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Innovative behaviour promoted thanks to Kafka

Mister Kafka is how he is called, the secretary of state for administrative reform ('governmental simplification') in Belgium. His name is Van Quickenborne but as he likes to keep things simple, his nickname is 'Q'. His task is to reduce all bureaucratic and unnecessary rules, to reduce the amount of paper and time used for apparent simple actions. Having such a Kafka leads, in Belgium at least, to various innovations and improvements. The example mister Kafka is most proud of: In Belgium it is now possible to set up your own enterprise in only three days. At the 'one-stop-business-shop' one can arrange all necessary licenses, insurances etc. Thanks to this innovation, the amount of starting businesses increased with 40 per cent.
At the Kafka-website Belgians can report bureaucratic abuse. Or rather: leads for innovation. In the Netherlands there is the Kafka-brigade, with the same kind of ambition but with less concrete innovations on their track record (yet).

Dramatically reduced waiting-time for CT-scans

The University of Twente (UT) in collaboration with the AMC-hospital in Amsterdam, found a new way to reduce the waiting time for a CT-scan from 21 days to no more than 5. This radical process-innovation lead not only to an improvement of the service delivered to patients, it also helped to reduce the costs of the process. A simulation study was used in the research at hand. The UT published a press-release (also one in Dutch) on their homepage. It makes me curious how this innovation process looked like. Who initiated it? What was the urgency? Who learned from it? The solution is said to be applicable to other hospitals as well. Would it take a learning process for them as well to work in this way? Would it again be an innovation? I am curiously waiting for the article to be published in Health Care Management Review.

Reference: Health Care Management Review, vol. 32, no. 1, 2007: ‘Applying the Variety Reduction Principle to management of ancillary services’, S.G. Elkhuizen (AMC) , J.R.C. van Sambeek, E.W. Hans, J.J. Krabbendam, P.J.M. Bakker.

European Symposium on Innovative Management Practices

15 Mar 2007
16 Mar 2007

erimFor those who can make up their minds quickly: The ERIMA Symposium takes place March 15-16 and short papers (4 pages) need to be submitted by January 31. The first day of the symposium in Biarritz will focus on industrial needs, future challenges, storytelling and case studies exploring innovative management best practices. The second day will be oriented towards new organisations, concepts, methods and tools proposed by the research community and practitioners to promote innovative management.

From the website I get the idea that they really have the ambition to make it an interactive symposium. There are no traditional paper presentations but "the chairmen of sessions will present the main contribution of each selected paper and start a round-table discussion across different questions and topics. Each contributor will be invited to clarify his/her point of view during the discussion". Sounds promising, and just what we need: a conference with innovation as a main topic, should indeed work on innovative ways of working during the gathering. Just as conferences that have learning as main topic should promote ways of working that stimulate participants' learning.

Democratizing Innovation

"When I say that innovation is being democratized, I mean that users of products and services -both firms and individual consumers- are increasingly able to innovate for themselves. Users that innovate can develop exactly what they want, rather than relying on manufacturers to act as their (often very imperfect) agents". These are the words with which professor von Hippel starts his book on democratizing innovation. He practices what he preaches: the book is online available on his homepage.

Some interesting notions that can be found in the book:

  • "Why do users often [innovate] for themselves rather than hire a custom manufacturer to develop a special just-right product for them?" According to Von Hippel there are two main reasons: 1) when you innovate for yourself, you definitely act in your own best interest, 2) enjoyment of the innovation process and the learning that comes together with it, is also found to be important! (Chapter 4).
  • When information is sticky, innovators tend to rely largely on information they already have in stock. Users tend to develop innovations that are functionally novel, requiring a great deal of user-need information and use-context information for their development. In contrast, manufacturers tend to develop innovations that are improvements on well-known needs and that require a rich understanding of solution information for their development”. (Chapter 5) .
  • "The empirical finding that users often freely reveal their innovations has been a major surprise to innovation researchers". This happens a lot with e.g. open source-software. Von Hippel answers the question of why: "innovators often freely reveal because it is often the best (...) option available to them. Hiding an innovation as a trade secret is unlikely to be successful for long: too many generally know similar things, and some holders of the "secret" information stand to lose little or nothing by freely revealing what they know”. And: “Users who freely reveal what they have done often find that others then improve or suggest improvements to the innovation, to mutual benefit. Freely revealing users also may benefit from enhancement of reputation, from positive network effects due to increased diffusion of their innovation, and from other factors”. (Chapter 6)
  • User-innovators find various ways to combine and leverage their efforts. Von Hippel mentions informal and organised cooperation in networks and communities. (Chapter 7)
  • Henkel and Von Hippel explored the social welfare implications of user innovation. They found that, relative to a world in which only manufacturers innovate, social welfare is probably increased by the presence of innovations freely revealed by users”. (Chapter 8)

Von Hippel is professor and head of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He published some articles together with Georg von Krogh.

