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Overview of concepts and themes related to innovation

Recently three Dutch authors wrote a book on innovating. I really recommend it (to those who understand Dutch). The book offers a good overview of topics related to innovation. The 1st part of the book gives an overview of the concept of innovation, the 2nd part is like an encyclopedia: you find an enormous list of concepts (from tacit knowledge and knowledge productivity to disruptive technology and creativity) and subsidy-arrangements. The 3rd part is the best part, there the authors elaborate upon some interesting themes, like:

  • How Schumpeter sees innovation as new combinations (neue Kombinationen). Schumpeter makes the distinction between inventors and entrepreneurs. He also believes that “in der Durchfuehrung dieser neue Kombinationen liegt die eigentliche Funktion des Unternehmers”. In innovation it is all about the application (or better in German: Durchfuehrung) of new combinations. A new combination in itself (what the inventor would do) is not an innovation yet.
  • The power of heterogeneous networks for innovation. Homogeneous networks come into existence very easily, mostly on the basis of existing structures like organisations, departments etc. Homogeneous networks however form the basis for serious breakthroughs. These homogeneous networks depend heavily on personal qualities and efforts of individuals.
  • How disruptive technologies form a threat for existing technologies. Here the authors refer to some great examples (e.g. the 31/2 inch diskdrive).
  • The idea that science should deliver to practice is out of date. The authors refer to Leonardo da Vinci (the first one to combine research and application), Bacon (who introduces the lineair innovation model), Popper, Newton and Decartes to explain how research and practice have related to each other. The gap between the two became clear in the 80s when organisations came up with radical innovations without having their own research department…

Groen, Th., Vasbinder, J.W., & Linde, E., van de. (2006). Innoveren, begrippen, praktijk, perspectieven. Utrecht: Spectrum.

Strangers in dialogue

In her dissertation 'Strangers in dialogue' Sanne Akkerman studied the collaboration and communication of groups of academics with different backgrounds and disciplines who have the aim to create something collaboratively. She used the concepts of 'voice' and 'I-position' to examine these processes and has interesting conclusions. One of these conclusions is that people tend to understand others too quickly. They tend to place the words of the others too easily in their own frame of reference:

"The project members described specific orientations to advance. However, during the negotiation processes in this collaboration project, these multiple voices were not made explicit for each other; neither within instances of misunderstanding and disagreements, nor within instances of understandings and agreements. The case illustrated how people most easily transform what is said by the other into what is known and familiar to one self; words and labels are often understood in own terms. This hampers to question further what is said by the other, and so the ‘otherness’ of the other, providing different perspectives and different ideas, is left unexplored".

Akkerman states that people should rather see each other as strangers than as acquaintances that only differ a little bit from themselves. Only then diversity can be used optimally.

The defense of this dissertation was in June (cum laude!!) and the book is online available at the website of IVLOS. It is absolutely worthwhile reading. 

Akkerman, S.(2006). Strangers in dialogue, Academic collaboration across organizational boundaries. Doctoral dissertation University of Utrecht.

The one and only how- to- write- publishable- papers- guide

Last weekend I got the news that the article I submitted to JEIT (Journal of European Industrial Training) is accepted. That's cool! But what I just discovered on their website might even be better... It is the how-to-write-publishable-papers-guide.... And it is worthwhile reading! Take for instance the 'four good reasons to publish your work'. The lesson that nobody can write without focus is illustrated with this quote:

"If you told me to write a love song tonight, I'd have a lot of trouble. But if you told me to write a love song about a girl in a red dress who goes into a bar and is on her fifth martini, and is falling off her chair, that's a lot easier and it makes me free to say anything I want."
Stephen Sondheim

And then there are the 'four even better reasons not to publish your work'. One very good reason is because it is not good enough yet... of course! It is adequately illustrated with the following quote:

"There are only two types of articles; those that are perfect and never get published and those that are good enough and do."

I once heard that the same is true for dissertations... There are perfect dissertations and there are the dissertations that get done. Well... It might be time for some writing aids. Some good/funny ones:surviving2





  • Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process (Paperback). A good book, it even has a chapter on how to present data!
  • Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis (Paperback). The illusion that the title creates will be blown away already in the introduction of the book. The author says that "I've given this book the title Writing your dissertation in fifteen minutes a day because I thought it would get your attention (...) I don't actually know anyone who's done it in only fifteen minutes a day". Still the book is a great help.
  • Robert Schulman and Virginia Cox wrote an article on 'How to Write a Ph.D. Dissertation' with some comforting news: "Your committee members aren't going to waste their time asking you about your research, because you know more about that than anyone else in the world. Instead, they will ask questions that are really about their research or--if they are in a particularly punchy mood--about fundamental mathematics". Or what about this: "There should also be at least one committee member who will never read the thesis, and who will therefore ask only general questions at your thesis defense. The other graduate students who attend your defense will often bet on which professors read your thesis".
    Well, the article was written in 1997. Maybe times are changing?!
  • Writing and presenting your thesis or dissertation

Passion in corporate cultures: master thesis online!

