Defense of my thesis: 'Learning to Innovate, a series of studies to explore and enable learning in innovation practices'

24 Sep 2009

Last months I have been busy writing my PhD-thesis. And now I have some good news to share: it is finished! Last week I was notified that all members of my graduation committee agreed upon the public defense of my dissertation on September 24. My dissertation is entitled: ‘Learning to Innovate, a series of studies to explore and enable learning in innovation practices’. At the moment I am busy preparing the text for being printed.
Next to my dissertation, the publishing company Bohn Stafleu van Loghum will publish a toolbox in which my colleagues Paul Keursten, Marloes van Rooij and myself translated the insights from the research for people in practice. It will be in Dutch.
The research that I worked on for the last five years deals with how people learn in innovation processes. I have carried out various studies in which I reconstructed innovation practices that were finished and monitored ongoing innovation practices. The analysis of these studies, combined with a literature review, led to a set of design principles. These principles were validated in practice and via an expert consultation. Subsequently, more than 100 practitioners took part in one of the four types of design labs. This study helped to find out the extent to which the principles helped the practitioners to design their own innovation practice. Some findings:

  • For innovation, the personal involvement of people is essential. It works well to take one’s own motivation as a starting point (instead of a general or organizational goal).
  • For the design of innovation processes, it appeared to be important to combine a personal approach (one’s own affinity, creativity and ambition) with a more systematic approach (a rational analysis, making use of previous experiences and developing the necessary abilities). A combination of these two approaches seems to be most promising to create breakthroughs in an innovation practice. 
  • People in practice work on innovation (their ‘work’) and are not occupied with ‘learning’. Although the concept of reflection takes a prominent role in theories on learning, participants in innovation practices rarely practice this.