Still from the Stuff-finder-movieThe informative newsletter of Knowledgeland (KL | Nederland Kennisland: its mission is to help establish the Netherlands as one of the key regions in the international knowledge economy) brought to my notice the Not-Invented-Yet-Contest. This contest is for the Dutch organisation TNO to celebrate their 75 birthday. TNO aims to make scientific knowledge applicable to increase innovation in different fields. The Not-Invented-Yet-Contest offers everyone the possibility to send in their great -but not yet invented yet- idea. You can send in ideas by making a movie. A nice one I found on the site is the Stuff Finder (find your keys, sunglasses etc with help of a small device that detects the microchips you've attached on the keys and sunglasses...). For ideas have a look at Half Bakery, cool website with lots of practical and unpractical inventions to improve your life...

Second expert meeting was an inspiring gathering!

One of the research methods we use to validate and to improve the design principles, is expert meetings. This year we organise three. The first one was with experts in the field of learning and change. Last week we had the second one. I invited a researcher with expertise on system innovation, a researcher who did his PhD study on learning for sustainability and a researcher who is concerned with learning in planning processes.

One of the issues raised concerned learning from successes (the 6th design principe). There were two contradictory statements:

  • Reflection on the successes you've booked does not contribute to innovation: For innovation it is necessary to have exploratory learning processes whereas looking back upon attained success may inhibit the exploration of new possibilities and may stimulate people to live on what they already got.
  • When we look at innovation from a learning perspective however, it seems necessary for people to reflect upon their past successes. For learning it is necessary that people feel confident and believe in their own capacities (self-efficacy). Analysing the successes you've had and reflecting upon what you've learned, improves this.

Our preliminary conclusion here was that learning from past success is necessary for learning and team building (direct consequence: short term), and therefore it indirectly improves innovation (long-term).

We designed a simulation game to work with the design principles!

07 Jun 2007

We designed a simulation game to work with and experiment with the design principles for knowledge productivity. Recently we met Frans van Gassel, from the Technical University in Eindhoven (TU/E), and he invited us to collaborate with him to prepare a game for the 4th symposium on Value Development in Construction Management. The students-association of Course takes the initiative for this conference together with the Masterprogramma Construction Management and Engineering (Frans van Gassel). The game takes place at June 7, in the morning. In the afternoon some lecturers (my colleague Paul Keursten is one of them!) will reflect on the symposium's main theme 'creatief vragen en aanbieden', Paul Keursten in his speech will reflect upon the morning programma where we worked with the design principles.

Knowledge workers need their managers' support!

inner work lifePeople don't leave their personal feelings at home when they come to work. It's about time for managers to recognise that. If you expect employees to be smart, their inner work life can't be denied. Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer did an extensive research on how employees experience their life at work. They were curious to learn more about the day-to-day life of people at work and how that affects performance. In their extensive research (238 professional in 26 project teams in seven companies in three industries participated in the study and they collected 12.000 diary-reports!) on inner work life of employees they related people's perceptions emotions and motivation. Their research considers knowledge work. In settings where people must work collaboratively to solve vexing problems, their performance depends on creativity, productivity, commitment and collegiality.

They conclude that for knowledge work (the work that leads to improvements and innovations) management's engagement and behaviour is crucial. Not by giving people pats on the back but by 1) enabling people to move forward in their work, and 2) treating them decently as human beings. With respect to the 1st: This can best be done by setting clear goals and make sure that people know why their work matters to the team, the organization and the organization's customers. With respect to the 2nd: Appreciation without progress has no positive impact and leads to cynism; When people experience good work progress but no recognition (or even worse: criticism about trivial issues) this causes anger and sadness. "Far and away, the best boosts to inner work life were episodes in which people knew they had done good work and managers appropriately recognized that work".

Other findings:

  • The more positive a person's mood, the more creative thinking he or she did the next day. People were more creative when they interpreted the going-ons in their organizations in a positive light - that is, when they saw their organisations and leaders as collaborative, cooperative, open to new ideas, able to evaluate and develop new ideas fairly, clearly focused on an innovative vision, and willing to reward creative work.
  • They were less creative when they perceived political infighting and internal competition or an aversion to new ideas or to risk taking.
  • People are more creative when they are motivated primarily by the interest, enjoyment, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself - not by external pressure or rewards.
  • The findings for productivity, commitment and collegiality also increased when people held positive perceptions about their work context.

Read more:

  • Amabile, T.M., & Kramer, S.J. (2007). Inner work life, understanding the subtext of business performance. Harvard business review, May 2007.
  • On the site of HBR you can find more infos.
  • A Dutch website on social innovation wrote about this article.