Romy Steinhaeuser has finished her master thesis on the theme of passion in organisations. She did a great job in an unexplored field. I can really recommend reading (parts of) her thesis because of...:

  • The distinction between passion and other concepts that are related, such as motivation.
  • The style of writing is very clear and easy to read.
  • The interview reports (you find two examples in appendix E and F) are inspiring to read. Both the content (they really are journeys to passion) and the form (novel-like stories) she chose contribute to that.
  • The conclusion that passion has three phases: 1. recognition, 2. maintenance, 3. development).
  • The various factors that promote and inhibit passion. E.g. the importance of co-workers, autonomy and appreciation.

passion flowerpassion flowerRomy Steinhaeuser is a former master student in the field of Human Resource Development at University of Twente. Her master thesis project focused on the concept of passion in corporate cultures. Romy says about her research:

"I have discovered my passion for passion about three years ago. Ever since, I am hooked and I feel drawn to the idea that passion can and maybe even should play a major role in organisational businesses and particularly those considering themselves being knowledge productive. For, passion can be seen as a source for energy, innovation, learning, development, et cetera". Read more in the 'articles'-section.

scriptie Romy Steinhaeuser passion.pdf1.86 MB

Our workshop at the ISMICK 2006

My colleagues Marloes and Joseph and I gave our workshop on tuesday. We worked very hard with a group of 40 people. In small groups the design principles for knowledge productivity were discussed and the presented case was analysed. groep met christiaan





A selection of our experiences and points of discussion:

  • People recognised the design principles from their own practice and found the principles very interrelated.
  • The principles were considered to be used in various cultures. However the ‘rules’ vary per culture and that is something you have to take into account. The question is: to what extent do you connect to the existing rules and to what extent do you break them for the sake of innovation?
  • Would it be possible to have an innovation practice in which all the design principles are actively used? Or is it inevitable and even desirable that some are worked with actively whereas others are of less importance at a certain stage of the process?
  • To what extent do people need to be involved in an innovation practice as an individual and when are the organisations behind them involved?
  • Some people missed the aspect of power that is always an issue in innovation practices. Shouldn’t there be an extra principle that touches upon this? Some participants suggested that some innovations wouldn’t have been realised without someone using his/her power for forcing a decision.

ISMICK 2006: back from South Africa

Yesterday my colleague Marloes and I came back from our trip to South Africa.


The first week we travelled around. An impressive experience in a beautiful country with great people.


Table Mountain

The last three days we visited the ISMICK conference: International Symposium on the Mangement of Industrial and Corporate Knowledge. Read a small report on  the conference on the website of the university of Stellenbosch. This year’s theme was knowledge productivity but unfortunately the contributions were more focused on the management of knowledge than on knowledge productivity. However, we met some great people and saw some good presentations. Among others the presentation of Niels Faber was very interesting. His paper ‘Knowledge and knowledge use for sustainable innovation, the case of starch potato production; achieving more with less’ is attached to this post. He has done an extensive research on the way potato-farmers use a certain decision support system. His conclusions comprise:

  • The various farmers use different sources of information. This has implications for the manner of communicating with the farmers. High-yielding farmers use decision support systems, the Internet, and study groups and other social sources of information.
  • The authors believe that the absence of farmers adopting decision support systems for their growth-related decision is caused by the lack of user involvement during design.
  • The translation from scientific research into user- or farmer-oriented decision support systems was hampered. During design, end-users, i.e. farmers, had not been questioned about their needs and requirements. And because we found that there is not one large group of similar farmers, but various types of farmers, we can conclude that one design for all farmers would not have been enough.

International positive psychology summit

05 Oct 2006
07 Oct 2006

The Gallup International Positive Psychology Summit will take place in Washington DC, USA, from October 5-7, 2006. This conference on positive psychology attracts many cool speakers such as Richard Florida and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Positive psychology set in in the 90s with Martin Seligman as one of its founders. Before then, psychology was pointed towards pathology, and curing mental illnesses. The focus of positive psychology, in contrast, lies on identifying and nurturing talent. The school of positive psychology becomes popular in various areas like organisation development (Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003), evaluation research (Preskill & Coghlan, 2003) and in thinking about organisational change (Whitney & Trosten-Bloom, 2003). Although this way of thinking became popular only recently, it is built on concepts that have been proven earlier to play an important role in the learning process such as self-efficacy.

Action research & Qualitative research

This site on action research resources offers a lot of information on action research. Under ‘external sources’ you find lots of links to other action research sites. Texts and paper can be found under ‘resources’. For example a comparison of action learning and action research; frequently asked questions on action research; papers on writing an action research thesis; a face to face version of the delphi process.
The Forum Qualitive Social Research offers an online journal for qualitative research. The peer review of the articles helps to guarantee their quality. The special issues cover subjects as ‘doing biographical research’ and the subjectivity of qualitative research. Famous and less famous authors use this journal to publish their work.

Conference on action research

21 Aug 2006
25 Aug 2006

The Dutch network participatory action research organises a conference on the subject of participatory research: ALARMP 7th & PAR 11th World Congress. It takes place in Groningen (The Netherlands), from August 21-25 2006. The central theme of this World Congress is: Standards and Ethics in participatory research. Attention is also paid to the role of participatory research as a means of (self) reflection. There are already 336 participants, and as you can see at the website, they are from various countries in the world. This promises to be an interesting conference with speakers who are specialised in different areas (how nice to meet a research and evaluation theorist or how would it be to have a coffee with a professor in the area of identity and talent and network organisations).

The development of knowledge as social communicational process

Kirsti Booijnk-Kemna, student at the University of Twente, does a research on knowlegde productivity. She investigates the social and communicative process that plays an important role in knowledge development. Here she introduces herself:

interview kirsti"Why start a research on knowledge productivity? Well, I started one out of curiosity. As a student of the bachelor study ‘Educational Design, Management and Media’ of the University of Twente, the word ‘knowledge productivity’ to me was very abstract. I felt the need to find more practical cues to deal with it. That was when my passion about knowledge productivity started to grow. I started reading about it and found the 11 principles of knowledge productivity that were developed by Suzanne Verdonschot and Paul Keursten (2006). The principle about ‘making it a social and communicational process’ intrigued me the most, so I decided to do my final paper of the bachelor about this topic. The research was started in January 2006 and hopefully will be finished around September 2006."