frequently used design technique called persona creation, which is where you create a fictional character whose characteristics  reflect a portion of your target audience. Mostly these persona’s are built without taking things like gender expression, gender identity or privileges into account. We created a persona creation framework that takes into account a wider variety of characteristics that are important to build your products around."

"These are tiny examples, but as a collective we looked at the full design process that is being used by organisations today and made changes to the tools and techniques.  We then turned this “inclusive design process” into an online training program complete with webinars, workshops and digital templates. We are currently guiding teams, mostly fast growing start-ups,  through this program helping them to implement a step-by-step innovation process that creates (product) solutions that resonate with a diverse group of people."

"Outside of these training programs we are facilitating, an example of a project that we are currently working on is creating a space for LGBTQIA+ employees within PwC Caribbean. We are hosting a monthly digital safe space where we discuss the experiences of being part of the queer community within the region. Within these digital sessions we invite local activists and change makers to discuss topics surrounding queer and intersectional identities.  We also host interactive workshops where we brainstorm solutions to implement within the organisation to become more inclusive." 



Killian then outlined the economic benefits of this inclusivity that exist alongside the social importance.

"What you can see through the extensive research is that organisations that do include different voices — more Gen Z people, people that have different viewpoints on race, gender and all that stuff — it translates into the creation of better products and services, which translates into revenue. And I think it's good to represent that, but it's also a tricky grey area because you don't just want to quantify everything because then all we talk about is numbers, which I kind of want to move away from."

As the current generation entering the workforce I was curious to hear what Killian's learned about Gen Z as a group, and what needs they have that conservative structures are perhaps not meeting.

"A big one is creating impact on social issues. I think Millennials started talking about a lot of things, but there wasn't really a lot of action. And I think Gen Z is now actually putting action towards some of the things that we, as Millennials, started talking about."

"[Gen Z] also demands, in a way, that their lifestyles are being seen. And so they want to show up as themselves. When Millennials were kind of apologetic about shifting working practices, Gen Z is not really letting that happen, which I think is great."



I would imagine companies seeking Pink Hammer's services are those who are already somewhat accommodating to these ideas, and vice versa, the ones that would benefit the most might be the ones least likely to reach out. And so I asked Killian how he would access these more 'in need' companies.

"Yes, the more traditional ones wouldn't be the ones that would reach out. But, within these organizations, there are always people that are a little bit further than what the organization is, and they would still come to me to help change the organization from within."

But what about someone who's reading this interview right now who might not be able to access your services — how can they make a change? I posed as a parting question.

"I think the biggest thing is being able to have hard conversations with some of your colleagues. I think that people entering the workforce don't really realise how much power they hold, and those conversations could be the ones that start [broader] conversations within your organisation, and you may also be carrying a burden for some of your other [likeminded] colleagues who might not feel able to do it themselves. So I would advise to not shy away from taking up those spaces and not shy away from voicing your opinions."

Thank you to Killian. You can find his links below.

Website -- LinkedIn -- Instagram.

Words and portraits by Ewan Waddell.

Additional imagery courtesy of PINKHAMMER & Dominik Tryba.


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