Von Hippel, E. (2005). Democratizing innovation. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Knowledge development as a social communicative process

Kirsti Booijink-Kemna (most left) got her bachelor's-degree. She did a research on the role of the social and communicative process in knowledge development. A literature study lead her to several factors that play a role in this process. She found factors on the level of the individual (e.g. attitude, care, dialogue), on the team-level (e.g. groupcohesion, shared language) and at the level of the organisation (culture). After this literature study she did case study research in two different organisations (ROC MN and Pemstar). After this empirical study she concluded that the factors found in literature were described on a too detailed level to be meaningful and to do justice to practice. She then reformulated these factors into five more open ones:

  1. Creating space
  2. Getting and bringing
  3. Being personally involved
  4. Positive attitude
  5. Composition of the group/team

In the discussion after her presentation, we discussed some interesting topics:

  • What phases can be distinguished in the social and communicative process? Might that be something like the phases Scharmer describes: 1. Being polite; 2. Debate and discussion; 3. Reflective dialogue; 4. Generative dialogue.
  • To what extent are there parallels between the phases of the social and communicative process and the process of knowledge productivity (the actual innovation process)?

bachelorscriptie Kirsti Booijink-Kemna.pdf204.63 KB

Inaugural lecture Rob Poell

Last friday I joined the inaugural lecture, given by Rob Poell (Tilburg University). His lecture was titled 'Developing human resource development. Towards an employee perspective'. In this lecture he defines HRD, states that personal development is, in itself, for many people a goal in their work, he compares HRD with HRM and presents a research in which he shows how HRM is represented in HRD-handbooks and journals and the other way round. HRD appears to show up in HRM-handbooks merely as a seperate part, coming from a traditional training-oriented view on HRD. Nice is that Poell did some research work especially for this inaugural lecture. The first part, on the definition of HRD, is the best part I think, because there Poell really shows his personal view on learning and development of employees.

A copy of this speech (in Dutch!) can be ordered via info@performa.nl.

Poel, R. (2006). Personeelsontwikkeling in ontwikkeling. Naar een werknemersperspectief op Human Resource Development. Inaugurele rede, Universiteit van Tilburg.

Innovation in Dutch companies - a research by Twynstra the bridge

60 % of the Dutch companies find themselves successful innovators; In the top-10 of companies that are said to be innovative, the product-oriented companies dominate. People still tend to link innovation with technology.

These are some of the findings that Twynstra the Bridge has published in their report on innovation in Dutch companies (the innovation monitor). The research was especially focused on collaboration between companies with respect to gradual improvement and radical innovation. The report gives a good overview of innovation in the Netherlands. Some interesting findings:

  • Over 80% of the respondents focuses on improvement or the development of products in existing markets. Less than 20% is focused on radical innovation of new markets and business-models.
  • Companies in which top-management has an initiating role with respect to innovation, has a bigger chance to be innovative. And not only because these managers are so innovative themselves but rather because they work hard to design an innovation-climate and they want to bring innovation in the ‘genes’ of the organization.
  • Many companies aim to innovate faster and more radical by collaborating with other companies. The more top-management supports innovation, the more collaboration with other companies is observed and the more these collaboration leads to tangible results.
  • The phase (of the innovation process) in which you start to collaborate, doesn’t matter. In each phase does collaboration lead to better results. Interestingly, the companies that deliver services collaborate more often than the product-oriented organizations.
  • When the respondents are asked (by means of an open question) what they see as a success factor in these collaboration, they mention mutual trust. They also mention open communication, shared ambition and to be able to create a situation of mutual benefit.
  • A pity is that in the need for trust, companies tend to avoid risks. They work with known partners and that doesn’t always support the innovation process.
  • Companies that look actively for partners to collaborate with and that are selective in their choice, are more often pointed towards radical innovation. Whereas companies with a waiting attitude are focused on reducing risks in collaboration.
  • Being good at collaboration in your own organization is an important condition for successful collaboration with other partners.

Innovatiemonitor 2006.pdf1.74 MB

Master thesis on stumble stones online!

