Thank you for introductionMy name is Lorenz, I am a design research associate at imagination Lancaster, a design research and innovation lab. I worked on this project with Leon Cruickshank, senior lecturer and MarziaMortati, phd student from Politecnicodi Milano, Italy. Over the next 15 minutes the presentation will focus on the transformation of academic knowledge into applicable tools and the way in which these were delivered.
By developing the connect workshop we aimed at creating content and activities that would be highly relevant and useful for participants. The intention was to increase the awareness of networks amongst participating companies by designing a highly interactive learning experience. Further, the developed tools would also allow us to gain insight into existing perceptions and characteristics of networks that then could be used for further research (publication, review of methods and tools). Therefore we can say this workshop was about a mutual exchange of knowledge.
In order to achieve these objectives, the developed tools had to be applicable to different business environments. As we knew quite little about companies it was important that the created artefacts served as a medium to incite interaction between people and foster exchange of knowledge between them. By actively involving people in activities, they shaped the tools (i.e. by drawing THEIR map) the results were more likely to become relevant to their specific business environment and individual problems.
The underlying concept of workshop activity is the idea of nets.A network usually consists of a variety of contacts, centred around a company. Those contacts can be connected in different ways by links with different characteristics as Danny mentioned. A net is a group of contacts within this network that can be activated to contribute certain knowledge to a specific business problem. For example…
A specific group of contacts might be useful when a company wants to develop a new product and needs new and fresh ideas.
Another group of contacts can be activated to help in testing a new product before it goes into production. Characteristics of those contacts can be diverse.
A third part of the network might provide valuable expertise in manufacturing, marketing or other resources related to the exploitation of an idea. Thinking about the net might also lead to the insight, that resources are needed that are not yet part of the network but could be accessible through existing contacts. In conclusion, mapping nets is a way of making companies aware, that networks are manageable and extendable to support business purposes and help businesses sustain or improve their performance.
The design of workshop activities was centred around this idea of nets. We used characteristic processes of design to refine and review the concept of the workshop. By inviting people from outside to go through the process of network mapping we for example found out that it is much more appropriate to use just a blank sheet of paper than a map with a specific layout. Through this process of prototyping we have been able to test the process the participants would go through and develop tools to support a smooth experience.
During prototyping period different visualisation methods were tested and strength and weaknesses of different layouts unearthed.
The design process resulted in a process that was supported by tools like a table of resources and a questionnaire. The table of resources is a tool to classify types of contacts in a net to determine kind of knowledge contacts can contribute in different contexts It introduces three types of knowledge that are relevant in the innovation process:Finding, testing and exploiting. And related to those are resources in a network that can contribute specific knowledge The different coloured dots represent the three types of knowledge and can be used to label contacts
The Questionnaire is Based on the Table of Resources and characteristics of networksParticipants would use the questionnaire to identify network contacts according to table of resources – as orientation – guidance built in for those in needUse stickers of contacts to map network Information for individual network analysis
Network actual network mapping activity consisted of three parts.Mapping your networkBecome aware of nets used in the pastDevelop/identify nets for the future
First part used the 12 contacts identified using the questionnaire
Participants were provided with a blank sheet of paper, on which they put their names and business cards. Using the stickers from the questionnaire with the names of their contacts on, they were asked to arrange them in relation to themselves and the other contacts on the paper and link them with a solid line or a dotted line according to the strength of the link.
In the last step of the first part contacts were grouped according to different areas of business or social life (i.e. customers, suppliers, family, friends…). Marked by a red line.People were encouraged to exchange experiences with people on the table: how have they grouped their contacts? What contacts are closer to them, why?...
Part two of the activity added a second layer to the initial map. Participants were asked to think of a past problem…
…and identify the contacts they have worked with to solve the problem.
By using coloured dots from the table of resources they then assigned different types of knowledge to each contact in the net according to their contribution to a solution or development process. Through this activity they directly experienced what a net is in their business environment, how it is related to their existing network and that they have actually worked with the concept of nets already.
In the third part, participants were asked to name a present or future problem in their business…
…and add a third layer to the map by identifying another net that helps them or could be helpful in approaching that issue. Again they assigned three types of knowledge to the contacts in that net.
But this activity went even further by aiming at the allocation of missing knowledge and contacts that could contribute to the process of solving the problem. Additional stickers where handed out and used for missing contacts. A vital part of the whole activity were vivid discussions amongst participants and facilitations by IDEAS members.
By allocating missing links and contacts, the awareness of strength and weaknesses of networks was raised to a level where participants actually could formulate further steps and actions in order to use their network to address identified issues. This led to a major insight, that networks are actively and strategically manageable.
Example of an initial map with different categories of contacts, i.e. clients, family, accountants…Some contacts share characteristics. Some contacts are almost detached form all the other.Overlaps of sectors, characteristics.
Net used for past problem only makes use of a restricted number of contacts in mainly one area of network (accountants)Significant is the high amount of “Finding” and “Exploiting” knowledge, little “Testing” knowledge.
Map of a net for future project.More versatile mix of knowledge.Different area of network involved than with past problem.Different contacts within network activated. New contacts identified to take part in project. Increased number of links between participants, character of links changed.Next steps could be: how to achieve this net, how to incite the changes, development needed. How to get new knowledge involved?
This map is a good example for the high complexity of a network map as an outcome of the activity. This person actually experienced this activity as part of solving a present business problem.
- As result of this activities the participants were exposed to a reflective process that enabled them to look at their network from another point of view and see it as a pool of resources that can be managed.
Participants experienced a process that resulted in a plan of action of how to effectively use their network to address existing or future issues based on their actual business needs.
- Further valuable data was gathered during the whole process that was used for individual network analysis and fed into a bespoke report for every company. This report not only documented the network status but indicated opportunities for further development and extension of networks.
How did we do in achieving the objectives. By looking at participants’ feedback we can identify some of the impact the session had.For example the relevance of networking in business in general seems to be of high priority in the service industry.
Looking at our objective to develop tools and methods that would be or result in actions that were applicable and useful to businesses, this quote shows that the companies took away something they could implement immediately.
The session’s experiential format seemed to have successfully incited interaction amongst participants as this quote emphasises.
Further, increased awareness for the need and the possibility of managing a network and identifying its strength and weaknesses was a main benefit and insight gained at this session.
At the end of my presentation we would like to distribute a tool that will help you to manage your network contacts. The contact classifier is supposed to help classify new contacts according to the three knowledge categories “finding”, “Testing” and “Exploiting”. The dots on the back of the cards can be applied to business cards of people you meet in future. You can also use it to help you focus on a specific kind of knowledge you are looking for.
Results<br />— Reflective process<br />— Action plan<br />— Valuable data for analysis<br />— Bespoke report<br />
Impact<br />“There is a huge drive in our industry to network and that networking is the future of the service industry” <br />Paul Oldham, Kelly Scientific Resources<br />— High relevance for businesses<br />
Impact<br />“I have now got, directly from this session, a list of actions that I can go away with and do literally this afternoon.” <br />Bob Lloyd, SimX Ltd. <br />— Actions for immediate implementation<br />
Impact<br />“On the table were two people I have already added to the network. That is kind of a short term benefit right off the bat. ” <br />Andy Smith, Instrument Science Ltd. <br />— Immediate benefits<br />— New network contacts<br />
Impact<br />“This session has brought me to a point where I realise, I need to manage that network and I have been able to identify the gaps in it .” <br />Andy Smith, Instrument Science Ltd. <br />— Increased awareness<br />— Strength and Weaknesses of network<br />