From caterpillar to butterfly


The Dutch innovation platform wants to broaden the concept of Dutch 'innovation power'. One of the stumbling blocks most often encountered is what is often referred to as the 'knowledge paradox'. Groen, Vasbinder and van de Linde (2006) describe this as the phenomenon wherein knowledge created by scientific research does not lead to economic activity anticipated by scientists and policymakers. The authors describe a chasm. On one side of the chasm knowledge is developed that meets the norms of scientific researchers. In this case, the criteria used are peer review, publications, and the frequency with which others may refer to these publications. On the other side of the chasm the knowledge is exploited. Scientific knowledge is combined with practical knowledge in order to solve problems or to develop new processes, products and services. This chasm became obvious when organisations came up with new innovative products, processes and services although they hardly invested in 'official research' or specific 'innovation departments'.

A common way of thinking to bridge this gap is to attempt to make scientific research more accessible and amenable to implementation. In my work however I found it not to be helpful to think in terms 'transferal' from scientific knowledge to practice. I compare it to instances in which it was discovered that training did not always help people improve performance. We started to think in terms of transfer too: transfer from training to workplace. This appeared to be an inefficient way to use our energy. It proved more fruitful to redefine what we see as training. This lead to the notion of workplace learning: design learning at work and in practice.

According to the same line of reasoning, transferal will not help us in overcoming the knowledge paradox. It is more productive (and about time!) for science to connect to the developments in practice and to make joint efforts (researchers and practitioners) to reach a state of innovation. This means that we have to look for new research methods and new ways of communicating results. No transferal is needed but rather a transformation of traditional science.
(read more...)

Performative Social Science - submit an abstract for this special issue

Theatrical monologues, posters, postcards, exhibitions... there seems to be a name for the new approaches we've experimented with in our research practice: Performative Social Science. At least, that is how the editors from FQS call it. The Forum for Qualitative Social Science (FQS) invites you to submit an abstract for a special issue on Performative Social Science. The aim of the Special Issue is "to bring thoughtful reflections on and manifestations of Performative Social Science (PSS)". "Those engaging in this new performative social science are developing arts-based research methods and dissemination techniques in order to both investigate deeper and reach wider audiences". FQS is an innovative (it's for free, it's online and the editors have great ideas for special issues), and good (peer reviewed) online journal.
The timeline is:

  • 1 June 2007 Abstracts due
  • 1 August 2007 Authors of abstracts notified of acceptance
  • 1 November 2008 Full papers to be submitted
  • Nov 2007 / Jan 2008 Peer Review of papers by co-editors; revisions recommended to authors
  • 30 March 2008 Authors' revisions of accepted papers due
  • May 2008 Publication date

Great blog on the solution focused approach

My colleague (who always finds interesting stuff and new places on the Internet) drew my attention to this weblog on the solution focused approach. Michael Hjerth writes short essays that support and explain the appreciative approach. Eg:

  • Affirmative questions can offer much more than compliments. Examples of these affirmative questions are: "How did you do that?” or “How did you decide it was the right thing to do?". It not only acknowledges the other, it also helps to gain deeper understanding of the subject matter. It helps to reflect.
  • Receivers of compliments are not the only ones to benefit from the compliments. Hjerth elaborates on the way he experienced it also helps the one who gives the compliment. It helps to listen differently, he says.

Read more:

Designing for knowledge productivity

Yesterday I gave a lecshop (half-lecture-half-workshop) for the FCE-students. We worked on the theme of knowledge productivity and the participants worked on their own knowledge productivity design.
We used the methods I developed in my own research to trace an innovative project, to find disconinuities, to link the design principles to it, and finally to design the next step.
Attached to this post you can find the presentation (that includes both the lec- and the shop-side of the workshop).

The growth-mindset

The website of Coert Visser offers a lot of interesting articles and interviews on the solution-focused approach he uses. The interview with Carol Dweck (Stanford University) elaborates on her new (and with a large body of research supported) insight: the way you view your own intelligence largely determines how it will develop. Dweck distinguishes between two mindsets: the fixed-mindset, in which people believe that their talents and abilities are fixed traits, and the growth-mindset. People with the latter believe that their talents and abilities can be developed through passion, education and persistence. Her research shows that when people adopt the fixed mindset it can limit their succes. The good thing is: people that have adopted the fixed-mindset can learn to change it into the growth-mindset. After a 90-minutes workshop the managers in the experiment were open to noticing improvement and were more willing and able to coach employees. Read more:

First expert meeting was a success!

mindmapAs a way to validate the 11 design principles this year I organise three expert meetings. Last week we had the first one. It was really exciting to have experts (in the field of learning and change) as critical reviewers of my research. At the end of the meeting that lasted 4 hours (of hard working!) we had a huge mindmap (see picture), lots of insights on the content of the design principles and their form and an energy-boost to make a step forward in the research. In May there is an expertsession with experts in the field of system innovation and in June the last session will take place with experts in the field of innovation.