The master thesis of Loreta Vaicaityte (in the middle) is finished (see attachment)! In her research she examined personal factors that might inhibit the process of knowledge productivity in group work. She calls these inhibiting factors ‘stumble stones’. She found twelve stumble stones and gave them intriguing names. That makes it nice to work with them. The practitioners we worked with to validate the set of stumble stones recognised them from their own work.

Interesting is the link with the principles of knowledge productivity she made (page 55). Loreta makes a distinction between principles that offer a ‘solution’ to the stumble-stones, principles that ‘prevent people from’ certain stumble stones and stumble stones that ‘block’ certain principles. One of the conclusions is that “the sixth principle ‘starting from strengths’ is the principle, offering most solutions to the personal stumble-stones”. Tomorrow I will discuss the relationship between the stumble stones and the principles for knowledge productivity more in depth together with Loreta and my colleague Marloes.

An overview of the stumble stones (page 3):

  • ‘catch the scapegoat’ indicates the tendency to shift responsibility of action to various external sources,
  • ‘follow the herd’ presents group thinking phenomenon, which results in conformation to group’s norms and values,
  • ‘it is easier than 2+2’ explains the consequences of the personal attitude that an individual knows everything,
  • my well in the desert’ presents fear of sharing knowledge and perception of knowledge as a commodity,
  • ‘my house is my fortress’ indicates tendency to get used to comfort and resistance to change,
  • ‘a banana instead of a carrot’ illustrates the contradiction between individual and group motives,
  • ‘how big are your earplugs?’ presents a form of miscommunication, when an individual does not listen and misunderstands speaker’s words,
  • ‘dig a hole of distrust’ indicates how distrust in each other inhibits knowledge productivity process in a group,
  • ‘the time flies’ shows how wasting time on insignificant issues influences the process of knowledge productivity,
  • ‘a trunk or a leg?’ presents misunderstanding when people talk from different perspectives,
  • ‘a distorted mirror’ indicates group member’s doubt in himself or doubt that the particular idea can be put into practice,
  • ‘obey the policeman’ presents manipulation with one’s political or managerial power and indicates how it affects the process of knowledge productivity.

scriptie_Loreta Vaicaityte_stumblestones.pdf964 KB

Eighth International Conference on HRD Research and Practice - Call for papers

27 Jun 2007
29 Jun 2007

I received the call for papers for the Eighth International Conference on HRD Research and Practice across Europe. This year the conference is hosted by the Oxford Brookes University. This year's theme is 'Globalisation versus Glocalisation: implications for HRD?'. The call for papers is attached to this post. More information can be found on the conference-website. I have been to the last conferences in Limerick, Leeds and Tilburg. I have always had great fun and met interesting people. What I like about the conferences is hearing about actual research of HRD-researchers in the field. In general the learning perspective takes a prominent role in the paper presentations. And: good news is that the PhD-workshop that I organised last year in Tilburg is scheduled again!

On-the-job learning styles in the nursing profession

Last week I attended the public defense of Marjolein Bering’s dissertation. Her dissertation is about On-the-job learning styles in the nursing profession. It is well-written (accessible writing style!), and combines qualitative (what and how do nurses learn?) and quantitative research methods (development of an instrument to measure nurses’ on-the-job learning styles). Some research findings that I found particulary interesting:

Three popular self-report questionnaires such as the Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory are critically reviewed (p. 41). Her findings comprise:

  • If you want to learn more about how people learn at work, don’t ask directly about learning: “In most questionnaires people are asked directly about learning. However, the word ‘learning’ conveys the wrong message. Employees start thinking about courses the attended, books they read, coaching they received and so on”. Whereas on-the-job-learning is more than this…
  • When you want to learn how people learn, ask them to take a specific situation in mind: “Respondents are not instructed to think of a given context when filling out the questionnaire and thus, the influence of the specific learning situation is ignored”.
  • The social aspects of learning need to be taken into account. This is not the case in the three questionnaires under study.

I especially like the guidelines she found for research into workplace learning. In chapter 4 she gives an overview methods that are used in on-the-job-learning research and derives a set of guidelines from this. In the last chapter she described to what extent she followed these guidelines herself. There are 7 guidelines. E.g. guidelines 1 and 5 (p. 72): Future on-the-job learning researchers:

  • 1. Pay attention to on-the-job learning in terms of the nature of the task itself, the cultural and social relations that characterize the workplace, and the experiences and social world of the participants;
  • 5. Are explicit about the role they themselves play in the research (informant, passionate participant, activist, reflexivist).

Berings, M. (2006). On-the-job learning styles, conceptualization and instrument development for the nursing profession. Doctoral dissertation Tilburg University.