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Story: How a conference becomes an internet portal

We wanted the conference on innovation to be creative, and if possible, to be innovative. Not the usual conference design of famous key-note speakers, "workshops" with still more presentations and a forum discussion between experts at the and of the day. Our questions were: Is it possible to initiate innovative actions in a conference on innovation? How do we evaluate this afterwards? Is it possible to continue the process of using weak-ties, to connect people who are busy with organizing innovation? We decided to make a learning history of this conference, to evaluate the process and the results.

About 200 professionals participated in the conference. Consultants, managers, trainers, teachers, administrators. After a few introductions people could choose between 18 work-ateliers, in two rounds. Our intention was to produce a bundle of products/ illustrations/ ideas/ new connections of persons and ideas, and to discuss the results at the and of the day.

What we did:

  • Instruct 20 observers, all alumni of an advanced consultancy course, in a Naturalistic Inquiry approach, for gathering observations, impressions and photo's
  • Interview participants before the start, asking for expectations and motivations for their attending
  • Have a professional cartoonist/ change consultant make cartoons during the day
  • Make a lot of photographs with digital cameras
  • Instruct work-atelier leaders to produce a presentation, in whatever form, of the process/ outcome of their atelier
  • Ask (by e-mail) participants the next morning for their comments and reflections
  • Observers made documents of their observations and added their comments and reflections
  • Sort and categorize all our data, together with three observers
  • Make a website to present the learning history


Messages of the learning history:

  • A lot of professionals are occupied with, or interested in, the organizing aspects of innovation, but they are not connected outside their own disciplines or sectors
  • In the Netherlands, the focus is on product-innovation and innovations of technology; theory, principles, methods, experiences concerning the conditions and organizing processes for innovation are under-exposed
  • The conference could have been more interactive, especially at the end, in the search for emerging highlights of the day/ conclusions/ further actions.

We learned much about design principles and direction of a conference like this.

The website developed from a learning history of the conference to a portal for anyone interested in the organization process of innovation. The story goes on in a network of loosely coupled professionals, called "junction innovation". We (a group of three initiators) sent a (two)monthly e-mail newsletter to participators (see picture on the right). Please visit our Dutch website to get an idea of the presentation form, at


Three work-ateliers in one large room appeared to be too noisy, due to bad acoustics
(cartoon made by
Mark de Koning, click to enlarge)



Website as learning history;


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